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 11:14-28 for the 3rd Sunday of Lent (Extraordinary Form)

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 6, 2012

Please note that this post incorporates two homiletic commentaries from St Cyril, namely, #80 and #81. The Saint offers no comments on the final two verses of today’s reading (27-28), his 82nd homily begins with verse 29.

Sermon 80~

11:14-18. And He was casting out a dumb devil: and it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spoke. And the multitudes wondered: but some of them said, He casts out devils through Beelzebub, the prince of the devils: and others tempting, sought of Him a sign from heaven. But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them; Every kingdom divided against itself is laid desolate: and a house against a house falls. And if Satan also be divided against himself how shall his kingdom stand? Because you say that 1 cast out devils through Beelzebub.

“I HAVE been very jealous for the Lord,” as Scripture says; and I too would say, fixing an accurate attention upon the lessons from the Gospel set before us, that the frantic tongue of Israel was bold and unbridled in insult, tyrannized over by harsh and unrestrainable wrath, and vanquished by unappeasable envy. For consider how, so to speak, they were even gnashing their teeth at Christ, the Saviour of all, because He made the multitudes wonder by His many divine and astonishing miracles; and because the very devils cried out at His ineffable and godlike power and authority. And this, I suppose, was what was celebrated by David when thus addressing Him: “Through the greatness of your power shall Your enemies be found liars to You.”

But the reason for which those who warred against His glory thus acted, this lesson plainly teaches us. “There was brought to Him one who was possessed with a dumb devil.” Now dumb devils are, so to speak, difficult for any one whatsoever of the saints to rebuke; and are more obstinate than any other kind, and excessively audacious. But there was nothing difficult to the all-powerful will of Christ, the Saviour of us all. For He immediately set the man who was brought to Him tree from the wicked and impure devil; and he whose tongue had before been closed by door and lock, once again |363 poured forth his customary speech. For we say that he is called dumb in this passage as being without tongue, that is, without speech. And upon the accomplishment of this wonderful act, the multitude extolled Him with praises, and hastened to crown the worker of the miracle with godlike honour. But certain of them, it says, being Scribes and Pharisees, with hearts intoxicated with pride and envy, found in the miracle fuel for their malady; and not only did they not praise Him, but betook themselves to the very opposite. For having stripped Him of the godlike deeds He had wrought, they assigned to the Devil almighty power, and made Beelzebub the source of Christ’s might. “For by him, they said, He casts out devils,” And others being afflicted, so to speak, with a kindred wickedness, and running without discernment into a disgraceful forwardness of speech, and being stung by the like goadings of envy, required, it says, to see of Him a sign from heaven; calling out, as it were, and saying, ‘Even if You have expelled from a man a bitter and malicious demon, that as yet

is no such great matter, nor worthy of admiration. What as yet is done is no proof of divine ability. We see nothing as yet equal to the miracles of old. Show us some deed of which there is no doubt of its being wrought by power from above. Moses made the people pass over, having caused the sea that was between to become capable of being walked upon: the waters were piled up like a wall. He smote the rock with his rod, and made it the mother of rivers, so that fountains burst forth from the flinty stone. Likewise also Jeshua, his successor, made the sun stand still in Gibeon, and the moon in the valley of Arnon. He laid bonds on the streams of Jordan. But You show no such deed as these. You cast out a devil: this authority the prince of the devils, even Beelzebub, grants to men. Of him You borrow the power of doing those things, |364 which in unlearned and ignorant people beget wonder.’ Such were their froward fault-findings. For the fact of their wishing to ask a sign from heaven proves nothing else than that they entertained such thoughts as these respecting Him.

And what said Christ to these things? First, indeed, He proves Himself to be God, by knowing even that which was secretly whispered among them: for He knew their thoughts. And it is an act that altogether belongs to God, to be able to know what is in the mind and heart, and even what is spoken anywhere by men secretly. To draw them away then from so obdurate a crime, He says, that “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid desolate: and a house against a house falls. And if Satan be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? For He well might have said to those who babbled thus foolishly about Him, You depart from the right way: truly you err, and without doubt are ignorant of My nature. The greatness of My might, and the splendour of My glory, is unperceived by you. Moses was a servant: I am Lord. He was the minister of the law: but I the legislator; for I am by nature God. He was the minister of the signs; but I the doer of them, and the worker of the miracles. I divided the sea: it was the work of My power, that the waters were divided, and the people passed over: I displayed the flint stone as the mother of rivers. I made the sun stand still in Gibeon, and the might of My commands stayed the moon in the valley of Arnon. It was I Who laid bonds on the streams of Jordan. Had He, however, used words such as these, it is perhaps not improbable to imagine that they would have conceived in them a yet more violent flame of envy: for they would at once have said, ‘He exalts Himself above the glory of the saints: He boasts Himself over the illustrious patriarchs, who, He says, were nothing: He appropriates to Himself their glory.’ And they would have added to these other words, which in unlearned persons would have given occasion for wickedness towards Him.

