St Cyril of Alexandria’s Exegetical Homily on Luke 10:23-37

The following post consists of two exegetical (i.e., interpretive) homilies (67 & 68) from St Cyril.

Homily 67 on Luke 10:23-24~

10:23-24. And He turned to the disciples when they were alone, and said, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that you see. For I say to you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see the things which you see, and have not seen them; and to hear the things which you hear, and have not heard them.

THE shows which the world offers (in its games and theatres) lead men often to the sight of things unprofitable, or rather, to what constantly does them great injury. For the frequenters of such places either give themselves up to the admiration of dancers, and yielding to the soft langour they produce, are dissolved in effeminate emotions; or they extol the declaimers of cold sentiments; or delight themselves in the sounds and vibrations of pipes and harps. But vain and altogether unprofitable are such things, and able to lead the mind of man astray from all good. But us, who practise a virtuous course of life, and are earnest in upright deeds, Christ gathers in His holy courts, that delighting ourselves in singing His praise, we may again be made happy by His sacred words and doctrines, which invite us to eternal life.

Let us, therefore, see here too what gifts He has deigned to bestow upon us, who have been called by faith in Him to the knowledge of His glory. “And He turned,” it says, “to the disciples when they were alone, and said, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that you see.” Now, perchance, some one may object, ‘Why did He not address to all who were assembled there His words describing these blessings? and what made Him turn to the disciples, so as to say to them when they were alone, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things that you see?”‘ What then shall be our reply? That it is right to communicate matters of a more secret nature, not to any chance person, but to the most intimate friends. But His friends are whosoever have |307 been deemed by Him worthy of discipleship: and the eye of whose mind is enlightened, and their ear ready for obedience. For He also said on one occasion to the holy apostles, “No longer do I call you servants; you are My friends: for the servant doesn’t know what his lord does: but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you all things which I have heard from My Father.” There were, no doubt, many assembled there and standing in His presence besides His chosen followers, but they were not all believers; and how then could He with truth say to them all, without distinction, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things that you see, and who hear the things that you hear?” It was, therefore, with good reason that, having turned Himself to the disciples. having, that is, averted His face from those who would neither see nor hear, but were disobedient, and their mind darkened, He gave Himself entirely to those who loved Him, and, looking upon them, said, Blessed are the eyes which see, or rather, gaze upon, those things which they were the first, before all others, to behold.

Now the expression which is here used is taken from the common custom of men, and we must bear in mind that in such passages “seeing” does not refer to the action of our bodily eyes, but rather to the enjoyment of those things which are bestowed by Christ on such as fear God. Just, for instance, as if any one say, “So and so saw happy times,” instead of “enjoyed happy times.” Or you may understand it in the same way as that which is written in the book of Psalms, addressed to those who constantly fixed their thoughts on things above; “And you shall see the good of Jerusalem,” instead of, “you shall take part in the happiness of Jerusalem,” even of that which is above, in heaven, which the wise Paul calls “the mother of all saints.” For what doubt can there be that those who were spectators of the godlike miracles wrought by Christ, and of the admirable works He performed, were not necessarily in all cases blessed? For all the Jews saw Christ working with divine majesty, yet it would not be right to account them all as blessed; for they by no means believed, nor did they see His glory with the eyes of the mind. Truly, therefore, they were only the more guilty, and cannot |308 properly be regarded as blessed, for though they saw Jesus possessed of divine glory by the ineffable deeds which he wrought, yet they did not accept faith in Him.

