Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke (1859) Sermons 47-56 (Luke 9:1-56) pp. 199-257.
9:1-5. And when He had called the twelve Apostles, He gave them power and authority over all the devils, and to heal sicknesses. And He sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. And He said unto them, Take nothing for the way: no staff: no scrip: neither bread nor money: nor shall ye have two coats. And into whatsoever house ye enter, there abide, and thence depart. And whosoever will not receive you, when ye depart from that city, shake off the dust from your feet for their testimony.
IT is a true saying, that the fruit of good deeds is honourable. For those who wish to lead lives pure and undefiled as far as is possible for men, Christ will adorn with His gifts, and grant them an abundant recompense for all their saintly deeds, and make them partakers of His glory. For it is impossible that He should ever lie who says: "As I live, saith the Lord, those who honour Me, I will honour."
As a plain and clear proof of this, I take the glorious and noble company of the holy Apostles. Behold them highly distinguished, and crowned with more than human glory, by this fresh gift bestowed by Christ. "For He gave them, it says, power and authority over all the devils, and to heal sicknesses." Observe again, I pray, that the Incarnate Word of God exceeds the measure of humanity, and is radiant with the dignities of the Godhead. For it transcends the limits of human nature, to give authority over unclean spirits to whomsoever He will: as does also the enabling them to deliver from sicknesses such as were afflicted with them. For God, indeed, bestows on whom He will powers of this kind; and on His decree alone it depends that any are able, according to His good pleasure, to work divine miracles, and act as ministers of the grace that is from above: but to impart to others the gift bestowed on them, is altogether an impossibility. For the majesty and glory of the supreme nature is found existing essentially in nothing that has being, except in Itself, and It only. |200 Be it, therefore, angel or archangel, that any one mentions, or thrones and dominions, or the seraphim, which again are higher in dignity, let him wisely understand this: that they indeed possess pre-eminent authority by the powers given them from above, such as language cannot describe, nor nature bestow: but reason altogether forbids the supposition of their imparting these powers to others. But Christ bestows them, as being God therefore, and as out of His own fulness: for He is Himself the Lord of glory and of powers.
The grace then bestowed upon the holy Apostles is worthy of all admiration; but the bountifulness of the Giver surpasses all praise and admiration: for He gives them, as I said, His own glory. Man receives authority over the evil spirits, and reduces unto nothingness the pride that was so high exalted, and arrogant, even that of the devil: his wickedness he renders ineffectual, and, by the might and efficacy of the Holy Ghost, burning him as with fire, he makes him come forth with groans and weeping from those whom he had possessed. And yet in old time he had said: "I will hold the whole world in my hand as a nest, and will take it as eggs that are left: and there is no one that shall escape from me, or speak against me." He missed, then, the truth, and fell from his hope, proud and audacious though he was, and vaunting himself over the infirmity of mankind. For the Lord of powers marshalled against him the ministers of the sacred proclamations. And this verily had been foretold by one of the holy prophets when speaking of Satan and the holy teachers: "That suddenly they shall arise that bite thee: and they shall awake that afflict thee, and thou shalt be their prey." For, so to speak, they bit Satan by attacking his glory, and making his goods a spoil, and bringing them unto Christ by means of |201 faith in Him: for so they attacked Satan himself. Great therefore was the power given unto the holy Apostles by the decree and will of Christ, the Saviour of us all. "For He gave them power and authority over the unclean spirits."
We will, in the next place, also inquire, if it seem good, whence a grace, thus illustrious and famous, descended upon mankind. The Only-begotten Word therefore of God crowned human nature with this great honour by becoming flesh, and taking upon Him our likeness. And thus, without in one single particular departing from the glories of His majesty;----for He wrought deeds worthy of God, even though He became, as I said, like unto us, and was of flesh and blood;----He broke the power of Satan by His almighty word. And by His rebuking the evil spirits, the inhabitants of earth became able to rebuke them also.
And that what I say is true, I will endeavour to make quite certain. For the Saviour, as I said, was rebuking the unclean spirits: but the Pharisees, opening their mouth to deride His glory, had the effrontery to say, "This man casteth not out devils, but by Beelzebub, prince of the devils." But the Saviour rebuked them for so speaking, as men prone to mockery, and ill-disposed, and utterly without understanding, thus saying; "If I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons east them out? Therefore shall they be your judges." For the blessed disciples, who were sons of the Jews by their descent according to the flesh, were the terror of Satan and his angels: for they broke their power in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. And our Lord further said: "But if I by the Spirit of God cast out devils, then the kingdom of God is come upon you." For He, as the Only-begotten Son of the Father, and the Word, both was and is omnipotent, and there is nothing that is not easy to Him: but inasmuch as He rebuked evil spirits while He was man, human nature was triumphant in Him, and crowned with godlike glory; for it was capable of rebuking even the evil spirits with power. By Christ's casting out devils, therefore, the kingdom of God came unto us: for one may affirm that it is the perfection of godlike majesty to be able to beat down Satan in spite of his resistance. |202
He glorified therefore His disciples by giving them authority and power over the evil spirits, and over sicknesses. Did He then thus honour them without reason, and make them illustrious without any cogent cause? But how can this be true if For it was necessary, most necessary, that having been publicly appointed ministers of the sacred proclamations, they should be able to work miracles, and by means of what they wrought convince men of their being the ministers of God, and mediators of all beneath the heaven, inviting them all to reconciliation and justification by faith, and pointing out the way of salvation and of life that is thereby. For the devout and intelligent need generally only reasoning to make them understand the truth: but those who have wandered without restraint into rebellion, and are not prepared to receive the sound speech of him who would win them for their true profit;----such require miracles, and the working of signs: and scarcely even so are they brought to thorough persuasion.
For we often find that the discourse of the holy Apostles prospered in this way. For, for example, Peter and John delivered from his malady that lame man who lay at the beautiful gate. And upon his entering the temple, they had his aid, as it were, in testimony of the great deed that had been wrought, and spake with great boldness concerning Christ, the Saviour of us all; even though they saw that those whose lot it was to be rulers of the synagogue of the Jews, were still travailling with bitter ill-will against Him. For they said: "Ye men of Israel, why wonder ye at this, or why gaze ye at us, as though by our own might or righteousness we made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified His Son Jesus, Whom ye delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he would have let Him go. But ye denied the Holy One, and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted you. And Him the Prince of Life ye killed; Whom God raised from the dead. And of Him we are witnesses: and His Name, through faith in His Name, hath made this man strong whom ye see and know: and faith in Him hath given him this soundness in the presence of you all." But although many of the Jews were embittered at a loftiness of speech such |203 as this, yet against their will they put, so to speak, a bridle upon their wrath, being ashamed because of the greatness of the miracle.
And there is another point we must not omit. For having first invested the holy Apostles with powers thus splendid, He then bids them depart with speed, and commence their office of proclaiming His mystery to the inhabitants of the whole earth. For just as able generals, having equipped their bravest soldiers with weapons of war, send them against the phalanxes of the enemy; so too does Christ, our common Saviour and Lord, send the holy teachers of His mysteries, clad as it were in the grace that He bestows, and fully equipped in spiritual armour, against Satan and his angels; that so they may be unconquerable and hardy combatants. For they were about to do battle with those who in old time held mastery over the inhabitants of earth; even against the wicked and opposing powers, who had divided among them all under heaven, and had made those their worshippers who had been created in the image of God. These, then, the divine disciples were about to vex, by summoning to the knowledge of the truth those that were in error, and giving light to them that were in darkness: while those who in old time worshipped them, they rendered earnest followers of such pursuits as become saints.
For this reason very fitly He bade them take nothing with them, wishing them both to be free from all worldly care, and so entirely exempt from the labours that worldly things occasion, as even to pay no regard to their necessary and indispensable food. But manifestly One Who bids them abstain even from things such as these, entirely cuts away the love of riches and the desire of gain. For their glory, He said, and, so to speak, their crown, is to possess nothing. And He withdraws them even from such things as are necessary for their use, by the command to carry nothing whatsoever, neither staff, nor scrip, nor bread, nor money, nor two coats. Observe, therefore, as I said, that He withdraws them from vain distractions, and anxiety about the body, and bids them have no cares about food, repeating to them, as it were, that passage in the Psalm: "Cast thy care upon the Lord, and He shall feed thee." For true also is that which Christ said: |204 "Ye are not able to serve God and Mammon." And again; "For where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also."
That they may lead, therefore, a consistent and simple life, and, being free from vain and superfluous anxiety, may devote themselves entirely to the duty of proclaiming His mystery, and labour without ceasing in publishing to men everywhere the tidings of salvation, He commands them to be indifferent both as regards clothing and food. And to the same effect the Saviour elsewhere spake: "For let your loins, He says, be girt, and your lights burning." But by their loins being girt, He means the readiness of the mind for every good work: and by their lights burning, that their heart be filled with divine light. And in like manner the law also of Moses plainly commands those who ate of the lamb: "Thus shall ye eat it: your loins shall be girt: and your staves in your hands: and your sandals on your feet." Observe, therefore, that those in whom Christ, the true Lamb, dwells, must be like men girt for a journey: for they must "shoe their feet with the readiness of the Gospel of peace," as blessed Paul wrote unto us; and be clad as becometh wayfarers. For it is not fitting for those charged with the divine message, if they would prosper in their office, to remain stationary; but, as it were, they must constantly be moving forward, and run, not for an uncertainty, but to win a glorious hope. For even those who once had fallen under the hand of the enemy, if by faith they fight for Christ, the Saviour of us all, will inherit an incorruptible crown.
But I can imagine some one saying, O Lord, Thou hast commanded thy ministers to carry with them no supply whatsoever of necessaries for food and raiment: whence, then, will they obtain what is essential and indispensable for their use? This too He at once points out, saying; "Into whatsoever house ye enter, there abide, and thence depart." The fruit, He says, which you will obtain from those you instruct, shall be sufficient. For those who receive from you things spiritual, and gain the divine seed for their souls, shall take care of your bodily needs. And this no one can blame: for the wise Paul also sent word as follows: "If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your bodily things? |205 "So the Lord also commanded, that those who preach the Gospel shall live of the Gospel." And that this same truth is signified by the command of Moses, he clearly shews, saying, "It is written, Thou shalt not muzzle the trampling ox." And what the intention of the law is he again showed, saying, "Doth God care for oxen? or sayeth He it altogether on our account, because it is fit that he who plougheth should plough in hope: and he who trampleth the corn as having hope to share in it?" For the teachers, therefore, to receive from those taught these trifling and easily procurable matters is in no respect injurious.
But He commanded them both to abide in one house, and from it to take their departure.1 For it was right, both that those who had once received them should not be defrauded of the gift: and that the holy Apostles themselves should not place any impediment in the way of their own zeal and earnestness in preaching God's message, by letting themselves be carried off to various houses by those whose object was, not to learn of them some necessary lesson, but to set before them a luxurious table, beyond what was moderate and necessary.
And that it is by no means without its reward to honour the saints, we learn from our Saviour's words. For He said unto them; "Whosoever receiveth you receiveth Me, and whosoever receiveth Me receiveth Him That sent Me." For He purposely makes His own, and takes unto Himself, the honours paid to the saints, in order that on every side they may have security. For what is there better, or what is comparable unto the honour and love due unto God? But this is rendered by giving honour to the saints. And if he who receiveth them is right blessed, and of glorious hope, how must not also the converse be entirely and absolutely true! For he must be full of utter misery, who is indifferent to the duty of honouring the saints. For this reason He said, "that when ye go out from that house, shake off the very dust from your feet for their testimony." |206
And next, we must see what this signifies. And it is this: That from those who would not receive them, nor set store by the charge confided to them, nor obey the sacred message, nor receive the faith;----from such they should refuse to receive any thing whatsoever. For it is unlikely that those who despise the master of the house, will shew themselves generous to the servants: and that those who impiously disregard the heavenly summons, will ask a blessing of its preachers, by offering them things of no value, and such as the disciples could without trouble obtain from their own people. For it is written, "Let not the oil of the wicked anoint my head." And besides they ought to feel that their love was due to those only who love and praise Christ; and avoid all others of a different character: for it is written: "Have I not hated, O Lord, them that hate Thee: and been hot exceedingly at Thy enemies? I have hated them with a perfect hatred: they have become my enemies." So is the love proved of earthy soldiers: for it is not possible for them to love foreigners, while paying a due regard to their king's interests. We learn this too by what Christ says: "that he who is not with Me is against Me; and he that gathereth not with Me altogether scattereth."
