The Divine Lamp

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

May 3:St Augustine on Today’s Gospel (John 14:6-14)

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 2, 2011

Note: This post includes St Augustine’s Commentary on John 14:4-14 even though the lectionary reading begins at verse 6.

 Tractate 69 on Jn 14:4-6.
1. We have now the opportunity, dearly, beloved, as far as we can, of understanding the earlier words of the Lord from the later, and His previous statements by those that follow, in what you have heard was His answer to the question of the Apostle Thomas. For when the Lord was speaking above of the mansions, of which He both said that they already were in His Father’s house, and that He was going to prepare them; where we understood that those mansions already existed in predestination, and are also being prepared through the purifying by faith of the hearts of those who are hereafter to inhabit them, seeing that they themselves are the very house of God; and what else is it to dwell in God’s house than to be in the number of His people, since His people are at the same time in God, and God in them? To make this preparation the Lord departed, that by believing in Him, though no longer visible, the mansion, whose outward form is always hid in the future, may now by faith be prepared: for this reason, therefore, He had said, “And if I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come i again, and receive you to myself; that whereI am, there ye may be also. And whither I goye know, and the way ye know.” In replyto this “Thomas saith unto Him Lord, we know not whither Thou goest: and how can we know the way?” Both of these the Lord had said that they knew; both of them this other declares that he does not know, to wit, the place to which, and the way whereby, He is going. But he does not know that he is speaking falsely; they knew, therefore, and did not know that they knew. He will convince them that they already know what they imagine themselves still to be ignorant of. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” What, brethren, does He mean? See, we have just heard the disciple asking, and the Master instructing, and we do not yet, even after His voice has sounded in our ears, apprehend the thought that lies hid in His words. But what is it we cannot apprehend? Could His apostles, with whom He was talking, have said to Him, We do not know Thee? Accordingly, if they knew Him, and He Himself is the way, they knew the way; if they knew Him who is Himself the truth, they knew the truth; if they knew Him who is also the life, they knew the life. Thus, you see, they were convinced that they knew what they knew not that they knew.

2. What is it, then, that we also have not apprehended in this discourse? What else, think you, brethren, but just that He said, “And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know”? And here we have discovered that they knew the way, because they knew Him who is the way: the way is that by which we go; but is the way the place also to which we go? And yet each of these He said that they knew, both whither He was going, and the way. There was need, therefore, for His saying, “I am the way,” in order to show those who knew Him that they knew the way, which they thought themselves ignorant of; but what need was there for His saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” when, after knowing the way by which He went, they had still to learn whither He was going, but just because it was to the truth and to the life He was going? By Himself, therefore, He was going to Himself. And whither go we, but to Him, and by what way go we, but by Him? He, therefore, went to Himself by Himself, and we by Him to Him; yea, likewise both He and we go thus to the Father. For He says also in another place of Himself, “I go to the Father;”1 and here on our account He says, “No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” And in this way, He goeth by Himself both to Himself and to the Father, and we by Him both to Him and to the Father. Who can apprehend such things save he who has spiritual discernment? and how much is it that even he can apprehend, although thus spiritually discerning? Brethren, how can you desire me to explain such things to you? Only reflect how lofty they are. You see what I am, I see what you are; in all of us the body, which is corrupted, burdens the soul, and the earthly tabernacle weigheth down the mind that museth upon many things.2 Do we think we can say, “To Thee have I lifted up my soul, O Thou that dwellest in the heavens”?3 But burdened as we are with so great a weight, under which we groan, how shall I lift up my soul unless He lift it with me who laid His own down for me? I shall speak then as I can, and let each of you who is able receive it. As He gives, I speak; as He gives, the receiver receiveth; and as He giveth, there is faith for him who cannot yet receive with understanding. For, saith the prophet, “If ye will not believe, ye shall not understand.”4

