- Explanation of the passage of the Acts of the Apostles by saint Kyrellos 1 the twenty-fourth patriarch of Alexandria about:Saint Peter's vision of an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four cornersDo you remark how they, were not kindly disposed towards him? Saying Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them." (v. 3.) Do you note what zeal they had for the Law? Not Peter's authority abashed them, not the signs which had taken place, not the success achieved, what a thing it was, the Gentiles having "received the word:" but they contended about those petty things. For if none of those (signs) had taken place, was not the success (itself) enough? But not so does Peter frame his defence: for he was wise, or rather it was not his wisdom, but the Spirit that spake the words. And by the matter of his defence, he shows that in no one point was he the author, but in every point God, and upon Him he casts the whole. "The trance," he says--"it was He that caused me to fall into it, for "I was in Joppa," etc.: the vessel--it was He that showed it; I objected: again, He spake, and even then I did not hear: the Spirit commanded me to go, and even then though I went, I did not run: I told that God had sent me, and after these things, even then I did not baptize, but again God did the whole. God baptized them, not I." And he does not say, Was it not right then to add the water? but, implying that nothing was lacking, "What was I, that I should withstand God?" What a defence is here! For he does not say, Then knowing these things, hold your peace; but what? He stands their attack, and to their impeachment he pleads--"What was I, to be able to hinder God?" It was not possible for me to hinder--a forcible plea indeed, and such as might well put them to shame. Whence being at last afraid, "they held their peace and glorified God."In like manner ought we also to glorify God for the good things which befall our neighbors, only not in the way that the rest of the newly-baptized are insulted, when they see others receiving baptism, and immediately departing this life. It, is right to glorify God, even though all be saved: and as for thee, if thou be willing, thou hast received a greater gift (than they): I do not mean in respect of the baptism, for the gift there is the same for him as for thee, but in regard that thou hast received a set time for winning distinction. The other put on the robe, and was not suffered to exhibit himself therewith in the procession, whereas to thee, God hath given full opportunity to use thine arms for the right purpose, thereby to make proof of them. The other goes his way, having only the reward of his faith: thou standest in the course, both able to obtain an abundant recompense for thy works, and to show thyself as much more glorious than he, as the sun is than the smallest star, as the general, nay rather as the Emperor himself, than the lowest soldier. Then blame thyself, or rather not blame, but correct: for it is not enough to blame thyself; it is in thy power to contend afresh. Hast thou been thrown? hast thou taken grievous hurt? Stand up, recover thyself: thou art still in the course, the meeting ( qeatron ) is not vet broken up. Do you not see how many that have been thrown in the wrestling have afterwards resumed the combat? Only do not willingly come by thy fall. Dost thou count him a happy man for departing this life? Much rather count thyself happy. Was he released of his sins? But thou, if thou wilt, shalt not only wash away thy sins, but shalt also have achievements (of good works), which in his case is not possible. It is in our power to recover ourselves. Great are the medicinal virtues ( farmaka ) Of repentance: let none despair of himself. That man truly deserves to be despaired of, who despairs of himself; that man has no more salvation, nor any hopes. It is not the having fallen into a depth of evils, it is the lying there when fallen, that is dreadful, it is not the having come into such a condition, it is the making light of it that is impious. The very thing that ought to make thee earnest, say, is it this that makes thee reckless? Having received so many wounds, hast thou fallen back? Of the soul, there can be no incurable wound; for the body, there are many such, but none for the soul: and yet for those we cease not in our endeavors to cure them, while for these we are supine. Seest thou not the thief (on the cross), in how short a time he achieved (his salvation)? Seest thou not the Martyrs, in how short a time they accomplished the whole work? "But martyrdom is not to be had nowadays." True, but there are contests to be had, as I have often told you, if we had the mind. "For they that wish," says the Apostle, "to live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution." (2 Tim. 3:12.) They that live godly are always undergoing persecution, if not from men, at any rate from evil spirits, which is a more grievous persecution. Yes, and it is in consequence, first and foremost, of ease and comfort, that those who are not vigilant undergo this. Or thinkest thou it is a trifling persecution to be living at ease? This is more grievous than all, this is worse than persecution. For, like a running flux, ease makes the soul languid ( cauuoi ): and as summer and winter, so persecution and ease. But to show you that this is the worse persecution, listen: it induces sleep in the soul, an excessive yawning and drowsiness, it stirs up the passions on every side, it arms pride, it arms pleasure, it arms anger, envy, vainglory, jealousy. But in time of persecution none of these is able to make a disturbance; but fear, entering in, and plying the lash vigorously, as one does to a barking dog, will not let any of these passions so much as attempt to give