Whatsoever, therefore, Christ commanded his holy Apostles was exactly fitted for their use and benefit: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen. |207
9:12-17. And the day began to decline: and the twelve drew near, and said unto Him, Send the multitudes away, and let them go into the villages, and fields round about, and lodge, and find victuals: for we are here in a desert place. But He said unto them, Give ye them to eat. But they said, We have no more than five loaves and two fishes: unless we go and buy food for all this people. But they were about five thousand men. And He said to His disciples, Make them sit down in companies of fifty each. And they did so, and made them all sit down. And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, He looked up to heaven and blessed them, and brake, and gave to His disciples to set before the multitudes. And they did eat, and were all filled: and that which remained over unto them was taken up, even twelve baskets of fragments.
THE Jews, in my opinion, have not a single argument thai can serve before the tribunal of God as a defence for their disobedience: for their opposition had no appearance of reason on its side. And why so? Because the law of Moses, by shadows and figures, led them unto the mystery of Christ. For the law, or rather the things it contained, was symbolical, and in it the mystery of Christ was depicted by type and shadow as in a painting. And the blessed prophets also foretold long before that in due time there should come One to redeem all beneath the heaven, and further proclaimed the very place of His birth in the flesh, and the signs that He would accomplish. But they were so obdurate, and their mind so indiscriminately set upon that alone which agreed with their prejudices, that they would not receive the words of instruction, nor be brought to obedience even by miracles so splendid and glorious.
Such then was their conduct: but let us, who have acknowledged the truth of His appearing, offer Him our praises for His godlike works; such as that which the passage before us records. For we learn by it, that our Saviour from time to |208 time went out from Jerusalem and other cities and towns, followed by multitudes, some seeking deliverance from the tyranny of devils, or recovery from sickness; but others desiring to receive instruction from Him, and constantly with great earnestness, remaining with Him, that they might be made fully acquainted with His sacred doctrines. When then the day was declining, as the Evangelist says, and evening had all but arrived, the disciples had care of the multitudes, and drew near, offering requests on their behalf. For they said, "Send them away, that they may go into the neighbouring villages and fields, and lodge and find victuals; for we are in a desert place."
But let us carefully inquire what is the meaning of the expression "Send them away." For we shall see by it both the admirable faith of the holy apostles, and also the supernatural and wonderful power of Christ the Saviour of us all, in whatsoever He willeth to perform. For, as I said, some of them followed beseeching Him to deliver thorn from the evil spirits that oppressed them, while others sought recovery from various maladies. Since, therefore, the disciples knew that by the mere assent of His will he could accomplish for those sick persons what they wanted, they say "Send them away:" not so speaking as though they were themselves at all annoyed, and considered that the proper time had gone by; but seized with love toward the multitudes, and beginning to have a concern for the people, as being already intent upon their pastoral office: so that we may even take pattern by them ourselves. For to draw near, and make supplication on the people's behalf, is an act becoming to the saints, and the duty of spiritual fathers, and the proof of a mind that has regard not to selfish objects alone, but already considers as its own the interests of others: of which surpassing love this is a clear and very evident instance. And if we may be permitted to carry our argument above the level of human things, we say, for the benefit of such as meet with it, that when in earnest prayer we continue with Christ, whether asking of Him healing for the maladies of our souls, or deliverance from other sicknesses, or desiring to obtain anything whatsoever for our advantage; there is no doubt that when we ask in prayer any thing that is good for us, there supplicate in our behalf both the |209 intelligent powers, and those holy men who have freedom of access unto Him.
But observe the incomparable gentleness of Him Whom they supplicate. For not only does He grant all that they ask Him to bestow on those who followed Him, but also adds thereto of His own bountiful right hand; refreshing in every way those that love Him, and nurturing them unto spiritual courage. And this we may see from what has now been read. For the blessed disciples besought Christ that those who were following Him, having had their requests granted them, might be sent away, and disperse as they best could. But He commanded them to supply them with food. The thing, however, was impossible in the eyes of the disciples, for they had brought nothing with them but five loaves and two fishes: and this they drew near and confessed to Him. To magnify, therefore, the greatness of the miracle, and make it in every way evident that He is in His own nature God, He multiplies that little many times, and looks up to heaven to ask a blessing from above, being intent in this also upon our good. For He is Himself That which filleth all things, being the blessing that cometh from above from the Father. But that we may learn that when we commence a meal, and are about to break bread; it is our duty to offer it to God, placing it, so to speak, upon our stretched out hands, and calling down a blessing upon it from above, He purposely became our precedent, and type, and example in the matter.
But what was the result of the miracle? It was the satisfying a large multitude with food: for there were as many as five thousand men besides women and children, according to what another of the holy Evangelists has added to the narrative. Nor did the miracle end here; but there were also gathered twelve baskets of fragments. And what do we infer from this? A plain assurance that hospitality receives a rich recompense from God. The disciples offered five loaves: but |210 after a multitude thus large had been satisfied, there was gathered for each one of them a basketful of fragments. Let nothing therefore prevent those who are willing from receiving strangers, whatever there may be likely to blunt the will and readiness of men thereunto: and let no one say, "I do not possess suitable means; what I can do is altogether trifling and insufficient for many." Receive strangers, my beloved; overcome that unreadiness which wins no reward: for the Saviour will multiply thy little many times beyond expectation, and though thou givest but little, thou wilt receive much. "For he that soweth blessings shall also reap blessings," according to the blessed Paul's words.
The feeding, therefore, of the multitudes in the desert by Christ is worthy of all admiration; but it is also profitable in another way. For we can plainly see that these new miracles accord with those in old time, and that they are the acts of one and the same power. "He rained manna in the desert upon the Israelites; He gave them bread from heaven; man did eat angels' food," according to the words of praise in the Psalms. But lo! again in the desert He has abundantly supplied those in need of food, bringing it down, as it were, from heaven. For His multiplying that little many times, and feeding, so to speak, with nothing so large a multitude, is not unlike that former miracle. And to address myself once again to the throng of the Jews, Thou wast in need of the natural water, when thou wast walking in that long wilderness; and God gave thee thy desire beyond thy hopes, and from an unlooked-for quarter. For, as the Psalmist says, "He clave the rock in the desert; He gave them drink as from the vast abyss; and He brought forth water out of the rock, and made water flow like rivers." Tell me then, when thou hadst drunk, didst thou praise the Worker of the miracle? Didst thou raise thy tongue for thanksgiving? or wast thou induced by what had happened to acknowledge the ineffable power of God? Not so: for thou murmuredst against God, saying, "Can God prepare a table in the wilderness? If He smote the rock, and the waters flowed, and He made the streams overflow; can He also give bread, or prepare a |211 table for His people? Thou wast not astonished at seeing the flint rock the source of copious rivers; fountains issuing marvellously from stones, and streams running with rapid force, but imputedst weakness to Him Who is Almighty. And yet how was it not rather thy duty to perceive that He is the Lord of powers? How indeed could He be unable to prepare a table, Who made the flint rock a fountain and a stream, flowing over for that multitude?
But since thou hast brought thyself to so great folly as to imagine that there is anything impossible with God, and with empty babble hast said that He cannot prepare a table for His people in the wilderness, answer the question we now put to thee: Wilt thou embrace the faith now that thou seest a table prepared by Christ in the wilderness, and an innumerable multitude so abundantly supplied with food that twelve baskets of remnants were collected? or wilt thou still refuse to believe, and ask another sign? When, therefore, wilt thou be found believing? When wilt thou cease from finding fault with the ineffable power of Christ? When wilt thou put a door and bolt to thy tongue? and delivering it from the language of blasphemy, change it to a better use by praising Him, so that thou also mayest be a partaker of the blessings He bestows? For His mercies are revealed upon those who love Him, and He delivers them from all sickness. He supplies them also with spiritual food, by means of which each one attains to manliness in every thing that is praiseworthy. But upon the unbelieving and contemptuous He bestows no such gifts, but rather brings upon them that condemnation which they fitly deserve. For by one of His holy prophets He as it were said unto them, "Behold, they who serve Me shall eat, but ye shall suffer hunger. Behold, they who serve Me shall drink, but ye shall thirst. Behold, they who submit themselves to Me shall rejoice in happiness, while ye shall lament from sorrow of heart, and wail from contrition of spirit." And again it is written, "The Lord killeth not the righteous soul with hunger, but wasteth the life of the wicked."
For the flocks of the believers have, as it were, a pasture full of divers plants and flowers, in the holy Scriptures, which are their wise guides: and filled with spiritual joy at the glorious doctrines and instructions which they contain, they |212 frequent the sacred courts. And this it is which long ago was proclaimed in the words of Isaiah: "And there shall be upon every high mountain, and upon every high hill, running waters upon that day." And again; "And the mountains shall drop sweetness: and the hills flow with milk." For it is the custom of divine Scripture to compare to mountains and hills those set over others, and whose office it is to teach, inasmuch as they are high exalted, in respect, I mean, of their thoughts being occupied with elevated subjects, and withdrawn from things earthly: while the waters and the sweetness and the milk are the instructions which flow from them as from fountains. "There shall be then, He says, at that time from every high mountain, and from every high hill, flowing waters, and sweetness and milk." And these are the spiritual consolations of holy instructors, offered to the people under their charge. Of these the Jewish congregations are deprived, because they did not receive Christ, the Lord of the hills and mountains, the Giver of spiritual consolation, Who offers Himself as the bread of life to those who believe in Him: for He it is Who came down from heaven, and gave life to the world: by Whom, and with Whom, to God the Father be praise and dominion with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen. |213
9:18-22. And it came to pass that as He was alone, praying, His disciples were with Him: and He asked them, saying, Whom do the multitudes say of Me that I am? And they answered and said, Some, indeed, John the Baptist: and others, Elijah: and others, that some prophet of those in old time has risen again. And He said unto them; But whom do ye say that I am? And Peter answered and said, The Christ of God. And He charged and commanded them to tell this to no man, saying, The Son of man is about to suffer many things, and to be rejected of the elders, and chief priests, and scribes: and be slain, and rise again the third day.
WELL may we call out to those who would search the sacred Scriptures, "Arouse ye, and awake." For it is a thing impossible to perceive the exact meaning of the mystery of Christ, if we use for this end a debauched mind, and an understanding drowned, so to speak, in sleep. Need rather is there of a wakeful mind, and a penetrating eye; for the subject is one difficult to comprehend in the highest degree. And this is apparent now that our discourse has come to the explanation of the passage before us. For what says the Evangelist? "And it came to pass that as He was alone, praying, His disciples were with Him; and He asked them, saying; Whom do the multitudes say of Me that I am? Now the first thing we have to examine is, what it was which led our Lord Jesus Christ to propose to the holy apostles this question, or inquiry, For no word or deed of His is either at an unseasonable time or without a fitting reason; but rather, He does all things wisely and in their season. What therefore do we say, or what suitable explanation do we find for His present acts? He had fed in the desert a vast multitude of five thousand men: and how had He fed them? With five loaves! breaking with them into morsels two small fish! And these so multiplied out of nothing, that twelve baskets of fragments even were taken up. The blessed disciples therefore were astonished as well as the multitudes, and saw by what had been wrought, that He is |214 in truth God and the Son of God. And afterwards, when they had withdrawn from the multitude and He was alone, He occupied Himself in prayer, in this too making Himself our example, or rather instructing the disciples how to discharge efficiently their office as teachers. For it is, I think, the duty of those who are set over the people, and whose lot it is to guide Christ's flocks, constantly to occupy themselves with their necessary business, and openly practise those things with which God is well pleased: even that saintlike and virtuous conduct which gains great admiration, and is certain to profit the people under their charge. For they ought either to be actively engaged in those duties which are to the glory of God: or such as in their retirement bring upon them a blessing, and call down upon them power from on high: of which latter, one and the most excellent is prayer. Knowing which the divine Paul said, "Pray without ceasing."