3. Tell me, O my Lord, what to say to Thy servants, my fellow-servants. The Apostle Thomas had Thee before him in order to ask Thee questions, and yet could not understand Thee unless he had Thee within him; I ask Thee because I know that Thou art over me; and I ask, seeking, as far as I can, to let my soul diffuse itself in that same region over me where I may listen to Thee, who usest no external sound to convey Thy teaching. Tell me, I pray, how it is that Thou goest to Thyself. Didst Thou formerly leave Thyself to come to us, especially as Thou camest not of Thyself, but the Father sent Thee? I know, indeed, that Thou didst empty Thyself; but in taking the form of a servant,5 it was neither that Thou didst lay down the form of God as something to return to, or that Thou lost it as something to be recovered; and yet Thou didst come, and didst place Thyself not only before the carnal eyes, but even in the very hands of men. And how otherwise save in Thy flesh? By means of this Thou didst come, yet abiding where Thou wast; by this means Thou didst return, without leaving the place to which Thou hadst come. If, then, by such means Thou didst come and return, by such means doubtless Thou art not only the way for us to come unto Thee, but wast the way also for Thyself to come and to return. For when Thou didst return to the life, which Thou art Thyself, then of a truth that same flesh of Thine Thou didst bring from death unto life. The Word of God, indeed, is one thing, and man another; but the Word was made flesh, or became man. And so the person of the Word is not different from that of the man, seeing that Christ is both in one person; and in this way, just as when His flesh died. Christ died, and when His flesh was buried, Christ was buried (for thus with the heart we believe unto righteousness, and thus with the mouth do we make confession unto salvation6 ); so when the flesh came from death unto life, Christ came to life. And because Christ is the Word of God, He is also the life. And thus in a wonderful and ineffable manner He, who never laid down or lost Himself, came to Himself. But God, as was said, had come through the flesh to men, the truth to liars; for God is true, and every man a liar.7 When, therefore, He withdrew His flesh from amongst men, and carried it up there where no liar is found, He also Himself-for the Word was made flesh-returned by Himself, that is, by His flesh, to the truth, which is none other but Himself. And this truth, we cannot doubt, although found amongst liars, He preserved even in death; for Christ was once dead, but never false.

4. Take an example, very different in character and wholly inadequate, yet in some little measure helpful to the understanding of God, from things that are in peculiarly intimate subjection to God. See here in my own case, while as far as pertains to my mind I am just the same as yourselves, if I keep silence I am so to myself; but if I speak to you something suited to your understanding, in a certain sense I go forth to you without leaving myself, but at the same time approach you and yet quit not the place from which I proceed. But when I cease speaking, I return in a kind of way to myself, and in a kind of way I remain with you, if you retain what you have heard in the discourse I am delivering. And if the mere image that God made is capable of this, what may not God, the very image of God, not made by, but born of God; whose body, wherein He came forth to us and returned from us, has not ceased to be, like the sound of my voice, but abides there, where it shall die no more, and death shall have no more dominion over it?8 Much more, perhaps, might and ought to have been said on these words of the Gospel; but your souls ought not to be burdened with spiritual food, however pleasant, especially as the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.9

