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

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 10:1-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 11, 2011

Ver 1. Verily, verily, I say to you, He that enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.2. But he that enters in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.3. To him the porter opens;  and the sheep hear his voice: and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out.4. And when he puts forth his own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.5. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.

CHRYS. Our Lord having reproached the Jews with blindness, they might have said, We are not blind, but we avoid you as a deceiver. Our Lord therefore gives the marks which distinguish a robber and deceiver from a true shepherd. First come those of the deceiver and robber: Verily, verily, I say to you, He that enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.

There is an allusion here to Antichrist, and to certain false Christs who had been, and were to be. The Scriptures He calls the door. They admit us to the knowledge of God, they protect the sheep, they shut out the wolves, they bar the entrance to heretics. He that uses not the Scriptures, but climbs up some other way, i.e. some self-chosen, some unlawful way, is a thief. Climbs up, He says, not, enters, as if it were a thief getting over a wall, and running all risks.

Some other way, may refer too to the commandments and traditions of men which the Scribes taught, to the neglect of the Law. When our Lord further on calls Himself the Door, we need not be surprised. According to the office which He bears, He is in one place the Shepherd, in another the Sheep. In that He introduces us to the Father, He is the Door, in that He takes care of us, He is the Shepherd.

AUG. Or thus: Many go under the name of good men according to the standard of the world, and observe in some sort the commandments of the Law, who yet are not Christians. And these generally boast of themselves, as the Pharisees did; Are we blind also? But inasmuch as all that they do they do foolishly, without knowing to what end it tends, our Lord said of them, Verily, verily, I say to you, He that enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.

Let the Pagans then, the Jews, the Heretics, say, “We lead a good life;” if they enter not by the door, what avails it? A good life only profits, as leading to life eternal. Indeed those cannot be said to lead a good life, who are either blindly ignorant of, or willfully despise, the end of good living. No one can hope for eternal life, who knows not Christ, who is the life, and by that door enters into the fold.

Whoso wishes to enter into the sheepfold, let him enter by the door; let him preach Christ; let him seek Christ’s glory, not his own. Christ is a lowly door, and he who enters by this door must be lowly, if he would enter with his head whole. He that does not humble, but exalt himself, who wishes to climb up over the wall, is exalted that he may fall. Such men generally try to persuade others that they may live well, and not be Christians. Thus they climb up by some other way, that they may rob and kill. They are thieves, because they call that their own, which is not; robbers, because that which they have stolen, they kill.

CHRYS. You have seen His description of a robber, now see that of the Shepherd: But he that enters in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.

AUG. He enters by the door, who enters by Christ, who imitates the suffering of Christ, who is acquainted with the humility of Christ, so as to feel and know, that if God became man for us, man should not think himself God, but man. He who being man wishes to appear God, does not imitate Him, who being God, became man. You are bid to think less of yourself than you are, but to know what you are.  To Him the porter opens.

CHRYS. The porter perhaps is Moses; for to him the oracles of God were committed.

THEOPHYL. Or, the Holy Spirit is the porter, by whom the Scriptures are unlocked, and reveal the truth to us.

AUG. Or, the porter is our Lord Himself; for there is much less difference between a door and a porter, than between a door and a shepherd. And He has called Himself both the door and the shepherd. Why then not the door and the porter? He opens Himself, i.e. reveals Himself. If you seek another person for porter, take the Holy Spirit, of whom our Lord below said, He will guide you into all truth. The door is Christ, the Truth; who opens the door, but He that will guide you into all Truth? Whomsoever you understand here, beware that you esteem not the porter greater than the door; for in our houses the porter ranks above the door, not the door above the porter.

CHRYS. As they had called Him a deceiver, and appealed to their own unbelief as the proof of it; (Which of the rulers believes in Him?) He shows here that it was because they refused to hear Him, that they were put out of His flock. The sheep hear His voice. The Shepherd enters by the lawful door; and they who follow Him are His sheep; they who do not, voluntarily put themselves out of His flock.And He calls His own sheep by name.

AUG. He knew the names of the predestinated; as He said to His disciples, Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.And leads them out.

CHRYS. He led out the sheep, when He sent them not out of the reach of, but into the midst of, the wolves. There seems to he a secret allusion to the blind man. He called him out of the midst of the Jews; and he heard His voice.

AUG. And who is He who leads them out, but the Same who loosens the chain of their sins, that they may follow Him with free unfettered step?

GLOSS. And when He puts forth His own sheep, He goes before them, He leads them out from the darkness of ignorance into light, while He goes before in the pillar of cloud, and fire.

CHRYS. Shepherds always go behind their sheep; but He, on the contrary, goes before, to show that He would lead all to the truth.

AUG. And who is this that goes before the sheep, but He who being raised from the dead, dies no more; and who said, Father, I will also that they, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am?  And the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him; for they know not the voice of strangers.

CHRYS. The strangers are Theudas, and Judas, and the false apostles who came after Christ. That He might not appear one of this number, He gives many marks of difference between Him and them. First, Christ brought men to Him by teaching them out of the Scriptures; they drew men from; the Scriptures. Secondly, the obedience of the sheep; for men believed on Him, not only during His life, but after death: their followers ceased, as soon as they were gone.

