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

Archive for April, 2011

May 5: St Cyril of Alexandria on Today’s Gospel (John 3:31-36)

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 30, 2011

31 He That cometh from above is above all.

No great thing is it, saith he, nor exceeding wonderful, if Christ surpass the glory of human nature: for not thus far doth He set the bounds of His own glory, but is over all creation, as God, is above all things made, not as numbered among all, but as excepted from all, and Divinely set over all. He adds the reason, shaming the gainsayer, and silencing the opposer. He That cometh from above, saith he, that is, He That is born of the root from above, preserving in Himself by Nature the Father’s Natural goodness, will confessedly possess the being above all. For it would be impossible that the Son should not altogether appear to be such as He That begat is conceived of, and rightly. For the Son Who excelleth in sameness of Nature, the Brightness and express Image of the Father, how will He be inferior to Him in glory? Or will not the Property of the Father be dishonoured in the Son, and we insult the Image of the Begotten, if we count Him inferior? But this I suppose will be manifest to all. Therefore is it written also, That all men, should honour the Son even as they honour the Father: he that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father. He That glorieth in equal honour with God the Father, by reason of being of Him by Nature, how will He not be conceived of as surpassing the essence of things originate? for this is the meaning of is above all. |185

But I perceive that the mind of the fighters against Christ will never rest, but they will come, as is probable, vainly babbling and say, “When the blessed Baptist says that the Lord sprang from above, what reason will compel us to suppose that He came of the Essence of the Father, by reason of the word from above, and not rather from heaven, or even from His inherent superiority above all, so that for this reason He should be conceived of and said to be also above all?” When therefore they aim at us with such words, they shall hear in return, Not your most corrupt reasonings o most excellent, will we follow, but rather the Divine Scriptures and the Sacred Writings only. We must then search in them, how they define to us the force of from above. Let them hear then a certain one of the Spirit-clad crying, Every good gift and every perfect gift is from, above, and cometh down from the Father of lights. Lo, plainly he says that from above is from the Father: for knowing that nought else surpasseth things originate save the Ineffable Nature of God, he rightly attached to it the term from above. For all things else fall under the yoke of bondage; God alone riseth above being ruled, and reigneth: whence He is truly above all. But the Son, being by Nature God and of God, will not be excluded from the glory in respect of this. But if ye deem that from above ought to be taken as Of heaven, let the word be used of every angel and rational power. For they come to us from heaven who inhabit the city that is above, and ascend and descend, as the Saviour somewhere says, upon the Son of man. What then persuaded the blessed Baptist to attribute that which was in the power of many to the Son Alone specially, and as to One coming down from above to call Him, He That cometh from above? For surely he ought to make the dignity common to the rest, and say, They that come from above are above all. But he knew that the expression was due to the One Son, as sprung of the Supreme Root.

Therefore from above does not mean from heaven: but will be piously and truly understood, in the sense we spoke of before. For how is He at all above all, if from above |186 signify not From the Father, but rather From Heaven? For if this be so, every one of the angels too will be above all, as coming from thence. But if each one escapes being reckoned among all, of whom at last will all be composed? or how will the word all remain intact, preserving accurately its meaning, while such a multitude of angels overpass and break down the boundary of all? For all it is no longer, if they remain outside, who were in all. But the Word That shone forth ineffably from God the Father, having His Proper Birth from above, and being of the Essence of the Father as of a fountain, will not by His coming wrong the word all, seeing He escapes being reckoned among all as if a part: but rather will be above all, as Other than they, both by Nature and God-befitting Power and all other Properties of Him Who begat Him.

But perchance they will say abashed at the absurd result of the investigation, “From above means not from heaven, but from His inherent superiority above all.” Come then, testing more accurately the force of what is said, let us see at what an end their attempt will terminate. First then, it is wholly foolish and without understanding, to say that the Son Himself hath come from His Own Dignity, and that as from a certain place or out of one, He One and the Same advances from His Own Excellency to be above all. In addition to this, I would also most gladly enquire of them, in respect of the excellence above all, whether they will grant it to the Son Essentially and irrevocably, or added from without in the nature of accident. If then they say that He hath the Excellence by acquisition, and is honoured with dignities from without, one must needs acknowledge that the Only-Begotten could exist deprived of glory, and be stripped of the acquired (as they call it) grace, and be deprived of being above all, and appear bare of the excellence which they now admire, since an accident may be lost, seeing that it belongeth not to the essence of its subject. There will therefore be change and varying in the Son: and the Psalmist will lie hymning Him with vain words, The heavens |187 shall perish, but Thou shalt endure: yea all of them shall wax old like a garment, as a vesture shalt Thou change them and they shall be changed: but Thou art the Same, and Thy years shall have no end. For how is He the Same, if with us He changeth, and that with changes for the worse? Vainly too (it seems) doth He glory of Himself, saying, Behold, behold, I am, I change not, and there is no God beside Me. And how will not the passions of the offspring reach up to the Father Himself too, since He is His Impress and Exact Likeness? God the Father then will be changeable, and has the Supremacy over all accruing to Him: I omit the rest. For what belongs to the Image will of necessity appertain unto the Archetype. But they will not say that He hath the supremacy from without (shuddering at such difficulties alike and absurdities of their arguments), but Essential rather and irrevocable. Then again (o most excellent) how will ye not agree with us even against your will, that the Son being by Nature God, is above all, and therefore cometh of the Alone Essence of God the Father? For if there be nought of things originate which is not parted off by the force of the All, but the Son is above all, to wit, as Other than all, and having the Essential Supremacy over all, and not the same in nature with all, how will He not be at length conceived of as Very God? For He Who is Essentially separate from the multitude of created beings, and by Nature escapes the being classed among things originate, what else can He be, save God? For we see no mean, as far as regards existing essence. For the creation is ruled over, and God is conceived of as over it. If then the Son be by Nature God, and have been ineffably begotten of God the Father, from above signifies the Nature of the Father. Therefore the Only Begotten is above all, inasmuch as He too is seen to be of that Nature.

He that is of the earth is earthly and speaketh of the earth. The earthborn (says he) will not effect equally in power of persuasion with Him Who is God over all. For he that |188 is of the earth will speak as man, and will rank merely as an adviser, committing to his disciples the whole reins of desire to believe: but He That cometh from above, as God, having used discourse with a certain Divine and ineffable grace, sends it into the ears of those who come to Him. But in proportion as He is by Nature Superior, so much the more effectually will He surely in-work. And with much profit does the blessed Baptist say such things to his disciples. For since they were beholding him surpassed by the glory of the Saviour, and were now not a little offended thereat, wherefore they came to him and said, Rabbi, He That was with thee beyond Jordan, to Whom thou barest witness, behold the Same baptizeth, and all men come to Him; needs did the Spirit-clad, cutting off the sickness of offence, and implanting in his disciples a healthful perception on most necessary points, explain the Saviour’s supremacy over all, and teach no less the cause why all men were already going to Him, and leaving the baptism by water alone, went to the more Divine and perfect one, to wit, that by the Holy Ghost.

He that cometh from heaven is above all. This testifieth (saith he) that very great and incomparable the distinction between those of the earth and the Word of God That cometh down from above and from Heaven. If I am not fit to teach, and my word alone suffice you not, the Son Himself will confirm it, testifying that in an incomprehensible degree differs the earth-born from the Beginning Which is above all. For disputing somewhere with the unholy Jews, the Saviour said, Ye are from beneath; I am from above. For He says that the nature of things originate is from beneath, as subject and of necessity in bondservice to God Who calleth them into being: from above again He calleth the Divine and Ineffable and Lordly Nature, as having all things originate under Its feet, and subjecting them to the yoke of His Authority. For not idly did the blessed Baptist add these things to, |189 those above. For that; he may not be supposed by his disciples to be inventing empty arguments, and from fear of seeming with reason inferior to Christ, to call Him greater and from above, himself from beneath and of the earth; needs does he from what the Saviour Himself said, seal the force of the things said, and shew the explanation to be not as they thought, an empty excuse, but rather a demonstration of the truth.

But since the other part of the verse runs thus, And what He hath seen and heard, that He testifieth, come we will discuss a few things on this too. We are so constituted and habituated, as to receive the full proof of everything, by means of two especial senses particularly, I mean sight and hearing. For having been both ear-witnesses and eye-witnesses of anything, we come to speak positively thereof. Persuading them therefore to hasten to belief in Christ (for He speaks, says he, that He knows accurately), he takes again, as it were, from the likeness to us, that we may understand it more Divinely, and says, What He hath seen and heard, that He testifieth.

And no man receiveth His testimony.

Not as though no one receiveth the testimony, that Christ is God by Nature and, sprung from above and the Father, is above all, does the blessed Baptist say this (for many received, and have believed it, and before all Peter, saying, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God): but as having himself conceived of the great dignity of the Speaker more rightly than they all, does he all but shaking his head, and smiting with right hand on his thigh, marvel at the folly of them that disbelieve Him. |190

33 He that hath received His testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.

In no other way was it possible to shew the impiety of them that believe not, except the glorious achievement of the believers were made known. For by the contrast of good things is the evil easily discerned, and the knowledge of what is better convicts the worse. If any then (saith he) have assented to the words of Him That cometh from above, he hath sealed and confirmed by his understanding, that truth is ever akin and most dear to the Divine Nature. Whence the converse is manifest to them that see. For he who thrusts away the faith will surely witness against himself, that God is not true. But we must again take notice, that he removes the Son from consubstantiality with the creation, and shews by what has been said that He is by Nature God. For if he that believeth the things spoken by Him, and receiveth the testimony which He gave of Himself, sealed and well confirmed that God is true; how shall not Christ be conceived of as by Nature God, Who is testified of as true by the credit of the things just said? or let our opponent again say how the Divine Nature is honoured, as being true, by our Saviour’s testimony being received. For if He be not wholly by Nature God, he that believeth will not be reverencing the Divine Nature, as true, but rather one (according to them) the fairest of creatures. But since, when Christ is believed, the declaration of being true extendeth to God, it is I suppose altogether clear, that He being God, not falsely so called, Himself taketh honour to Himself from those who believe. |191

But the enemy of the truth will not (it seems) agree to these words of ours, but will start up strong, not admitting the Son to be by Nature God: and will say again, Thou cavillest, sir, and contrivest turns of many-varied reasonings, ever rejecting somehow the simple and right sense. For since the Word of God hath come down from Heaven, calling out openly, I speak not of Myself, but the Father Which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment, what I should say and what I should speak: and again, All things that I have heard of My Father, I will make known unto you: or also, as the holy Baptist averred in the following words, For He Whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: therefore of Him is he saying, He that receiveth His testimony hath set to his seal, that God is True. For verily is God the Father true, but thou attemptest to bring round to the Son what is due to Another.

What then shall we say to these things? shall we class the Only-Begotten among the prophets, fulfilling the ministry befitting Prophets, and doing nought besides? For by whom is it not unhesitatingly received, that Prophets used to bring us voices from God? Then what excellence is there in the Son, if He accomplish this alone? how is He above all, if He is still ranked along with Prophets, and is clad in slave-befitting measure? How, as though surpassing them in glory doth He say in the Gospels, If He called them gods unto whom the Word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken, say ye of Him Whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest: because I said, I am the Son of God? For in these words He clearly severeth Himself off from the company of Prophets, and saith that they were called gods, because the Word of God came to them, but Himself He con-fesseth Son. For to the holy Prophets was imparted grace by measure through the Spirit; but in our Saviour Christ it hath pleased all the full ness of the God-head to dwell bodily, as Paul saith; wherefore also of His fullness have all we received, as John affirmed. How then will the Giver be On a par with the recipients, or how will the Fullness of the God-head be reckoned in the portion of the minister? |192

Let them then hence consider narrowly, into how great blasphemy their argument will hazard them. And how one ought to understand the words, I speak not of Myself, but the Father Which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment what I should say and what I should speak, will be explained more at large in its proper time and place. But I think that at present the objections of our opponents ought to be made a foundation of piety, and from what they put forth, we ought to contend for the doctrines of the Church. They then affirm that the Son has received commandments from the Father, and says nothing of Himself: but whatsoever He heard, as Himself says, these things He is zealous to say to us too. Well, let him hold to this; for we will agree, since this nothing wrongeth the Son, as far at least as concerns the question of whence He is; yea rather it bringeth in a most beautiful ceconomy in respect of the present subject. Therefore when they hear Him say, I and the Father are One; He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father; I am in the Father, and the Father in Me: let them receive His testimony, let them set to their seal, that God the Father is true, persuading the Son to speak what He knoweth accurately; let them not disbelieve the words of the Saviour, interpreting to us the things of His Father.

34 For He Whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God.

The Father then knoweth that His own Son is in Him the Same by Nature (for this I suppose the words, are One, signify, and nothing else), and acknowledgeth Him as Son not creature; Son I mean of His own Essence, and not honoured with the bare name of Sonship. For He knows that He is the Exact Image of His own Proper Self, so that He is perfectly seen in Him, and depicts in Himself Him That by Nature Ineffably beamed forth from Him, and hath in Himself the Son, is again in the Son, by reason of Sameness of Essence.

These things, o heretic, by considering, thou shalt release thyself from bitter disease, and us from trouble in argument |193 and controversy. For He Whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God. If these words be considered simply, what will there be of marvel in the Son? For was not every one of the holy Prophets also both sent from God, and did he not declare His words? And indeed it is somewhere said to the hierophant Moses, And now come, I will send thee into Egypt, and thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord: to the most holy Jeremiah, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. What more then is there in the Son by Nature Who speaketh the words of God, because He is sent by Him? He will be declared to us again (it seems) as a Prophet, and nothing else, in respect of ministry. Therefore you will here understand hath sent, either in respect of the Incarnation and the Coming into this world with Flesh: or again you will take it in a more God-befitting and higher sense. For the Father hid not the Son in Himself, but He beamed forth of His Nature, as brightness from light, after the unspeakable and inexplicable mode of Divine Generation: which too the Only-Begotten was making known to us, in saying, I came forth from the Father, and am come. For the Son hath come forth from the Father into His Proper Being, even though He be in Him by Nature. And what I came forth there means, this again the being sent here signifies. The Word then (he says) That hath appeared and flashed forth from the Father, in that He is God of God, will use words befitting God: but the words befitting God are true words, and such as reject all stain of falsehood. He then that receiveth the testimony of the Saviour hath sealed that God is true; for He is indeed by Nature God.

For He giveth not the Spirit by measure. Promise now specially keen attention, my good friend, that with me you may wonder at the sober wisdom of the Saints. He said therefore that the Son was both sent of God, and speaketh the words of God. But he is observed as far as belongs to the simple force of the words to clothe |194 Him with the prophetic measure, as we have just said. He: removes Him then in these words from equality with them, and through this one token gives us to understand, how great, yea, rather now how incomparable the difference. For it is impossible, saith he, that they who have received the Spirit by measure, could give It to another. For never hath saint to saint been the bestower of the Holy Ghost: but the Son giveth to all, as of His own fulness. He then giveth not by measure, nor hath He, as they, some little portion of the Spirit, and this by participation: but since He was shewn to be the Giver too of It, it is manifest I suppose that He hath It wholly Essentially in Himself. He then that hath so great superiority over them, will not speak the. things of God as one of them, but being God of God, will pour forth words befitting God.

But it will no how interfere with what has been said that certain deem that by Apostolic hands the Spirit was given to some: for we will believe them to be invokers of the Spirit, rather than truly givers of It: since the blessed Moses too was not enjoined himself to take of the Spirit that was on him but God kept this too in His Power alone, saying that he must put forth the seventy, and promising to take of the Spirit that was on him, and put it upon them. For He knew that it befits God Alone to perform things God-befitting. |195

35 The Father loveth the Son and hath given all things into His Hand.

For since he had said, that it behoved not the Son Who had beamed forth God of God, to be able to use words other than He That begat Him, to wit, true words; for He Whom God hath sent, saith he, speaketh the words of God, needs does he subjoin what is before us, and saith, The Father loveth the Son. We shall not grieve (saith he) God the Father by clothing in equal honour Him That is begotten of Him, we shall not offend Him by crowning with God-befitting Glory Him Who is Essentially the Heir of the Father’s goods. For He loveth the Son. He will therefore be pleased at His being glorified by us, and be grieved by the contrary. And let no one suppose, saith he, that He hath His Own Son Heir of this one Divine Excellence only. For He hath given all things into His Hand; i. e., everything, which is essentially good in the Father, this is altogether in the power of the Son. For he calleth power Hand in these words, as when God saith by one of the Prophets, My right Hand hath spanned the heavens, instead of, My Power. But the Son hath in Himself the whole Property of the Father, not by participation, though the Father be said to have given it (for so He would have an acquired, not a Natural Godhead) but the Father gives all that is His to His Son, just as a man too may be conceived to give to the child born of him all the properties of manhood, or as the fire too may be said to give to the heat proceeding from it in the way of energy, the property |196 of its own nature. In such things, both is the giving no loss to the givers (for not by division or severance is the going forth of what is conceived to be given) and the appearance of receiving is blameless on the part of the recipients. For only because of the ‘whence,’ are such things said, and the offspring are conceived of as being a certain natural quality, so to say, of their begetters, shewing clearly what the generator is by nature, and flashing forth the natural energy of their own source. And these things again are adduced by way of examples, but God is above them all. We will not for this accuse human language which is weak, for the glory of God hideth speech, as it is written. And if we see through a glass and darkly, and conceive in part, how shall we not be yet more powerless in the words through the tongue? You will then piously conceive, either that in this way all things are given by the Father to the Son: or you will take it again of the oeconomy with Flesh, no longer introducing the giving and receiving in respect of Natural Properties, but as putting the Son in authority over all things originate, that you may conceive of it in some such way as this,

The Father loveth the Son and hath given all things into His Hand.

Let not the slow to hearken (he says) be bold in speech, at seeing the Lord of all a Man, nor let him suppose that the Truth is false, rejecting the due belief in God by reason of the Flesh. Let him receive His testimony, let him readily set to his seal that God is true, lest he grieve the Father Which is in Heaven. For He loveth His Son: and the proof of His Love for Him, is that authority over all is given to Him. Which also the Saviour Himself says, All things are delivered unto Me of My Father, and again, All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Nor do I suppose that because of the Son’s seeming to receive it, will He reasonably be predicated by any as lesser: and why? for He receives when He became Man, when He humbled Himself for our sakes, |197 when the Lord was called a slave, when the Son, Who is free, became among servants. For how did He humble Himself? or how is He said to have descended from His Equality with God the Father? Dost thou not in these things see Him Who Divinely giveth, Him Who Humanly and as a servant is said to receive what as God He had? For not strictly a gift from the Father is that which appointed the Son to the beginning of Lordship over all things; but rather a return and regain with the Flesh also of the authority that He had before the Flesh. For not when He became Man, did He then begin to rule the creation.

Since to what lowliness would one say that He had descended, if, when He became Man, He then began to have lordship? how will He appear in the Form of a servant, if then at length and scarcely declared Lord of all? Away with the absurdity of the reasonings herein. But when He became Man, then even so begins He to rule, not losing by reason of His Flesh the Divine Dignity, but mounting again with the Flesh also, to what He was from the beginning. But that the things spoken of as Christ’s, were but the regain of what He had before, Himself will prove, saying, Father, glorify Thou Me with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was. Seest thou that He asketh not for a beginning of glory, but a renewal of the pristine glory, saying this too as Man? But that because of the Human Nature is it said that all things are given to the Son, he that is fond of learning will from all quarters heap up proofs with wisdom, and will be able to understand, but specially from that most dread vision of Daniel, wherein he savs that he saw the Ancient of Days set on His Throne, and declares that thousand thousands ministered unto Him and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. And hereto he added, And behold one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him, and there was given Him dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him. Thou seest how here is the whole Mystery of the Incarnation accurately delineated |198 to us; thou seest how the Son is said to receive the kingdom of the Father; shewn to the Prophet as no bare Word 8, but as the Son of Man (for He humbled Himself, as it is written, being found for our sakes in fashion as a Man), that He first brought back to His Kingdom, might be shewn forth a Beginning and Way to us of Glory into the Kingdom. And as He being by Nature Life did for our sakes descend unto death after the Flesh for all, that He might free us both from death and corruption, by His likeness to us having immingled us as it were with Himself and rendered us partakers of eternal life: so doth He confashion Himself to our low repute, being Lord of Glory as God, that He might restore the nature of man to the royal honour also. For in all things He hath the preeminence, as Paul saith, being both the Way and the Door and the Firstfruits of the good things of human nature, from death to life, from corruption to incorruption, from weakness to might, from bondage to sonship, from dishonour and ignominy to honour and kingly glory. Therefore when the Son appears to receive as Man what He had as God, let us no wise be offended but let us consider rather the mode of the oeconomy on our account and for us. For so we shall preserve our mind unwounded and unhurt.

36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life. 

Not simply, nor without examination doth the most wise Baptist testify that to them that believe in Christ is life set forth, as their Reward, but he brings forth to us the proof of it from the very quality so to speak of things. For the Only Begotten is by Nature Life: for in Him we live and move and are. But He is introduced into us of a surety through faith, and dwelleth in us through the Holy Ghost: and the blessed John the Evangelist will testify saying in his epistles Hereby know we that He dwelleth in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit. Christ will therefore quicken them that believe in Him, as being Himself Life by Nature and |199 dwelling in them. But that the Son indwelleth in us by faith, Paul will furnish proof, saying, For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father, of Whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith. Since then through faith Life by Nature entereth into us, how is he not true that saith, He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting Life? that is to say, the Son Himself, nought else than Him being conceived of as Life.

and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life.

Doth then (will haply some one say) the Baptist preach to us another opinion, and corrupt the doctrine of the resurrection, saying that he that believeth shall be quickened, wholly asserting that he that doth not shall not see life? We shall not all, it seems, rise; his word introducing to us this distinction. Whither then will that pass away, that is said absolutely and as it were to all, The dead shall be raised? What is Paul too about, saying, For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad? I suppose then that he that is eager after learning ought to be praised, nevertheless most accurate scrutiny must be made in Holy Scripture. For see clearly, I pray you, the distinction between the things said. For of the believer he says that he shall have everlasting life, of the unbeliever, the word hath a different significance. For he does not say that he shall not have life: for he shall be raised by the common law of the resurrection; but he says that he shall not see life, that is, he shall not so much as arrive at the bare sight of the life of the saints, he shall not touch their blessedness, he shall remain untasting of their life passed in bliss. For that is indeed life. But to exist in punishment is bitterer than all death, holding the soul in the body only for the sensation of sufferings. Some such difference in life Paul also brings forward. Hear what he says to those who are dead to evil for Christ’s sake, For |200 ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God; when Christ, your 9 life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory. Seest thou how he calls appearing in glory with Christ the life of the saints? But what when the Psalmist too sings to us, saying, What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil. Shall we not say that herein is signified the life of the saints? but it is, I think, evident to all. For he does not, forsooth, bid some to refrain from evil, that they may obtain the resurrection of the flesh hereafter (for they will rise again even if they do not cease from evil), but he rouses them rather to that life, wherein they may wholly see good days, passing an endless life in bliss and glory.

but the wrath of God abideth on him.

