We continue our series on St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical Lectures. The second part of his sixteenth lecture is featured today.
17. Peter was not with Ananias and Sapphira when they sold their possessions, but he was present by the Spirit; Why, he says, has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Ghost Acts 5:3? There was no accuser; there was no witness; whence knew he what had happened? Whiles it remained was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own power? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart ? The unlettered Peter, through the grace of the Spirit, learned what not even the wise men of the Greeks had known. You have the like in the case also of Elisseus. For when he had freely healed the leprosy of Naaman, Gehazi received the reward, the reward of another’s achievement; and he took the money from Naaman, and bestowed it in a dark place. But the darkness is not hidden from the Saints. And when he came, Elisseus asked him; and like Peter, when he said, Tell me whether you sold the land for so much Acts 5:8? He also enquires, Whence do you come, Gehazi 2 Kings 5:25? Not in ignorance, but in sorrow ask I whence do you come? From darkness are you come, and to darkness shall you go; you have sold the cure of the leper, and the leprosy is your heritage. I, he says, have fulfilled the bidding of Him who said to me, Freely you have received, freely give Matthew 10:8; but you have sold this grace; receive now the condition of the sale. But what says Elisseus to him? Went not mine heart with you? I was here shut in by the body, but the spirit which has been given me of God saw even the things afar off, and showed me plainly what was doing elsewhere. Do you see how the Holy Ghost not only rids of ignorance, but invests with knowledge? Do you see how He enlightens men’s souls?
18. Esaias lived nearly a thousand years ago; and he beheld Zion as a booth. The city was still standing, and beautified with public places, and robed in majesty; yet he says, Zion shall be ploughed as a field , foretelling what is now fulfilled in our days. And observe the exactness of the prophecy; for he said, And the daughter of Zion shall be left as a booth in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers. And now the place is filled with gardens of cucumbers. Do you see how the Holy Spirit enlightens the saints? Be not therefore carried away to other things, by the force of a common term, but keep fast the exact meaning.
19. And if ever, while you have been sitting here, a thought concerning chastity or virginity has come into your mind, it has been His teaching. Has not often a maiden, already at the bridal threshold , fled away, He teaching her the doctrine of virginity? Has not often a man distinguished at court , scorned wealth and rank, under the teaching of the Holy Ghost? Has not often a young man, at the sight of beauty, closed his eyes, and fled from the sight, and escaped the defilement? Askest thou whence this has come to pass? The Holy Ghost taught the soul of the young man. Many ways of covetousness are there in the world; yet Christians refuse possessions: wherefore? Because of the teaching of the Holy Ghost. Worthy of honour is in truth that Spirit, holy and good; and fittingly are we baptized into Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. A man, still clothed with a body, wrestles with many fiercest demons; and often the demon, whom many men could not master with iron bands, has been mastered by the man himself with words of prayer, through the power which is in him of the Holy Ghost; and the mere breathing of the Exorcist becomes as fire to that unseen foe. A mighty ally and protector, therefore, have we from God; a great Teacher of the Church, a mighty Champion on our behalf. Let us not be afraid of the demons, nor of the devil; for mightier is He who fights for us. Only let us open to Him our doors; for He goes about seeking such as are worthy and searching on whom He may confer His gifts.
20. And He is called the Comforter, because He comforts and encourages us, and helps our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered Romans 8:26, that is, makes intercession to God. Oftentimes a man for Christ’s sake has been outraged and dishonoured unjustly; martyrdom is at hand; tortures on every side, and fire, and sword, and savage beasts, and the pit. But the Holy Ghost softly whispers to him,
Wait on the Lord , O man; what is now befalling you is a small matter, the reward will be great. Suffer a little while, and you shall be with Angels for ever. The sufferings of this present time art not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us Romans 8:18 . He portrays to the man the kingdom of heaven; He gives him a glimpse of the paradise of delight; and the martyrs, whose bodily countenances are of necessity turned to their judges, but who in spirit are already in Paradise, despise those hardships which are seen.
21. And would you be sure that by the power of the Holy Ghost the Martyrs bear their witness? The Saviour says to His disciples, And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and the magistrates, and authorities, be not anxious how you shall answer, or what you shall say; for the Holy Ghost shall teach you in that very hour, what you ought to say. Luke 12:11-12 For it is impossible to testify as a martyr for Christ’s sake, except a man testify by the Holy Ghost; for if no man can say that Jesus Christ is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost , how shall any man give his own life for Jesus’ sake, but by the Holy Ghost?
