Another goodie from the collection at Tertullian.org! This one is adapted from the Syriac version of St. Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on Luke, which he apparently gave as a series of sermons. The 1859 translator was R. Payne Smith, a sublibrarian at the Bodleian Library who also edited and published the Syriac manuscript.
So here’s St. Cyril on eggs and Lk. 11:12, in Sermon 79.
“….We sometimes draw near to our bounteous God, offering Him petitions for various objects, according to each one’s pleasure — but occasionally without discernment, or without any careful examination of what truly is to our advantage, and of what, if granted by God, would prove a blessing; and what would be to our injury, if we received it.
“Rather, by the inconsiderate impulse of our fancy, we fall into desires replete with ruin, and which thrust the souls of those that entertain them into the snare of death and the meshes of hell.
“When, therefore, we ask of God aught of this kind, we shall by no means receive it. On the contrary, we offer a petition fit only for ridicule.
“And why shall we not receive it? Is the God of all weary of bestowing gifts upon us?
“By no means.
“‘Why, then?’ someone perhaps may say, ‘Will He not give, since He is bounteous in giving?’
“Let us learn from Him. Or rather, you have already heard Him here saying, ‘What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?’ (Lk. 11:12)
‘Understand,’ He says, ‘by an image or plain example taken from what happens among you, the meaning of what I say.’
“‘You are the father of children; you have in you the sharp spur of natural affection towards them; in every way you wish to benefit them. When, therefore,’ He says, ‘one asks of you bread, without delay and with pleasure you give it, as knowing well that he seeks of you wholesome food. But when, from want of understanding, a little child that knows not yet how to distinguish what it sees, nor moreover what is the service and use of the various objects that fall in our way, asks for stones to eat, do you,’ He says, ‘give them? Or rather, do you not make him desist from any such desire as would be to his injury?’
“And the same reasoning holds good of the serpent and fish, and the egg and scorpion. If he ask for a fish, you will grant it. But if he see a serpent, and wish to seize it, you will hold back the child’s hand. If he want an egg, you will offer it at once; and encourage his desire after things of this sort, that the infant may advance to riper age. But if he see a scorpion creeping about, and run after it, imagining it to be something pretty, and being ignorant of the harm it can do, you will, I suppose, of course stop him, and not let him be injured by the noxious animal.
“When therefore He says, ‘You who are evil’ — by which He means, ‘you whose mind is capable of being influenced by evil, and not uniformly inclined to good like the God of all’ — ‘You know how to give good gifts to your children. How much more shall your heavenly Father give a good spirit to them that ask Him?’ And by ‘a good spirit,’ He means spiritual grace. For this in every way is good, and if a man receive it, he will become most blessed, and worthy of admiration.
“Most ready, therefore, is our heavenly Father, to bestow gifts upon us; so that whosoever is denied what he asks, is himself the cause of it. For he asks, as I said, what God will not give…
“Examine, therefore, your prayer. For if you ask aught, by receiving which, you will become a lover of God — God, as I said, will grant it. But if it be anything unreasonable, or that is able to do you an injury, He will withhold His hand.
“He will not bestow the wished-for object, in order that He may neither give you anything of an injurious nature — for this is completely alien from Him — nor let you harm yourself by receiving it.”