The following post contains three sermons by St Cyril of Alexandria wherein he treats Luke 12:32-48:
Sermon 91 on Luke 12:32-34.
Sermon 92 on Luke 12:35-40.
Sermon 92 on Luke 12:41-48.
On Luke 12:32-34
12:32-34. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom,. Sell your possessions, and give alms: make you purses that do not grow old: and a treasure in heaven that does not fail, where no thief approaches, nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
AGAIN the Saviour deigns to bestow upon us a pathway to eternal life, and opens wide the door of salvation; that travelling thereon, and adorning the soul with every virtue, we may attain to the city which is above, and of which the prophet Isaiah also bore witness, saying; “Your eyes shall see Jerusalem, the wealthy city, even the tents that shake not.” For immoveable is that tabernacle which is in heaven, and unending joy is the lot of those that dwell therein. And the nature of the way that leads us thereto He shows us, by saying; “Fear not, little flock: for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” This therefore is indeed spiritual consolation, and the pathway that leads us to assured faith.
I think, however, that I ought first of all to show you the reason why the Saviour spake words such as these; for so the full signification of the passage before us will become the more plain to the hearers. In teaching therefore His disciples not to be covetous of wealth, He also withdraws them from worldly anxiety, and from vain toils and luxury and splendour of attire, and whatsoever evil habits follow upon these things: and bids them rather courageously be earnest in the pursuit of these things, [which 1 are good and more excellent, by saying; “Be not anxious for your life, what you shall eat: nor for your body, what you shall put on. For the life is more than meat, and the body than raiment?” And He also] added to this, that “your Father which is in heaven knows that these things are needed by you.” And, so to |420 speak, He enounced as a general law, useful and necessary for salvation, not only to the holy apostles, but to all who dwell upon the earth, that men must seek His kingdom, as being sure that what He gives will be sufficient, so as for them to be in need of nothing. For what does He say? “Fear not, little flock.” And by Do not fear, He means that they must believe that certainly and without doubt their heavenly Father will give the means of life to them that love Him. He will not neglect His own: rather He will open unto them His hand, which ever fills the universe with goodness.
And what is the proof of these things? “It is,” He says, “your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” And He Who gives things thus great and precious, and bestows the kingdom of heaven, what unwillingness can there be on His part to be kind towards us; or how will He not supply us with food and clothing? For what earthly good is equal to the kingdom of heaven? or what is worthy to be compared with those blessings, which God is about to bestow, and which neither the understanding can conceive, nor words describe? “For eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him.” When you praise earthly wealth, and admire worldly power, these things are but as nothing compared with that which is in store. “For all flesh,” it says, “is grass: and all the glory of man as the flower of grass.” And if you speak of temporal affluence and luxuries and banquets, yet “the world,” it says, “passes away, and the desire thereof.” The things therefore which are of God surpass in an incomparable degree ought which this world possesses. If therefore God bestow the kingdom of heaven upon those that love Him, how can He be unwilling to give food and raiment?
And He calls these on earth a “little flock.” For we are inferior to the multitude of the angels, who are innumerable, and incomparably surpass in might our mortal things. And this too the Saviour has Himself taught us, in that parable in the Gospels so excellently framed for our instruction: for He said, “What man of you, that has a hundred sheep, and one of them go astray, will not leave the ninety and nine upon the mountains, and go to seek that which has strayed? And |421 if he chance to find it, verily I say unto you, that he will rejoice in it more than in the ninety and nine which went not astray.” Observe therefore, that while the number of rational created beings extends to ten times ten, the flock that is upon earth is but as one out of a hundred. But though it is little, both by nature and number and dignity, compared with the countless troops of the spirits that are above, yet has the goodness of the Father, which surpasses all description, given also to it the portion of those transcendent spirits, I mean the kingdom of heaven: for permission is given to whosoever will to attain thereunto.
