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

And which of you that shall ask his father bread, will he offer him a stone? or if he ask of him a fish, will he for a fish offer him a serpent? If he ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye therefore, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children; how much more shall the heavenly Father give a good spirit to them that ask Him?

TO love instruction and be fond of hearing becometh saints: but those who are thus minded must, I say, keep in remembrance, and store up in the treasure-house of their heart, whatsoever has been spoken by those who are skilful in teaching right doctrine, and whose study it is ably to initiate men in the truth. For this is both profitable to themselves for their spiritual improvement; and besides, it rejoices the teacher, just, for instance, as the seed also gladdens the husbandman when it springs up, as having been well covered in the furrow, and escaped being the food of birds. Ye therefore remember that at our last meeting we addressed you on the duty of praying without ceasing, and making supplication continually in offering our requests unto God: and that we must not give way to any littleness of soul, nor at all grow weary, even though He somewhat delay His gift, considering that He knoweth whatsoever is to our benefit, and that the fitting season for His bounties is not forgotten by Him.

And in to-day’s lesson from the gospel, the Saviour again teaches another point most useful for our edification. And what this is, come, that we may declare it as to sons. We sometimes draw near to our bounteous God, offering Him petitions for various objects, according to each one’s pleasure: but occasionally without discernment, or any careful examination what truly is to our advantage, and if granted by God would prove a blessing; and what would be to our injury if we received it. Rather, by the inconsiderate impulse of our fancy, we fall into desires replete with ruin, and which thrust the souls of those that entertain them into the snare of death and the meshes of hell. When therefore we ask of God ought of this kind, we shall by no means receive it: on the coutrary, we offer a petition fit only for ridicule. And why shall we not receive it? Is the God of all weary of bestowing gifts upon us? By no means. Why then, some one forsooth may say, will He not give, since He is bounteous in giving? Let us learn of Him; or rather, thou hast already heard Him here saying, “What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?” Understand, he says, by an image or plain example taken from what happens among you, the meaning of what I say; Thou art the father of children; thou hast in thee the sharp spur of natural affection towards them; in every way thou wishest to benefit them: when therefore, He says, one asks of thee bread, without delay and with pleasure thou givest it, as knowing well that he seeks of thee wholesome food. But when, from want of understanding, a little child that knows not yet how to distinguish what it sees, nor moreover what is the service and use of the various objects that fall in our way, asks for stones to eat, dost thou, He says, give them, or rather dost thou not make him desist from any such desire as would be to his injury?

And the same reasoning holds good of the serpent and fish, and the egg and scorpion. If he ask a fish, thou wilt grant it: but if he see a serpent, and wish to seize it, thou wilt hold back the child’s hand. If he want an egg, thou wilt offer it at once, and encourage his desire after things of this sort, that the infant may advance to riper age: but if he see a scorpion creeping about, and run after it, imagining it to be something pretty, and as being ignorant of the harm it can do, thou wilt, I suppose, of course stop him, and not let him be injured by the noxious animal. When therefore He says, “Ye who are evil;” by which He means, ye whose mind is capable of being influenced by evil, and not uniformly inclined to good like the God of all; “ye know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give a good spirit to them that ask Him?” And by “a good spirit” He means spiritual grace: for this in every way is good, and, if a man receive it, he will become most blessed, and worthy of admiration.

Most ready therefore is our heavenly Father to bestow gifts upon us: so that whosoever is denied what he asks, is himself the cause of it: for he asks, as I said, what God will not give. For God wishes us to be holy and blameless, and to advance uprightly and boldly in every good work; walking apart from every thing that defiles, and from the love of fleshly pleasure, and rejecting the anxieties of worldly pursuits; not involving ourselves in worldly business; not living profligately and carelessly; not delighting in unruly pleasures;. nor moreover practising a dissolute mode of life; but desiring to live well and wisely, and in accordance with God’s commands, making the law which He gave us the regulator of our conduct, and earnest in the pursuit of whatever tends chiefly to our edification. If therefore thou wishest to receive ought of this kind, draw near with joy: for our Father Who is in heaven, because He loveth virtue, will readily incline His ear.

Examine therefore thy prayer: for if thou askest ought by receiving which thou wilt become a lover of God, God, as I said, will grant it: but if it be any thing unreasonable, or that is able to do thee an injury, He will withhold His hand: He will not bestow the wished-for object; in order that neither He may give ought of an injurious nature,—for this is completely alien from Him,—nor thou be harmed thyself by receiving it. And let me explain how: for which purpose I shall bring forward examples. When thou askest for wealth, thou wilt not receive it of God: and why? Because it separates the heart of man from Him. Wealth begets pride, voluptuousness, and the love of pleasure, and brings men down to the pitfalls of worldly lusts. And so one of the disciples of our Lord has taught us, saying; “Whence are there wars, and whence quarrels among you? Is it not hence; from your lusts, that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye seek, and find not: ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask wickedly, that ye may spend it on your pleasures.” When thou askest worldly power, God will turn away His face: for He knows that it is a most injurious thing to those who possess it. For constantly, so to speak, charges of oppression attach themselves to those who possess worldly power: and those are for the most part proud, and unbridled, and boastful, who are set in temporal dignities. When thou askest for any to perish, or be exposed to inevitable tortures, because they have annoyed or molested thee in any way, God will not grant it. For He willeth us to be long-suffering in mind: and not to requite any one with evil for evil, but to pray for those who spoil us: to do good to those who injure us, and be imitators of His kindness. For this reason Solomon was praised; for when offering up prayers unto God, he said: “And thou shalt give Thy servant a heart to hear, and to judge Thy people righteously.” And it pleased the Lord that Solomon asked this thing. And what did God, Who loveth virtue, say to him? “Because thou hast not asked for thee many days: nor hast asked the lives of thy enemies; but hast asked for thee understanding, and to hear judgment: behold! I have done what thou spakest: behold! I have given thee a heart prudent and wise.”

Do thou therefore ask the bestowal without stint of spiritual gifts. Ask strength, that thou mayest be able manfully to resist every fleshly lust. Ask of God an uncovetous disposition; long suffering; gentleness; and the mother and nurse of all good, I mean, patience. Ask calmness of temper; continence; a pure heart; and further, ask also the wisdom that cometh from Him. These things He will give readily: these save the soul: these work in it that better beauty, and imprint in it God’s image. This is the spiritual wealth; the riches that hath never to be abandoned: these prepare for us the lot of the saints, and make us members of the company of the holy angels; these perfect us in piety, and rapidly lead us onward to the hope of eternal life, and make us heirs of the kingdom of heaven, by the aid 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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