More openly by means of this which follows did the blessed Baptist shew us the aim of what has been said. Let him who loves to search consider carefully the force of the thought. He that believeth not (he saith) on the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him. But if it were possible to understand that the unbeliever should be indeed bereft of the life in the body, he would surely have immediately added, “but death abideth on him.” But since he calls it the wrath of God, it is plain that he is contrasting the punishment of the ungodly with the enjoyments of the saints, and that he calls that life, which is the true life in glory with Christ, and the torments of the ungodly, the wrath of God. That punishment is ofttimes called wrath by the Divine Scriptures, I will adduce two witnesses, Paul and John: for the one said to the converted among the Gentiles, And were by nature the children of wrath, even as others; and the other to the Scribes and Pharisees, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (source)

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St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on John 3:16-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 30, 2011

16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever helieveth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

He desireth to shew openly herein, that He is God by Nature, since one must needs deem that He Who came forth from God the Father, is surely God also, not having the honour from without, as we have, but being in truth what He is believed to be. With exceeding skill does He say this, having joined therewith the love of God the Father to us, well and opportunely coming to discourse thereon. For He shames the unbelieving Nicodemus, yea rather, He shews that he is ungodly also. For the not coming readily to believe, when God teaches anything, what else is it, than laying upon the Truth a charge of falsehood? Besides this, in saying that He was given for the life of the world, He persuades him to consider seriously, of how great punishment they will be in danger, who from their mad folly, have made of no account so wondrous grace of God the Father. For God, says He, so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son.

Let the Christ-opposing heretic again hear, and let him come forward and say, what is the greatness of the Love of God the Father, or how we should reasonably marvel at it. But he will say that the marvel of the love is seen, in His giving His Son for us, and that the Only Begotten. In order then that the great love of God the Father may remain and be preserved, let Him be held to be Son not a creature, I mean Son of the Essence of the Father, that is to say, Consubstantial with Him Who begat Him, and God verily and in truth. But if, according to thy speech, o thou, He possesseth not the being of the Essence of God the Father, He will also lose the being by Nature Son and God, and the wide-spread marvel of the Love of God will at length come to nought: for He gave a creature for creatures, and not truly His Son. Vainly too will the blessed Paul trouble us, saying, He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden under foot the Son of God? For confessedly |175 he that despised trampleth under foot, but not the Very Son, but a fellow servant of Moses, if indeed creature be always akin to creature, in respect at least of having been made, even if it surpass the glory of another, in the excellences of being greater or better. But the word of Paul is true; and a severer penalty shall he pay who hath trodden under foot the Son, not as though he were transgressing against a creature, or one of the fellow servants of Moses. Great then and above nature is the Love of the Father, Who for the life of the world gave His Own Son and Who is of Himself.

17 For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

Having plainly called Himself the Son of God the Father, He thought not good to leave the word without witness, but brings forward proof from the quality, so to say, of the things themselves, making the hearers more steadfast unto faith. For I was not sent, saith He, like the law-expounder Moses, condemning the world by the law, nor introducing the commandment unto conviction of sin, nor do I perform a servile ministry, but I introduce loving-kindness befitting the Master: I free the embondaged, as Son and Heir of the Father, I transform the law that condemneth into grace that justifieth, I release from sin him that is holden with the cords of his transgressions, I am come to save the world, not to condemn it. For it was right, it was right, saith He, that Moses, as a servant, should be a minister of the law that condemns, but that I as Son and God should free the whole world from the curse of the law and, by exceedingness of lovingkindness, should heal the infirmity of the world. If then the grace that justifieth is better than the commandment that condemneth, how is it not meet to conceive that He surpasseth the measure of the servant Who introduceth so God-befitting authority, and releaseth man from the bonds of sin?

This then is one aim of the passage under consideration, and no mean one. A second besides this, revolving through the same circuit, and introducing a consideration akin to |176 those above, will be given from love of learning. The Saviour saw that Nicodemus was cleaving to the law of Moses, and was fast held to the more ancient commandment, and was somehow startled at the new Birth through the Spirit, shrinking from the new and Gospel polity, supposing it seems that this would be more burdensome than the things already enjoined. Being therefore not ignorant, as God, of the fear which from his ignorance had sprung upon him, by using one short argument, He frees him from all trouble on this score, and shews that the commandment of Moses, by reason of its condemning the world, is harder to be borne, and introduces Himself as a mild Judge, saying, For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

18 He that believeth on the Son is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the Name of the Only Begotten Son of God.

Having proved by facts, that He is both Son of God the Father, and introduceth into the world grace which is more excellent than the ministration of Moses (for how is not the being justified by grace better than the being condemned by the law?), He devised, as God, another way to bring unto the faith, from all quarters driving together to salvation them that were lost. He puts forth then to the believer as his reward the not being called to judgement, to the unbeliever punishment, bringing into one and the same way by both, calling to come readily unto the faith, some by desire for the grace, others by fear of suffering. He shews that heinous and great is the crime of unbelief, since He is Son and Only Begotten. For by how much is that worthy of belief which is insulted, so much the more will that which despises be condemned for his dire transgression. He says that he that believeth not is condemned already, in that he hath already determined against himself the due sentence of punishment, by knowingly rejecting Him Who gives not to be condemned. |177

19   And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light.

He lets not the condemnation of the unbelievers remain without consideration, but recounts its causes, and shews clearly that, according to the words of the Proverbs, Not unjustly is the net spread for the birds. For they, saith He, who when it was in their power to be illuminated preferred to remain in darkness, how will not they fairly be determiners of punishment against themselves, and self-invited to suffering which it was in their power to escape, if they had been right provers of things, choosing rather to be enlightened than not, and studying to make the baser things second to the better? But He preserved the mind of man free from the bonds of necessity, and tending by its own impulses to both sides, that it might justly receive praise for good things, and punishment for the contrary. As indeed He sheweth in another place, saying, If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall, eat the good of the land; but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword.

20   For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

Profitably doth He go over what has been said, and convicts indolence unto things helpful of proceeding from love of evil, and of having its root in unwillingness to learn those things whereby one may become wise and good. For the doer of evil, says He, flees from and refuses the being in the Divine Light: not hiding from shame on account of evil (for so he would have been saved) but desiring to remain in ignorance of what is becoming, lest transgressing he should be smitten, falling upon the now keener convictions of his own conscience, and by means of at length clearly knowing what is good, should pay a more woeful account to the Judge, if he should not do what was pleasing to God. But he that doeth truth (that is, the lover and doer of the works of the Truth) cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God. For he doth not reject the illumination in the Spirit, by It specially led to be able to |178 understand in all calm collectedness, whether he hath transgressed the Divine commandment, and whether he hath wrought all things according to the Law of God.

It is then a plain proof of an unbridled tendency to evil, and unrestrained pleasure in what is worse, not to wish to learn that whereby one may avail to attain unto what is better: again of desire for the best, to thirst for illumination, and to make His Law a rule so to say and index unto a conversation pleasing to God. And the Divine Psalmist knowing that this was so, sings, The Law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.

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May 3: St Cyril of Alexandria on Today’s Gospel (John 14:6-14)

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 30, 2011

Note: This post includes the saint’s comments on verse 5.

5, 6 Thomas saith unto Him, We know not whither Thou goest, and how know we the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by Me.

Christ willed not as yet to tell His disciples in so many words that He was going away to the world above and returning to His Father, although in dark hints and through many impressive sayings He had been referring to the event. But one of His disciples, that one being Thomas, now questions Him directly, and by introducing at the same time a sort of argument, all but forces Him in spite of Himself to tell them plainly both whither it is that He is going, and where the path of His journey lies. For we know not, said he, whither Thou goest: so then, how could we know the way? Christ in His reply evades the excessive curiosity of His disciple, for He does not give the desired answer at all, but treasuring up the question in His all-knowing mind, and rather reserving it for a more convenient moment, He in His kindness unfolds a truth which it was essential for them to learn. He says, therefore: I am the Way, I the Truth, I the Life. Now as to the truth of the Lord’s saying in these words concerning Himself, no reasonable person can ever have felt the slightest shadow of doubt; yet I conceive it is needful to examine the question attentively. For how comes it that, whereas in the inspired Scriptures He is spoken of as Light, and Wisdom, and Power, and by many other names, He selects a few only as being of very especial significance for the present occasion, calling Himself the Way, and the Truth, and the Life? For the real force of the words is deep and not easily discernible, as it seems to me; yet still we must not shrink from attempting to discover it. I shall say exactly what occurs to my own mind, commending to those who are wont to speculate more keenly the task of thinking out a higher meaning. |242

There are then three means whereby we shall reach the Divine courts that are above and enter the Church of the firstborn; namely, by practice in virtue of every kind, by faith in rightness of doctrine, and by hope of life to come. Is there any one else than our Lord Jesus the Christ, who could ever be a leader, a helper, or a means for granting us success in such matters as these? Surely not: do not think it. For He Himself has taught us things that are beyond the Law; He has pointed out to us the way that any one might safely take as leading to a virtue mighty in operation, and to a zealous and unhindered performance of those acts that are after the pattern of Christ. And so He Himself is the Truth, He is the Way; that is, the true boundary of faith, and the exact rule and standard of an unerring conception concerning God. For by a true belief in the Son, namely as begotten of the very essence of God the Father, and as bearing the title of Son in its fullest and truest meaning, and not even in any sense a made or created being, we shall then clothe ourselves in the confidence of a true faith. For he who has received the Son as a Son, has fully confessed a belief also in Him of Whose essence the Son is, and knows and will straightway accept God as the Father. Therefore He is the Truth, He is the Life; for none other will restore to us the life which is within our hopes, namely, that life which is in incorruption, and blessedness, and sanctification: for He it is that raises us up, and will bring us back again from the death we died under the ancient curse, to the state in which we were at the beginning. In Him therefore and through Him, all that is best and all that is precious has already appeared, and will appear for us. And notice again that the meaning connected with these words is very suitable to the idea involved in the previous verses. For while the disciple was still in doubt, and saying: How know we the way? He shewed him briefly that since they knew Himself to be the motive cause, the leader, and the prince of the blessings that would bring |243 them to the world above, they would have no further need of knowing the way.

But since He has added hereunto the words: No one cometh unto the Father but by Me, let us give some attention to this point in what we are about to say; first examining the question how one could go to the Father. We approach Him in two ways: either by becoming holy, as far as is possible for humanity, we thus are led to cleave to a holy God, for it is written: Ye shall be holy, for I am holy; or else we arrive, through faith and contemplation, at that knowledge of the Father which is as it were in a mirror darkly, as it is written. But no man would ever be holy and make progress in a life according to the rule of virtue, unless Christ were the guide of his footsteps in everything: and none would ever be united to God the Father save through the mediation of Christ. For He is Mediator between God and men, through Himself and in Himself uniting humanity to God. For since He is born of the essence of God the Father, in that He is the Word, the Effulgence, and the very Image, He is one with the Father, being wholly in the Father, and having the Father in Himself; while in that He has become a man like unto us, He is united to all on the earth in everything except in our sin: and so He has become a sort of border-ground, containing in Himself all that concurs to unity and friendship.

No man therefore will come to the Father, that is, will appear as a partaker of the Divine nature, save through Christ alone. For if He had not become a Mediator by taking human form, our condition could never have advanced to such a height of blessedness; but now, if any one approach the Father in a spirit of faith and reverent knowledge, he will do so, by the help of our Saviour Christ Himself. For even as I said just now, so I will say again, the course of the argument being in no wise different. By accepting the Son truly as Son a man will arrive also at the knowledge of God the Father: for one could not be looked upon as a son, except the father who |244 begat him were fully acknowledged at the same time. The knowledge of the Father is thus necessarily concurrent with belief in the Son, and knowledge of the Son with belief in the Father. And so the Lord says most truly: No man cometh unto the Father but by Me. For the Son is in nature and essence an Image of God the Father, and not (as some have thought) a Being moulded merely into His likeness by attributes specially bestowed, Himself being by nature something essentially different, and being so esteemed.

7 If ye had known Me, ye would have known My Father also.

Some may perchance say and think that the Son is here speaking of His own accord, and at His own suggestion. But it is not so. For He never uttered anything in an uncalled-for, or merely casual way; though He does occasionally repeat Himself in a most instructive manner, especially because of the utter inability of some to follow His teaching. But in the present instance His words are most profitable to us in connection with what He had said just before. For when Thomas questioned Him, asking: “Whither wilt Thou depart; or how can we know the way, if we know not whither Thou wilt go?He thereupon answered him most effectively in the words: I am the Way, and the Life, and the Truth; and again: No man cometh unto the Father but by Me; thereby shewing that if any one willed to know the way which would lead to eternal life, he would strive with all diligence to know Christ. But since it was likely that some, who had been trained in Jewish rather than in Evangelic doctrine, might suppose that a confession of faith in and a knowledge of One Person only out of all was sufficient for a right belief, and that it was needless to learn the doctrine concerning the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity; Christ seems to absolutely exclude those who hold this opinion from a true knowledge concerning God, unless they would also accept Himself. For it is through the Son that we must draw near to |245 God the Father. For in a manner analogous to our acceptance of the Offspring, we shall arrive at our belief in the Parent also. For it is utterly impossible to doubt that a belief in the sonship of Son, as begotten of the essence of the Father, will certainly lead to a knowledge of the Father.

According then to the simpler and more obvious interpretation, He must be supposed to have spoken with this meaning: but if any one believes that He is employing subtle ideas so as to penetrate to the very root of the whole matter, he will find once more that the Son is teaching truth. The Divine Nature, indeed, is utterly incomprehensible by any human intellect; and to claim for oneself to have fully discovered Who and What in very essence the Creator of the universe is, would involve a display of absolute folly. Still, it is not impossible for us, though in a shadowy and uncertain manner, to obtain some kind of knowledge by holding up as a mirror to our mind’s eye the catalogue of Divine attributes which are inherent by nature in the Son. For from a knowledge of what Christ is in Himself, and of the works He has wrought when He became Incarnate as well as before His Incarnation, one might afterwards ascend by analogous reasoning to a contemplation of the Father Who begat Him. Behold, I pray thee, the glory and the power that were His: gaze on His authority, that extended without hindrance over all. Tell me, is there anything conceivable or inconceivable that He does not appear to have achieved with perfect success at His own free will, both before and since His Incarnation? Nay, more, He Who shewed Himself to us so mighty by the evidence of His works, says expressly: I and the Father are One, and: He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father. We must therefore, in reliance on what we have just quoted, pass onward from the Likeness to the Archetype, and from the Very Image to the full realisation of Him Whom the Very Image represents. We do not say, as some of the heterodox would have us say, |246 that the Son is fashioned after the Father’s likeness by means of certain attributes bestowed upon Him from without; nor even would we admit, as some in error suppose, that He is styled the Image of God the Father as possessing His glory, His power, and His wisdom, although being Himself really of a different nature: these are the foolish babblings of the heretics, sheer nonsense delicately veiled, or rather absolute impiety, designed according to their unholy and ungodly object to overthrow and destroy the doctrine of the Son’s Consubstantiality with the Father. But Christ is a Son in very truth, begotten ineffably and incomprehensibly of the essence of God the Father, and as such is the Very Image and Likeness and Effulgence of Him, bearing innate within Himself the proper characteristics of His Father’s essence, and possessing in all their beauty the attributes that are naturally the Father’s. For we will not imitate the heretics in their extravagant madness, and degrade our own minds to such a depth of foolishness as to say that Christ in any respect differs from a Being Who is in very nature God, or to deny that He is begotten of the essence of God the Father, and so refuse to attribute to Him the glory of God; neither would we allow that any nature which was created and brought into existence out of nothing could ever, without undergoing change, be endowed with the Divine power and wisdom, or ever be such as the Divine and ineffable nature of God the Father may be imagined to be. For else, what distinction could any longer exist between the Creator and the creature; or what could intervene or sever, that is to say, between the thing made and Him Who made it, in regard to identity and essence? For if a creature possesses glory and power and wisdom exactly to the same degree as God the Father, I should be utterly unable to say, and I conceive the heretics would be in the same perplexity, wherein God’s superiority can possibly consist, or how He can be greater than we or than His creature. Therefore we maintain |247 that the Son is in no wise fashioned so as to resemble the Father by the addition of attributes from without, nor is He like a representation in a picture, adorned by us with merely ideal colours which gloss over and falsely indicate the royal dignity; but He is truly the Very Image and Likeness of His Father, displaying to us the Father’s nature in clearest light by the graces that are His own by nature. And this is why Christ pronounces it impossible for any to have fully known the Father without first knowing Himself, that is, the Son.

And from henceforth ye know Him, and have seen Him.

Wonderful, it seems to me, is the gracious intention and the unspeakably profound purpose that underlies this saying also. For after having just said: If ye had known Me, ye would have known My Father also, and seeming thus to reproach His disciples for their ignorance of truths so essential, He immediately passes on to comfort them with the assurance: From henceforth ye know Him and have seen Him. For since they were destined to become rulers of the Churches throughout the world, in obedience to the Saviour’s commission: Go ye and make disciples of all nations, for this reason above all others, as I think, He first utters a most useful truth of universal reference to all time, that whosoever knoweth the Son will most assuredly also know God the Father of Whom the Son is begotten; and then in His kindness He goes on to testify that His disciples possess this knowledge: not speaking at all by way of compliment, for He could never utter aught but truth, but inasmuch as they really knew Him and had most fully acknowledged Him. For that they knew and had believed that the Lord was really Son of God can by no means be a matter of doubt to right-minded persons. For how came it that Nathaniel the Israelite, when he heard Christ say: Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee, immediately put forth his full confession of faith, saying: Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God, |248 Thou art the King of Israel? Moreover, when the sea was marvellously and supernaturally calmed, how was it that those who were in the ship worshipped Him, saying: Truly Thou art the Son of God? Will any one maintain that this saying was uttered by men who did not know that He was God and begotten of God the Father? Surely such an one would give a most convincing proof of his want of intelligence. When, in the district of Caesarea Philippi, they were asked by Christ Himself: Who do men say that I the Son of Man am? did not they first of all give the opinions of others? Some, they say, think Thou art Elijah, and others Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. But Who they themselves said that He was, they shrank not from telling Him plainly, all speaking by the mouth of their chief, and that was Peter, affirming positively: Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Yet when Christ says: If ye had known Me, ye would have known My Father also, do not suppose that the saying is uttered entirely for the sake of the disciples: it is rather a general declaration laid down for all, the holy disciples being taken as representatives of all mankind.

Notice carefully then how clearly we shall find that they have not been ignorant that He is God and the Son of God; but when He spoke of Himself as “the Way” of God, then they did not understand what seemed to be spoken enigmatically: and this will comprise the full extent of any charge of ignorance that can be brought against them. For this reason surely, having briefly refuted the idea of their inability to understand what was told them indirectly, and then grounded on this a declaration affecting all men, teaching plainly that whosoever knows not the Son will also lose his knowledge of the Father; He then most justly testifies to the disciples’ knowledge of Him, inasmuch as they had already made open confession of their faith: and this He does in the words: From henceforth ye know Him and have seen Him. And He uses the word “henceforth,” not with |249 reference to that hour or that day on which He was uttering His teaching on these matters: but He uses the word in order to contrast with the days of the old and first dispensation the new and recently-arisen season of His own presence, whereby the knowledge of the Father as seen through the Son has been made clearer for all men throughout the world. Therefore also in the Book of Psalms, as speaking to God the Father, He says: The knowledge of Thee has been greatly magnified by Me. For having seen the Son excelling in deeds incredibly marvellous, and with God-befitting authority easily accomplishing His own good pleasure, we have been led on thereby to accept in reverent admiration the knowledge of the Father, believing it to be no other than the knowledge of the Son Who came forth from Him. From henceforth, therefore, ye know Him and have seen Him. For through the Son we have been led, as I said just now, to know Who the Father is, and not only have we known, but we have also beheld or seen. For knowledge indicates that mental contemplation at which one may very well arrive concerning the Divine and ineffable nature that is above all, and through all, and in all. But to have seen the Truth signifies the fulfilment of our knowledge by the vision of the miraculous works. For we have not simply known the bare fact that the Father is in His nature Life; nor have we had within ourselves the knowledge of the matter ideally and theoretically only: we have seen the truth carried out by the Son, in giving life to the dead, and restoring to existence those who had seen corruption. We have not simply known the fact that the God and Father of all is in His nature Life, and has the whole creation in subjection beneath His feet; and that He rules in sovereign authority over all things made by Him, so that, as it is written: All His works shake and tremble at Him, we have seen evidence of the truth in the action of the Son, when, in rebuking the sea and the winds, He said with all authority, Peace, be still. |250

Since therefore He was intending to say that “you have not only known, but have even seen the Father,” He considered it essential to prefix the word “henceforth;” and why so? The reason was this: the law of Moses declared to the children of Israel, The Lord thy God is one Lord, and never offered the doctrine concerning the Son to the men of old time; it was content with driving them away from the worship of many gods and calling them to adore One, and One only: but our Lord Jesus the Christ by His Incarnation made known to us the Father through Himself by many signs and mighty works, and has shown that the nature of the Godhead which we believe to be contained in the Holy Trinity is in truth One. And so He does well to say “henceforth,” on account of the imperfection of knowledge possessed by those who walk after the law, and order their lives in that system. And we must note well that in saying that He Himself and not the Father has been seen, He in no way denies the real and individual existence of the God and Father from Whom He is; nor does He even say that He Himself is the Father, inasmuch as He claims to have come to represent the Father’s Person. But since He is Consubstantial with the Father, He says that His Father is seen in His Person; just as if an ordinary man’s son, wishing to indicate plainly the nature of his father, were to point to himself and say to any chance inquirer in the matter: “In me thou hast seen my father.” Here again, however, the Godhead will entirely transcend the power of the example to illustrate.

