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

Let your loins be girt, and your lamps burning, and ye like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the banquet: that when he hath come and knocked they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom their lord at his coming shall find watching. Verily I say unto you, that he will gird up his loins, and make them sit down to meat, and pass by and minister unto them. And if he come in the second watch, or if he come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. And know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief would come, he would be awake, and not have suffered his house to be dug through. Be ye therefore also ready, for in an hour that ye expect not the Son of man cometh.

THE Psalmist has somewhere said unto Christ, the Saviour of all; “Thy commandment is exceeding broad.” And any one may see if he will from the very facts that this saying is true: for He establishes for us pathways in countless numbers, so to speak, to lead us unto salvation, and make us acquainted with every good work, that we, winning for our heads the crown of piety, and imitating the noble conduct of the saints, may attain to that portion which is fitly prepared for them. For this reason He says, “Let your loins be girt, and your lamps burning.” For He speaks to them as to spiritually-minded persons, and describes once again things intellectual by such as are apparent and visible.

For let no one say, that He wishes us to have our bodily loins girt, and burning lamps in our hands:—such an interpretation would suit only Jewish dullness:—but our loins being girt, signifies the readiness of the mind to labour industriously in every thing praiseworthy; for such as apply themselves to bodily labours, and are engaged in strenuous toil, have their loins girt. And the lamp apparently represents the wakefulness of the mind, and intellectual cheerfulness. And we say that the human mind is awake when it repels any tendency to slumber off into that carelessness, which often is the means of bringing it into subjection to every kind of wickedness, when being sunk in stupor the heavenly light within it is liable to be endangered, or even already is in danger from a violent and impetuous blast, as it were, of wind. Christ therefore commands us to be awake: and to this His disciple also arouses us by saying; Be awake: be watchful.” And further, the very wise Paul also says; “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead: and Christ shall give thee light.”

It is the duty therefore of those who would be partakers of eternal life, and firmly believe that in due season Christ will descend from heaven as Judge, not to be lax, and dissolved in pleasures; nor, so to speak, poured out and melted in worldly dissipation: but rather let them have their will tightly girt, and distinguish themselves by their zeal in labouring in those duties with which God is well pleased. And they must further possess a vigilant and wakeful mind, distinguished by the knowledge of the truth, and richly endowed with the radiance of the vision of God; so as for them, rejoicing therein, to say, “Thou, O Lord, will light my lamp: Thou, my God, wilt lighten my darkness.”

Quite unbefitting is an expression like this for heretics, whether they be the sectaries or the teachers. For as Christ Himself said, “Darkness has blinded their eyes.” And this Paul explains to us, saying, that “the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, that the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ may not shine upon them.” It is our duty therefore carefully to avoid their false speaking, and not to turn aside from the doctrines of the truth, and admit into our minds the darkness of the devil; but rather to draw near to the true light, even Christ, praising Him in psalms and saying, “Lighten mine eyes, that I sleep not for death.” For it is in very deed death, and that not of the body, but of the soul, to fall from the uprightness of true doctrines, and choose falsehood instead of the truth. Let therefore our loins be girt, and our lamps burning, according to what has here been spoken unto us.

And let us know that the law also of the very wise Moses is found to have commanded something of the kind to the Israelites. For a lamb was sacrificed on the fourteenth day of the first month, as a type of Christ. “For our passover, Christ is sacrificed,” according to the testimony of most sacred Paul. The hierophant Moses then, or rather God by his means, commanded them, when eating its flesh, saying, “Let your loins be girt, and your shoes on your feet, and your staves in your hands.” For I affirm that it is the duty of those who are partakers of Christ, to beware of a barren indolence; and yet further, not to have as it were their loins ungirt and loose, but be ready cheerfully to undertake whatever labours become the saints; and to hasten besides with alacrity whithersoever the law of God leads them. And for this reason He very appropriately made them wear [at the passover] the garb of travellers.

And that we ought to look for the coming again of Christ from heaven;—for He will come in the glory of the Father with the holy angels;—He has taught us saying, “That we must be like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the banqueting-house, that when he hath come and knocked, they may open to him immediately.” For Christ will return as from a feast: by which is plainly shown, that God ever dwells in festivals, such as befit Him. For above there is no sadness whatsoever: since nothing can grieve That nature Which is incapable of passion, and of being affected by anything whatsoever of this kind.

When therefore He comes and finds us girt and wakeful, and with our heart enlightened, then forthwith He will make us blessed: for “He will gird up His loins, and serve them.” By which we learn that he will requite us proportionately: and because we are as it were weary with toil, He will comfort us, setting before us spiritual banquets, and spreading the abundant table of His gifts.

“And whether He come in the second watch, it says, or whether He come in the third watch, blessed are they.” Here observe I pray, the breadth of the divine gentleness, and the bountifulness of His mildness towards us. For verily He knoweth our frame, and the readiness with which man’s mind wanders into sin. He knoweth that the power of fleshly lust tyrannizeth over us, and that the distractions of this world even, so to speak, against our will drag us on by force, leading the mind into all that is unseemly. But in that He is good, He does not leave us to despair, but on the contrary, pities us, and has given us repentance as the medicine of salvation. For this reason He says, that “whether He come in the second watch, or whether He come in the third watch, and find them so doing, blessed are they.” Now the meaning of this thou will certainly wish clearly to understand. Men therefore divide the night into three or four watches. For the sentinels on city walls, who watch the motions of the enemy, after being on guard three or four hours, deliver over the watch and guard to others. So with us there are three ages: the first, that in which we are still children; the second, in which we are young men; and the third, that in which we come to old age. Now the first of these, in which we are still children, is not called to account by God, but is deemed worthy of pardon, because of the imbecillity as yet of the mind, and the weakness of the understanding. But the second and the third, the periods of manhood and old age, owe to God obedience and piety of life, according to His good pleasure. Whosoever therefore is found watching, and, so to speak, well girt, whether, if it so chance, he be still a young man, or one who has arrived at old age, blessed shall he be. For he shall be counted worthy of attaining to Christ’s promises.

And in commanding us to watch, He adds further for our safety a plain example, which very excellently shews that it is dangerous to act otherwise. For He says, “that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief would come, he would be awake, and not have suffered his house to be dug through. Be ye therefore also ready, for in an hour that ye expect not, the Son of man cometh.” For as His disciple said, “The day of the Lord will come as a thief, in which the heavens shall suddenly pass away, and the elements being on fire shall melt, and the earth, and the works that are therein shall be utterly burned. But we look for new heavens and a new earth, and His promises.” And to this he adds, “Since then all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought we to be found, being holy and without blame before Him?” For no one at all knows the time of the consummation of all things, at which Christ shall appear from above, from heaven, to judge the world in righteousness. Then shall He give an incorruptible crown to them that are watching; for He is the Giver, and Distributor, and Bestower of the Divine gifts: 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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