Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke (1859) Sermons 146-156 (Luke 22:39-24:45) pp. 683-781
22:39-42,45,46. And He came out and went, as He was wont, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him. And when He was at the place, He said to them, Pray that you enter not into temptation. And He went apart from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, Father, if You will, put away this cup from Me: but not My will, but Yours be done. And He rose up from prayer, and went to the disciples, and found them asleep from sorrow. And He said to them, Why sleep you? Arise, pray that you enter not into temptation.
OUR Lord Jesus Christ requires those who love Him to be accurate investigators of whatsoever is written concerning Him: for He has said, "that the kingdom of heaven is like to a treasure hid in a field." For the mystery of Christ is deposited, so to speak, at a great depth, nor is it plain to the many: but he who uncovers it by means of an accurate knowledge, finds the riches which are therein, and resembles that wise woman, even Mary, of whom Christ said, that "she had chosen the good part, that should not be taken away from her." For these earthly and temporal things fade away with the flesh: but those which are divine and intellectual, and that benefit the life of the soul, are firmly established, and their possession cannot be shaken. Let us look therefore into the meaning of the lessons set before us. "By day then the Saviour abode in Jerusalem," instructing evidently the Israelites, and revealing to them the way of the kingdom of heaven; but when the evening came, He continued with the holy disciples on the Mount of Olives at a spot called Gethsemane: for so the wise Evangelist Matthew tells us. |684
When therefore Christ came thither, as the same Matthew again somewhere says, "He took Peter and James and John, and began to be grieved and sore distressed; and to say to them, My soul is sorrowful even to death. And again, having gone a little forward, He kneeled and prayed, saying, Father, if You will, put away from Me this cup; but not My will, but Yours be done." Behold here, I pray, the profoundness of the dispensation in the flesh, and the height of that wisdom which no words can tell: fix upon it the penetrating eye of the mind: and if you can see the beautiful art of the mystery, you also will say, "O! the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! His judgments are unsearchable, and His ways past finding out." "He began, it says, to be grieved, and sore distressed." For what reason, O Lord? Were You also terrified at death? Did You being seized with fear draw back from suffering? And yet did not You teach the holy apostles to make no account of the terrors of death, saying, "Fear not them who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul." And if too any one were to say that the grace of spiritual fortitude is Your gift to the elect, he would not err from the truth: for all strength is from You, and all confidence and heartiness of mind in every more excellent encounter. You are by nature Life, and the cause of life. You we look for as a Saviour and Deliverer, and the Destroyer of corruption. From You all receive their life and being. You have made every thing that breathes. The angels are for You, and from You, and by You, and so is the whole rational creation. Unto You the blessed David spoke concerning us, "You send Your Spirit, and they are created: and You renew the face of the ground." How therefore are You grieved, and sore distressed, and sorrowful, even to death? For plainly You knew, in that You are God by nature, and know whatsoever is about to happen, that by enduring death in the flesh You would free from death the inhabitants of all the earth, and bring Satan to shame:----that You would set up a trophy of victory over every evil and opposing power: that You would be known by every one, and worshipped as the God and Creator of all. You knew that You would plunder hell:----that You would |685 deliver those that are therein, from bonds that had endured for many ages: that You wouldst turn to You all that is under heaven. These things You did Yourself announce to us of old by the holy prophets. We have heard You clearly saying, when You were like to us, "Now is the judgment of this world: now will the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, shall draw all men to Me." "Verily I say to you, that if a grain of wheat fall not into the ground and die, it abides alone: but if it die, it brings forth much fruit." For what reason therefore are You grieved and sore distressed? Yes, He says, not unbefittingly am I found thus in anguish. For I know indeed that by consenting to suffer the passion upon the cross, I shall deliver all beneath the heaven from every evil, and be the cause of unending blessings to the inhabitants of the whole earth. I am not unaware of the unloosing of death, and the abolition of corporeal corruption, and the overthrow of the tyranny of the devil, and the remission of sin. But all the same it grieves Me for Israel the firstborn, that henceforth He is not even among the servants. The portion of the Lord, and the cord of My inheritance, will be "the portion of foxes," as it is written. He Who was the beloved one is greatly hated: he who had the promises is utterly stripped of My gifts: the pleasant vineyard with its rich grapes henceforth will be a desert land, a place dried up, and without water. "For I will command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it." "I will break through its hedge, and it shall be a spoil: and I will beat down its wall, and it shall be trampled under foot." And tell me then, what husbandman, when his vineyard is desert and waste, will feel no anguish for it? What shepherd would be so harsh and stern as, when his flock was perishing, to suffer nothing on its account? These are the causes of My grief: for these things I am sorrowful. For I am God, gentle, and that loves to spare. "I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his evil way and live." Right therefore is it, most right, that as being good and merciful, I should not only be glad at what is joyful, but also should feel sorrow at whatsoever is grievous.
But that He pitied Jerusalem, as being well aware of what was about to happen, and that it would have to endure all |686 misery because of its crimes against Him, you may learn even from this. For He went up from Judaea to Jerusalem, and, as the Evangelist says, "When He beheld the city, He wept over it, and said, Would that you, even you, had known the things of your peace; but now they are hid from your eyes." For as He wept over Lazarus, in pity for the whole race of mankind, which had become the prey of corruption and of death; so we say that He was grieved at seeing Jerusalem all but involved in extreme miseries, and in calamities for which there was no cure.
And that we might learn what was His wish concerning Israel, He told the disciples, that He is in grief and anguish. For it would have been impossible for them to have learnt what was hidden within Him, if He had not revealed by words what His feelings were.
And this too I think it necessary to add to what has been said: that the passion of grief, or malady, as we may call it, of sore distress, cannot have reference to the divine and impassive nature of the Word; for that is impossible, inasmuch as It transcends all passion: but we say that the Incarnate Word willed also to submit Himself to the measure of human nature, by being supposed to suffer what belongs to it. As therefore He is said to have hungered, although He is Life and the cause of life, and the living bread; and was weary also from a long journey, although He is the Lord of powers; so also it is said that He was grieved, and seemed to be capable of anguish. For it would not have been fitting for Him Who submitted Himself to emptiness, and stood in the measure of human nature, to have seemed unwilling to endure human things. The Word therefore of God the Father is altogether free from all passion: but wisely and for the dispensation's sake He submitted Himself to the infirmities of mankind, in order that He might not seem to refuse that which the dispensation required: yes, He even yielded obedience to human |687 customs and laws, only, as I said, He did not bear ought of this in His own nature.
There is however much, yes, very much, to be added to what has been said; but for the present we hold in our narration, and reserve what is wanting for another meeting, should Christ our common Saviour gather us here once again: by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father, be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen. |688
UPON THE SAME SUBJECT.
ONCE again I am come to pay you what I promised, and to add a fitting conclusion to my discourse concerning Christ. For on all occasions it is dangerous to be guilty of untruth; but when any thing of the kind is committed in those things which are important for our edification, well may we then fear lest we bring down upon us condemnation from on high, and also become an object of general ridicule.
We said therefore at our last meeting, that Christ the Saviour of all was with the holy disciples upon the mount of Olives, while that many-headed serpent, even Satan, was preparing for Him the snare of death; and the chiefs of the Jewish synagogue and the disciple that betrayed Him were, so to speak, leaving nothing undone to gain possession of His person, and had already gathered those who were to seize Him, and who consisted of a band of the soldiers of Pilate, and a multitude of wicked officers. Just therefore as the attempt was about to be made, He was sorrowful, and admonished the disciples to act in like manner suitably to the season, saying, "Watch and pray, that you fall not into temptation." And that He might not benefit them by words only, but be Himself an example of what they should do, "having gone apart a little, about a stone's throw, He knelt down, it says, and prayed, saying, Father, if You be willing, remove this cup from Me." Now some one perhaps may ask, 'Why did He not pray with the holy disciples, but having gone apart from the rest, prayed by Himself?' It was that we might learn the pattern of that mode of prayer which is well pleasing to God. For it is not right when we pray that we should expose ourselves to the public gaze, nor seek to be beheld of many, lest perchance, sinking ourselves in the mire of endeavours after pleasing men, we make the labour of our prayers altogether unprofitable. Of this fault the scribes and Pharisees were guilty; for our Lord even once rebuked them for loving to pray in the corners of the streets, and for the long |689 supplications which they offered in the synagogues, that they might be seen of men. But for those whose purpose it is to live uprightly, and who are anxious to hold fast by their love to Him, He lays down the law of prayers in these words: "But you, when you pray, enter your chamber, and close your door, and pray to your Father Who is in secret, and your Father Who sees in secret shall reward you." Every where therefore we find Him praying alone, that you also may learn that we ought to hold converse with God over all with a quiet mind, and a heart calm and free from all disturbance. For the wise Paul writes, "I will therefore that men pray, lifting up pious hands, without wrath and doubtings."