8 Philip saith unto Him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.

Philip is anxious to learn, but not very keen in that understanding which is adapted to Divine vision; for else he would never have supposed it possible with bodily eyes to behold in its fulness the Divine nature in spite of the plain declaration of God: No man shall see My Face and live. For even if God in days of old appeared to the saints, as the inspired Scripture tells us, |251 yet no one I think would suppose that the Divine nature was ever made manifest in its full perfection, but rather that it moulded itself into that peculiar fashion of outward appearance which was more specially suitable for each occasion. For example, the Prophets have seen Him in different manners, and their description of God varies greatly. For Isaiah beheld Him in one way, and Ezekiel again in a manner not resembling the wonder recorded in Isaiah. Philip therefore ought to have understood that it was absolutely impossible that he could see the Divine Essence in the flesh and yet in no fleshly form; especially as it was far from wise, with the Likeness and Very Exact Image of God the Father present before his eyes, to seek to penetrate onward to the presence of the Archetype, as though it were not then visible before him and manifested in the most fitting manner. For surely the contemplation of Christ is most fully sufficient as a representation of the Essence of God the Father, unfolding most beautifully and most exactly the marvellous grace of the Kingly Essence from which He was begotten. For the tree is known by its fruit, according to the saying of the Saviour Himself. Seeing therefore that to one who is really thoughtful the contemplation of the Son suffices to represent to us in perfect fulness the nature of Himself and of His Father, we may in all probability reckon the saying of the disciple as out of place; but still it will be found meet to be reckoned within the number of things that deserve the highest praise. For I think we must admire him, and that more than moderately, for saying: Shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. For it is as though he had said: “We should acknowledge that we were in the enjoyment of every pleasure, and there would be nothing for us to seek to fill our cup of happiness, if we ourselves also were deemed worthy of the longed-for sight of God the Father.” But a man who preferred to every blessing, and to everything that could be imagined to contribute to his pleasure, the sight of |252 God the Father, would surely be acknowledged to be worthy of all admiration. In this sense we shall understand the meaning in this passage, as I think, according to the obvious and simpler view taken by most men. But if it is needful to glance at a more elaborated sense, and perhaps to speak of some of the hidden meanings, we may suppose that Philip both spoke and also thought something on this wise. The leaders of the Jews, and besides them the scribes also and Pharisees, were stung to the quick by the Saviour’s wondrous works, and pierced as by stones cast into their heart by His immeasurable proofs of Divine power; they were bursting with jealousy and knew that they were utterly powerless either to perform such wonders themselves or to prevent Him from working them. And so they cavilled at His miraculous acts, seeking to make light of His glory by deceitful words; and running up and down the whole territory of Judaea and Jerusalem itself, they spread reports, at one time that He wrought His signs in the power of Beelzebub; at another time, in the fury of their uncontrollable madness, that He had a devil and knew not what He said. For they kept rebuking the multitudes, saying: He hath a devil, and is mad: why hear ye Him? Moreover [there was another plan of theirs] devised in an insufferable manner to ruin His good reputation; and what this was, I feel it my duty to explain. For they tried to persuade the people, as we showed just now, not to attend to our Saviour’s discourses, but to desert His teaching as contrary to the law; hastening to avoid Him as much as possible, and to adhere more firmly to the precepts given as from God by Moses. And on what grounds did they urge this? They said that the great Moses led forth the people of old to meet with God, as it is written, and presented them at the Mount Sinai, showing to them God in the mountain, and preparing them to hear His words, and assuring them most fully and clearly that God was uttering the laws: whereas Christ gave no such proofs of His authority, |253 and did nothing at all of the like. And that this comparison was currently accepted among them thou wilt learn from hence. For thou wilt behold them saying to the man born blind whom the Saviour healed by ineffable power: Thou art His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. For we know that God hath spoken unto Moses; but as for this Man, we know not whence He is. Those therefore who were arguing with Jewish pleas considered that their argument on this head was difficult to meet and impossible for most men to refute; and, as is probable, they did thereby confound and ensnare many. Bearing this in mind, and thinking that all the gainsaying of the Jews would be stopped if Christ Himself also would show the Father to those who believe on Him, Philip addresses Him in the words: Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. For conceive him to imply this much: “All things, O Master, that are conducive to faith are effected by Thy authority, and by wonders innumerable one might rebuke the immoderate extravagance of the Jewish gibings. But nothing whatever will fail us, if Thou Thyself wilt show forth to us God the Father; for this will be sufficient for Thy disciples, so as to enable them in the future very successfully to arm themselves in defence with the very arguments of those who put forth the former objections.” By applying some such view as this to the passage before us, we shall I think succeed in arriving at the argument suitable to the occasion. For Philip himself invites our attention to this view of ths case, by saying, “It sufficeth us to see God the Father,” as though this and this alone were wanting to those who have believed. And the Saviour Himself also may seem to suggest the same idea, by saying in what follows: The words that I say unto you, I speak not from Myself: but the Father abiding in Me, He doeth the works. But the sense we should attribute to this saying will be explained not in the present but in the more suitable and neighbouring passage. |254

9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and dost thou not know Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.

In an unexpected way He convicts the disciple of ignorance. For the less easily discernible portions of the meanings implied, in the apprehension of which our mental faculties are necessarily put to a more subtle test, will certainly, although possibly not in any short period yet still in a longer extension of time, be grasped by those who are desirous to learn, and will explain themselves most clearly; and those whose minds are not hardened and whose knowledge is unobstructed, may at once be expected to perceive such meanings and accept them with perfect ease. “What is it therefore,” He seems to say,” that hinders you, O Philip, from arriving at perfection of knowledge of Myself? Tell Me. For although so long a time has elapsed since I have been with you as to suffice for a perfect knowledge of all that it was needful for thee to learn, nevertheless thou art still in doubt, or rather art convicted of absolute ignorance, as to Who I am by nature, and whence I come; and yet thou findest Me to be the Creator of all that is more especially admired in thy sight. How was it that thou didst not know that he who hath seen Me hath seen the Father? Thou supposest that the Jews of old saw the Divine Nature on Mount Sinai, and heard it speaking in delivering the laws that govern men’s conduct; but not yet hast thou realised that through Me and in Me thou hast seen the Father. For he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” And to show my hearers that it is no corporeal contemplation that Christ here indicates, needs I think not many words. For no thoughtful person would ever maintain that the Divine Nature can be made an object of corporeal vision; nay, no one could endure to behold with the eyes of the body that which is now apprehended dimly as in a mirror: for we see darkly, and I believe that even the man who |255 boasts of the very highest knowledge has but a faint idea concerning God.

But this also we must say to the enemies of the truth, who are profuse in their railings against us, or rather against the very essence of the Only-begotten. For if it is untrue that the Son is of the very essence of God the Father, so as to be by generation That which He is, namely in His nature and in very truth God; and if He is made illustrious by the mere addition to Himself of features that were not originally His own, so that He shines as it were by reflected light from glories bestowed upon Him, and not by His own natural lustre, while appearing all the while as a true Likeness of the Father and an unchanging Image of God; then surely in the first place He could not be in His nature a Son, or even in any true sense an Offspring, but He must be either a created object like unto ourselves, or some other being standing in a similar relation: and this much being admitted and accepted as true, we shall then, it seems, have established this consequence also, that the Father could never be really and naturally a Father, but only so in will and in semblance, just as He is reckoned a Father of us also. And what will be the natural sequence of this? We shall still necessarily have to acknowledge a Trinity: only no longer do we express any belief whatever in the Holy Trinity, but rather in three utterly distinct Persons, each having nothing essentially in common with any other, each one of those named receding as it were into the special peculiarity of His own nature, each totally separate from the other. For the weightiness of the subject forces us to speak even more firmly still on the point. And if we allow that this is true, and confess that it follows as we have said, and admit that the Son is utterly different from the essence of God the Father, surely then Christ will be speaking falsely in the words: He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father. For since the Father is from the beginning in His nature God, how could the Son, |256 although not being (according to the view of these heretics) in His nature God, shew forth the Father in Himself? For how shall we behold the Uncreated in the created? And in one who once was not (according to their theory), how could any man possibly behold Him Who was from all eternity? For let not any of these blasphemers tell me, in his sophistical declamations against the power of truth, that because Christ is endued with the glory of God and His power and wisdom and good and omnipotence, so that He can bring into being things that never before existed, therefore He is also an Image of Him: but first let such an one prove whether Christ does not display Himself as in His nature God, and that so irrefutably that there is nothing which impairs the universal and absolute resemblance of the Image to the Archetype. And if he hesitates in perplexity and is unwilling to prove this, we will in the next place ask him to tell us what explanation will allow of one who (according to their accursed notions) is not in His nature God, being enabled to fulfil the works that belong to the Godhead: for this is what they mean by saying that He bears the Image of the Father. For if the Son, without possessing as His own a power sufficient for the purpose, borrows the power from the Father, and is by Him supplied with wisdom and might, so as to be able to perform actions which we shall allow to be beyond the power of any nature save that of the Father alone; then in so doing He will be falsely representing the Image and the Likeness. And if we refuse to admit that He (being of the nature we have just been describing) is guilty of falsehood, and accept the truth of His words, we shall then find ourselves convicted of wronging the glory of God the Father in a manner that I will now explain. We are constrained to admit one of two things: either He falsely represents the Image of God the Father, in that He possesses not in Himself the might sufficing for His acts, but is supplied therewith from another, whereas it is not so with the Archetype; |257 or else, if it is true as He says that in Him the Father is seen by us, and that there is really nothing whatever that disfigures or obscures or perverts His perfect similarity, it is absolutely necessary, willingly or unwillingly, to admit that the Father Himself holds His power as something received from another. For in this way He willed to display to us Himself in the Image of His own nature and of His glory.

“Is it possible then,” one might go on to say to these heretics, “that you do not perceive whither your theory, when once it quits the safe path, will lead you on, and into what an abyss of error it will plunge those who have held such views?” “But,” say they, “surely it is possible that the Son, although a created being, may yet fulfil the works whereof by His nature He is capable, and so advance the glory of God the Father?” Now what suggestion can appear more impious than this? If this be as they say, there can no longer be any superiority or any higher dignity by which God excels His creatures, if even one of them is to be invested with the glory and power of the Godhead. For let no one be so excessively deranged in mind as to suppose that he is imagining and uttering a marvellous and magnificent compliment concerning the Son in thinking or saying that “He is a creature, but not as one of the creatures.” Let him be well assured that he is thus in no small degree disparaging His glory. For the question is not whether His nature is specially superior beyond all other creatures, but whether He is at all a created being. For how could He avoid the consequences of being a creature, even though He were the noblest of all creatures? And if the glory of the Son is disparaged by saying that He was brought into existence, why do they vainly advance (to heal as it were His offended dignity) the statement that He was created in the highest of all possible ranks? It follows therefore that we shall offer insult to the essence of God the Father if we bestow such power on the Son, supposing the Son (according to their |258 ignorant and unskilful reasoning) is Himself a created being. And we shall not tolerate them when they tell us that the Son performs the acts of the Godhead, though Himself in His nature a creature, so as to glorify God the Father. If they can prove as much from the Divine Scripture, let them bring forward their citations, and let them observe the sayings of the holy writers in all sincerity: but if these are inventions of their own brains, and if they have themselves manufactured their arguments in this matter, we shall salute them with the words: Woe to those who prophesy after their own heart! For we shall allow that the Father ever is desirous of whatsoever He knows will maintain in integrity His Divine glory and preserve the absolute truth of the declarations made concerning Himself. And so we shall now bid farewell to the ignorant suggestions of those heretics and pass on to the real truth concerning Christ, believing that He is in truth begotten as Son of the essence of God the Father, and that He is in His nature God of God. For thus He speaks in perfect truth, in that He is both the Very Image and the Likeness of God the Father, when He says: He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.

How sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?

“Thou mightest, Philip,” He would say, “have beheld the glory of the Father in Me, and from what I am have perceived the nature of My Parent: for I have appeared in My true character as a Very and Exact Image and as a Perfect Likeness of His essence, bearing engraved on Myself the entire nature of God the Father. What additional manner of Divine vision other than this couldst thou ask for, at least if thou wouldst display thy ability to estimate things in true proportion; or tell Me what kind of contemplation thou dost require? Dost thou really suppose that a better and fuller manifestation was granted to the men of former times, when I came down on Mount Sinai in a vision of fire?” For this above |259 all else was the greatest and most usual boast of the Jews.

This we may in all probability suppose to have been the meaning of Christ’s answer. We must now, I conceive, feel it our duty to state in all boldness that the manifestation of the miracles of our Saviour Christ was a better guide to the knowledge of God the Father than the vision that appeared on Mount Sinai. For thus thou wilt see that Philip, when the true Image was before his eyes, was in no way constrained to ask for that other sight of God the Father which on Mount Sinai was granted to those of former time. For there the Lord descended, as it is written, in a form of fire, while the Israelites were looking on. But no one could, I think, thereby be made to advance to a right conception concerning God, or to ascend with one bound to a fitting comprehension of the Godhead. For how by means of fire as an image could we be led to realise the existence of God the Father as the Archetype [thereby shadowed forth]? For God is naturally good, and moreover is a Creator, calling previously non-existent things into being, bringing together the universe into consistence, and quickening all things: He is also Wisdom and Power, kind, compassionate, and merciful. And none of these attributes belong to fire. For no one would suppose, at least if he were gifted with sense, that fire was kind and compassionate to men; nor would any one soberly maintain that it was a creative influence, endowed with wisdom and the power of bestowing life. If this be so, tell me how any one could possibly from a vision of fire gather any ideas concerning the true nature of the Godhead. Or how could one behold in a mirror darkly any of those attributes that are inherent in it? What then, one may say, was the ground or reason that induced God to declare Himself in the form of fire on Mount Sinai? We shall answer that as the children of Israel were, at that moment above all others in their career, beginning their education in the way of |260 godliness, and were about to draw up the law which was to be observed as a strict rule to govern their own lives; it was most especially needful that God should appear as a Chastiser and a Terrible One to them, so that transgressors might be able to realise that they had to do with a Fire. Therefore surely it was that the great Moses also in speaking to the children of Israel said: Our God is a consuming Fire. And we should not at all be inclined to say that it was in order to exhibit to us the nature of God that the very wise writer thus compared Him to fire, but that he bestowed this title on God from the fact that, owing to His excessive hatred of wickedness, God shrinks not from wasting and consuming, like an all-devouring fire, those who despise Him. Therefore it is not in consequence of what He is in His nature that God makes Himself known in a vision of fire: but it was found to conduce to the profit of those who listened, that He should be thus named, and that He should have then appeared as fire. Let us pass now to that true and most exact vision of the Father granted to us in the Son. For we shall see Him to be an Image of the One Who begat Him, if we gaze intently with the eye of our minds on the extraordinary powers that are displayed in Him. Goodness belongs naturally to God the Father, and the same we shall find in the Son. For surely He is good, Who endured so great humiliation for our sakes, coming into the world to save sinners, and laying down His life for them. Similarly the Father is powerful, and so it is with the Son. For what power could be greater than that which commanded even the elements themselves, rebuking the sea and the winds, and transforming the nature of substances at His will; bidding the leper be cleansed, and giving sight to the blind: and all with God-befitting authority? The Father is in His nature Life: the Son also is equally Life, quickening those who have been turned to corruption, overthrowing the power of death, and thereby raising the dead to life. Rightly then does he say to Philip: He that hath seen |261 Me hath seen the Father. “For whereas,” He would say, “thou mightest in Me and through Me behold very clearly My Father, what other manner of Divine vision dost thou ask for, when thou hast received a far better one than that vouchsafed to the men of former time, and hast met with a most true Likeness of the Father, namely Mine own Self?”

10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father and the Father in Me?

“I indeed, O Philip,” He would say, “in depicting in Myself the nature of My Father, am the Image of His essence, moulded as that implies after His likeness, not (as might be supposed) by the bestowal of glories that once were not Mine, nor even by the reflected brilliancy of Divine endowments that once were unfamiliar but have been granted from without: but rather in My own nature are contained the qualities peculiar to My Father; and whatsoever He may be, that in very truth am I, in regard to sameness in essence. To this thou wilt surely reply: for it seems thou didst not go on to realise that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me. And yet the force of my words shall constrain thee henceforth, even in spite of thyself, to acknowledge thy assent to this. Therefore, whatsoever I say is spoken as the words of the Father; and whatsoever I do, is done by the Father also.” And Christ says this, not as one making use of the words of another, nor even as speaking in the office and capacity of a prophet to interpret the commands that came from the Father above: for the prophets ever spake, not their own words, but the words which they received by inspiration from God. Again, He attributes to His Father the successful performance of His miracles, not implying that He works His wonders by a power not His own, as did for instance those Apostles who said to the people: “Give not heed to us, as though by our own power or godliness we had healed the sick man.” For the saints are wont to use no power of their own in |262 working their miracles, but rather the power of God: for they appear as ministers and servants, showing forth the words and also the works of God. But since the Son is Consubstantial with the Father, differing from Him in no respect except as to distinct personality, He says that His own words are those of the Father, since the Father could in no wise make use of words differing from those of the Son. And further, thou wilt understand the same to be signified in the majesty of His works. For since the Father could never by any possibility carry into effect any work without the Son’s knowledge and co-operation, Christ attributes His works to His Father. For consider Him as saying more clearly this: “I am in all respects like to Him Who begat Me, and an Image of His essence; not merely adorned with the outward appearance of a glory that is not Mine, but, owing to the identity of essence, containing within Myself My Father in all His fulness.”

The words that I speak, I speak not from Myself: but the Father abiding in Me Himself doeth the works.

“If,” He would say, “My Father had spoken anything to you, He would have used words no other than these which I now speak. For so great is the equality in essence between Myself and Him, that My words are His words, and whatsoever I do may be believed to be His actions: for abiding in Me, by reason of the exact equivalence in essence, He Himself doeth the works.” For since the Godhead is One, in the Father, in the Son, and in the Spirit, every word that cometh from the Father comes always through the Son by the Spirit: and every work or miracle is through the Son by the Spirit, and yet is considered as coming from the Father. For the Son is not apart from the essence of the Father, nor indeed is the Holy Ghost; but the Son, being in the Father, and having the Father again in Himself, claims that the Father is the doer of the works. For the |263 nature of the Father is mighty in operation, and shines out clearly in the Son.

And one might add to this another meaning that is involved, suggested clearly by the principles that underlie the Incarnation. He says: I speak not of Myself, meaning “not in severance from or in lack of accordance with God the Father.” For since He appeared to those who saw Him in human form, He refers His words back to the Divine nature, as speaking in the Person of the Father; and the same with His actions: and He almost seems to say: “Let not this human form deprive Me of that reverent estimation which is due and befitting to Me, and do not suppose that My words are those of a mere man or of one like unto yourselves, but believe them to be in very truth Divine, and such as befit the Father equally with Myself. And He it is Who works, abiding in Me: for I am in Him, and He is in Me. Think not therefore that a mighty and extraordinary privilege was granted to the men of former days, in that they saw God in a vision of fire, and heard His voice speaking unto them. For ye have in reality seen the Father through Me and in Me; since I have appeared among you, being in My nature God, and have come visibly, according to the words of the Psalmist. And be well assured that in hearing My words, ye heard the words of the Father; and ye have been spectators of His works, and of the might that is in Him. For by Me He speaks, as by His own Word; and in Me He carries out and achieves His wondrous works, as though by His own Power.”

And so I suppose that no reasonable theory would ever separate Him Who is the Word of the Father and the mighty Power of His essence, from the essence of the Father. Eather would every one freely confess that the Word ever was from the beginning in His nature contained in the Father’s essence, every one at least who is anything but distraught in mental perplexity. |264

11 Believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me

He now admits plainly, or rather enjoins on the disciples henceforth, that it is fitting that we should be no otherwise minded than as the Word of Truth Himself may desire. For He is Consubstantial with His Father, nothing whatever intervening or in any way separating One from the Other into a diversity of nature. He is One with Him, so that the Son’s nature appears in the essence of the Father, and in the essence of the Offspring appears conspicuously that of God the Father; just as one might see happen in the case of human relations. For we are in no way different in our nature from our offspring, nor are we sundered from them in an alienation of nature, although we are distinguished by a difference of outward personality; in illustration of which, let any man who has looked upon the son begotten by himself consider the history of the blessed Abraham. But in the case of men the difference is often very considerable, each one tending definitely, in a way, towards a retirement and withdrawal of himself into a peculiar line of life and manners, without feeling personally bound up in the other; although their unity of essence may be certain and evident to all. But in the case of God, Who is ever in perfect accordance with His nature, thou wilt believe it to be otherwise. The Father indeed is in individual personality Father and not Son; and again similarly He Who cometh forth from the Father is Son and not Father; and the Spirit is peculiarly Spirit. But |265 since the Holy Trinity is united and joined together into a oneness of Godhead, there is among us One God alone: and it would be impossible to attribute to each one of the Persons here indicated the habit of secession from the others, and neither will ever withdraw into absolute separation; but we believe that each Person is in very substance exactly what we have here entitled Him. We consider that the Son, being of the Father, that is, of His essence, proceeded forth from Him in a manner ineffable, and yet abides in Him. Likewise also concerning the Holy Spirit: He proceeds in very truth from God as He is by nature, and yet is in no wise severed from His essence; but rather proceeds forth from Him, still abiding ever in Him, and is supplied to the saints through Christ; for all things come through the Son by the Holy Spirit. Such is the true and upright teaching that the wisdom of the holy fathers has taught us: thus we have been trained also by the Holy Scriptures themselves to speak and to think. And the Lord would cheer us onward to accept this unreviled faith, when he says: Believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me.  

Or else believe for the very works’ sake.

