The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary On John 16:16-22 For The Third Sunday After Easter

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 20, 2010

John 16:16-22 is used as the Gospel reading for this Sunday’s Mass according to the Extraordinary Form of the Rite (i.e., pre Vatican II).  This post has not yet been edited.

Ver. 16.—A little while, and ye shall not see Me; and again, a little while, and ye shall see Me, because I go to the Father. For in a few hours I shall die on the cross, and be buried, but in three days I shall rise again, and manifest Myself to you with great joy, for I shall shortly afterwards ascend into heaven, and sit at the right hand of the Father. For I shall not be detained by death, but shall conquer it in My own Person, and with you overcome it also. So S. Chrysostom, Cyril, Leontius, Theophylact, Euthymius, &c., S. Augustine, Bede, and Maldonatus explain it otherwise. I shall abide with you for forty days only, and then after My ascension ye will see Me no more, then after another “little time,” ye will see Me again, in the day of judgment, and the general resurrection, when I shall take you both in body and soul into heaven with Myself, I will bless and glorify you. For I go to My Father, to reign with Him in glory until that time. And this whole period, though one of many thousand years, is but like a small point compared with the eternity of God.
Hear S. Augustine (in loc.): “The whole space which the present age of the world passes through is but a little while. As the same Evangelist says (1Jo_2:18), ‘It is the last hour.'” And further on, “This ‘little while’ seems long to us, because it is yet going on. But when it is ended, we shall feel how short it has been. Let not then our joy be like that of the world, of which it is said ‘the world shall rejoice.’ Nor let us be sorrowful, and without joy, in our travailing with this longing desire, but as the Apostle says, ‘Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation,’ because she who is in travail (to whom we are compared) rejoices more at the child which will be born of her, than she sorrows for her present suffering.” Hence the Psalmist and after him 2 Peter iii. 8, One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, &c.
Ver. 17.—Then said some of His disciples among themselves, What is this that He saith unto us? . . . We cannot tell what He saith. Christ’s words seemed to be obscure, a very enigma, and no wonder, for it is just the same to many Christians even now. Christ did this intentionally, to rouse the minds of the sorrowing Apostles to ask the meaning of this strange expression: so that He, in His answer, might remove, or anyhow mitigate, their sorrow. S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Euthymius give two reasons for their asking: because His words were obscure in themselves; and secondly, because they were weighed down with sorrow. Rupertus adds that they did not yet certainly believe that He would rise again on the third day. S. Augustine and Bede give a further reason for their being troubled at the twice repeated expression “a little while;” namely, that the brief pleasure of this life is changed, in the next life, into eternal and unbounded joy. Sec 2Co_4:17. Take which view you prefer.
Ver. 19.—But Jesus knew that they wished to ask Him. But dared not through fear and dread. Christ knew this by the Power of His Godhead, looking into their secret thoughts and inward desires. He therefore anticipated their reply, to show that He knew all hearts, and was therefore God (so Cyril); and He adds,
Ver. 20.—Verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. Understand by this that the joy of the world will be changed into sorrow, says Rupertus. But (1.) S. Chrysostom, Cyril, Leontius, Theophylact, and others, explain this of our Lord’s sufferings and death, which will cause just sorrow to you, and rejoicing to the Jews, and of His Resurrection on the third day, at which the Jews will be sorrowful, and full of indignation at My victory over them. But in a secondary sense He intended to signify the like sufferings they would have to endure for His sake. Whence (2.) S. Augustine, Bede, and Maldonatus explain of the sufferings which the Apostles would have to undergo in preaching the faith (at which the world will rejoice), and of the eternal blessedness they would afterwards enjoy with Him.
Morally. Holy Scripture frequently teaches that the righteous suffer adversities in this life, and that the ungodly exult in their prosperity. (See Job_21:9; Psa_83:2; Jer 12 ; Hab 3) Daily experience teaches us the same. But Scripture teaches us also that the godly are happy and the wicked are sorrowful at their death; see Luk_6:25; S. Jam_5:2-3; and Rom_8:18. “It is difficult (says S. Jerome, Epist. xxxiv.), nay, impossible, for any one to enjoy his good things both here and hereafter, to fill his belly here, and his soul there, to pass from delight to delight, to be the first in both worlds, to appear high in glory both in heaven and earth.”
