The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on Luke 11:29-32

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 25, 2012

Actually, this brief sermon is on verses 29-36. Unfortunately, it appears that the text has not completely survived as there appears to be a lacunæ after the opening sentence of the homily (I’ve indicated it with a series of periods (……).

Luk 11:29  And the multitudes running together, he began to say: This generation is a wicked generation. It asketh a sign: and a sign shall not be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.
Luk 11:30  For as Jonas was a sign to the Ninivites; so shall the Son of man also be to this generation.
Luk 11:31  The queen of the south shall rise in the judgment with the men of this generation and shall condemn them: because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon. And behold more than Solomon here.
Luk 11:32  The men of Ninive shall rise in the judgment with this generation and shall condemn it; Because they did penance at the preaching of Jonas. And behold more than Jonas here.
Luk 11:33  No man lighteth a candle and putteth it in a hidden place, nor under a bushel: but upon a candlestick, that they that come in may see the light.
Luk 11:34  The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, thy whole body will be lightsome: but if it be evil, thy body also will be darksome.
Luk 11:35  Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness.
Luk 11:36  If then thy whole body be lightsome, having no part of darkness: the whole shall be lightsome and, as a bright lamp, shall enlighten thee.

THE request originated in malice, and therefore was not granted them, according to the text, “The wicked shall seek Me, and shall not find Me.”…….. ……………………………and which He spoke to the divine Moses; the rod was changed into a serpent. And what thing is this? some one, forsooth, may say; or what is the truth it hints at? And this certainly we must examine: for I say that of all that is contained in the sacred Scriptures, there is nothing which is not useful for edification. When Israel then had dwelt for a lengthened period in Egypt, and been brought up in the customs of its inhabitants, he wandered far from God, and became like one that had fallen from His hand, and been made a serpent, by which is meant one naturally of a thoroughly wicked disposition. But inasmuch as God again took hold of him, he was restored to his former state, and became a rod, that is to say, a plant of Paradise. For he was called to the true knowledge of God, and enriched with the law as the means of a virtuous life.

Moreover God wrought also something further of an equally miraculous character. For He said unto Moses, “Put your hand into your bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom; and he drew forth his hand from his bosom, and his hand had become leprous, like snow. And he said again, Put your hand into your bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom; and he drew it forth from his bosom, and it had gained again the colour of his flesh.” For as long as Israel adhered to the customs of his fathers, and represented in his |375 own manners the type of virtuous living which he had in Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, he was, as it were, in the bosom of God, that is, under His guardianship and protection: but by abandoning the virtue of his ancestors, he became, so to speak, leprous; and fell into impurity: for the leper by the law of Moses was impure. But when He was again accepted by God, and placed under His protection, he was delivered from his leprosy; and put away the impurity of the Egyptian mode of life. And when these signs were wrought in their presence, they believed Moses, saying, “The Lord God of your fathers has sent me unto you.”

Observe therefore that they did not make the display of miracles a reason for fault finding. They did not revile the divine Moses; they did not give free license to an unbridled tongue, and say that he wrought the miracles which he displayed before them by means of Beelzebub: they did not ask a sign from heaven, in contempt of his mighty deeds. But you assigned to Beelzebub works thus honourable and miraculous, and was not ashamed in bringing to perdition others as well as your own self, by means of those very things which ought to have made you possess a steadfast faith in Christ. But He will not grant you another sign, that He may not give holy things unto dogs, nor cast pearls before swine. For how can they who are hot calumniators of the miracles already wrought, deserve yet more? On the contrary we see that very skilful husbandmen, when they observe land sluggish in bearing fruit, withhold their hand, and refuse to plough it any more, that they may not suffer the loss at once both of their labour and of the seed.

