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

But woe unto you, Pharisees! who tithe mint and rue and all herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God. But these things ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seat in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets. Woe unto you! for ye are as those graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them know it not.

THOSE who are exact observers of the sacred commandments do not venture in any way whatsoever to offend the God of all. For they feel the truth of what is written, “That whosoever shall keep the whole law, but shall offend in one particular, becomes guilty of all. For He Who said, Thou shalt not commit adultery, said also, Thou shalt not kill. If then thou commit not adultery, but yet killest, thou art become a transgressor of the law.” The transgression therefore of one commandment transgresses the law, that is, proves the man to be without the law. But when any one disregards those commandments, which especially are important above the rest, what words will he find able to save him from deserved punishment? That the Pharisees then merited these severe censures, the Lord proved against them, saying, “Woe unto you, Pharisees! who tithe mint and rue and all herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God. These things ought ye to have done, and not to pass by the other, that is, to leave them undone.” For while they omitted, as of no importance, those duties which they were especially bound to practice, as, for instance, judgment and the love of God, they carefully and scrupulously observed, or rather commanded the people subject to their authority to observe, those commandments only which were a way and means of great revenues for themselves.

But more fully to explain these things to thee, my beloved, I must speak as follows. The law of Moses commanded tithes to be offered to the priests by the Israelites. For it spake thus; “The sons of Levi shall have no inheritance among the children of Israel. The offerings of the Lord are their inheritance.” For whatsoever was offered by any one for the glory of God, on the score I mean of tithe, this God set apart for those whose office it was to minister; and this was their inheritance. But inasmuch as the Pharisees above all others were covetous, and fond of disgraceful gains, they commanded that this law of tithing should be observed carefully and scrupulously, so as not even to omit the most paltry and insignificant herbs; while they carelessly disregarded what they ought to have observed, namely, the more essential commandments given by Moses; such, for instance, as judgment, by which is meant justice in passing judgment, and the love of God. For it would have been a just judgment, and an upright sentence, to have considered every thing that was commanded deserving of equal care and attention, and not to neglect things of primary importance, while they paid a scrupulous regard to those only which were to their profit. And the effect of love to God would have been to avoid making Him angry in any respect, and to dread the violation of any part whatsoever of the law.

Or to put it in another light, one may say, that judgment would have been to decree just sentences, and to make upon no matter whatsoever an unfair decision. And this too was disregarded by the Pharisees; for the Spirit rebuked them by the voice of David, thus saying, “God arose in the congregation of the Gods, and in the midst of the Gods He judgeth. How long judge ye unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?” He accused them also by the voice of Isaiah, saying, “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.” For to judge unjustly is not the part of those who practice love to the brethren, but the crime rather of an iniquitous mind, and a plain proof of a falling away into sin. While therefore ye tithe mint, He says, and rue, and every herb, and ordain that the commandment upon these points is to be strictly kept, ye deign no attention to the weightier matters of the law, to those commandments, I mean, which are more especially necessary and beneficial to the soul, and by means of which ye might prove yourselves honourable and holy, and full of such praises as become those whose desire it is to love God, and please Him.

And He adds yet another woe to those already spoken, saying, “Woe unto you, Pharisees, who love the uppermost seat in the synagogues, and greetings in the market places.” Is then this reproof useful to the Pharisees only? Not so: for the benefit of it extends even unto us: for by the rebukes He addressed to them, He effects also our improvement. For true it is, that those who are perfect in mind, and lovers of upright conduct, find in the rebukes of others the means of their own safety. For they of course avoid imitating them, and do not expose themselves to being caught in similar faults. The accusation therefore which Christ brings against the Pharisees, that they seek for greetings in the market places, and the uppermost seats in the synagogues, or meetings, shews that they were fond of praise, and wont to indulge themselves in empty ostentation, and an absurd superciliousness. And what can be worse than this? or how must not such conduct be hateful to every man, as being boastful and annoying, and destitute of the praises of virtue, and intent solely upon stealing the reputation of being honourable. And how must not he be incomparably superior to men thus disposed, who is poor in spirit, and gentle, and affable; not loving boasting, but courteous; not deceiving men by outside and fictitious disguises, but being rather a true worshipper, and adorned with that rational beauty which the divine Word imprinteth in us by means of all virtue and holiness and righteousness.

For if we must prove ourselves better than others,—and there is nothing to prevent this,—let the sentence of superiority be given us of God, by our excelling them in point of conduct and morals, and in a wise and blameless knowledge of the sacred scriptures. For to be saluted by others, and seated higher than one’s friends, does not at all prove us to be persons of merit: for this is possessed by many, who, so far from being virtuous, are rather lovers of pleasure, and lovers of sin. For they wrest honours from every one, because of their possessing either vast wealth or worldly power.

But that our being admired by others without investigation and inconsiderately, and without their knowing our real state, does not at all make us elect in the presence of God, Who knoweth all things, the Saviour at once demonstrates by saying; “Woe unto you, for ye are as those graves which appear not, and the men who walk over them know it not.” Observe, I pray, very clearly the force of the example. Those who desire to be saluted by every one in the marketplace, and anxiously consider it a great matter to have the foremost seats in the synagogues, differ in no respect from graves that appear not, which on the outside are beautifully adorned, but are full of all impurity. See here, I pray, that hypocrisy is utterly blamed: for it is a hateful malady, both towards God and men. For whatsoever the hypocrite seems, and is thought to be, that he is not: but he borrows, so to speak, the reputation of goodness, and thereby accuses his real baseness: for the very thing which he praises and admires, he will not practise. But it is a thing impossible for thee long to hide thy hypocrisy: for just as the figures painted in pictures fall off, as time dries up the colours, so also hypocrisies, after escaping observation for a very little time, are soon convicted of being really nothing.

We then must be true worshippers, and not as wishing to please men, lest we fall from being servants of Christ. For so the blessed Paul somewhere speaks; “For now do I persuade men or God? or do I seek to please men? If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” For suppositions in matters of moral excellence are simply ridiculous, and worthy neither of account nor admiration. For just as in gold coins, that which is counterfeit and faulty is rejected, so the hypocrite is regarded with scorn both by God and men. But he who is true meets with admiration; just, for instance, as Nathaniel, of whom Christ said, “Behold one truly an Israelite, in whom is no guile.” He who is such is esteemed before God; he is counted worthy of crowns and honours; has a glorious hope given him; and is “a fellow-citizen with the saints, and of the household of God.”

Let us therefore flee from the malady of hypocrisy: and may there rather dwell within us a pure and uncorrupt mind, resplendent with glorious virtues. For this will unite us unto 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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