As I said, then, the Lord and Saviour of all made Himself an example to the disciples of saintlike conversation, by praying alone, with them only in His company. But His doing so might perchance trouble the disciples, and beget in them dangerous thoughts. For they saw Him praying in human fashion, Whom yesterday they beheld working miracles with godlike dignity. It would not therefore have been entirely without reason, had they said among themselves; Oh, strange conduct! Whom must we consider Him to be? God, or man? If we say man, and like one of us; like one, that is, of the holy prophets; we see from the ineffable miracles which He works, that He far transcends the limits of human nature: for in manifold ways He doeth wonders as God. If we say He is God, surely to pray is unbefitting One Who is God by nature. For of whom can God ask what He wishes to receive? And of what can God at all be in want? To chase away therefore such confusing thoughts, and to calm their faith, which, so to speak, was tempest-tossed, He makes this inquiry; not as though He were at all ignorant of what was commonly said of Him, either by those who did not belong to the synagogue of the Jews, or by the Israelites themselves: His object rather was to rescue them from the general mode of thinking, and implant in them a correct faith, "Whom, therefore, He asks, do the multitudes say that I am? |215
Thou seest the skilfulness of the question. He did not at once say, "Whom do ye say that I am? but refers to the rumour of those that were without, that having rejected it, and shewn it to be unsound, He may then bring them back to the true opinion. Which also happened: for when the disciples had said, "Some John the Baptist, and others Elijah, and others, that some prophet of those in old time has risen up;" He said to them, "But ye, whom do ye say that I am?" Oh! how full of meaning is that "ye!" He separates them from all others, that they may also avoid their opinions, and not conceive an unworthy idea of Him, nor entertain confused and wavering thoughts, themselves too imagining that John had risen again, or one of the prophets. Ye therefore, He says, who have been chosen; who by My decree have been called to the apostleship; who are the witnesses of My miracles; whom do ye say that I am?
First before the rest Peter again springs forth, and makes himself the mouthpiece of the whole company, pouring forth the expression of love to God, and giving utterance to a correct and faultless confession of faith in Him, saying, "The Christ of God." The disciple is unerring: a thoroughly intelligent explainer of the mystery. For he does not simply say, that He is a Christ of God; but "the Christ" rather: for there are many who have been called "Christ," from having in various ways been anointed of God. For some have been anointed as kings; and some as prophets; while others, having received salvation by That Christ Who is the Saviour of all, even we ourselves, obtain the appellation of christ, as having been anointed by the Holy Ghost. For it is said in the words of the Psalmist, of those in old time, that is, before the coming of our Saviour: "Touch not My christs, and do My prophets no harm." But the words of Habakkuk refer to us; "Thou hast gone forth to the salvation of Thy people: to save Thy christs." Christs therefore there are many, and they have so been called from the fact [of having been anointed ]: but He Who is God the Father's Christ is One, and One only: not as though we indeed are christs, and not God's christs, but belonging to some other person: but because He and He alone has as His Father Him that is in heaven. Since therefore most wise Peter, confessing the faith correctly and without |216 error, said, "The Christ of God," it is plain, that distinguishing Him from those to whom the appellation generally belongs, he referred Him to God, as being His sole (Christ). For though He be by nature God, and shone forth ineffably from God the Father as His only begotten Word, yet He became flesh according to the Scripture. The blessed Peter therefore professed faith in Him, lending, as I before said, his words to the whole company of the holy apostles, and acting as spokesman for them all, as being more accurate than the rest.
And this too we ought to observe: that in Matthew's account we find that the blessed disciple said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God:" but the wise Luke, summing up so to speak the purport, agrees with him in the thoughts, but using fewer words, tells us that he said, "The Christ of God." Moreover no mention is here made of that which the Saviour spake to him: but in Matthew again we find that He said to Him plainly: "Blessed art thou, Simeon, son of Jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but My Father in heaven." The disciple therefore was verily taught of God; nor did he make this profession of faith for us of his own thoughts merely, but because the divine light shone upon his understanding, and the Father led him to a correct knowledge of the mystery of Christ. What therefore do those mistaken innovators 2 say to this, who unwarrantably pervert the great and adorable mystery of the incarnation of the Only Begotten, and fall from the right way, walking in the path of crookedness? For the wise Peter acknowledged one Christ: while they sever that One into two, in opposition to the doctrines of truth. 'But yes, he replies, the disciple acknowledged one Christ; and so do we also affirm that there is one Christ, by Whom we mean the Son, even the Word that, is from God the Father 3.' To this then |217 what do we reply? Is it not plain then, we say, to every one, that Christ asks the holy apostles, not, Whom do men say that the Word of God is? but, who "the Son of man is?" and that |218 it was of Him that Peter confessed, that He is "the Christ of God?" Let them also explain this to us: How is Peter's confession worthy of admiration, if it contain nothing profound and hidden, and, so to speak, not apparent to the generality? For what verily did God the Father reveal to him? That the Son of man is a man? Is this the God-taught mystery? Is it for this that he is admired, and deemed worthy of such surpassing honours? For thus he was addressed, "Blessed art thou, Simeon, son of Jonah."
The reason, however, for which he was thus admired is a very just one; for it was because he believed that He Whom he saw as one of us, that is, in our likeness, was the Son of God the Father, the Word, namely, That sprang forth from His substance, and became flesh, and was made man. See here, I pray, the profundity of the thoughts, the importance of the confession, the high and weighty mystery. For He Who was there in the likeness of mankind, and as a portion of creation, was God, Who transcends all created things! He Who dwells in the high and lofty place was abased from His glory to be in poverty like unto us! And He Who, as God, is Lord of all, and King of all, was in the likeness of a slave, and in the measure of a slave! This is the faith the Saviour crowns; to those thus minded He extends His bountiful right hand. For when He had praised Peter, and said that he was taught of God, as one who had obtained the revelation from above, from God the Father, He makes him more assured and more abundantly confirmed in the faith he had professed concerning Him, by saying: "And I say unto thee, that thou art a stone; and upon this stone I will build My church: and I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
For observe how He makes Himself at once the Lord of heaven and of earth. For He promises things that exceed our nature, and surpass the measure of humanity; yea, rather, even that of the angelic rank: and are suitable for that nature only to bestow, Whose glory and sovereignty transcend all. For, first He says that the church belongs to Him; the sacred Scriptures nevertheless distinctly ascribe it rather to God, |219 and to Him only, saying that it is "the church of God." 4 For they say that "Christ presented it to Himself, having neither spot nor stain, but holy rather, and blameless." As being God therefore He says that it is His, and promises moreover to found it, granting it to be unshaken, as being Himself the Lord of powers.
And next He says that He gives him the keys of heaven. Who is it then that thus pours forth language appropriate to God? Is it an angel? or some other intelligent power, whether principality, or throne, or dominion? or those holy seraphs? Not at all: but, as I said before, such language belongs to Almighty God alone, Whose is the sovereignty of earth and heaven. Let not, then, these innovators divide the one Christ, so as to say that one Son is the Word of God the Father, and that He Who is of the seed of David is another Son. For Peter made mention of one Christ; even the Only-begotten Who became man and was made flesh: and for this confession was counted worthy of these extraordinary honours.
When, however, the disciple had professed his faith, He charged them, it says, and commanded them to tell it to no man: "for the Son of man," He said, "is about to suffer many things, and be rejected, and killed, and the third day "He shall rise again." And yet how was it not rather the duty of disciples to proclaim Him everywhere? For this was the very business of those appointed by Him to the apostle-ship. But as the sacred Scripture saith, "There is a time for everything." There were things yet unfulfilled which must also be included in their preaching of Him: such as were the cross; the passion; the death in the flesh; the resurrection from the dead; that great and truly glorious sign by which testimony is borne Him that the Emanuel is truly God, and by nature the Son of God the Father. For that He utterly abolished death, and effaced destruction, and spoiled hell, and overthrew the tyranny of the enemy, and took away the sin of the world, and opened the gates above to the dwellers upon earth, and united earth to heaven: these things proved Him to be, as I said, in truth God. He commanded |220 them, therefore, to guard the mystery by a seasonable silence until the whole plan of the dispensation should arrive at a suitable conclusion. For then, when He arose from the dead, He gave commandment that the mystery should be revealed to all the inhabitants of the earth, setting before every man justification by faith, and the cleansing efficacy of holy baptism. For He said, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth: Go ye, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in 5 the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and teaching them to observe all those things which I have commanded you. And lo! I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." For Christ is with us and in us by the Holy Ghost, and dwells in the souls of us all: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion and honour with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen. |221
SERMON L. Fit to be read at a time of persecution.
9:23-26. And He said to them all, Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross every day, and come after Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall save it. For what is a man profited, who hath gained the whole world, but hath lost himself, or fallen short? For whosoever shall be ashamed of Me, and of My words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed when He shall come in His glory, and in His Father's, and of His holy angels.
6 MIGHTY generals encourage their trained warriors to deeds of courage, not only by promising them the honours of victory, but even by telling them that the very fact of suffering brings them glory, and gains for them all praise. For it is impossible for those who would win fame in battle not sometimes to have to endure wounds also from their opponents. But their suffering is not without its reward, for they are praised as those who bravely assaulted the enemy; and the very wound bears witness to the courage and valour of their mind. And much the same arguments we see our Lord Jesus Christ also using in a discourse, the occasion of which was as follows; He had just shewn the disciples that it was altogether necessary for Him to endure the wicked enterprizes of the Jews, and be mocked by them, and spit upon in the face, and put to death, and the third day rise again. To prevent them, therefore, from imagining that He indeed for the life of the world would suffer the scorn of those murderers, and the other cruelties which they inflicted upon Him; but that they would be permitted to live quietly, and might without blame avoid the suffering readily for their piety's sake, and the endurance even of death |222 itself in the flesh, should it so befal, and by so doing would incur no disgrace, He of necessity, so to speak, testifies that those who would be thought worthy of the glory He bestows, must attain to it by proportionate acts of bravery, saying, "He that will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross every day, and come after Me."
Here, too, we must wonder at the love of Christ the Saviour of us all towards the world; for He not only consented Himself to suffer and bear so great ignominy, humbling Himself even to the cross and death for our sakes, but also rouses His chosen followers to the same excellent desire: even those who were to be the instructors of men every where, and hold the post of commanders-in-chief over the people committed to their care. For those who were appointed to so great a ministry must in very deed be thoroughly brave and valiant, armed with an unshaken mind and invincible courage, so as to dread no difficulties, and even if death befal, to deride its terrors, and set at nought every fear. He who thus acts denies himself, since, so to speak, he resigns this temporal life, and deems its concerns worthy of no regard, inasmuch as his choice is to suffer for the blessedness and love that is in Christ. So does a man follow Christ. For the company of the holy Apostles is, as it were, set before us by the Psalmist's harp, as crying out unto Christ the Saviour of all: "For Thy sake we are killed every day; we have been counted as sheep for the slaughter." For in this also they are like unto the Emmanuel, "Who for the joy that He had, endured the cross, having despised the shame."