THEOPHYL. He alludes to Antichrist, who shall deceive for a time, but lose all his followers when he dies.

AUG. But here is a difficulty. Sometimes they who are not sheep hear Christ’s voice; for Judas heard, who was a wolf. And sometimes the sheep hear Him not; for they who crucified Christ heard not; yet some of them were His sheep. You will say, While they did not hear, they were not sheep; the voice, when they heard it, changed them from wolves to sheep.

Still I am disturbed by the Lord’s rebuke to the shepherds in Ezekiel, Neither have you brought again that which strayed. He calls it a stray sheep, but yet a sheep all the while; though, if it strayed, it could not have heard the voice of the Shepherd, but the voice of a stranger.

What I say then is this; The Lord knows them that are His. He knows the foreknown, he knows the predestinated. They are the sheep: for a time they know not themselves, but the Shepherd knows them; for many sheep are without the fold, many wolves within. He speaks then of the predestinated. And now the difficulty is solved. The sheep do hear the Shepherd’s voice, and they only. When is that? It is when that voice said, He that endures to the end shall be saved. This speech His own hear, the alien hear not.

Ver 6. This parable spoke Jesus to them: but they understood not what things they were which he spoke to them.

AUG. Our Lord feeds by plain words, exercises by obscure. For when two persons, one godly, the other ungodly, hear the words of the Gospel, and they happen to be such that neither can understand them; one says, What He said is true and good, but we do not understand it: the other says, It is not worth attending to. The former, in faith, knocks, yes, and, if he continue to knock, it shall be opened to him. The latter shall hear the words in Isaiah, If you will not believe, surely you shall not be established.

Ver 7. Then said Jesus to them again, Verily, verily, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.8. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.9. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.10. The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

CHRYS. Our Lord, to waken the attention of the Jews, unfolds the meaning of what He has said; Then said Jesus to them again, Verily, verily, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.

AUG. Lo, the very door which He had shut up, He opens; He is the Door: let us enter, and let us enter with joy.All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers.
CHRYS. He said not this of the Prophets, as the heretics think, but of Theudas, and Judas, and other agitators. So he adds in praise of the sheep, The sheep heard them not; but he no where praises those who disobeyed the prophets, but condemns them severely.

AUG. Understand, All that ever came at variance with Me. The Prophets were not at variance with Him. They came with Him, who came with the Word of God, who spoke the truth. He, the Word, the Truth, sent heralds before Him, but the hearts of those whom He sent were His own. They came with Him, inasmuch as He is always, though He assumed the flesh in time: In the beginning was the Word. His humble advent in the flesh was preceded by just men, who believed on Him as about to come, as we believe on Him come.

The times are different, the faith is the same. Our faith knits together both those who believed that He was about to come, and those who believe that He has come. All that ever came at variance with Him were thieves and robbers; i.e. they came to steal and to kill; but the sheep did not hear them. They had not Christ’s voice; but were wanderers, dreamers, deceivers. Why He is the Door, He next explains, I am the Door; by Me if any man enter in he shall be saved.

ALCUIN. As if to say, The sheep hear not them, but Me they hear; for I am the Door, and whoever enters by Me not falsely but in sincerity, shall by perseverance be saved.

THEOPHYL. The door admits the sheep into the pasture; And shall go in and out, and find pasture. What is this pasture, but the happiness to come, the rest to which our Lord brings us?

AUG. What is this, shall go in and out? To enter into the Church by Christ the Door, is a very good thing, but to go out of the Church is not. Going in must refer to inward cogitation; going out to outward action; as in the Psalm, Man goes forth to his work.

THEOPHYL. Or, to go in is to watch over the inner man; to go out, to mortify the outward man, i.e. our members which are upon the earth. He that does this shall find pasture in the life to come.

CHRYS. Or, He refers to the Apostles who went in and out boldly; for they became the masters of the world, none could turn them out of their kingdom, and they found pasture.

AUG. But He Himself explains it more satisfactorily to me in what follows: The thief comes not, but for to steal, and for to kill: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

By going in they have life; i.e. by faith, which works by love; by which faith they go into the fold. The just lives by faith. And by going out they will have it more abundantly: i.e. when true believers die, they have life more abundantly, even a life which never ends. Though in this fold there is not wanting pasture, then they will find pasture, such as will satisfy them. Today shall you be with Me in paradise.

GREG. Shall go in, i.e. to faith: shall go out, i.e. to sight: and find pasture, i.e. in eternal fullness.

ALCUIN. The thief comes not but for to steal, and to kill. As if He said, And well may the sheep not hear the voice of the thief; for he comes not but for to steal: he usurps another’s office, forming his followers not on Christ’s precepts, but on his own. And therefore it follows, and to kill, i.e. by drawing them from the faith; and to destroy, i.e. by their eternal damnation.

CHRYS. The thief comes not but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy; this was literally fulfilled in the case of those movers of sedition, whose followers were nearly all destroyed; deprived by the thief even of this present life. But came, He said, for the salvation of the sheep; That they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly, in the kingdom of heaven. This is the third mark of difference between Himself, and the false prophets.

THEOPHYL. Mystically, the thief is the devil, steals by wicked thoughts, kills by the assent of the mind to them, and destroys by acts.

4 Responses to “Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 10:1-10”

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