He was praying therefore, when already those who were to seize Him were at the door. And let no man of understanding say, that He offered these supplications as being in need of strength or help from another:----for He is Himself the Father's almighty strength and power:----but it was that we might hereby learn, ever to put away from us carelessness when temptation harasses, and persecution presses upon us, and perfidy contrives for us its snare, and makes ready the net of death. For it is the very means of our salvation to watch and fall upon our knees, and make constant supplications, and ask for the aid that comes from above, lest perchance it be our lot to grow weak, and suffer a most terrible shipwreck.
For spiritual bravery is indeed a thing right worthy of the saints: but those who would resist the violence of temptations must, I tell you, have a determined and, so to speak, an unflinching mind: for it is the act of utter ignorance to be over confident in conflicts, nor is a man free from the charge of boastfulness, who is thus disposed: we must therefore, I repeat, unite courage and patience with humbleness of mind; and should any temptation then happen, our mind will be prepared bravely to resist it. Yet let us ask of God the ability to endure manfully: for we are commanded in our prayers to say, "Lead us not into temptation: but deliver us from evil." |690
Behold then, yes, see, the pattern for your conduct depicted for thee in Christ the Saviour of us all: and let us also observe the manner of His prayer. "Father, He says, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me." Do you see that Christ made His prayer against temptation with a reverence befitting man? "For if You be willing, He says, remove it." And here too remember what the blessed Paul wrote concerning Him; "He Who in the days of His flesh offered up prayers and supplications to Him Who was able to save Him from death, with strong crying and tears, and was heard because of His reverence, even though He was a Son, yet learned obedience by what He suffered, and being made perfect became the cause of eternal life to all them that obey Him." For as though one of us, He assigns to His Father's will the carrying out of whatever was about to be done. And if therefore it happen that we also at any time fall into unexpected troubles, and have to endure any mental conflict, let us beseech God not so much that it may end according to our will, but rather let us ask that whatever He knows to be fit and expedient for the benefit of our souls may be brought to pass. "For we know not what to pray for as we ought:" but He is a treasure house of every thing, and to those who love Him He gives whatever is suitable for them.
Now what I have said is, I trust, useful for the benefit of you all; but if we must further contrive some other explanation for the prayer, we may also say, that it rebukes the wickedness of the Jews: and in what way let us now explain. You have heard Christ say, "Father, if You will, remove this cup from Me." Was then His passion an involuntary act? and was the necessity for Him to suffer, or rather the violence of those who plotted against Him, stronger than His own will? Not so, we say. For His passion was not an involuntary act, though yet in another respect it was grievous, because it implied the rejection and destruction of the synagogue of the Jews. For it was not His will that Israel should be the murderer of its Lord, because by so doing it would be exposed to utter condemnation, and become reprobate, and rejected from having part in His gifts, and in the hope prepared for the saints, whereas once it had been His people, and His only one, and His elect, and adopted heir. For Moses said to |691 them, "Behold, the heavens and the earth are the Lord's your God: and you has the Lord chosen out of all nations to be His people." It was right therefore that we should clearly know, that through pity for Israel He would have put from Him the necessity to suffer: but as it was not possible for Him not to endure the passion, He submitted to it also, because God the Father so willed it with Him.
But come and let us examine further this also. 'Did the decree of God the Father, and the will of the Son Himself, call Him as of necessity to His passion? And if so, and what I have said be true, was it not a matter of necessity for some one to be the traitor, and for the Israelites to proceed to such a pitch of daring as to reject Christ, and put Him to shame in manifold ways, and contrive for Him also the death upon the cross?' But if this were so, how would He be found saying, "Woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed: good had it been for him if he had not been born?" And what just cause would there have been for Israel to perish, and be condemned to the miseries of war? For how could it oppose God's decree, and His irresistible purposes? God is not unjust, but weighs what we do with holy judgment. How therefore can He treat as voluntary that which was involuntary? For God the Father had pity upon the dwellers upon earth, who were in misery, caught in the snares of sin, and liable to death and corruption; bowed also beneath a tyrant's hand, and enslaved to herds of devils. He sent from heaven His Son to be a Saviour and Deliverer: Who also was made in form like to us. But even though He foreknew what He would suffer, and the shame of His passion was not the fruit of His own will, yet He consented to undergo it that He might save the earth, God the Father so willing it with Him, from His great kindness and love to mankind. "For He so loved the world, that He gave even His Only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." As regards therefore the ignominy of His passion, He willed not to suffer: but as it was not possible for Him not to suffer, because of the cruelty of the Jews, and their disobedience, and unbridled violence, "He endured the cross, despising the shame," "and was obedient to the Father, |692 even to death, and that the death of the cross. But God, it says, has greatly exalted Him, and given Him a name that is above every name; that at the name of Jesus Christ every knee should bow of things in heaven, and things in earth, and of things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Amen. |693
22:47-53. While He was speaking, behold a multitude; and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near to Jesus to kiss Him. For he had given them this sign, Whomsoever I kiss is He. But Jesus said to him, Judas, do you betray the Son of man with a kiss? But when they that were with Him saw what was about to be done, they said, Lord, shall we smite with the sword? And one of them struck the servant of the chief priest, and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answered, and said, Let alone thus far. And He touched his ear and healed him. And Jesus said to those who had come out against Him, and who were the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and elders, Are you come out as against a thief with swords and staves to take Me? When I was daily with you in the temple, you stretched not out your hands against Me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.
MANY and bitter passions wage war with the soul of man, and, attacking it with unendurable violence, humble it to unseemly deeds: but worse than all the rest is that root of all evil, the love of money, into whose inextricable nets that traitorous disciple so fell, that he even consented to become the minister of the devil's guile, and the instrument of the wicked chiefs of the synagogue of the Jews in their iniquity against Christ.
And this the purport of the evangelic lessons again plainly shows. For the Saviour had forewarned the holy apostles that He should be seized, and endure by the hand of sinners His passion upon the cross. And with this He also commanded, that when temptation pressed upon them they must not be weary, nor sleep at an unseasonable time, but rather must watch and be constant in prayers. When then He was still speaking of these things, "Behold, it says, a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them." Do you see that the blessed Evangelist grieves, and, so to speak, |694 even faints? For he does not permit himself even to retain in his remembrance the disciple who was so easily bought: he refuses even to name that wicked one: for he says, "he that was called Judas." For what? did he not know that the man was numbered with the elect, and counted in the company of the holy apostles? But, as I have already said, he hated even his name, and therefore the expression, "he that was called Judas."
To this, however, he adds, that he was one of the twelve: and this also is a matter of great importance to demonstrate more fully the guilt of the traitor's crime. For he who had been equally honoured with the rest, and adorned with apostolic dignities; he, the elect and beloved, deigned admittance to the holy table, and the highest honours, became the pathway and the means for the murderers of Christ. What lamentation can suffice for him, or what floods of tears must not each shed from his eyes, when he considers from what happiness that wretched being fell into such utter misery! For the sake of worthless pence he ceased to be with Christ, and lost his hope toward God, and the honour, and crowns, and life, and glory prepared for Christ's true followers, and the right of reigning with Him.
It will be worth while, however, to see what the nature was of his artifice. He had given then those murderers a sign, saying, "Whomsoever I kiss is He." Completely had he forgotten the glory of Christ, and in his utter folly imagined perhaps that he could remain undetected when offering indeed a kiss, which is the type of love, but with his heart full of bitter and iniquitous deceit. And yet even when he was accompanying Christ our common Saviour in His journeys with the other apostles, he often had heard Him foretelling what was about to happen: for, as being God by nature, He knew all things, and expressly told him of his treachery; for He said to the holy apostles, "Verily I say to you, that one of you betrays Me." How then could his purposes remain unknown? No: but there was the serpent within him struggling against God; he was the dwelling-place of the devil: for one of the holy evangelists has said, that as he was reclining at table with the rest of the disciples, the Saviour gave him a piece of bread, having dipped it in the dish: "and after the bread |695 Satan entered into him." He approaches Christ therefore as one beside himself with wine; and though the instrument of fraud and treachery, he makes a show of extraordinary affection: and therefore Christ very justly condemned him with the greater severity, saying, "Judas, do you betray the Son of man with a kiss?" And Matthew says, that when the traitor drew near to Christ, our common Saviour, he both kissed Him, and added thereto, "Hail, Master." Do you say hail to Him Who by your instrumentality is made the prey of death? How could such a word possibly be true? So that we see, that inasmuch as that false one, Satan, was within Him, he used falsehood even in saying, Hail. Because of such deeds the prophet somewhere says, "Their tongue is a piercing spearhead: the words of their mouth are deceitful: to his neighbour he speaks things of peace, but in his soul there is enmity."