He would have those, therefore, who were to be the teachers of all beneath the sun superior to timidity and the base love of the world, laying it down as their duty to suffer for love of Him. And He has Himself taught us what is the character of those of His apostles who love Him, where he said to the blessed Peter, "Simeon, son of Jonah, lovest thou Me? Feed My lambs; feed My sheep." "He was the good Shepherd; He laid down His life for the sheep." For He was not a hireling; rather, those that were saved were His own: He saw the wolf coming; He made no attempt to flee; He despised not the flock; but, on the contrary, yielded Himself to be torn by it, that He might deliver and save us: "For by His bruises we have been healed," "and He was |223 afflicted for our sins." Those, therefore, who would follow Him, and earnestly desire to be like Him, and are set over His intelligent flocks, must undergo similar labours. For numerous savage beasts encircle them, violent, and implacable, and that slay cruelly, and hurry souls to the pit of destruction. For the more learned and skilful of the heathen possess great eloquence, and adorn their false doctrine with beautiful language: and thus they pervert some simple-minded men, making them often wish to share their malady, and depart from the God Who is over all, to worship others in His stead which are no gods. These heaped upon the holy Apostles unendurable persecutions, and exposed them again and again to dangers. For the blessed Paul commemorates the things he had been seen to suffer at Iconium and Lystra, and at Ephesus and Damascus, For at one time he says, "In Damascus the chief captain of Aretas the king watched the city of the Damascenes wishing to seize me, and from a window they let me down from the wall in a basket, and I was delivered from his hands." And again at another time, "Alexander the smith caused me much evil." What then is the testimony of this mighty Evangelist, this courageous and valiant champion, who everywhere despised the utmost dangers? "For to me," he says, "that I live is Christ; and that I die is gain." And again, "I am crucified with Christ; but henceforth I no more live, but Christ liveth in me: and that which I live here in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me, and yielded up Himself for my sake."
But the violence of the Jews broke forth frequently against the other apostles also: they persecuted them; they summoned them before their synagogues; they scourged them wickedly, commanding them to keep silence, and desist from their sacred preachings: for they said, "Did we not strictly command you not to speak to any man in this Name?----even the Name of Christ, the Saviour of us all;----and behold! ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine." But after the disciples had borne their violent accusation for the firm love they had to Christ, they went out "rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the Name." But had they been timid, and abject, and frightened at words, and overpowered by the terrors of death, how would they have been proved? or how have offered as fruits to God those who were called by their |224 means? For, also, the wise Paul whom no difficulty whatsoever could overpower, when on his way to Jerusalem the prophet Agabus loosed his girdle, and bound his own feet, and said, "So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind that man to whom this girdle belongs," answered and said, ''What do ye, that ye weep and break my heart? for I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die for the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Excellently, therefore, did He command them manfully to prevail over every persecution, and boldly to undergo trials, as being well assured that if thus they will be zealous in His cause, they will become His friends, and share His glory. If, therefore, a man be ready to endure and despise the terrors of death, has he lost himself and departed, and is there nothing more in store for him? By no means: for in that he loses his life, he especially finds it; while to find it is to bring upon himself destruction. What fear, therefore, can the saints now feel, if that which seemed to be hard proves rather joyous to them that bear it; while that which is dear to men, as being exempt from pain, leads them especially downwards to destruction and the snare of hell, according to the Scripture.
But 7 that it is incomparably better, far above the splendour and pleasure of the world, to excel in the love of Christ, He shows us by saying, "For what is a man profited who hath gained the whole world, but hath lost himself, or fallen short?" For when a man looks chiefly to that which is pleasant and profitable for the moment, and therefore avoids suffering, and desires to live joyously, even though he have wealth and abundance of possessions, yet what profit hath he therefrom when he has lost himself? "Treasures profit not the wicked," but "the fashion of this world passeth away:" and "like clouds those pleasures recede," and riches flies away from those that possess it: "but righteousness delivereth from death."
And further, to set plainly before us the reward of our |225 being willing to labour, He says: "For whosoever shall be ashamed at Me and at My words, at Him shall the Son of man be ashamed when He shall come in His glory, and of His Father, and of His holy angels." Much that is both useful and necessary does He effect by these words. For in the first place He shews that entirely and altogether it follows that those who are ashamed 8 at Him and at His words will meet with the reward they merit. And what could so give us joy as this? For if there are some in whose presence the Judge feels shame, as owing them the reward of obedience, and the dignities and crown due to their love and affection for Him, and the honours won by their bravery, how may we not without fear of contradiction say that they most certainly will henceforth live in never-ending honours and praises who have attained to such splendid blessings?
But, next, He also begets in them fear as well, in that he says that He shall descend from heaven, not in His former lowliness and humiliation, like unto us, but in the glory of His Father; even in godlike and transcendent glory, with the holy angels keeping guard around Him. Most miserable, therefore, and ruinous would it be to be condemned of cowardice and indolence when the Judge has descended from above, and the angelic ranks stand at His side. But great and most blessed, and a foretaste of final blessedness is it to be able to rejoice in labours already accomplished, and await the recompense of past toils. For such as these shall be praised, Christ Himself saying unto them: "Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." May we also be deemed worthy of these rewards by the grace and lovingkindness of Christ the Saviour of us all: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen. |226
9:27-36. But I say unto you truly, there are some of those standing here who shall not taste of death, until they have seen the kingdom of God. And there were after these things about eight days, and He took Peter, and John, and James, and went up to the mountain to pray. And while He was praying, the look of His countenance was altered, and His raiment was white, shining like lightning: and behold! two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah: who having appeared in glory, spake of His departure, that He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: but having roused themselves, they both saw His glory, and the two men that stood with Him. And it came to pass, that when they were separating from Him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles, one for Thee: and one for Moses: and one for Elijah: not knowing what he said. While he spake these things, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them; and they feared as they entered the cloud. And there was a voice from the cloud, saying, This is My beloved Son, hear Him. And when there was the voice, Jesus was found alone; and they kept silence, and told no man in those days ought of the things they had seen.
THOSE who are skilful in the combat rejoice when the spectators clap their hands, and are roused to a glorious height of courage by the hope of the chaplets of victory: and so those whoso desire it is to be counted worthy of the divine gifts, and who thirst to be made partakers of the hope prepared for the saints, joyfully undergo combats for piety's sake towards Christ, and lead elect lives, not setting store by a thankless indolence, nor indulging in a mean timidity, but rather manfully resisting every temptation, and setting at nought the violence of persecutions, while they count it gain to suffer in His behalf. For they remember that the blessed Paul thus writes, |227 "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy of the glory that is about to be revealed in us."
Observe, therefore, how perfectly beautiful is the method which our Lord Jesus Christ uses here also for the benefit and edification of the holy Apostles. For He had said unto them, "Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross every day, and follow Me. For he that will save his life shall lose it; and he that will lose his life for My sake shall find it." The commandment is indeed both for the salvation and honour of the saints, and the cause of the highest glory, and the means of perfect joy: for the choosing to suffer for the sake of Christ is not a thankless duty, but on the contrary makes us sharers in everlasting life, and the glory that is prepared. But as the disciples had not yet obtained power from on high, it probably occasionally happened, that they also fell into human weaknesses, and when thinking over with themselves any such saying as this, may have asked "how does a man deny himself?" or how having lost himself does he find himself again? And what reward will compensate those who thus suffer? Or of what gifts will they be made partakers? To rescue them therefore from such timid thoughts, and, so to speak, to mould them unto manliness, by begetting in them a desire of the glory about to be bestowed upon them, He says, "I say unto you, there are some of those standing here, who shall not taste of death until they have seen the kingdom of God." Does He mean that the measure of their lives will be so greatly prolonged as even to reach to that time when He will descend from heaven at the. consummation of the world, to bestow upon the saints the kingdom prepared for them? Even this was possible for Him: for He is omnipotent: and there is nothing impossible or difficult to His all-powerful will. But by the kingdom of God He means the sight of the glory in which He will appear at His manifestation to the inhabitants of earth: for He will come in the glory of God the Father, and not in low estate like unto us. How therefore did He make those who had received the promise spectators of a thing so wonderful? He goes up into the mountain taking with Him three chosen disciples: and is transformed to so surpassing and godlike a brightness, that His garments even |228 glittered with rays of fire, and seemed to flash like lightning. And besides, Moses and Elijah stood at Jesus' side, and spake with one another of His departure, which He was about, it says, to accomplish at Jerusalem: by which is meant the mystery of the dispensation in the flesh; and of His precious suffering upon the cross. For it is also true that the law of Moses, and the word of the holy prophets, foreshewed the mystery of Christ: the one by types and shadows, painting it, so to speak, as in a picture; while the rest in manifold ways declared beforehand, both that in due time He would appear in our likeness, and for the salvation and life of us all, consent to suffer death upon the tree. The standing, therefore, of Moses and Elijah before Him, and their talking with one another, was a sort of representation, excellently displaying our Lord Jesus Christ, as having the law and the prophets for His body guard, as being the Lord of the law and the prophets, and as foreshown in them by those things which in mutual agreement they before proclaimed. For the words of the prophets are not at variance with the teachings of the law. And this I imagine was what Moses the most priestly and Elijah the most distinguished of the prophets were talking of with one another.
But the blessed disciples sleep awhile, as Christ continued long in prayer:----for He performed these human duties as belonging to the dispensation:----and afterwards on awaking they became spectators of changes thus splendid and glorious: and the divine Peter, thinking perchance, that the time of the kingdom of God was even now come, proposes dwellings on the mountain, and says that it is fitting there should be three tabernacles, one for Christ, and the others for the other two, Moses and Elijah: "but he knew not," it says, "what he was saying." For it was not the time of the consummation of the world, nor for the saints to take possession of the hope promised to them; for as Paul says, "He will change our humble body into the likeness of His,----that is, Christ's----glorious body." As therefore the dispensation was still at its commencement, and not yet fulfilled, how would it have been fitting for Christ to have abandoned His love to the world, and have departed from His purpose of suffering in its behalf? For He redeemed all under heaven, by both undergoing death |229 in the flesh, and by abolishing it by the resurrection from the dead. Peter therefore knew not what he said 9.
But besides the wonderful and ineffable sight of Christ's glory, something else was done, useful and necessary for the confirmation of their faith in Him: and not for the disciples only, but even for us too. For a voice was given forth from the cloud above, as from God the Father, saying: "This is My beloved Son, hear Him. And when there was the voice," it says, "Jesus was found alone." What then will he who is disputatious and disobedient, and whose heart is incurable, say to these things? Lo! Moses is there, and does the Father command the holy apostles to hear him? Had it been His will that they should follow the commandments of Moses, He would have said, I suppose, Obey Moses; keep the law. But this was not what God the Father here said, but in the presence of Moses and the prophets, He commands them rather to hear Him. And that the truth might not be subverted by any, affirming that the Father rather bade them hear Moses, and not Christ the Saviour of us all, the Evangelist has clearly marked it, saying, "When there was the voice, Jesus was found alone." When therefore God the Father, from the cloud overhead, commanded the holy apostles, saying, "Hear Him," Moses was far away, and Elijah too was no longer nigh; but Christ was there alone. Him therefore He commanded them to obey.
For He also is the end of the law and the prophets: for which reason He cried aloud to the multitudes of the Jews: "If ye had believed Moses, ye would have believed Me also: for he wrote of Me 10." But as they persevered even unto the end in despising the commandment given by most wise Moses, and in rejecting the word of the holy prophets, they have justly been alienated and expelled from those blessings that were |230 promised to their fathers. For "obedience is better than sacrifices, and to hearken than the fat of rams," as the Scripture saith. And thus much then of the Jews: but upon us who have acknowledged the revelation, all these blessings have necessarily been bestowed, by means of and as the gift of the same Christ: by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever. Amen. |231
9:37-43. But it came to pass, the day after, as they came down from the mountain, a great crowd met Him. And, behold, a man cried out from the crowd, saying, Teacher, I beseech Thee to regard my Son, for he is my only one. And lo, a spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out, and it convulseth and teareth him, and he foameth; and having bruised him scarcely departeth from him. And I besought Thy disciples to cast him out, and they could not. And Jesus answered, and said: O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? Bring thy son hither. And when he was yet coming, the devil threw him down, and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and gave him to his father. And all wondered at the majesty of God.