But come, in what way has blessedness befallen our eyes? and what have they seen? and for what reason did they attain to this blessing? They saw that God the Word, Who was in the form of God the Father, had become flesh for our sakes: they saw Him Who shares the Father’s throne, dwelling with us, in our form, that by justification and sanctification He might fashion us after His own likeness, imprinting upon us the beauty of His Godhead in an intellectual and spiritual manner. And of this Paul is witness, who thus writes: “For as we have been clothed with the image of the earthy, we shall also be clothed with the image of the heavenly:”—-meaning by the earthy man, Adam, the first created: but by the heavenly, the Word Who is from above, and Who shone forth from the substance of God the Father, but was made, as I said, in our likeness. He Who by nature is a Son took the form of a slave, not that by taking upon Him our state, He might continue in the measure of slavery, but that He might set us free, who were chained to the yoke of slavery,—-for every thing that is made is by nature a slave,—-enriching us with what is His. For through Him and with Him we have received the name of sons, being ennobled, so to speak, by His bounty and grace. He Who was rich shared our poverty, that He might raise man’s nature to His riches: He tasted death upon the tree and the cross, that He might take away from the midst the offence incurred by reason of the tree (of knowledge), and abolish the guilt that was thereby, and strip death of his tyranny over us. We have seen Satan fall: that cruel one broken: that haughty one laid low:—-him who had made the world submit to the yoke of His empire, stripped of his dominion over us: him in contempt and scorn, who once was worshipped: him who seemed a God, put under the feet of the saints: him who rebelled against Christ’s glory, trampled upon by those who love Him. “For they received power to rebuke the unclean spirits, and to cast them out.” And this power is a very great honour, and too high for human nature, and fit only for the supreme God. |309

And of this too the Word manifested in human form was the first to set us the example: for He also rebuked the impure spirits. But the wretched Jews again vomited forth against Him their envious calumnies; for they said, “This man casts not out devils, but by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.” But these wicked words of theirs the Lord refuted, saying; “If I cast out devils by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then has the kingdom of God come upon you.” For if I, He says, being a man like to you, can thus exercise a divine power, this great and excellent blessing has come upon you: for human nature, He says, is ennobled in Me, by trampling down Satan. Upon us, therefore, the kingdom of God has come, by the Word having been made like to us, and working in the flesh deeds worthy of God.

He also gave the holy Apostles power and might even to raise the dead, and cleanse lepers; and heal the sick, and to call down upon whomsoever they would the Holy Ghost from heaven by the laying on of hands. He gave them power to bind and to lose men’s sins; for His words are, “I say to you, Whatsoever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall lose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.” Such are the things of which we see ourselves possessed: and blessed are our eyes, and those of all who love Him. We have heard His ineffable teaching: He has given us the knowledge of God the Father: He has shown Him to us in His own nature. The things that were by Moses were but types and symbols: Christ has revealed the truth to us. He has taught us that not by blood and smoke, but rather by spiritual sacrifices, we must honour Him Who is incorporeal and immaterial, and above all understanding. Many holy prophets desired to see these things; yes, and many kings: for we find them at one time saying, “Show me Your mercy, O Lord: and, O Lord, grant us Your salvation.” For they call the Son Mercy and Salvation. At another time again; “Remember me, O Lord, with the favour of Your people: and visit me with Your Salvation: that we may see the happiness of Your chosen, and rejoice in gladness with Your people.”And who the people are, that are chosen in Christ by God the |310 Father, the wise Peter tells us, when saying to those who have been ennobled by faith: “But you are a chosen generation: a royal priesthood: a holy people, a redeemed multitude: that you may tell forth His virtues, Who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.”

And to this we have been called by Christ: by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father be praise and dominion, with tho Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen.

Homily 68 on Luke 10:25-37~

10:25-37. And see, a certain lawyer stood up, tempting Him, and saying, Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And He said to Him, What is written in the law? how do you read? And he answered and said, That you shall love the Lord your God from all your heart, and from all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind: and your neighbour as yourself. And He said to him, You have answered rightly: this do, and you shall live. But he, wanting to justify himself said to Jesus; And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answered, and said; A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who, when they had stripped and beaten him, went away, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed him by. And in like manner also a Levite, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed him by. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to him; and when he saw him, he felt pity: and he went to him, and bound up his wounds, and poured upon them oil and wine. And having mounted him on his own beast, he brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the day after he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said to him, Take care of him: and if you spend any thing more, when I come again I will repay you. Which therefore of these three do you think was neighbour to him that fell among the thieves? And he said; He that was merciful to him. And Jesus said to him, Go, and do likewise.