Accordingly, Tertullian (de Spect. cap. 28), commenting with elegance and tenderness on these words, thus writes: “This is ordered in turns. Now they rejoice, we are in conflict. ‘The world will rejoice; but ye will be sorrowful.’ Let us mourn while the heathen rejoice, that we may rejoice when they begin to mourn; lest if we now rejoice with them, we shall then also mourn with them. Thou art over-nice, 0 Christian, if thou desirest pleasure in this world; also most foolish, if thou considerest it pleasure.” And again, Pray tell me, cannot we live without pleasure, since we must die without it? For what else is our wish than that of the Apostles, to depart out of the world, and to be received with the Lord? This is our pleasure, as it is also our desire.” He goes on, “What greater pleasure than the loathing of pleasure, than contempt of the world, than true liberty, than a pure conscience, than sufficiency of life, than no dread of death, than trampling down the gods of the heathen, than casting out devils, than working cures, than living to God? These are the pleasures of Christians, holy, ever abiding, free, &c. Bestir thyself at the signal of God, awake at the trump of the angel, glory in the palms of martyrdom. Behold uncleanness cast down by chastity, unbelief slain by faith, cruelty beaten by mercy, wantonness overshadowed by modesty. Such are the contests in which we are crowned.” And again, “What is that exultation of angels, what the glory of the rising saints, what hereafter the kingdom of righteousness, what the city of the New Jerusalem?” Isaiah graphically describes this (Isa_55:14).
Hence S Cecilia, who ever bare the Gospel of Christ in her bosom, and also preached it, converted Tiburtius and others. And she inculcated this first of all: Seek not the fleeting joy of this life, in order that ye may obtain the eternal joy of that life which follows after. In this ye will live but a short time, in that ye will live for ever. And when the Prefect Almachius said that she was foolish in despising the joys of this world and embracing the hard and austere life of Christians, her husband Valerian replied, “The time will come when we shall receive a thousand-fold the fruits of our affliction, and they who are now elated with joy will weep when we are rejoicing.” This is the time of sowing. They therefore who sow tears in this life will in that blessed and eternal life reap everlasting joy.
Lastly, S. Cyprian in his treatise De Mortalitate (the Pestilence), chap. 3, says:- “If to see Christ is to rejoice, and our joy cannot be, unless we see Him, what blindness is it, what madness, to love the sufferings, the pains and tears of the world, and not rather to hasten to that joy which cannot be taken from us?”
Ver. 21.—A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but when she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. As hoping that the child will be a support and credit to her in this life, and will succeed her after her death. For since men cannot themselves live for ever, they hope in a sense to live in their children. A queen rejoices in her first-born as having borne a king. This illustration is most apposite. For Christ compares His death to child-birth, and His resurrection to the joy after child-birth. For Christ suffered anguish and tortures like a woman in child-birth, but when He saw Himself rising again through the merit of His death, and knew that we should in like manner rise again, He greatly rejoiced Himself, and inspired the Apostles and all the faithful with great joy. For He brought them forth as His children, by dying for them on the Cross. So S. Chrysostom, Cyril, Theophylact, Euthymius. You may apply this also to the persecutions and sufferings of the Apostles and faithful in this life, and to their joy and exultation at the Resurrection.
A man-child. “Because,” as says S. Augustine (in loc.), “the joy is wont to be greater when a boy is born, to signify mystically that the faithful ought to be of a masculine mind both in doing and suffering, for they are called to the contemplation of heavenly things, and even to take heaven by storm, not to the softness of this world,” as says Gloss. inter. Moreover, this man-child is afterwards called “a man” to signify the Resurrection of Christ, for by His resurrection Christ, as it were, is born again, not as a child, but as a perfect man. So S. Chrysostom says: By saying a man He simply suggests His own Resurrection, and our own blessedness after death; further, says Alcuin, “we shall be born into eternal life.” Whence Bede says, “It ought not to seem a strange thing, if he who departs out of this life is said to be ‘born.’ For as he who comes forth from his mother’s womb into this light, so is he who is freed from the bonds of the flesh raised up to eternal life. Hence the solemnities of the Saints are said to be their birthdays, not their burials.”