But further, we must also call to mind what is written by the divine John respecting this event; for he has related, "that the officers of the Jews drew near to seize Jesus: and He advanced to meet them, saying, Whom seek you? When then the officers said, Jesus of Nazareth, He yielded Himself into the hands of those murderers, saying, I am He. But they, it says, went back; and this happened three times." What therefore was the purpose of this? and for what reason did the Saviour offer Himself to them, but they fell down when they heard Him say, "I am He?" It was that they might learn that His passion did not happen to Him without His own will, nor could they have seized Him, had He not consented to be taken. For it was not the effect of their own strength that they took Christ, and brought Him to the wicked rulers, but He yielded Himself up to suffer, as well knowing that His passion upon the cross was for the salvation of the whole world.
And the blessed disciples, pricked with the goading of divine love, drew their swords to repel the attack. But Christ would not permit this to be done, but rebuked Peter, saying, "Put up your sword into its sheath: for all who have taken swords shall die by swords." And herein He has given us also a pattern of the manner in which we must hold fast by our love to Him, and of the extent to which the burning zeal of our |696 piety may proceed. For He would not have us use swords wherewith to resist our enemies, but rather employing love and prudence, we so must mightily prevail over those who oppose us. And similarly Paul teaches us, saying, "Casting down reasonings and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing captive every thought to obedience to Him." For the war for truth's sake is spiritual, and the panoply that becomes saints is intellectual, and full of love to God. "For we must put on the breastplate of righteousness, and the helmet of salvation; and take the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." And so then the Saviour moderates the unmeasured heat of the holy apostles: and by preventing the example of such an act, declares that those who are the chief in His religion have no need in any way whatsoever of swords. And He healed with divine dignity him who had received the blow, so giving to those who came to seize Him this godlike sign also for their condemnation.
But that no one prevailed by force over His power and will, He shows by saying; "Are you come out as against a thief with swords and staves to take Me? When I was daily with you in the temple, you stretched not out your hands against Me." Does Christ then blame the chiefs of the Jews for not having prematurely contrived for Him the deadly snare? Not such is His meaning, but this rather: when it was easy for you to take Me, as each day I taught in the temple, you seized Me not. And why? Because I did not will as yet to suffer, but rather was waiting for a fitting season for My passion. And this season has now arrived: for be not ignorant that "this is your hour and the power of darkness:" that is, that a short time is granted you during which you have power over Me. But how has it been given you, and in what manner? By the will of the Father consenting thereunto with My will. For I willed that for the salvation and life of the world I should submit Myself to My passion. You have therefore one hour against Me, that is a very short and limited time, being that between the precious cross and the resurrection from the dead. And this too is the power given to darkness: but darkness is the name of Satan, for he is utter night and darkness, and the blessed Paul also says of him. "that the God of this world |697 has blinded the minds of those that believe not, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ should shine to them." Power therefore was granted to Satan and the Jews to rise up against Christ: but they dug for themselves the pitfall of destruction. For He indeed saved by means of His passion all under heaven, and rose the third day, having trampled under foot the empire of death: but they brought down upon their own heads inevitable condemnation in company with that traitorous disciple. Let them hear therefore the Holy Spirit, Who says by the voice of the Psalmist, "Why have the heathen raged, and the nations meditated vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ." But what follows this? "He that dwells in heaven, it says, shall laugh at them, and the Lord shall deride them." These wretched beings then involved themselves in the crime of murdering their Lord; but we praise as our Saviour and Deliverer our Lord Jesus Christ: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |698
22:54-62. And they took Him, and led Him away, and brought Him into the high priest's house: and Peter followed afar off. And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the court, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them: and a certain maid beholding him as he sat at the light, looked earnestly at him and said, this man also was with Him. But he denied Him, saying, Woman, 1 know Him not. And after a little while another saw him, and said, You also are one of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not. And about the space of an hour after, another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this man also was with Him: for he is a Galilaean. But Peter said, Man, I know not what you say. And immediately while he was yet speaking the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter: and Peter remembered the word of the Lord that He had said to him, To-day before the cock crow you shall deny Me thrice. And he went out and wept bitterly.
OUR, Lord Jesus Christ, to make us careful in whatever holy occupations we undertake, commanded us to offer up our supplications continually, and to make it a portion of our prayer to say, "Lead us not into temptation." For the violence of temptations is often sufficient to shake even a thoroughly steadfast mind, and to humble to wavering, and expose to extreme terrors even a courageous and strong-hearted man. And this it was the lot of the chosen disciple to experience, by whom I mean the sacred Peter. For he proved weak, and denied Christ the Saviour of all. And this denial he made not once only, but thrice, and with oaths. For Matthew has said, that "he began to curse and to swear, I know not the Man." Now there are some who would have us believe that what the disciple swore was, that he did not know that Jesus was a man: but their argument fails them, |699 though their object was to give the disciple loving help. For if he swore, as they say, that he did not know that Jesus was a man, what else did he than deny Him in thus overturning the mystery of the dispensation in the flesh? For he knew that the Only-begotten Word of God was made like to us, that is, a man: for this he openly confessed, saying, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Now he did not intend in saying this to affirm, that as being one merely such as we are He is the Son of God, but that though he saw Him standing there in the limits of human nature,----Him Who is the Word Which transcends everything that is made, and Who sprung forth from the Substance of God the Father,----even so, I say, he did not shrink from acknowledging and confessing that He is the Son of the living God. It is therefore a thing-very absurd to suppose, that though he knew the mystery of the dispensation in the flesh, he yet said that he did not know that Jesus was a man. What therefore is the fact? He was really infirm: for it was not possible for Jesus to speak falsely, Who forewarned him, that "before the cock crow you shall deny Me three times."
Nor verily do we say, that the denial took place in order that Christ's words might come true, but rather that His object was to forewarn the disciple, inasmuch as what was about to happen did not escape His knowledge. The misfortune therefore happened to the disciple from the cowardice of human nature. For as Christ had not yet risen from the dead, nor death as yet been abolished, and corruption wiped away, the fear of undergoing death was a thing past men's endurance. For that this miserable act arose, as I said, from the malady of human cowardice, and that the disciple was condemned by his own conscience, is proved both by his lamentation immediately afterwards, and by his tears upon his repentance, which fell from his eyes as for a grievous sin. "For having gone out, it says, he wept bitterly," after Christ had looked upon him, and recalled to his remembrance what He had said to him.
But next, it is worth our while observing, in what way his sin was forgiven, and how he put away his fault; for the event may prove of no slight benefit to us also ourselves. He did not then defer his repentance, nor was he careless about |700 it: for as rapid as was his descent into sin, so quick were his tears because of it; nor did he merely weep, but wept bitterly; and as one that had fallen, so bravely did he spring up again. For he knew that the merciful God somewhere says by one of the prophets, "Shall not he that falls arise? and he that backslides, shall he not return?" In returning therefore he missed not the mark: for he continued to be what he had been before, a true disciple. For when he was warned that he should thrice deny before the cock crow, even then he won also the hope of forgiveness: for Christ's words to him were, "And do you also, in time to come, when you are converted, strengthen your brethren." Words such as these belong to One Who again appoints and restores him to apostolic powers: for He entrusts him again with the office of strengthening the brethren; a thing which also he did.
And this too we say; that though we are taught the failures of the saints in the sacred Scriptures, it is not that we may be caught in similar snares from disregarding the duty of steadfastness, but that if it do chance that we prove weak in anything that is necessary for salvation, we may not despair of being able once again to mount up to fortitude, and, so to speak, recover our health after an unexpected illness. For the merciful God has provided for the inhabitants of earth repentance as the medicine of salvation: and this I know not how men 1 endeavour to dispense with, saying of themselves that they are clean, and in their great madness not understanding, that to entertain such an idea of themselves is full of all impurity. For "no man is free from defilement," as it is written. And besides this we say, that it makes God angry for us to imagine that we are free from all impurity: for He is even found saying to one of those who led polluted lives, "Behold I have a lawsuit with you because you say I have not sinned, in that you have acted very contemptuously in repeating your ways." For the repetition of the way to sin is for us, when we are overtaken by offences, to refuse to believe that we are guilty of the defilement which arises from them.
