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 16:12-15

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 24, 2010

Note: More resources for this Sunday’s readings will appear on this site throughout the week.

Joh 16:12  I have yet many things to say to you: but you cannot bear them now.

Ver. 12.—I have yet many things to say to you (of the mysteries of the faith, of the conversion of the Gentiles, of the foundation and government of the Church, of the institution of priests and bishops, and the whole ecclesiastical hierarchy), but ye cannot bear them now. Your mind cannot take in such weighty matters, both because it is weak and ill-informed, and so accustomed to the carnal ordinances of the Jews, as to be unable to conceive such lofty and spiritual subjects; and also because it is entirely occupied with sorrow, which keeps it from rising to the apprehension of so many and such noble subjects. But I will send the Holy Spirit, who will by His enlightenment make you capable of hearing and comprehending them. So S. Chrysostom, Cyril, Theophylact, and S. Augustine. Christ encourages His Apostles to lift up their hearts, and cherish the desire of apprehending these great mysteries by the coming of the Holy Spirit. We may thence infer that the Apostles and the Church advanced only by degrees in the knowledge of the mysteries of the faith, as the light of the sun gradually increases from dawn to mid-day. (See Son_6:9.) And every believer gradually grows in faith and holiness, as is said Pro_4:18.

Joh 16:13  But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth. For he shall not speak of himself: but what things soever he shall hear, he shall speak. And the things that are to come, he shall shew you.

Ver. 13.—But when He, the Spirit of truth (see above xiv. 17), is come, He will teach you all truth, which it is fitting you should know in this life, both for guiding yourselves and all nations into the way of salvation. So S. Cyril, Theophylact, Euthymius. For He would not teach them all truth in this life, but in heaven. So S. Augustine and Bede. In the Greek [as in English Version] we read “will guide you into all truth.” For the way to attain truth is study, examination of Holy Scripture, the works of the Fathers, prayer and invocation of the Holy Spirit. It is therefore clear that the Holy Spirit gradually taught the Apostles more and greater mysteries. It is plain from Acts x. that long after Pentecost He revealed to S. Peter that the Gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles, and from Acts xv. that the Gentiles were not to be circumcised, or obliged to keep the law of Moses. Wherefore on the Thursday after Pentecost the Church prays, “We beseech Thee, 0 Lord, that the Comforter, who proceedeth from Thee, may enlighten our hearts, and lead them, as Thy Son promised, into all truth.”

For he shall not speak of himself: but what things soever he shall hear, he shall speak. (1.) S. Chrysostom explains, He shall not teach anything contrary to what I have taught (so also S. Cyril, Theophylact, Rupertus, Maldonatus). S. Chrysostom says, This is added, lest by saying that the Holy Spirit would teach all truth, He should make Him greater than the Son, as though He did not teach all truth. (2.) S. Ambrose (de Spirit. Sancto, ii. 12) explains, “He shall not speak of Himself,” i.e., not without participation with the Father and Myself, and therefore what He shall speak the Father and the Son will speak also. (3.) S. Augustine: “He speaks as breathed by the Father and the Son.” (4.) It is best explained by joining together the last two meanings in this way: He will not speak of Himself, but by the will of the Father and Myself, for He is “of” Both. (See Didymus de Sp. S.) Christ here alludes to men who are said to speak “of themselves” when they invent anything out of their own brain, and not according to the truth of things. But to speak in this way “of Himself,” the Spirit could not do. But again, Christ wished to teach that the Father and Himself were both the source of truth, and also of the Holy Spirit Himself, and therefore that the Holy Spirit would teach the same truth as He had taught. For what He hath heard from eternity, He hears, and will hear for ever, as deriving it together with His Divine Essence both from the Father and the Son. Christ also often said that He spake not of Himself, but what He heard from the Father. For to the Father belongs the source of origin, of essence, and of knowledge. Hear S. Augustine (in loc.): “For Him to hear is to know, and to know is to Be. From Him from whom He proceeds, is His essence, His knowledge and His hearing. The Holy Spirit ever hears, because He ever knows.” And Didymus: “But that the Father speaks and the Son hears, signifies their common nature and consent. But the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of truth and wisdom, cannot when the Son speaks hear what He knew not before, since it is of His very nature to proceed from the Son, proceeding as the truth from the truth, the Comforter from the Comforter, God from God.”

Again, S. Augustine (ibid.) “Let it not move you that the word is used in the future tense, for that hearing is sempiternal, because that knowledge is sempiternal. But in that which is sempiternal, without beginning and without end, a verb of particular tense is put. Nor do we say untruthfully, ‘Was,’ and ‘Is,’ and ‘Will be:’ ‘Was’ because it never was wanting, ‘Will be’ because it never will be wanting, ‘Is’ because it ever is.”

And the things that are to come, he shall shew you. He will teach you every truth which concerns yourselves and your office: not only past and present, but also future. He will make you, not only Apostles and Evangelists, but will bestow on you the gift of Prophecy (see Act_10:28; Act_20:29; Act_21:11.) The Apocalypse of S. John is almost a continuous prophecy, for it was fitting that the Apostles should be superior to the Prophets of old. Whence Didymus says (de Spirit. Sancto): “By the Spirit of truth a perfect knowledge of future events is conferred on the Saints, and by this Prophets looked on things future as though they were present. For the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth which reveals all truths, even those that are future. For it is the Spirit of Eternal Wisdom which maketh friends of God and Prophets” (Wisd. 7:27). S. Chrysostom gives the reason. He roused in this way the mind of the Apostles; for mankind are most eager to know the future. He therefore freed them from this anxiety, by showing that the future would be revealed to them.

