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

Now all the publicans and sinners used to draw near unto Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and Scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. And He spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you having a hundred sheep, and having lost one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it. And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he hath come home, he calleth together his friends and his neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me: for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise there shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance. Or what woman having ten drachms, if she lose one of them, doth not light a lamp, and sweep the house, and search diligently till she find it. And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me: for I have found the drachm which I had lost. Likewise I say unto you, that there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

YE have no doubt attended here also to what has been read; ye have wondered with me at the Saviour’s words: have ye also understood it thoroughly and spiritually, and fixed the searching eye of the mind upon its profounder interpretation? Has the sense of what has been said been caught by you? Or possibly has the word, after having rung in your hearing, flown away, and nothing settled there that would be to your profit. But as I imagine, in that ye are believers, and love instruction, the Saviour illumineth your understanding. For He it is “Who revealeth the deep things of darkness, and putteth the light of understanding in the hearts of those that love Him.”

The two parables then that follow close upon one another depict to us an image of the divine gentleness, being both of similar meaning, and, so to say, at concord with one another. But the senseless Jew is openly reproved, for refusing in every way to understand the great and profound mystery of the Incarnation. From him it was completely hidden, that God the Father sent the Son from heaven, not “to judge the world,” as He Himself declares, but that the world might be saved through Him. In what manner then was it fitting for the world to be saved, which had been caught in the meshes of sin, and proved guilty of the charge of wickedness, and that was subject to a cruel tyrant, even Satan? Was it by demanding of it punishment, for having fallen into transgression and sin? Or was it not rather by helping it, in that God is long-suffering, and ready, so to speak, to cover over in forgetfulness those things wherein man had transgressed, and to renew unto holiness of life those who knew not how to live uprightly?

Tell me therefore, O Pharisee, why thou murmurest, because Christ disdained not to be with publicans and sinners, but purposely provided for them this means of salvation? To save men He yielded Himself to emptiness, and became in fashion like unto us, and clothed Himself in human poverty. And dost thou then blame the dispensation of the Only-begotten in the flesh? Dost thou find fault with His humbling Himself from above in heaven, Who transcends all? Nay, leavest thou not the very Incarnation without censure? And yet the holy prophets wondered at the beautiful skill of the mystery. For the prophet David in the Psalms declares, “Sing ye with understanding: God hath set a King over all the nations.” And the prophet Habakkuk says, “That he heard His hearing, and was afraid: and that he considered also His doings, and was astonished.” How therefore art thou not ashamed of blaming those things which thou oughtest to have admired? Wouldest thou have the Lord of all stern and inexorable, or good rather and kind to men? The family upon earth had gone astray: it had wandered from the hand of the chief shepherd: and therefore He Who feedeth the flocks above in heaven, became like unto us, that He might make us also dwell in His folds:—that He might unite us to those who had never gone astray, and drive from us the beast of prey, and ward off like some impious band of robbers those impure demons, who had led astray all beneath the sky.

He sought therefore that which was lost: and, to shew that the Jewish fault-finding on this account was vain, He saith unto them, “What man of you having a hundred sheep, and having lost one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go to seek that which is lost. And if it chance to be found, he rejoiceth in it, He saith, more than in those that went not astray.” Understand from this, my beloved, the wide extent of the Saviour’s kingdom, and the multitude past numbering of His subjects, and the skilful plan of the dispensation to usward. For the sheep, He says, are a hundred, so making the number of His subjects mount up to a multitude complete and altogether perfect. For constantly, so to speak, a hundred is a perfect number, being composed of ten times ten. And we have learnt also from the divinely-inspired Scripture, that a “thousand thousands minister to God, and ten thousand times ten thousand stand around His lofty throne.” The sheep therefore are a hundred: and of them one has gone astray, even the family upon earth; which also the chief Shepherd of all sought, having left in the wilderness those ninety and nine. Was it therefore because He had no regard for the many, that mercy was shewn to the one only? No! not because He had no regard for them; that were impossible: but because they are in security, guarded by His Almighty hand. It was right therefore that mercy should rather be shewn to that which was lost, that evidently nothing might be wanting to that other multitude, but the one being restored thereto, the hundred might regain its beauty.

The search therefore after that which was lost was no act of contempt towards those who had not erred, but one of grace and mercy and love to mankind fit for the supreme and transcendent nature to bestow on His fallen creatures.

For come, and let us examine the matter by the help also of another example, in order that we may at all times defend the incomparable gentleness of Christ, the Saviour of us all. For let it be supposed that in one house there are many inmates, of whom it so chances that one falls ill. For whom then are those skilled in healing summoned? Is it not for him only who has fallen ill? But it is not through any disregard of the many, that those who have been called in to heal attend only to him who is sick, and give him the benefit of their skill, as the time and his need require. In like manner therefore it was worthy, right worthy of God, Who ruleth over all, to stretch out His saving hand to that which had gone astray. The wild beast had seized it: it had led the family upon earth astray from the pasture, and had hurried it into all misery. The chief Shepherd saved it: for He sought that which had wandered, and has established for us a fold, unassailable and impregnable against wild beasts and robbers, even the Church; in admiration of which we may say, in the words of the prophet, “Behold, we have a strong and secure city: He will place (for us) a wall and rampart.”

And the sense of the parable which immediately follows is exactly similar, in which, He says, that ‘a woman who had ten drachms lost one of them, and haying lit a lamp and found it, rejoiced greatly therein, and made it a reason for special joy.’ By the former parable therefore, in which the wandering sheep signified the family upon earth, we learnt, that we are the property of God over all, in that He it is Who brought into existence those things which previously had no existence. For “He made us, and not we ourselves,” as it is written. And “He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.” And by this second parable, in which that which was lost is compared to a drachma, and that again as one out of ten, that is of a perfect number, and of a sum complete in the reckoning;—for the number ten also is perfect, being the close of the series from the unit upwards;—it is clearly shewn, that we are in the royal likeness and image, even that of God over all. For the drachma is, I suppose, the denarius, on which is stamped the royal likeness. That we then who had fallen, and, so to speak, been lost, have been found by Christ, and transformed by holiness and righteousness into His image, how can any one doubt, when the blessed Paul has thus written, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as of the Lord the Spirit.” And he sends to the Galatians also in these words, “My children, of whom I am again in travail, until Christ is formed in you.”

A search then was made for that which had fallen, for which purpose the woman lighted a lamp. For we were found, as I said, by the wisdom of God the Father, Which is the Son, when the divine and intellectual light shone upon us, and the sun arose, and “the day star ascended, and the day dawned,” according to the Scripture. For God also has somewhere said by one of the holy prophets of Christ the Saviour of us all, “My righteousness quickly approacheth, and My mercy to be revealed, and My salvation shall burn as a lamp.” And He saith of Himself, at one time, “I am the light of the world:” and again at another, “I am come a light into this world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall possess the light of life.” By the light therefore that which was lost is saved, and there was joy thereby to the powers above. For they rejoice even in one sinner that repenteth, as He hath taught us Who knoweth all things. If they then keep festival over one who is saved, in unison altogether with the divine purpose, and laud with never-ceasing praises the Saviour’s gentleness, with how great joy must they be filled, when all beneath the heaven is saved, and called by faith in Christ to the acknowledgment of the truth, having put off the pollutions of sin, and loosed its neck from the bonds of death, and escaped from blame, even the blame of its wandering and fall! For all these things we gain 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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