In these words He distinctly says that He could never have worked out and achieved those miracles which were characteristic of the Divine nature alone, if He had not been Himself essentially of that nature. And see on what sure grounds and also with what truth He makes this declaration. He does not claim credence for His words alone, although He knew no deceit, so much as for His actions. And why this is so I will tell you. There would be nothing to prevent any man, however mad and however foolish, from falsely using God-befitting words and speeches, and uttering such expressions in a most reckless manner: but who could ever display a God-befitting power of action? And to whom of created beings will the Father grant that glory which is especially His own? Do we not always say that the power |266 of doing all things and the possession of an all-supreme might is the glory of God alone, attaching to no other being, at least to no one ever numbered among the creatures of God? Therefore it is that Christ, wishing to give a proof of His Divinity resting on cogent and unquestionable arguments, urged them to believe the evidence of His actual works that He was in the Father, and that the Father again was in Him: that is, that he bears in His own substance the nature of the Father, as being His very own Offspring and most truly His Fruit, and appearing in natural relation to Him as Son to Father. But while the Church of Christ, in perfect confidence in the rightness of her teaching, holds in this form her doctrine concerning the Only-begotten, on the other hand the ungodly heretics have attempted to seduce to a different belief those who follow after and attend to their pernicious teachings. For the miserable creatures are furious in their outcries against Christ, and consider one another not to provoke unto godliness, but to the end that each one may appear more godless than another, and may utter something yet more unseemly. For since they drink the wine of Sodom and gather the bitter clusters of Gomorrah, because they receive not from the Divine Spirit their knowledge concerning Him, nor yet by revelation from the Father, but from the dragon himself; they can conceive in their minds nothing that is sound and right, but they utter sayings which bring to absolute wretchedness the souls of those who hear them, hurling them down to Hades and the abyss below. They venture moreover to publish these opinions in books, thus stereotyping their own wickedness for all time. It ought to have been sufficient for us to have said just so much on the present passage as would have been likely to benefit those who may chance to read it, by way of establishing in absolute accuracy the true conception concerning the Son, without making any allusion whatever to the heretical writings. But as it is in no way improbable that some persons of feeble |267 intelligence may, on chancing to meet with their miserable sayings, be carried away by them; I considered it necessary to put an end to the harm that might result from their foolish talk, by exposing the utter weakness of the slanders they wish to raise in their vehement attack on the Son, or rather, for that is the truer way of putting the case, on the whole Divine nature.

I happened then to meet with a pamphlet of our opponents, and on investigating what they had to say on the text now before us, I found, in the course of reading it, these words used after certain others: “The Son therefore being essentially encompassed by the Father, has within Himself the Father, and it is the Father Who utters the words and accomplishes the miracles. This is the interpretation of His words: The things that I speak unto you, I speak not from Myself; but the Father abiding in Me, He doeth the works”

Such are the exact expressions of the author’s quibbling jugglery. Now since it is my duty to mention this view, which is opposed to the language of Scripture, and which may very well perplex an inexperienced mind, I make this assertion. As to their phrase, that “the Son is essentially encompassed by the Father,” I do not in the least understand what in the world it means, or what it signifies,—-I speak the truth, as I feel it my duty to do,—-so great is the obscurity of the expression. The real sense of the words seems ashamed of itself, and inclined to veil itself in overmuch dimness, not daring to explain itself openly and clearly. For even as he that doeth ill hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, lest he should be improved, according to the Saviour’s word; even so every argument with an ill tendency is wont to move through dark ideas, and will not go towards the light of plain speaking, lest the meanness of its inherent unsoundness should be reproved. What then may we suppose to be the meaning of the Son’s being “essentially encompassed by the Father?” For I will spare no pains to discover reasonings which may sift in |268 every possible way the real import of that which is here so dimly expressed, and which perhaps shrinks from being understood lest it may then reveal the folly of its author. If then the meaning be this, that the Son, appearing in the essence of the Father as Consubstantial with Him, displays also in His own Person the Father brilliantly shining in the nature of His Offspring, we also will assent to the truth of the statement: still, the use of the word “encompass” would perchance do more than a slight injustice in its application to the Son. But if this be not the meaning,—-and surely it cannot be, for never would it be admitted that the Son is begotten of the essence of the Father by one who has vomited such blasphemy against Him, insisting that like some finite body the nature of the Son is enclosed within that of the Father,—-certainly such an one will be convicted of evident blasphemy, and will be shown to be full of the most excessive madness. For while admitting in words that the Son is God, they endeavour most illogically to invest Him with properties peculiar to [created] bodies. For the being parted off by a boundary line and separated by a definitely conceived measure, the starting from a fixed origin and ceasing at a fixed limit, all this surely implies existence conditioned by place and size and fashion and form. And these are surely attributes of [created] bodies. Shall we not then in this way be thinking of Him Who is above us as though He were on a level with us as one of ourselves? Would He not then be a brother to the rest of creation, having henceforth nothing in Himself by way of superiority to it, inasmuch as this theory has come to speak of His existence as merely finite? And, being so, at least according to the foolish supposition of our opponents, why did He vainly reproach us in the words: Ye are from beneath; I am from above, and again: Ye are of this world; I am not of this world? For in saying that He Himself is “from above,” He does not simply mean that He came from heaven: else, how would He excel the holy angels, since |269 we shall find that they also are “from above,” if we interpret the meaning in a merely local sense? But He signifies that He is the Offspring of that essence which is from above, and which is more excellent than all else in the universe. How then after this can He be speaking the truth, if He possesses the peculiar attributes of [created] bodies in common with all creation, and is “encompassed” by the Father, even as those things that are brought into existence out of nothing? For of course we are ready to agree that no created thing can be situated outside of the Father. And the inspired Psalmist also, speaking surely by the Spirit deep truths and hidden mysteries, says that the Son is all-pervading, attesting thereby His incorporeal and illimitable nature, and that as God He is confined to no one locality. For his words are: Whither can I go from Thy Spirit, and whither can I fly from Thy Presence? If I ascend into heaven, Thou art there; if I descend into Hades, Thou art present: if I take my wings in the morning, and go unto the uttermost parts of the sea, even there also Thy hand shall guide me, and Thy right hand shall hold me. But these heretics, in utter recklessness ranging their own opinions in antagonism to the words of the Spirit, subject the Only-begotten to limitations and boundaries, although they ought to have understood the matter from the cogent and instructive reasoning of this Scripture. For if He has filled the heavens and the uttermost parts of the earth, and therefore also the regions of Hades, is it not excessively unreasonable to apply to Him the word “encompassed,” without reflecting that if His Presence, that is, if the Spirit—-for the Psalmist calls the Spirit the Presence of the Son—-fills all things, it is inconceivable that Christ Himself should be “encompassed” within any boundary, even though it be in the substance of God the Father? Nay, it will be no less outrageous to limit within a confined space that which is incorporeal than to include in a measure that which exists in no finite form. For to say that He |270 is “essentially encompassed by God the Father” is surely nought else than to imply that His essence is finite, exactly like any individual thing of the works that were made by Him: and these we shall safely and truly allow to be capable of being “encompassed “: for they are [created] bodies, even though perchance not all such as ours.

But besides, there is this also to be thought of. If we maintain that it is necessary that whatever is enfolded by anything lies entirely within the limits of that which is said to “encompass” it, will it not certainly follow that we should think of that which is “encompassed” as something less than that which “encompasses” it, and should speak of it as limited thereby, and as it were enclosed within the compass of that which is greater than itself? What sayest thou now, my friend? Here we have Christ presenting Himself before us as a Likeness of God the Father, and plainly saying: He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father, and again straightway adding: I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me. Let us assume then that He means, as you would understand Him to say, that “although I am the Very Image and Likeness of My Father, yet I am essentially encompassed by Him.” Surely it is acknowledged by all men that He would have us hold just such ideas concerning the Father as we would conceive concerning Himself also. Therefore it would follow that the Father also is subject to limitation, for He is in the Son: and let the heretic search if he will and find out who or what is greater than the Father; I should deem it impious to express or even to conceive such an idea. The Son can never be a Likeness of the Father in one way and not so in another. For if He has in Himself anything at all that would alter or interfere with His resemblance in all points, He would be, as a consequence of that, a partial and not a perfect Likeness. But where could you show us the Holy Scripture teaching such a doctrine as this? For most certainly we are not |271 going to be led astray by your words so as to reject the plain truth of the Sacred statements. And I wonder how it is they did not shrink in dismay from adding to their former arguments the following: “Just as Paul had Christ speaking in him and effecting the mighty deeds, exactly in the same way also the Son had the Father speaking in Him and working the miracles; wherefore He says: Believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me: or else believe Me for the very works’ sake.” After this, who will any longer allow the name of Christian to one who holds such views and thinks such thoughts concerning Christ? For behold how very evidently he maintains that Christ is no longer truly God: recklessly He invests Him with the limitations properly characteristic of creatures, proclaiming Him to be a sort of God-bearer, or one who participates in God, rather than One begotten God of God. To put it briefly, his aim is throughout the utter severance of Christ, in every way and in every respect, from the essence of God the Father; and to cut Him off altogether from that intimate relationship in nature and essence which He has with God His own Father.

Now what could be conceived to surpass such views as these in the immense amazement they are calculated to excite? How could one refrain from shedding in torrents uncontrollable tears of love over men so utterly abandoned to ungodliness, as though they were already dead and perished? One might say, and that very appropriately: Who will give to my head water, and to mine eyes a fountain of tears, and I will weep for this people day and night? For over those who have chosen to think such thoughts as these, one might fitly shed innumerable tears. But since it is by means of the doctrines of the truth that I conceive we ought to refute their slanders, for the sake of that which is profitable to simple folk, come now, and let us answer them by saying that we have been very jealous for the Lord. For assuredly, my friends, the inspired Paul or any other among the saints, while |272 they had in themselves Christ tabernacled in their hearts by the Spirit, very easily did such things as seemed good unto God, and appeared as workers of miraculous deeds. It is an established fact therefore, and one that thou wouldst thyself admit to be true, that being really human in nature, and different in essence from the Holy Spirit of Christ that dwelt within them, they were fearers of God, and were glorious by reason of the grace bestowed on them by Christ. And thou wilt altogether agree with us in saying that they were at one time destitute of this gift, and were called thereunto when it seemed good to God, Who directs all things well, that thus it should be. It was then not impossible that, by some untoward action, or deed not well done, the blessed Paul, or any other of those similarly favoured, should after being joined unto God be capable of losing again the grace given to him, and being thrust back again to return to the humiliation whence he had arisen. For that which is wholly adventitious and from without may easily be spurned away, and is capable of being taken back even as it was given. Now then, my good sir: for my question is coming back to thee: if it is true, according to thy ignorant notions and most impious imagination, that even as Christ was speaking and working wonders in Paul, so one must admit that the Father is in the Son; what manner of doubt can there be that He must be in no sense whatever in His nature God, but rather something different from the Father indwelling in Him, the Father being God in very truth? For thus it was that Christ was in Paul. So then, [according to you,] the Only-begotten is a sort of instrument or implement [in the hand of the Father], cunningly devised to set forth His glory, in no wise differing from a flute or a lyre, giving utterance to whatsoever the mouth of the player might breathe into it or the touch of his finger call forth in rhythmic melody. And He will be acceptable to the Father as an assistance in the performance of His wonders, as one might conceive of a saw or an axe in the hands of a skilful carpenter. |273 And then what can be more paradoxical than this? For if He is by nature as those heretics say, He must be altogether alien from God the Father; whereas in our opinion He is by nature God, and none other than God. But if the Son is severed from the essence of the Father, as far at least as pertains to His being in nature God, surely we are correct in inferring that the Son Who sits at the Father’s right hand is placed in the same rank with the created world, and reckoned among the results of God’s workmanship, and regarded in the light of a mechanical instrument, and looked upon henceforth as a servant to ourselves rather than as a master; or indeed that He is in strict truth not actually a Son at all. For never could one regard or accept in the light of a Son a being who was placed in the rank of a mere instrument. The Father, it would appear, has begotten an instrument to show forth His wisdom and skill, and is deemed to have generated something quite different from that which He is Himself. How could this possibly happen? Surely it is the height of folly to conceive such a notion. If therefore thou refusest to surrender that opinion concerning the Son which regards Him as an instrument or a servant, and if thou art unwilling to acknowledge Him as at all in truth a Son, and deniest His ineffable generation from the essence of God the Father; thou wilt be doing injustice to the glory even of the Father Himself: for then the Father will cease to be Father in veritable reality; for how could one who had not begotten a son of his own essence be at all in his nature a father? It would follow that the Holy Trinity is altogether falsely named, if neither the Father is truly Father, nor the Son in His nature Son. And the logical sequence to this view will be blasphemy against the Holy Ghost as well.

It would therefore follow in this case that we have been grossly deceived: our faith is a falsehood: the Holy Scripture is coining a lie when it calls God by the name of the Father. And if the Son is not in His nature |274 God, as having been begotten of God the Father, we have been led astray, and together with us the citizens of the world above have erred also, even the undefiled multitude of the holy angels, when they joined us in glorifying and adoring the Son as One Who is in His nature God; being led on in some mysterious manner to sing the praise of one who (if we speak after the manner of the heretics’ accursed folly) is a God-bearing vessel, the work of God’s hands. And if the Father ever willed to withdraw from His relationship to the Son and His indwelling in Him, the Son would then be in no respect different from others who have fallen away from their original sovereignty, with nothing to distinguish Him, no trace within His nature of the Father Who begat Him; but rather one like ourselves in all things, who had only been strengthened by the Divine grace, and indeed honoured with the title of sonship, in the same degree as ourselves. Tell me then, why does He not Himself acknowledge His natural relationship to us? Why is it written: We perish for ever, whereas Thou abidest for ever? And why are we “servants” and He “Lord “? For even if we are called the sons of God, yet by acknowledging none the less our own proper nature we do not disgrace the honour done to us: but tell me the reason why—-if He is like unto us and not at all superior to His creatures, inasmuch as He is not in nature God (for this is their ignorant opinion)—-He does not confess His community with us in being a servant? Eather we find Him investing Himself with the honour and glory that peculiarly befit and are specially ascribed to the Divine nature, and saying to the holy disciples: Ye call Me Lord and Master, and ye say well; for so I am. This is the Saviour’s saying: but our illustrious expositors, who introduce these doctrines attacking His Divinity, accept his words and affirmation asserting that He was truly called Lord, and yet thrust Him away from His natural lordship, because they are unwilling to confess Him as in His nature God of God; though |275 they are not bold enough to bring against Him the worst of all the charges that their accursed blasphemy implies.

For that He wills not to be reckoned among those who hold the rank of servants, or even in the category of created objects, but rather that He ever looks to the freedom inherent in Himself by nature, even at the time when He was made in the form of a servant—-all this thou wilt learn in the following manner. He had arrived at Capernaum, as we read in the Gospels: the collectors of the legal tribute-money came to Peter, and said: Doth not your Master pay the half-shekel? And when Christ heard of this, it is right that we should notice the question He addressed to Peter: The kings of the earth, from whom do they receive toll or tribute? from their sons or from strangers? And after Peter had wisely and sensibly acknowledged that it was a stranger to the kingdom, as regards birth and kinship as it is reckoned among us, who would be compelled to submit to ordinances and taxation; Christ forthwith brought forward His claim that a God-befitting nature was truly existent in Himself, by adding the words: Therefore the sons are free. Whereas if He had been a fellow-servant, and not a Son truly begotten of the essence of the Father, with no intimate natural relationship to the Father; why is it that, after implying that all besides are subject to the tribute, inasmuch as their nature is foreign to that of Him Who of right receives the tribute, and they are only in the rank of servants, He has claimed freedom for Himself alone? For it is by an inaccurate use of terms that attributes, which mainly and truly are befitting to the Godhead alone, are ascribed to us; whereas in Him they are in very truth inherent. And so if any one were to investigate accurately the nature of things created, he would perceive that to that nature the title as well as the fact of slavery most appropriately belongs; whereas if any like ourselves have been decorated with the glorious name of freedom, an honour that is due to |276 God alone is attributed to them only by an inexact use of language.

Now here again is another question I should be very glad to ask them. Will they allow to Paul the epithet; of God-bearer, seeing that Christ dwells in him through the Holy Spirit, or will they be silly enough to deny this? For if they shall say that he is not in truth a God-bearer, this will be sufficient I think to persuade all men for the future to reject the nonsense they talk, and to hate them utterly, as men who shrink from saying no absurd thing. And if, avoiding this, they shall turn to the duty of saying the truth, and confess him to be truly a God-bearer, because that Christ dwells in him, will they not be convicted of very impiously saying that the Son is alien from the essence of God the Father? For Paul is no longer a God-bearer, if the Son is not in His nature God. But sometimes they blush, and say—-for they are also characterised by recklessness and perverseness in argument—-that the Son is truly God, yet not in His nature begotten of God. And there is no manner of doubt that any man whatever will exclaim against them on this point too; for how could one who is not in his nature begotten of God be God? Further, we add this. You say that the Son is in His nature God: how then could He Who is in His nature God be a God-bearer or a partaker of God? For no one could ever be a partaker of himself. For to what end will God dwell in God, as though in something different? For if the recipient is in nature just the same as the indweller may be conceived to be, what henceforth becomes of the need of the participation? And if in the same way that Christ dwelt in Paul, the Father also dwelt in Him, will not Christ be a God-bearer in the same way as Paul? And He will not in any other sense possess the quality of being in His nature God, through His having the need of a greater one, namely, the indwelling God. Then again this noble friend of ours goes further in his clever inventions, and by many proofs (as |277 he seems to think them) he attempts to talk people round to his peculiar doctrine. For I think it is worth while to go through all his words in detail, and to make a direct investigation of the impious plot that he has laid, in order that he may be clearly convicted of numbering the Only-begotten among things created. And the wretched man, having buried his impiety towards Christ beneath a heap of cleverly devised conceits, confesses Him to be God, and yet, excluding Him from the Divinity that is truly and naturally His, imagines that he will elude the observation of those who are looking for the real truth.

Accordingly he writes thus: “But even as we, while we are said to be in Him, have our substance in no way mingled with His; in the same way also the Son, while He is in the Father, has His essence entirely different from the Uncreated One.”

What lamentable audacity! What extravagant language, and how full of folly, or rather of all perversity and madness! Professing themselves to be wise they in reality became fools; and holding these views concerning the Only-begotten, they denied the Master that bought them, as it is written. For if they say that the Word of God is a man and one like ourselves, there remains nothing that prevents them from saying that He is in God in the same way that we are: but if they believe Him to be God, and have learnt to worship Him as being so by nature, why do they not rather ascribe to Him existence in a God-befitting way in His own Father, and also the possession of the Father in Himself? For this I think would be more fitting for those who are really lovers of God to think and say. And if we find them still cherishing their shamelessness undaunted, and persisting in the words they have uttered,—-saying that the Father is in the Son in the same manner as may be the case with any one of us, who have been created out of nothing and formed out of the earth by Him,—-why is it not permissible for those who wish to do so, to say henceforth with impunity: He that hath seen me hath seen the Father, |278 and: I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? But I think that in this way any one would be condemned, and very properly, on a charge of the most utter folly possible. For not only is it absurd, but such a thing was never said by any of the saints in the inspired Scripture. On the other hand, they all concede to Him Who is in His nature Lord and God, the Only-begotten, an incomparable excellence above all good men; yea, verily, they proclaim aloud and say: Who among the sons of God shall be likened unto the Lord? How then is the Only-begotten any longer like us, if (according to the language of the saints) no one is His equal or His peer? Whereas if He is in God in just the same way that we are, we shall in consequence be compelled to say that the 3ompany of the saints are untruthful, and to ascribe to Him Who is in His nature Son nothing extraordinary which might distinguish Him as of a different rank from those who are sons only by adoption. Away with the loathsome idea, man! For we will not be so persuaded; God forbid! On the contrary, following the opinions of the holy fathers, we believe that we shall be well-pleasing unto God.

But seeing that they brought forward, as a proof of what they think and say, that well-known saying of Paul, that in God we live, and move, and have our being, arguing that when the Son is said to be in the Father the expression lacks precision, being adopted from our everyday life; come and let us subject their statement to the requisite investigation, and so convict them of deliberately misrepresenting the mind of the holy Apostle and most foolishly perverting to their own views what was said in absolute truth. For when the blessed Paul was at Athens and saw the inhabitants abjectly devoted to polytheistic error, although the people in that city were reputed wise, he attempted to lead them back from their ancient delusion, seeking (by argumentative exhortations to true piety) skilfully to convince them of the necessity for the future of knowing one God and one only, Who bestows on those that have been made by Him the power |279 of moving and living and having their being. For the Creator of all, being in His nature Life, implants life in all, infusing into them by an ineffable process the power of His own Individuality. For in no other way was it possible that things which had received their allotted birth out of nothing should preserve their capability of existence: for surely each would have returned to its own nature, I mean back again to non-existence, unless, by the help of its relationship to the Self-Existent One, it had overcome the weakness of its own condition at birth. Therefore the inspired Paul very rightly and properly said, by way of showing that God is the life of the universe, that in Him we live, and move, and have our being: not at all meaning what the heretics invented for themselves, in corrupting (to suit their own peculiar theories) the true signification of the Holy Scriptures; but rather saying exactly what was true, and also highly profitable for those who were just being trained up to a knowledge of God. And, if it is needful to put it even more plainly, he has never wished to imply that we, who are in our nature men, are yet contained in the essence of the Father, and appear as existing in Him; but rather that we live and move and have our being in God, that is, our life consists in Him.

For notice that Paul did not say simply and unreservedly, “We are in God,” and nothing more. This was on account of thy ignorance, my good friend, and most naturally so. But he employed different expressions, by way of interpreting the exact meaning of his words. After beginning with the statement: “We live,” he added thereto the further idea: “We move” and thirdly he brought in the phrase: “We have our being;” presenting this also, so as to supplement the meaning of the previous words. And I think that the correct argument we shall use concerning this matter will very probably put to shame the ungodly heretic: but if he insists in his opposition, and drags round the words “in God” to the meaning which pleases himself and no one else, we will set |280 forth the common use of the inspired Scripture. Scripture is wont occasionally to use the words “in God” in the sense of “by God.” For let that man tell us what is the meaning of a certain Psalmist’s declaration, when he says: “In God” let us do valiantly; and again, addressing God: “In Thee” will we push down our enemies. For surely no one will suppose that the Psalmist means this, that he promises to accomplish something valiantly “in the essence of God,” nor even that “in that essence” we shall discover our own enemies and push them down: but he uses the words “in God” in the sense of”by [the help of] God,” and again, “in Thee” in the sense of “by Thee.” And why also did the blessed Paul say in his letter to the Corinthians: I thank my God concerning you all for the grace which was given you in Christ Jesus,” and again: But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus,” Who was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption? For will any one reasonably maintain that the Spirit-bearer says that the grace which was bestowed on the Corinthians from above was given “in the actual essence of Christ,” or to quote the authority of Paul in support of heterodoxy? Surely such a one would be evidently talking nonsense. Why therefore, setting aside the ordinary usage of terms in the Sacred Scriptures, and misrepresenting the intention of the blessed Paul, dost thou say that we are “in God,” that is, “in the essence of the Father,” because thou hearest him say to those in Athens, that in Him we live, and move, and have our being?

“Yes,” says the defender of the pernicious opinions, “but if it seems to thee right and proper that the words ‘in God’ should bear and be acknowledged to bear the sense of ‘ by God,’ why dost thou make so much needless ado? And why dost thou bring against us charges of blasphemy when we maintain that the Son was made ‘ by the Father’? For behold, He Himself says: I am in the Father,’ in the sense of ‘by the Father,’ at least according to thy explanation, Sir, and |281 according to the common usage, which thou hast just laid before us in thy quotations from the Sacred Scriptures.”

