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

And as He was speaking, a certain Pharisee besought Him to dine with him: and He went in and lay down to meat. But the Pharisee, when he saw it, wondered that He had not first washed before dinner. But the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but that which is within you is full of rapine and wickedness. O ye little minded, did not He Who made that which is without, make that which is within also? But whatever there is give as alms, and behold! every thing is clean unto you.

THE very wise Paul truly tells us, that “Christ came into the world to save sinners.” For this was His aim, and for this purpose He humbled Himself to the emptying of His glory, and appeared upon earth in the flesh, and conversed with men. For it was right, that as being the Creator and Lord of all, He should give a saving hand to those who had fallen into sin, and show unto them that were wandering in error, a pathway that would lead them straight unto every good work, and the excellence of virtuous deeds. And it is said somewhere also by one of the holy prophets, concerning those who have been called by faith to the knowledge of His glory “And they shall be all taught of God.” How, therefore, does He lead us into every thing that is useful? By humbling Himself to be with sinners, and condescending sometimes even to those things that He would not, that so He might save many. That this was the case we may see by the lessons from the gospel now set before us; for one of the Pharisees, it says, besought Him to dine at His house: “and He went in, and lay down to meat.” And yet how is it not plain to every one, that the Pharisees as a class were always wicked and impure, hateful to God, and envious, ready for anger, of innate pride, and ever bold of speech against Christ the Saviour of us all? For they found fault with His divine miracles, and gathering wicked troops of counsellors, plotted His death. How then did He become their guest? Was He not aware of their maliciousness? But how can this be safely affirmed? For as God He knoweth all things. What therefore is the explanation? It is this, that He was especially anxious to admonish them, therein resembling the most excellent physicians. For they apply the remedies of their art to those who are most dangerously ill, struggling against the disease under which they suffer, and assuaging its cruel attacks. As they therefore without restraint gave way to an infatuated mind, it was necessary for Christ to speak unto them what was requisite and useful for their salvation. For as He Himself somewhere says, “He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” And again He also said, that “they who are whole need not a physician, but they who are sick.”

The Pharisee therefore for some purpose of his own invites Him to an entertainment: and the Saviour of all submits, as I said, to this, for the economy’s sake. But He made the matter an opportunity of giving instruction, not consuming the time of their meeting in the enjoyment of food and delicacies, but in the task of making those more virtuous who were assembled there. And the dull Pharisee himself supplied an occasion for His discourse, for “he wondered,” it says, “that He had not washed before dinner.” Did he then wonder at Him, as having done something of which he approved, as being especially worthy of the saints? This was not his view: how could it be? On the contrary he was offended, because having the reputation among them of a righteous man and a prophet, He did not conform Himself to their unreasonable customs. For they washed before meat, as though they so freed themselves from all pollution. But this was very absurd. For the washing with water is highly useful for those who are unclean in body; but how can it free men from the defilement of the mind and heart?

Our argument however is this: O foolish Pharisee, thou vauntest much of thy knowledge of the sacred Scriptures: thou art ever quoting the law of Moses. Tell us therefore where Moses gave thee this precept? What commandment canst thou mention, ordained by God, requiring men to wash before meat? The waters of sprinkling were indeed given by the command of Moses for the cleansing of corporeal uncleanness, as being a type of the baptism which really is holy and cleansing, even that in Christ. Those also who were called unto the priesthood were bathed in water: for so did the divine Moses bathe Aaron, and the Levites with him, the law thereby declaring by means of the baptism enacted in type and shadow, that even its priesthood had not that which sufficeth for sanctification, but, on the contrary, needs divine and holy baptism for the true cleansing: and further, beautifully shewing us that the Saviour of all is sufficient to sanctify and cleanse from all defilement, by means of holy and precious baptism, ourselves, who are the generation consecrated to and elect of God. Plainly however, he nowhere commands it as a duty to wash before eating. Why therefore dost thou wonder, or for what reason art thou offended, O Pharisee? He Who Himself spake it in old time has not violated the precept of Moses: and, as I said, the law, which thou makest a profession of honouring, has nowhere given thee any such commandment.

But what said the Saviour? He most opportunely rebuked them, saying, “Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup, and the dish; but that which is within you is full of rapine and wickedness.” For it would have been easy for the Lord to have used other words with the view of instructing the foolish Pharisee, but He found an opportunity, and, so to speak, connects His teaching with what was before their eyes. For as it was the time of eating, and of sitting at table, He takes as a plain comparison the cup and the dish, and shows that those who sincerely serve God must be pure and clean, not only from bodily impurity, but also from that hidden within in the mind; just, for instance, as those utensils also that serve the table must be cleansed both from those impurities that are on the outside, and also as well from those that are within. “For He who made,” He says, “that which is without, made also that which is within:” by which is meant, that He Who created the body made also the soul. As therefore they are both the works of one virtue-loving God, their purification must be uniform.

But this was not the practice of the Scribes and Pharisees; for so far as the mere reputation went of being clean, they were anxious to do every thing. They went about with sad looks, as though pale from fasting; and as the Saviour says, “made broad the hems of their robes, and widened their phylacteries, and stood in the streets and prayed, that they might be seen of many,” wishing rather to have praise of men than God, and to carry off the applause of the spectators. And, to speak briefly, while they exhibited themselves to the lookers on as the very pattern of the life of virtue that is by the law, they in every possible way withdrew from being lovers of God. “Whitened sepulchres were they,” as the Saviour said, “which on the outside are beautiful, but inside are full of bones of the dead, and of all uncleanness.” But Christ willeth not that we be such as these, but rather spiritual worshippers, holy and without blame both in soul and body. For one also of our communion said, “Cleanse your hands ye sinners, and sanctify your hearts, ye double-minded.” And the prophet David somewhere sings, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” And again the prophet Isaiah speaks as in the person of God, “Wash you, make you clean; put away iniquities from your souls from before My eyes. Cease from your iniquities.” Observe the exactness of the expression: for His words are, “From before My eyes put away iniquities from your souls.” For the wicked do sometimes escape the eyes of men, but never can they escape those of God. It is our duty therefore, inasmuch as God sees what is secret, to put away wickedness from before His eyes.

But the Pharisees had no knowledge of any such method of virtuous living: what medicine therefore did the Saviour offer them after His rebukes? How did He Who smote them make them whole? “Whatever ye have,” He says, “give as alms: and lo! every thing is pure unto you.” And yet we affirm that there are many ways of virtuous conduct, such for instance as meekness, humility, and other kindred virtues: why therefore did He omit these, and command them to be compassionate? What answer do we make to this? The Pharisees then were exceedingly avaricious, and the slaves of base gains, and accumulated with greedy hand stores of wealth. For the God of all even somewhere said concerning them, “How has the faithful city Zion, that was full of judgment, become a harlot! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers! Your silver is adulterate; thy merchants mingle the wine with water; thy princes are disobedient, the partners of thieves, loving bribes, running after recompense; they judge not the fatherless, and regard not the suit of the widow.” He purposely therefore had regard to that malady which had possession of them, and tears their avarice up by the root, that being delivered from its wickedness, and attaining to purity in mind and heart, they might become true worshippers.

The Saviour therefore in all these things acted in accordance with the plan of salvation; and being invited to a banquet, bestowed spiritual food, not only upon His entertainer, but upon all those who were feasting with Him. And let us too pray Him for this spiritual food; for “He is that living Bread, which came down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world:” 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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