Post #7 For Palm Sunday: St Cyril’s Exegetical Homilies On The Passion Of Luke(23:32-43)

This post contains the last two sermons in the series, unfortunately, some of the content has not survived the ages; thus the content of this post is rather fragmented.

SERMON CLIII.

23:32-43. And there were led also two others, who were malefactors, to be put to death with Him. And when they came to the place which is called a skull, there they crucified Him and the malefactors, one on the right hand and the other on the left. And dividing His garments, they cast lots. And the people stood looking on. And the rulers also derided Him, saying. He saved others; let Him save Himself if This is the Christ the elect of God. And the soldiers also mocked Him, coming to Him, and offering Him vinegar, and saying, If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself And there was also a writing written over Him, This is the King of the Jews. And one of the malefactors which were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us. But the other answered rebuking him, and said, Do you not fear God, seeing you are in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due retribution of our deeds: but this man has done nothing that is hateful. And he said, Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom. And Jesus said to him, Verily I say to you, To-day shall you be with Me in paradise.

THE blessed Paul counts the mystery of the incarnation of the Only-begotten worthy of all admiration, and, so to speak, is in amaze at the wisdom and excellence of the plan of salvation, saying, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God.” For consider how the Saviour of all and Lord, by Whom the Father brought all things into existence, refashions man’s nature, restoring it to that which it was in the beginning by becoming Himself like to us, and bearing our sufferings for our sakes. For the first man was indeed in the beginning in the paradise of delight, being ennobled by the absence both of suffering and of corruption: but when he despised the commandment that had been given him, and fell under a curse and condemnation, and into the snare of death, by eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, Christ, as I said, by the very same thing restores him again to his original con-dition. For He became the fruit of the tree by having endured the precious cross for our sakes, that He might destroy death, which by means of the tree had invaded the bodies of mankind. He bore suffering that He might deliver us from sufferings: “He was despised and not esteemed,” as it is written, that He might make us honourable: He did no sin, that He might crown our nature with similar glory: He Who for our sakes was man submitted also to our lot; and He Who gives life to the world submitted to death in the flesh. Is not therefore the mystery profound? Must we not own that the dispensation is more than language can describe? What doubt can there be of this? Let us therefore, as we offer Him our praise, repeat that which was sung by the Psalmist’s harp; “How great are Your works, O Lord! in wisdom have You made them all.”

When therefore He hung upon the precious cross, two thieves were hung with Him. And what follows from this? It was verily mockery as far as regards the object of the Jews; but the commemoration of prophecy: for it is written, that “He was also numbered with the transgressors.” For our sakes He became a curse, that is, accursed: for it is written again, that “Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree.” But this act of His did away with the curse that was upon us: for we with Him and because of Him are blessed. And knowing this, the blessed David says: “Blessed are we of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth:” for by His sufferings blessings descend to us. He in our stead paid our debts: He bore our sins; and as it is written, “in our stead He was stricken.” “He took them up in His own body on the tree:” for it is true that “by His bruises we are healed.” He too was sick because of our sins, and we are delivered from the sicknesses of the soul. He bore derision, and mockeries, and spittings: for the rulers of the synagogue of the Jews scoffed Him, shaking their polluted heads, and pouring out upon Him bitter laughter, as they said, “He saved others: let Him save Himself, if He is the Christ.” But if you did not really believe that He was the Christ, why did you kill Him as the heir? Why did you wish to seize His inheritance? If He saved others, and you know that this indeed was so, how could He want the power to save Himself from your hands? You heard in the temple those whose office it was to sing and recite in chorus constantly chanting; “They pierced My hands and My feet: they counted all My bones: and themselves watched and gazed at Me. They divided My garments among them, and on My clothing did they cast the lot.” And again, “They gave gall for My eating, and for My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink.” Since then you were learned in the law,—-for such you considered yourself to be,—-how came you to leave prophecy, and what had been foretold concerning these things unexamined? It was your duty to have enquired Who it was That spoke these things; to Whose person, I mean, you should have referred these verses. You heard your great chieftain Moses foretelling the savageness of your attacks: for he said, that “you shall see your Life hanging upon a tree:” you shall see, that is, Him Who is the cause of life, or rather Life Itself, hung upon a tree. And how then did you entirely disregard the prophecy of Moses, of whom you made so great boast? For we have heard you expressly declaring, “We are Moses’ disciples.” Tell me what you mean by shaking your head at Him? Is it the meek endurance of the Sufferer that you despise? or is it to prove the stony hardness of your mind? Are you eager to subject the Prince of Life to the death of the flesh? Why meddle you with holy cares? Why purpose you a counsel that you will not be able to establish? “He that dwells in heaven shall laugh at them: and the Lord shall deride them,” as it is written.