2 [And the means by which we may attain to it, we learn from the Saviour’s words: for He says, “Sell that you have, and give alms.” And this perchance] is a commandment hard and difficult for the rich to endure: for so He Himself has somewhere said; “That hardly shall they that have riches enter the kingdom of God.” And yet the commandment is not impossible for them that are of perfect mind. For come, let me address a few words to those who are rich. Withdraw your attention a little from these temporal things; cease from too worldly a mind; fix the eye of the understanding upon the world that is to be hereafter: for that is of long duration; but this is limited and short: the time of every individual’s life here is allotted by measure; but his life in the world to come is incorruptible and enduring. Let our earnestness therefore after things to come be unwavering: let us store up as our treasure the hope of what will be hereafter: let us gather beforehand for ourselves those things, by which we shall even then be counted worthy of the gifts which God bestows.
To persuade us, however, to take due care of our souls, come, and let us consider the matter among ourselves with reference to men’s ordinary calculations. Suppose one of us wanted to sell a fertile and productive farm, or, if you will, a |422 very beautifully-built house; and so one of you, who had plenty of gold and plenty of silver, were to conceive the desire of purchasing it; would be not feel pleasure in buying it, and readily give the money that was laid up in his coffers, and even add to what he had by him other money on loan? Of this I think there can be no doubt, and that he would feel pleasure in giving it: for the transaction would not expose him to loss, but rather the expectation of his future gains would make him in a flutter of joy. Now what I say is somewhat similar to this. The God of all offers to sell you paradise. There you will reap eternal life; an unending joy; an honourable and glorious habitation. Once there, right blessed will you be, and will reign with Christ. Draw near therefore with eagerness: purchase the estate: with these earthly things obtain things eternal: give that which abides not, and gain that which is secure: give these earthly things, and win that which is in heaven: give that which you must leave, even against your will, that you may not lose things hereafter: lend to God your wealth, that you may be really rich.
And the way in which to lend it He next teaches us, saying; “Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make you purses that grow not old: and a treasure that fails not, eternal,3 in “heaven.” And the very same the blessed David also teaches us in the Psalms, where he says by inspiration of every merciful and good man: “He has dispersed, and given to the poor, and his righteousness is stored up for ever.” For worldly wealth has many foes: for thieves are numerous, and this world of ours is full of oppressors; of whom some are wont to plunder by secret means, while others use violence, and tear it away even from those who resist. But the wealth that is laid up above in heaven, no one injures: for God is its Keeper, Who sleeps not.
And besides it is a very absurd thing, that while we often entrust men of probity with our earthly wealth, and feel no fear lest any loss should result from our confidence in the uprightness of those who receive it; we will not trust it to God, |423 Who receives from us these earthly things, so to speak, as a loan, and promises to give us things eternal, and that with usury. “For good measure,” He says, “and pressed close, and weighing down the scale, and running over, shall they give into your bosom.” And for the measure to run over, is a direct proof of its great abundance. Away then with this pleasure-loving wealth; this parent of base lusts; this inciter to carnal impurity; this friend of covetousness; this worker of boasting: which, as with indissoluble bonds, chains the human mind in effeminacy and indolence towards all that is good, and stretches out, so to speak, a stiff and haughty neck against God: for it yields not itself to that yoke which would lead it unto piety. And be gentle, and merciful, ready to communicate, and courteous. For the Lord is true, Who says; “that where your treasure is, there is your heart also.” For the whole earnestness of those who value these temporal things is set upon them; while those who wish for that which is in heaven, direct thither the eye of the mind. Bo therefore, as I said, friendly to your companions, and merciful. And the blessed Paul makes me speak unto you, where he writes; “Charge them who are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in riches, wherein is no reliance, but on God, Who gives us all things richly to enjoy: that they do good: that they be rich in good works, ready to give, and willing to share with others; laying up for themselves treasures that shall be a good foundation for that which is to come, that they may lay hold upon true life.” These are the things which, if we earnestly practise, we shall become heirs of the kingdom of heaven, by Christ; by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and over, Amen. |424
On Luke 12:35-40
12:35-40. Let your loins be girt, and your lamps burning, and be like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the banquet: that when he has come and knocked they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom their lord at his coming shall find watching. Verily I say unto you, that he will gird up his loins, and make them sit down to meat, and pass by and minister unto them. And if he come in the second watch, or if he come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. And know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief would come, he would be awake, and not have suffered his house to be dug through. Be you therefore also ready, for in an hour that you expect not the Son of man cometh.