tongue. Who shall be able in time of persecution to indulge in vainglory? Who to live in pleasure? Not one: but there is much trembling and fear, making a great calm, composing the harbor into stillness, filling the soul with awe. I have heard from our fathers (for in our own time God grant it may not happen, since we are bidden not to ask for temptation), that in the persecution of old time one might see men that were indeed Christian. None of them cared for money, none for wife, none for children, nor home, nor country: the one great concern with all was to save their lives (or, souls). There were they hiding, some in tombs and sepulchres, some in deserts: yes tender and dainty women too, fighting all the while with constant hunger. Then think whether any longing for sumptuous and dainty living at all came into the mind of a woman, while in hiding beside a coffin ( para larnaki ), and waiting for her maid-servant to bring her meal, and trembling lest she should be taken, and lying in her terror as in t a furnace: was she even aware that there ever was such a thing as dainty living, that such things as dress and ornaments exist at all ( oti kosmos olws estin )? Seest thou that now is the persecution, with our passions, like wild beasts, setting upon us on every side? Now is the trying persecution, both in this regard, and especially if it is not even thought to be persecution at all. For this (persecution) has also this evil in it, that being war, it is thought to be peace, so that we do not even arm ourselves against it, so that we do not even rise: no one fears, no one trembles. But if ye do not believe me, ask the heathen, the persecutors, at what time was the conduct of the Christians more strict, at what time were they all more proved? Few indeed had they then become in number, but rich in virtue. For say, what profit is it, that there should be hay in plenty, when there might be precious tones? The amount consists not in the sum of numbers, but in the proved worth. Elias was one: yet the whole world was not worth so much as he. And yet the world consists of myriads: but they are no myriads, when they do not even come up to that one. "Better is one that doeth the will of God, than ten thousand who are transgressors:" for the ten thousands have not yet reached to the one. "Desire not a multitude of unprofitable children." (Ecclus. 16:1.) Such bring more blasphemy against God, than if they were not Christians. What need have I of a multitude? It is (only)more food for the fire. This one might see even in the body, that better is moderate food with health, than a (fatted) calf with damage. This is more food than the other: this is food, but that is disease. This too one may see in war: that better are ten expert and brave men, than ten thousand of no experience. These latter, besides that they do no work, hinder also those that do work. The same too one may see to be the case in a ship, viz. that better are two experienced mariners, than ever so great a number of unskilful ones: for these will sink the ship. These things I say, not as looking with an evil eye upon your numbers, but wishing that all of you should be approved men, and not trust in your numbers. Many more in number are they who go down into hell: but greater than it is the Kingdom, however few it contain. As the sand of the sea was the multitude of the people (Israel) yet one man saved them. Moses was but one, and yet he availed more than they all: Joshua was one and he was enabled to do more than the six hundred thousand. Let us not make this our study merely, that (the people) may be many, but rather, that they may be excellent; when this shall have been effected, then will that other follow also. No one wishes at the outset to make a spacious house, but he first makes it strong and sure, then spacious: no one lays the foundations so that he may be laughed at. Let us first aim at this, and then at the other. Where this is, that also will be easy: but where this is not, the other, though it be, is to no profit. For if there be those who are able to shine in the Church, there will soon be also numbers: but where these are not, the numbers will never be good for anything. How many, suppose you, may there be in our city who are likely to be saved ( tous swzomeuous )? It is disagreeable, what I am going to say, but I will say it nevertheless. Among all these myriads, there are not to be found one hundred likely to be saved: nay, even as to these, I question it. For think, what wickedness there is in the young, what supineness in the aged! None makes it his duty to look after his own boy, none is moved by anything to be seen in his eider, to be emulous of imitating such an one. The patterns are defaced, and therefore it is that neither do the young become admirable in conduct. Tell not me, "We are a goodly multitude:" this is the speech of men who talk without thought or feeling ( yucrwn .) In the concerns of men indeed, this might be said with some show of reason: but where God is concerned, (to say this with regard to Him) as having need of us, can never be allowed. Nay, let me tell you, even in the former case, this is a senseless speech ( yucron ). Listen. A person that has a great number of domestics, if they be a corrupt set what a wretched time will he have of it! For him who has none, the hardship, it seems, amounts to this, that he is not waited on: but where a person has bad servants, the evil is, that he is ruining himself withal, and the damage is greater (the more there are of them.) For it is far worse than having to be one's own servant, to have to fight with others, and take up a (continual) warfare. These things I say, that none may admire the Church because of its numbers, but that we may study to make the multitude proof-worthy; that each