ALL Scripture is inspired of God and profitable: but especially above all besides this is the case with the holy Gospels. For He Who in old time spake the law to the Israelites by the ministry of angels, has in person spoken unto us, when having taken our likeness, He appeared upon earth, and went about among men. For most wise Paul writes: "That while in old time God spake to the fathers by the prophets in manifold parts, and manifold manners, He hath in these latter days spoken unto us by the Son." And by one of His holy prophets, He somewhere Himself saith, "I Who speak am near as the brightness upon the mountains, as the feet of him that proclaimeth tidings of peace; as one that proclaimeth good things." For lo! He frees us from the tyranny of the enemy, that we may in purity follow Him; and that having brought to nought "the world rulers of this darkness," even wicked spirits, He may present us unharmed unto God the Father.
For that it is by Him that we have gained deliverance from the power of unclean spirits, this lesson proves. For we heard read that a man ran towards Him from among the multitude, and related the intolerable malady of his son. For he said |232 that he was cruelly torn by an evil spirit, and suffered violent convulsions. But the manner of his approach was not free from fault: for he made loud outcries against the company of the holy apostles, saying that they could not rebuke Satan: whereas it would have been more fitting, had he honoured Jesus when asking His aid, and imploring grace. For He grants us our request when we honour and confide in Him, as being the Almighty, Whose power nothing can withstand. For He verily is the Lord of powers 11, and nothing can offer resistance to His will. Yea rather, everything whatsoever that is capable of possessing power obtains entirely from Him the possibility of being what it is. For just as He sheds His light upon those who are capable of being illuminated, as being Himself the true light; and just as in like manner He is the bestower of wisdom upon those who are capable thereof, as being Himself Wisdom, and perfect understanding: so, inasmuch as He is Power, He bestows power on those capable of receiving it. When then by our disbelief we despise His glory, and wickedly scorn His supreme majesty, we can receive nothing from Him: for "we must ask in faith, nothing wavering," as His disciple said.
And that this saying is true, we may perceive even from what takes place among us. For such as present petitions to those who preside over affairs upon earth, and govern mighty thrones, preface their requests with suitable praises, and confess their universal power and majesty; addressing the memorial they present, "To the Lords of earth, and sea, and of |233 every people and race among mankind:" and afterwards they add an account of what they would ask. The father therefore of the demoniac was rude and uncourteous: for he did not simply ask the healing of the child, and in so doing crown the healer with praises, but, on the contrary, spake contemptuously of the disciples, and found fault with the grace given them. "For I brought him, he says, to Thy disciples, and they could not cast it out." And yet it was owing to thy own want of faith that the grace availed not. Dost thou not perceive that thou wast thyself the cause that the child was not delivered from his severe illness?
For that we must have faith when we draw near to Christ, and whosoever have obtained from Him the grace of healing, He teaches us Himself, by everywhere requiring faith of those who approach Him, desiring to be counted worthy of any of His gifts. For, for instance, Lazarus died at Bethany, and Christ promised to raise him. When then one of his sisters doubted of this, and had no expectation that the miracle would take place, Christ said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in Me, even though he die, shall live." And we find elsewhere a similar occurrence. For Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue of the Jews, when his only daughter was now breathing her last, being caught, so to speak, in the meshes of death, besought Jesus to deliver the damsel from what had happened: and Christ accordingly promised so to do upon arriving at the house of the supplicant. But as He was on His way, a man met Him from the relatives of the ruler of the synagogue, saying, "Thy daughter is dead: trouble not the Teacher." And what was Christ's reply? "Fear not: only believe, and she shall live."
It was the duty therefore of the father of the lad rather to lay the blame upon his own unbelief, than upon the holy apostles. For this reason Christ justly called out, "O faithless and perverse generation: how long shall I be with you, and suffer you?" He justly therefore calls both the man himself, and those like him in mind a faithless generation. For it is a wretched malady, and whosoever is seized by it is, as He shews, perverse, and utterly without knowledge to walk uprightly. And therefore the sacred Scriptures say of such persons, "that their ways are crooked, and their paths |234 perverse." From this malady the divine David fled: and in order that he may also benefit us, he reveals the set purpose of his mind thereupon, saying, "A crooked heart hath not cleaved unto me:" that is, one that cannot walk in an upright course. To such the blessed Baptist, as the forerunner of the Saviour, cried, saying, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight."
The man therefore was thoroughly an unbeliever, and perverse, refusing the straight paths, straying from the mark, and wandering from the right ways 12. And Christ deigns not to be with such as are thus minded, and have fallen into this wickedness: and if one may speak in the manner of men, He is tired and weary of them. And this He teaches us saying, "How long shall I be with you, and suffer you?" For he who says, that those were powerless for the expulsion of evil spirits, who by Christ's will had received power to cast them out, finds fault with the grace itself, rather than with the receivers of it. it was wicked blasphemy therefore: for if grace be powerless, the fault and blame is not theirs who have received it, but rather belongs to the grace itself. For any who will may see that the grace which wrought in them was Christ's. For, for instance, the lame man at the beautiful gate of the temple was made whole; but Peter ascribed the miracle to Christ, saying to the Jews, "For Him Whom ye crucified, even by Him this man stands before you whole: and the grace which He bestows hath given him this soundness." Elsewhere the same blessed Peter proclaimed to one of those who were healed by Him, "Aeneas, Jesus Christ healeth thee." It is plain therefore in every way that the man wickedly found fault with Christ's power in saying of the holy apostles, "they could not cast it out."
And besides, Christ is angry when wrong is done unto the holy preachers who have been entrusted with the word of His Gospel, and appointed to teach it to all under heaven, inasmuch as witness is borne them by His grace, that they are His |235 disciples, and they shed the light of the true knowledge of God on those who everywhere were convinced by their doctrines, and the wonderful miracles they wrought. For the miracle constantly, so to speak, leads on to faith. It would have been deserved therefore, had the father of the demoniac gone away disappointed, and been refused the bounteous gift. But that no man might imagine that Christ also was unable to work the miracle, He rebuked the unclean spirit, and forthwith delivered the youth from his malady, and gave him to his father. For up to this time he had not been his father's, but the property of the spirit that possessed him: but being now delivered from his violence, he became once again his father's property, as Christ's gift: Who also gave the holy apostles authority to work divine miracles, and rebuke with irresistible might impure spirits, and crush Satan.
And the multitudes, the blessed Evangelist says, wondered at the majesty of God. When Christ then works miracles, it is God Who is glorified, and God only and solely. For He is by nature God, and His majesty is incomparable, and His supremacy without a rival, resplendent with the sovereignty of God the Father. He is therefore to be extolled with praises, and let us say unto him, "O Lord God of powers, Who is like unto Thee? Powerful art Thou, O Lord, and Thy truth is round about Thee." For all things are possible to Him, and easy to accomplish, and nothing whatsoever is too difficult or high: by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen. |236
9:43-45. And while every one wondered at all things which He did, He said unto His disciples, Lay ye these words to your ears: For the Son of man is about to be delivered up into the hands of men. But they knew not this saying, and it was hid from them that they should not understand it: and they feared to ask Him of this saying.
PROFOUND in very deed is the mystery of godliness, according to the expression of the wise Paul: but God the Father reveals it to such as are worthy of receiving it. For the Saviour Himself also, when speaking to the Jews, said, "Murmur not among yourselves: no man can come unto Me, unless the Father Who sent Me draw him." When then the blessed Peter had been counted worthy of a grace thus glorious and wonderful, being in the neighbourhood of Caesarea Philippi, he made a correct and faultless confession of faith in him, saying, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." And what was the reward of which he was thought worthy? It was to hear Christ say, "Blessed art thou, Simeon, son of Jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but My Father in heaven." And he further received surpassing honours: for he was entrusted by Him with the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and the confession of his faith was made the firm foundation for the Church. "For thou," He says, "art a stone: and upon this stone I will build My Church: and the gates of hell shall not overpower it."
That those therefore who were to teach the whole world might know exactly His mystery, He usefully and necessarily explains it clearly to them beforehand, saying, "Lay ye these words to your hearts 13; for the Son of man is about to be delivered into the hands of men." The reason then which led Christ so to speak is, I think, a subject both useful |237 and necessary for our consideration. He had then led up into the mountain Peter, and James, and John, and been transfigured before them, and His countenance shone as the sun: and He shewed them the glory, with which in due time He will arise upon the world. For He will come, not in humiliation such as ours; nor in the meanness of man's estate, but in the majesty and splendour of the Godhead, and in transcendent glory. And again, when He came down from the mountain. He delivered a man from a wicked and violent spirit. Yet was He certainly about to bear for our sakes His saving passion; and endure the wickedness of the Jews; and, as the minister of His mysteries says, "by the grace of God to taste death for every man." But when this came to pass, there is nothing unlikely in supposing that the disciples would be troubled; and in their secret thoughts perhaps even say, How is One so glorious; Who raised the dead by His godlike power; Who rebuked the seas and the winds; Who by a word crushed Satan; how is He now seized as a prisoner, and caught in the snares of these murderers? Were we then mistaken in thinking that He is God? Have we fallen from the true opinion regarding Him? For that those who knew not the mystery, that our Lord Jesus Christ would endure the cross and death, would find therein an occasion of stumbling, is easy to perceive, even from what the blessed Peter said to Him. For though he had not as yet been witness of His passion, but only had heard beforehand that it would befal Him, he interrupted Him, saying, "That be far from Thee, Lord: this shall not be unto Thee."
In order, therefore, that they might know what certainly would happen, He bade them, so to speak, store up the mystery in their mind. "For lay ye it," He says, "to your hearts." In which words, the "ye" distinguishes them from all others. For He wished indeed that they should themselves know what would happen, but not that they should communicate it to others. For it was not right for the unlearned to be taught simply His future passion, but far better, to convince them at the same time of His having risen divinely from the grave, and abolished death, and so avoid the danger of their being offended. When therefore the time comes, He says, that I must suffer, ask not, How it is that One so glorious, Who |238 performed all these signs, has fallen like one of us unawares into the hands of His enemies: but, on the contrary, be assured, when reflecting upon the dispensation, that I am not led by human compulsion, but go willingly thereunto. For what is there to hinder one Who knows beforehand and clearly proclaims what is to happen, to refuse to suffer, if He so will? But I submit to suffer, in order that I may redeem all beneath the heavens. For this He plainly teaches us elsewhere, saying, "No man taketh My life from Me, but I lay it down of My own will. I have power to lay it down: and I have power to take it again."
"But they, it says, knew not this saying; and it was hid from them, that they might not perceive it." Now naturally any one may justly wonder, when meditating with himself, how it was that the disciples knew not the mystery of Christ. For though they belonged to the companies of the Jews, yet they were neither slothful nor contemptuous, but on the contrary most earnest and diligent. For though reckoned as handicraftsmen, whose trade was fishing in the lake, yet, as I said, they had been soberly educated, and were far from ignorant of the Mosaic Scriptures: for for this very reason Christ had chosen them. How then were they ignorant of the mystery of Christ, when it had been shadowed forth for them in various places by the law, and beautifully foreshewn in its types as in a painting? For, to shew my meaning by an example, they were not able to flee away from the bondage of Egypt, nor escape from the hand that oppressed them, until they had sacrificed a lamb according to the law of Moses; and when they had eaten its flesh, they anointed the lintels with its blood; and so put the destroyer to shame. But it was not the mere sacrifice of a sheep that made them, superior to death and the destroyer. Types travail with the truth: and this act of theirs was, as I said, a foreshowing, by means of what was done in shadows, of the saving efficacy of the death of Christ, and of the abolition of destruction by His blood: Who also further drives away our cruel tyrant, Satan, and delivers from the mastery of impure spirits those whom they had enslaved, and who, like the Israelites made to serve in bricklaying, had become the victims of earthly cares, and |239 polluted fleshly lusts, and the unprofitable distractions of this world.
