Having warned his listeners not to approach the their baptismal instructions-and, by implication, their baptism- out of mere curiousity (section 2), the Saint now tells the story of a guest who shows up to a wedding feast in unseemly dress and with bad manners. He is clearly adopting and adapting Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast from Matthew 22:1-14.
Text in red are my additions. My notes follow.
A certain man in the Gospel once pried into the marriage feast, and took an unbecoming garment, and came in, and sat down, and ate: for the bridegroom permitted it. But when he (the guest) saw them all clad in white, he ought to have assumed a garment of the same kind himself; for like the others he partook of the food but was unlike them in fashion and purpose. The bridegroom, however, though bountiful, was not undiscerning; and in going round to each of the guests and observing them (for his care was not with their eating, but for their seemly behavior), he saw a stranger not having on a wedding garment, and said to him, “friend, how is it you came in looking like that? In that color! With what a conscience! True, the door-keeper did not forbid you entrance because of my bounty; but were you ignorant of what fashion to wear to a wedding feast? When you came in and beheld the glorious raiment of the guests, should this not have been a lesson to you? Should you not have receded in good taste so as to return in good taste? (i.e. you should have gone home and changed, then re-presented yourself) But since you have come here and stayed without taste, tastelessly you shall be cast out.” And so the Bridegroom ordered the servants to bind the feet he used to intrude; and to bind the hands he refused to use to put on fine garments; and he ordered him cast headlong into the outer darkness, for he was unworthy of the wedding torches. Seeing, then, what happened to that man, make your own condition safe.
The bountiful bridegroom. The description of the bridegroom as bountiful or benefiecent was no doubt meant to recall to the listeners minds what was said in section 1: “For he does not lie who said, “to them that love God all things work together for good.” God is lavish in beneficence, yet he waits for each man’s genuine will…” The saint clearly wants us to see the wedding guest as not acting with a good will. “Like the others he partook of the food but was unlike them in fashion and purpose.” The food no doubt represents the instructions they are receiving. Proper attire symbolizes the good will or purpose the saint had praised them for in section 1, and exhorted them to maintain in section 2.
(The bridegroom went) round to each of the guests and observing them (for his care was not with their eating, but for their seemly behavior), he saw a stranger not having on a wedding garment, and said to him, “friend, how is it you came in looking like that? In that color! With what a conscience! The watchful bridegroom who notices the man’s slovenly appearance and recognizes it as bad conscience calls to mind the warning at the end of section 2: You must not tempt God’s grace so that no bitter root grow up and cause trouble. Let none of you come in saying, ‘let us see what the faithful are doing; let me go in and see, that I may leaarn what is being done.’ Do you expect to see and yet not be seen? Do you think that while you search out what is going on, God is not searching your heart?
Should you not have receded in good taste so as to return in good taste? (i.e. you should have gone home and changed, then represented yourself) But since you have come here and stayed without taste, tastelessly you shall be cast out. Normally, a bridegroom would not cast an invited guest out of his wedding feast, but should an inconsiderate guest expect considerations from the man who invited him? “the measure with whcih you measure shall be measured out to you.” (Mt 7:2). Notice that the feet with which the guest walked in with, and the hands he refused to dress himself properly with, are bound.
he ordered him cast headlong into the outer darkness, for he was unworthy of the wedding torches. Possibly an allusion to the parable of the ten virgins (Mt 25:1-13). As noted at the beginning, the saint is making use of the parable of the wedding feast from Matthew 22:1-14. This use of scripture as a warning reminds us of what was said earlier by the saint in relation to what happened to Simon Magus: I make reference and indict this man for his fall so that you may not fall. Things such as this happen to serve as an example to you, and were written down as an admonition for those who would draw near (i.e. to baptism).
For we, the ministers of Christ, (the bridegroom of section 3) have admitted everyone, and occupying, as it were, the place of door-keepers we left the door open: and possibly you did enter with your soul stained by sin, and with your will defiled. You entered, and were allowed to do so, and your name was inscribed (like a guest’s name in a wedding book). Answer me this, do you not see the venerable constitution of the Church? Do you not view her order and discipline, the reading of the Scriptures, the presence of the ordained, the course of instruction? Be ashamed at the place, andbe taught by what you see. It is appropriate that you go out now, and even more appropriately return tomorrow.
If your soul is dressed in avarice, put on a different garment and come in. Put off your former garment. Continue not to cloak yourself in it. I beg of you, strip off your garments of fornication and uncleanness, and don the glorious robe of chastity. This charge I give you, before Jesus the Bridegroom of souls come in and see what fashion they (those espoused to Christ) wear. A long period of preparation has been given to you; you have forty days of repentance; you have full time then to put off (their old garments) and wash up, and then put on (their new garments of repentance) so as to enter in (i.e. to the wedding feast, their union with Christ in baptism). But if you persist in your evil intentions (a hypocritical conversion lacking repentance) the speaker (St. Cyril) is blameless, but you must not look for the grace; for though the water will receive you, the holy spirit will not accept you. If anyone of you is conscious of a wound, then take the salve; if any of you have fallen, then rise up. Let there be no Simon among you, no hypocrisy, no idle curiosity concerning this matter.
Concerning the garment imagery see (or recall) the parable St. Cyril gave in section 3. As we saw in our notes on that section, St. Cyril’s image was heavily dependent on the parable of the wedding feast Jesus spoke in Matt 22:1-14. In the present section, the garment imagery from section 3 is combined with allusions to Col 3:8-10 (see the text and corresponding footnote.See also Eph 4:22-24)