A MOST base pest, my beloved, is double-dealing and hypocrisy in our actions and conduct; and for a man to make pretence of pleasant-spoken words, and of a tongue anointed, so to speak, with the honey of deception, while the heart is full of utter bitterness. Of such we say, in the words of one of the holy prophets, “Their tongue is a piercing arrow: the words |312 of their mouth are deceitful: he speaks peacefully to his neighbour, and enmity is in his heart.” And again; Their words are smoother than oil, yet are they arrows:” by which is meant that they have the force of darts falling violently and shot forth from bows.

The proof of my assertion is close at hand: for let us examine the lawyer’s words: let us strip off his borrowed countenance: let us lay bare his scheming: let us view his pleasant words sprung from deceit, and the guile which they conceal. “For see,” it says, “a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted Him, saying, Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” By a lawyer, the blessed evangelist here meant, according to the custom of the Jews, one acquainted with the law, or at least having the reputation of knowing it, though in reality he knew it not. This man imagined that he could entrap Christ; and in what way I will mention. Certain tale-makers, accustomed to talk at random, went about everywhere in Judaea and Jerusalem itself, accusing Christ, and saying, that He taught that the commandment given by Moses was of no use, and refused to pay any attention to the law given of old to the fathers, while He Himself introduced new doctrines, and spoke to all who would fear God things out of His own mind, which were not in accordance with the law that was given of old. There were even then believers, who resisted the words of these men, everywhere accepting the saving tidings of the gospel. The lawyer therefore wishing, or even expecting to be able to entrap Christ, and get Him to say something against Moses, and affirm that His own doctrine was far better than the commandment of which Moses was the minister, drew near tempting Him, and saying, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

But any one who thoroughly understands the mystery of the Incarnation may well say to him, If you had been skilful in the law, and in the meaning of its hidden teaching, it would not have escaped you Who He is you venture to tempt. For you thought that He was a mere man, and that only; and not rather God, Who appeared in human likeness, and Who knows what is secret, and can look into the hearts of those who approach Him. In manifold ways is the Emmanuel depicted to you by the shadowing of Moses. You saw Him there |313 sacrificed as a lamb, yet vanquishing the destroyer, and abolishing death by His blood. You saw Him in the arrangement of the ark, in which was deposited the divine law: for He was in His holy flesh like as in an ark, being the Word of the Father, the Son that was fathered of Him by nature. You saw Him as the mercy-seat in the holy tabernacle, around which stood the Seraphim [Cherubim]: for He is our mercy-seat for pardon of our sins. Yes! and just like man, He is glorified by the Seraphim, who are the intelligent and holy powers above; for they stand around His divine and exalted throne. You saw Him as the candlestick with seven lamps in the Holy of Holies: for abundant is the Saviour’s light to those who hurry into the inner tabernacle. You saw Him as the bread placed upon the table: for He is the living bread, that came down from heaven, and gives life to the world. You saw Him as the brazen serpent that was raised on high as a sign, and being looked upon healed the bites of the serpents: for though He was like us, in the form therefore of that which is evil, as being in our form, nevertheless He is by nature good, and continues to be that which He was. For the serpent is the type of wickedness; but yet, by being lifted up, and enduring the cross for us, He rendered powerless the bites of those rational serpents, who are no other than Satan, and the wicked powers under his command.

But though the lawyer was invested with the reputation of being instructed in the law, nevertheless He Who is marked out by the shadowing of the law was completely unknown to him, even though He was proclaimed of old by the words of the holy prophets. For had he not been sunk in utter ignorance, how could he have drawn near to Him as to a mere man?Or how have ventured to tempt God, Who tries the hearts and reins, and to Whom nothing that is in us is hidden? For he says, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Do you call Him Teacher, when you wilt not submit to learn? Do you make a pretence of honouring Him, Whom you hope to entrap, and do you place as the bait upon your hook the pleasantness of words?

