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No man taketh the honour unto himself unless he be called of God (St. Cyril)

 

A certain man drew near to Christ the Saviour of us all saying, "Teacher, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest." But He rejected the man, saying, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of heaven a place to lodge in: but that He had not where to lay His head."

 

And yet perchance some one may say, that 'he who promised to follow Him had attained to the desire of what was honourable, and good, and profitable. For what is comparable to being with Christ, and following Him? Or how must it not aid in his salvation? Why therefore did He reject one who was eagerly promising to follow Him constantly? For one may learn from His own words, that to follow Him leads on to every blessing: for He said, "He that followeth Me, walketh not in darkness, but possesseth the light of life." What therefore was there improper in promising to follow Him, in order to gain the light of life? What then is our answer to this? That this was not his object. How could it be? For it is easy for any who will examine such matters accurately, to perceive that in the first place there was great ignorance in his manner of drawing near; and secondly, that it was full of excessive presumptuousness. For his wish was not simply to follow Christ, as so many others of the Jewish multitude did, but rather to thrust himself into apostolic honours. This then was the following which he was seeking for, being self-called thereto: whereas the blessed Paul writes, "that no man taketh the honour unto himself unless he be called of God, as Aaron also was." For Aaron did not enter upon the priesthood of himself, but on the contrary was called of God. And of every one of the holy apostles we find, that he did not promote himself to the apostleship, but rather received the honour from Christ. For He said, "Come after Me; and I will make you to become fishers of men." But this man, as I said, boldly took upon himself gifts thus altogether honourable, and, though no one called him, thrust himself into that which was above his rank. Now were any one to draw near to an earthly king, and say, "I shall promote myself, even though thou grantest it not, to this or that honour, whatever it may be;" it would be a dangerous act, and one that would bring upon him the loss often even of his life. Who can doubt that certainly this would be the result? For in every matter we must await the decision of him who possesses sovereign authority. How then could it be fitting for this man to appoint himself among the disciples, and crown himself with apostolic powers, without being called thereunto at all by Christ?

And there is another reason for which He justly rejected him, and deemed him unworthy of so illustrious an honour. ... He shews (this) by the indirect rebuke which He gave him, not in order to reproach him, but rather for his correction, that he might of his own accord grow better, and become earnest in following the ways of virtue. Therefore He says, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of heaven a place to lodge in: but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head." And the simple meaning of the passage, and that ready to hand, is as follows: that the beasts and birds have dens and dwellings; but I have nothing to offer of those things which are the objects of general pursuit: for 1 have no place where to dwell, and rest Myself, and lay My head. But the inner and secret signification of the passage is attained to by more profound thoughts. For He seems to mean by the foxes and birds of heaven, those wicked, and cunning, and impure powers, the herds of demons. For they are so called in many places in the inspired Scripture. For the blessed Psalmist says of certain men, "They shall be the portions of foxes." And in the Song of Songs it is written again: "Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that destroy the vines." And Christ Himself somewhere says of Herod, who was a bad man, and crafty in his wickedness; "Tell that fox." And elsewhere He said of the seeds that fell upon the pathways, "the birds of heaven came and devoured them." |261 And this we affirm that He said, not of the material and visible birds, but rather of those impure and wicked spirits, who oft-times, when the heavenly seed has fallen upon the hearts of men, remove and, so to speak, carry it away, that they may not bring forth any fruit. As long therefore as the foxes and birds have holes and dens in us, how can Christ enter? Where can He rest? What communion is there between Christ and Belial? For He lodgeth in the saints, and dwelleth in them that love Him: but withdraws from the impure and the unclean. Expel the beasts: hunt out the foxes: drive away the birds: free thy heart from their impurity, in order that the Son of man may find a place in thee to lay His head.

Sant Cyril of Alexandria: Commentary on the Gospel according to Saint Luke, sermon LVII page 258-261