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

And He spake a parable unto them which were bidden preventing how they chose the foremost seats: saying unto them, When thou art bidden of any one, seat not thyself at the head of the seat, lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; and when he that bade thee and him cometh, he say unto thee, Give this man place; and then thou begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when thou art bidden, go seat thyself in the lowest place, that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher; then shalt thou have honour before all who sit with thee at meat. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

NEVER does the Saviour cease from doing some act or other replete with benefit, guiding by admonitions and counsels all who draw near unto Him into propriety of conduct, and teaching them that sobriety which becometh saints, that as Paul says, “the man of God may be perfect, complete unto every good work.” Seizing therefore every opportunity, however slight, for His words, He wove for us admonitions well worthy of our attention, therein resembling an active husbandman; for whatsoever is liable to blame and reprehension, and covers with utter infamy those who are guilty of it, this He cuts away from our minds, and plants, so to speak, every fruit of virtue: for “we, as Scripture says, are God’s husbandry.”

What benefit then He has here too discovered for us, we learn from the passage now read. For He was dining on the sabbath day with one of the Pharisees, at his special request. And his purpose in so doing, and motive we explained unto you when last we met together. But inasmuch as He saw certain of those who were invited foolishly seizing the uppermost seats as a thing of importance, and worth the taking, and that they were eager after vainglory, for the benefit both of them and us He utters an urgent warning, saying; “When thou art bidden of any one, seat not thyself at the head of the seat, lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him, and when he that bade thee and him cometh, he say unto thee, Give this man place; and then thou begin with shame to take the lowest place.”

Now such things may seem perchance to some to be but trifling matters, and not worthy of much attention. But when any one fixes upon them the eye of his mind, he will then learn, from what blame they deliver a man, and how great orderliness they produce in him. For in the first place to hurry inconsiderately after honours neither suitable, nor due to us, shews us to be foolish, rude, and arrogant, seizing what is not fitting for us, but for others rather, who are greater than and superior to ourselves. Whoever he be that thus acts, is hated, and often too becomes an object of ridicule, when he has to restore to others, and that often against his will, the honour which in no respect belongs unto him. “For when, He says, a more honourable man than thou cometh, he that bade thee and him will say, Give this man place.” O! what great ignominy is there in having so to do! It is like a theft, so to speak, and the restitution of the stolen goods. He must restore what he has seized; for he had no right to take it. But the modest and praiseworthy man, who might without fear of blame have claimed the dignity of sitting among the foremost, seeks it not, but yields to others what might be called his own, that he may not even seem to be overcome by vainglory; and such an one shall receive honour as his due: for he shall hear, He says, him who bade him say, “Come up hither.”

A modest mind therefore is a great and surpassing good: for it delivers those who possess it from blame and contempt, and from the charge of vaingloriousness. ‘But yes! says the lover of vainglory, I wish to be illustrious and renowned, and not despised and neglected, and numbered among the unknown.’ If however thou desirest this transitory and human glory, thou art wandering away from the right path, by which thou mightest become truly illustrious, and attain to such praise as is worthy of emulation. For it is written, “All flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass.” And the prophet David also blames those who love temporal honours; for he also thus spake of them, “Let them be as the grass upon the housetops, which withereth before it is plucked up.” For just as the grass that springs up upon the housetops has no deep fixed root, and for this reason is easily parched up; so he who values worldly honour, after he has been for a short time conspicuous, and, so to speak, in flower, sinks at last into nothingness.

If then any one wish to be set above others, let him win it by the decree of heaven, and be crowned by those honours which God bestows. Let him surpass the many by having the testimony of glorious virtues; but the rule of virtue is a lowly mind that loveth not boasting: yea! it is humility. And this the blessed Paul also counted worthy of all esteem: for he writes to such as are eagerly desirous of saintly pursuits, “Love humility.” And the disciple of Christ praises it, thus writing; “Let the poor brother glory in his exaltation: and the rich in his humiliation, because as the flower of the grass he passeth away.” For the moderate and bridled mind is exalted with God: for “God, it says, will not despise the contrite and abased heart.”

But whosoever thinks great things of himself, and is supercilious, and elate in mind, and prides himself on an empty loftiness, is rejected and accursed. He follows a course the contrary of Christ’s, Who said; “Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.” “For the Lord, it says, resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.” The wise Solomon also shews in many places the safety of the humble mind; at one time saying, “Exalt not thyself, that thou fall not:” and at another time, he figurately declares the same thing; “He that maketh his house high, seeketh an overthrow.” Such a one is hated of God, and very justly, as having mistaken himself, and senselessly aimed above the limits of his nature. For upon what ground, I pray, does man upon earth think great things of himself? For certainly his mind is weak, and easily led into base pleasures: his body is tyrannized over by corruption and death: and the duration of his life is short and limited. Nor is this all, for naked were we born, and therefore riches, and wealth, and worldly honour come to us from without, and are not really ours: for they belong not to the properties of our nature. For what reason therefore is the mind of man puffed up? What is there to exalt it to superciliousness and boasting? Were any one but to regard his state with understanding eyes, he would then become like Abraham, who mistook not his nature, and called himself “dust and ashes.” And like another also who says; “Quit man who is rottenness, and the son of man who is a worm.” But he who is a worm and rottenness; this dust and ashes: this very nothingness becomes great and admirable and honourable before God, by knowing himself; for so he is crowned by God with honour and praise: for the Saviour of all and Lord giveth grace to the humble: 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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