THE Psalmist has somewhere said unto Christ, the Saviour of all; “Your commandment is exceeding broad.” And any one may see if he will from the very facts that this saying is true: for He establishes for us pathways in countless numbers, so to speak, to lead us unto salvation, and make us acquainted with every good work, that we, winning for our heads the crown of piety, and imitating the noble conduct of the saints, may attain to that portion which is fitly prepared for them. For this reason He says, “Let your loins be girt, and your lamps burning.” For He speaks to them as to spiritually-minded persons, and describes once again things intellectual by such as are apparent and visible.
For let no one say, that He wishes us to have our bodily loins girt, and burning lamps in our hands:—-such an |425 interpretation would suit only Jewish dullness:—-but our loins being girt, signifies the readiness of the mind to labour industriously in every thing praiseworthy; for such as apply themselves to bodily labours, and are engaged in strenuous toil, have their loins girt. And the lamp apparently represents the wakefulness of the mind, and intellectual cheerfulness. And we say that the human mind is awake when it repels any tendency to slumber off into that carelessness, which often is the means of bringing it into subjection to every kind of wickedness, when being sunk in stupor the heavenly light within it is liable to be endangered, or even already is in danger from a violent and impetuous blast, as it were, of wind. Christ therefore commands us to be awake: and to this His disciple also arouses us by saying; Be awake: be watchful.” And further, the very wise Paul also says; “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead: and Christ shall give you light.”
It is the duty therefore of those who would be partakers of eternal life, and firmly believe that in due season Christ will descend from heaven as Judge, not to be lax, and dissolved in pleasures; nor, so to speak, poured out and melted in worldly dissipation: but rather let them have their will tightly girt, and distinguish themselves by their zeal in labouring in those duties with which God is well pleased. And they must further possess a vigilant and wakeful mind, distinguished by the knowledge of the truth, and richly endowed with the radiance of the vision of God; so as for them, rejoicing therein, to say, “You, O Lord, will light my lamp: You, my God, will lighten my darkness.”
Quite unbefitting is an expression like this for heretics, whether they be the sectaries or the teachers. For as Christ Himself said, “Darkness has blinded their eyes.” And this Paul explains to us, saying, that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of them that believe not, that the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ may not shine upon them.” It is our duty therefore carefully to avoid their false speaking, |426 and not to turn aside from the doctrines of the truth; and admit into our minds the darkness of the devil; but rather to draw near to the true light, even Christ, praising Him in psalms and sayings “Lighten mine eyes, that I sleep not for death.” For it is in very deed death, and that not of the body, but of the soul, to fall from the uprightness of true doctrines, and choose falsehood instead of the truth. Let therefore our loins be girt, and our lamps burning, according to what has here been spoken unto us.
And let us know that the law also of the very wise Moses is found to have commanded something of the kind to the Israelites. For a lamb was sacrificed on the fourteenth day of the first month, as a type of Christ. “For our passover, Christ is sacrificed,” according to the testimony of most sacred Paul. The hierophant Moses then, or rather God by his means, commanded them, when eating its flesh, saying, “Let your loins be girt, and your shoes on your feet, and your staves in your hands.” For I affirm that it is the duty of those who are partakers of Christ, to beware of a barren indolence; and yet further, not to have as it were their loins ungirt and loose, but be ready cheerfully to undertake whatever labours become the saints; and to hasten besides with alacrity whithersoever the law of God leads them. And for this reason He very appropriately made them wear [at the passover] the garb of travellers.