Two thieves therefore were hanged with Him, as I said, in mockery even of the passion which brings salvation to the whole world: but of these, the one, it says, resembled in his conduct the impiety of the Jews, belching forth the same words as they did, and giving free utterance to blasphemous expressions. “For if, says he, You be the Christ, save Yourself, and us.” But the other, following a different course, is justly worthy of our admiration: for he believed in Him: and while suffering so bitter a punishment, he rebuked the vehement outcries of the Jews, and the words of him who was hanging with him. He “confessed his sin, that he might be justified:” he became the accuser of his own wicked ways, that God might remit his guilt; for it is written, “I said that I will confess of myself my iniquity to the Lord, and You forgave the wickedness of my heart.” He bore to Christ a blameless testimony, and reproved the Jewish want of love to God, and condemned the sentence of Pilate: “for This Man, he says, has done nothing that is hateful.” O how beautiful is this confession! how wise the reasonings, and how excellent the thoughts! He became the confessor of the Saviour’s glory, and the accuser of the pride of those who crucified Him. What reward therefore did he receive? Of what honours was he counted worthy? Or what benefit did the thief gain who was the first to profess faith? He lit upon a treasure worth the having: he became rich unexpectedly, and possessed of every blessing: he won the inheritance of the saints, and to have his name written above, in heaven: he was in the book of life who was bearing the sentence of death, and is numbered with the dwellers in the city that is above.

And let us look at his most beautiful confession of faith. “Jesus, he says, remember me when You come in Your kingdom.” You see Him crucified, and call Him a king: Him Who was bearing scorn and suffering, you expect to come in godlike glory: you see Him surrounded by a multitude of the Jews, and the wicked gang of the Pharisees, and Pilate’s band of soldiers,—-all these were mocking Him, and no single one of them confessed …

Fragments of sermons CLIV, CLV and CLVI.

23:44. There was darkness over all the land.

He who excels all created things, and shares the Father’s throne, humbled Himself to emptying, and took the form of a slave, and endured the limits of human nature, that He might fulfil the promise made of God to the forefathers of the Jews: but they were so obdurate and disobedient as even to rise up against their Master. For they made it their business to deliver the Prince of life to death, and crucified the Lord of glory. But when they had affixed to the cross the Lord of all, the sun over their heads withdrew, and the light at midday was wrapped in darkness, as the divine Amos had foretold. For there was “darkness from the sixth hour until the ninth hour:” and this was a plain sign to the Jews, that the minds of those who crucified Him were wrapped in spiritual darkness, for “blindness in part has happened to Israel.” And David in his love to God even curses them, saying, “Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see.”

Yes! creation itself bewailed its Lord: for the sun was darkened, and the rocks were rent, and the very temple assumed the garb of mourners, for its “veil was rent from the top to the bottom.” And this is what God signified to us by the voice of Isaiah, saying, “And I will clothe the heaven with darkness, and wrap it around with sackcloth.”

23:47. And when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God.