He said, however, the sign only of Jonah shall be given them, by which is meant the passion upon the cross, and the resurrection from the dead. “For as Jonah,” He says, “was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights, so shall also the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” But had it been possible for Jesus not to have willed to suffer death in the flesh upon the cross, neither would this sign have been given to the Jews: but inasmuch as the passion, wrought for the salvation of the world, was indispensable, it was given these unbelievers for their condemnation. For also in speaking to the Jews, He |376 said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” But that the abolishing of death, and restoration of corruption by the resurrection from the dead, is a very great sign of the power and godlike authority of the Incarnate Word, will be sufficiently proved, as I imagine, in the judgment of serious men, by the soldiers of Pilate, who were appointed to guard the tomb, having been bribed with a large sum of money to say, that “the disciples came by night, and stole Him.” It was therefore no unavailing sign, but rather one sufficient to convince all the inhabitants of the whole earth, that Christ is God, that of His own choice He suffered death in the flesh, but rose again, having commanded the bonds of death to depart, and overthrown corruption. But the Jews did not believe even this: for which reason it was very justly said of them, that “the queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment against this generation.”

This woman, though a barbarian, earnestly sought to hear Solomon, and for this purpose travelled so vast a distance, to listen to his wisdom upon the nature of things visible, and animals, and plants. But you, though already present, and listening to Wisdom Itself, Who came to you, discoursing upon things invisible and heavenly, and confirming what He said by deeds and miracles, turn away from the word, and pass by with indifference the wonderful nature of His oracles. How then is there not more than Solomon here, that is in Me? And again observe, I pray, the skilfulness of His language; for why does He say “here,” and not rather “in Me?” It is to persuade us to be humble, even though we be largely endowed with spiritual gifts. And besides, it is not at all unlikely, that had the Jews heard Him say, “that there is more than Solomon in Me,” they would have ventured to speak of Him in their usual way: ‘See! He says, that He is superior even to the kings who have gloriously reigned over us.’ The Saviour, therefore, for the economy’s sake, uses moderate language, saying, “here,” instead of “in Me.”

He says, moreover, that the Ninevites will appear for the condemnation of the Jews at the season of judgment: for they were rude and barbarous people, ignorant of Him Who by nature and in truth is God, who had never even heard of the predictions of Moses, and were without knowledge of the |377 glorious tidings of prophecy: but even though this was their mental state, they repented, He says, at the preaching of Jonah. Far better therefore were they than the Israelites, and will condemn them. But listen to the very words: “The men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold! a greater than Jonah is here.” “No man, having lighted a lamp, puts it into a cellar, nor under the bushel, but upon the lampstand, that they who enter in may see the light.” And what was the object of such words as these? He combats the Jews by an objection drawn from their own folly and ignorance: for they said that He wrought miracles, not that He might be more fully believed in, but that He might have numbers of followers, and catch the applause of those who saw his wondrous acts. And this calumny He refutes by taking as an example the use of a lamp. For a lamp, He says, is always elevated, and put upon a stand, to be of use to those who see. And let us consider the inference which follows from this. Before then the coining of our Saviour, the father of darkness, even Satan, had made the world dark, and blackened all things with an intellectual gloom; but in this state the Father gave us the Son, to be as it were a lamp to the world, to irradiate us with divine light, and rescue us from Satanic darkness. But, O Jew, if you blame the lamp, because it is not hidden, but on the contrary, being set on high on a stand, gives its light to those who see, then blame Christ for not wishing to be concealed, but on the contrary to be seen of all, illuminating those in darkness, and shedding on them the light of the true knowledge of God. He did not therefore fulfil His miracles so much in order to be wondered at, nor seek by them to become famous, as that we might rather believe, that whereas He is God by nature, yet He became man for our sakes, but without ceasing to be what He was. And upon the holy church as a lamp-stand, shining by the doctrine He proclaims, He gives light to the minds of all by filling them with divine knowledge. (source)

2 Responses to “St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on Luke 11:29-32”

  1. […] St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Luke 11:29-32). […]

  2. […] St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Luke 11:29-32). […]

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