The Divine Lamp

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

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on John 6:22-29

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 8, 2011

Joh 6:22  The next day, the multitude that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other ship there but one: and that Jesus had not entered into the ship with his disciples, but that his disciples were gone away alone.

The next day, &c. The meaning is,—The day after that on which Christ had fed the five thousand, the multitude who had been thus fed continuing in that place across the sea, when they knew that there was only one boat there, in which the disciples had embarked alone, Jesus being left on the land—they sought Jesus, must be understood. For they did not know that He had walked on the sea by night, and joined the ship.

Joh 6:23  But other ships came in from Tiberias, nigh unto the place where they had eaten the bread, the Lord giving thanks.

But other ships came, &c. We can see from this verse that the place where Christ multiplied the loaves was near Tiberias, and therefore that those who sailed from thence to Bethsaida and Capharnaum must have sailed past Tiberias. The meaning is, the report of the miracle being spread abroad, many both from other places as well as Tiberias, came to the place where the miracle was wrought, that they might see and hear Jesus who had done such great things.

Joh 6:24  When therefore the multitude saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they took shipping and came to Capharnaum, seeking for Jesus.
Joh 6:25  And when they had found him on that other side of the sea, they said to him: Rabbi, when camest thou hither?

And when they had found Him on that other side of the sea, that is to say in the synagogue of Capharnaum, as is plain from verse 59. When, and how camest Thou hither? “For we know that yesterday Thy disciples went into the ship by themselves at the desert of Bethsaida, and that Thou remainedst there on the land.” They did not know that Jesus had walked upon the sea in the middle of the night.

Joh 6:26  Jesus answered them and said: Amen, amen, I say to you, you seek me, not because you have seen miracles, but because you did eat of the loaves and were filled.

Jesus answered, &c. Through modesty He did not answer their question directly, lest He should be forced to say that He had come walking upon the sea. He gave a reply therefore, which had more direct concern for His questioners, namely, that they were seeking food for their bodies rather than for their souls. “Ye ask Me, not because ye saw the miracles by means of which I labour to teach you faith and repentance, and the other evangelical virtues, by which ye may arrive at everlasting life. You seek Me, not that ye may receive of Me the food of the soul, but because ye did eat of the loaves, which I miraculously multiplied, and which I made pleasant to your taste, in order that ye may again have a like experience.” For many are the lovers of the loaves and fishes rather than of Christ and eternal salvation. For the carnal have a taste only for carnal things, because they do not receive spiritual things.

Joh 6:27  Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto life everlasting, which the Son of man will give you. For him hath God, the Father, sealed.

Labour not, &c. Labour: Greek, ε̉ζγάςεσθε, i.e., strive with zeal and labour and sedulous care to get food, not that of the body which perisheth, but of the soul which perisheth not. Wherefore the Arabic translates, labour not on account of the food which perisheth, but on account of the food which endureth unto eternal life. As Euthymius says, “Labour with the whole mind, with all your care continually. He does not command to labour for the food of the soul only, but He admonished them to care for the food of the body by the way, but for that of the soul with their whole heart.”

Christ rises and draws the multitude from that corporeal bread with which a little while before He had fed them in the desert, to the far better, and far more needful spiritual bread. As though He had said, “I have given you barley bread without any labour of yours, but work ye, and labour with all your might, that Ye may obtain spiritual bread, to nourish you, and bring you to everlasting life.” In like manner, from the water of the well He led the Samaritan woman to spiritual water, that He might teach His faithful followers, and especially Priests and Religious, to do the same, so that in their colloquies they may lead the people from corporeal to spiritual things. Wherefore from this saying of Christ Cyril rightly says, “We must have no care for the flesh, but we must watch for things that are needful for eternity. For he who follows after bodily pleasures differs in no respect from the beasts, but he who cleaves to nature, and leads his life according to the spiritual law, and is wholly given up to those things which are given us by God, and prepare our way for the things above, such a one seems to me to know himself, nor to be ignorant that he is a reasonable being, made in the image of his Creator.”