22. Great indeed, and all-powerful in gifts, and wonderful, is the Holy Ghost. Consider, how many of you are now sitting here, how many souls of us are present. He is working suitably for each, and being present in the midst, beholds the temper of each, beholds also his reasoning and his conscience, and what we say, and think, and believe. Great indeed is what I have now said, and yet is it small. For consider, I pray, with mind enlightened by Him, how many Christians there are in all this diocese, and how many in the whole province of Palestine, and carry forward your mind from this province, to the whole Roman Empire; and after this, consider the whole world; races of Persians, and nations of Indians, Garbs and Sarmatians, Gauls and Spaniards, and Moors, Libyans and Ethiopians, and the rest for whom we have no names; for of many of the nations not even the names have reached us. Consider, I pray, of each nation, Bishops, Presbyters, Deacons, Solitaries, Virgins, and laity besides; and then behold their great Protector, and the Dispenser of their gifts;— how throughout the world He gives to one chastity, to another perpetual virginity, to another almsgiving, to another voluntary poverty, to another power of repelling hostile spirits. And as the light, with one touch of its radiance sheds brightness on all things, so also the Holy Ghost enlightens those who have eyes; for if any from blindness is not vouchsafed His grace, let him not blame the Spirit, but his own unbelief.
23. You have seen His power, which is in all the world; tarry now no longer upon earth, but ascend on high. Ascend, I say, in imagination even unto the first heaven, and behold there so many countless myriads of Angels. Mount up in your thoughts, if you can, yet higher; consider, I pray you, the Archangels, consider also the Spirits; consider the Virtues, consider the Principalities, consider the Powers, consider the Thrones, consider the Dominions —of all these the Comforter is the Ruler from God, and the Teacher, and the Sanctifier. Of Him Elias has need, and Elisseus, and Esaias, among men; of Him Michael and Gabriel have need among Angels. Naught of things created is equal in honour to Him: for the families of the Angels, and all their hosts assembled together, have no equality with the Holy Ghost. All these the all-excellent power of the Comforter overshadows. And they indeed are sent forth to minister Hebrews 1:14, but He searches even the deep things of God, according as the Apostle says, For the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knows the thing of a man, save the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God 1 Corinthians 2:10-11 .
24. He preached concerning Christ in the Prophets; He wrought in the Apostles; He to this day seals the souls in Baptism. And the Father indeed gives to the Son; and the Son shares with the Holy Ghost. For it is Jesus Himself, not I, who says, All things are delivered unto Me of My Father Matthew 11:27; and of the Holy Ghost He says, When He, the Spirit of Truth, shall come, and the rest…. He shall glorify Me; for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you. John 16:13-14 The Father through the Son, with the Holy Ghost, is the giver of all grace; the gifts of the Father are none other than those of the Son, and those of the Holy Ghost; for there is one Salvation, one Power, one Faith; One God, the Father; One Lord, His only-begotten Son; One Holy Ghost, the Comforter. And it is enough for us to know these things; but inquire not curiously into His nature or substance : for had it been written, we would have spoken of it; what is not written, let us not venture on; it is sufficient for our salvation to know, that there is Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost.
25. This Spirit descended upon the seventy Elders in the days of Moses. (Now let not the length of the discourse, beloved, produce weariness in you: but may He the very subject of our discourse grant strength to every one, both to us who speak, and to you who listen!) This Spirit, as I was saying, came down upon the seventy Elders in the time of Moses; and this I say to you, that I may now prove, that He knows all things, and works as He will. 1 Corinthians 12:11 The seventy Elders were chosen; And the Lord came down in a cloud, and took of the Spirit that was upon Moses, and put it upon the seventy Elders ; not that the Spirit was divided, but that His grace was distributed in proportion to the vessels, and the capacity of the recipients. Now there were present sixty and eight, and they prophesied; but Eldad and Modad were not present: therefore that it might be shown that it was not Moses who bestowed the gift, but the Spirit who wrought, Eldad and Modad, who though called, had not as yet presented themselves, did also prophesy.
26. Jesus the Son of Nun, the successor of Moses, was amazed; and came to him and said,
Have you heard that Eldad and Modad are prophesying? They were called, and they came not; my lord Moses, forbid them Numbers 11:28 .
I cannot forbid them, he says,
for this grace is from Heaven; nay, so far am I from forbidding them, that I myself am thankful for it. I think not, however, that you have said this in envy; art thou jealous for my sake, because that they prophesy, and you prophesy not yet? Wait for the proper season; and oh that all the Lord’s people may be prophets, whenever the Lord shall give His Spirit upon them Numbers 11:29! saying this also prophetically, whenever the Lord shall give;
For as yet then He has not given it; so you have it not yet.— Had not then Abraham this, and Isaac, and Jacob, and Joseph? And they of old, had they it not? Nay, but the words,
whenever the Lord shall give evidently mean
give it upon all; as yet indeed the grace is partial, then it shall be given lavishly. And he secretly alluded to what was to happen among us on the day of Pentecost; for He Himself came down among us. He had however also come down upon many before. For it is written, And Jesus the son of Nun was filled with a spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him. Deuteronomy 34:9 You see the figure everywhere the same in the Old and New Testament—in the days of Moses, the Spirit was given by laying on of hands; and by laying on of hands Peter also gives the Spirit. And on you also, who art about to be baptized, shall His grace come; yet in what manner I say not, for I will not anticipate the proper season.
