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

And it came to pass, when He had gone into the house of one of the chief Pharisees on the sabbath day to eat bread, that they watched Him. And behold there was a certain man before Him who had the dropsy. And Jesus answered and spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying; Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day or no? And they were silent. And He took him, and healed him, and sent him away. And He answered them, saying; Which of you shall have a son or an ox fall into a pit, and will not immediately draw him out on the sabbath day? And they could not return Him an answer to these things.

AGAIN the Lord worketh miracles, and exercising a divine and supreme power, performs His accustomed acts, and manifests His glory. He benefits then in more ways than one the intractable and contentious Pharisee. For just as maladies of more than usual violence will not yield to the skill of physicians, but require the main force of persons of blunter feelings: so also the human mind, that has turned aside to wickedness, rejects all that could benefit it, directly that it has once become the victim of an uncontrollable tendency to disobedience, being brought into this state by unreproved departures from the right path.

And that this is undeniably true, any one may see who will give his attention to the lessons here set before us. For a Pharisee, of higher rank than usual, invited Jesus to a banquet: and He, although He knew their malice, went with him, and dined in their company. And He submitted to this act of condescension, not to honour His inviter, but rather to benefit those in whose company He was, by such words and miraculous deeds as might lead them to the acknowledgment of the true service, even that which is taught us by the gospel. For He knew that even against their will He would make them eyewitnesses both of His power, and of His more than human glory, if perchance even so they might believe that He is God and the Son of God, Who assumed indeed our likeness, but continued unchanged, nor ceased to be that which He had been.

He became the guest then of His inviters, to fulfil, as I said, a necessary duty: “but they, it says, watched Him.” And for what reason did they watch Him, and on what account? To see forsooth whether He would disregard the honour due to the law, and so do something or other forbidden on the sabbath day. But, O senseless Jew, understand that the law was a shadow and type, waiting for the truth: and the truth was Christ, and His commandments. Why then dost thou arm the type against the truth? why settest thou the shadow in array against the spiritual interpretation? Keep thy sabbath rationally: but if thou wilt not consent so to do, then art thou cut off from that sabbath keeping which is well pleasing to God, and knowest not the true rest, which He requires of us Who of old spake the law of Moses. Let us cease from our sins; let us rest from our offences; let us wash away our stains; let us abandon the impure love of the flesh; let us flee far from covetousness and extortion; and from disgraceful gains, and the love of lucre. Let us first gather provisions for our souls for the way, the meat that will suffice us in the world to come: and let us apply ourselves to holy works, thereby keeping the sabbath rationally. Those whose office it was to minister among you according to the law used to offer unto God the appointed sacrifices, even upon the sabbath: they slew the victims in the temple, and performed those acts of service which were laid upon them: and no man rebuked them, and the law itself was silent. It did not therefore forbid men ministering upon the sabbath. This then was a type for us: for, as I said, it is our duty, keeping the sabbath in a rational manner, to please God by a sweet spiritual savour. And, as I have already before said, we render this when ceasing from sins, we offer unto God as a sacred oblation a life holy and worthy of admiration, steadily advancing unto all virtue. For this is the spiritual sacrifice well pleasing unto God.

But if, having nought of this in thy mind, thou cleavest solely to the grossness of the legal Scripture, abandoning the truth as something thou canst not attain to, listen unto God, Who tells thee by the voice of the prophet Isaiah; “The heart of this people is waxed gross, their eyes they have closed, and made their ears heavy, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” For how were not they heavy and without understanding, and of a mind past helping, who when they might have perceived that He was the Christ by His teaching being superior to the law, and by the wonderful works that He wrought, were obdurate, and regarded only their own preconceived idea of what was right: or rather that only which brought them down to the pit of destruction?

But what was the miracle of which they were spectators? There was a certain man before Him who had the dropsy: the Lord therefore asks the lawyers and Pharisees, whether it is lawful to heal on the sabbath day or not? “But they, it says, were silent.” But why, O lawyer, wast thou silent? Quote something from the scriptures; shew that the law of Moses ever blamed the doing good on the sabbath: prove to us that it wishes us to be hardhearted and unmerciful, because of the rest for our bodies;—that it forbids kindness, in order that we may honour the sabbath. But this thou canst not prove from any part of it. And as they were silent from malice, Christ refutes their immitigable shamelessness by the convincing arguments which He uses. For “whose son of you,” He says, “or whose ox shall fall into a pit, and he will not immediately draw him out on the sabbath day?” If the law forbids the shewing mercy on the sabbath, why dost thou thyself take compassion on that which has fallen into the pit? Trouble not thyself about thy son’s danger upon the sabbath; rebuke the sting of natural affection, which incites thee to feel a father’s love. Commit thy child with joy to the grave, that thou mayest honour the Giver of the law, as knowing that He is harsh and unmerciful. Let thy friend be in danger, but pay not thou the slightest heed thereto: nay though thou hearest a young child weeping, and asking for help, say to it, Die: such is the will of the law. But thou wilt not assent to such reasonings; thou wilt stretch out thy hand to one who is distressed, esteeming him of more account than the honour due to the law, or rather than a senseless rest, even if thou wilt not as yet acknowledge that the sabbath ought to be kept in a spiritual manner. The God of all ceaseth not to be kind: He is good and loving unto men: He instituted not the law of Moses as the mediator of harshness, nor appointed it as a teacher of cruelty, but rather to lead thee on to the love of thy neighbour. How then was it fitting that a commandment thus venerable and worthy of admiration should by the will of God lose its force upon the sabbath day? Why therefore wast thou silent, O lawyer? Confessedly because thou hadst nothing to say. For the force of truth is something great, and invincible, able to confound the envious mind, and to muzzle the faultfinding tongue.

Paying then no further heed to the envyings of the Jews, He delivers from his malady the man afflicted with the dropsy, and tyrannized over by an incurable disease. Thou hast seen O Jew, the miracle: extol then the Worker of it. Understand His might, and the gloriousness of His dominion: acknowledge that He is God: offer Him thy faith: be not obdurate; but as the prophet Jeremiah says, “Rend your hearts, and not your garments.” Expand thy mind: open the eye of thine heart: understand that the acts which He works are those of Deity, even though in appearance He be a man like unto us. Recognize therefore Him Who for our sakes bore our likeness, but even so was far above us: or rather far above all creation by His ineffable generation from God the Father. For He is the Son of Him Who transcends all, but though He was Lord He took the form of the slave, that He might make the slave like unto Himself: yet He did not cease to be God, but remains the Same, Whom angels worship, and principalities, and thrones, and lordships. The Seraphim praise Him: and let us also serve Him in faith, mounting upward by His aid to the lot of the saints; 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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