Very wisely therefore, omitting these things, He proceeds to arguments, drawn indeed from common things, but which have the force of truth in them; “For every kingdom,” He says, “divided against itself, becomes desolate; and every house against a house, falls: and if Satan be divided |365 against himself, how shall his kingdom stand?” For that which establishes kingdoms is the fidelity of subjects, and the obedience of those under the royal sceptre: and houses are established when those who belong to them in no way whatsoever thwart one another, but, on the contrary, accord both in will and deed. And so I suppose it would establish the kingdom too of Beelzebub, had he determined to abstain from every thing contrary to himself. How then does Satan cast out Satan? It follows then that devils do not depart from men of their own accord, but retire unwillingly. Satan, He says, does not fight with himself. He does not rebuke his own satellites. He does not permit himself to injure his own armour-bearers. On the contrary, he aids his kingdom. It remains, therefore for you to understand, that I crush Satan by divine power.

So must we be persuaded who believe in Him, and have departed far away from the wickedness of the Jews. For what is at all impossible to that Almighty right hand? Or what is great and difficult to Him, Who can accomplish every thing by His will alone? He Who established the heavens, and founded the earth, Who is the Creator of all, Who is perfect power, how can He be in need of Beelzebub? Oh, thoughts never to be spoken! Oh, wickedness never to be endured! A people foolish and without understanding! Very justly may one say of the Israelites, “They have eyes, and see not: they have ears, and hear not.” For though they were spectators of the wonderful deeds wrought by Christ, and by the holy prophets, and heard of them, and knew them long before, nevertheless they continued obdurate and intractable. Therefore “they eat the fruit of their way,” as Scripture says. But let us be earnest in extolling Christ with endless praises; for thus shall we be heirs of the kingdom of heaven, by the gift of the same Christ: by Whom, and with Whom, to God the Father be praise and dominion with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen. |366

Sermon 81~

11:19-26. But if I by Beelzebub cast out the devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I by the finger of God cast out the devils, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When the strong man armed guards his house, his goods are in peace: but when He Who is stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, He takes from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divides his spoils. He that is not with Me is against Me: and he that gathers not with Me, scatters for Me. When the unclean spirit has gone forth from the man, it wanders about in places where there is no water, seeking rest: and not having found it, then it says, I will return to my house, whence I came out. And when it comes, it finds it empty, swept, and garnished. Then it goes, and brings seven other spirits worse than itself, and they enter in and dwell there. And the last state of that man is made worse than the first.

THE God of all, blaming the haughtiness of the Jews, and their constant tendency to run into disobedience, thus spoke by the voice of Isaiah; “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken. I have begotten, and brought up sons; and they have rejected Me.” For they rejected God the Father, by setting in manifold ways the Son at nothing, Who, though sprung from Him by nature, yet afterwards was made like unto us for our sakes: and yet He called them unto the grace that is by faith, and would have fulfilled the promise given unto their fathers. For of this the sacred Paul bears witness, where he writes, “For I say that Christ was a minister of the circumcision, to fulfil the promises of the fathers: and that the Gentiles might glorify God for mercy.” The Only-begotten Word of God therefore was made man, that He might fulfil the promise of the blessing granted unto |370 them. And that they might know that it was He Whom the law had prefigured by shadows, and Whom the company also of the holy prophets had foretold, He wrought these godlike deeds, and rebuked the unclean spirits. But they, though it was their duty to have praised Him, as doing wonders, as One Who possessed a power and authority beyond that of nature, and incomparable in degree, on the contrary disparaged His glory, saying, “This man only casts out devils by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.” And what doth Christ reply to this? “If I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out?”

Now this subject was explained by me to you at length at our last meeting. But inasmuch as it is right that the wickedness of the Jews, in thus idly prating against Him, should still further be rebuked by many and convincing arguments, He adds on this account to what had been already said, an unanswerable consideration. And what this is, I will now mention to you as to my children.