Moreover, the sorrow of the disciples is rightly compared to that of a woman in travail: (1.) Because both are painful, and the pain is greater at the birth of a boy. (2.) Because they are short. (3.) And perilous. (4.) Both turned into joy, the one by the birth of a child, the other by the Resurrection of Christ and His followers. So S. Cyril. (5.) As the same child is the cause of pain in being born, and of joy afterwards, so Christ also caused great pain to the disciples by His death, and great joy by His Resurrection. (6.) The joy in either case is surpassing and very great, and swallows up all the preceding pain.
Ver. 22.—And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your hearts shall rejoice, &c. This is the application of the parable, points out its scope and profitable teaching. He compares the two cases, of a woman in child-birth and the Apostles, both in the present suffering and the subsequent joys. Your joy will remain for ever. For I shall rise glorious and immortal, I shall die no more. I shall be present to aid you in all your persecutions and afflictions; I will make you superior to all adversities, and at last crown you with a glorious martyrdom, and raise you to heavenly and eternal joys which no one will take from you. Christ then speaks first of the joy of the Apostles at His own Resurrection, and secondarily of their own resurrection and happiness, which is brought forth by the labour and pain of this life, as a child by the pain of child-birth. S. Cyprian (ad Demetrium) [chap. xi.] excellently says, “A man whose whole glory and happiness is in the world, suffers punishment by worldly misfortunes. He weeps and groans if evil befall him in this world, who cannot fare well when life is past. Whose pleasure is all enjoyed in this life, whose consolations all end here, whose frail and brief life counts upon having some sweetness and pleasure here. But when they go hence, pain and sorrow alone await them. But they whose hopes rest on future blessings, feel no pain at the assaults of present ills. In a word, we are not astounded, or crushed, or grieved by adversities. We murmur not at any disaster, or bodily weakness; living in the Spirit more than in the flesh, we triumph over the weakness of our body by the strength of our mind.” And just below: “There flourishes among us the strength of hope, and the stedfastness of faith, and even among the ruins of a falling world our mind is erect, our resolution unmoved, our patience is ever full of joy, and our soul ever rests secure on its God.”
Ye have sorrow. Ye are sorrowful on account of My departure and by death, and after My death ye will be sorrowful on account of your impending persecutions and crosses. “And so also will other believers be full of sorrow, who through tears and sufferings are striving after eternal joys,” says Alcuin. Moreover, as S. Augustine observes on these sufferings, “we are not sorrowful without joy, but as the Apostle says (Rom_12:12) “rejoicing in hope,” for the travailing woman to whom we are compared, is gladdened more at the child who is about to be born, than saddened by her present pangs.”
Tropologically. The mind of a penitent sinner, and also the mind of a righteous man, when thinking on martyrdom, entrance into “religion,” or any other difficult and heroic work, is like a woman in her pangs, because he strives with great pain and labour to bring His conversion, martyrdom, or entrance into religion, to the birth. Read S. Augustine (Conf. viii. 8), where he records with what great effort he brought to the birth his purpose of a new life. As Isaiah says (chap. xxvi. 17.) But yet this travailing causes great joy. But the ungodly in like manner bring their evil deeds to the birth with great labour and pain, which turns into the torments of hell at last. See Isa_59:4; Psa_7:14; Wisd. 5:7, and elsewhere.
Again, a preacher, a confessor, or any one else who strives to win souls to God, does it with great travail. Whence S. Gregory (Moral. xxx. 9) compares such an one to a labouring hind, which with great difficulty brings forth her young, and bellows through pain. Explaining Job xxxix. 1. Few persons think what labour is displayed in the preaching of the Fathers. With what pangs, with what efforts in faith and conversation, do they bring forth souls. How do they look round with careful observation, so as to be bold in their directions, compassionate in infirmities, gentle in their exhortations, humble in displaying authority, resolute in contempt of earthly things, unbending in enduring hardships, and yet weak in not ascribing their strength to themselves. How pained for those that fall, how anxious for those that still stand, with what fervour they strive to attain to more, with what fear to keep fast what they have already attained to.
And your joy no man will take from you. “Because Christ, who dieth no more, is their joy” (Gloss Inter.) And that will be more true in heaven. Hence S. Augustine (in loc.), “Nor will any end suffice, save that of which there is no end.”

2 Responses to “Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary On John 16:16-22 For The Third Sunday After Easter”

  1. […] Cornelius a Lapide On John 16:16-22. I have not yet edited the post, so it may be a little difficult to read. […]

  2. […] Cornelius a Lapide on John 16:16-22. Previously posted. […]

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