And that we ought to look for the coming again of Christ from heaven;—-for He will come in the glory of the Father with the holy angels;—-He has taught us saying, “That we must be like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the banqueting-house, that when he has come and knocked, they may open to him immediately.” For Christ will return as from a feast: by which is plainly shown, that God over dwells in festivals, such as befit Him. For above |427 there is no sadness whatsoever: since nothing can grieve That nature Which is incapable of passion, and of being affected by anything whatsoever of this kind.
When therefore He comes and finds us girt and wakeful, and with our heart enlightened, then forthwith He will make us blessed: for “He will gird up His loins, and serve them.” By which we learn that he will requite us proportionately: and because we are as it were weary with toil, He will comfort us, setting before us spiritual banquets, and spreading the abundant table of His gifts.
“And whether He come in the second watch, it says, or whether He come in the third watch, blessed are they.” Here observe I pray, the breadth of the divine gentleness, and the bountifulness of His mildness towards us. For verily He knows our frame, and the readiness with which man’s mind wanders into sin. He knows that the power of fleshly lust tyrannizes over us, and that the distractions of this world even, so to speak, against our will drag us on by force, leading the mind into all that is unseemly. But in that He is good, He does not leave us to despair, but on the contrary, pities us, and has given us repentance as the medicine of salvation. For this reason He says, that “whether He come in the second watch, or whether He come in the third watch, and find them so doing, blessed are they.” Now the meaning of this you will certainly wish clearly to understand. Men therefore divide the night into three or four watches. For the sentinels on city walls, who watch the motions of the enemy, after being on guard three or four hours, deliver over the watch and guard to others. So with us there are three ages: the first, that in which we are still children; the second, in which we are young men; and the third, that in which we come to old age. Now the first of these, in which we are still children, is not called to account by God, but is deemed worthy of pardon, because of the imbecillity as yet of the mind, and the weakness of the understanding. But the second and the third, the periods of manhood and old age, owe to God obedience and piety of life, according to His good pleasure. Whosoever therefore is found watching, and, so to speak, well girt, whether, if it so chance, he be still a young man, or one who has arrived at old age, |428 blessed shall he be. For he shall be counted worthy of attaining to Christ’s promises.
And in commanding us to watch, He adds further for our safety a plain example, which very excellently shows that it is dangerous to act otherwise. For He says, “that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief would come, he would be awake, and not have suffered his house to be dug through. Be you therefore also ready, for in an hour that you expect not, the Son of man comes.” For as His disciple said, “The day of the Lord will come as a thief, in which the heavens shall suddenly pass away, and the elements being on fire shall melt, and the earth, and the works that are therein shall be utterly burned. But we look for new heavens and a new earth, and His promises.” And to this he adds, “Since then all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought we to be found, being holy and without blame before Him? ” For no one at all knows the time of the consummation of all things, at which Christ shall appear from above, from heaven, to judge the world in righteousness. Then shall He give an incorruptible crown to them that are watching; for He is the Giver, and Distributor, and Bestower of the Divine gifts: by Whom, and with Whom, to God the Father be praise and dominion with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |429
On Luke 12:41-48
12:41-48. And Peter said, Lord do You speak this parable unto us, or also unto all? And the Lord said, Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall set over his household, to give the portion of food in its season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord at his coming shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will appoint him over all that he has. But if that servant say in his heart, My lord delays his coming, and begin to beat the men servants and female servants, and to eat and drink, and be drunken: the lord of that servant shall come in a day that he expects not, and at an hour of which he is not aware, and will cut him asunder, and give him a portion with the unbelievers. And that servant who knew his lord’s will, and did it not, neither prepared according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But He who knew it not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will require the more.