But I say that it is necessary to defend myself again in reply to this, and lay bare their mischievous intentions and pernicious notions. For I am astonished that, after hearing gladly that it is a usage of the Sacred Scripture to use the words “in God” as equivalent to “by God,” and after approving and accepting the phrase merely for the sake of being able to say something against the glory of the Only-begotten, they have by no means become conscious of the fact that they will again be convicted of talking as foolishly as before, although they claim to be wise and acute. For if our opponents were the only ones entrusted with the duty of defending from time to time the usage of the inspired Scripture in reference to the essence of the Only-begotten, and of saying that He was made by the Father, because of this, that He says He is “in God,” and we have allowed that “in God” is to be understood in the sense of “by God;” then it might have seemed at least probable that their mischievous intention rested on grounds not altogether unreasonable. But if in truth there is nothing which can prevent us also, in our eagerness to refute by a reductio ad absurdum the unsoundness of the sentiments they hold, from carrying on the force of the meaning implied so as to make it refer to the Father Himself, and from saying plainly that since Christ also adds this: The Father is in Me,” we must understand it in the sense of “by Me,” so that as a consequence the Father Himself also will be a creature; surely then they, having relied on arguments so very foolish, will be universally condemned as guilty of unmitigated folly. For just as the Son says that He Himself is “in” the Father, so also He said that the Father, is “in” Him: and if they wish the words “in the Father” to be understood in the sense of “by the Father,” what is there that prevents us from saying that the words “in the Son” |282 shall be understood in the sense of “by the Son “? But we will not suffer ourselves again to be drawn down with them into such an abyss of folly. For neither will we say that the Son is made by the Father, nor indeed that He from Whom are all things, namely God the Father, was brought into existence by the Son; but rather, referring the usage of the inspired Scripture in due proportion to each occasion or person or circumstance, we shall thus weave together our theory so as to make it on all essential points faultless and indisputable. For with regard to those who out of nothing have been created into being, and have been brought into existence by God, surely it would be most fitting that we should regard them and speak of them as being “in God” in the sense of “by God:” but with regard to Him Who is in His nature Son and Lord, and God and Creator of the universe, this signification could not be specially or truly suitable. The real truth is that He is naturally in the Father, and in Him from the beginning, and has Him in Himself, by reason of His showing Himself to possess identity of essence, and because He is subject to no power that can sever between Them, and divide Them into a diversity of nature.

And perhaps it might seem to minds more open to conviction that this matter has been sufficiently discussed, as indeed I think myself: yet our opponent will by no means assent to this; but he will meet us again with the objection, dishing up again the argument introduced by him at the first, that the Father is in the Son in the same manner, as we are in Him.

“What then,” we might say, judiciously rebuking the unsoundness and childishness of his thoughts and words, “dost thou say that the Son is in the Father even as we are in Him? Be it so. What limit to our natural capacity then,” we shall reply, “is there, that prevents us from using expressions with respect to ourselves as exalted as any of those which Christ is seen to have used? For He Himself, seeing that He is in the Father |283 and has the Father in Himself, inasmuch as He is thereby both an Exact Likeness and Very Image of Him, uses the expressions: He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father: I and the Father are One. But with regard to ourselves, tell me, if we are in Him and if we have Him in ourselves exactly in the same way that Christ Himself is in the Father and the Father in Him, why do we not extend our necks as much as we can, and, holding our heads high above those around us, say with boldness: “I am in Christ and Christ in me: He that hath seen me hath seen Christ: I and Christ are one “? Then what would come next? No one, I think, would any longer have any just cause for alarm, or any sufficient ground for hesitation, to prevent his speaking as follows, daring henceforth to say concerning the Father Himself: “I and the Father are one.” For if the Father is one with the Son, surely such a man, having become an exact image of the Exact Image, namely of the Son, will share henceforth in all the Son’s relations to the Father Himself. Who therefore will ever descend to such a depth of madness as to dare to say: “He who hath seen me hath seen Christ: I and Christ are one”? For if thou attributest to the Son the being in the Father and the having the Father in Himself in some non-essential manner and not in His nature, and supposest that we in like manner are in Christ and Christ in us; in the first place the Son will be on the same footing as ourselves, and in the next place there is nothing that prevents us at our pleasure from passing by the Son Himself as though He were an obstacle in our way, and rushing straight on to the Father Himself, and claiming that we are so exactly assimilated to Him that nothing can be found which distinguishes us from Him. For the being said to be one with anything would naturally bear this meaning. Do ye not then see into what a depth of folly and at the same time of impiety their minds have sunk, and of what absurd arguments the wild attack upon us has consisted? What their excuse is therefore for saying and |284 upholding such things, and for buoying themselves up on such rotten arguments, I will now again tell. Their one endeavour is to show that the Son is altogether alien and altogether foreign to the essence of the Father. For we shall know that we are speaking the truth in saying this, by reference to the words that follow after and are closely connected with the heretic’s previous blasphemies. For he proceeds thus: “But even as we, while we are in Him, have our substance in no way mingled with His; in the same way also the Son, while He is in the Father, has His essence entirely different from the Unbegotten God.” What sayest thou, O infatuated one? Hast thou made thy blasphemy against the Son in such plain language? Will any one therefore venture to say that we are trying to heap upon the heads of the God-opposers groundless and false accusations’? For see clearly, they attribute to Him no superiority whatever over those who have been made of earth and have been by Him brought into existence. And although I can scarcely endure the things which the wretched men have dared to say, I will endeavour to prove this, as being in accordance with the scope of Divine Scripture, namely, that since they deny the Son they deny at the same time the Father also, and thenceforth are without God and without hope in this world, as it is written. And to prove that we are right in saying this, the God-beloved John will come forward as a trustworthy witness on our side, for he wrote thus: He that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father; he that confesseth the Son hath the Father also. And surely the Spirit-bearer speaketh very rightly, not failing to make his statement conform fittingly to his argument. For because he knows that [God the Father] is essentially in His nature what He is said to be, namely a Father, and that not merely in name but rather in reality, he consequently says that the One is necessarily denied when the Other is denied. For concurrently in some way or other with One Who is really |285 in His nature a Father and is so conceived of, there must always be the knowledge and manifestation of the Offspring that proceedeth from Him; and One Who has been in very truth begotten involves the Personal existence of Another capable by nature of begetting. For no sooner do we recognise a man as a father than we understand him to have begotten offspring, and we can by no means consider the idea of an offspring without implying that some father has begotten it. Thus by either term the other conception is produced in the minds of those who hear it, and so any one who denies that God is truly a Father makes out the generation of the Son to be altogether impossible, and similarly any one who does not confess the Son to be an Offspring must by implication lose all knowledge of the Father. When therefore, as from a sling, he hurls at us his unholy arguments, and maintains that the Son has His essence quite distinct from that of the Unbegotten God, why does He not openly deny that the Son is really a Son? And if there is not a Son, the Father Himself can no longer be conceived of as truly a Father. For whose Father will He be, if He has not begotten any Offspring? What we say is, that the Son is quite distinct from the Person, but not from the essence, of the Father; not being alien from Him in His nature, as forsooth these God-opposers think, but being possessed of His own Person and His own distinct subsistence, inasmuch as He is Son and not Father. But, if we understand our own mind rightly, we would not ourselves say, nor would we assent to any of the brethren who say, that He is distinct from the Father in regard to essence. For how can distinction exist in that one thing, with reference to which each individual has some special characteristic? For Peter is Peter, and not Paul, and Paul is not Peter; yet they remain without distinction in their nature. For both possess one kind of nature, and the individuals who are associated in a uniformity of nature have that same kind without any difference at all. |286

For what reason are we saying such things as this? We confess that our object is to show that those who hold such blasphemous opinions rob the Son of the Godhead which is His by nature, when they (as we have already explained) ascribe to Him nothing more than a non-essential relationship to God the Father. Else why do they put forward ourselves in illustration of their argument, and say: “Even as we have our substance in no way mingled with His, while we are in Him; so also He Himself has His essence entirely different from God, although He is said to be in Him “? Is not their craftiness patent to all men? Will not any one be right in saying that the man who vomited forth such an abominable statement as this must surely be one of the “mockers” announced beforehand by the Spirit? For what does Jude, the disciple of the Saviour, write to us in his epistle? But ye, beloved, remember ye the words which have been spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; how that they said to you, that in the last time there shall come mockers, walking after their own ungodly lusts. These are they who make separations, sensual, having not the Spirit. For no man whatsoever, who speaks in the Holy Spirit, will say anything against the glory of the Only-begotten. For I maintain that this is just the same as saying: Jesus is anathema. On the other hand, sensual and worthless men, and those whose hearts are devoid of the Holy Spirit, make separations between the Father and the Son; asserting that the latter is as essentially and completely severed from the former as are created things and each of the works made by Him, and believing Him to be in the Father only in the same way that we are in Him.

And that they who have dared to write such things have thereby reached the furthest verge of folly, let us if you please proceed to show in another way, as is quite possible, from the Divine Scripture; and let us hasten to prove to our hearers that we are in the Son in one way,whereas the Son is in His own Father in another way. |287 For one person is not a likeness of another’s substance when he conforms himself to that other by the exercise of a virtuous will, nor is he on that account said to be in the other; but when he is in natural identity with the other, and possesses one essence with him. And let the most wise John be called in as a witness for us on this point, since he says: Yea, and our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. How then, pray, do they say, and in what manner do they think fit to assert, that we have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ? For if we are considered to be in Them, as having our own essence commingled with the Divine nature, that is, with the Father and the Son, and if the expression “fellowship” does not rather refer to the similarity of our wills; how can we have it with the Father and with the Son, when (according to these heretics) the Father and the Son are not Consubstantial? For in that case we must hold opinions worthy of ridicule, and say that we have cleft our own nature asunder into two parts, and given one half to the Father and the other to ourselves and to the Son, and thus we consider ourselves to be in Them. Or else we must reject such absurdity of statement, and say that by doing our best to make our own disposition brightly radiant through the exercise of a virtuous will and through conformity to the Divine and ineffable beauty, we obtain for ourselves the grace of fellowship with Them. But shall we therefore say that the Son is in the Father after a similar manner to this, and that He only possesses a non-essential and artificially-added fellowship with the One Who begat Him? And yet, if so, why in the world does He wish, through the similarity and indeed identity of their works, to lead our mind to feel the necessity of believing without any hesitation that He is Himself in the Father, and that He again has also the Father in Himself? For is it not seen by every one to be perfectly evident and true that, wishing the brilliancy of His deeds to be investigated by us, He shows Himself equal in strength to |288 His own Father, as if the severance as regards essence and the difference as to nature no longer maintained their position; since both Himself and the Father glorify themselves by similar achievements”?

For observe how we who constantly strive after conformity with God do (so to say) render ourselves worthy of fellowship with Him, not in such ways as these, but in certain other ways. For when we show pity to one another, are ardently devoted to works of love, and practise all that is truly respectable in our ordinary life, even then we can hardly venture to pronounce ourselves “in God.” And John is our witness, saying: Hereby know we that we are in Him: he that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also to walk even as He walked; and again: As for you, he says, let that abide in you which ye heard from the beginning. For if that which ye heard from the beginning abide in you, ye also shall abide in the Son, and in the Father. And what he means by “that which ye heard from the beginning,” which he bids to remain in us in order that we may be in God, he himself will make no less clear to us when he says: For this is the command which ye heard from the beginning, that ye should love one another. Thou hearest how we are in God, namely, by practising love one towards another, and striving to the utmost of our power to walk in the footsteps of our Saviour, imitating His virtue. When I say virtue, I do not mean such as was shown by Him in being able to create heaven, and make angels, and set fast the earth, and spread out the sea; nor that which He exhibited when, in His ineffable and simple majesty, by a word He lulled the violence of the winds, and raised up the dead, and graciously bestowed sight on the blind, and with great authority bade the leper be cleansed: but rather that virtue which may be suitable to the capacities of our humanity. We shall find Him, as indeed Paul says, reviled by the unholy Jews, yet not reviling again; instead of that, we see |289 Him suffering, yet not threatening, but rather committing Himself to Him that judgeth righteously. Again, we shall find Him saying: Learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

So then, when we strive by such conduct as this to imitate Christ Who is our guide unto all virtue, we are said to abide both in the Father and in Him, obtaining this distinction as a reward and compensation for the worthiness of our life. But the Son does not wish us to estimate in this way the brilliance that is inherent in Him: He bids us direct our natural shrewdness of attention to the magnificence of His miracles, and infer from thence the exact resemblance which He has to His own Father; so that henceforth we may believe that, as they are Consubstantial, it is thus that He has in Himself the One Who begat Him, and that He Himself is also in the Father. Or let our opponents come forward and teach, that when the Son is conceived of as being in the Father, He too in common with ourselves has this distinction as a reward, and as a fair payment for conducting His life according to the law of the Gospel. But I suppose that even this appears to them nothing dreadful: for to men by whom no form of talking is unpractised, what expression, however extravagant and monstrous, seems unfit for use? It is possible therefore that they will say even this, that the Son is in the Father and again has also the Father in Himself on this account, namely, because He fashions Himself like to the Father by practising the virtues that are also attainable by us. And we would reply, “Why then, honoured Sirs, when Philip said: Lord, shew us the Father, did not the Christ put forward all the holy Apostles as a likeness and accurate representation of Him Whom they meant, and say, ‘Have we [all] been so long time with one another, and dost thou not know the Father?” Whereas He does not associate with Himself a single one of the others, but comparing Himself alone |290 to the Father alone, He passes over our attributes as small matters altogether; and not willing that the Divine essence should be thought accurately imaged in human attributes, He has reserved to Himself alone the perfection of resemblance. For He says: He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father. Then to these words He straightway added: Believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. For seeing that He possesses resemblance in the most absolute exactness, He must as a necessary consequence possess in Himself the Father, and be possessed (so to speak) by the Father. For think of something of the same kind, and accept it as an illustration of the words we are considering. If, for instance, any one were by chance to bring into our presence the son of Abraham or of any other man, and then were to question him as to the nature of his parent, desiring to learn precisely who and what kind of person the parent was; would not the youth employ reasonable language if he were to point to his own nature and say, “He that hath seen me hath seen my father: I am in my father, and my father is in me?” Then as a proof of his speaking the truth, would it not be fitting that he should draw attention to the identity with his father exhibited in his human doings and his physical peculiarities, and say: “Believe me for the very works’ sake, seeing that I have all the qualities and can perform all the actions which pertain to human nature?” Indeed I think every one will say and will justly allow, both that he speaks the truth and that (in alleging the identity) he puts forward an accurate indication of the relationship involved in their particular actions. Why then do not they, who pervert such things as are right, persuade their own disciples to travel on the straight path of reasoning, instead of thrusting them off from the well-trodden king’s highway, and taking an untrodden and rugged route, both deceiving themselves and destroying those who feel it their duty to follow them? We, however, not taking their road, will keep along the direct path; |291 and, giving credit to the Sacred Scriptures, we believe that the Son, Who is in His nature begotten of God the Father, is of equal strength and Consubstantial with the Father, and essentially His Image; and therefore that He is in the Father, and the Father in Him.

12, 13 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in My Name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

If anyone should think to discourse hereon commensurately with the extent of the meaning of what is here submitted to us. the task would be broad and deep. But if we consider what is rather profitable for the hearers, we shall think it beseems us to grasp in general wise the things signified, and to curtail the length of our discourse. For so would the meaning be most easy to be received by most men. So then, wishing to show forth that He was Consubstantial with His own Father, and that He is a Very Image of Him; carried in the Father as in an Archetype, albeit having the Archetype in Himself, as being a Very Image both naturally and essentially, and not in virtue of any shaping which implies a process of moulding and fashioning; for the Divinity transcends shape, inasmuch as. it is incorporeal withal: I, He says, am in the Father and the Father is in Me. But to the end that we may not look for the identity of the resemblance and the exact conformity thereof in any other sort than as a conclusion from those prerogatives alone that attach to His nature; for it was possible therefrom to see that the similarity is essential and natural; He says: Or else, believe by reason of the works. For indeed He very rightly thought that of a surety if any man beheld Him radiant with the like mighty works to those of God the Father, He would accept Him for a really natural Image and Likeness of His essence; for nought save what is naturally of God |292 would ever do equivalent deeds to those of God; nay, neither could the power to work wonders on any wise in equal measure with the Divine nature come to belong to any created thing. For utterly unapproachable and beyond reach to them that have been called into being out of nothing are the proper excellences of the Eternal. And in no wise was it likely that any would doubt that the Saviour’s saying would be utterly irreproachable, at least in the eyes of the right-minded; yet, as God, He was not ignorant that even what was well said would be, to them that held opposite opinions, an occasion and a pretext for strange teaching. With intent then that no place for loquacity might be left herein for them that pervert such things as are right, and lest they should say it was not of His immanent might nor of His own power that the Son became a worker of wonders, but only inasmuch as He had within Him the Father doing the works: on this account, as He Himself said and insisted, the Lord (when need arose) courted them with words that might allure their minds: for He promises herein that He will be to them that believe on Him a Supplier of what things soever they will ask, and promises that He will supply to them not merely an equal power and authority but the same with increase: for greater things, He says, than I have done, shall he do. Seest thou then how He cuts short, and profitably so, the boldness of our opponents, and by His refutations of error reins in men (as it were) when they are rushing over precipices? For anyone will say to them: “O fools and blind, whereas ye suppose the Son to have been able to effect nothing of Himself, but rather to have been supplied by the Father with the power and authority for all those things that have been wondrously accomplished; how does He promise that He will grant to them that believe on Him to effect even greater things? How shall another, by borrowing the power from Him, effect what He has not done Himself? For notice that He has not said herein that the Father will supply power to them that believe; but, |293 Whatsoever ye shall ask in My Name, I will do it. But He Who as God imparts to others the power to effect even those greater things, how could He have been Himself supplied with the power by another?” So that what they say is utter nonsense, and thoughtless trash, and inventions of a devilish perversity. But no man would contemplate the power of the Son as in any wise limited, nor as extending to one thing but insufficient to reach things still greater; nay, but as doing easily whatsoever it will, and bestowing on the worthy the power to glory in thrones, it may be of equal honour, or it may be even more highly exalted. And let none suppose us to say that any of those who have set store by their faith in Him will ever have such excess of power as to be able to fashion a heaven, or to make a sun and a moon, or the brilliant choir of the stars, or peradventure to create angels, or an earth, or such things as are therein. For the aim of His words is not directed towards these things, but is bent upon the things whereon it was reasonable that so it should be; and He overpasses not the measure of the splendour that beseems mankind, in glory to wit, and holiness. For surely it is for this cause, by way of restraining His words from ranging as it were whithersoever a man might desire, and of confining Himself to those wondrous works which He did while on earth after He became man, when He draws the contrast with the greatness of the still greater deeds, that He says: “He shall do the things which I have done, and greater things than these.” For it was not because He was too weak to accomplish the greater things, that He held back His own power within the bounds of the things which He accomplished; but when He has done what was needful, and all perchance for which opportunity offered, He kindly gives us to understand by these words, that the reach of the incomprehensible greatness of His immanent power is not limited to those things. But to the end that, preserving the order of the thoughts presented to us, we may set the minds of our hearers on the contemplation of His |294 utterance, [we will repeat that] He says: Verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father.

Then, “What is this?” one of the hearers might say with some reason, “I mean the Son’s going to the Father in order that they who believe on Him may be able to effect things even still greater than the deeds exhibited by Himself? Surely the saying introduces some hidden subject for contemplation.” To learn what it is that He says, consider Him as perhaps meaning: —-“O ministers and genuine pupils of My words, so long as I abode with you on the earth, and had My conversation as a man, I did not exhibit the power of the Godhead undimmed before you: I both spake and acted as befitted the measure of My humiliation and the condition of a slave. But thereafter, when those things shall have been be-seemingly accomplished, then also will the mystery of the dispensation in the flesh be completed for Me. For almost immediately I shall suffer death and shall rise to life again. And I promise to then bestow on you the power to accomplish works still greater than My own miracles. And the time for this is even now at hand, and so is the glory of their accomplishment. For I am going to the Father, that is, to sit down with Him and to reign with Him as God of God in unveiled power and authority, [and in the fulness] of My own nature to give good things unto My friends. Whatsoever ye shall ask,” He says, “in My Name, I will do it, when the time has been completed wherein it was necessary,” He says, “that I should show Myself in the garb of humiliation. I have observed all that was requisite to the proper carrying out of the scheme of the Incarnation; and now henceforth I promise that unveiledly as God I will work the works of God, not thrusting out the Father from the glory so God-befitting, but with intent that He may be glorified in the Son.” For if the Offspring is glorified, the Parent also shall assuredly be glorified in Him. For the |295 Son, being ever in His nature God, would have been declared by many other signs; yet no less also is He disclosed by receiving the prayers of the saints, and granting them whatsoever they might ask and wish. How then should not the Father be glorified in Him? For like as He would have been grievously blamed, and naturally so, if the Offspring that came forth from Him had not been in His nature God; in like manner He will be exceeding glorious in that He has for the Fruit that came forth from His essence One Who is God and can skill so well to do all things and to enable others to do them.