27. He also came down upon all righteous men and Prophets; Enos, I mean, and Enoch, and Noah, and the rest; upon Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; for as regards Joseph, even Pharaoh perceived that he had the Spirit of God within him. Genesis 41:38 As to Moses, and the wonderful works wrought by the Spirit in his days, you have heard often: This Spirit Job also had, that most enduring man, and all the saints, though we repeat not all their names. He also was sent forth when the Tabernacle was in making, and filled with wisdom the wise-hearted men who were with Bezaleel.
28. In the might of this Spirit, as we have it in the Book of Judges, Othniel judged Judges 3:10; Gideon waxed strong; Jephtha conquered ; Deborah, a woman, waged war; and Samson, so long as he did righteously, and grieved Him not, wrought deeds above man’s power. And as for Samuel and David, we have it plainly in the Books of the Kingdoms, how by the Holy Ghost they prophesied themselves, and were rulers of the prophets—and Samuel was called the Seer 1 Samuel 9:9; and David says distinctly, The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me 2 Samuel 23:2, and in the Psalms, And take not your Holy Spirit from me , and again, Your good Spirit shall lead me in the land of righteousness. And as we have it in Chronicles, Azariah 2 Chronicles 15:1, in the time of King Asa, and Jahaziel in the time of King Jehoshaphat, partook of the Holy Ghost; and again, another Azariah, he who was stoned. And Ezra says, You gave also Your good Spirit to instruct them. But as touching Elias who was taken up, and Elisseus, those inspired and wonder-working men, it is manifest, without our saying so, that they were full of the Holy Ghost.
29. And if further a man peruse all the books of the Prophets, both of the Twelve, and of the others, he will find many testimonies concerning. the Holy Ghost; as when Micah says in the person of God, surely I will perfect power by the Spirit the Lord Micah 3:8; and Joel cries, And it shall come to pass afterwards, says God, that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh Joel 2:28, and the rest; and Haggai, Because I am with you, says the Lord of Hosts Haggai 2:4; and My Spirit remains in the midst of you ; and in like manner Zechariah, But receive My words and My statutes which I command by My Spirit, to My servants the Prophets Zechariah 1:6; and other passages.
30. Esaias too, with his majestic voice, says, And the Spirit of God shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and godliness; and the Spirit of the fear of God shall fill Him Isaiah 11:2; signifying that the Spirit is one and undivided, but His operations various. So again, Jacob My servant,….. I have put My Spirit upon Him. And again, I will pour My Spirit upon your seed ; and again, And now the Lord Almighty and His Spirit has sent Me ; and again, This is My covenant with them, says the Lord, My Spirit which is upon you Isaiah 59:21; and again, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me Isaiah 61:1, and the rest; and again in his charge against the Jews, But they rebelled and vexed His Holy Spirit , and Where is He that put His Holy Spirit within them ? Also you have in Ezekiel (if you be not now weary of listening), what has already been quoted, And the Spirit fell upon me, and said unto me, Speak; Thus says the Lord. Ezekiel 11:5 But the words, fell upon me we must understand in a good sense, that is
lovingly; and as Jacob, when he had found Joseph, fell upon his neck; as also in the Gospels, the loving father, on seeing his son who had returned from his wandering, had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And again in Ezekiel, And he brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldæa, to them of the captivity. Ezekiel 11:24 And other texts you heard before, in what was said about Baptism; Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you , and the rest; a new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you ; and then immediately, And I will put My Spirit within you. And again, The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the Spirit of the Lord Ezekiel 37:1 .
31. He endued with wisdom the soul of Daniel, that young as he was he should become a judge of Elders. The chaste Susanna was condemned as a wanton; there was none to plead her cause; for who was to deliver her from the rulers? She was led away to death, she was now in the hands of the executioners. But her Helper was at hand, the Comforter, the Spirit who sanctifies every rational nature. Come hither to me, He says to Daniel; young though thou be, convict old men infected with the sins of youth; for it is written, God raised up the Holy Spirit upon a young stripling ; and nevertheless, (to pass on quickly,) by the sentence of Daniel that chaste lady was saved. We bring this forward as a testimony; for this is not the season for expounding. Nebuchadnezzar also knew that the Holy Spirit was in Daniel; for he says to him, O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians, of whom I know, that the Holy Spirit of God is in you. Daniel 4:9 One thing he said truly, and one falsely; for that he had the Holy Spirit was true, but he was not the master of the magicians, for he was no magician, but was wise through the Holy Ghost. And before this also, he interpreted to him the vision of the Image, which he who had seen it himself knew not; for he says, Tell me the vision, which I who saw it know not. You see the power of the Holy Ghost; that which they who saw it, know not, they who saw it not, know and interpret.
32. And indeed it were easy to collect very many texts out of the Old Testament, and to discourse more largely concerning the Holy Ghost. But the time is short; and we must be careful of the proper length of the lecture. Wherefore, being for the present content awhile with passages from the Old Testament, we will, if it be God’s pleasure, proceed in the next Lecture to the remaining texts out of the New Testament. And may the God of peace, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, count all of you worthy of His spiritual and heavenly gifts:— To whom be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.