IT is a good and saving thing for us to direct the penetrating glance of the mind unto the words of God. For it is written of the words which God speaks, “Who is wise, and he will understand them? or prudent, and he will know their meaning?” For simply to hear, and receive the spoken word in the ear, is common to all men, both to the wise, and to those who are not so: but the habit of penetrating deep into profitable thoughts is found only with those who are truly wise. Let us therefore ask this of Christ: let us imitate the blessed Peter, that chosen disciple, that faithful steward and true believer; who, when he had heard Christ say somewhat highly advantageous for their benefit, prayed that it might be explained to him, and did not allow it to pass by, because he had not as yet clearly understood it. For he said, “Lord, speak You this parable unto us, or also unto all? Is it, he asks, a general law, and |430 one that appertains in equal measure to all, or is it fitting for those only who are superior to the rest? What then was it which troubled the wise disciple, or what led him to wish to learn things such as this from Christ? This point then we will first discuss.
There are then some commandments which befit those who have attained to apostolic dignities, or possess a more than ordinary knowledge, and the higher spiritual virtues; while others belong to those in an inferior station. And that this is true, and according to my words, we may see from what the blessed Paul wrote unto certain of his disciples, “I have given you milk to drink, and not meat: for you were not as yet strong enough, nor even yet could you bear it.” “For solid food belongs to them that are full grown, who by reason of perfectness have the senses of the heart exercised for the discerning of good and evil.” For just, for instance, as very heavy burdens can be carried by persons of a very powerful frame, to which men of weaker stature are unequal, so those of a vigorous mind may justly be expected to fulfil the weightier and more excellent commands among those which become the saints; while such as are, so to speak, simple, and quite easy, and free from all difficulty, suit those who have not yet attained to this spiritual strength. The blessed Peter therefore, considering with himself the force of what Christ had said, rightly asked, which of the two was meant; whether the declaration referred to all believers, or only to them; that is, to those who had been called to the discipleship, and especially honoured by the grant of apostolic powers?
And what is our Lord’s reply? He makes use of a clear and very evident example, to show that the commandment especially belongs to those who occupy a more dignified position, and have been admitted into the rank of teachers. “For who, He says, is the faithful and wise servant, whom his lord will set over his household, to give the allowance of food at its |431 season,” ‘Let us suppose, He says, a householder; who being about to go upon a journey,, has entrusted to one of his faithful slaves the charge of all his house, to give his household, that is, his servants, their allowance of corn at its due season. When therefore, He says, he shall return, if on coming to his house he shall find him so doing as he commanded, very blessed shall that servant be. For he will set him, He says, over all that he has. But if he be neglectful and indolent, and take pleasure in oppressing his fellow-servants, eating and drinking, and given up to self-indulgent voluptuousness, he will be cut asunder, that is, will have to bear the severest punishment, when his lord shall come to him in a day that he expects not, and at an hour of which he is not aware.’
Such then is the simple and plain meaning of the passage: but if we now fix our mind accurately upon it, we shall see what is signified by it, and how useful it is for their benefit who have been called to the apostleship, to the office, that is, of teacher. The Saviour has ordained as stewards, so to speak, over his servants;—-that is, over those who have been won by faith to the acknowledgment of His glory;—-men faithful and of great understanding, and well instructed in the sacred doctrines. And He has ordained them, commanding them to give their fellow-servants their allowance of food; and that not simply and without distinction, but rather at its proper season: by which is meant such food, I mean spiritual food, as is sufficient and fitting for each individual. For it is not fitting to address simply to all who have believed in Christ instruction upon all points; for it is written, “With knowledge learn the souls of your flock.” For very different is the way in which we establish in the paths of truth one who has but just now become a disciple, using simple teaching, in which there is nothing profound nor difficult to understand, counselling him to escape from the error of polytheism, and fittingly persuading him to discern by the beauty of things created, the universal Creator and Artificer, Who is One by nature, and verily God: from the way in which we instruct those who are more confirmed in mind, and able to understand what is the height and depth, and what the length and breadth, of the definitions of |432 the supreme Godhead. For as we have already said, ” Solid meat belongs to them that are full grown.”