But if it tends to the glory of the Father that the Son should be seen possessed of God-befitting prerogatives, what manner of punishment shall fasten upon the heretic, forasmuch as he dreads not to disparage Him with shameless blasphemies in divers manners? And I will further say another thing, in no small measure (as I deem) at issue with their crude ignorances. For if we pray to the Son and seek our petitions from Him, and He pledges His promise to grant them; how could it be that He is not by nature God, and begotten of One Who is in His nature God? For if they conceive Him not so to be, and say that He was created, how shall we any longer be distinguished from those who invoke the sun, or the heaven, or any other of the creatures? For if, exceeding mischievously, ashamed of the ungainliness of their own folly, they say that albeit a creature equally with the rest of the creatures yet He hath a certain incomparable supereminence over all; notwithstanding let them be assured that none the less will they outrage the glory of the Father, that is, the Son, so long as ever they say that He is one in the number of the things that have been made. For the issue is, not whether He is haply a great or a small creature, but whether He is a creature at all, and is not rather in His nature God; which indeed is the truth. |296

14 If ye shall ask anything in My Name, that will I do.

Undisguisedly now He says that, being Very God, He will accept exceeding readily the prayers of His own people, and will supply right gladly what things soever they desire to receive, meaning of course spiritual gifts and such as are worthy of the heavenly munificence. And not as the minister of another’s benevolence, nor yet as subserving another’s kindness, does He say such things; but as, with the Father, having all things in His power; and as Himself being the One through Whom are all things, both from us to God-ward, and to us-ward from Him. For this cause Paul also prays on behalf of the worthy for such supplies of benefits as are by him ever mentioned in conjunction, in the following words: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; and surely no man in his senses will ever in the face of this suppose that the Father by Himself separately grants a grace, and again the Son by Himself separately and as it were in turn does so; but the grace is one and the same, albeit it is spoken of as coming through Both. Notwithstanding, it is by the Father through the Son that all good things are wrought for the worthy, and the distribution of the Divine gifts is made; through the Son, I say, not as accepted in the rank of a servant, as we have already explained, but as conceived to be Co-Giver and Co-Supplier, and moreover as being so of a truth. For the nature of the Godhead is one, and also is believed so to be. For although it is extended to Father and Son and to the Holy Spirit, yet it has no absolute and entire severance; I mean, into each of the Persons indicated. For we shall be orthodox in believing that the Son is naturally both of the Father and in the Father, and that the own Spirit of the Father and of the Son, that is, the Holy Spirit, is both of and in the Father. So then, forasmuch as the Godhead of Their nature both is and is conceived of as One, Their gifts will be supplied to the worthy through the Son from the |297 Father in the Spirit, and our offerings will be carried to God manifestly through the mediation of the Son: for no one cometh unto the Father but through Him, as to be sure He also Himself fully confesses. So then the Son both has become and is the Door and the Way as well of our friendship as of our progress towards God the Father, and the Co-Giver as well as Distributer of His bounty, forasmuch as it proceeds from a single and common munificence. For one is the nature of the Godhead in the person and substance both of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. And forasmuch as it was unwonted in a way with them of old time, and as yet foreign to their practice, to approach the Father through the Son, He teaches this also for our profit, and laying first in His own disciples a foundation as it were of the structure, He implants in them both faith in this and knowledge, and despatches to ourselves instruction both how we are to pray and wherein lies our hope. For He promises that He will Himself give us what we ask in prayer; a proof of the Godhead in His nature, and of the royal authority inherent in Him; adding this to the other proofs thereof. (source)

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May 2: St Cyril of Alexandria on Today’s Gospel (John 3:1-8)

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 30, 2011

Chap. 3, 2 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night and said unto Him,

More ready is Nicodemus to believe, but overcome by no good fear, and not despising the opinion of men, he refuses boldness, and is divided in opinion into two, and halts in purpose, feeble upon both his knee joints, as it is written, forced by the convictions of his conscience to the duty of believing by reason of the exceedingness of the miracles, but esteeming the loss of rulership over his own nation a thing not to be borne, for he was a ruler of the Jews. Deeming that he can both preserve his repute with them, and be a disciple secretly, he cometh to Jesus, making the darkness of the night an aider of his scheme, and by his secret coming convicted of double mindedness. |167

3, Rabbi, we know that Thou art a Teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him

In these words he supposes that he can attain complete piety, and imagines that it will be sufficient for his salvation, to marvel merely at those things which call for wonder: nought else but this does he seek. Calling him a Teacher from God, and a co-worker with Him, he does not yet know that He is by Nature God, nor understand the plan of the dispensation with Flesh, but still approaches as to a mere man, and hath but slight conception of Him.

Verily verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto Him,

Faith consisteth not, O Nicodemus, in what thou thinkest. Speech sufficeth not unto thee for righteousness, neither wilt thou achieve piety by mere words. For not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven, but he that doeth the will of My Father Which is in Heaven. But the will of the Father is, that man be made partaker of the Holy Ghost, that the citizen of earth reborn unto an unaccustomed and new life, be called a citizen of Heaven. When He calls the new birth of the Spirit from above, He sheweth clearly that the Spirit is of the Essence of God the Father, as indeed Himself too saith of Himself, I am from above. And the most wise Evangelist again saith of Him, He that cometh from above is above all.

But that the Spirit is of the Essence of God the Father we shall speak more largely in its proper place.

5 How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered,

Nicodemus is convicted hereby of being still carnal, and therefore no way receiving the things of the Spirit of God. For he thinketh that this so dread and illustrious Mystery is foolishness. And hearing of the birth spiritual and from above, he imagineth the carnal womb returning to birth-pang of things already born, and, not attaining beyond the law of |168 our nature, measureth things Divine; and finding the height of its doctrines unattainable by his own conceptions, he falleth down, and is carried off. For as things that are dashed by mighty blows upon the hard stones again rebound, so too I deem the unskilled mind falling upon conceptions of greater calibre than it, being relaxed returns, and ever glad to remain in the measure that suits it, despises an understanding better and loftier than itself. In which case the ruler of the Jews now being, receives not the spiritual birth.

Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.

Since the man did not understand as he ought, what the need of being born from above meant, He instructs him with plainer teaching, and sets before him the more open knowledge of the Mystery. For our Lord Jesus Christ was calling the new birth through the Spirit from above, shewing that the Spirit is of the Essence That is above all essences, through Whom we become partakers of the Divine Nature, as enjoying Him Who proceeds from It Essentially, and through Him and in Him re-formed to the Archetype-Beauty, and thus re-born unto newness of life, and re-moulded to the Divine Sonship. But Nicodemus not so understanding the word from above, imagined it was meant that the future birth should take place afterthe manner of bodies: therefore also falling into imaginations which shut him up in impossibility, he was caught alike senseless and hard of learning. Of necessity therefore does the Saviour answer yet more mildly, as to one more infirm of habit, and removing the veil that seemed to be thrown over His Words, He now says openly, Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. For since man is compound, and not simple in his nature, being combined of two, to wit, the sensible body and intellectual soul, he will require two-fold healing for his new birth akin to both the fore-named. For by the Spirit is the spirit of man sanctified, by the sanctified water again, his body. For as the water poured into the |169 kettle, being associated with the vigour of fire, receives in itself the impress of its efficacy, so through the inworking of the Spirit the sensible water is trans-elemented to a Divine and ineffable efficacy, and sanctifieth those on whom it comes.

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

By another argument again He persuades him to mount up to a higher understanding, and on hearing of spiritual birth, not to think of the properties of bodies. For as it is altogether necessary, saith He, that the offspring of flesh should be flesh, so also is it that those of the Spirit should be spirit. For in things the mode of whose being is different, in these must surely the mode of generation also be not the same. But it is to be known that we call the spirit of a man the offspring of the Spirit, not as being of It by Nature (for that were impossible), but in the first place, and that in order of time, because that through Him that which was not was called into being, and in the second place and oeconomically, because of its being re-formed unto God through Him, He stamping His Own Impress upon us, and trans-fashioning our understanding to His own Quality, so to speak. For so I deem, you will understand aright that too which is said to some by Paul, My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, and again, For in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel.

7, 8 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

It is the excellence of a teacher, to be able manifoldly to manage the mind of the hearers, and to go through many considerations, heaping up proofs where the argument appears hard. He takes then the figure of the mystery from examples, and says, This spirit belonging to the world and |170 of the air, blows throughout the whole earth, and running where it listeth, is shewn to be present by sound only, and escapeth the eye of all, yet, communicating itself to bodies by the subtlest breaths, it infuseth some perception of its natural efficacy. So do thou, saith He, conceive of the new birth also through the Spirit, led on by little examples to what is greater, and by the reasoning brought forward as it were in an image, conceiving of what is above the senses. (source)

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May 5: Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (John 3:31-36)

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 30, 2011

Ver 31. He that comes from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaks of the earth: he that comes from heaven is above all.32. And what he has seen and heard, that he testifies;

CHRYS. As the worm gnaws wood, and rusts iron, so vainglory destroys the soul that cherishes it. But it is a most obstinate fault. John with all his arguments can hardly subdue it in his disciples: for after what he has said above, he said yet again, He that comes from above is above all: meaning, You extol my testimony, and say that the witness is more worthy to be believed, than He to whom he bears witness. Know this, that He who comes from heaven, cannot be accredited by an earthly witness. He is above all; being perfect in Himself, and above comparison.

THEOPHYL. Christ comes from above, as descending from the Father; and is above all, as being elected in preference to all.ALCUIN. Or, comes from above; i.e. from the height of that human nature which was before the sin of the first man. For it was that human nature which the Word of God assumed: He did not take upon Him man’s sin, as He did his punishment.

He that is of the earth is of the earth; i.e. is earthly, and speaks of the earth, speaks earthly things. CHRYS. And yet he was not altogether of the earth; for he had a soul, and partook of a spirit, which was not of the earth. What means he then by saying that he is of the earth? Only to express his own worthlessness, that he is one born on the earth, creeping on the ground, and not to be compared with Christ, Who comes from above. Speaks of the earth, does not mean that he spoke from his own understanding; but that, in comparison with Christ’s doctrine, he spoke of the earth: as if he said, My doctrine is mean and humble, compared with Christ’s; as becomes an earthly teacher, compared with Him, in Whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

AUG. Or, speaks of all the earth, he said of the man, i.e. of himself, so far as he speaks merely humanly. If he says ought divine, he is enlightened by God to say it: as said the Apostle; Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. John then, so far as pertains to John, is of the earth, and speaks of the earth: if you hear ought divine from him, attribute it to the Enlightener, not to him who has received the light.

CHRYS. Having corrected the bad feeling of his disciples, he comes to discourse more deeply upon Christ. Before this it would have been useless to reveal the truths which could not yet gain a place in their minds. It follows therefore, He that comes from heaven.

GLOSS. That is, from the Father. He is above all in two ways; first, in respect of His humanity, which was that of man before he sinned: secondly, in respect of the loftiness of the Father, to whom He is equal.

CHRYS. But after this, high and solemn mention of Christ, his tone lowers: And what he has seen and heard, that he testifies. As our senses are our surest channels of knowledge, and teachers are most depended on who have apprehended by sight or hearing what they teach, John adds this argument in favor of Christ, that, what he has seen and heard, that he testifies: meaning that every thing which He said is true. I want, said John, to hear what things He, Who comes from above, has seen and heard, i.e. what He, and He alone, knows with certainty.

THEOPHYL. When you hear then, that Christ speaks what He saw and heard from the Father, do not suppose that He needs to be taught by the Father; but only that that knowledge, which He has naturally, is from the Father. For this reason He is said to have heard, whatever He knows, from the Father.

AUG. But what is it, w which the Son has heard from the Father? Has He heard the word of the Father? Yes, but He is the Word of the Father. When you conceives a word, wherewith to name a thing, the very, conception of that thing in the mind is a word. Just then as you have in your mind and with you your spoken word; even so God uttered the Word, i.e. begat the Son. Since then the Son is the Word of God, and the Son has spoken the Word of God to us, He has spoken to us the Father’s word. What John said is therefore true.

Ver 32. – and no man receives his testimony.33. He that has received his testimony has set to his seal that God is true.34. For he whom God has sent speaks the words of God: for God gives not the Spirit by measure to him.35. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand.36. He that believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him.

CHRYS. Having said, And what he has seen and beard, that he testifies, to prevent any from supposing, that what he said was false, because only a few for the present believed, he adds, And no man receives his testimony; i.e. Only a few; for he had disciples who received his testimony. John is alluding to the unbelief of his own disciples, and to the insensibility of the Jews, of whom we read in the beginning of the Gospel, He came to His own, and His own received Him not.

AUG. Or thus; There is a people reserved for the wrath of God, and to be condemned with the devil; of whom none receives the testimony of Christ. And others there are ordained to eternal life. Mark how mankind are divided spiritually, though as human beings they are mixed up together: and John separated them by the thoughts of their heart, though as yet they were not divided in respect of place, and looked on them as two classes, the unbelievers, and the believers. Looking to the unbelievers, he said, No man receives his testimony. Then turning to those on the right hand he said, He that has received his testimony, has set to his seal.

CHRYS. i.e. has shown that God is true. This is to alarm them: for it is as much as saying, no one can disbelieve Christ without convicting God, Who sent Him, of falsehood: inasmuch as He speaks nothing but what is of the Father. For He, it follows, Whom God has sent, speaks the words of God.

ALCUIN. Or, Has put to his seal, i.e. has put a seal on his heart, for a singular and special token, that this is the true God, Who suffered for the salvation of mankind.

AUG. What is it, that God is true, except that God is true, and every man a liar? For no man can say what truth is, till he is enlightened by Him who cannot lie. God then is true, and Christ is God. Would you have proof? Hear His testimony, and you will find it so. But if you do not yet understand God, you have not yet received His testimony. Christ then Himself is God the true, and God has sent Him; God has sent God, join both together; they are One God. For John said, Whom God has sent, to distinguish Christ from himself. What then, was not John himself sent by God? Yes; but mark what follows, For God gives not the Spirit by measure to Him. To men He gives by measure, to His only Son He gives not by measure. To one man is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge: one has one thing, another another; for measure implies a kind of division of gifts. But Christ did not receive by measure, though He gave by measure.

CHRYS. By Spirit here is meant the operation of the Holy Spirit. He wishes to show that all of us have received the operation of the Spirit by measure, but that Christ contains within Himself the whole operation of the Spirit. How then shall He be suspected, Who said nothing, but what is from God, and the Spirit? For He makes no mention yet of God the Word, but rests His doctrine on the authority of the Father and the Spirit. For men knew that there was God, and knew that there was the Spirit, (although they had not right belief about His nature;) but that there was the Son they did not know.

AUG. Having said of the Son, God gives not the Spirit by measure to Him; he adds, The Father loves the Son, and farther adds, and has given all things into His hand; in order to show that the Father loves the Son, in a peculiar sense. For the Father loves John, and Paul, and yet has not given all things into their hands. But the Father loves the Son, as the Son, not as a master his servant: as an only, not as an adopted, Son. Wherefore He has given all things into His hand; so that, as great as the Father is, so great is the Son; let us not think then that, because He has deigned to send the Son, any one inferior to the Father has been sent.

THEOPHYL. The Father then has given all things to the Son in respect of His divinity; of right, not of grace. Or; He has given all things into His hand, in respect of His humanity: inasmuch as He is made Lord of all things that are in heaven, and that are in earth.

ALCUIN. And because all things are in His hand, the life everlasting is too: and therefore it follows, He that believes on the Son has everlasting life.

BEDE. We must understand here not a faith in words only, but a faith which is developed in works.

CHRYS. He means not here, that to believe on the Son is sufficient to gain everlasting life, for elsewhere He says, Nor every one that said to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. And the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is of itself sufficient to send into hell. But we must not think that even a right belief in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is sufficient for salvation; for we have need of a good life and conversation. Knowing then that the greater part are not moved so much by the promise of good, as by the threat of punishment, he concludes, But He that believes not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him. See how He refers to the Father again, when He speaks of punishment. He said not, the wrath of the Son, though the Son is judge; but makes the Father the judge, in order to alarm men more. And He does not say, in Him, but on Him, meaning that it Will never depart from Him; and for the same reason He says, shall not see life, i.e. to show that He did not mean only a temporary death!

AUG. Nor does He say, The wrath of God comes to him, but, abides on him. For all who are born, are under the wrath of God, which the first Adam incurred. The Son of God came without sin, and was clothed with mortality: He died that you might live. Whosoever then will not believe on the Son, on him abides the wrath of God, of which the Apostle speaks, We were by nature the children of wrath.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 3:16-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 30, 2011

Ver 16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.17. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.18. He that believes in him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

CHRYS. Having said, Even so must the Son of man be lifted up, alluding to His death; lest His hearer should be cast down by His words, forming some human notion of Him, and thinking of His death as an evil, He corrects this by saying, that He who was given up to death was the Son of God, and that His death would be the source of life eternal; So God loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life; as if He said, Marvel not that I must be lifted up, that you may be saved: for so it seems good to the Father, who has so loved you, that He has given His Son to suffer for ungrateful and careless servants. The text, God so loved the world, shows intensity of love. For great indeed and infinite is the distance between the two. He who is without end, or beginning of existence, Infinite Greatness, loved those who were of earth and ashes, creatures laden with sins innumerable. And the act which springs from the love is equally indicative of its vastness. For God gave not a servant, or an Angel, or an Archangel, but His Son. Again, had He had many sons, and given one, this would have been a very great gift; but now He has given His Only Begotten Son.

HILARY; If it were only a creature given up for the sake of a creature, such a poor and insignificant loss were no great evidence of love. They must be precious things which prove our love, great things must evidence its greatness. God, in love to the world, gave His Son, not an adopted Son, but His own, even His Only Begotten. Here is proper Sonship, birth, truth: no creation, no adoption, no lie: here is the test of love and charity, that God sent His own and only begotten Son to save the world.

THEOPHYL As He said above, that the Son of man came down from heaven, not meaning that His flesh did come down from heaven, on account of the unity of person in Christ, attributing to man what belonged to God: so now conversely what belongs to man, he assigns to God the Word. The Son of God was impassible; but being one in respect of person with man who was passable, the Son is said to be given up to death, inasmuch as He truly suffered, not in His own nature, but in His own flesh. From this death follows an exceeding great and incomprehensible benefit: viz. that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. The Old Testament promised to those who obey obeyed it, length of days: the Gospel promises life eternal, and imperishable.

BEDE; Note here, that the same which he before said of the Son of man, lifted up on the cross, he repeats of the only begotten Son of God: viz. That whosoever believes in Him, &c. For the same our Maker and Redeemer, who was Son of God before the world was, was made at the end of the world the Son of man; so that He who by the power of His Godhead had created us to enjoy the happiness of an endless life, the same restored us to the life we have lost by taking our human frailty upon Him.

ALCUIN. Truly through the Son of God shall the world have life; for no other cause came He into the world, except to save the world. God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

AUG. For why is He called the Savior of the world, but because He saves the world? The physician, so far as his will is concerned, heals the sick. If the sick despises or will not observe the directions of the physician, he destroys himself.

CHRYS. Because however He says this, slothful men in the multitude of their sins, and excess of carelessness, abuse God’s mercy, and say, There is no hell, no punishment; God remits us all our sins. But let us remember, that there are two advents of Christ; one past, the other to come. The former was, not to judge but to pardon us: the latter will be, not to pardon but to judge us. It is of the former that He says, I have not come to judge the world. Because He is merciful, instead of judgment, He grants an internal remission of all sins by baptism; and even after baptism opens to us the door of repentance, which had He not done all had been lost; for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Afterwards, however, there follows something about the punishment of unbelievers, to warn us against flattering ourselves that we can sin with impunity. Of the unbeliever He says, ‘he is judged already.’ – But first He says, He that believes in Him is not judged. He who believes, He says, not who inquires. But what if his life be impure? Paul very strongly declares that such are not believers: They confess, he says, that they know God, but in works deny Him. That is to say, Such will not be judged for their belief, but will receive a heavy punishment for their works, though unbelief will not be charged against them.

ALCUIN. He who believes in Him, and cleaves to Him as a member to the head, will not be condemned.

AUG. What did you expect Him to say of him who believed not, except that he is condemned. Yet mark His words: He that believes not is condemned already. The Judgment has not appeared, but it is already given. For the Lord knows who are His; who are awaiting the crown, and who the fire.

CHRYS. Or the meaning is, that disbelief itself is the punishment of the impenitent: inasmuch as that is to be without light, and to be without light is of itself the greatest punishment. Or He is announcing what is to be. Though a murderer be not yet sentenced by the Judge, still his crime has already condemned him. In like manner he who believes not, is dead, even as Adam, on the day that he ate of the tree, died.

GREG. Or thus: In the last judgment some perish without being judged, of whom it is here said, He that believes not is condemned already. For the day of judgment does not try those who for unbelief are already banished from the sight of a discerning judge, are under sentence of damnation; but those, who retaining the profession of faith, have no works to show suitable to that profession. For those who have not kept even the sacraments of faith, do not even hear the curse of the Judge at the last trial. They have already, in the darkness of their unbelief, received their sentence, and are not thought worthy of being convicted by the rebuke of Him whom they had despised Again; For an earthly sovereign, in the government of his state, has a different rule of punishment, in the case of the disaffected subject, and the foreign rebel. In the former case he consults the civil law; but against the enemy he proceeds at once to war, and repays his malice with the punishment it deserves, without regard to law, inasmuch as he who never submitted to law, has no claim to suffer by the law.

ALCUIN. He then gives the reason why he who believes not is condemned, viz. because he believes not in the name of the only begotten Son of God. For in this name alone is there salvation. God has not many sons who can save; He by whom He saves is the Only Begotten.

AUG. Where then do we place baptized children? Amongst those who believe? This is acquired for them by the virtue of the Sacrament, and the pledges of the sponsors. And by this same rule we reckon those who are not baptized, among those who believe not.

Ver 19. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.20. For every one that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.21. But he that does truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

ALCUIN. Here is the reason why men believed not, and why they are justly condemned; This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world.

CHRYS. As if He said, So far from their having sought for it, or labored to find it, light itself has come to them, and they have refused to admit it; Men loved darkness rather than light, Thus He leaves them no excuse. He came to rescue them from darkness, and bring them to light; who can pity him who does not choose to approach the light when it comes unto him?

BEDE; He calls Himself the light, whereof the Evangelist speaks, That was the true light; whereas sin He calls darkness.

CHRYS. Then because it seemed incredible that man should prefer light to darkness, he gives the reason of the infatuation, viz. that their deeds were evil. And indeed had He come to Judgment, there had been some reason for not receiving Him; for he who is conscious of his crimes, naturally avoids the judge. But criminals are glad to meet one who brings them pardon. And therefore it might have been expected that men conscious of their sins would have gone to meet Christ, as many indeed did; for the publicans and sinners came and sat down with Jesus. But the greater part being too cowardly to undergo the toils of virtue for righteousness’ sake, persisted in their wickedness to the last; of whom our Lord says, Every one that does evil, hates the light. He speaks of those who choose to remain in their wickedness.

ALCUIN. Every one that does evil, hates the light; i.e. he who is resolved to sin, who delights in sin, hates the light, which detects his sin.

AUG. Because they dislike being deceived, and like to deceive, they love light for discovering herself, and hate her for discovering them. Wherefore it shall be their punishment, that she shall manifest them against their will, and herself not be manifest unto them. They love the brightness of truth, they hate her discrimination; and therefore it follows, Neither comes to the light, that his deeds should be reproved.

