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

St Cyril Of Alexandria’s Commentary On John 16:16-22 For The Third Sunday After Easter

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 20, 2010

More Resources for this Sunday’s readings can be found here.

16 A little while, and ye behold Me no more; and again a little while, and ye shall see Me; because I go to the Father.

After having first said that He would reveal to them by His Spirit everything that was necessary and |460 essential for them to know, He discourses to them of His Passion, nigh unto which was His Ascension into heaven, rendering the coming of the Spirit very necessary; for it was no longer possible for Him, after He had gone up to the Father, to hold converse in the flesh with His holy Apostles. And He makes His discourse with the greatest caution, thereby robbing their sorrow of its sting; for well He knew that great fear would once more reign in their hearts, and that they would be consumed with an agony of grief, expecting to be overwhelmed by terrible and unendurable evils, when their bereavement should come to pass and the Saviour ascend to the Father. For this cause, I think, He does not tell them that He would die—-the madness of the Jews requiring even His life of Him—-but keeps this secret. Rather in His great consideration for them He greatly softens the rigour of His discourse, and shows them that close upon their suffering would follow the joy of heart which His Resurrection would occasion them, saying: A little while, and ye behold Me no more; and again a little while, and ye shall see Me. For now the time of His death drew nigh which would take the Lord out of the sight of His disciples for a very short season, until, after despoiling hell and throwing open the gates of darkness to those that dwelt therein, He built up again the temple of His Body. Whereupon He manifested Himself once more to His disciples, and promised to be with them alway [even unto the end] of the world, according to the Scripture. For even though He be absent in the body, taking His place for our sake at the Father’s side and sitting at His right Hand, still He dwells by the Spirit with those who are worthy of Him, and has perpetual converse with His Saints; for He has promised that He will not leave us comfortless. As then, there was but a short interval of time before His Passion would begin, He says, A little while, and ye see Me no more; for He was to be hidden from sight in |461 a manner by death for a brief space: and again, He says, a little while, and ye shall see Me. For on the third day He revived, having preached unto the spirits in prison. The proof of His love towards mankind was hereby rendered most complete by His giving salvation, I say, not merely to the quick, but also by His preaching remission of sins to those who were already dead, and who sat in darkness in the depths of the abyss according to the Scripture.

And remark how, with reference to His Passion and His Resurrection, He said: A little while, and ye behold Me no more; and again a little while, and ye shall see Me; and how, merely adding, because I go to My Father, leaves the rest unsaid. He did not explain to them how long He would remain there, or when He would come again. And why was this? Because it is not for us to know times and seasons which the Father hath set within His own authority, according to the words of our Saviour Himself.

17, 18 Some of His disciples therefore said one to another, What is this that He saith unto us, A little while, and ye behold Me not; and again a little while, and ye shall see Me; and, Because I go to the Father? They said therefore, What is this that He saith, A little while? We know not what He saith.

The inspired disciples, not yet understanding what He had said, converse among themselves, and are in doubt as to what a little while, and again a little while, and ye shall not see Me, might mean. Christ, however, anticipates their desire for information, and once more very seasonably shows them that He knows their hearts as God, and that He is as well aware of what they are turning over in their minds, and what was as yet buried in the depths of their hearts, as though they had already given utterance to it in speech. For what is there which can be hid from Him before Whom all things are naked? Wherefore also He saith to one of the Saints: Who is this that hideth counsel from Me, and putteth together |462 words in his heart and thinketh that he keepeth it secret from Me? He then at every turn uses occasion as it offers to nurture in them secure and unshaken faith.

19, 20 Jesus perceived that they were desirous to ask Him, and He said unto them, Do ye enquire among yourselves concerning this, that I said, A little while, and ye behold Me not, and again a little while, and ye shall see Me? 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.

As then they were thirsting for information and sought to know more exactly the meaning of His words, He gives a clearer exposition of His Passion, and vouchsafes them the foreknowledge of the sufferings that He was about to undergo to their great profit. It was not in order that He might engender in them premature alarm that He deemed it meet to give them this explanation beforehand, but in order that, forearmed by their knowledge, they might perchance be found more courageous to withstand the terror that would assail them. For that of which the advent is expected is milder in its approach than that which is wholly unlooked for. When then you who are truly Mine and united to Me by your love towards Me shall behold your Guide and Master undergoing the brunt of the madness of the Jews, their insults and outrages, and all that their mad frenzy will prompt, then, indeed, ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; that is, those who are not minded to follow God’s Will, but are, as it were, enchained by worldly lusts. He refers also to the vulgar herd of Jewish rabble, as well as the impious band of enemies of God who had secured the lead among them, namely, the Scribes and Pharisees, who made jests at the trials our Saviour had to endure, and raised many cries to their own damnation, at one time saying, If Thou art the Son of God come down now from the cross, and we will believe Thee: and at another, Thou that destroyest the temple and buildest |463 it in three days, save Thyself—-for such will be the foul utterances of the blasphemous tongue of the Jews. But while the men of the world would be of this mind, and such will be their deeds and cries, “you will mourn;” but not for long will you have this suffering to endure, for your sorrow will be turned into joy. For I shall live again, and will wholly remove the cause of your despondency, and I will comfort the mourners, and will renew in them a good courage that will be eternal and without end. For the joy of the Saints ceaseth not. For Christ is alive for evermore, and through Him the bonds of death are loosed for all mankind. It is perhaps, too, not impertinent to reflect that the worldly will contrariwise be doomed to a fate of endless misery. For if, when Christ died after the flesh, those who were truly His mourned, but the world rejoiced at His Passion; and if, when death and corruption were rendered powerless by the Resurrection of our Saviour Christ from the dead, the mourning of the Saints was turned into joy, surely in like manner also the joy of the worldly-minded will be lost in sorrow.

21, 22 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 the joy that a man is born into the world. And ye therefore now have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no one taketh from you.

He once more dilates upon the solace He had given them, and illustrates it by divers words, in every way aiding them to dispel the bitterness of their sorrow. For observe how earnestly He persuades them, by obvious illustration, of the necessity of endurance, and of not being over dismayed by troubles or sorrows, if they must surely and inevitably end in rejoicing. For the child, He says, is the fruit of sore travail; and it is through pain that the joy they have in their children comes to mothers. And if at the first they had felt |464 fainthearted at the prospect of the travail of childbirth, they would never have consented to conceive; but would rather have chosen to escape marriage, which is the cause, and would never have become mothers at all; avoiding by their cowardice a state which is highly desirable and thrice blest. In like manner then will your suffering also not fail to meet its reward. For you will rejoice when you see a new child born into the world, incorruptible and beyond the reach of death. Plainly He alludes to Himself here. He tells them that the joy of heart that they will have in Him cannot be taken away from them or lost. For, as Paul says, or rather as the Very Truth Itself implies, having died once for all, He dieth no more. The joy of heart then that rests upon Him hath in very truth a sure foundation. For, if we mourned at His death, who shall take from us our joy, now that we know that He lives and will be alive for evermore—-He Who gives and ordains for us all spiritual blessings? No man then “taketh their joy” from the Saints, as our Saviour says; but they who nailed Him to the Cross were bereft of their joy once and for ever. For now that His suffering is ended, which they thought an occasion for rejoicing, sorrow will be their portion of inevitable necessity.

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2 Responses to “St Cyril Of Alexandria’s Commentary On John 16:16-22 For The Third Sunday After Easter”

  1. […] St Cyril Of Alexandria’s Commentary on John 16:16-22. […]

  2. […] St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on John 16:16-22.  Previously posted. […]

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