 Tractate 70 on Jn 14:7-10.
1. The words of the holy Gospel, brethren, are rightly understood only if they are found to be in harmony with those that precede; for the premises ought to agree with the conclusion, when it is the Truth that speaks. The Lord had said before, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also:” and then had added, “And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know;” and showed that all He said was that they knew himself. What, therefore, the meaning was of His going to Himself by Himself,-for He also lets the disciples see that it is by Him that they are to come to Him,-we have already told you, as we could, in our last discourse. When He says, therefore, “That where I am, there ye may be also,” where else were they to be but in Himself? In this way is He also in Himself, and they, therefore, are just where He is, that is, in Himself. Accordingly, He Himself is that eternal life which is yet to be ours, when He has received us unto Himself; and as He is that life eternal, so is it in Him, that where He is there shall we be also, that is to say, in Himself. “For as the Father hath life in Himself,” and certainly that life which He has is in no wise different from what He is Himself as its possessor, “so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself,”1 inasmuch as He is the very life which He hath in Himself. But shall we then actually be what He is, (namely), the life, when we shall have begun our existence in that life, that is, in Himself? Certainly not, for He, by His very existence as the life, hath life, and is Himself what He hath; and as the life, is in Him, so is He in Himself: but we are not that life, but partakers of His life, and shall be there in such wise as to be wholly incapable of being in ourselves what He is, but so as, while ourselves not the life, to have Him as our life, who has Himself the life on this very account that He Himself is the life. In short, He both exists unchangeably in Himself and inseparably in the Father. But we, when wishing to exist in ourselves, were thrown into inward trouble regarding ourselves, as is expressed in the words, “My soul is cast down within me:”2 and changing from bad to worse, cannot even remain as we were. But when by Him we come unto the Father, according to His own words, “No man cometh unto the Father but by me,” and abide in Him, no one shall be able to separate us either from the Father or from Him.

3. Why, then, Philip, dost thou say,” Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us? Have I been so long time with you, and yet have ye not known me, Philip? He that seeth me, seeth the Father also.” If it interests thee much to see this, believe at least what thou seest not. For “how,” He says, “sayest thou, Show us the Father?” If thou hast seen me, who am His perfect likeness, thou hast seen Him to whom I am like. And if thou canst not directly see this, “believest thou not,” at least, “that I am in the Father, and the Father in me?” But Philip might say here, “I see Thee indeed, and believe Thy full likeness to the Father; but is one to be reproved and rebuked because, when he sees one who bears a likeness to another, he wishes to see that other to whom he is like? I know, indeed, the image, but as yet I know only the one without the other; it is not enough for me, unless I know that other whose likeness he bears. Show us, therefore, the Father, and it sufficeth us.” But the Master really reproved the disciple because He saw into the heart of his questioner. For it was with the idea, as if the Father were somehow better than the Son, that Philip had the desire to know the Father: and so he did not even know the Son, because believing that He wasinferior to another. It was to correct such a notion that it was said, “He that seeth me, seeth the Father also. How sayest thou, Show us the Father?” I see the meaning of thy words: it is not the original likeness thou seekest to see, but it is that other thou thinkest the superior. “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me?” Why desirest thou to discover some distance between those who are thus alike? why cravest thou the separate knowledge of those who cannot be separated?What, after this, He says not only to Philip, but to all of them together, must not now be thrust into a corner, in order that, by His help, it may be the more carefully expounded.

 Tractate 71 on Jn 14:10-14.
1. Give close attention, and try to understand, beloved; for while it is we who speak it is He Himself who never withdraweth His presence from us who is our Teacher. The Lord saith, what you have just heard read “The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself: but the Father, that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works.” Even His words, then, are works? Clearly so. For surely he that edifies a neighbor by what he says, works a good work. But what mean the words, “I speak not of myself,” but, I who speak am not of myself? Hence He attributes what He does to Him, of whom He, that doeth them, is. For the Father is not God [as born, etc.] of any one else, while the Son is God, as equal, indeed, to the Father, but [as born] of God the Father. Therefore the former is God, but not of God; and the Light, but not of light: whereas the latter is God of God, Light of Light.