'But yes, verily! they say, the God of all pardons the sins |701 of those who are not as yet baptized, but not so of those who have been already admitted to His grace.' And what do we say to this? That if they lay down laws according to their own fancy, their words do not much concern us. But if they cleave to the divinely-inspired Scriptures, when was the God of all unmerciful? Let them hear Him when He cries aloud, "Tell you your former iniquities, that you may be justified." Let them also call to mind the blessed David, who says in the Psalms, "Shall God forget to be merciful: or shall He gather up His mercies in His wrath?" And again, "I said, I will acknowledge against myself my iniquity to the Lord: and You forgave the wickedness of my heart." And besides this, they ought not to forget that before Christ was seized, or Peter denied Him, he had been a partaker of the body of Christ, and of His precious blood. "For He took bread and blessed, and gave to them, saying, This is My body. And in like manner also of the cup, saying, Drink you all of it: for this is My blood of the new covenant." Behold then, manifestly, that after having been a partaker of the mystical eucharist, he fell into sin, and received forgiveness upon his repentance. Let them then not find fault with the gentleness of God: let them not think scorn of His love to mankind, but call to mind Him Who plainly says, "The wickedness of the wicked shall not hurt him in the day wherein he turns away from his iniquity." And when God thus offers us conversion on whatever day a man be willing to practise it, why do they not rather crown with grateful praises Him Who aids them, instead of foolishly, and, so to say, contumaciously opposing Him? for by so doing they bring condemnation upon their own heads, and call down upon themselves inevitable wrath. For the merciful God does not cease to be so; since, according to the voice of the prophet, "He wills mercy.'" Let us therefore strive with all our might, lest we fall into |702 sin, and lot a steadfast love to Christ be fixed unchangeably in us while we say in the words of the blessed Paul, "Who shall separate me from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? But if temptation assail us, and so it chance that we prove but weak, let us weep bitterly; let us ask forgiveness of God: for He heals those that are contrite; He raises up the fallen; He stretches out His saving hand to those who have gone astray: for He is the Saviour of all, by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |703
22:63-71. And the men who held Him mocked and struck Him: and when they had blindfolded Him, they asked Him, saying, Prophesy, who is he that struck you? And many other things blasphemously spoke they against Him. And when it was day, the council of the elders of the people, composed of the chief priests and scribes, came together, and they led Him into their assembly: and they said, If You are the Christ, tell us. And He said to them, If I tell you, you will not believe: and if I also ask you, you will not return Me an answer. But hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God. Then they all said, Are You therefore the Son of God? And He said to them, You say that I am. And they said, What further need have we of witness? For we ourselves have heard of His mouth.
HERE too let the prophet Jeremiah say of the race of Israel, "Who will grant for my head to be waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I may weep for this people day and night?" For what lamentation can suffice for those who fell into the pit of destruction because of their wicked conduct to Christ, and for guilt so great, that not with words only did they grieve Him, and mock Him with blasphemous cries, but even laid sinful hands upon Him, and made ready for Him the snare of death? And so contumeliously did they treat him, wickedly making Him their sport, as even to venture to smite Him: for so we have this day heard the holy evangelist say, "For the men who held Him mocked and struck Him, saying, Prophesy, who is he that struck You?" "But He, when He was reviled, reviled not again: and when He suffered, He threatened not, but committed His cause to Him that judges righteously." Well therefore might we utter that which was said of certain men by one of the holy prophets, "The heavens were astonished thereat, and shuddered very greatly, says the Lord." For the Lord of earth and heaven, the Creator and Artificer of all, the King of kings and Lord of lords, Who is of such surpassing greatness in glory and majesty, the foundation of everything, and that in which |704 it exists and abides----"for all things exist in Him"----He Who is the breath of all the holy spirits in heaven, is scorned like one of us, and patiently endures buffetings, and submits to the ridicule of the wicked, offering Himself to us as a perfect pattern of longsuffering, or rather manifesting the incomparable greatness of His godlike gentleness.
Or perhaps even He thus endures to rebuke the infirmity of our minds, and show that the things of men fall as far below the divine excellencies as our nature is inferior to His. For we who are of earth, mere corruption and ashes, attack at once those who would molest us, having a heart full of fierceness like savage beasts. But He, Who in nature and glory transcends the limits of our understanding and our powers of speech, patiently endured those officers when they not merely mocked, but even struck Him. "For when they had blindfolded Him, it says, and afterwards struck Him, they asked Him, Prophesy, who is he that struck You?" They ridicule, as if He were some ignorant person, Him Who is the Giver of all knowledge, and Who even sees what is hidden within us: for He has somewhere said by one of the holy prophets, "Who is this that hides from Me counsel, and shuts up words in his heart, and thinks that from Me he hides them? He therefore Who tries hearts and reins, and Who is the Giver of all prophecy, how could He not know who it was that struck Him? But as Christ Himself said, "Darkness has blinded their eyes, and their minds are blinded." Of them too therefore may one say, "Woe to them that are drunken, but not with wine!" "For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and their tendril of Gomorrah."
But when at the dawn of day their wicked assembly was gathered together, He Who is the Lord of Moses, and the Sender of the prophets, after having been thus lawlessly mocked, was brought into the midst; and they asked if He were the Christ? O senseless Pharisee, if you ask because you know not, surely until you had learnt the truth you ought in no wise to have grieved Him, lest haply you should grieve God: but if you make pretence of ignorance, while really you know well that He is the Christ, you must hear what the sacred Scripture says, "God is not deceived." |705
But tell me, why do you question Him, and wish to learn of Himself, whether He be the Christ? For it is easy enough to obtain the knowledge of Him from the law and the prophets. Search the writings of Moses: you will see Him depicted there in manifold ways. For He was sacrificed as a lamb: He vanquished the destroyer by His blood: and was prefigured also in many other forms. Examine too the writings of the prophets; you will hear them proclaiming His divine and wonderful miracles. "For then, they say, shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the dumb shall hear: then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be plain." And again, "The dead shall arise, and those who are in the graves shall awake: for the dew from You is healing to them." Since therefore even you yourselves see the perfect clearness of the accomplishment of the prophecies respecting Him, why do you not rather acknowledge Him on the evidence of His divine miracles, and of His ineffable works? And this too Christ Himself said to you; "The works which My Father gave Me to do, those works bear witness of Me that He sent Me." And again, "If I had not done among them the works which no other man did, they had not had sin: but now they have both seen and hated both Me and My Father." The rulers therefore of the Jews, together with the people under their charge, were in very truth unbelieving, and thoroughly without understanding.
I think, however, that we ought to examine the words used by Christ: for they were a reproof of the want of love to God of which the Scribes and Pharisees were guilty. When therefore they ask whether He is in truth the Christ, and would learn this very thing, He says, "If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I ask, you will not return an answer." Come therefore, and let me explain to you, as to men glad to be taught, what the occasion was on which they heard, and would not believe; and that on which they were silent when questioned. When Christ then went up to Jerusalem, He found in the temple people selling sheep and oxen and doves, and moneychangers sitting: and having made, it says, a kind of scourge of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, saying, "Take these things hence: and make not My Father's house |706 a house of merchandize." Because therefore He called God His Father, those who were sacrificing in the temple murmured and attacked Him, saying, "By what authority do You do these things? And who gave You this authority?" And to this Christ replied, "I will also ask you a word, which if you tell Me, I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it, from heaven, or from men? And they, it says, reasoned with themselves, saying, If we say, From heaven, He will say to us, Why did you not believe him? But if we say, Of men, we fear the multitude: for all held John as a prophet. And they answered and said, We do not know. And Christ said thereto, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things."
And on another occasion He asked them, saying, "What say you of Christ? Whose Son is He? And they said, David's. And afterwards the Lord said to them, How therefore does David in spirit call Him Lord, saying, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit You on My right hand, until I place Your enemies as a footstool under Your feet. If therefore David call Him Lord, how is He his Son?" And to this again they were silent. You see that Christ speaks truly when He says, "And if I ask you, you will not return Me an answer."
You shall see too that the other declaration is equally true: and what is this? "If I tell you, you will not believe." For the blessed John the Evangelist writes, that "it was the feast of the dedication at Jerusalem, and it was winter: and Jesus was walking in the temple in Solomon's porch. The Jews therefore came round about Him, and said to Him, How long will You lift up our soul? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly. And Jesus answered them, I told you, and you will not believe: the works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness of Me; but you will not believe."
And to make their condemnation more severe, in respect, I mean, of their refusing to believe on Him, He further clearly sets before them His glory, saying, "But hereafter the Son of man shall sit on the right hand of the power of God." When, He says, I was in form like to you, though by nature and in |707 truth the Son of God the Father, you made no account of Me. And yet how was it not right that the excellent art of the dispensation in the flesh should not escape your notice, inasmuch as you are learned in the law, and nurtured in the writings of Moses, nor are the predictions of the holy prophets unknown to you. But since you have brought yourselves to so great want of knowledge, and being filled with utter ignorance, recognise not the mystery concerning Me, I tell you of necessity that there is granted you but a short and narrow season for your pride and wickedness against Me, even until My precious cross. For immediately after this I clothe Myself in honour: I ascend to the glory which I had from the beginning: I am made even in the flesh the partner of God the Father on His throne, and possess sovereignty over all, even though I have taken upon Me your likeness. When Christ was thus speaking, the troop of Pharisees was inflamed with uncontrollable wrath: they catch at the expression as a pretext for blasphemy, and accuse the truth itself: they say, that "no longer need we any testimony," as being themselves the hearers of His words. And what then had they heard Him say? O vile and senseless men, you wanted to learn whether He were the Christ: He taught you therefore that by nature and in truth He is the Son of God the Father, and with Him shares the throne of Deity. Therefore, as you confessed, henceforth you have no need of testimony, for you have heard Him speak: hence might you best have learnt that He is the Christ: and this would have proved for you the pathway to faith, had you only been one of those who would know the truth. But they, making even the pathway of salvation an occasion for their souls' ruin, understand not: senselessly they slay Him, keeping but one aim in view in contempt of all law, and utter disregard of the divine commands: for it is written, "The holy and the just you shall not kill." But they, as I said, paid no regard whatsoever to the sacred commands, but rushed down, as it were, some steep descent, to fall into the snares of destruction.