The mystery of the passion may be seen also in another instance. For according to the Mosaic law two goats were offered, differing in nothing from one another, but alike in size and appearance. Of these, one was called "the lord:" and the other, the "sent-away." 14 And when the lot had been cast for |240 that which was called "lord," it was sacrificed: while the other was sent away from the sacrifice: and therefore had the name of the "sent-away." And Who was signified by this? The Word, though He was God, was in our likeness, and took the form of us sinners, as far as the nature of the flesh was concerned. The goat, then, male or female, was sacrificed for sins. But the death was our desert, inasmuch as by sin we had fallen under the divine curse. But when the Saviour of all Himself, so to speak, undertook the charge, He transferred to Himself what was our due, and laid down His life, that we might be sent away from death and destruction.
The mystery, therefore, was revealed to the Jews, by what was shadowed in the law, had they only been acquainted with the sacred Scriptures. But, as the blessed Paul wrote, "Blindness in part hath happened unto Israel;" and "even to this day, when Moses is read, the veil is laid upon their heart: nor is it unveiled, because in Christ it is done away." They then boast indeed of the law, but its purpose is entirely hidden from them; for it leads us to the mystery of Christ. But that they were without understanding our Saviour shews, saying; "Search the Scriptures: for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they it is that testify of Me. And ye desire not to come unto Me, that ye may have life." For the divinely-inspired Scriptures conduct him who has understanding to an accurate knowledge of the doctrines of the |241 truth: but they do not at all benefit the unwise, the ignorant, and the careless. Not because they cannot do so, but because the infirmity of their mind renders them incapable of receiving the light which the Scriptures give. For just as the light of the solar radiance is useless to those deprived of sight; not as though it cannot shine, but because their eyes are incapable of admitting and receiving it; so the holy Scriptures, though inspired by God, profit nothing the unlearned and foolish.
Our duty, therefore, is to draw near unto God, and say; "Open mine eyes: and I shall perceive the wondrous things of Thy law." So He will reveal Christ to us: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen. |242
9:46-48. And there entered a thought among them, which of them is the greatest. And Jesus, knowing the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by Him, and said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in My name, receiveth Me: and whosoever receiveth Me, receiveth Him Who sent Me. For he that is least among you all, shall be the chief.
YE who are zealous after spiritual skilfulness, and thirst for the communication of the sacred doctrines, receive once again the things ye love. And it is no earthly teacher Who leads you to the gainful booty, nor one like unto us Whom ye obtain as your guide, but the Word of God, Who came down from above, even from heaven, and is the true light of heaven and earth. For the whole rational creation is illuminated by His means, inasmuch as He is the giver of all wisdom and understanding. From Him we receive all knowledge of virtue, and the perfect ability to perform good works such as become saints. For, as Scripture saith, "we are taught of God." And the passage just laid before us bears witness also to what I have said. "For there entered," it says, "a thought among them:"----that is, among the holy Apostles,----"which of them is chief."
And now let him who thinks that Jesus was a mere man learn that he is in error, and far gone from the truth. For let him know, that though God the Word became flesh, yet that it was not possible for Him to cease to be that which He was, and that He continued to be God. For to be able to search the hearts and reins, and know their secrets, is the attribute of the supreme God alone, and besides Him of no other being whatsoever. But behold, Christ searcheth the thoughts of the holy Apostles, and fixeth the eye of Godhead upon their hidden feelings. Therefore He too is God, as being adorned with honours thus glorious and divine. |243
But let us just now investigate this question, whether all the blessed disciples in common were seized with this malady? whether this thought entered all at once? But it is, in my opinion, altogether incredible to suppose that all of them at the same moment became the common prey of one malady: but when, as I imagine, it happened to one, the wise Evangelist, that he might not be found framing an accusation against an individual among his fellow disciples, expresses himself indefinitely, saying, "There entered a thought among them, who of them is chief.'' By this, however, we are permitted to see how very wily Satan is in doing evil. For most versatile and full of contrivance is this snake for mischief, plotting in a diversity of ways against those whose love is fixed upon an honourable life, and who earnestly seek after more excellent virtues: and if by fleshly pleasures he can prevail over any one's mind, he savagely makes the assault, and sharpens the goad of voluptuousness, and by the very audacity of his attacks, humbles to base lusts even a well-confirmed mind. But if any one be manly, and escape from these snares, he then uses other artifices, contriving baits to tempt him unto mental maladies. For he sows some seed or other displeasing to God: and in those in whom there is something noble, and the praise of an excellent life, he excites the passion of vainglory, exciting them by little and little to an abominable haughtiness. For just as those who in warlike guise are equipped to do battle with invaders, use many contrivances against them; either drawing bows, which discharge arrows, or hurling stones from slings, or manfully charging them with drawn swords: so also Satan uses every artifice in carrying on war against the saints by means of manifold sins.
The passion, therefore, and lust of vainglory attacked some one of the holy Apostles; for the mere disputing who of them is the chief, is the mark of an ambitious person, eager to stand at the head of the rest. But He slept not Who knoweth how to deliver, even Christ; He saw in the disciple's mind this thought, springing up, in the words of Scripture, like some bitter plant: He saw the tare, the work of the wicked sower: and before it grow up high; before it struck its root down |244 deep; before it grew strong, and took possession of the heart; He, so to speak, tears up the evil by the very root. He saw the barbarian's arrow that had found entrance: and before it prevailed, and pierced through the mind, He contrives a medicine. For when passions are but beginning in us, and, so to speak, as yet in their infancy, and not full grown, nor firmly rooted, they are easily overcome. But when they have increased, and grown strong, they are hard to put off, and bear themselves with no little audacity. For this reason one of the wise said: "If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place: for yielding heals many sins."
In what way, then, does the Physician of souls amputate the passion of vainglory? How does He deliver the beloved disciple from being the prey of the enemy, and from a thing hateful to God and man? "He took a child, it says, and set it by Him;" and made the event a means of benefiting both the holy Apostles themselves, and us their successors: for this malady as a general rule preys upon all those who are in any respect superior to other men.
But of what did He make the child He had taken a type and representation? Of an innocent and unambitious life. For the mind of a child is void of fraud, and his heart sincere; his thoughts are simple; he covets not rank, and knows not what is meant by one man being higher in station than another: he has even no unwillingness to be regarded as the least, nor sets himself above any other person whatsoever: and though he be of good family by birth, he does not quarrel about dignity even with a slave: nor though he have rich parents, is he aware of any difference between himself and poor children. On the contrary, he likes being with them, and talks and laughs with them without distinction. In his mind and heart there is great frankness arising from simplicity and innocence. For even the Saviour once said to the holy Apostles, or rather to all those who love Him: "Verily I say unto you, that unless ye be converted, and become like these children, ye cannot enter the kingdom of God." And at another time again, when the women were bringing to Him their infants, and the disciples prevented them, He said, "Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me; for of such as they is |245 the kingdom of heaven." And again the most wise Paul desires that those who believe in Christ should be "grown men in understanding, but in malice babes." And another of the holy Apostles said: "As babes just born, love the rational and pure milk, that ye may grow thereby unto salvation, if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is kind."
As I said then, Christ brought forward the child as a pattern of simplicity and innocence, "and set him also by Him;"" shewing by him, as in a figure, that He accepts and loves those who are such, and deems them worthy, so to speak, of standing at His side, as being like-minded with Him, and anxious to tread in His steps. For He said, "Learn of Me: for I am meek, and lowly in heart." And if He Who transcends all, and is crowned with such surpassing glories, is lowly in heart, how must it not bring upon such as we are, yea, even upon our very selves, the blame of utter madness, if we do not bear ourselves humbly towards the poor, and learn what our nature is, but love to vaunt ourselves ambitiously above our measure!
And He further says: "He that receiveth this child in My name receiveth Me: and he that recciveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me." Since, therefore, the reward of those that honour the saints is one and the same, whether he who is honoured be, if it so chance, of modest rank, or of exalted station and dignity;----for he receiveth Christ, and by Him and in Him the Father;----how was it not utterly foolish for them to quarrel among themselves, and aim at pre-eminence, and be unwilling to be thought inferior to others, when they were to be accepted on equal terms!
But He makes the purport of this declaration even still more |246 plain by saying: "For he that is least among you all, the same is chief." And how is he the chief, who is regarded as the least? Is the comparison in point of virtue? But how can this he? The foremost place is not assigned to him who is chief in virtue above him who is otherwise. In what way, then, is he chief who is least? Probably, then, He calls him least whom lowly things please, and who, from modesty, does not think highly of himself. Such a one pleases Christ: for it is written, "that every one that exalteth himself shall be abased: and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." And Christ Himself somewhere says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their's is the kingdom of heaven." The ornament, therefore, of a soul that is sanctified is a poor and humble mind: but the wish to think highly of oneself, and to be at strife with the brethren for the sake off honour and dignity, and foolishly to quarrel with them, is in like manner a disgrace. Such conduct separates friends, and makes even those perhaps great enemies whoso dispositions are similar. It overpowers the law of nature, and subverts that innate affection which we owe our brethren. It divides lovers, and sometimes makes even those enemies of one another, who are united by being born from one womb. It fights against and resists the blessings of peace. Miserable is it, and a malady invented by the wickedness of the devil. For what is there more delusive than vainglory? Like smoke it is dispersed; like a cloud it passeth away, and like the vision of a dream changeth into nothingness. It scarcely equalleth the herbage in endurance, and withereth like grass. For it is written, that "all flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass." It is a weakness, therefore, despised even among us, and numbered among the greatest evils. For who does not reckon a vainglorious man, inflated with empty airs, an annoyance? Who does not regard with contempt, and give the name of "boaster," to one who refuses to be on an. equality with others, and thrusts himself forward as if claiming to be accounted their superior? Let, then, the malady of vaingloriousness be far from those who love Christ: and lot us rather consider our companions as better than we are, and be anxious to adorn ourselves with that humility of mind, which is well-pleasing to God. For being thus |247 simple-minded, as becometh saints,15 we shall be with Christ, Who honoureth simplicity: by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father, be praise and dominion with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen. |248
9:49-50. And John answered and said: Teacher, we saw one casting out devils in Thy Name, and we forbade him because he followeth not with us. But Jesus said unto him: Forbid him not: for he is not against you. For whosoever is not against you, is on your part.
PAUL requires us to "prove every thing," and says, "Be wise money-changers." But an exact and scrupulous knowledge of each particular matter we can obtain from no other source than from divinely-inspired Scripture. For David in the Psalms, addressing as it were Christ, the Saviour of all, declares; "Thy law is a lamp to my feet, and a light unto my paths." And Solomon also writes, that "the commandment of the law is a lamp and a light." For just as this sensible light that is in the world, by falling on our bodily eyes, dispels the darkness; so also the law of God, when admitted into the mind and heart of man, illuminates it thoroughly, and does not suffer it to fall against the stumblingblocks of ignorance, nor be caught in the wickednesses of sin.
And this I say from admiration of the skilfulness here also displayed in the lessons from the Gospel just set before us, and the purport of which ye doubtless wish to be taught, seeing ye have assembled here from love of the sacred doctrines, and with eagerness have formed the present meeting. What therefore do the wise disciples say, or what do they wish to learn from Him Who endoweth them with all wisdom, and revealeth to them the understanding of every good work? "Teacher, we saw one casting out devils in Thy name, and we forbade him." Has the sting of envy troubled the holy disciples? Do they grudge those highly favoured? Have even they admitted within them a passion so abominable and hateful to God? "We saw one, they say, casting out devils in Thy name, and we forbade him." Tell me, dost thou forbid one who in Christ's name troubles Satan, and crushes evil demons? How was it not thy duty rather to reflect, that he was not the doer |249 of these wonders, but that the grace which was in him wrought the miracle by the power of Christ? How therefore dost thou forbid him who in Christ wins the victory? "Yes," he saith; for he followeth not with us." Oh blind speech! For what if he be not numbered among the holy Apostles, who is crowned with Christ's grace, yet is he equally with you adorned with apostolic powers. There are many diversities of Christ's gifts, as the blessed Paul tcacheth, saying; "that to one is given the word of wisdom, but to another the word of knowledge: and to another faith; and to another gifts of healings."
