Tuesday, January 15, 2008

St. Cyril of Alexandria on spiritual warfare

I am currently reading St. Cyril of Alexandria's (376?-444) Commentary on the Gospel of Luke. His words on the parable of the sower and the seed (Lk 8:5-8)--especially as he treats of the seed that falls on rock (I thought this was apropriate given our most recent men's group discussion on spiritual warfare):

"And next, let us consider those others of whom Christ said, And those upon the rock are they who, when they hear, receive the word with joy, and they have no root; these for a while believe, and in time of temptation depart away. For there are verily [truly] men whose faith has not been proved, depending on words simply, and not applying their mind to the examining of the mysteries; of such the piety is sapless and without root. For when they enter the churches, they feel pleasure often in seeing so many assembled, and joyfully receive instruction in the mysteries from him whose business it is to teach, and laud him with praises; but this they do with no discretion or judgment, but with unpurified wills; and when have gone out of the churches, at once they forget the sacred doctrines, and proceed their customary course; not having stored up within them any thing for their future benefit. And if the affairs of Christians go on peacefully, and no trial disturb them, they even then scarcely maintain in them the faith, and that, so to speak, in a confused and tottering state. But if persecution trouble them, and the enemies of the truth attack the churches of the Savior, their heart loves not the battle, and their mind throws away the shield and flees being devoid of zeal, and destitute of love towards God, and ready for desertion. But O ye fearful and infirm, one may well say, why do ye flee from that which would be your glory? And escape from conflicts to which ye have been trained? For hereby those who wish may win for themselves the trophy of victory. Do ye also struggle; twine the chaplet of manliness, thirst for the rewards of perseverance, for the honors of patience.

"…Therefore, as the prophet Jeremiah has said, Take up arms and shields (Jer 46:3). Especially as the right hand of God our savior is invincible in battle, and as most wise Paul has said, He does not permit men to be tried more than they can bear, but with the trial will also come the way of egress [return], that they may be able to endure patiently. (1 Cor 10:13)

"…He [Christ] laid down his life for us, and with His blood purchased the world. We are, therefore, not our own, but His Who bought and redeemed us, and to whom we owe our lives. For as the divine Paul said, For this reason Christ died and lived, that He might be Lord of the dead and the living. (Rom 14:9) We ought, therefore, to possess a mind incapable of being shaken, that especially whenever temptation arrive, we may show ourselves approved and victorious in the power of patience; and ready with joy to undergo conflicts, and seize the opportunity of suffering for piety’s sake towards Christ."

More on St. Cyril, the "doctor of the Incarnation":


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