Such then was their conduct: but we offer our praises to God the Word, Who for our salvation became man; by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen. |708
23:1-5, 18, 19. And the whole multitude arose and led Him to Pilate. And they began to accuse Him, saying, We found this man perverting our people, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, and saying of Himself that He is Christ, a King. And Pilate asked Him, saying, Are You the King of the Jews? And He answered him, and said, You say. Then said Pilate to the chief priests and the multitudes, I find no cause at all in this Man. But they vehemently asserted, that He perverts the people, teaching in all Judaea, and having begun from Galilee even to this place. And they cried out, the whole multitude at once, saying, Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas: who for some sedition made in the city and for murder was cast into prison.
A disgraceful malady, my brethren, is want of understanding and folly of heart, accompanied by the inventions of base thoughts, which lead men on to every thing that is wicked, and often even make us sin against the glory of God. And this we can see was the case with the synagogue of the Jews; for they sinned against Christ, and therefore they have suffered all misery, being condemned by the just sentence of God to that fate to which they brought Him, Who would have raised them up to life. For they led Jesus to Pilate, and were themselves too delivered up to the hosts of the Romans, who took all their land captive, and stormed also their city which previously had been the holy and the noble, and gave those who were dwelling therein as a prey to sword and fire. In them therefore were fulfilled the predictions of the holy prophets: for one says, "Woe to the wicked: evils shall happen to him, according to the works of his hands." |709 And another, "As you have done, so shall it be done to you: your retribution shall be recompensed upon your head."
But let us see what was the manner of their wickedness, and what also they said to Pilate, when framing their accusations against our common Saviour Christ. "We found this man perverting our people, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, and saying of Himself that He is Christ a King." And yet, but a short time before He was tried by you, and of questions such as this no point was raised; only He was asked, whether He were the Christ. This it was which you then sought to learn, and beside it absolutely nothing. And so, meeting your questions, He sought to show both that He is the Christ, and that by nature and truly He is the Son of God the Father. For He said, "You shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power." And tell me, I pray, whose is it to sit with the Father, but His Who by nature is the Son? For of all that is made nothing whatsoever may boast of sitting on the throne of Deity: for every created being is put under the feet of the divine and supreme nature, Which rules over all, and transcends every thing whatsoever which has been brought into being. God the Father alone is set upon the throne high and lifted up, but He shares His seat with the Son, Who is ever with Him, and sprang by nature from Him. You had obtained therefore for yourselves by your question the full assurance that He is the Christ. But in your eagerness to accuse of blasphemy Him Who had revealed to you His glory, you said, "Why need we any further witnesses? for we have heard from His mouth." And how then forgetting all this, or rather in your malice passing by those things for which He was judged by you, make you an array of charges of an entirely different nature, saying, "We found this man perverting our people?" Tell us in what this perversion consisted! What He taught was repentance. Where did He forbid to give tribute to Caesar? In reality you sent certain of your body to Him, |710 with those who are called Herodians, to tempt Him, saying, "Teacher, is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?" And thereupon Christ said to them, "Show me a denarius of the poll tax: and asked, Whose is the image and superscription on the denarius which you have brought? And when they replied; Caesar's, He said, Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." Where then did He forbid to give tribute to Caesar? But their sole purpose was to bring down to death Him Who was raising them up to life. This was the object of their stratagems, and of the base deeds which they contrived, and of the falsehoods they invented, and the bitter words which ran from their wicked tongue. And yet the law loudly proclaims to you, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour." And again, "The holy and the just you shall not kill."
At language thus unbridled in its violence God in his anger has somewhere said, by one of the holy prophets, "But draw you near, you wicked children, you seed of adulterers and the harlot: at Whom made you merry? and against Whom opened you your mouth? and against Whom sent you forth your tongue? Are you not sons of perdition; and an iniquitous seed?" And the prophet David also somewhere describes them in the Psalms, thus addressing God the Father in heaven, "Scatter them in Your might, and restrain them, O Lord, my helper. The sin of their mouth is the word of their lips, and they shall be taken in their pride." For having given loose to their unbridled tongue against Christ, and, so to speak, "lifted up their horn on high, and spoken iniquity against God," as it is written, they fell in their pride. Surely it was their duty, priding themselves as they did upon their knowledge of the divine laws, to have remembered that God says, "The pious and the just you shall not kill:" but they had no regard whatsoever to the respect due to the law, but being led on by an unrestrainable impetuosity into whatsoever pleased themselves alone, without examination of its nature, they invented numerous charges, heaping up against Christ accusations which were neither true nor capable of being |711 proved. But they were convicted of being even more wicked than an idolater. For Pilate, acquitting Jesus of all blame, openly said, "I find no cause at all in this Man:" and this, not once only, but three times.
"But they vehemently protested, He perverts the people, "teaching in all Judaea, and having begun from Galilee (continues) even to this place." Again they change from their former accusations, and invent pretexts for laying sins to His charge, and gather fresh opportunities for slandering Him. "For He perverts, they say, the people, teaching throughout all Galilee even to this place." But while they accuse Him of teaching, they are silent as to what He taught, being afraid, I imagine, lest perhaps even Pilate himself should be found among the number of the believers. For if he had heard Christ unfold His mystery, he might have ceased perhaps from serving henceforth gods falsely so called, as having admitted the light of the true knowledge of God to dwell within him, and possessing in his mind and heart the medicine of that sacred and saving message which is by Christ. For what were the doctrines of Christ? He called to the true knowledge of God them that were in error, and serving the creature in His stead. Whoever drew near to Him He desired should be resplendent with the glories of righteousness; that they should be irreproachable and good; gentle and merciful; wise and holy; of upright and blameless lives. With great cunning therefore they say that He taught, but were silent as to the nature of His doctrines. But even when so speaking, Pilate rebuked them, excusing himself, and saying, "I find no cause at all in Him." " For you have brought me, he says, This Man, as one Who upturns the people, and behold, I having tried Him in your presence, have not found in This Man any cause of those things whereof you accuse Him. No, nor yet Herod: for he has sent Him back to us: and, behold, nothing is done by Him worthy of death." Lo! those who know the divine laws, and with haughty countenance say, "We are Moses' disciples," beseech that He may be condemned to death, Who is guilty of no base action, yes, rather Who is the Head and Teacher of all piety, and Who renders those who believe in Him skilful in every virtue: and when he whose duty it was to judge Him acquitted Him, to make their |712 doom of torment more severe, they earnestly beg that He Who was guilty of no base deed might suffer as from them the penalty of death. " For the whole multitude cried out, saying, Away with this Man: but loose to us Barabbas." Plainly therefore "they denied the Holy and the Just, and, as the blessed Peter says, asked for a murderer to be granted to them," that they might be sharers of his lot, and partners in his guilt. And this it was their lot to suffer. For they were given up to destruction and slaughter, and perished together with their whole race. "For they cried out, it says, saying, Crucify Him, crucify Him." And this their unholy cry the Lord blamed, saying, by the voice of Jeremiah, "I have left My house, I have abandoned My inheritance: I have given My dearly beloved, My soul, into the hand of her enemies. My inheritance has become to Me like a lion in a thicket: it has uttered its voice against Me; therefore I have hated it." It was hated therefore because as a lion it sprang upon Christ, and uttered a cruel and pitiless cry against Him: but we praise Christ, Who for our sakes and in our stead suffered in the flesh: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and over. Amen. |713
23:24-31. And Pilate gave sentence that their request should be done. And he released him who for sedition and murder was cast into prison, for whom they asked: but he delivered Jesus to their will. And as they led Him away, they laid hold upon Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country; and on him they laid the cross to carry it after Jesus. And there followed Him a great company of people, and of women, who bewailed and lamented Him. And Jesus turned Himself to them, and said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves and your children. For behold the days come, in which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps that never gave nurture. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall upon us: and to the hills, Cover us. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?