Again observe, I pray, that no sooner had He endured the passion upon the cross for our sakes, than He began to win many to a knowledge of the truth: “for the centurion, it says, when he saw what had happened, glorified God, saying, that truly This Man was righteous.” And certain Jews also struck upon their breasts, being pricked doubtless by their |723 consciences, and looking up with the eyes of their mind to the Lord, and it may he perhaps clearing themselves of their impious conduct against Christ by crying out against those who crucified Him, even though they dared not do so openly, because of the impiety of the rulers. With truth therefore did our Lord say, “When I have been lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men to Me.”

23:55. And women also followed, who had come with Him from Galilee.

Wise women followed our common Saviour Christ, gathering whatever was both useful and necessary for faith in Him. And when He gave His flesh as a ransom for the life of us all, they wisely betook themselves to tend His body: for they supposed that the corpse would continue in the grave.

24:4. It came to pass, as they were perplexed at this.

THE women came to the sepulchre, and when they could not find the body of Christ,—-for He had risen,—-they were much perplexed. And what followed? For their love’s sake to Christ, and their earnest zeal thereunto, they were counted worthy of seeing holy angels, who even told them the joyful tidings, and became the heralds of the resurrection, saying, “Why seek you the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.” For the Word of God ever lives, and is by His own nature Life: but when He humbled Himself to emptying, and submitted to be made like to us, He tasted death. But this proved to be the death of death: for He arose from the dead, to be the way whereby not Himself so much but we rather return to incorruption. And let no one seek Him Who ever lives among the dead; for He is not here, with mortality, that is, and in the tomb: but where rather is He? in heaven plainly, and in godlike glory. And more firmly to settle the faith of the women in these things, they recall to their minds what Christ had said, that “He must necessarily be given up into the hands of sinners, and suffer, and the third day rise again.”

Angels too brought the joyful tidings of the nativity to the shepherds in Bethlehem, and now they tell His resurrection: and heaven yields its service to proclaim Him, and the hosts of the spirits which are above attend the Son as God, even when He had become flesh.

24:9. And they returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.

The women having been taught the mystery by the voice of angels, run to tell these things to the disciples. For it was fitting that this grace, though so splendid, should be granted to women. For she who of old was the minister of death is now freed from her guilt by ministering to the voice of the holy angels, and by being the first both to learn and tell  the adorable mystery of the resurrection. The female sex therefore gained both acquittal from their reproach and the reversal of their curse. For He Who of old had said to them, “In pains shall you bear children,” gave them deliverance from their misfortune, by having met them in the garden, as another Evangelist mentions, and said, Hail. To the holy apostles however the account of the resurrection seemed absolutely but an idle tale, and falsehood; for even they did not know the inspired Scripture, and so they were incredulous, and mocked at the news and rejected it.

How did the disciples in John’s Gospel, having heard Mary, and having run to the sepulchre, believe? For to this also the Scripture bears witness in their behalf, saying, “When therefore they entered, the other disciple who came first to the sepulchre both saw and believed.” But in Luke it is said, “And they returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest,—-it was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the wife” of James, and the rest with them, who told these things to the apostles, —-and they disbelieved them.”

24:13. Behold two of them went that same day to a village.

As two of the disciples walk to a village called Emmaus, they conversed with one another concerning Christ, regarding Him as no longer living, but mourning Him as dead. And as they conversed, Jesus Himself drew near and went with them, without being recognised by them, “for their eyes were held that they should not know Him. And He says to them, “What is it, I pray, of which you converse with one another as you walk thus mournfully? And one of them whose name was Cleopas answered and said, Are You only a stranger in Jerusalem,” &c. And then they tell Him of the rumours of the resurrection brought by the women, and of that by Peter, but believe them not. For by saying, “And women also astonished us, who found not the body,” they show that they had not been induced to believe the news, nor regard it as true tidings, but as a cause of trouble and astonishment: and Peter’s testimony, who had seen only the linen bandages at the sepulchre, they did not consider as a trustworthy proof of the resurrection, because he did not say that he had seen Him, but inferred that He had risen from His being no longer there. And you must know that those two belonged to the number of the seventy, and that Cleopas’ companion was Simon,—-not Peter, nor he of Cana,—-but another of the seventy.