may be earnest for his own share of the duty--not for his friends only, nor his kindred as I am always saying, nor for his neighbors, but that he may attract the strangers also. For example, Prayer is going on; there they lie (on bended knees), all the young, stupidly unconcerned ( yucroi ), (yes,) and old too: filthy nuisances rather than young men; giggling, laughing outright, talking--for I have heard even this going on--and jeering one another as they lie along on their knees: and there stand you, young man or elder: rebuke them, if you see them (behaving thus): if any will not refrain, chide him more severely: call the deacon, threaten, do what is in your power to do: and if he dare do anything to you, assuredly you shall have all to help you. For who is so irrational, as, when he sees you chiding for such conduct, and them chidden not to take your part? Depart, having received your reward from the Prayer.--In a master's house, we count those his best-disposed servants, who cannot bear to see any part of his furniture in disorder. Answer me; if at home you should see the silver plate lie tossed out of doors, though it is not your business, you will pick it up and bring it into the house: if you see a garment flung out. of its place, though you have not the care of it, though you be at enmity with him whose business it is, yet, out of good-will to the master, will you not put it right? So in the present case. These are part of the furniture: if you see them lying about in disorder, put them to rights: apply to me, I do not refuse the trouble: inform me, make the offender known to me: it is not possible for me to see all: excuse me (in this). See, what wickedness overspreads the whole world! Said I without reason that we are (no better than) so much hay (disorderly as) a troubled sea? I am not talking of those (young people), that they behave thus; (what I complain of, is) that such a sleepy indifference possesses those who come in here, that they do not even correct this misbehavior. Again I see others stand talking while Prayer is going on; while the more consistent of them (do this) not only during the Prayer, but even when the Priest is giving the Benediction. O, horror! When shall there be salvation? when shall it be possible for us to propitiate God?--Soldiers go to their diversion, and you shall see them, all keeping time in the dance, and nothing done negligently, but, just as in embroidery and painting, from the well-ordered arrangement in each individual part of the composition, there results at once an exceeding harmony and good keeping, so it is here: we have one shield, one head, all of us (in common): and if but some casual point be deranged by negligence, the whole is deranged and is spoilt, and the good order of the many is defeated by the disorder of the one part. And, fearful indeed to think of, here you come, not to a diversion, not to act in a dance, and yet you stand disorderly. Know you not that you are standing in company with angels? with them you chant, with them sing hymns, and do you stand laughing? Is it not wonderful that a thunderbolt is not launched not only at those (who behave thus), but at us? For such behavior might well be visited with the thunderbolt. The Emperor is present, is reviewing the army: and do you, even with His eyes upon you, stand laughing, and endure to see another laughing? How long are we to go on chiding, how long complaining? Ought not such to be treated as very pests and nuisances; as abandoned, worthless reprobates, fraught with innumerable mischiefs, to be driven away from the Church? When will these forebear laughing, who laugh in the hour of the dread Mystery ( en wra frikhs )? when refrain from their trifling, who talk at the instant of the Benediction? Have they no sense of shame before those who are present? have they no fear of God? Are our own idle thoughts not enough for us, is it not enough that in our prayers we rove hither and thither, but laughter also must needs intrude, and bursts of merriment? Is it a theatrical amusement, what is done here? Aye, but, methinks, it is the theatres that do this: to the theatres we owe it that the most of you so refuse to be curbed by us, and to be reformed. What we build up here, is thrown down there: and not only so, but the hearers themselves cannot help being filled with other filthinesses besides: so that the case is just the same as if one should want to clean out a place with a fountain above it discharging mire; for however much you may clean out, more runs in. So it is here. For when we clean people out, as they come here from the theatres with their filthiness, thither they go again, and take in a larger stock of filthiness, as if they lived for the purpose of only giving us trouble, and then come back to us, laden with ordure, in their manners, in their movements, in their words, in their laughter, in their idleness. Then once more we begin shovelling it out afresh, as if we had to do this only on purpose that, having sent them away clean, we may again see them clogging themselves with filth. Therefore I solemnly protest to you, the sound members, that this will be to you judgment and condemnation, and I give you over to God from this time forth, if any having seen a person behaving disorderly, if any having seen any person talking, especially in that part (of the Service), shall not inform against him, not bring him round (to a better behavior). To do this is better than prayer. Leave thy prayer and rebuke him, that thou mayst both do him good, and thyself get profit, and so we may be enabled all to be saved and to attain unto the Kingdom of Heaven, through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost together be glory, dominion, honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.