You will ask, what is that food enduring unto eternal life, which Christ bids us work for that we may gain it? The heretics called Massalians, or Euchites, i.e., Prayers, thought that it was prayer. As though Christ said, “Do not work with your hands, because work of the hands perisheth, but alway pray to God in your hearts because prayer is the food of the spirit, and remaineth for ever. These heretics said that we should not labour with our hands, but should pray always. See S. Chrysostom on this passage. But this is a heresy which S. Paul condemns (2Thess 3:10), saying, “If any one will not work, neither let him eat.”

I say then that this food which abideth is faith, charity, grace, good works, even all things which lead us to life everlasting, and especially the Eucharist, as we shall see in verse 54. So Maldonatus, Bellarmine, and others. For gradually does Christ ascend from minor and common things to those which are greater and of the highest importance, such as the Eucharist. As S. Augustine saith, “To believe in Him is to eat the food which endureth unto life eternal. Why do you make ready your teeth and organs of digestion? Believe, and thou hast eaten.”

Secondly, more appositely, properly and precisely, this spiritual food is the Eucharist, as Christ fully explains (John 5:4). For He first generally (in genere), in the way of a proposition, speaks of this food as heavenly, and enduring unto eternal life. By and by in verse 35, He particularizes, determining what this food is, and asserts that It is He Himself. I am the Bread of Life. At length, in the 54th and following verses, He clearly unfolds the whole matter, and says that His Flesh and Blood in the Eucharist is this Bread and this Food. Except you eat the Flesh of the Son of man, and drink His Blood, you have no life in you. And, My Flesh is meat indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed. For in the space of a year and a half, just before His death, He was about to constitute the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and in It to give us His own Flesh and Blood, as the spiritual meat and drink of the soul. But here in those intermediate verses He frequently exhorts to faith, because faith is a prime requisite in the Eucharist.

The meaning then is, Do the works of faith, believe in Me, give credit to My words, so shall ye seek, and shall indeed obtain the food of the Eucharist, which shall not only nourish your souls, but bring them to eternal life. For Christ distinguishes the work of faith from the food of the Eucharist, which was to be obtained by the work of faith; as the means is distinguished from the end to which it leads. Wherefore by and by, when the Jews ask about the work, that is, the way and the means by which they might gain this Bread, Christ answers (verse 29), This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he hath sent. So Theophylact says, “He calls the food which abideth the mystical reception of the Flesh of the Lord.” And Rupertus, “He that endureth unto life eternal, that is, He who is eaten in this mortal life, is profitable to this end, that He should give everlasting life to the world”

For Him hath God the Father sealed. God, Greek, ό Θεὸς, the Heavenly Father, who is the Most High God. Signed, (Vulg.), Greek, ε̉σφζάγισε, sealed. This signing, or sealing of Christ, is threefold, the first of which is the cause of the second, the second of the third. The first is of Christ’s Divinity, the second and third of His Humanity. In the first place then, Cyril thus expounds (lib. 3, c. 29), “To be signed is put for to be anointed (for He who was anointed was signed), and denoted by the word signing, that He was formed as to His nature after the form of the Father, so to speak, that He might appear to say, ‘It is not difficult for Me to bestow upon you the enduring Food, by which ye may be brought to the unspeakable delights of eternal life.’ For the Son is the character of the Hypostasis of God the Father: and the character by which He has been signed by the Father is nothing else but the very form and substance of the Godhead.” Thus Cyril: so too, S. Paul (Heb 1:3), “Who being the splendour of His glory, and the character of His substance.” Whence S. Gregory Nazianzen speaks thus of the glory of the Son (Orat. 42), “He is the Fountain of life and immortality; He is the expression,” that is, the similitude, the seal, “of the Archetype: He is the immovable Seal,” that which is not altered, or changed to any other form: “He is the Image in all respects like: He is the Term and Reason (Greek, όζος κάὶ λόγος) of the Father.” These two last expressions Nicetas takes as similar in meaning, that the Son is the Word of God the Father, i.e., the definition, the demonstration. For as a definition demonstrates that which it defines, so does the Son demonstrate, and as it were define the Father. Thus Nicetas.