24:27. Having begun from Moses and from all the prophets.

In this discourse the Lord shows that the law was necessary to make ready the way, and the ministry of the prophets to prepare men for faith in this marvellous act, that so when the resurrection really took place, those who were troubled at its greatness might remember what was said of old, and be induced to believe. He brings forward therefore Moses and the prophets, interpreting their hidden meaning, and making plain to the worthy what to the unworthy was obscure, so settling in them that ancient and hereditary faith taught them by the sacred books which they possessed. For nothing which comes from God is without its use, but all and several of them have their appointed place and service. In their due place servants were sent before to make ready for the presence of the Master, by bringing in beforehand prophecy as the necessary preparative for faith, that, like some royal treasure, what had been foretold might in due season be brought forward from the concealment of its former obscurity, being unveiled and made plain by the clearness of the interpretation. Having thus then stirred up their minds by the writings of the law and the prophets, He afterwards more plainly sets Himself before them, when, having consented to their request to go with them to the village, He took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and divided it among them. ” For their eyes, it says, “were held that they might not know Him,” until namely the word had entered stirring up their heart to faith, and then, rendering what they had before heard and believed visible, He offered them the sight seasonably after the hearing. He does not, however, continue with them, for “He vanished, it says, out of their sight.” For our Lord’s relation to men after His resurrection does not continue the same as before, for they too have need of renovation, and a second life in Christ, that the renewed may associate with the renewed, and the incorruptible approach the incorruptible. For which reason, as John tells us, He did not permit Mary to touch Him, until He should go away and return again.

24:33. They rose up that same hour.

Cleopas, it says, and his companions, rose up that same hour, the same of course in which Jesus had vanished out of their sight, and returned to Jerusalem: but it does not say that they found the eleven gathered together that same hour, and told them what had happened concerning Jesus,  but this took place on the fortieth day after His resurrection, on which day He was also taken up. This evangelist therefore has omitted the events which took place in the intervening time, and which Cleopas and his companions found the eleven discussing in private, and saying, that “the Lord is risen, and has been seen by Simon:” and of him he has not mentioned either where, or when, or how this took place. It was during these days that those events also took place which were done in Galilee, and which Matthew has recorded.

24:36. Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them.

And now, keeping to the order of events, we say, that the account of the resurrection having already reached the apostles from many quarters, and their desire to see Him having thus been roused, He comes according to their desire, and stands visible and revealed before them as they seek for and expect Him. And no longer does He appear to them with their eyes held, nor converse with them as concerning some other person, but permits them to see Him plainly, and bids them be of good cheer. But they even so were in doubt and affright; for they thought that they saw not Himself, but some apparition and shadow: but He quiets the perturbation occasioned by such thoughts, addressing them with His usual and customary speech, and saying, “Peace be to you.”

24:38. He said to them, Why are you troubled? and why do reasonings arise in your hearts?

To convince them firmly and indubitably, that He is the same Who suffered, He immediately shows that being God by nature, He knows what is hidden, and that the tumultuous thoughts within them escape Him not: for He said, “Why are you troubled? And this is a very plain proof that He Whom they see before them is not some other person, but the very same Whom they had seen both suffering death upon the cross and laid in the tomb, even Him Who sees reins and heart, and from Whom nothing that is in us is hid. This therefore He gives them as a sign, His knowledge namely of the tumult of thoughts that was within them. And to prove moreover in another way that both death is conquered, and that human nature has put off corruption in Him as the foremost, He shows His hands and His feet, and the holes of the nails, and permits them to handle Him, and in every way convince themselves that the very body which had suffered was, as I said, risen. Let no one therefore cavil at the resurrection: and though you hear the sacred Scripture say of the human body, that “it is sown an animal body, it is raised a spiritual body,” do not deny the return even of human bodies to incorruption. For as the animal is that which follows after, and is subject to animal, that is, to fleshly lusts, so also the spiritual is that which submits itself to the will of the Holy Spirit. For after the resurrection from the dead, there will be no longer the opportunity for carnal affection, but, the goad of sin will be entirely powerless. That very (body) therefore which has been brought down to the earth, shall be clothed with incorruption.

