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)