2.  S. Hilary (lib. 8, de Trin.) more correctly and appositely; The Father, he saith, hath sealed the Son, not in the Divinity, by communicating to Him His own Godhead, but in the Humanity, since He hath united it to the Word, and hath communicated to it the Divinity of the Word. For a seal, he says, is wont to be impressed upon a different substance, which is called the impression. So the Humanity is sealed by the Divinity of the Son. So also Augustine: and from him Toletus saith, “Because the Son, who is the image and character of the Father is united to the Humanity, therefore the Humanity is said to have the seal and character of the Father.”

3.  S. Chrysostom and many others say, The Father hath sealed the Son, i.e., by the voice from heaven at His baptism, This is My Beloved Son. He showed and demonstrated by His miracles, as seals, that He was His very Son. And He confirmed Him as the promised Messiah, who was able to impart convenient Food to all who desired eternal life. It comes to the same meaning if you interpret sealed to mean gave authority, because we are wont by impressing a seal to give credit and authenticity to letters.

This sense is easy and plain, but the second meaning is more solid and sublime. This third meaning flows from the second, and completes and perfects it. For the Father by His own voice and miracles, which are as it were His seals, has testified to man that He has sealed the Humanity of Jesus with the Divinity of the Word, and has impressed upon it the form of His own Divinity, that is, has testified that this Man Jesus is true God, and the Son of God, so that He may give and gain for Him among men, authority to teach, to enact laws, and to found a new Church. Wherefore the Gloss says, He hath sealed, i.e., He hath set Him apart from others by His own sign.”

Joh 6:28  They said therefore unto him: What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?

They said, &c. Cyril thinks that the Jews asked this from arrogance, as being angry with Christ because He would have reproved them as being careless about their souls. As though they said, “Thou reprovest us for seeking after earthly bread and despising the Food of the soul. Tell us then what new work of God Thou affordest, by which we may please God and feed our souls, in addition to those works which Moses gave us to do, and wrote in the Pentateuch.”

But S. Chrysostom thinks they said these words out of gluttony, because they were again hungering after the loaves of Christ, with which they had been fed. That they asked what were the works of God, with which Christ wished them to feed their souls, not because they intended to do them, but because they would gain His good-will, and so invite Him to renew the multiplication of the loaves.

More correctly, S. Augustine and others think that the Jews spoke with a serious desire of doing these works. For many among them being stirred up by the doctrine of Christ, and stimulated by this miracle of the loaves, were desirous of salvation. Therefore they ask Christ what works they ought to work, by which they may obtain of God that enduring Food, which would nourish their souls, and bring them to eternal life. And Jesus answers sincerely their sincere question, and teaches them what were the works of God. This He would not have done, if they had not been in earnest.

They called then the works of God, not only those which were pleasing to God, nor those which are the food of the soul, nourishing it to eternal life, as Leontius thinks. For they knew by the Law of Moses what works were pleasing to God. But by the works of God they mean those which He especially appointed and sanctioned by Jesus, whom He sealed, that by them they might obtain that spiritual Food of which Jesus preached, which nourishes us, and brings us to eternal life. For when they had heard that this was the Food of life eternal, and that God had sealed Christ that He might give this Food, they rightly call the works of God those which it was necessary to work in order to obtain this Food. And what they were they ask of Jesus, not doubting that He who had been so powerful and liberal in nourishing their bodies, could be equally, or rather, more powerful and liberal, in teaching them what it was, and supplying the Food of the Soul.

Joh 6:29  Jesus answered and said to them: This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he hath sent.

Jesus answered, &c. Believe, i.e., in Myself, Who by so many arguments and miracles have proved that I am the Messiah sent by God. For the sake of modesty He speaks in the third person. As though He said, “That work by which ye will obtain Food from God to nourish the soul unto everlasting life, is to believe in Me. For I bestow this Food upon those who believe in Me. For I Myself am this Food.” This He says (verse 35).

That you believe, and believing, may obey Me, and observe My law and doctrine, and fulfil it indeed. Under the term faith, as a root, Christ and Paul understand all the works of charity, penance, temperance, and all other virtues which faith-stirs up and generates. Wherefore Theophylact says, “Faith assuredly is a holy and perfect work, and satisfies those who possess it. For diligent faith leads to every good work, and good works preserve faith. For works are dead without faith, and faith is dead without works.”

3 Responses to “Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on John 6:22-29”

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