A Sermon on St. Luke 14:12-14 by St. Cyril of Alexandria

St. Cyril of Alexandria

St. Luke 14:12-14. Then said He also to him that bade Him, When you make a dinner or a supper, call not your friends, nor your brethren, neither your kinsmen, nor your rich neighbours; lest they also bid you again, and a recompense be made you. But when you make a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind. And you shall be blessed, because they cannot recompense you: for you shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

REMARKABLE indeed is the beauty of the mind of man: and it shows itself in various ways, and is conspicuous in a diversity of manners. For just as those who are skilled in delineating forms in pictures cannot by one colour attain to perfect beauty in their painting, but rather use various and many kinds of hues; so also the God of all, Who is the Giver and Teacher of spiritual beauty, adorns our souls with that manifold virtue which consists in all saintlike excellence of living, in order to complete in us His likeness. For in His rational creatures the best and most excellent beauty is the likeness of God, which is wrought in us by the exact vision of God, and by virtue perfected by active exertion. Consider therefore how our Lord Jesus Christ makes our souls beautiful by every spiritual adornment. For here He had commanded the Pharisees and lawyers, or rather, the Scribes, to think lowly of themselves, and to cultivate a mind free from the love of vainglory, bidding them not to seize upon the foremost seats. For He was dining with them, that being in their company He might benefit them even against their will. And after them He next addressed him who had invited them, and assembled them to the entertainment, saying, “When you make a dinner or a supper, call not your friends, nor your brethren, neither your kinsmen nor your rich neighbours: but rather the lame, and the blind, and the maimed.”

Would He then produce in us a morose state of mind? Is it His will that we be unsociable, and unloving, so as not even to deem our friends and relatives worthy of that affection which |481 especially is fitting and due to them? Are we to pay no regard to those who are near us in affection and love? Does He forbid the rights of hospitality? But how is it not absurd and ignorant to imagine that He contradicts His own laws? What then does He wish to teach? Something perhaps like what follows; Those who possess great store of wealth make much account, so to speak, of a constant display and ostentation. For oftentimes they bring men to banquet with them, and make entertainments at vast cost, with curiously prepared viands, and such as do not escape the blame of prodigality. And this it is their custom to do, in order to gain the praises and applause of their guests. And in receiving the praises of their flatterers, as the wages, so to speak, of their extravagance, they rejoice greatly, as though they had gained something of value. For it is the habit of flatterers to praise oven those things which deserve blame.

For what good is there in such prodigal abundance beyond what necessity requires? For as Christ Himself somewhere said, “Few things are needful, or one,” for the necessary appeasing of the wants of the body. That we may escape therefore the danger of losing the reward of our outlay, by expending our wealth in such pursuits as will bear good fruit, He has commanded us to invite the poor, and the maimed, and the blind, and those who are suffering under other bodily maladies; that by our liberality in so doing, we may attain to the hope that comes from above from God.

The lesson therefore which He teaches us is love unto the poor, which is a thing precious in the sight of God. Do you feel pleasure in being praised when you have any friends of relatives feasting with you? I tell you of something far better: angels shall praise your bounty, and the rational powers above, and holy men as well: and He too shall accept it Who transcends all, and Who loves mercy and is kind. Lend unto Him fearing nothing, and you shall receive with usury whatever you gave: “for he, it says, who has pity on the poor lends unto God.” He acknowledged the loan, and promises repayment. “For when the Son of man, He says, shall come in the glory of His Father, with the holy angels, and shall sit upon the throne of His glory, He shall set the sheep upon His right hand, and the goats upon His left. |482 

And He shall say to them on His right hand, Come you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundations of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me meat: I was thirsty and you gave Me drink: I was naked and you covered Me: sick and you visited Me: in prison, and you came unto Me. And to this He added, Verily I say unto you, that whatsoever you have done to one of these little ones, you have done unto Me.” The outlay therefore is not unfruitful: rather shall compassion upon the poor make your wealth breathe forth a sweet savour. Purchase the grace that comes from God; buy for your friend the Lord of heaven and earth: for verily we oftentimes purchase men’s friendship with large sums of gold, and if those of high rank are reconciled unto us, we feel great joy in offering them presents even beyond what we can afford, because of the honour which accrues to us from them. And yet these things are but transitory, and quickly fade away, and are like the phantasies of dreams.

But to be members of God’s household, must we not count that as a thing worth the gaining; and esteem it as of the highest importance? For certainly after the resurrection from the dead we must stand in Christ’s presence; and there a recompense shall of necessity be made to the compassionate and merciful: but a condemnation commensurate with their deeds shall be the lot of those who were harsh and without mutual love; for it is written, “that there is judgment without mercy for those who have showed no mercy.” And if so, how is it not the proof and perfection of a sound mind, that before we descend to the pit of torment we should take forethought for our life? For come, and let us discuss this among ourselves. Suppose that for some cause or other which the law condemned they had dragged us before the judges, and so a sentence such as our offences deserved had been passed upon us after our conviction; should we not with pleasure offer up our wealth to escape from all torment and punishment? And how can there be any doubt of this? For oneself is better than possessions, and life than wealth. Now we are guilty of many sins, and must give an account to the Judge of whatsoever we have done; and why then do we not deliver ourselves from judgment and the everlasting fire while time permits? And the |483 way in which to deliver ourselves is to live in virtue;—-to comfort the brethren who are grieved with poverty, and open our hand wide to all who are in need, and to sympathize with the sick.

For tell me what is harder than poverty, that implacable beast of prey, that bane which no admonition can charm away, that worst of maladies, or rather more cruel than any malady? We therefore must give a helping hand to those who are suffering under it: we must open wide to them our heart, and not pass by their lamentation. For suppose a savage beast of prey had sprung upon some wayfarer, would not any one who witnessed the occurrence seize up any thing that came to hand, a stone for instance, or stick, and drive away the beast that was mercilessly rending and tearing the man fallen beneath its blow? Who is so hardhearted and full of hatred to mankind as to pass by one thus miserably perishing? And must not you own, that poverty, as I said, is more cruel than any beast of prey? Aid therefore those who are fallen under it: incline yours ear to the poor, and listen to him, as it is written, “For he, it says, who stops his ears that he may not hear the feeble, he also shall cry, and there shall be none to listen.” Give that you may receive: hear that you may be heard: sow your little that you may reap much. And besides, the pleasure of the body is short and temporary, and ends in rottenness: but almsgiving and charity to the poor crown those who practise them with glory from God, and lead them to that incorruptible happiness which Christ bestows on those who love Him: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen.

Al-Masih-Qam! (Christ is risen!)

icon from  orthodoxwiki.org

text from tertullian.org

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