Home      Back to Lent 3




Exposition of the Gospel
St. Cyril of Alexandra, Bishop and Doctor
Translated by M.F. Toale, D.D.
(PG 72, col. 699.)
And he was casting out a devil, and the same was dumb. The man here spoken of as being without certain senses we would describe as speechless; for his nature was not afflicted. He suffered rather from a trick of the devil, by whom his tongue was as it were tied. So he needed to be brought forward by others: since without a voice he could not plead for himself. For this reason the Lord does not inquire into his faith, but straightaway cures his affliction; and the multitude were in admiration at it.

And when the man had been delivered, and the miracle wrought, the people began to praise Christ, with praise such as befitted God. But some of them, the Evangelist says: (and these were from the Scribes and Pharisees, whose hearts were filled with desperation and jealousy) made as though to regard what had happened as simply a stage in the course of the disease. For seeking to detract from the wonders He wrought by divine power, they began to attribute them to the power of the devil; for through him it was, they said, that the Lord cast out devils.

And thus Christ, though He had as it were cast into the abyss the spirits of evil whom He had forced unwilling from the bodies they possessed, and where they had dared to rule; and though for this He was worthy indeed of praise, yet He did not escape the tongues of those who love to belittle, and those of evil speaking men. For twisting the miracle into a crime they say: He casteth out devils by Beelzebub.

And others tempting him, asked of him a sign from heaven.  Others urged by the goad of jealousy asked of Him a sign from heaven, almost saying: ‘You have driven out an evil spirit from a man, but that is no great wonder. And neither does this show you have divine power. We have seen nothing yet like the miracles of old. Show us something that no one can doubt is from above. Moses led the people through the midst of the sea; making the deep passable for them. With a wand he struck the rock, and made it the mother of streams: springs rushing from the hard stone. And his successor halted the sun before Gabaon; and the moon above the valley of Ajalon (Jos. xii. 12). He held back the Jordan, and put a barrier before its rushing Waters.’ For these men to ask a sign can only mean, that they were turning thoughts of this kind over in their minds as they watched Him. How did Christ answer them?

But he seeing their thoughts, said to them: Every kingdom divided. . . First He shows that He is God by this, that He knows what they had been murmuring among themselves: for He had known their thoughts. For since suspicions of this kind were shameful, and also because they feared the people, they did not give tongue to their grievance against Him, but limited themselves to turning it over in their mind. Then that He might divert their minds from this grievous impiety He answers them, not from the Scriptures: for they paid no heed to them, rather they tried to twist their meaning: but from what is commonly agreed to happen among men.

For, He says, a city, and even a house, if it be divided against itself will soon come to nothing; the same is true of a kingdom: than which men think there is nothing stronger. If I therefore, having in me the power of a demon, by this demon cast out other demons, the kingdom of the demons is divided; whose power if they oppose each other will soon pass away. For it is the union of its people makes a kingdom strong. A house too is strong when its members are no way in conflict with each other. The kingdom of Beelzebub then also remains strong, unless it seeks to do that which works against itself. How then does Satan drive out Satan? It is unlikely that it is of their own will evil spirits are driven from men. For Satan does not fight against Satan, nor direct attacks against his own followers; rather he gives aid to his own kingdom. You must then believe that it is by divine power I crush Satan.

They dared, this perverse assembly of wicked Pharisees, to accuse Emmanuel of crime. They dared to slander his honour; and blasphemously they repeat that upheld by the power of Beelzebub He cast the evil spirits out of the afflicted. For this, in times past, Emmanuel had rebuked the unrestrained mouths of the Jews, by the mouth of Osee His Prophet. Woe to them, He said, for they have departed from me: they shall be wasted because they have transgressed against me. And I have redeemed them! But against me they have spoken lies (Os. vii. 13).

If I cast out devils by Beelzebub; by whom do your children cast them out? The blessed Disciples were Jews, and born of Jews. They had received power from God against unclean spirits; and those who were tormented by them they had delivered by the invocation of the Name of Jesus Christ. If then, He says, your sons crush Satan in My Name, striking down his followers, and driving them headlong from the bodies they afflict, how can it be anything but plain blasphemy on your part, coupled with great ignorance, if any among you say that I receive My power from Beelzebub? Your own sons’ testimony condemns you: for they, after they had received My authority and My power, put Satan to flight, driving him out against his will from those he had possessed; while you say that it is by his power I work My miracles!

