St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on John 20:11-18

xx. 1-9 Now on the first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, while it was yet dark, unto the tomb, and seeth the stone taken away from the tomb. She runneth, therefore, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we know not where they have laid Him. Peter therefore went forth, and the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. And they ran both together: and the other disciple outran Peter, and came first to the tomb; and stooping and looking in, he seeth the linen cloths lying; yet entered he not in. Simon Peter therefore cometh, following him, and entered into the tomb; and he beholdeth the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, that was upon His Head, not lying with the linen cloths, but rolled up in a place by itself. Then entered in therefore the other disciple also, which came first to the tomb, and he saw and believed. For |650  as yet they knew not the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.

This excellent and pious woman would never have endured to remain at home and leave the sepulchre, had not her fear of the law for the Sabbath, and the penalty which impended upon those who transgressed it, curbed the vehemence of her zeal, and had she not, allowing ancient custom to prevail, thought she ought to withdraw her thoughts from the object of her most earnest longings. But, when the Sabbath was already past, and the dawn of the next day was appearing, she hurried back to the spot, and then, when she saw the stone rolled away from the mouth of the tomb, well-grounded suspicions seized her mind, and, calling to mind the ceaseless hatred of the Jews, she thought that Jesus had been carried away, accusing them of this crime in addition to their other misdeeds. While she was thus engaged, and revolving in her mind the probabilities of the case, the woman returned to the men who loved the Lord, anxious to obtain the co-operation of the most intimate of His disciples in her quest. And so deep-rooted and impregnable was her faith that she was not induced to esteem Christ less highly because of His death upon the cross, but even when He was dead called Him Lord, as she had been wont to do, thereby showing a truly God-loving spirit. When these men (I mean Peter, and John the writer of this book, for he gives himself the name of the other disciple) heard these tidings from the woman’s mouth, they ran with all the speed they could, and came to the sepulchre in haste, and saw the marvel with their own eyes, being in themselves competent to testify to the event, for they were two in number, as the Law enjoined. As yet they did not meet Christ risen from the dead, but infer His Resurrection from the bundle of linen clothes, and henceforth believed that He had burst asunder the bonds of death, as Holy Writ had long ago proclaimed that He would do. When, therefore, they looked at the issues of |651 events in the light of the prophecies which turned out true, their faith was henceforth rooted on a firm basis.

Observe that the blessed Evangelist, John, when he tells us the time of the Resurrection, says: On the first day of the week early, while it was yet dark, cometh Mary Magdalene unto the tomb; while Matthew, also, wishing to indicate the time to us, says that the Resurrection took place when the night was far spent. No one, I suppose, will imagine that the inspired writers are at variance, or that they fix the time of the Resurrection differently. For any one that chooses to investigate the meaning of the indications they give of the time, will find that their accounts tally. For early dawn and late night fix the same point of time, that is, the very dead of night, so to say. There is, therefore, no discrepancy between them; for the one, taking as his starting-point the end of night, and the other the beginning, both reach the middle watch, and meet at the same point, that is, as I just now said, the dead of night.

10, 11 So the disciples went away again unto their own home. But Mary was standing without at the tomb weeping.

The wise disciples, after having gathered sufficiently satisfactory evidence of the Resurrection of our Saviour, being in travail, as it were, with their confirmed and unshaken faith, and by comparison of events as they had actually occurred with the prophetic utterances of Holy Scripture, went back home, and hastened, as is likely, to see their fellow-workers, to recount to them the miracle, and afterwards to consider the course to be pursued. And we shall not err if we think that they had another object in so acting. For while the passion of the Jews was at its height, and the rulers were thirsting eagerly for the blood of every man who marvelled at the teaching of the Saviour, and admitted His Divine and ineffable power and glory, but most of all for the blood of the holy disciples themselves, they had good reason |652 for shrinking from encountering them, and left the sepulchre before it was quite light, as they could not have done so without risk, if seen in the daytime, the sun’s rays revealing them to all beholders. We are far from saying that unmanly cowardice was the motive of their cautious flight. Rather should we suppose that the knowledge of what was expedient for them was instilled in the minds of the Saints by Christ, Who did not permit these who were destined to be lights and teachers of the world to run untimely risks. For it was necessary that the truth of His saying should be seen, which He spake concerning them to the Father in heaven. Holy Father, keep them, He says, in Thy Name which Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, even as We are One. While I was with them, I kept them in Thy Name which Thou hast given Me: and I guarded them, and not one of them perished, but the son of perdition. The disciples therefore retired, thinking they ought to await the time when they should speak openly. And this they did in obedience to the Saviour’s words. For He charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, as it is written, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which they had heard of Him: for John indeed baptised with water, but they shall be baptised with the Holy Ghost not many days hence; an event which we find actually came to pass in the days of the Holy Pentecost, when there appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, like as of fire; and it sat upon each one of them. For then were they invested with a spirit of the greatest courage and endurance, and, high exalted above the frailty of their fellow men, boldly encountered the madness of the Jews, and thought their plotting against them worthy of no account. The wise disciples, then, concealed themselves from the motive of expediency, as I said just now, while Mary, in her love of Christ free from all fear and not much suspecting the wrath of the Jews, sat on the watch persistently, and, affected after the manner of women, wept abundantly, and continually wiped away the tears |653 that kept falling from her eyes, mourning not only because the Lord was dead, but also because she thought He had been taken away from the sepulchre. (source)

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One Response to St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on John 20:11-18

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Octave of Easter | stjoeofoblog

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