That the disciples therefore might be quite sure that it is the very same Who suffered and was buried and rose again, He shows, as I said, both His hands and feet: and He bids them be fully convinced that it is not a spirit, as they thought, but rather in very truth a body, saying, “And you see that a spirit has not flesh and bones, as you see Me have.” For a shadow and spirit and apparition merely could not endure the touch of the hand.

Having then, as we have said, shown His hands and feet to the disciples, the Lord fully convinced them that the body which had suffered had risen: but, to produce in them still further a yet more firmly-settled faith therein, He asked for something to eat. And what was brought was a piece of broiled fish, which He took and ate in the presence of them all. Now this He did for no other reason than clearly to show them that He Who had risen from the dead was the same Who in old time had eaten and drunk with them during the whole period of the dispensation, and conversed with them as a man, according to the prophet’s voice: intending them to perceive that the human body does indeed need sustenance of this kind, but a spirit by no means so. Who therefore that claims to be faithful, and receives unhesitatingly the witness of the holy evangelists, can any longer listen to the fictions of heretics, can any longer endure the apparition-mongers? For the power of Christ surpasses human enquiry, nor is it on the level of the understanding of ordinary events. He ate then a piece of fish because of the resurrection: but the natural consequences of eating by no means followed in the case of Christ, as the unbeliever might object, knowing that “whatsoever enters in at the mouth, must necessarily be cast out and go into the draught.” But the believer will admit no such cavils into his mind, but leave the matter to the power of God.

24:45. Then He opened their mind to understand the Scriptures.

When He had quieted their reasonings by what He said, by the touch of their hands, and by partaking of food, He then opened their mind to understand, that “so it was necessary for Him to suffer,” even upon the wood of the cross. The Lord therefore recalls the minds of the disciples to what Me had before said: for He had forewarned them of His sufferings upon the cross, according to what the prophets had long before spoken: and He opens also the eyes of their heart, so as for them to understand the ancient prophecies.

The Saviour promises the disciples the descent of the Holy Spirit, which God had announced of old by Joel, and power from above, that they might be strong and invincible, and without all fear preach to men everywhere the divine mystery.

He says to them now that they had received the Spirit after the resurrection, “Receive you the Holy Spirit,” and adds, “But tarry you at Jerusalem, and wait for the promise of the Father, which you have heard of Me. For John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit;” in water no longer, for that they had received, but with the Holy Spirit: He does not add water to water, but completes that which was deficient by adding what was wanting to it.

Having blessed them, and gone a little in advance, He was carried up to heaven, that He might share the Father’s throne even with the flesh that was united to Him. And this new pathway the Word made for us when He appeared in human form: and hereafter in due time He will come again in the glory of His Father with the angels, and will take us up to be with Him.

Let us glorify therefore Him Who being God the Word became man for our sakes: Who suffered willingly in the flesh, and arose from the dead, and abolished corruption: Who was taken up, and hereafter shall come with great glory to judge the living and the dead, and to give to every one according to his deeds: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be glory and power with the Spirit for ever and ever. Amen. PRAISE GOD.

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One Response to Post #7 For Palm Sunday: St Cyril’s Exegetical Homilies On The Passion Of Luke(23:32-43)

  1. Pingback: Year C: Palm Sunday Commentaries on the Processional and Gospel Readings | stjoeofoblog

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