"THE fear of God is an abomination to evildoers:" and the saying is true; for the sacred Scripture cannot lie. For the desire to live in an upright and holy manner is altogether alien from those who love wickedness: and because the violence of their passions attacks thorn like a savage beast, they will not listen to the words of those who admonish them, but reckon as their enemies whoever would instruct them in the duty of living well. It was this feeling which made the Jewish multitudes hate Christ: and yet what He summoned them to was salvation, and the forgiveness of sin: to a mode of life worthy of admiration: to a righteousness superior to the law; and to a spiritual service higher than types and shadows.
They had brought the holy One and the Just to Pilate, uttering against Him language violent and unrestrained, and pouring forth falsely-invented accusations: and so long did they persist in the vehemence wherewith they accused Him, that at length Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they desired, although he had publicly said, "I find no wickedness in this man." But they, it says, cried out, "Away |714 with Him, crucify Him." For this very cry, unmerciful and unlawful, the Lord had reproved them by the voice of the prophet Isaiah; for thus it is written, "For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts, a plant new and beloved, is the man of Judah: and I looked that he should do justice, but he wrought iniquity: and not righteousness, but a cry." And in another place He said of them, "Woe to them, in that they have gone far from Me: wretched are they, for they have sinned against Me: but I redeemed them, and they spoke falsely against Me." And again, "Their princes shall fall by the sword, because of the rudeness of their tongue."
Pilate therefore, it says, gave sentence that what they desired should be done: but better for them had it been, if the will of Pilate had prevailed, and the sentence had been, to set the Lord free from all fault, and to deliver the Innocent and the Just from His bonds. But they resisted, and vehemently opposed, and so gained a victory that was the mother of their undoing; that prepared for them the snare; that was the nurse of their ruin; and affianced them to severe and inevitable misery.
Yet here behold, I pray, that rebellious serpent driven from his empire over us all, and digging for himself and the wicked hosts that serve him the pit of destruction. For as the Psalmist says, "The heathen are caught in the destruction they have made: in the snare which they set is their own foot taken. The Lord is known as executing judgments: in the works of his hands is the sinner taken." For the works of his hands proved his snare, and "he fell into the pit that he had made: and his labour returned upon his head, and his iniquity descended upon his own pate:" for he was driven away, as I said, from his pride over us. And this the Saviour has taught us: for when He was about to endure for us His saving passion, He said, "Now is the judgment of this world: now is the prince of this world cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, shall draw all men to Me," He led Jesus therefore to the cross, that being lifted up He might draw all men to Him, and that thus he might be left stripped of his worshippers, who in the height of his pride had ventured to say, "The whole world will I hold in my hand as a nest, and as eggs that are left will I take it up, and there is no one shall |715 escape from me, or speak against me." You did not expect then that any one would rise up against you when you were seizing what was not your own. The prophets however dared to do so, though by your instigations the Israelites were incited continually to violence and foul murders. Then there rose up against you and spoke against you the Lord of all, having taken the form of a slave; appearing in prophetic measure, though the Giver of all prophecy and knowledge; in lowliness of glory, though high and transcending all; in weakness such as ours, though the Lord of hosts. And you did not recognise the Saviour, and as the prophet Jeremiah says, "You were found and caught, because you stood up against the Lord." And how were you caught? In that those who were in darkness and the ignorance which you caused received light; those who wandered in error were brought into the right way; your harsh and overbearing dominion fell; the sting of sin was done away; and death was slain by Christ's death. Such are the benefits wrought for us by the Redeemer's passion. Lead therefore, yes, lead Jesus to the cross that shall be your ruin: pile up for yourself the inextinguishable flame: dig the pit into which you shall be cast, being trampled under foot of those that fear Him. If you behold Him crucified and hung upon a tree, and laugh therefore; you shall see Him, and that soon, risen from the dead, and then shall you wail for death because it has fallen. Weep without restraint at the sight of destruction overthrown: weep as He refashions man's nature to life; as He reduces sin into subjection which with you had savagely tyrannized over us: and henceforth no more accuse any one who is weak; "for it is God That justifies: who is he that condemns?" and as the Psalmist says, "All iniquity shall stop its mouth."
The Redeemer therefore was led to His saving passion: but they laid His cross, it says, upon Simon the Cyrenian. Another holy evangelist, however, tells us that the Lord Himself carried, the tree: and necessarily both the one and the other are true. For the Saviour indeed bore the cross, but in the middle of the way perhaps the Cyrenian met them, and they seized him, and made him carry it instead. And there is an important reason for the fact, that Christ the Saviour of all did carry the cross: for it is said of Him by the voice of Isaiah, that "to |716 us a Child is born: a Son also is given us, Whose government is upon His shoulder." For His government was the cross, by which He became King over the world, if so be that it is true that " He became obedient to the Father to death, even the death of the cross: for this reason God also has greatly exalted Him, and given Him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus Christ every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and of things under the earth: and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."
And this also, I think, it is important here to observe, that when the blessed Abraham went up to the mountain that had been shown him, that there he might sacrifice Isaac, according to God's command, he laid the wood upon the lad; and he was a type of Christ carrying His own cross upon His shoulders, and going up to the glory of His passion. For that His passion was Christ's glory, He has Himself taught us, saying, "Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in Him, If God be glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall immediately glorify Him."
He was going therefore to the place of crucifixion: and there followed Him women weeping, as well as many others. For constantly, so to speak, the female sex is given to tears, and of a disposition ready to sink at the approach of aught that is sorrowful. 'But, O daughters of Jerusalem, He says, stay those tears on My account: cease your wailings: and weep rather for yourselves, and your children: for the days, He says, shall come, in which barrenness shall be preferable to women than to have borne children." How, or in what manner? Because when the war fell upon the country of the Jews, they all perished utterly, small and great: and infants with their mothers, and sons with their fathers, were destroyed without distinction. Then, He says, shall men count it above all price to be crushed under hills and mountains; for in extreme miseries those misfortunes which are less severely cruel become, so to speak, desirable. "For if, says He, they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?"
But it is worth our while to see what the Saviour's meaning is in these words. For the saying is shaped in the form of a parable, or an example rather, but is pregnant with a spiritual |717 signification: and it intends, I think, to suggest perhaps what follows. He calls Himself the green tree, that namely which has leaves and fruit and flowers. But His fruits were doctrines and exhortations and the manifestation of a godlike power in His divine and ineffable miracles. For which of His works is not more than our admiration can equal? He raised the dead to life, He cleansed lepers, He healed the blind, and the other deeds He wrought are such as arouse in us the most perfect praise. But though these were His works, yet did the Roman officers, or rather Pilate who condemned Him, and passed upon Him an unjust sentence, inflict upon Him these cruel mockeries. When therefore, He says, the Roman commanders have inflicted upon Me such things, though they see Me adorned with such great glory and praise, what will they do to Israel, perceiving him to be a dry and fruitless stock? For in him they will behold nothing admirable, for the sake of which he might perchance have been counted by them worthy of honour and mercy. Plainly they will burn him with fire, without showing him mercy, yes rather he will suffer the cruelties prompted by savage rage. For such were the miseries into which the Israelites fell, when God, Who judges righteously, exacted of them the punishment of their wickedness against Christ. But upon us, who have believed in Him, Christ bestows grace and blessing; by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen. |718
23:32-43. And there were led also two others, who were malefactors, to be put to death with Him. And when they came to the place which is called a skull, there they crucified Him and the malefactors, one on the right hand and the other on the left. And dividing His garments, they cast lots. And the people stood looking on. And the rulers also derided Him, saying. He saved others; let Him save Himself if This is the Christ the elect of God. And the soldiers also mocked Him, coming to Him, and offering Him vinegar, and saying, If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself And there was also a writing written over Him, This is the King of the Jews. And one of the malefactors which were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us. But the other answered rebuking him, and said, Do you not fear God, seeing you are in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due retribution of our deeds: but this man has done nothing that is hateful. And he said, Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom. And Jesus said to him, Verily I say to you, To-day shall you be with Me in paradise.
THE blessed Paul counts the mystery of the incarnation of the Only-begotten worthy of all admiration, and, so to speak, is in amaze at the wisdom and excellence of the plan of salvation, saying, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God." For consider how the Saviour of all and Lord, by Whom the Father brought all things into existence, refashions man's nature, restoring it to that which it was in the beginning by becoming Himself like to us, and |719 bearing our sufferings for our sakes. For the first man was indeed in the beginning in the paradise of delight, being ennobled by the absence both of suffering and of corruption: but when he despised the commandment that had been given him, and fell under a curse and condemnation, and into the snare of death, by eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, Christ, as I said, by the very same thing restores him again to his original con-dition. For He became the fruit of the tree by having endured the precious cross for our sakes, that He might destroy death, which by means of the tree had invaded the bodies of mankind. He bore suffering that He might deliver us from sufferings: "He was despised and not esteemed," as it is written, that He might make us honourable: He did no sin, that He might crown our nature with similar glory: He Who for our sakes was man submitted also to our lot; and He Who gives life to the world submitted to death in the flesh. Is not therefore the mystery profound? Must we not own that the dispensation is more than language can describe? What doubt can there be of this? Let us therefore, as we offer Him our praise, repeat that which was sung by the Psalmist's harp; "How great are Your works, O Lord! in wisdom have You made them all."
When therefore He hung upon the precious cross, two thieves were hung with Him. And what follows from this? It was verily mockery as far as regards the object of the Jews; but the commemoration of prophecy: for it is written, that "He was also numbered with the transgressors." For our sakes He became a curse, that is, accursed: for it is written again, that "Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree." But this act of His did away with the curse that was upon us: for we with Him and because of Him are blessed. And knowing this, the blessed David says: "Blessed are we of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth:" for by His sufferings blessings descend to us. He in our stead paid our debts: He bore our sins; and as it is written, "in our stead He was stricken." "He took them up in His own body on the tree:" for it is true that "by His bruises we are healed." He too was sick because of our sins, and we are delivered from the sicknesses of the soul. He bore derision, and mockeries, and spittings: for the rulers of the synagogue of the Jews scoffed Him, shaking their polluted heads, and pouring out |720 upon Him bitter laughter, as they said, "He saved others: let Him save Himself, if He is the Christ." But if you did not really believe that He was the Christ, why did you kill Him as the heir? Why did you wish to seize His inheritance? If He saved others, and you know that this indeed was so, how could He want the power to save Himself from your hands? You heard in the temple those whose office it was to sing and recite in chorus constantly chanting; "They pierced My hands and My feet: they counted all My bones: and themselves watched and gazed at Me. They divided My garments among them, and on My clothing did they cast the lot." And again, "They gave gall for My eating, and for My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink." Since then you were learned in the law,----for such you considered yourself to be,----how came you to leave prophecy, and what had been foretold concerning these things unexamined? It was your duty to have enquired Who it was That spoke these things; to Whose person, I mean, you should have referred these verses. You heard your great chieftain Moses foretelling the savageness of your attacks: for he said, that "you shall see your Life hanging upon a tree:" you shall see, that is, Him Who is the cause of life, or rather Life Itself, hung upon a tree. And how then did you entirely disregard the prophecy of Moses, of whom you made so great boast? For we have heard you expressly declaring, "We are Moses' disciples." Tell me what you mean by shaking your head at Him? Is it the meek endurance of the Sufferer that you despise? or is it to prove the stony hardness of your mind? Are you eager to subject the Prince of Life to the death of the flesh? Why meddle you with holy cares? Why purpose you a counsel that you will not be able to establish? "He that dwells in heaven shall laugh at them: and the Lord shall deride them," as it is written.
Two thieves therefore were hanged with Him, as I said, in mockery even of the passion which brings salvation to the whole world: but of these, the one, it says, resembled in his conduct the impiety of the Jews, belching forth the same words as they did, and giving free utterance to blasphemous expressions. "For if, says he, You be the Christ, save Yourself, and us." But the other, following a different course, is justly worthy of |721 our admiration: for he believed in Him: and while suffering so bitter a punishment, he rebuked the vehement outcries of the Jews, and the words of him who was hanging with him. He "confessed his sin, that he might be justified:" he became the accuser of his own wicked ways, that God might remit his guilt; for it is written, "I said that I will confess of myself my iniquity to the Lord, and You forgave the wickedness of my heart." He bore to Christ a blameless testimony, and reproved the Jewish want of love to God, and condemned the sentence of Pilate: "for This Man, he says, has done nothing that is hateful." O how beautiful is this confession! how wise the reasonings, and how excellent the thoughts! He became the confessor of the Saviour's glory, and the accuser of the pride of those who crucified Him. What reward therefore did he receive? Of what honours was he counted worthy? Or what benefit did the thief gain who was the first to profess faith? He lit upon a treasure worth the having: he became rich unexpectedly, and possessed of every blessing: he won the inheritance of the saints, and to have his name written above, in heaven: he was in the book of life who was bearing the sentence of death, and is numbered with the dwellers in the city that is above.
And let us look at his most beautiful confession of faith. "Jesus, he says, remember me when You come in Your kingdom." You see Him crucified, and call Him a king: Him Who was bearing scorn and suffering, you expect to come in godlike glory: you see Him surrounded by a multitude of the Jews, and the wicked gang of the Pharisees, and Pilate's band of soldiers,----all these were mocking Him, and no single one of them confessed ...
* * * * * * * * *
[Here the Syriac finally stops altogether. A table of contents prefixed to part 2 of the Syriac indicates that there were originally only three more sermons in the manuscript: namely, Sermon CLIV. on 23:44 ff.; Serm. CLV. on 23:54 ff.; and Serm. CLVI. on c. 24:36 ff. S. Cyril therefore must have passed over most of the circumstances of Christ's resurrection and ascension, or have referred to them very briefly.
The fragments that follow are taken from Mai, though probably some portion of it does not belong to the Commentary.]
Fragments of sermons CLIV, CLV and CLVI.
23:44. There was darkness over all the land.
He who excels all created things, and shares the Father's throne, humbled Himself to emptying, and took the form of a slave, and endured the limits of human nature, that He might fulfil the promise made of God to the forefathers of the Jews: but they were so obdurate and disobedient as even to rise up against their Master. For they made it their business to deliver the Prince of life to death, and crucified the Lord of glory. But when they had affixed to the cross the Lord of all, the sun over their heads withdrew, and the light at midday was wrapped in darkness, as the divine Amos had foretold. For there was "darkness from the sixth hour until the ninth hour:" and this was a plain sign to the Jews, that the minds of those who crucified Him were wrapped in spiritual darkness, for "blindness in part has happened to Israel." And David in his love to God even curses them, saying, "Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see."
Yes! creation itself bewailed its Lord: for the sun was darkened, and the rocks were rent, and the very temple assumed the garb of mourners, for its "veil was rent from the top to the bottom." And this is what God signified to us by the voice of Isaiah, saying, "And I will clothe the heaven with darkness, and wrap it around with sackcloth."
23:47. And when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God.
Again observe, I pray, that no sooner had He endured the passion upon the cross for our sakes, than He began to win many to a knowledge of the truth: "for the centurion, it says, when he saw what had happened, glorified God, saying, that truly This Man was righteous." And certain Jews also struck upon their breasts, being pricked doubtless by their |723 consciences, and looking up with the eyes of their mind to the Lord, and it may he perhaps clearing themselves of their impious conduct against Christ by crying out against those who crucified Him, even though they dared not do so openly, because of the impiety of the rulers. With truth therefore did our Lord say, "When I have been lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men to Me."
23:55. And women also followed, who had come with Him from Galilee.
Wise women followed our common Saviour Christ, gathering whatever was both useful and necessary for faith in Him. And when He gave His flesh as a ransom for the life of us all, they wisely betook themselves to tend His body: for they supposed that the corpse would continue in the grave. |724
24:4. It came to pass, as they were perplexed at this.
THE women came to the sepulchre, and when they could not find the body of Christ,----for He had risen,----they were much perplexed. And what followed? For their love's sake to Christ, and their earnest zeal thereunto, they were counted worthy of seeing holy angels, who even told them the joyful tidings, and became the heralds of the resurrection, saying, "Why seek you the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen." For the Word of God ever lives, and is by His own nature Life: but when He humbled Himself to emptying, and submitted to be made like to us, He tasted death. But this proved to be the death of death: for He arose from the dead, to be the way whereby not Himself so much but we rather return to incorruption. And let no one seek Him Who ever lives among the dead; for He is not here, with mortality, that is, and in the tomb: but where rather is He? in heaven plainly, and in godlike glory. And more firmly to settle the faith of the women in these things, they recall to their minds what Christ had said, that "He must necessarily be given up into the hands of sinners, and suffer, and the third day rise again."
Angels too brought the joyful tidings of the nativity to the shepherds in Bethlehem, and now they tell His resurrection: and heaven yields its service to proclaim Him, and the hosts of the spirits which are above attend the Son as God, even when He had become flesh.
24:9. And they returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.
The women having been taught the mystery by the voice of angels, run to tell these things to the disciples. For it was fitting that this grace, though so splendid, should be granted to women. For she who of old was the minister of death is now freed from her guilt by ministering to the voice of the holy angels, and by being the first both to learn and tell |725 the adorable mystery of the resurrection. The female sex therefore gained both acquittal from their reproach and the reversal of their curse. For He Who of old had said to them, "In pains shall you bear children," gave them deliverance from their misfortune, by having met them in the garden, as another Evangelist mentions, and said, Hail. To the holy apostles however the account of the resurrection seemed absolutely but an idle tale, and falsehood; for even they did not know the inspired Scripture, and so they were incredulous, and mocked at the news and rejected it.
How did the disciples in John's Gospel, having heard Mary, and having run to the sepulchre, believe? For to this also the Scripture bears witness in their behalf, saying, "When therefore they entered, the other disciple who came first to the sepulchre both saw and believed." But in Luke it is said, "And they returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest,----it was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the wife" of James, and the rest with them, who told these things to the apostles, ----and they disbelieved them."
24:13. Behold two of them went that same day to a village.
As two of the disciples walk to a village called Emmaus, they conversed with one another concerning Christ, regarding Him as no longer living, but mourning Him as dead. And as they conversed, Jesus Himself drew near and went with them, without being recognised by them, "for their eyes were held that they should not know Him. And He says to them, |726 "What is it, I pray, of which you converse with one another as you walk thus mournfully? And one of them whose name was Cleopas answered and said, Are You only a stranger in Jerusalem," &c. And then they tell Him of the rumours of the resurrection brought by the women, and of that by Peter, but believe them not. For by saying, "And women also astonished us, who found not the body," they show that they had not been induced to believe the news, nor regard it as true tidings, but as a cause of trouble and astonishment: and Peter's testimony, who had seen only the linen bandages at the sepulchre, they did not consider as a trustworthy proof of the resurrection, because he did not say that he had seen Him, but inferred that He had risen from His being no longer there. And you must know that those two belonged to the number of the seventy, and that Cleopas' companion was Simon,----not Peter, nor he of Cana,----but another of the seventy.
24:27. Having begun from Moses and from all the prophets.
In this discourse the Lord shows that the law was necessary to make ready the way, and the ministry of the prophets to prepare men for faith in this marvellous act, that so when the resurrection really took place, those who were troubled at its greatness might remember what was said of old, and be induced to believe. He brings forward therefore Moses and the prophets, interpreting their hidden meaning, and making plain to the worthy what to the unworthy was obscure, so settling in them that ancient and hereditary faith taught them by the |727 sacred books which they possessed. For nothing which comes from God is without its use, but all and several of them have their appointed place and service. In their due place servants were sent before to make ready for the presence of the Master, by bringing in beforehand prophecy as the necessary preparative for faith, that, like some royal treasure, what had been foretold might in due season be brought forward from the concealment of its former obscurity, being unveiled and made plain by the clearness of the interpretation. Having thus then stirred up their minds by the writings of the law and the prophets, He afterwards more plainly sets Himself before them, when, having consented to their request to go with them to the village, He took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and divided it among them. " For their eyes, it says, "were held that they might not know Him," until namely the word had entered stirring up their heart to faith, and then, rendering what they had before heard and believed visible, He offered them the sight seasonably after the hearing. He does not, however, continue with them, for "He vanished, it says, out of their sight." For our Lord's relation to men after His resurrection does not continue the same as before, for they too have need of renovation, and a second life in Christ, that the renewed may associate with the renewed, and the incorruptible approach the incorruptible. For which reason, as John tells us, He did not permit Mary to touch Him, until He should go away and return again.
24:33. They rose up that same hour.
Cleopas, it says, and his companions, rose up that same hour, the same of course in which Jesus had vanished out of their sight, and returned to Jerusalem: but it does not say that they found the eleven gathered together that same hour, |728 and told them what had happened concerning Jesus, 2 but this took place on the fortieth day after His resurrection, on which day He was also taken up. This evangelist therefore has omitted the events which took place in the intervening time, and which Cleopas and his companions found the eleven discussing in private, and saying, that "the Lord is risen, and has been seen by Simon:" and of him he has not mentioned either where, or when, or how this took place. It was during these days that those events also took place which were done in Galilee, and which Matthew has recorded.
24:36. Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them.
And 3 now, keeping to the order of events, we say, that the account of the resurrection having already reached the apostles from many quarters, and their desire to see Him having thus been roused, He comes according to their desire, and stands visible and revealed before them as they seek for and expect Him. And no longer does He appear to them with their eyes held, nor converse with them as concerning some other person, but permits them to see Him plainly, and bids them be of good cheer. But they even so were in doubt and affright; for they thought that they saw not Himself, but some apparition and shadow: but He quiets the perturbation occasioned by such thoughts, addressing them with His usual and customary speech, and saying, "Peace be to you."
24:38. He said to them, Why are you troubled? and why do reasonings arise in your hearts?
To convince them firmly and indubitably, that He is the same Who suffered, He immediately shows that being God |729 by nature, He knows what is hidden, and that the tumultuous thoughts within them escape Him not: for He said, "Why are you troubled? And this is a very plain proof that He Whom they see before them is not some other person, but the very same Whom they had seen both suffering death upon the cross and laid in the tomb, even Him Who sees reins and heart, and from Whom nothing that is in us is hid. This therefore He gives them as a sign, His knowledge namely of the tumult of thoughts that was within them. And to prove moreover in another way that both death is conquered, and that human nature has put off corruption in Him as the foremost, He shows His hands and His feet, and the holes of the nails, and permits them to handle Him, and in every way convince themselves that the very body which had suffered was, as I said, risen. Let no one therefore cavil at the resurrection: and though you hear the sacred Scripture say of the human body, that "it is sown an animal body, it is raised a spiritual body," do not deny the return even of human bodies to incorruption. For as the animal is that which follows after, and is subject to animal, that is, to fleshly lusts, so also the spiritual is that which submits itself to the will of the Holy Spirit. For after the resurrection from the dead, there will be no longer the opportunity for carnal affection, but, the goad of sin will be entirely powerless. That very (body) therefore which has been brought down to the earth, shall be clothed with incorruption.
That the disciples therefore might be quite sure that it is the very same Who suffered and was buried and rose again, He shows, as I said, both His hands and feet: and He bids them be fully convinced that it is not a spirit, as they thought, but rather in very truth a body, saying, "And you see that a spirit has not flesh and bones, as you see Me have." For a shadow and spirit and apparition merely could not endure the touch of the hand.
Having then, as we have said, shown His hands and feet to |730 the disciples, the Lord fully convinced them that the body which had suffered had risen: but, to produce in them still further a yet more firmly-settled faith therein, He asked for something to eat. And what was brought was a piece of broiled fish, which He took and ate in the presence of them all. Now this He did for no other reason than clearly to show them that He Who had risen from the dead was the same Who in old time had eaten and drunk with them during the whole period of the dispensation, and conversed with them as a man, according to the prophet's voice: intending them to perceive that the human body does indeed need sustenance of this kind, but a spirit by no means so. Who therefore that claims to be faithful, and receives unhesitatingly the witness of the holy evangelists, can any longer listen to the fictions of heretics, can any longer endure the apparition-mongers? For the power of Christ surpasses human enquiry, nor is it on the level of the understanding of ordinary events. He ate then a piece of fish because of the resurrection: but the natural consequences of eating by no means followed in the case of Christ, as the unbeliever might object, knowing that "whatsoever enters in at the mouth, must necessarily be cast out and go into the draught." But the believer will admit no such cavils into his mind, but leave the matter to the power of God.
24:45. Then He opened their mind to understand the Scriptures.
When He had quieted their reasonings by what He said, by the touch of their hands, and by partaking of food, He then opened their mind to understand, that "so it was necessary for Him to suffer," even upon the wood of the cross. The Lord therefore recalls the minds of the disciples to what Me had before said: for He had forewarned them of His sufferings upon the cross, according to what the prophets had long before spoken: and He opens also the eyes of their heart, so as for them to understand the ancient prophecies.
The Saviour promises the disciples the descent of the Holy Spirit, which God had announced of old by Joel, and power |731 from above, that they might be strong and invincible, and without all fear preach to men everywhere the divine mystery.
He says to them now that they had received the Spirit after the resurrection, "Receive you the Holy Spirit," and adds, "But tarry you at Jerusalem, and wait for the promise of the Father, which you have heard of Me. For John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit;" in water no longer, for that they had received, but with the Holy Spirit: He does not add water to water, but completes that which was deficient by adding what was wanting to it.
Having blessed them, and gone a little in advance, He was carried up to heaven, that He might share the Father's throne even with the flesh that was united to Him. And this new pathway the Word made for us when He appeared in human form: and hereafter in due time He will come again in the glory of His Father with the angels, and will take us up to be with Him.
Let us glorify therefore Him Who being God the Word became man for our sakes: Who suffered willingly in the flesh, and arose from the dead, and abolished corruption: Who was taken up, and hereafter shall come with great glory to judge the living and the dead, and to give to every one according to his deeds: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be glory and power with the Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.
1. y Said in the margin to be "against the Novatians."
2. o This passage is given so much more probably in Cramer, that I append it: 'But not that they found the eleven gathered together that same hour, and told them what had happened concerning the Lord Jesus, but after the lapse of as many hours as sufficed for walking the sixty furlongs between the two places; and during this interval it was that the Lord was seen by Simon.'
3. p The Aurea Catena ascribes this to Cyril.
This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2008. All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
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