Whoever therefore shall wisely in due season, and according to their need, divide to his fellow-servants their portion, that is, their food, very blessed shall he be, according to the Saviour’s word. For he shall be counted worthy of still greater things, and shall receive a suitable recompense for his fidelity. “For he will set him, He says, over all that he has.” And this the Saviour has elsewhere taught us, where praising the active and faithful servant, He said, “O good and faithful servant, you have been faithful over few things, I will set you over many things: enter into the joy of your lord.”
But if, He says, neglecting the duty of being diligent and faithful, and despising watchfulness in these things as superfluous, he let his mind grow intoxicated with worldly cares, and is seduced into improper courses, dragging by force, and oppressing those who are subject to him, and not giving them their portion, in utter wretchedness shall he be. For this I think, and this only, is the meaning of his being cut asunder. “And his portion too,” He says, “shall be with the unbelievers.” For whosoever has done wrong to the glory of Christ, or ventured to think slightingly of the flock entrusted to his charge, differs in no respect whatsoever from those who know Him not: and all such persons will justly be counted among those who have no love for Him. For Christ even once said to the blessed Peter, ” Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me? feed My sheep; feed My lambs.” If therefore he who feeds his flock loves it, then of course he that neglects it, and leaves the flock that has been entrusted to him without oversight, hates it: and if he hate it he will be punished, and be liable to the condemnation pronounced upon the unbelievers, as being convicted by the very facts of being negligent and contemptuous. Such was he who received the talent to trade with in things spiritual, and did not do so, but on the contrary brought that which had been given him without increase, saying, “Lord, I knew that you are a hard man, that you reap where others have sown, and gather whence others have scattered; and I was afraid, and hid the talent: lo! you have what is yours.” But those who had |433 received the five talents, or even yet more, and laboured and loved service, were honoured with glorious dignities. For they heard, the one of them, “Be you over ten,” and the other, “Be you over five cities:” while that contumelious and slothful servant suffered the severest condemnation. To be negligent therefore in discharging the duties of the ministry is everywhere dangerous, or rather, brings upon men perdition: but to perform them with unwearying zeal earns for us life and glory. And this means to discourse to our fellow servants correctly and without error the things which relate to God, and whatsoever is able to benefit them in attaining both to the knowledge and the ability to walk uprightly. And the blessed Paul [Peter] also writes to certain persons, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, that when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, you may receive your reward.” And as knowing that slothfulness is the door of perdition, he again said, “Woe is me, if I preach not.”
And that bitter and inevitable punishment is threatened against those who are slothful in this duty, the Saviour immediately showed, by adding to what had been already said two examples one after the other. “For the servant,” He says, “who knew his master’s will, and did it not, neither prepared according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes: but he who knew it not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.” Now the guilt is indisputable in the case of him who knew his master’s will, but afterwards neglected it, and did nothing that was fitting, and which it was his duty to do. For it is manifest contumely, and therefore the many stripes. But for what reason were the few stripes inflicted on him who neither knew nor did his master’s will? For some one, for instance, may say, How can he who knew it not be guilty? The reason is, because he would not know it, although it was in his power to learn. But if he who is. entirely ignorant of it does not escape from anger, because when it was his duty to know he neglected the means of learning, what plea can deliver him from justly bearing many stripes, who knew, and disregarded it? “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will require the more.” |434
Very severe therefore is the condemnation of those who teach. And this Christ’s disciple shows us, saying, “Let there not be many teachers among you, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” For abundant is the bestowal of spiritual gifts upon those who are the chiefs of the people: for so the wise Paul also somewhere wrote to the blessed Timothy; “The Lord shall give you wisdom in every thing.” And, “Despise not the gift that is in you, which was given you by the laying on of my hands.” From such as these then, the Saviour of all, in that He has given them much, requires much in return. And what are the virtues He requires? Constancy in the faith; correctness in teaching; to be well grounded in hope; unwavering in patience; invincible in spiritual strength; cheerful and brave in every more excellent achievement: that so we may be examples to others of the evangelic life. For if we will thus live, Christ will bestow upon us the crown; by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |435 (source)