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

And He went about among the cities and villages teaching; and journeyed towards Jerusalem. And one said unto Him, Lord, are they few that be saved? And He said unto them; Strive to enter in at the strait door: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able, directly that the master of the house ariseth, and shutteth the door: and ye begin to stand outside, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, open to us; and He shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are. Then ye will begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets: and He will say, I tell you, I know you not, whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and ye yourselves cast out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down to meat in the kingdom of God. And lo! there are last that shall be first, and first that shall be last.

A SHIP is guided to the right port by means of the helm; but the word of God piloteth the soul of man, and leadeth him without risk of error to every thing that is necessary for salvation. For so spake one of the holy prophets; “Take with you words:” even those which are inspired by the Holy Ghost: for no man of sense will say, that it means the words of the wise of this world. For their words lead men unto the pit of destruction, by bringing polytheism into the world, and by inciting unto carnal pleasure, and to the desire of the world’s vain distractions: but the words of God point out the pathway to a better life, and beget in us an earnestness which makes us cheerfully advance unto the duty of performing all those things, by means of which we are made partakers of eternal life.

Let us listen therefore to the Saviour’s words, which He addressed unto those who wanted to learn, whether they be few who are saved: and to whom the Saviour answered, “Strive to enter in by the strait door.” Now this reply may seem perhaps, to wander from the scope of the question. For the man wanted to learn, whether they be few who are saved: but He described unto him the way whereby he might be saved himself, saying, “Strive to enter in by the strait door.” What reply then do we make to this objection? We answer as follows; that it was the custom of our common Saviour Christ to meet His questioners, not of course according to what might seem good to them, but as having regard to what was useful and necessary for His hearers. And this He especially did when any one wanted to learn what was superfluous and unedifying. For what good was there in wishing to learn, whether there be many or few that be saved? What benefit resulted from it to the hearers? On the contrary it was a necessary and valuable thing to know in what way a man may attain to salvation. He is purposely silent therefore with respect to the useless question which had been asked Him, but proceeds to speak of what was essential, namely, of the knowledge necessary for the performance of those duties by which men can enter in at the strait and narrow door. For this He has also taught us in another place, saying; “Enter in at the strait door: for wide is the door, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many are they that go in thereby. For strait is the door, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few are they that find it.”

Now I consider it my duty to mention why the door is narrow, through which a man goeth unto life. Whosoever then would enter must of necessity first before everything else possess an upright and uncorrupted faith: and, secondly, a spotless morality, in which is no possibility of blame, according to the measure of human righteousness. For so the prophet David also somewhere says, very excellently framing his supplications unto God, “Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness; and according to my innocency requite me.” For the innocency and righteousness of the holy angels, being in proportion to their nature and glory, is entirely distinct from that which belongs to the inhabitants of earth: for theirs is of a lower kind, and inferior in every respect, just as they are inferior to them also in nature. Nevertheless those who wish to live holily cannot do so without labour: for constantly, so to speak, the pathway that leadeth unto virtue is rugged and steep, and for most men too difficult to walk upon. For labours spring up before us and we have need altogether of fortitude and patience, and nobleness of conduct: yea, moreover, and of a mind that cannot be prevailed upon dissolutely to take part in base pleasures, or to be led by irrational impulses into carnal lust. He who has attained unto this in mind and spiritual fortitude will enter easily by the strait door, and run along the narrow way. For it is written, that “by labours a man laboureth for himself, and violently gaineth the mastery over his destruction.” Thou hearest how the prophet plainly saith, that he gaineth the mastery over his destruction by violence; for as the Lord himself again said, “The kingdom of heaven is gained by violence, and the violent seize it.”

“For wide is the door, and broad the way that bringeth down many to destruction.” And what are we to understand by its broadness? It means an unrestrained tendency to carnal lust; a base and pleasure loving life; luxurious feastings, and revellings and banquetings, and unresisted inclinations unto every thing which is condemned by the law, and displeasing to God: a stiffnecked mind that will not bow to the yoke of the law: a life accursed, and relaxed in all dissoluteness, thrusting from it the divine law, and utterly unmindful of the sacred commandments: wealth and the vices that spring from it, scorn and pride, and the vain imagining of transitory boastings. From all such things must those withdraw who would enter in by the strait door, and be with Christ, and keep festival with Him.

And that such as are not thus minded cannot walk upon this way, He shewed at once by a plain example. For those who were too late, and so to say, did not arrive at the feast, their lot was to be at once rejected. “For when,” He says, “the master of the house entereth in, and shutteth the door, and they begin to say from without, Lord, open to us; he will say, I know you not whence ye are.” For in the character as it were of some householder, who has gathered many of his neighbours to his house and table, and has afterwards entered in with his guests and closed the door, He says that those who subsequently knock, shall have for answer, “I know you not whence ye are:” and though, He says, ye importune, saying, “we have eaten before Thee and drunk; and Thou hast taught in our streets; ye shall hear none the less, I know you not whence ye are. Depart far from Me, all ye workers of iniquity.” For the light has no communion at all with the darkness: nor can any one be near unto the perfectly pure God who is held by the pollutions of sin, and whose stain is not yet washed away.

We must however next inquire who we are to understand by those who say unto Christ, ‘We have eaten and drunk in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets?’ Such an assertion then would suit the Israelites, to whom also Christ said, “ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves cast out.” But how then were they eating and drinking before God? I answer, by performing the service enacted in the law: for when offering unto God sacrifices by the shedding of blood, they ate and made merry. And they heard also in their synagogues the writings of Moses, interpreting God’s messages: for constantly he prefaced his words with, ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ These then are they who say, “We have eaten and drunk in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets.” But the worship by the shedding of blood is not sufficient for justification, nor verily does a man wash away his stains by having become a hearer of the divine laws, if he does nothing of what has been commanded.

And in another way, as long as they refused to accept the faith, which justifieth the wicked, nor would follow the evangelic commands, by means of which it is possible to practice the excellent and elect life, how could they enter the kingdom of God? The type therefore profiteth not: for it justifieth no man, and it is a thing impossible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take away sins.

With the abovenamed, thou mayest number certain others also as able to say to the Judge of all, “we have eaten and drunk in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets.” And who again are these? Many have believed in Christ, and celebrate the holy festivals in His honour; and frequenting the churches they also hear the doctrines of the Gospel: but they lay up in their mind of the truths of Scripture absolutely nothing. And it is with difficulty that the practice of virtue is brought with them even to this extent, while of spiritual fruitfulness their heart is quite bare. These too shall weep bitterly, and gnash their teeth; for the Lord shall deny them also. For He has said, that “not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of My Father Who is in heaven.”

But that the Jews were about to fall utterly from their rank of being in a spiritual sense His household, and that the multitude of the Gentiles should enter in their stead, He shewed by saying, that “there shall come from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south, many who received the call, and shall rest with the saints; but they shall be driven away: and whereas they once had the first rank, they shall now take the second, by reason of others being preferred before them.” Which also happened; for the Gentiles have been honoured far above the Jewish herd. For it was guilty both of disobedience and of the murder of the Lord: but they honoured the faith that is in 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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