2. For in connection with these two clauses,-the one where it is said, “I speak not of myself;” and the other, which runs, “but the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works,”-we are opposed by two different classes of heretics, who, by each of them holding only to one clause, run off, not in one, but opposite directions, and wander far from the pathway of truth. For instance, the Arians say, See here, the Son is not equal to the Father, He speaketh not of Himself. The Sabellians, or Patripassians, on the other hand, say, See, He who is the Father is also the Son; for what else is this, “The Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works,” but I that do them dwell in myself? You make contrary assertions, and that not only in the sense that any one thing is false, that is, contrary to truth, but in this also, when two things that are both false contradict one another. In your wanderings you have taken opposite directions; midway between the two is the path you have left. You are a far longer distance apart from each other than from the very way you have both forsaken. Come hither, you from the one side, and you from the other: pass not across, the one to the other, but come from both sides to us, and make this the place of your mutual meeting. Ye Sabellians, acknowledge the Being you overlook; Arians, set Him whom you subordinate in His place of equality, and you will both be walking with us in the pathway of truth. For you have grounds on both sides that make mutual admonition a duty. Listen, Sabellian: so far is the Son from being the same as the Father, and so truly is He another, that the Arian maintains His inferiority to the Father. Listen, Arian: so truly is the Son equal to the Father, that the Sabellian declares Him to be identical with the Father. Do thou restore the personality thou hast abstracted, and thou, the full dignity thou hast lowered, and both of you stand together on the same ground as ourselves: because the one of you [who has been an Arian], for the conviction of the Sabellian, never lets out of sight the personality of Him who is distinct from the Father, and the other [who has been a Sabellian] takes care, for the conviction of the Arian, of not impairing the dignity of Him who is equal with the Father. For to both of you He cries, “I and my Father are one.”1 When He says “one,” let the Arians listen; when He says, “we are,” let the Sabellians give heed, and no longer continue in the folly of denying, the one, His equality [with the Father], the other, His distinct personality. If, then, in saying, “The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself,” He is thereby accounted of a power so inferior, that what He doeth is not what He Himself willeth; listen to what He also said, “As the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will.” And so likewise, if in saying, “The Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works,” He is on that account not to be regarded as distinct in person from the Father, let us listen to His other words, “What things soever the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise;”2 and He will be understood as speaking not of one person twice over, but of two who are one. But just because their mutual equality is such as not to interfere with their distinct personality, therefore He speaketh not of Himself, because He is not of Himself and the Father also, that dwelleth in Him, Himself doeth the works, because He, by whom and with whom He doeth them, is not, save of [the Father] Himself. And then He goes on to say, “Believe ye not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? Or else believe me for the very works’ sake.” Formerly it was Philip only who was reproved, but now, it is shown that he was not the only one there that needed reproof. “For the very works’ sake,” He says, “believe ye that I am in the Father, and the Father in me:” for had we been separated, we should have been unable to do any kind of work inseparably.

3. But what is this that follows? “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 my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.” And so He promised that He Himself would also do those greater works. Let not the servant exalt himself above his Lord, or the disciple above his Master.3 He says that they will do greater works than He doeth Himself; but it is all by His doing such in or by them, and not as if they did them of themselves. Hence the song that is addressed to Him, “I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength.”4 But what, then, are those greater works? Was it that their very shadow, as they themselves passed by, healed the sick?5 For it is a mightier thing for a shadow, than for the hem of a garment, to possess the power of healing.6 The one work was done by Christ Himself, the other by them; and yet it was He that did both. Nevertheless, when He so spake, He was commending the efficacious power7 of His own words: for it was in this sense He had said, “The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself; but the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works.” What works was He then referring to, but the words He was speaking? They were hearing and believing, and their faith was the fruit of those very words: howbeit, when the disciples preached the gospel, it was not small numbers like themselves, but nations also that believed; and such, doubtless, are greater works. And yet He said not, Greater works than these shall ye do, to lead us to suppose that it was only the apostles who would do so; for He added, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do.” Is the case then so, that he that believeth on Christ doeth the same works as Christ, or even greater than He did? Points like these are not to be treated in a cursory way, nor ought they to be hurriedly disposed of; and, therefore, as our present discourse must be brought to a close,we are obliged to defer their further consideration.

One Response to “May 3:St Augustine on Today’s Gospel (John 14:6-14)”

  1. […] 14:6-14 « May 5: St Cyril of Alexandria on Today’s Gospel (John 3:31-36) May 3:St Augustine on Today’s Gospel (John 14:6-14) […]

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