But if I by the Finger of God cast out devils; doubtless the kingdom of God is come upon you. Since what you say is not true, rather a worthless fabrication, darkened further by slander, it is manifest therefore that it is by the Finger of God that I cast out demons. He calls the Holy Ghost the Finger of God. Christ Himself is called the Hand and the Arm of God (Ps. xliii. 4; Is. liii. 1): because through Him the Father does all things. And the Son in turn works through the Spirit. As the finger is joined to the hand, not separate from it, but joined naturally to it, so the Holy Spirit, sharing the same nature as the Son, is joined naturally to Him; though He proceeds from God the Father. For, as I have said, the Son works all things through His Consubstantial Spirit. Now however as man, He says, by reason of My divine purpose, I cast forth devils by the Finger of God. For the Jews, weak and corrupt of mind as they were, could not have endured it had He said He cast out devils by His own Spirit. And note here, I beseech you, that as the Father works His wonders through the Son, it is the Spirit that accomplishes them; but as One and the Same is their Nature, so one likewise is their operation.

Since then the adversaries of the Holy Spirit are driven on every side towards the truth, let them reject the vomit of the deceivers, and turning again to God let them seek from Him the Light of truth, which He being kind and merciful will grant them. If therefore, He says, becoming a man like you, I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, it follows that the nature of man, beginning with Me, has grown rich from the heavenly kingdom. For it has acquired glory in crushing Satan, and in rebuking the unclean spirits. This is the meaning of, the Kingdom of God is come upon you.

And when a strong man armed keepeth his court, these things are in peace that he possesseth. Since it was necessary for many reasons that He should answer remarks of this kind He here uses a clear and striking illustration by which they may see, they who desire to see, that He has truly overcome the prince of this world, and as it were unnerved him, and taken from him the strength he once had, and given his possessions to His own friends. For, He says, as long as lie had power, and kept guard over what he had, he feared no violence. But if someone stronger suddenly attack him, and overwhelm him, he is then defenceless.

This is a parable based on what happens among men; but the same has befallen the devil, the hater of good, who, before the Coming of the Saviour, did indeed enjoy great power, seizing on the flocks that were manifestly not his, but belonged to the God of all things; shutting them in, and as it were keeping them in his own fold. Then later the Word of God, the Giver of all strength, the Lord of Hosts, being made man, assaulted him and deprived him of his armour, and gave to others all that he had possessed. For those he had held fast in atheism and error are now through the holy Apostles called to the knowledge of Truth, and because of their belief in His Son they have been restored once more to the Father.

He that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth. For I have come, He says, that I may snatch everyone from the hands of the devil, that I may deliver those who were captives, give light to those in darkness, raise up the fallen, heal the bruised, and gather together in one the children of God he has scattered. But it is otherwise with Satan, who is not with Me, but strives to scatter what has been delivered and gathered together. How then should he who is at war with all I do give help to Me against himself? Is it not great folly to believe that this could happen? And how it came to happen to the Jews to fall into such thoughts He then goes on to explain.

When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through places without water. That this similitude is directed against the Jews Matthew has already told us where He says: So shall it be also to this wicked generation. For while they were in servitude in Egypt, living after the manners and customs of the Egyptians, and abounding in every impurity, the unclean spirit began to dwell in them. Afterwards, by the mercy of God they were delivered through Moses, and had the Law as their guide and teacher, and through this they were led to the knowledge of the True God, and the impure and evil spirit was cast out from them. Then sacrificing a lamb, the figure of Christ, and being sprinkled with its blood, they escaped the Destroying Angel. But because they refused to believe in Christ, and turned from their Redeemer, the spirit of evil has again possessed them, and has enslaved them more cruelly than before. For he found their heart empty, and void of all concern for the things of God, and wholly taken up with the flesh, and so he took up his abode in them. For just as the Holy Spirit, when He finds the heart of man free of all uncleanness, enters in and abides there, and there takes His rest, so the unclean spirit takes up his abode in the souls of the wicked. For they are, as I say, empty of all virtue. And in this way it comes to pass that the last state of Israel is worse than the first. For, as the Saviour’s Disciple says: It had been better for them not to have known the way of justice, than after they have known it, to turn back from the holy commandment which was delivered to them. For that of the true proverb has happened to them: The dog is returned to his vomit: and the sow that has washed to her wallowing in the mire (II Pet. ii. 21, 22).

And from what they afterwards dared to do, it is plain to see that they have swallowed their vomit, and turned again to wallow in their ancient mire, and relapsed into the errors of Egypt. For the evil spirit has again entered them, and their last state has become worse than their first; in accordance with the words of our Saviour, Who with the Father and the Holy Ghost lives and reigns world without end. Amen.