What therefore is the meaning of his "not walking with us," or what is the force of the expression? Look then; for I will tell you as well as I can. The Saviour gave the holy Apostles authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all disease and all sickness among the people. And so they did; nor was the grace given them ineffectual. For they returned with joy, saying; "Lord, even the devils are subject to us in Thy name." They imagined, therefore, that leave was given not to any one else but to themselves alone to be invested with the authority which He had granted them. For this reason they draw near, and want to learn, whether others also might exercise it, even though they had not been appointed to the apostleship, nor even to the office of teacher.
We find something like this also in the ancient sacred Scriptures. For God once said to the hierophant Moses: "Choose thee seventy men of the elders of Israel, and I will take of the Spirit that is upon thee, and give it," He says, "to them." And when those who were chosen had assembled at the former tabernacle, two men only excepted, who had remained in the camp, and the spirit of prophecy descended upon them, not only those who were assembled in the holy tabernacle prophesied, but those also who had remained in the camp. But "Jeshua, it says, who stood before Moses, said, Eldad and Midad, lo! they prophesy in the camp. My lord Moses forbid them. And Moses said unto Jeshua, Enviest thou me? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, the Lord putting His Spirit upon them." But it was Christ Who at that time made the hierophant Moses thus speak by the Holy Ghost: and here also in person He saith to the holy Apostles; "Forbid not him who is crushing Satan," that is, in His name, |250 "for he is not against you,16 He says; for he who is not against you is on your part." For on the part of us who love Christ, are all who wish to act to His glory, and are crowned by His grace. And this is a law to the churches continuing even to this day. For we honour only those who lift up holy hands, and purely and without fault or blame, in Christ's name, rebuke unclean spirits, and deliver multitudes from various diseases: for we know that it is Christ Who worketh in them.
We must, however, examine such things carefully. For there are verily men, who have not been counted worthy of Christ's grace, but make the reputation of being saints and honourable an opportunity of gain. Of such one may say, that they are bold and shameless hypocrites, who seize honours for themselves, even though God has not called them thereto; they praise themselves, and imitate the bold doings of the false prophets of old, of whom God said; "I have not sent the prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken unto them, yet they prophesied." And so too may He say of these, I have not sanctified them, but they falsely assume the gift for themselves: they have not been counted worthy of My grace, but wickedly seize those things which I bestow on such alone as are worthy to receive them. These, making a show of fasting, walk sadly with downcast looks, while full of fraud and baseness. And often they pride themselves on letting their nails grow long: and are especially fond of their complexion being sallow: and though no one compel them, they delight in enduring such misery as men have to bear in prison, hanging collars on their necks, and putting fetters sometimes on their hands and feet. Such persons the Saviour has commanded us to avoid, saying; "Beware of those who come to you in sheep's clothing: but within are ravening wolves."
To this, however, some one may object, 'But who, O Lord, knows the heart of man? Who sees what is concealed within us, but Thou alone, Who by Thyself didst form our hearts, and tryest hearts and reins? Yes, He says: "By their fruits ye shall know them:" not by appearances, not by outward show, but by fruits. For what is the object of their |251 hypocrisy? Plainly it looks to the love of gain. For they gape at the hands of those who visit them: and if they see them empty, they are greatly distressed, and stung with annoyance. For piety is with them merchandize. If, however, thou lovest wealth, and lusteth after base gains, and hast given a place in thy mind to that most base passion,----the love of money,----put off the sheep's skin; why labourest thou in vain, by making a pretence of an austere and unworldly conduct? Abandon this excessive rigour of life, and aim instead at being one who is contented with little. Ask this of God: seek His righteousness: "Cast thy care upon the Lord: and He shall nourish thee."
But there are even some who use from time to time incantations and certain abominable mutterings, and wickedly make certain fumigations 17, and command the use of amulets. 'But yet,' says one, 'who has without thought taken part in these practices, in their incantations they use the Name of the Lord of Sabaoth.' Are we, then, to acquit them of blame because they bestow on a wicked and impure devil an expression suitable to God only, and call the wicked Satan the Lord of Sabaoth; asking of him as the reward of blasphemy, aid in the things they request of him? Not that he really aids them, for he is powerless; but rather brings down to the pit of destruction those that call upon him. For the Lord speaketh not untruly where He says that Satan casteth not out Satan 18.
It is necessary, therefore, for our salvation and well-pleasing to God, to flee far from every thing like this. But when thou seest one who has been brought up in the church, innocent, simple, without hypocrisy, whose mode of life is worthy of emulation, who is known of many as the companion of holy monks, who flees from the arts of the city, who is fond of desert places, who loves not gain, nor schisms, and, besides all this, has a correct faith, and is made honourable by the grace of Christ, through the operation of the Holy Ghost, so as to be even able to work those things that are by Christ; unto |252 such a one draw near with confidence: he shall pray for thee purely, and his grace shall minister unto thee. For the Saviour and Lord of all grants the requests of those who ask Him: by Whom and with whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen. |253
9:51-56. And it came to pass that when the days were fulfilled for His being taken up, that He set His face to go to Jerusalem: and sent messengers before His face, and they went and entered into a village of the Samaritans to make ready for Him. And they did not receive Him, because His face was as though He would go to Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw it, they said, Wilt Thou that we bid fire come down from heaven to consume them? But He turned and rebuked them, and went to another village.
Those who are abundantly endowed with vast wealth, and pride themselves on their ample riches, assemble fit persons to their banquets, and set before them a sumptuously furnished table, producing by a diversity of dishes and sauces of various kinds a pleasure superior to the mere satisfying of hunger. But from this no benefit arises, but rather great injury to the banqueters. For more than a sufficiency after the calls of hunger have been satisfied is always hurtful. But those who possess heavenly riches, and know the sacred doctrines, and have been illuminated with divine light, nourish their souls by feasting them on instructive discourses, in order that they may become both fruitful towards God, and skilled in the pathway unto all virtue, and earnest in accomplishing those things by means of which a man attains to a happy issue. To this intellectual and holy table, therefore, the sacred Word invites us; for it says, "Eat and drink, and be drunken, my friends." But friends of whom? evidently of God. And it is worthy of note that we are to be drunken with these things, and that we can never be satiated with that which is to our edification. Let us see, therefore, what kind of profit the lesson from the Gospel sets before us upon the present occasion.
"For 19 when," it says, "the days were fulfilled for His |254 being taken up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem." By which is meant, that as the time had now come when at length having borne for us His saving passion, He should ascend to heaven, and dwell with God the Father, He determined to proceed to Jerusalem. For this is, I think, the meaning of His having set His face. He sends, therefore, messengers to prepare a lodging for Him and His companions. And when they came to a village of the Samaritans, they were not received. At this the blessed disciples were indignant, not so much on their own account as because they did not honour Him Who is Saviour and Lord of all. And what followed? They murmured greatly: and as His majesty and power was not unknown to them, they said, "Lord, wilt thou that we bid fire come down from heaven, and consume them?" But Christ rebuked them for so speaking. And in these last words lies the purport of the lesson: and therefore let us accurately examine the whole passage. For it is written, "Churn milk, and it becomes butter."
It would be untrue, then, to affirm that our Saviour did not know what was about to happen: for as He knows all things, He knew, of course, that His messengers would not be received by the Samaritans. Of this there can be no doubt. Why, then, did He command them to precede Him? The reason of it was His custom assiduously to benefit the holy Apostles in every possible way: and for this end His practice sometimes was to put them to the proof. As for instance, He was sailing once upon the lake of Tiberias with those named above; and while so doing he fell asleep purposely: and a violent wind having risen upon the lake, a rough and unusual storm began to rage, and the boat was in danger, and the crew in alarm. For He intentionally permitted the storm and the fury of the tempest to rage against the ship, to try the faith of the disciples, and to make manifest the greatness of His power. And this, also, was the result. For they, in the littleness of their faith, said, "Master, save us, we perish." And He at once arose and shewed that He is Lord of the elements; for He rebuked the sea and the tempest, and there was an exceeding great calm. And so also on this occasion: He knew, indeed, that those who went forward to announce that he would lodge with them would not be received by the Samaritans; but He permitted |255 them to go, that this again might be a means of benefiting the holy Apostles.
What, then, was the purpose of this occurrence? He was going up to Jerusalem, as the time of His passion was already drawing near. He was about to endure the contumelies of the Jews; He was about to be set at nought by the scribes and Pharisees; and to suffer those things which they inflicted upon Him when they proceeded to the accomplishment of all violence and wicked audacity. In order, therefore, that they might not be offended when they saw Him suffering, as understanding that He would have them also to be patient, and not to murmur greatly, even though men treat them with contumely, He, so to speak, made the contempt they met with from the Samaritans a preparatory exercise in the matter. They had not received the messengers. It was the duty of the disciples, treading in the footsteps of their Lord, to bear it patiently as becometh saints, and not to say anything of them wrathfully. But they were not yet so disposed; but being seized with too hot indignation, they would have called down fire upon them from heaven, as far as their will went. But Christ rebuked them for so speaking.
See here, I pray, how great is the difference between us and God: for the distance is immeasurable. For He is slow to anger, and long-suffering, and of incomparable gentleness and love to mankind: but we children of earth are quick unto anger, hasty unto impatience, and refuse with indignation to be judged by others when we are found out in committing any wrong act; while we are most ready to find fault with others. And therefore God the Lord of all affirms, saying; "For My thoughts are not as your thoughts, nor your ways as My ways; but as the heaven is far from the earth, so are My ways from your ways, and My thoughts from your thoughts." Such, then, is He Who is Lord of all: but we, as I said, being readily vexed, and easily led into anger, take sometimes severe and intolerable vengeance upon those who have occasioned us some trifling annoyance: and though commanded to live according to the Gospel, we fall short of the practice commanded by the law. For the law indeed said, "Eye for eye; tooth for tooth; hand for hand:" and commanded that an equal retribution should suffice: but we, as I |256 said, though perhaps we have suffered but a trifling wrong, would retaliate very harshly, not remembering Christ, who said: "The disciple is not greater than his teacher, nor the slave than his master;" Who also, "when He was reviled, reviled not again; when suffering, threatened not; but committed His cause to Him Who judgeth righteously." As treading this path much-enduring Job also is justly admired: for it is written of him, "What man is like Job, who drinketh wrongs like a draught?" For their benefit, therefore, He rebuked the disciples, gently restraining the sharpness of their wrath, and not permitting them to murmur violently against those who sinned, but persuading them rather to be longsuffering, and to cherish a mind immovable by ought of this.
It benefited them also in another way: they were to be the instructors of the whole world, and to travel through the cities and villages, proclaiming everywhere the good tidings of salvation. Of necessity, therefore, while seeking to fulfil their mission, they must fall in with wicked men, who would reject the divine tidings, and, so to speak, not receive Jesus to lodge with them 20. Had Christ, therefore, praised them for wishing that fire should come down upon the Samaritans, and that so painful a torment should be inflicted upon them, they would have been similarly disposed in many other instances, and when men disregarded the sacred message, would have pronounced their condemnation, and called down fire upon them from above. And what would have been the result of such conduct? The sufferers would have been innumerable, and no longer would the disciples have been so much physicians of the sick, as torturers rather, and intolerable to men everywhere. For their own good, therefore, they were rebuked, when thus enraged beyond measure at the contumely of the Samaritans: in order that they might learn that as ministers of the divine tidings, they must rather be full of longsuffering and gentleness; not revengeful; not given to wrath, nor savagely attacking those who offend them.
And that the ministers of God's message were longsuffering, |257 Paul teaches us, saying, "For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were, condemned to death; for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. Being reviled, we bless; being defamed, we persuade: we have become the offscouring of the world; the refuse of all men up to this day." He wrote also to others, or rather to all who had not yet received Christ in them, but, so to speak, were still afflicted with the pride of the Samaritans: "We pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God."
