Home      Back to Trinity 3




On the Gospel.
St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor
Translated by M.F. Toale, D.D.
(PG 72, in Luke.)
God sent not his son into the world, to judge the world, as the Son tells us, but that the world may be saved by him (Jn. iii. 17).  But how could the world be saved, caught as it was in the net of sin?  By exacting punishment of it, or rather, by showing it kindness, so that, God being merciful and forbearing, manís past sins were forgotten, and those who had not been living worthily began a purer way of life?  Why then, tell me, O Pharisee, do you murmur because Christ does not disdain to consort with publicans and sinners, prudently preparing the way for their conversion? 

It was for this He emptied himself, and became like to us.  Do you then presume to question the wisdom of the Only-Begotten? The blessed prophets praised the wisdom of the divine Secret.  The prophet David sings of it: Sing ye wisely, God shall reign over the nations (Ps. xlvi. 8).  Habacuc says, he has heard Godís hearing, beheld his works, and was afraid (iii. 2).  How do you presume to question His works which you ought rather to praise? 

The race of man wandered upon the face of the earth; it had slipped away from the hand of the Supreme Shepherd.  Because of this He came to us Who feeds His heavenly flocks above, that He might lead us also into His fold, that He might unite us to those who had not wandered, that He might drive away the wild beast that works evil, and frustrate the unholy robber band of the unclean spirits of evil.  He came therefore seeking the one that was lost, and He showed how foolish and vain were the murmurings of the Jews against Him. 

And now reflect together with me, Beloved, upon the extent of the Kingdom of our Saviour, and upon the wondrous wisdom of His divine purposes.  For, He says, the number of the sheep is a hundred; here referring to the fill and perfect number of the rational beings subject to Him.  The number hundred is ever the perfect number, made up often decades.  From tile inspired Scripture we learn that a thousand thousands minister to Him, and ten thousand times a hundred thousand surround His throne (Dan. vii. 10). 

A hundred therefore is tile number of His sheep, of whom one wandered from the flock, namely, the race of men, and for which the Supreme Pastor of all goes searching, leaving the rest, that is, the remaining ninety-nine, in the desert; that is, in a remote and lofty place that is full of peace.  Was He then neglecting the greater number, and concerned only for this one? He was far from neglecting them.  How is this? Because they remain in total security, sheltered within the right hand of the Almighty.  But it was becoming that He should have compassion on the one that was lost, in order that nothing might appear wanting to the remaining multitude: for when this one was brought back He had then once more a hundred, the perfect number. 

Let us explain this by another example, that we may the better explain the incomparable tenderness of Christ the Saviour of all mankind.  Let us suppose that in the one house there are many persons, and that one of them falls sick.  For whom will the physician be called? Will it not be for the one who is ill? And because the need and the circumstances call for it, the physician, without implying any neglect of the rest by this, will bestow all the assistance of his skill on tile one who alone is sick. 

He therefore, the God Who rules over all things, must stretch out a saving hand to the wandering sheep, whom the Supreme Shepherd has now in fact redeemed.  For He looked for it as it wandered afar, and He has placed it in a secure sheepfold, safe against thieves and wild beasts: namely, His Church.  And praising Him let us because of this say with the prophet: Sion the city of our strength: a saviour, a wall and a bulwark shall be set therein (Is. xxvi. 1). 

The parable which follows has the same meaning, that of the woman who had ten pieces of silver, and who we are told lost one, and who thereupon lit a lamp, greatly rejoicing when she finds the piece of silver.  And this joy He compares to the supreme joy of heaven.  From the previous parable, in which the wandering sheep was a figure of the earthly race of men, we learn that we are a creature of the most High God Who has created the things that before were not.  He made us, and not we ourselves, as it is written (Ps. xcix. 3).  And he is the Lord our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand (Ps. xciv. 7). 

But in the second parable, in which the thing lost is compared to a piece of silver, of which there were ten, that is, a perfect number, or one which makes a complete total (for ten is a complete enumeration, counting from one upwards), we are shown clearly that we have been created in conformity with a royal image and likeness, that, namely, of the Most High God.  For the drachma, the piece of silver, is a coin upon which is stamped a royal image.  Who is there doubts that we had fallen and were lost, and that we have been found by Christ, and through His grace, and a just way of life, have been again made like unto Him? 

Of this the Blessed Paul writes: But we all beholding the glory of the Lord with open face are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the spirit of the Lord (II Cor. iii. 
18).  In his Epistle to the Galatians he also writes: My little children, of whom I am in labour again, until Christ be formed in you (iv. 19). 

The woman lighting a lamp, a search was made for the tiling that was lost.  For we were found by the Wisdom of God the Father, Which is His Son, kindling again in us the light of the divine and rational Day Star, when the Sun of Justice rose, and the day dawned, as it is written (II Pet. i. 19). And elsewhere God through one of the holy prophets says of Christ the Saviour of all men:  Speedily my justice draws near, and soon my mercy shall be made known, and my salvation as a lamp shall be lit (Is. lxii. 1 Sept.).  Of Himself He says: I am the Light of the world.  And again: I am come a light into the world, He that followeth me walketh not in darkness, but shall have the light of life (Jn. viii. 12; xii. 46). 

Therefore was it in the Light that that which was lost was saved; and this has filled the heavenly powers with joy.  For they rejoice even over one sinner doing penance, as He teaches us Who knows all things.  And if these heavenly beings, ever seeking the fulfilling of the divine will, and given to the unending praise of the most tender divine compassion, rejoice over one sinner saved, what are we to say of their joy at the salvation of the whole world, called to the knowledge of truth, through faith in Christ, to Whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be honour and glory for ever and ever.