The blessed disciples were Jews, and the children of Jews, according to the flesh; but they had obtained authority from Christ over unclean spirits, and set free those that were possessed by them, by calling over them these words, “In the Name of Jesus Christ.” For Paul also once with apostolic authority commanded an unclean spirit, saying, “I command you, in the Name of Jesus Christ, to come out of her.” When therefore He says, your own children in My Name trample upon Beelzebub, by rebuking his satellites, and expelling them forthwith from those in whom they are, what else is it but manifest blasphemy, joined with great ignorance, to say that I borrow this power from Beelzebub? You are convicted therefore, He says, by the faith of your own children, if, as is the case, they having received of Me authority and power, overthrow Satan, and against his will drive him from those in whom he dwells; while you affirm, that I make use of his agency in working divine miracles. But inasmuch as what you say is not true, but, on the contrary, empty and false, and liable to the charge of calumny, it is plain that I cast out devils by the finger of God. And by the finger of God He means the Holy Ghost. For the Son is called the hand and arm of God the Father; for He does all things by the Son, |371 and the Son in like manner works by the Spirit. For just as the finger is appended to the hand, as something not foreign from it, but belonging to it by nature, so also the Holy Spirit, by reason of His being equal in substance, is joined in oneness to the Son, even though He proceed from God the Father. For, as I said, the Son does every thing by the consubstantial Spirit. Here, however, purposely He says, that by the finger of God He casts out devils, speaking as a man: because the Jews in the infirmity and folly of their mind, would not have endured it, if He had said, “by My own Spirit I cast out devils.” Appeasing therefore their excessive readiness to anger, and the proneness of their mind unto insolence and phrensy, He spake as a man, although He is by nature God, and Himself the Giver of the Spirit from God the Father to those who are worthy, and employs as His own that power which is from Him. For He is consubstantial with Him, and whatsoever is said to be done by God the Father, this necessarily is by the Son in the Spirit. If therefore, He says, I, being a man, and having become like unto you, cast out devils in the Spirit of God, human nature has in Me first attained to a godlike kingdom. For it has become glorious by breaking the power of Satan, and rebuking the impure and abominable spirits: for such is the meaning of the words, that “the kingdom of God has come upon you.” But the Jews did not understand the mystery of the dispensation of the Only-begotten in the flesh: and yet how ought they not rather to have reflected, that by the Only-begotten Word of God having become man, without ceasing to be that which He was, He glorified the nature of man, in that He did not disdain to take upon Him its meanness, in order that He might bestow upon it His own riches.

And inasmuch as it was necessary, as I showed, that the argument upon this subject should travel through many considerations, He makes use of a most plain and evident comparison, by means of which those who will may see, that He has conquered the ruler of this world, and having, so to speak, hamstrung him, and stripped him of the power which he possessed, has given him over for a prey unto His followers. “For when, He says, the strong man being armed guards his house, all his goods are in peace: but when One That is |372 stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, He takes away all his armour wherein he trusted, and divides his spoil,” This is, as I said, a plain demonstration, and type of the matter depicted after the manner of human affairs. For as long as a strong man retains the superiority, and guards his own property, he is in no danger of being plundered. But when one who is stronger than he, and more powerful, comes upon him, and prevails against him, then forthwith he is spoiled. And such has been the fate of our common enemy, the wicked Satan, that many headed serpent, the inventor of sin. For before the coining of the Saviour, he was in great power, driving and shutting up, so to speak, in his own stall flocks not his own, but belonging to God over all, like some rapacious and most insolent robber. But inasmuch as the Word of God Who is above all, the Giver of all might, and Lord of powers assailed Him, having become man, all his goods have been plundered, and his spoil divided. For those who of old had been ensnared by him into ungodliness and error have been called by the holy apostles to the acknowledgment of the truth, and been brought near unto God the Father by faith in His Son.

Would you like to hear and learn another convincing argument besides these? “He that is not with Me,” He says, “is against Me: and he that gathers not with Me, scatters for Me.” For I, He says, have come to save every man from the hands of the devil; to deliver from his guile those whom he had ensnared; to set the prisoners free; to give light to those in darkness; to raise up them that had fallen; to heal the broken-spirited: and to gather together the children of God who were scattered abroad. Such was the object of My coming. But Satan is not with Me; on the contrary he is against Me. For he ventures to scatter those whom I have gathered and saved. How then can he, who wars against Me, and sets his wickedness in array against My purposes, give Me power against himself? How is it not foolish even barely to imagine the possibility of such a thing as this?

The cause however which made the Jewish multitudes fall into such thoughts concerning Christ He Himself makes plain, by saying; “When the wicked spirit has gone forth from the man, it returns with seven other spirits more bitter |373 than itself; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” For as long as they were in bondage in Egypt, and lived according to the customs and laws of the Egyptians, which were full of all impurity, they led polluted lives; an evil spirit dwelt in them: for it dwells in the hearts of the wicked. But when in the mercy of God they had been delivered by Moses, and received the law as a schoolmaster, calling them to the light of the true knowledge of God, the impure and polluted spirit was driven out. But because they did not believe in Christ, but rejected the Saviour, the impure spirit again attacked them: for he found their heart empty, and devoid of all fear of God, and, swept as it were, and took up his abode in them. For just as the Holy Spirit, when He sees any one’s heart free from all impurity, and clean, dwells and abides there, and rests therein; so also the impure spirit is wont to dwell in the souls of the wicked. For they are devoid, as I said, of all virtue: and thero is in them no fear of God. The last state therefore of the Israelites has become worse than the first. For as the disciple of the Saviour said; “It had been better for them not to have known the way of truth, than that when they have known it, they should turn back again from the holy commandment that was delivered unto them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb; The dog that returned to its vomit; and the washed sow to wallow in the mire.” Let us flee therefore from being like the Jews; let Christ Who works miracles, be extolled by us: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |374 (source).

2 Responses to “St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on Luke 11:14-28 for the 3rd Sunday of Lent (Extraordinary Form)”

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