CHRYS. No one reproves a Pagan, because his own practice agrees with the character of his gods; his life is in accordance with his doctrines. But a Christian who lives in wickedness all must condemn. If there are any Gentiles whose life is good, I know them not. But are there not Gentiles? it may be asked. For do not tell me of the naturally amiable and honest; this is not virtue. But show me one who has strong passions, and lives with wisdom. You cannot. For if the announcement of a kingdom, and the threats of hell, and other inducements, hardly keep men virtuous which they are so, such calls will hardly rouse them to the attainment of virtue in the first instance. Pagans, if they do produce any thing which looks well, do it for vain-glory’s sake, and will therefore at the same time, if they can escape notice, gratify their evil desires as well. And what profit is a man’s sobriety and decency of conduct, if he is the slave of vain-glory? The slave of vain-glory is no less a sinner than a fornicator; nay, sins even oftener, and more grievously. However, even supposing there are some few Gentiles of good lives, the exceptions so rare do not affect my argument.

BEDE; Morally too they love darkness rather than light, who when their preachers tell them their duty, assail them with calumny. But he that does truth comets to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

CHRYS. He does not say this of those who are brought up under the Gospel, but of those who are converted to the true faith from Paganism or Judaism. He shows that no one will leave a false religion for the true faith, till he first resolve to follow a right course of life.

AUG. He calls the works of him who comes to the light, wrought in God; meaning that his justification is attributable not to his own merits) but to God’s grace.

AUG. But if God has discovered all men’s works to be evil, how is it that any have done the truth, and come to the light, i.e. to Christ? Now what He said is, that they loved darkness rather than light; He lays the stress upon that. Many have loved their sins, many have confessed them. God accuses your sins; if you accuse them too, you are joined to God. You must hate your own work, and love the work of God in you. The beginning of good works, is the confession of evil works, and then you does the truth: not soothing, not flattering yourself. And you are come to the light, because this very sin in you, which displeases you, would not displease you, did not God shine upon you, and His truth show it to you. And let those even who have sinned only by word or thought, or who have only exceeded in things allowable, do the truth, by making confession, and come to the light by performing good works. For little sins, if suffered to accumulate, become mortal. Little drops swell the river: little grains of sand become an heap, which presses and weighs down. The sea coming in by little and little, unless it be pumped out, sinks the vessel. And what is to pump out, but by good works, mourning, fasting, giving and forgiving, to provide against our sins overwhelming us?

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May 3: Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (John 14:6-14

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 30, 2011

Note: This post includes commentary on verse 5.

Ver 5. Thomas said to him, Lord, we know not where you go; and how can we know the way?6. Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.7. If you had known me, you should have known My Father also; and from henceforth you know him, and have seen him.

CHRYS. If the Jews, who wished to be separated from Christ, asked where He was going, much more would the disciples, who wished never to be separated from Him, be anxious to know it. So with much love, and, at the same time, fear, they proceed to ask: Thomas said to Him, Lord, we know not where you go; and how can we know the way?

AUG. Our Lord had said that they knew both, Thomas says that they knew neither. Our Lord cannot lie; they knew not that they did know. Our Lord proves that they did: Jesus said to Him, I am the way, the truth, and the life.

AUG. As it He said, I am the way, whereby you would go; I am the truth, whereto you would go; I am the life, in which you would abide. The truth and the life every one understands; but not everyone has found the way. Even the philosophers of the world have seen that God is the life eternal, the truth which is the end of all knowledge.

And the Word of God, which is truth and life with the Father, by taking upon Him human nature, is made the way. Walk by the Man, and you will arrive at God. For it is better to limp on the right way, than to walk ever so stoutly by the wrong.

HILARY. For He who is the way does not lead us into devious courses out of the way; nor does He who is the truth deceive us by falsehoods; not does He who is the life leave us in the darkness of death.

THEOPHYL. When you art engaged in the practical, He is made your way; when in the contemplative, He is made your truth. And to the active and the contemplative is joined life: for we should both act and contemplate with reference to the world to come.

AUG. They knew then the way, because they knew He was the way. But what need to add, the truth, and the life? Because they were yet to be told whither He went. He went to the truth; He went to the life. He went then to Himself, by Himself. But did you leave Yourself, O Lord, to come to us? I know that you took upon you the form of a servant; by the flesh you came, remaining where you were; by that you returned, remaining where you had come to. It by this then you came, and returned, by this you were the way, not only to us, to come to you, but also to Yourself to come, and to return again. And when you went to life, which is Yourself you raised that same flesh of Your from death to life.

Christ therefore went to life, when His flesh arose from death to life. And since the Word is life, Christ went to Himself; Christ being both, in one person, i.e. Word-flesh. Again, by the flesh God came to men, the truth to liars; for God is true, but every man a liar. When then He withdrew Himself from men, and lifted up His flesh to that place in which no liar is, the same Christ, by the way, by which He being the Word became flesh, by Himself, i.e. by His flesh, by the same returned to Truth, which is Himself, which truth, even amongst the liars He maintained to death.

Behold I myself, if I make you understand what I say, do in a certain sense go to you, though I do not leave myself. And when I cease speaking, I return to myself, but remain with you, if you remember what you have heard. If the image which God has made can do this, how much more the Image which God has begotten? Thus He goes by Himself, to Himself and to the Father, and we by Him, to Him and to the Father.

CHRYS. For if, He says, you have Me for your guide to the Father, you shall certainly come to Him. Nor call you come by any other way. Whereas He had said above, No man can come to Me, except the Father draw him, now He says, No man comes to the Father but by Me, thus equaling Himself to the Father. The next words explain, Where I go you know, and the way you know.

If you had known Me, He says, you should have known My Father also; i.e. If you had known My substance and dignity, you would have known the Father’s. They did know Him, but not as they ought to do. Nor was it till afterwards, when the Spirit came, that they were fully enlightened.

On this account He adds, And from henceforth you know Him, know Him, that is, spiritually. And have seen Him, i.e. by Me; meaning that he who had seen Him, had seen the Father. They saw Him, however, not in His pure substance, but clothed in flesh.

BEDE. How can our Lord say, If you had known Me, you should have known My Father also; when He has just said, Where I go you know, and the way you know? We must suppose that some of them knew, and others not: among the latter, Thomas.

HILARY. Or thus: When it is said that the Son is the way to the Father, is it meant that He is so by His teaching, or by His nature? We shall be able to see from what follows: If you had known Me, you should have known My Father also.

In His incarnation asserting His Divinity, He maintained a certain order of sight and knowledge: separating the time of seeing from that of knowing. For Him, who He said must be known, He speaks of as already seen: that henceforward they might from this revelation have knowledge of the Divine Nature which they had all along seen in Him

Ver  8. Philip said to him, Lord, show us the Father, and it suffices us.9. Jesus said to him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet have you not known me, Philip? he that has seen me has seen the Father; and how say you then, Show us the Father?10. Believe you not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak to you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwells in me, he does the works.11. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.

HILARY. A declaration so new startled Philip. Our Lord is seen to be man. He confesses Himself to be the Son of God, declares that, if He were known, the Father would be known, that, if He is seen, the Father is seen. The familiarity of the Apostle therefore breaks forth into questioning our Lord, Philip said to Him, Lord, show us the Father, and it suffices us. He did not deny He could be seen, but wished to be shown him; nor did he wish to see with his bodily eyes, but that He whom he had seen might be made manifest to his understanding. He had seen the Son in the form of man, but how through that form He saw the Father, he did not know. This he wants to be strewn him, strewn to his understanding, not set before his eyes; and then he will be satisfied: And it suffices us.

AUG. For to that joy of beholding His face, nothing can be added. Philip understood this, and said, Lord, show us the Father, and it suffices us. But he did not yet understand that he could in the same way have said, Lord, show us Yourself, and it suffices us. But our Lord’s answer enlightens him, Jesus said to him,  Have I been so long with you, and yet have you not known Me, Philip?

AUG. But how is this, when our Lord said that they knew where He was going, and the way, because they knew Him? The question is easily settled by supposing that some of them knew, and others not; among the latter, Philip.

HILARY. He reproves the ignorance of Philip in this respect. For whereas his actions had been strictly divine, such as walking on the water, commanding the winds, remitting sins, raising the dead, He complained that in His assumed humanity, the Divine nature was not discerned. Accordingly to Philip’s request, to be strewn the Father, Our Lord answers, He that has seen Me, has seen the Father.

AUG. When two persons are very like each, we say, If you have seen the one, you have seen. n the other. So here, He that has seen Me, has seen the Father; not that He is troth the Father, and the Son, but that the Son is an absolute likeness of the Father.

HILARY. He does not mean the sight of the bodily eye: for His fleshly part, born of the Virgin, does not avail towards contemplating the form and image of God in Him; but the Son of God being known with the understanding, it follows that the Father is known also, forasmuch as He is the image of God, not differing from but expressing His Author. For our Lord’s expressions do not spear; of one person solitary and without relationship, but teach us His birth. The Father also excludes the supposition of a single solitary person, and leaves us no other doctrine but that the Father is seen in the Son, by the incommunicable likeness of birth.

AUG. But is he to be reproved, who, when he has seen the likeness, wishes to see the man of whom he is the likeness? No, our Lord rebuked the question, only with reference to the mind of the asker.

Philip asked, as if the Father were better than the Son; and so showed that He did not know the Son. Which opinion our Lord corrects: Believe you not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? as if He said, If it is a great wish with you to see the Father, at any rate believe what you do not see.

HILARY. For what excuse was there for ignorance of the Father, or what necessity to show Him, when the Father was seen in the Son by His essential nature, while by the identity of unity, the Begotten and the Begetter are one: Believe you not that I am in the Father and the Father in Me?

AUG. He wished him to live by faith, before he had sight, and therefore says, Believe you not? Spiritual vision is the reward of faith, vouchsafed to minds purified by faith.

HILARY. But the Father is in the Son, and the Son in the Father, not by a conjunction of two harmonizing essences, nor by a nature grafted into a more capacious substance as in material bodies, in which it is impossible that what is within can be made external to that which contains it; but by the birth of a nature which is life from life; forasmuch as from God nothing but God can be born.

HILARY. The unchangeable God follows, so to speak, His own nature, by begetting unchangeable God. Nor does the perfect birth of unchangeable God from unchangeable God forsake His own nature. We understand then here the nature of God subsisting in Him, since God is in God, nor besides Him who is God, can any other be God.

CHRYS. Or thus: Philip, because [he thought] he had seen c the Son with his bodily eye, wished to see the Father in the same way; perhaps too remembering what the Prophet said, I saw the Lord (Isa_6:1), and therefore he says, Show us the Father. The Jews had asked, who was His Father; and Peter and Thomas, whither He went; and neither were told plainly. Philip therefore, that he might not seem burdensome, after saying, Show us the Father, adds, And it suffices us: i.e. we seek for no more. Our Lord in reply does not say, that he asked an impossible thing, but that he had not seen the Son to begin with, for that if he had seen Him, he would have seen the Father: Have I been so long time with you, and yet have you not known Me? He does not say, not seen Me, but, not known Me; not known that the Son, being what the Father is, does in Himself fitly show the Father. Then dividing the Persons, He says, He that has seen Me has seen the Father; that none might maintain that He was both the Father and the Son. The words show too that even the Son was not seen in a bodily sense. So if anyone takes seeing here, for knowing, I will not contradict him, but will take the sentence as if it was, He that has known Me, has known the Father. He shows here His consubstantiality with the Father: He that has seen My substance, has seen the Father. Whence it is evident He is not a creature: for all know and see the creature, but not all God; Philip, for instance, who wished to see the substance of the Father. If Christ then had been of another substance from the Father, He would never have said, He that has seen Me, has seen the Father. A man cannot see the substance of gold in silver: one nature cannot be made apparent by another.

AUG. He then addresses all of them, not Philip only: The word that I speak to you, I speak not of Myself. What is, I speak not of Myself, I but, I that speak am not of Myself? He attributes what He does to Him, from whom He Himself, the doer, is.

HILARY. Wherein He neither desires Himself to be the Son, nor hides the existence of His Father’s power in Him. In that He speaks, it is Himself that speaks in His own person; in that He speaks not of Himself, He witnesses His nativity, that He is God from God.

CHRYS. Mark the abundant proof of the unity of substance. For He continues; But the Father that dwells in Me, He does the works. As if He said, My Father and I act together, not differently from each other; agreeing with what He said below: If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not. But why does He pass from words to works? Why does He not say as we might have expected, He speaks the words? Because He means to apply what He says both to His doctrine, and to His miracles; or because His words are themselves works.

AUG. For he that edifies his neighbor by speaking, does a good work. These two sentences are brought against us by different sects of heretics; the Arians saying that the Son is unequal to the Father, because He does not speak of Himself; the Sabellians, that the same who is the Father is the Son. For what is meant, they ask, by, The Father that dwells in Me, He does the works, but, I that dwell in Myself, do these works.

HILARY. That the Father dwells in the Son, show that He is not single, or solitary; that the Father works by the Son, shows that He is not different or alien. As He is not solitary who does not speak from Himself, so neither is He alien and separable who speaks by Him.

Having shown then that the Father spoke and worked in Him, He formally states this union: Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me: that they might not think that the Father works and speaks in the Son as by a mere agent or instrument, not by the unity of nature implied in His Divine birth.

AUG. Philip alone was reproved before.

CHRYS. But if this does not suffice to show my consubstantiality, at least learn it from My works: Or else believe Me for the very works’ sake. You have seen My miracles, and all the proper signs of My divinity; works which the Father alone works, sins remitted, life restored, and the like.

AUG. Believe then for My works’ sake, that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; for, were we separated, we could not be working together.

Ver 12. Verily, verily, I say to you, He that believes in me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to my Father.13. And whatsoever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.14. If you shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

CHRYS. Having said, Believe for the works’ sake, our Lord goes on to declare that He can do much greater than these, and what is more wonderful, give others the power of working them. Verily, verily, I say to you, He that believes in Me, the works that I do, shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do.

AUG. But what are these greater works? Is it that the shadow of the Apostles, as they passed by, healed the sick; It is indeed a greater thing that a shadow should heal, than that the border of a garment should. Nevertheless, by works here our Lord refers to His words. For when He says, My Father that dwells in Me, He does the works, what are these works but the words which He spoke? And the fruit of those words was their faith.

But these were but few converts in comparison with what those disciples made afterwards by their preaching: they converted the Gentiles to the faith. Did not the rich man go away sorrowful from His words? And yet that which one did not do at His own exhortation, many did afterwards when He preached through the disciples. He did greater works when preached by the believing, than when speaking to men’s ears.

Still these greater works He did by His Apostles, whereas He includes others besides them, when He says, He that believes in Me. Are we not to compute any one among the believers in Christ, who does not do greater works than Christ? This sounds harsh if not explained. The Apostle says, To him that believes in Him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness (Rom_4:5).

By this work then we shall do the works of Christ, the very believing in Christ being the work of Christ, for He works this in us, though not without us. Attend then; He that believes on Me, the works that I do, shall he do also. First I do them, then he will do them: I do them, that he may do them. Do what works but this, viz. that a man, from being a sinner, become just? which thing Christ works in us, though not without us. This in truth I call a greater work to do, than to create the heaven and the earth; for heaven and earth shall pass away, but the salvation and justification of the predestined shall remain.

However, the Angels in heaven are the work of Christ; shall he who works with Christ for his own justification, do greater even than these? Judge any one which be the greater work, to create the just, or to justify the ungodly? At least, if both be of equal power, the latter has more of mercy. But it is not necessary to understand all the works of Christ, when He says, greater works than these shall he do.

These perhaps refers to the works He had done that hour. He had then been instructing them in the faith. And surely it is a less work to preach righteousness, which He did without us, than to justify the ungodly, which He so does in us, as that we do it ourselves. Great things truly did our Lord promise His people, when He went to His Father: Because I go to My Father.

CHRYS. i.e. I shall not perish, but shall remain in My proper dignity, in heaven. Or He means: It is your part henceforth to work miracles, since I am going.

AUG. And that no one might attribute the merit to himself, He shows, that even those greater works were His own doing: And whatsoever you shall ask in My name, that will I do. Before it was, He shall do, now, I will do: as if He said, Let not this appear impossible to you. He that believes in Me, will not be greater than I; but I shall do greater works then than now; greater by him that believes on Me, than now by Myself; which will not be a failing, but a condescension

CHRYS. In My name, He says. Thus the Apostles, In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, arise and walk. , All the miracles that they did, He did: the hand of the Lord was with them.

THEOPHYL. This is an explanation of the doctrine of miracles. It is by prayer, and invocation of His name, that a man is able to work miracles.

AUG. Whatsoever you shall ask. Then why do we often see believers asking, and not receiving? Perhaps it is that they ask amiss. When a man would make a bad use of what he asks for, God in His mercy does not grant him it. Still if God even in kindness often refuses the requests of believers, how are we to understand, Whatsoever you shall ask in My name, I will do? Was this said to the Apostles only? No. He says above, He that believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also.

And if we go to the lives of the Apostles themselves, we shall find that he who labored more than they all, prayed that the messenger of Satan might depart from him, but was not granted his request. But attend: does not our Lord lay down a certain condition? In My name, which is Christ Jesus. Christ signifies King, Jesus, Savior.

Therefore whatever we ask for that would hinder our salvation, we do not ask in our Savior’s name and yet He is our Savior, not only when He does what we ask, but also when He does not. When He sees us ask any thing to the disadvantage of our salvation, He shows s Himself our Savior by not doing it. The physician knows whether what the sick man asks for is to the advantage or disadvantage of his health; and does not allow what would be to his hurt, though the sick man himself desires it; but looks to his final cure.

And some things we may even ask in His name, and He will not grant them us at the time, though He will some time. What we ask for is deferred, not denied. He adds, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. The Son does not do any thing without the Father, inasmuch as He does it in order that the Father may be glorified in Him.

CHRYS. For when the great power of the Son is manifested, He that begot Him is glorified. He introduces this last, to confirm the truth of what He has said.

THEOPHYL. Observe the order in which the glorifying of the Father comes. In the name of Jesus miracles were done, by which men were made to believe the Apostles’ preaching. This brought them to the knowledge of the Father, and thus the Father was glorified in the Son.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 3:1-8

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 30, 2011

Ver 1. There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:2. The same came to Jesus by night, and said to him, Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that you do, except God be with him.3. Jesus answered and said to him, Verily, verily, I say to you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

AUG. He had said above that, when He was at Jerusalem many believed in His Name, when they saw the miracles which He did. Of this number was Nicodemus, of whom we are told; There was a man of the Pharisees, Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.BEDE. His rank is given, A ruler of the Jews; and then what he did, This man came to Jesus by night: hoping, that is, by so secret an interview, to learn more of the mysteries of the faith; the late public miracles having given him an elementary knowledge of them.CHRYS. As yet however he was withheld by Jewish infirmity: and therefore he came in the night, being afraid to come in the day. Of such the Evangelist speaks elsewhere, Nevertheless, among the chief rulers also many believed on Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.AUG. Nicodemus was one of the number who believed, but were not as yet born again. Wherefore he came to Jesus by night. Whereas those who are born of water and the Holy Ghost, are addressed by the Apostle, You were sometimes darkness, but now are you light in the Lord.HAYMO. Or, well may it be said that he came in the night, enveloped, as he was, in the darkness of ignorance, and not yet come to the light, i.e. the belief that our Lord was very God. Night in the language of Holy Writ is put for ignorance. And said to him, Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God. The Hebrew Rabbi, has the meaning of Magister in Latin. He calls him, we see, a Master, but not God: he does not hint at that; he believes Him to be sent from God, but does not see that He is God.

AUG. What the ground of his belief was, is plain from what immediately follows: For no one can do these miracles that You do, except God be with him. Nicodemus then was one of the many who believed in His Name, when they saw the signs that He did.

CHRYS. He did not however conceive any great idea of them from His miracles; and attributed to Him as yet only a human character, speaking of Him as a Prophet, sent to execute a commission, and standing in need of assistance to do His work; whereas the Father had begotten Him perfect, self-sufficient, and free from all defect. It being Christ’s design however for the present not so much to reveal His dignity, as to prove that He did nothing contrary to the Father; in words He is often humble, while His acts ever testify His power. And therefore to Nicodemus on this occasion He says nothing expressly to magnify Himself; but He imperceptibly corrects his low views of Him, and teaches him that He was Himself all-sufficient, and independent in His miraculous works. Hence He answers, Verily, verily, I say to you, Except a man be born again, the cannot see the kingdom of God.

AUG. Those then are the persons to whom Jesus commits Himself, those born again, who come not in the night to Jesus, as Nicodemus did. Such persons immediately make profession.

CHRYS. He says therefore, Except a man be born again, be cannot see the kingdom of God: as if He said, You are not yet born again, i.e. of God, by a spiritual begetting; and therefore your knowledge of Me is not spiritual, but carnal and human. But I say to you, that neither you, nor any one, except he be born again of God, shall be able to see the glory which is around me, but shall be out of the kingdom: for it is the begetting by baptism, which enlightens the mind. Or the meaning is, Except you are born from above, and have received the certainty of my doctrines, you wander out of the way, and are far from the kingdom of heaven. By which words our Lord discloses His nature, showing that He is more than what He appears to the outward eye. The expression, From above, means, according to some, from heaven, according to others, from the beginning. Had the Jews heard it, they would have left Him in scorn; but Nicodemus shows the love of a disciple, by staying to ask more questions.

Ver 4. Nicodemus said to him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?5. Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say to you, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.6. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.7. Marvel not that I said to you, You must be born again.8. The wind blows where it lists, and you hear the sound thereof, but can not tell whence it comes, and whither it goes; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

CHRYS. Nicodemus coming to Jesus, as to a man, is startled on learning greater things than man could utter, things too lofty for him. His mind is darkened, and he does not stand firm, but reels like one on the point of falling away from the faith. Therefore he objects to the doctrine as being impossible, in order to call forth a fuller explanation. Two things there are which astonish him, such a birth, and such a kingdom; neither yet heard of among the Jews. First he urges the former difficulty, as being the greatest marvel. Nicodemus, said to him, How can a man be born when be is old? can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?

BEDE. The question put thus sounds as if a boy might enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born. But Nicodemus, we must remember, was an old man, and took his instance from himself; as if he said, I am an old man, and seek my salvation; how can I enter again into my mother’s womb, and be born?

CHRYS. You call Him Rabbi, and say that He comes from God, and yet receive not His sayings, but use to your master a word which brings in endless confusion; for that how, is the inquiry of a man who has no strong belief; and many who have so inquired, have fallen from the faith; some asking, how God became incarnate? others, how He was born? Nicodemus here asks from anxiety. But observe when a man trusts spiritual things to reasonings of his own, how ridiculously he talks.

AUG. It is the Spirit that speaks, whereas he understands carnally; he knew of no birth save one, that from Adam and Eve; from God and the Church he knows of none. But do you so understand the birth of the Spirit, as Nicodemus did the birth of the flesh; for as the entrance into the womb cannot be repeated, so neither can baptism.

