St. Cyril of Alexandria: The half shekel

St. Cyril of Alexandria has a comment on today’s Gospel reading in which Jesus is confronted about paying the tax and he instructs his disciple to go fishing:

"He was also able to take the coin out of the earth, but he did not do so.  [Instead he] made the miracle out of the sea, so that he might teach us the mystery rich in contemplation.  For we are the fish snatched from the bitter disturbances of life.  It is just as if we have been caught out of the sea on the apostle’s hooks.  In their mouths the fish have Christ the royal coin, which was rendered in payment of debt for two things, for our soul and for our body.  Also for two peoples, the Jews and the Gentiles.  Also in the same way for the poor and the wealthy, since the old law clearly demanded the payment of the half-shekel from both rich and poor alike.  (Frag. 212: MKGK: 222-23)

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  1. Frank says:

    very deep! nice post and nice Blog!

  2. Kim D'Souza says:

    There’s a nice allegorical commentary on today’s gospel in the Excellences of the Congregation of the Oratory of St Philip Neri [London: burns and Oates, 1881], often simply referred to as the Pregi.I find the punctuation in the translation a little odd, but I post it because I think the passage is relevant to priests and those in priestly formation:

    Our Divine Lord, to show how necessary it is for priests to live detached from worldly possessions, taught us a good lesson in the following incident. The Roman tax-gatherers came to Peter and said, “Doth not your Master pay the didrachma?” (Matt xvii 23) He said, Yes; and entering where Christ was, to inform Him of the tribute demanded, our Lord said, “Go to the sea and cast in a hook; and that fish which shall come up, take; and when thou hast opened its mouth, thou shalt find a stater; take that and give it to them for me and thee.” You never read in the Gospels of St Peter fishing with a hook, but always with a net. When he was called to the Apostolate with Andrew his brother, he was fishing with a net. “He saw two brethren casting a net into the sea” (Matt iv 18). At the lake of Genesareth after his call he fished with the net. “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught” (Luke v 4). After the resurrection of Christ, fishing with the other disciples, he also used the net: “Cast the net on the right side of the ship” (John xxi 6). Now what great mystery is hidden here? Peter fished always with a net, this time only was he to fish with a hook, and this by the order of Christ. “Cast in a hook.” I will tell you. This time it was a question of fishing for money: “Thou shalt find a stater.” When he seeks for money, he uses the hook and not the net. The hook takes one fish at a time; and the net a large quantity. Behold the beautiful and important advice which our Saviour gave to each of his priests in this allegory, namely, that in fishing for money and temporal goods, they should leave the net and use the hook; they should take what is sufficient for food and clothing moderation, according to their state in live, and leave aside ease and comfort. “He warns them to fly from avarice,” observes St Clement of Alexandria. “Cast the hook,” which will draw in what is needful for the support of nature; and use not the net, which endeavours to draw all the fish from the sea, that is, rents and houses, fields and vineyards, gardens and furniture. “Cast in the hook,” to secure a patrimony proportionate to the ministry which you exercise; but not the net to amass more property. You are permitted the use, but not the abuse of riches; to support yourself, but not to lay up treasures; but above all, what is here forbidden is the affection, the desire, the greed for riches and possessions “which is the root of all evils” (1 Tim VI.10). The Apostle lifts the veil from this allegory by telling us very clearly that we must be satisfied with what is sufficient for food and clothing. “Having food, and where-with to be covered, with these we are content” (1 Tim VI.8).

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