But what would you learn? “For what, he says, shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Observe again, I pray, the malice in the lawyer’s words. For he might have said, What shall I |314 do to be saved, or to please God, and receive reward of Him? But this he passes by, and uses rather the Saviour’s expressions, pouring ridicule upon His head. For as it was the custom of our common Saviour Christ to speak constantly of eternal life to as many as drew near to Him, the haughty lawyer to ridicule Him, as I said, makes use of His own expressions.

Now had you been truly desirous of learning, you would have heard from Him the things that lead on to eternal life: but as you wickedly tempt Him, you will hear nothing more than those commands only which were given to them of old time by Moses”. For “What,” says He, “is written in the law? How do you read?” And on the lawyer’s repeating what is enacted in the law, as if to punish his wickedness, and reprove his malicious purpose, Christ, as knowing all things, says, “You have answered rightly: this do, and you shall live.” The lawyer has missed his prey; he has shot wide of the mark, his wickedness is unsuccessful, the sting of envy has ceased, the net of deceit is torn asunder, his sowing bears no fruit, his toil gains no profit: and like some ship that misfortune has overwhelmed, he has suffered a bitter wreck. Let us therefore cry out against him in the words of Jeremiah, “You are found, and caught, because you have stood up against the Lord.”

But having, as I said, missed his prey, he falls headlong into vanity; he is hurried from one pitfall to another, from snare to snare, from deceit to pride: vices, so to speak, lend him to one another, and he is tossed about everywhere, one wickedness as soon as it has seized him thrusting him on to another, and carrying him wherever it may chance, and easily making him wander from destruction to destruction. For he does not ask in order that he may learn, but as the Evangelist said, “wishing to justify himself.” For observe how from self-love as well as pride he shamelessly called out, “And who is my neighbour?” And is there no one, O lawyer, |315 like you?Do you raise yourself above every one? Be less supercilious: Remember what the author of the book of Proverbs says, “that those who know themselves are wise.” He exalts himself therefore, and breathes forth proud things, and boasts himself in vain imaginations: but he learnt of Christ, that as he was destitute of love towards his neighbours, the bare profession only of being learned in the law profited him in no way whatsoever. For God over all looks at works rather, and gives not praise to bare and merely fictitious professions.

Very skilfully therefore does the Saviour of all weave the parable of him who fell into the hands of thieves, saying, that when he was lying half dead, and in the last extremity of evil, a priest passed by, and in like manner a Levite, without feeling towards him any sentiment of humanity, or dropping upon him the oil of compassionate love; but rather, their mind was unsympathizing and cruel towards him. But one of another race, a Samaritan, fulfilled the law of love. Justly therefore He asked, which of these three he thinks was the sufferer’s neighbour. And he said, “He that wrought mercy with him.” And to this Christ added, “Go you also, and act in like manner.” You have seen, O lawyer, and it has been proved by the parable, that it is of no avail whatsoever to any man, to be set up by empty names, and to pride himself upon unmeaning and ridiculous titles, so long as the excellence of deeds does not accompany them. For the dignity of the priesthood is unavailing to its owners, and equally so is the being called learned in the law, to those who are so reputed, unless they |316 excel also in deeds. For lo! a crown of love is being twined for him who loves his neighbour: and he proves to be a Samaritan. Nor is he rejected on this account: for he who was foremost among the disciples, even the blessed Peter, testified, thus writing, “In truth I perceive that God is not a respecter of persons: but in every nation, whosoever fears Him, and works righteousness, is accepted by Him.” For Christ, Who loves our virtues, accepts all who are diligent in good pursuits: 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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One Response to St Cyril of Alexandria’s Exegetical Homily on Luke 10:23-37

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C | stjoeofoblog

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