CHRYS. While Nicodemus stumbles, dwelling upon our birth here, Christ reveals more clearly the manner of our spiritual birth; Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say to you, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

AUG. As if He said, You understand me to speak of a carnal birth; but a man must be born of water and of the Spirit, if he is to enter into the kingdom of God. If to obtain the temporal inheritance of his human father, a man must be born of the womb of his mother; to obtain the eternal inheritance of his heavenly Father, he must be born of the womb of the Church. And since man consists of two parts, body and soul, the mode even of this latter birth is twofold; water the visible part cleansing the body; the Spirit by His invisible cooperation, changing the invisible soul.

CHRYS. If any one asks how a man is born of water, I ask in return, how Adam was born from the ground. For as in the beginning though the element of earth was the subject-matter, the man was the work of the fashioner; so now too, though the element of water is the subject-matter, the whole work is done by the Spirit of grace. He then gave Paradise for a place to dwell in; now He has opened heaven to us. But what need is there of water, to those who receive the Holy Ghost? It carries out the divine symbols of burial, mortification, resurrection, and life. For by the immersion of our heads in the water, the old man disappears and is buried as it were in a sepulcher, whence he ascends a new man. Thus should you learn, that the virtue of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, fills all things. For which reason also Christ lay three days in the grave before His resurrection. That then which the womb is to the offspring, water is to the believer; he is fashioned and formed in the water. But that which is fashioned in the womb needs time; whereas the water all is done in an instant. For the nature of the body is such as to require time for its completion; but spiritual creations are perfect from the beginning. From the time that our Lord ascended out of the Jordan, water produces no longer reptiles, i.e. living souls; but souls rational and endued with the Spirit.

AUG. Because He does not say, Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he shall not have salvation, or eternal life; but, he shall not enter into the kingdom of God; from this, some infer that children are to be baptized in order to be with Christ in the kingdom of God, where they would not be, were they not baptized; but that they will obtain salvation and eternal life even if they die without baptism, not being bound with any chain of sin. But why is a man born again, except to be changed from his old into a new state? Or why does the image of God not enter into the kingdom of God, if it be not by reason of sin?

HAYMO. But Nicodemus being unable to take in so great and deep mysteries, our Lord helps him by the analogy of our carnal birth, saying, That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. For as flesh generates flesh, so also does spirit, spirit.

CHRYS Do not look then for any material production, or think that the Spirit generates flesh; for even the Lord’s flesh is generated not by the Spirit only, but also by the flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is spiritual. The birth here spoken of takes place not according to our substance, but according to honor and grace. But the birth of the Son of God is otherwise; for else what would He have been more than all who are born again? And He would be proved too inferior to the Spirit, inasmuch as His birth would be by the grace of the Spirit. How does this differ from the Jewish doctrine? – But mark next the part of the Holy Spirit, in the divine work. For whereas above some are said to be born of God, here, we find, the Spirit generates them. – The wonder of Nicodemus being roused again by the words, He who is born of the Spirit is spirit, Christ meets him again with an instance from nature; Marvel not that I said to you, You must be born again. The expression, Marvel not, shows that Nicodemus was surprised at His doctrine. He takes for this instance some thing, not of the grossness of other bodily things, but still removed from the incorporeal nature, the wind; The wind blows where it lists, and you hear the sound thereof, but can not tell whence it comes, and whither it goes: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. That is to say, if no one can restrain the wind from going where it will; much less can the laws of nature, whether the condition of our natural birth, or any other, restrain the action of the Spirit. That He speaks of the wind here is plain, from His saving, You hear the sound thereof, i.e. its noise when it strikes objects. He would not in talking to an unbeliever and ignorant person, so describe the action of the Spirit. He says, Blows where it lists; not meaning any power of choice in the wind, but only its natural movements, in their uncontrolled power. But can not tell whence it comes or whither it goes; i.e. If you can not explain the action of this wind which comes under the cognizance both of your feeling and hearing, why examine into the operation of the Divine Spirit? He adds, So is every one that is born of the Spirit.

AUG. But who of us does not see, for example, that the south wind blows from south to north, another wind from the east, another from the west? And how then do we not know whence the wind comes, and whither it goes?

BEDE. It is the Holy Spirit therefore, Who blows where He lists. It is in His own power to choose, whose heart to visit with in His enlightening grace. And you hear the sound thereof. When one filled with the Holy Spirit is present with you and speaks to you.

AUG. The Psalm sounds, the Gospel sounds, the Divine Word sounds; it is the sound of the Spirit. This means that the Holy Spirit is invisibly present in the Word and Sacrament, to accomplish our birth.

ALCUIN. Therefore, You know not whence it comes, or whither it goes; for, although the Spirit should possess a person in your presence at a particular time, it could not be seen how He entered into him, or how He went away again, because He is invisible.

HAYMO. Or, You can not tell whence it comes; i.e. you know not how He brings believers to the faith; or whither it goes, i.e. how He directs the faithful to their hope. And so is every one that is born of the Spirit; as if He said, The Holy Spirit is an invisible Spirit; and in like manner, every one who is born of the Spirit is born invisibly.

AUG. Or thus: If you are born of the Spirit, you will be such, that he, who is not yet born of the Spirit, will not know whence you come, or whither you go. For it follows, So is every one that is born of the Spirit.

THEOPHYL. This completely refutes Macedonius the impugner of the Spirit, who asserted that the Holy Ghost was a servant. The Holy Ghost, we find, works by His own power, where here He will, and what He will.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Acts 4:23-31

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 30, 2011

Act 4:23  And being let go, they came to their own company and related all that the chief priests and ancients had said to them.

Their own company. Their fellow Apostles and possibly others who might have joined them in prayer while Peter and John were under trial.

Chief Priests and Ancients. They alone gave judgment, not the Scribes, who are passed over here.

Act 4:24  Who having heard it, with one accord lifted up their voice to God and said: Lord, thou art he that didst make heaven and earth, the sea and all things that are in them.

Lifted up their voice, that is in prayer, to God, with one accord, heartily and fervently joining in the prayer, which some one among them, very likely Peter, recited aloud, with the cordial assent of the company there present. Possibly the form of prayer may have been in common use before this, chiefly found in Psalm cxlv. 6. This is the second public prayer addressed by the primitive Church to God (the first is in Acts 1:24). They invoke His Omnipotence as one of the chief grounds of hope against their persecutors. They refer to His omniscience (next verse) predicting all their persecutions and trials. The Greek for Lord, δεσπότης (despotēs), not κύριος (kurios), denotes God’s absolute, ruling power. κύριος, possessor or master, having propriety right in a thing.

God as maker of heaven and earth is a theme also found in Acts 14:15 and Acts 17:24. In both these instances the description is addressed to pagans. I’m not sure if those two passages have any bearing on this verse, however, in verses 25 ff., the Apostles will describe the Jewish leader’s opposition to the Gospel preaching in terms of Psalm 2:2 which deals with the rebellion of pagan nations and rulers against God and his Anointed (Messiah). Because of their opposition to Jesus and the Gospel, the administration of the Lord’s vineyard has been taken away from the leaders and delivered over to the Apostles; consequently, the Jewish leaders have become no better than pagan rulers they entered into league with to crucify the Lord.

Act 4:25  Who, by the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of our father David, thy servant, hast said: Why did the Gentiles rage: and the people meditate vain things?

They now appeal to God for knowledge, who predicted these things. By the Holy Ghost is not found in the Greek. The passage shows that David to whom this Psalm (i.e., Psalm 2) is here attributed, spoke under the influence of Divine inspiration. Now, they say, the events predicted have taken place. The Messiah is come; and they appeal to God, who predicted it, for protection.

Why have the Gentiles &c. This is supposed to have reference directly and immediately to our Lord. It is, however, held by some that it is only in a mystical sense often the principal sense intended by the Holy Ghost it refers to Him. At all events, it must be admitted from this passage that it refers to Him chiefly.

Gentiles raged? Romans and Idumeans. The words of next verse against the Lord and His Christ (Anointed, Messiah) expressed in next v. 26, are under
stood here, and the people, Jewish people, things combined in foolish and abortive designs, that came to nought.  The Lord, Yahweh, and His anointed Son. Our Lord Himself seems to allude to this (Luke 18:31, 32).

Act 4:26  The kings of the earth stood up: and the princes assembled together against the Lord and his Christ.

The Kings? &c. Herod the Idumean, Pontius  Pilate, who represented Cæsarism, stood up to oppose, and the Princes assembled entered into consultation. This regards, in the first place, the members of the Sanhedritn, though the prophecy is not confined to them exclusively. In some copies, these words are read interrogatively thus, Why hare the Princes assembled? &c.

Act 4:27  For of a truth there assembled together in this city against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel,

Of a truth as an undoubted fact, the above prophecy has been fulfilled in regard to our Lord. Anointed as king, as is expressed in the very Psalm 2:6,
But I am appointed king. In the Hebrew, I myself appointed my king.

My king because he reigned by my command.

Act 4:28  To do what thy hand and thy counsel decreed to be done.

To do against thy Son Jesus, not whatever they pleased, but what thy hand, thy power, and thy counsel, thy will, decreed to be done by others (see Acts 4:1-23). God did not Himself do it. But, by His decree, permitted it to be done. The Greek word for to do denotes man’s guilt; to be done, γενεσθαι, denotes God’s unalterable decree. At this point the Bishop quotes a few lines from Pope Leo the Great’s 67th Sermon. I’ve enlarged the quote to better bring out the context: St Leo says: “In fact, the case of the Crucified is so different from that of His crucifiers that what Christ undertook could not be reversed, while what they did could be wiped out. For He Who came to save sinners did not refuse mercy even to His murderers, but changed the evil of the wicked into the goodness of the believing, that God’s grace might be the more wonderful, being mercifully put in force, not according to men’s merits, but according to the multitude of the riches of God’s wisdom anti knowledge, seeing that they also who had shed the Saviour’s blood were received into the baptismal flood. For, as says the Scripture, which contains the Apostles’ acts when the preaching of the blessed Apostle Peter pierced the hearts of the Jews, and they acknowledged the iniquity of their crime, saying, “what shall we do, brethren?” the same Apostle said, “Repent and be baptized, each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For to you is the promise, and to your sons, and to all that are afar off, whomsoever our Lord God has called,” and soon after the Scripture goes on to say: “they therefore that received his word were baptized, and there were added on that day about 3,000 souls .” And so, in being willing to suffer their furious rage, the Lord Jesus Christ was in no way the Author of their crimes; nor did He force them to desire this, but permitted them to be able, and used the madness of the blinded people just as He did also the treachery of His betrayer, whom by kindly acts and words He vouchsafed to recall from the awful crime he had conceived, by taking him for a disciple, by promoting him to be an apostle, by warning him with signs, by admitting him to the revelation of holy mysteries , that one who had lacked no degree of kindness to correct him, might have no pretext for his crime at all).”

Act 4:29  And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants that with all confidence they may speak thy word,

They pray not to be released from persecutions, but for courage and constancy to enable them not to be deterred from intrepidly preaching and advancing the cause of the Gospel.

Act 4:30  By stretching forth thy hand to cures and signs and wonders, to be done by the name of thy holy Son, Jesus.

They also pray for a continuance of miraculous powers in the name of Jesus, as evidences of His Divinity, and a means of advancing His glory.

Act 4:31  And when they had prayed, the place was moved wherein they were assembled: and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost: and they spoke the word of God with confidence.

The place was moved. This denotes a violent agitation of the earth, which seems miraculous. It was regarded as a proof that their prayer was heard. Among Jews and Gentiles the quaking of the earth was looked upon as undoubted evidence of the presence of God. As regards the Jews (see Isaiah 29:6; Ps 18:8; Hab 3:6-11). As regards the Gentiles (see Virgil, Æneid, iii. 90).

They were all filled, &c., received a new strengthening impulse to preach with courage the word of God. For this they prayed. They also obtained the second object of their petition, viz., a continuance of the power to work miracles (v. 33).

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Mark 16:9-15

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 29, 2011

This post contains commentary on verses 9-18.

Ver 9. Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils.10. And she went and told them that had been with Him, as they mourned and wept.11. And they, when they had heard that He was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.12. After that He appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.13. And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.

Augustine, de Con. Evan., iii, 25: Now we must consider how the Lord appeared after the Resurrection. For Mark says, “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils.”

Bede: John tells us most fully how and when this appearance took place. But the Lord rose in the morning from the sepulchre in which He had been laid in the evening, that those words of the Psalm might be fulfilled, “Heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” [Psa_29:6]

Theophyact: Or else put a stop at, “Now when Jesus was risen,” and then read, “early the first day of the week He appeared,” &c.

Greg.: For as Samson at midnight not only left Gaza, but also carried away the gates of it, so also our Redeemer rising before the light, did not only come out free from hell, but destroyed also the very gates of hell.

[Hom. in Evan., 33] But Mark here testifies that seven devils were cast out of Mary; and what is meant by “seven devils” save all vices? for as by seven days is understood all time, so by the number seven  a whole is fitly figured.

Theophylact: But Mary had seven devils, because she was filled with all vices. Or else, by seven devils are meant seven spirits contrary to the seven virtues, as a spirit without fear, without wisdom, without understanding, and whatsoever else is opposed to the gifts of the Holy Ghost.

Pseudo-Jerome: Again, He is shewn to her, out of whom He had cast seven devils, because harlots and publicans shall go before the synagogue into the kingdom of heaven, as the thief reached it before the Apostles.

Bede: In the beginning also woman brought man into sin, now she, who first tasted death, first sees the Resurrection, lest she should have to bear the reproach of perpetual guilt amongst men; and she who had been the channel of guilt to man, now has become the first channel of grace.

For it goes on: “And she went and told them that had been with Him as they mourned and wept.”

Pseudo-Jerome: They mourn and weep because they had not yet seen, but after a short time they shall receive a consolation. For blessed are they that weep now, for they shall be comforted.

Bede: Fitly too is this woman, who was the first to announce the joy of our Lord’s Resurrection, said to have been cured of seven devils, lest any one worthily repenting of his sins should despair of pardon for what he had done, and that is might be shewn that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” [Rom_5:20]

Severianus, Chrysologus: Mary brings the news, not now as a woman, but in the person of the Church, so that, as above woman was silent, here as the Church she might bring tidings and speak.

There follows: “And they when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, believed not.”

Greg.: That the disciples were slow in believing our Lord’s Resurrection was not so much a weakness of theirs as it is our strength. For the Resurrection itself through their doubts was manifested by many proofs; and whilst we read and acknowledge them, what do we but become firmer through their doubting?

There follows: “After this He appeared in another form unto two of them as they walked and went to a farm house.”

Augustine: Luke relates the whole story respecting these two, one of whom was Cleophas, but Mark here touches but slightly upon it. That village of which Luke speaks may without absurdity be supposed to be what is here called a farm house, and indeed in some Greek manuscripts it is called, the country. But by this name are understood not only villages, but also boroughs and country towns, because they are without the city, which is the head and mother of all the rest.

That which Mark expresses by the Lord’s appearance “in another form,” is what Luke means by saying that “their eye were holden that they could not know Him.” For something was upon their eyes, which was allowed to remain there, until the breaking of bread.

Severianus, Chrysologus: But let no one suppose that Christ changed the form of His face by His Resurrection, but the form is changed when of mortal it becomes immortal, so that this means that He gained a glorious countenance, not that He lost the substance of His countenance. But He was seen of two; because faith in the Resurrection is to be preached and shewn to two people, that is, the Gentiles and the Jews.

There follows: “And they went and told it unto the residue, neither believed they them.”

How are we to understand the words of Mark compared with the account of Luke, that they then said, “The Lord hath risen indeed, and hath appeared unto Simon,” [Luk_24:34] if we do not suppose that there were some there who would not believe?

Theophylact: For he does not say this of the eleven, but of some others, whom He calls the residue.

Pseudo-Jerome: But in a mystic sense we may understand that faith here labours, leading the active life, but there it reigns secure in the contemplative vision. Here we see His face through a glass, there we shall see the truth face to face, wherefore He was shewn to them as they were walking, that is, labouring, in another form. And when it was told, the disciples did not believe, because they saw, like Moses, that which was not enough for them, for he said, “Shew me Thyself;” [Ex 33:18] forgetting his flesh, he prays in this life for that which we hope for in the life to come.

Ver 14. Afterward He appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen.15. And He said unto them, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.”16. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believed not shall be damned.”17. “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;”18. “They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

Gloss: Mark, when about to finish his Gospel, relates the last appearance of our Lord to His disciples after His Resurrection, saying, “For the last time He appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat.”

Greg.: We should observe that Luke says in the Acts, “As He was eating with them [convescens] He commanded that they should not depart from Jerusalem,” [Act_1:4] and shortly afterwards, “while they beheld He was taken up.” [Act_1:9] For He ate, and then ascended, that by the act of eating, the truth of the flesh might be declared.

Wherefore it is also here said that “He appeared to them for the last time as they sat at meat.”

Pseudo-Jerome: But He appeared when all the eleven were together, that all might be witnesses, and relate to all men what they had seen and heard in common.

It goes on: “And upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them who had seen Him after His Resurrection.”

Augustine: But how was this done “the last time?” The last occasion on which the Apostles saw the Lord upon earth happened forty days after the Resurrection; but would He then have upbraided them for not believing those who had seen Him risen, when they themselves had so often seen Him after His Resurrection? It remains therefore that we should understand that Mark wished to say it in few words, and said “for the last time,” because it was the last time that He shewed Himself that day, as night was coming on, when the  disciples returned from the country into Jerusalem, and found, as Luke says, [Luk_24:33] the eleven and those who were with them, speaking together concerning the Resurrection of our Lord.

But there were some there who did not believe; when these then were sitting at meat, (as Mark says,) and were still speaking, (as Luke relates,) “The Lord stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you;” [Luk_24:36] as Luke and John [Joh_20:19] say. The rebuke therefore which Mark here mentions must have been amongst those words, which Luke and John say, that the Lord at that time spoke to the disciples. But another question is raised, how Mark says that He appeared when the eleven sat at meat, if the time was the first part of the night on the Lord’s day, when John plainly says that Thomas was not with them, who, we believe, had gone out, before the Lord came in to them, after those two had returned from the village, and spoken with the eleven, as we find in Luke’s Gospel. But Luke in his relation leaves room for supposing that Thomas went out first, while they spoke these things, and that the Lord entered afterwards; Mark however from his saying, “for the last time He appeared to the eleven as they sat at meat,” forces us to believe that he was there, unless indeed, though one of them was absent, he chose to call them, the eleven, because the company of the Apostles was then called by this number, before Matthias was chosen into the place of Judas.

Or if this be a harsh way of understanding it, let us understand that it means that after many appearances, He shewed Himself for the last time, that is, on the fortieth day, to the Apostles, as they sat at meat, and that since He was about to ascend from them, He rather wished on that day to reprove them for not having believed those who had seen Him risen before seeing Him themselves, because after His ascension even the Gentiles on their preaching were to believe a Gospel, which they had not seen.

And so the same Mark immediately after that rebuke says, “And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.” And lower down, “He that believeth not shall be condemned.” Since then they were to preach this, were not they themselves to be first rebuked, because before they saw the Lord they had not believed those to whom He had first appeared? [p. 345]

Greg.: Another reason also why our Lord rebuked His disciples, when He left them as to His bodily presence, was, that the words which He spoke on leaving them might remain more deeply impressed upon the hearts of His hearers.

Pseudo-Jerome: But He rebukes their want of faith, that faith might take its place; He rebukes the hardness of their stony heart, that the fleshy heart, full of love, might take its place.

Greg.: After rebuking the hardness of their hearts, let us hear the words of advice which He speaks. For it goes on: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.” Every man must be understood by “every creature;” for man partakes something of every creatures; he has existence as have stones, life as trees, feeling as animals, understanding as have Angels. For the Gospel is preached to every creature, because He is taught by it, for whose sake all are created, whom all things are in some way like, and from whom therefore they are not alien.

By the name of every creature also every nation of the Gentiles may be meant. For it had been said before, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles.” [Mat_10:5] But now it is said, “Preach the Gospel to every creature,” so that the preaching of the Apostles which was thrust aside by Judaea, might be an assistance to us, since Judaea had haughtily rejected it, thus witnessing to her own damnation.

Theophylact: Or else; to every creature, that is, whether believing or unbelieving.

It goes on: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” For it is not enough to believe, for he who believeth and is not baptized, but is a catechumen, has not yet attained to perfect salvation.

Greg.: But perhaps some one may say in himself, I have already believed, I shall be saved. He says what is true, if he keeps his faith by works; for that is a true faith, which does not contradict by its deeds what it says in words.

There follows: “But he that believeth not shall be damned.”

Bede: What shall we say here about infants, who by reason of their age cannot yet believe; for as to older persons there is no question. In the Church then of our Saviour, children believe by others, as also they drew from others the sins which are remitted to them in baptism.

It goes on: “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents.”

Theophlyact: That is, they shall scatter before them serpents, whether intellectual or sensible, as it is said, Ye shall tread upon serpents and scorpions, [Luk_10:19] which is understood spiritually. But it may also mean sensible serpents, as when Paul received no hurt from the viper.

There follows: “And if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them.” We read of many such cases in history, for many persons have drank poison unhurt, by guarding themselves with the sign of Christ.It goes on: “They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

Greg.: Are we then without faith because we cannot do these signs? Nay, but these things were necessary in the beginning of the Church, for the faith of believers was to be nourished by miracles, that it might increase. Thus we also, when we plant groves, strong in the earth; but when once they have firmly fixed their roots, we leave off irrigating them.

These signs and miracles have other things which we ought to consider more minutely. For Holy Church does every day in spirit what then the Apostles did in body; for when her Priests by the grace of exorcism lay their hands on believers, and forbid the evil spirits to dwell in their minds, what do they, but cast out devils?

And the faithful who have left earthly words, and whose tongues sound forth the Holy Mysteries, speak a new language; they who by their good warnings take away evil from the hearts of others, take up serpents; and when they are hearing words of pestilent persuasion, without being at all drawn aside to evil doing, they drink a deadly thing, but it will never hurt them; whenever they see their neighbours growing weak in good works, and by their good example strengthen their life, they lay their hands on the sick, that they may recover.

And all these miracles are greater in proportion as they are spiritual, and by them souls and not bodies are raised.

Posted in Bible, Catechetical Resources, Catholic, Christ, Devotional Resources, fathers of the church, liturgy, Notes on Mark, Notes on the Lectionary, Quotes, Scripture, St Thomas Aquinas | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

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