Great, therefore, is the benefit of the gospel lessons to those who are truly perfect in mind; and may we also, taking them unto ourselves, benefit our souls, ever praising Christ the Saviour of all: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Ghost, for ever and. ever, Amen.
[Selected footnotes moved to the end and renumbered. Almost all marginalia, any purely textual footnotes, most Greek or Syriac material has been omitted without notice]
1. a Mai here inserts μὴ in the Greek, which equally with the Syriac has no negative: but certainly without reason, as the meaning is, that when they took their final departure from the city, it was to be from the same house which they had first entered.
2. e The Nestorians.
3. f These words contain the supposed defence of Nestorius, confining the appellation "Christ" to the divine Person, the Word, and denying it to the human person, the "Son of man," or "Son of David." But they require some modification: for Nestorius did not confine the appellation, Christ, to the divine Person, but said that it was a title common to both. So in his letter to Cyril, Harduin's Conc. I. 1278, having quoted the words of the Creed, "We believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord, His only-begotten Son," he says, 'Observe, I pray, how, having laid down as foundations the terms Lord, Jesus, Christ, Only-begotten, and Son, as common both to the Godhead and the manhood, they proceed to build upon them the tradition of the Incarnation, and the Passion, and the Resurrection.' And soon afterwards commenting upon Phil. ii. 5, he says, 'St. Paul being about to speak of the Passion, that no one may imagine God the Word to be capable of suffering, uses the term Christ, as significative of the Substance incapable of suffering and of that capable of suffering in a single person.' So again he does not object to the title of Χπιστοτόκος being applied to the Virgin; οὐ φθονῶ τῆς φωνῆς τῇ Χριστοτόκῳ παρθένῳ: Quat. xxi. p. 1412. What he denied was that there was any such union of the two natures in our Lord as for the Virgin to be correctly called Θεοτόκος, or for it to be orthodox to affirm the divinity of our Lord considered as the Son of man. Thus in Quat. xvi, p. 1415, he says, 'Because God was present in that which was assumed, viz., human nature, that which was assumed, as being joined with That Which assumed it, is also called God, because of the Assumer.' Ἐπειδήπερ ἐν τῷ ληφθέντι Θεὸς, ἐκ τοῦ λαβόντος ὁ ληφθεὶς, ὡς τῷ λαβόντι συναφθεὶς, συγχρηματίζει Θεός. But in this very quaternion he says that Christ is a title applicable to either nature: 'The appellation Christ, like that of Son, and Lord, as used in the Scriptures of the Only-Begotten, expresses the two natures, signifying at one time the Godhead, at another the manhood, and at another both together.' Nevertheless he affirmed that these titles were used differently of the two natures: for while they belonged to the divinity absolutely, they belonged to the manhood only κατὰ συνάφειαν, by conjunction: for the two natures were not united but coupled, each energizing separately and apart. And this συνάφεια was the very keystone of his doctrine, so that he well said in Quat. xv. ἀσύγχυτον τὴν τῶν φύσεων τηρῶμεν συνάφειαν. In Cyril's answer to his letter preserved in Harduin I. 1286, we have a most temperate and exact statement of the doctrine sanctioned by the council of Ephesus, and confirmed subsequently at Chalcedon; 'Confessing that the Word was substantially united----ἡνῶσθαι not συνῆφθαι----to the flesh, we worship one Son and Lord Jesus Christ, not putting them apart and distinguishing between man and God, nor regarding them as joined to one another by oneness of dignity and command: nor again giving the name of Christ in one special sense to the Word of God, and in another special sense to the seed of the woman: but acknowledging one Christ only, even the Word of God the Father, with the flesh which He made His own." This last quotation shews with what, modification we are to take the less exact statement in the text; in answering which, however, S. Cyril refutes, not the confining the title, Christ, to the divinity, but the separation of the natures, shewing that Peter acknowledged Him Whom he saw present before him as "the Son of God the Father, the "Word That sprang forth from His substance."
4. g The Copyist has here apparently omitted a line to the effect that the Scriptures also ascribe the church to Christ.
5. i As the Syriac has but one preposition [Syriac] with which to express both εἰς and ἐν, the translation may either be "into" the Name, or "in" the Name,
6. a A few passages occur in the Aurea Catena, ascribed to S. Cyril, not contained in the Greek, and such are generally also not recognised by the Syriac. The commencement of this homily is, however, an instance to the contrary, the purport of it being very correctly given; as also another passage which occurs towards the end.
7. b Aquinas (Ed. Ven. 1775, vol. v. 134), has "Quod autem incomparabiliter exercitium pacis Christi superet delicias et pretiosa mundi, insinuat subdens; Quid proficit &c." It is impossible to conjecture what can have been the reading of the translator in the Library of the Fathers, who renders it, 'But that incomparable exercise of the passion of Christ, which surpasses the delights and precious things of the world, is alluded to when He adds, 'What is a man advantaged,' " &c.
8. c In this argument S. Cyril takes the being ashamed in a good sense, as "feeling reverence at." Similarly it is understood by the Vulgate: Qui enim erubuerit Me, et Meos sermones, hunc Filius hominis erubescet. This Wiclif renders, "Whoso schameth Me and My wordis, mannes Sone shall schame him," &c. And the sense in which he uses shame we may see in his version of Luke xviii. 2: "There was a juge in a citee, that drede not God, neither schamede of men."
9. n Mai adds a passage from B, giving a completely distinct reason for the transfiguration, namely, that it was to teach the disciples that at the resurrection the body is not "put off, but a sort of light-like glory envelopes it."
10. o Again Mai ascribes a passage from B and F to Cyril, remarking upon the terror with which the disciples fell to the ground on hearing the Father's voice, that it proves the necessity of Christ's mediatorship in human form, inasmuch as the glory of God would otherwise have been unendurable to mankind. The passage following the quotation from St. John he omits.
11. p This title of Deity, which is of very frequent occurrence in S. Cyril's works, is the Greek translation of "Jehovah Sabaoth," the Lord of Hosts, Ps. xxiv. 10; and this again the Latins render, "Dominus virtutum." By "powers" the Syrians understood an order of the angelic hierarchy, inferior only to the Cherubs and Seraphs. Among the MSS. obtained by the late Dr. Mill from the Syriac Christians of Malabar, I have found two lists of ecclesiastical and angelic dignities, in which they are ranked as follows: 1. Players on musical instruments. 2. Singers. 3. Doorkeepers. 4. Readers. 5. Subdeacons. 6. Deacons. 7. Priests. 8. Visitors. 9. Chorepiscopi. 10. Bishops. 11. Metropolitans. 12. Patriarchs. 13. Angels. 14. Archangels. 15. Principalities. 16. Dominions. 17. Thrones. 18. Lordships. 19. Powers. 20. Cherubs. 21. Seraphs. By visitors, though the title is taken from the Peschito version of 1 Pet. ii. 25, I imagine the περιοδευταὶ of the Greek Canons to be meant; and the Chorepiscopi, or Village-bishops, had no power to ordain any one above a subdeacon.
12. q Aquinas translates correctly, Nescientes procedere rectis incessibus: for though incessus is properly the act of walking, yet as early as Tacitus it began to be used for a path. The translator of the Aurea Catena nevertheless renders it, "not knowing how to continue in the right beginnings."
13. r In the text S.Cyril has the right reading "ears," but both here and afterwards he changes it to "hearts," possibly through inadvertence, as no MS. contains this reading, though the more obvious expression.
14. s This translation of Lev. xvi. 8. was apparently adopted by S. Cyril to escape from an objection brought against the passage by Julian, as proving the existence of a Deus Averruncus, "an evil-averting demon." For the text is rightly translated by the Sept. κλῆρον ἕνα τῷ κυρίῳ καὶ κλῆρον ἕνα τῷ ἀποπομπαίῳ : "one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat," as the A. V. renders it. But as ἀποπομπαῖος in classical Greek signifies a "demon who averts evil," Julian inferred from it the existence of these inferior powers, unto one of which he supposed the second goat was offered: and therefore Cyril, not being acquainted with Hebrew, gives it another meaning, of which the Greek may possibly admit: namely, that two lots were written for the goats, inscribed with these two names, conf. Lib. ix. contra Jul. vi. 301. E. So again in his Epistle to Acacius, V. pt. ii. 224. arguing against a faction, who had adopted the same opinions, he says, "He commanded therefore two goats to be offered, and two lots to be written for them, so as for the one goat to be called Lord, and the other goat ἀποπομπαῖος. These therefore were the names of the goats." In modern times, Bochart, Suicer, and Gesenius, all adopt Julian's view, that ἀποπομπαῖος is equivalent to ἀποτροπαῖος, though it draws but slight confirmation from Josephus, who says, indeed, that the goat was an ἀποτροπιασμὸς, an averting of evil, but evidently is referring to v. 21. where Aaron is commanded to lay the sins of the people upon the goat's head. That Cyril had never heard of this meaning of ἀποπομπαῖος is plain; for he calls it ὄνομα τοι-ς μὲν ἱεροῖς νόμοις οὐκ ἐγνωσμένον, ἐντριβὲς δὲ ἴσως ἑαυτῷ, i. e. to Julian : and nothing could be more unsafe than to interpret the language of the Sept. by classical Greek usage. That the Jews of the second century understood it in a passive sense is plain from Aquila, who renders it ἀπολελυμένος, and Symmachus who gives ἀπερχόμενος: while the Greek fathers always treat it as equal to ἀποπεμπόμενος, and the Latins as Emissarius, i. e. the goat sent away. Besides, it is quite impossible to suppose that either the Sept., or Aquila and the other Greek translators of the O.T., meant their renderings as an equivalent of the Hebrew [Hebrew], any more than our own translators their word "scapegoat:" for there is not the most distant connection between the Hebrew and any of these significations. They are mere substitutions of the general sense of the passage for a word confessedly untranslatable; for Jonathan, Onkelos, the Samaritan, and most other versions, retain the original word, as does also the A. V. in the margin: or perhaps, they may have supposed it to be explained by [Hebrew], as it occurs in vv. 10. 21. 22. As regards the meaning of [Hebrew] Azazel, some consider it to be the name of a mountain; Bochart, "the wastes:" others, one of the four chiefs of the devils, whose names Menachem on Lev. assures us are Sammael, Azazel, Azael, and Machazeel: others, that it is Satan's lieutenant, so called in the hymn against Marcion cited by Epiphanius from Irenaeus:----
ἅ σοι χορηγεῖ σὸς πατὴρ Σατὰν ἀεὶ δἰ ἀγγελικῆς δυνάμεως Ἀζαζὴλ ποιεῖν.
Upon the whole, I think Ewald's opinion, Krit. Gr. p. 243, is the most defensible, that Azazel means "total separation or removal;" for Gesenius' objection, that Moses would not have used so hard a word when simpler expressions were at hand, has little force, since possibly Moses may have preserved in this rite some patriarchal observance: and nothing is so retentive of ancient words,----as well as also of customs and ideas,----as the ritual of a nation.
15. u The MS. reads, "as becometh the rich;" but as the argument is not addressed to them in particular, I imagine that the translator mistook ὁσίοις for πλουσίοις, and have translated accordingly.
16. x This reading is also found in most copies of the Philoxenian Version.
17. y In the margin this is explained by "they make fumigations, like persons burning spices."
18. z In the margin this passage is said to be spoken "against the sorcerers."
19. a The Greek of this passage is partially preserved in Cr.'s Catena, p. 80. Corderius and Aquinas have also each some fragments in the Latin, but Mai has found no portion of this sermon in his Catena;, and very little of those that precede, except of that upon the transfiguration.
20. b This apparently very simple metaphor, though it occurs also in Rev.iv.20, has not been understood by the translator of Aquinas (Oxf. 1843), who renders, "quasi non concedentes secum commorari Jesum," "allowing not that Jesus sojourned on earth with them!"
This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2006. All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
Greek text is rendered using unicode.
|Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts|