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Saturday, January 4, 2020

Second Homily on the Seventy Apostles of the Lord (St. Cyril of Alexandria)


By St. Cyril of Alexandria

(Commentary on Luke, Sermon 61)

Luke 10:3. Go; behold, I send you as sheep among wolves.

All those who praise the divine and sacred Word correctly, and without error, are, we affirm, the allies of the doctrines of truth, and its host teachers; well knowing how to guide whosoever wish to advance in Christ, rightly unto every good work, and to the life incorruptible, and to participation in the blessings bestowed upon us. Of these most wise Paul also declares, that they are "the lights of the world, holding the word of life."

Now of these illustrious and famous men the divine disciples were the commencement, and stand foremost in order: for they had as a schoolmaster Him Who is the Giver of all understanding; and Who richly bestoweth His light upon those who love Him. For He is the true light Who illumineth the heavens, even the powers who are above; and delivereth from ignorance and darkness those also upon earth. And observe how He made the appointed teachers of all beneath the sun to be ready workmen, conspicuous for their earnest zeal, and able to win the glory of apostolic victories; preferring none of this world's affairs to the duty of proclaiming their sacred message, and so bravely disposed in their manly mind as to be superior to all fear, and no whit terrified at hardships, nor alarmed at death itself, when brought upon them for Christ's sake. For "go," He says: and in this word "go," He encourages them to be courageous; makes them eagerly desirous of saintly victories; establishes them in the steadfast resistance of all temptation; and permits them not to shrink from the violence of persecutions. For just as valiant generals, when the battle begins, and the enemy discharge their shafts, encourage those under their command bravely to resist the attacking foe, and to bear themselves manfully against the enemy; using such words as these; 'Fellow soldiers, let none of these things that ye see trouble your mind; we are not weak and inexperienced in warfare, but know well the ways of battle: we have coats of mail strongly made; armour and swords; bows too and darts: by exertion we shall purchase the victory; stoutheartedness will win for us a right glorious renown:' so does the Savior of all, if we may so speak, send forth the disciples against the hosts of unbelievers, saying, "Go; behold, I send you as sheep among wolves."

What sayest Thou O Lord? How can sheep converse with wolves? When was a wild beast ever at peace with the sheep? Scarcely can the shepherds protect their flocks by gathering them into folds, and shutting them up in enclosures, and frightening the beasts of prey by the barking of dogs, yea, and even themselves fighting in their defense, and running risks to protect the more weakly members of their flock. How then does He command the holy Apostles, who are guileless men, and if we may so speak, sheep, to seek the company of wolves, and go to them of their own accord? Is not the danger manifest? Are they not set as a ready prey for their attacks? How can a sheep prevail over a wolf? How can one so peaceful vanquish the savageness of beasts of prey? Yes, He says, for they all have Me as their Shepherd: small and great; people and princes; teachers and taught. I will be with you and aid you, and deliver you from all evil. I will tame the savage beasts; I will change wolves into sheep; I will make the persecutors become the helpers of the persecuted: and those who wrong My ministers I will make to be sharers in their pious designs. For I make and unmake all things, and there is nothing that can resist My will.

And that this was the actual result, we may see in instances which really occurred. For the divine Paul was a blasphemer, and persecutor, more injurious and cruel than any wolf against those who believed in Christ. Did he then persist in this conduct? Did he continue to be a wolf even unto the end? Far from it: for he was called by Christ, and experienced an unlooked for change. He who in old time was a wolf became more gentle than a lamb; and preached the faith which once he persecuted. And a change so unexpected in its manner was the wonder of all men, and Christ was glorified, Who had changed him from a beast of prey into a lamb. And this the divine Jacob had in his blessings before announced concerning him: "Benjamin is a ravening wolf: in the morning he shall eat flesh: and in the evening divide victual." For the wise Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin, and, at first, he resisted those who believed in Christ like a ravening wolf; but when a short time had elapsed, a space, so to speak, as from morning to evening, he divided victual. For he taught and preached Jesus: and to those that as yet were babes in intellect he offered milk; but set before the full grown strong meat. In the morning therefore he eats flesh, and in the evening divides victual.

And thus much then briefly respecting the blessed Paul: but let us next discuss from a similar point of view the calling of nations. Let us see whether they too also were not at one time beasts of prey, and fiercer than wolves against the ministers of the gospel message of salvation, but were transformed unto the gentleness and guilelessness which are by Christ's help. They too persecuted the holy apostles, not so much like men struggling with wolves, as like beasts of prey, raging savagely against sheep. And though they wronged them not, but rather called them to salvation, they stoned them, they imprisoned them, they persecuted them from city to city. And yet those, who thus acted at first, afterwards became gentle and guileless, and like the sheep which once they persecuted.

And who else accomplishes all these things but Jesus Christ our Lord? For He also it is "Who hath broken down the fence wall that was in the middle, abolishing the law of commandments contained in doctrines; Who hath made the two nations into one new man; Who hath made peace, and reconciled both in one body unto the Father." For that there have been joined unto the faith in concord and unity of mind and will, the savage in company with the gentle; the impure and sin-stained with the saints; those, that is, of the herds of the Gentiles with those of Israel who believed; the prophet Isaiah shews, thus speaking in the Spirit: "And the wolf shall graze with the lamb; and the leopard rest with the kid; and the bear and the cow shall graze together; and the ox and the lion eat provender together, and their young ones shall be with one another." Consider, my beloved, and understand that those who were sanctified by faith did not conform to the habits of the heathen, but on the contrary those who were called of the heathen conformed to them. For such beasts as the wolf and lion, the bear and leopard, are eaters of flesh; but those animals which are of a gentle nature, kids and lambs, and steers, feed upon grass. But those beasts of prey, he says, shall graze with these gentle ones, and eat their food. It is not therefore the gentle ones who have conformed to the habits of the savage: but, on the contrary, as I said, the savage who have imitated them. For they have abandoned their cruel disposition for the gentleness that becometh saints, and been changed by Christ, so that the wolves have become lambs; for He it is Who hath made them gentle, and united, as I said, the two nations unto a mind full of the love of God. And this of old the hierophant Moses cried out, saying, "Rejoice, ye nations, with His people; ascribe majesty unto God." Let us therefore exalt Him and honor Him with praises because of the Savior and Lord of all: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen.




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