Analogically, Bede says: “Show them things to come; i.e., the joys of the heavenly country and the sufferings they would have to endure for Christ. The Interlinear Gloss says, “Not only what will happen in time, but also in eternity, inflaming them with the love of them.”

Joh 16:14  He shall glorify me: because he shall receive of mine and shall shew it to you.

Ver. 14.—He shall glorify Me. By showing Me to be the Son of God: or with S. Augustine (in log.), “By shedding abroad love in men’s hearts, and making them spiritual, He declared to them that the Son was equal to the Father, though they had before known Him in the flesh. And the Apostles, filled with boldness by that very love, and having banished fear, proclaimed Christ to men, and thus was His fame spread abroad over the whole world; for that which they would do by the Holy Spirit, He said that the Holy Spirit would Himself do.”

Because He shall receive of mine. That is, of My Divine Essence, says Nazianzen (Orat. de Fide.), and consequently of My will and knowledge, for this He ought to announce to you, say S. Cyril, Chrysostom, Jansenius, Toletus, and others. Didymus observes: “The Son, in giving, loses not that which He bestows, nor does He impart it to others, to His own loss. Nor does the Holy Spirit receive that which He had not before. The Holy Spirit must be understood to receive from the Son in such a manner that the substance of both the giver and receiver should be recognised as One: and so also the Son receives His subsistence from the Father.” Maldonatus thus, “He will receive of Mine, that is, He will come in My name, and as My Legate will teach no other doctrine than Mine.” But this seems foreign to the subject. Nonnus wrongly paraphrased, “He shall receive of My Father,” as though the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father only.

From this passage the Fathers (and even the Council of Florence, sess. 25) prove both the Divinity of Christ, and the Procession of the Holy Spirit from both the Father and the Son. Maldonatus quotes them fully, and also Bellarmine (de Christo, lib. ii. 23 and 24 chap.) And Theodorus of Heraclea (in Cat. Græc.) learnedly says, “The Holy Spirit was a witness of the Divinity of the Only Begotten, since He came of His essence, and made known His essence,” for the Holy Spirit could not have been breathed forth except by Him who was God.

But why did Christ say “of Mine” and not “of Me”? I reply, Because the Holy Spirit received not from the Son all that is in the Son. He received His essence, but not His filiation. But it is from His essence and filiation that He is constituted as the Son, according to our mode of conceiving it. And Christ so explains it in the next verse, “All things that the Father hath are mine,” &c. Hence it is plain that “of Mine” means the same as “all things whatsoever the Father hath are Mine,” i.e., the Godhead with all its attributes. Hence Theophylact explains, “of Mine,” i.e., of the Treasure of the Godhead, which is in Me. Heretics therefore wrongly contended from these words that the Holy Spirit was not God by nature, but only by participation (see S. Augustine in loc., and S. Cyril, Thesaur. xiii. 4), for He participates in the Divine Nature, which has no parts, but is wholly indivisible and most simple Being.

He will receive. That is, He has received from all eternity, still receives, and will ever receive; for the future embraces all time, and is most like eternity, for it endures for ever, just like the breathing of the Holy Spirit. The meaning of the passage is this: Sorrow not, because when I am gone ye will be deprived of your Teacher. For I will send you the Holy Ghost, who, as being purely the Divine Spirit, will teach you all things which concern the salvation of your spirit. But when He is teaching you, because He receives all things from Me from whom He proceeds, He will make known to you My Brightness and Glory, for He will receive from Me all things which He will declare to you, and thus I shall speak through Him, and show Myself to you. And marvel not at this: for I, by My eternal generation, have received from My Father everything which He Himself has, and I have therefore received from Him to be with Him the one principle (origin) of the Holy Spirit.

Joh 16:15  All things whatsoever the Father hath are mine. Therefore I said that he shall receive of me and shew it to you.

Ver. 15.—All things whatsoever the Father hath are Mine. For all things, saying His paternity (says the Council of Florence), the Father, by begetting the Son, communicated to Him. He therefore communicated to the Son the power of breathing forth the Holy Spirit, which He Himself has. He therefore adds in explanation, “Therefore I said, He shall receive of Mine and shew it to you.” By using the Name Father He declared Himself to be the Son, but did not claim the Paternity, as Sabellius taught. But all things which the Father hath in His substance, His eternity, His unchangeableness, His goodness—all these hath the Son also.” And S. Hilary (de Trinit. lib. viii.) says, “He teaches that all things which are to be received from the Father, are yet received from Himself, for all things the Father hath are His. The general statement (universitas) does not admit of distinction.” And hence it is again inferred that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son, for the Son hath all things which the Father hath, saving His Paternity. But the Father has actively the power of breathing forth the Holy Spirit, therefore the Son hath the same. For if the Father and the Son had not all things in common, saving their opposite relation to each other [as Father and Son], they would be distinguished by more than relation, and consequently be diverse in substance. For the Father as breathing forth [the Spirit] is not correlative to the Son. And therefore if He is distinguished from the Son by His breathing forth the Spirit, He is distinguished by it, not as something relative, but as a kind of “form” subsisting in the Father, and therefore the Father and the Son differ in substance, which is the Arian heresy.

6 Responses to “Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on John 16:12-15”

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  3. G. Thomas Jones said

    Thank you for your commentary on this passage: very informative in the theological thought of the trinity.

  4. […] Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (John 16:12-15). […]

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