Memorial of Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Father of the Church

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces...” (Matthew 7:6.)

Saint Augustine of Hippo comments on this verse from the Gospel proclaimed during today’s Mass:

“Now in this precept we are forbidden to give a holy thing to dogs or to cast pearls before swine. We must diligently seek to determine the gravity of these words: holy, pearls, dogs and swine. A holy thing is whatever it would be impious to profane or tear apart. Even a fruitless attempt to do so makes one already guilty of such impiety, though the holy thing may by its very nature remain inviolable and indestructible. Pearls signify all spiritual things that are worthy of being highly prized. Because these things lie hidden in secret, it is as though they were being drawn up from the deep. Because they are found in the wrappings of allegories, it is as though they were contained within shells that have been opened. It is clear therefore that one and the same thing can be called both a holy thing and a pearl. It can be called a holy thing because it ought not to be destroyed and a pearl because it ought not to be despised. One tries to destroy what one does not wish to leave intact. One despises what is deemed worthless, as if beneath him. Hence, whatever is despised is said to be trampled under foot.

You know that dogs rush madly to tear apart whatever they attack, leaving nothing intact. Hence the Lord says, “Do not give to dogs what is holy.” For although the holy thing itself cannot be shattered or destroyed but remains intact and unharmed, what must be considered is the desire of those who resist the truth with the utmost violence and bitterness. They do everything in their power to destroy what is holy, as if its destruction were possible. Although swine — unlike dogs — do not attack by biting, they befoul a thing by trampling all over it. Therefore “do not cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet and turn and attack you.” Thus we may rightly understand that these words (dogs and swine) are now used to designate respectively those who assail the truth and those who resist it.

By saying “lest they turn and tear you apart” Jesus does not say, “Lest they tear apart the pearls themselves.” For by trampling on the pearls even when they turn around to hear something further, they lacerate the one who cast the pearls they have already trampled upon. Of course, it would not be easy to find anything that would please one who would trample on pearls. Who could please one who despises divine truth revealed at such great cost? But I do not see how anyone who tries to teach such people will not themselves be torn apart by indignation and disgust, for both dogs and swine are unclean animals. Therefore we must be careful not to reveal anything to one who cannot bear it, for it is better that one make a search for what is concealed than assail or despise what is revealed. Indeed, it is only through hatred or contempt that people refuse to accept truths of manifest importance. Hence for one reason some are called dogs, and for the other reason some are called swine.” (Sermon on the Mount, 2.)

O God,
Who made the Bishop
Saint Cyril of Alexandria
an invincible champion
of the divine motherhood
of the most Blessed Virgin Mary,
grant, we pray, that we,
who believe she is truly the Mother of God,
may be saved through the
Incarnation of Christ Your Son.
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen