The Divine Lamp

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

Archive for May 21st, 2011

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on John 15:9-11

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 21, 2011

This post includes commentary on verse 12.

Ver. 9. “As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you.”Here at length He speaketh in a more human manner, for this, as spoken to men, has its peculiar force. Since what a measure of love did He manifest, who chose to die, who counted worthy of such honor those who were His slaves, His haters, His open enemies, and led them up to the heavens! “If then I love you, be bold; if it be the glory of My Father that ye bear fruit, imagine nothing ill.” Then that He may not make them supine, observe how He braceth them again,

“Continue ye in My love.” “For this ye have the power to do.” And how shall this be?

Ver. 10. “If ye keep My commandments, even as I have kept my Father’s commandments.” Again, His discourse proceedeth in a human way; for certainly the Lawgiver would not be subject to commandments. Seest thou that here also, as I am always saying, this is declared because of the infirmity of the hearers? For He chiefly speaketh to their suspicions, and by every means showeth them that they are in safety, and that their enemies are being lost, and that all, whatever they have, they have from the Son, and that, if they show forth a pure life, none shall ever have the mastery over them. And observe that He discourseth with them in a very authoritative manner, for He said not, “abide in the love of My Father,” but, “in Mine”; then, lest they should say, “when Thou hast set us at war with all men, Thou leavest us, and departest,” He showeth that He doth not leave them, but is so joined to them if they will, as the branch in the vine. Then, lest from confidence they should become supine, He saith not that the blessing cannot be removed if they are slack-minded. And in order not to refer the action to Himself, and so make them more apt to fall, He saith, “Herein is My Father glorified.” For everywhere He manifesteth His own and His Father’s love towards them. Not the things of the Jews, then, were “glory,” but those which they21 were about to receive. And that they might not say, “we have been driven from the possessions of our fathers, we have been deserted, we have become naked, and destitute of all things,””Look,” He saith, “on Me. I am loved by the Father, yet still I suffer these things appointed. And so I am not now leaving you because I love you not. For if I am slain, and take not this for a proof of not being loved by the Father, neither ought ye to be troubled. For, if ye continue in My love, these dangers shall not be able to do you any mischief on the score of love.”

Since then love is a thing mighty and irresistible, not a bare word, let us manifest it by our actions. He reconciled us when we were His enemies, let us, now that we have become His friends, remain so. He led the way, let us at least follow; He loveth us not for His own advantage, (for He needeth nothing,) let us at least love Him for our profit; He loved us being His enemies, let us at least love Him being our friend. At present we do the contrary; for every day God is blasphemed through us, through our plunderings, through our covetousness. And perhaps one of you will say, “Every day thy discourse is about covetousness.” Would that I could speak about it every night too; would that I could do so, following you about in the market-place, and at your table; would that both wives, and friends, and children, and domestics, and tillers of the soil, and neighbors, and the very pavement and walls, could ever shout forth this word, that so we might perchance have relaxed a little. For this malady hath seized upon all the world, and occupies the souls of all, and great is the tyranny of Mammon. We have been ransomed by Christ, and are the slaves of gold. We proclaim the sovereignty of the one, and obey the other. Whatever “he” commands we readily obey, and we have refused to know family, or friendship, or nature, or laws, or anything, for him. No one looks up to Heaven, no one thinks about things to come. But there will be a time, when there will be no profit even in22 these words. “In the grave,” itsaith, “who shall confess to Thee?” Gold is adesirable thing, and procures us much luxury, and makes us to be honored, but not in like manner as doth Heaven. For from the wealthy man many even turn aside, and hate him, but him who lives virtuously they respect and honor. “But” saith some one “the poor man is derided, even though he be virtuous.” Not among men, but brutes.  Wherefore he ought not so much as to notice them. For if asses were to bray and daws chatter at us, while all wise men commended us, we should not, losing sight ofthis latter audience, have regard to clamors of the brutes; for like to daws, and worse than asses, are they who admire present things. Moreover, if an earthly king approve thee, thou makest no account of the many, though they all deride thee; but if the Lord of the universe praise thee, seekest thou the good words of beetles and gnats? For this is what these men are, compared with God, or rather not even this, but something viler, if there be aught such. How long do we wallow in the mire? How long do we set sluggards and belly-gods for our judges?They can prove dicers well, drunkards, those who live for the belly, but as for virtue and vice, they cannot imagine so much as a dream. If any one taunt thee because thou hast not skill to draw the channels of the watercourses,24 thou wilt not think it any terrible thing, but wilt even laugh at him who objects to thee ignorance of this kind; and dost thou, when thou desirest to practice virtue, appoint as judges those who know nothing of it? On this account we never reach that art. We commit our case not to the practiced, but to the unlearned, and they judge not according to the rules of art, but according to their own ignorance. Wherefore, I exhort you, let us despise the many; or rather let us desire neither praises, nor possessions, nor wealth, nor deem poverty any evil. For poverty is to us a teacher of prudence, and endurance, and all true wisdom. Thus Lazarus lived in poverty, and received a crown; Jacob desired to get bread only; and Joseph was in the extreme of poverty, being not merely a slave, but also a prisoner; and on this account we admire him the more, and we do not so much praise him when he distributed the corn, as when he dwelt in the dungeon: not when he wore the diadem, but when the chain; not when he sat upon the throne, but when he was plotted against and sold.25 Considering then all these things, and the crowns twined for us after the conflicts, let us admire not wealth, and honor, and luxury, and power, but poverty, and the chain, and bonds, and endurance in the cause of virtue. For the end of those things is full of troubles and confusion, and their lot is bound up with this present life; but the fruit of these, heaven, and the good things in the heavens, which neither eye hath seen, nor ear heard; which may we all obtain, through the grace and lovingkindness of I our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever.

John 15:11, 12.-“These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is My commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.”

All things good then have their reward, when they arrive at their proper end, but if they be cut off midway, shipwreck ensues. And as a vessel of immense burden, if it reach not the harbor in time, but founder in the midst of the sea, gains nothing from the length of the voyage, but even makes the calamity greater, in proportion as it has endured more toils; so are those souls which fall back when near the end of their labors, and faint in the midst of the struggle. Wherefore Paul said, that glory, and honor, and peace, should meet those who ran their course with patient continuance in well-doing. A thing which Christ now effecteth in the case of the disciples. (Rom 2:7.) For since He had accepted them, and they rejoiced in Him, and then the sudden coming of the Passion and His sad words were likely to cut short their pleasureafter having conversed with them sufficiently to soothe them, He addeth, “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be fulfilled”; that is, “that ye might not be separated from Me that ye might not cut short your course. Ye were rejoicing in Me, and ye were rejoicing exceedingly, but despondency hath fallen upon you. This then. I remove, that joy may come at the last, showing that your present circumstances are fit cause, not for pain, but for pleasure. I saw you offended; I despised you not; I said not, `Why do ye not continue noble?’ But I spake to you words which brought comfort with them. And so I wish ever to keep you in the same love. Ye have heard concerning a kingdom, ye rejoiced. In order therefore that your joy might be fulfilled, I have spoken these things unto you.” But”this is the commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you.” Seest thou that the love of God is intertwined with Our own, and connected like a sort of chain? Wherefore it sometimes saith that there are two commandments, sometimes only one. For it is not possible that the man who hath taken hold on the first should not possess the second also. For at one time He said, “On this the Law and the Prophets hang”1 (Matt 22:40); and at another, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, for this is theLaw and the Prophets.” (Matt. vii. 12.) And, “Love is the fulfilling of the Law.” (Rom 13:10.) Which He saith also here; for if to abide proceeds from love, and love from the keeping of the commandments, and the commandment is that we love one another, then the abiding in God proceeds from love towards each other. And He doth not simply speak of love, but declareth also the manner, “As I have loved you.” Again He showeth, that His very departure was not of hatred but of love. “So that I ought rather to be admired on this account, for I lay down My life for you.” Yet nowhere doth He say this in these words, but in a former place, by sketching the best shepherd, and here by exhorting them, and by showing the greatness of His love, and Himself, who He is. But wherefore doth He everywhere exalt love? Because this is the mark of the disciples, this the bond of virtue. On this account Paul saith such great things of it, as being a genuine disciple of Christ, and having had experience of it.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, Devotional Resources, fathers of the church, liturgy, Notes on the Gospel of John, Notes on the Lectionary, Quotes, Scripture, SERMONS, St John Chrysostom | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

St John Chrysostom’ Homiletic Commentary on John 15:1-8

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 21, 2011

This post includes some brief comments on the end of chapter 14.

John 14:31-15:1-“Arise, let us go hence. I am the true Vine, (ye are the branches,1 ) and My Father is the Husbandman.

`Ignorance’ makes the soul timid and unmanly, just as instruction in heavenly doctrines makes it great and sublime. For when it has enjoyed no care, it is in a manner timid, not by nature but by will.2 For when I see the man who once was brave,3 now become a coward, I say that this latter feeling no longer belongs to nature, for what is natural is immutable. Again, when I see those who but now were cowards all at once become daring, I pass the same judgment, and refer all to will. Since even the disciples were very fearful, before they had learned what they ought, and had been deemed worthy of the gift of the Spirit; yet afterwards they became bolder than lions. So Peter, who could not bear the threat of a damsel, was hung with his head downwards, and was scourged, and though he endured ten thousand dangers, would not be silent, but enduring what he endured as though it were a dream, in such a situation spake boldly; but not so before the Crucifixion. Wherefore Christ said, “Arise, let us go hence.” “But why, tell me? Did he not know the hour at which Judas would come upon Him? Or perhaps He feared lest he should come and seize them, and lest the plotters should be upon him before he had furnished his most excellent teaching.” Away with the thought! these things are far from His dignity. “If then He did not fear, why did He remove them, and then after finishing His discourse lead them into a garden known to Judas? And even had Judas come, could He not have blinded their eyes, as He also did when the traitor was not present?4 Why did He remove them?” He alloweth the disciples a little breathing time. For it was likely that they, as being in a conspicuous place, would tremble and fear, both on the account of the time and the place, (for it was the depth of night,) and would not give5 heed to His words, but would be continually turning about, and imagining that they heard those who were to set upon them; and that more especially when their Master’s speech made them expect evil. For, “yet a little while,” He saith, “and I am not with you,” and, “the ruler of this world cometh.” Since now when they heard these and the like words they were troubled, as though they should certainly be taken immediately, He leadeth them to another place, in order that thinking themselves in safety, they might listen to Him without fear. For they were about to hear lofty doctrines. Therefore He saith, “Arise, let us go hence.” Then He addeth, and saith,6 “I am the Vine, ye are the branches.” What willeth He to imply by the comparison? That the man who gives no heed to His words can have no life, and that the miracles about to take place, would be wrought by the power of Christ.”My Father is the Husbandman.” “How then?Doth the Son need a power7 working within?” Away with the thought! this example does not signify this. Observe with what exactness He goeth through the comparison. He saith not that the “root” enjoys the care of the Husbandman, but, “the branches.” And the foot is brought in in this place for no other purpose, but that they may learn that they can work nothing without His power, and that they ought to be united with Him by faith as the branch with the vine.

Ver. 2. “Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit the Father taketh away.” Here He alludeth to the manner of life, showing that without works it is not possible to be in Him.

“And every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it.” That is, “causeth it to enjoy great care.” Yet the root requires care rather than the branches, in being dug about, and cleared, yet about this He saith nothing here, but all about the branches. Showing that He is sufficient to Himself, and that the disciples need much help from the Husbandman, although they be very excellent. Wherefore He saith, “that which beareth fruit, He purgeth it.” The one branch, because it is fruitless, cannot even remain in the Vine, but for the other, because it beareth fruit, He rendereth it more fruitful. This, some one might assert, was said with relation also to the persecutions then coming upon them. For the “purgeth it,” is “pruneth,” which makes the branch bear better. Whence it is shown, that persecutions rather make men stronger. Then, test they should ask concerning whom He said these things, and lest He should throw them back into anxiety, He saith,

Ver. 3. “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” Seest thou how He introduceth Himself as tending the branches? “I have cleansed you,” He saith; yet above He declareth that the Father doth this. But there is no separation10 between the Father and the Son. “And now your part also must be performed.” Then to show that He did not this as needing their ministry,11 but for their advancement, He addeth,

Ver. 4. “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine, so neither can he who abideth not in Me.”  For that they might not be separated from Him by timidity, He fasteneth and glueth to Himself their souls slackened through fear, and holdeth out to them good hopes for the future. For the root remains, but to be taken away, or to be left, belongs to the branches. Then having urged them on in both ways, by things pleasant and things painful, He requireth first what is to be done on our side.

Ver. 5. “He that abideth in Me, and I in him.” Seest thou that the Son contributeth not less than the Father towards the care of the disciples? The Father purgeth, but He keepeth them in Himself. The abiding in the root is that which maketh the branches to be fruit-bearing. For that which is not purged, if it remain on the root, bears fruit, though perhaps not so much as it ought; but that which remains not, hears none at all. But still the “purging” also hath been shown to belong to the Son, and the “abiding in the root,” to the Father, who also begat the Root. Seest thou how all is common,15 both the “purging,” and the enjoying the virtue which is from the root?

Now it were a great penalty, the being able to do nothing, but He stayeth not the punishment at this point, but carrieth on His discourse farther.

Ver. 6. “He is cast forth,” He saith. No longer enjoying the benefit of the husbandman’s hand. “And is withered.” That is, if he had aught of the root, he loses it; if any grace, he is stripped of this, and is bereft of the help and life which proceed from it. And what the end? “He is cast into the fire.” Not such he who abideth with Him. Then He showeth what it is to “abide,” and saith,

Ver. 7. “If My words abide in you.” Seest thou that with reason I said above, that He seeketh the proof by works? For when He had said, “Whatsoever ye shall ask I will do it” (Jn 14:14, 15), He added, “If ye love Me, ye will keep My commandments.” And here, “If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you.”

“Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” This He said to show that they who plotted against Him should be burnt up, but that “they” should bear fruit. Then transferring the fear from them to the others, and showing that they should be invincible, He saith,

Ver. 8. “Herein is My Father glorified, that ye be My disciples, and bear much fruit.” Hence He maketh His discourse credible, for if the bearing fruit pertains to the glory of the Father, He will not neglect His own glory. “And ye shall be My disciples.” Seest thou how he that beareth fruit, he is the disciple? But what is, “In this is the Father glorified”? “He rejoiceth when ye abide in Me, when ye bear fruit.”

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, Devotional Resources, fathers of the church, liturgy, Notes on the Gospel of John, Notes on the Lectionary, Quotes, Scripture, SERMONS, St John Chrysostom | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Acts 14:19-28

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 21, 2011

This post includes commentary on verses 14-18.

ACTS 14:14, 15.-“Which when the Apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out and saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein.”
Mark the vehemence with which all this is done by the Apostles: “rent their clothes, ran in, cried out,” all from strong affection of the soul, revolted1 by the things that were done. For it was a grief, indeed a grief inconsolable, that they should needs be thought gods, and introduce idolatry, the very thing which they came to destroy! This also was a contrivance of the devil-but he did not prevail.2 But what say they? “We also are men of like passions with you.” At the very outset they overthrew the evil. They said not simply, “Men,” but “As ye.” Then, that they may not seem to honor the gods, hear what they add: “Preaching unto you, that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, Who made heaven, the sea, and all things that are therein.” Observe how they nowhere mention things invisible3 (b) For4 they had learnt that one should study not so much to say somewhat worthy of God, as to say what is profitable for the hearers. (a) What then? if He be Maker of all things, why does He not also attend to these things by His Providence?-“Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways” (v. 16)-but wherefore He suffered them, this he does not say, for at present he keeps to the matter of immediate importance, nowhere bringing in the name of Christ. Observe, he does not wish to swell the accusation against them, but5 rather that they themselves should refer all to God. “Nevertheless, He left not Himself without witness, in that He did good, giving you rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness.” (v. 17.) (c) See how covertly he puts the accusation “in that He did good,” etc. And yet if God did this, He could not have “let them alone;” on the contrary, they ought to be punished, for that, enjoying so great benefits, they had not acknowledged Him, not even as their feeder.6 “From heaven,” he says, “giving you rain.” Thus also David said, “From the fruit of their corn and wine and oil were they made to abound” (Ps 4:7), and in many places speaking of Creation, he brings forward these benefits: and Jeremiah mentions first Creation, then Providence (shown) by the rains, so that the Apostle here discourses as taught from those Scriptures. “Filling,” he says, “with food and gladness.” (Jer. v. 24.) With large liberality (filotimiaj) the food is given, not merely for a frugal sufficiency, nor stinted by the need. “And saying these things, they scarcely stopped the multitudes” (v. 18)-indeed by this very thing they gained most admiration-“from sacrificing to them.” Do you observe that this was the point with them to put an end to that madness? “But there came,” it says, “certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium” (v. 19).-Indeed children of the devil, that not in their own cities only, but also beyond them, they did these things, and as much made it their study to make an end of the preaching, as the Apostles were in earnest to establish it!-“and having persuaded the multitude and stoned Paul, they dragged him out of the city.” (e) So then, the Gentiles regarded them as gods, but these “dragged” him, “out of the city, supposing he had been dead. Having persuaded the multitude”-for it is not likely that all thus reverenced them. In the very city in which they received this reverence, in the same were they thus terribly ill treated. And this also profited the beholders. “Lest any man,” he says, “should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth aught from me.” (v. 20.)-“Howbeit as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up and came into the city.” (d) Here is fulfilled that saying, “My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9.) Greater this than the raising of the lame man! (f) “Came into the city.” Do you mark the zeal, do you mark how fervent he7 is, how set on fire! He came into the city itself again: for proof that if on any occasion he did retire, it was because he had sown the word, and because it was not right to inflame their wrath. (h) Then they went over all the cities in which they had been in danger. “And on the morrow,” it says, “he went forth with Barnabas to Derbe. And when they had preached the Gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” (v. 21, 22.) This they said, this they showed. But it is purposely so done, not only by8 the Apostles, but by the disciples also, that they may learn from the very outset both the might of the preaching, and that they must themselves also suffer such things, that they may stand nobly, not idly gaping for the miracles, but much more (ready) for the trials. Therefore also the Apostle himself said, “Having the same conflict which ye saw in me and heard.” (Phil 1:30.) Persecutions succeeded to persecutions: wars, fightings, stonings. (g) These things, not less than the miracles, both made them more illustrious, and prepared for them a greater rejoicing. The Scripture nowhere says that they returned rejoicing because they had done miracles, but (it does say that they rejoiced), that “they were counted worthy for that Name to suffer shame.” (Acts 5:41.) And this they were taught of Christ, saying, “Rejoice not that the devils obey you.” (Luke 10:20.) For the joy indeed and without alloy is this, to suffer aught for Christ’s sake. (i) “And that through much tribulation:” what sort of cheering (protroph) is this? how did they persuade them, by telling them at the outset of tribulations? Then also another consolation.9 “And when they had appointed for them elders in every Church,10 and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. (v. 23.) Do you mark Paul’s ardor?-Then other consolation: “Commended them,” it says, “to the Lord. And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia (v. 24, 25): (l) and thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled.” (v. 26.) Why do they come back to Antioch? To report what had taken place yonder. And besides, there is a great purpose of Providence concerned: for it was needful that they should thenceforth preach with boldness to the Gentiles. They come therefore, reporting these things, that they may be able to know them: and it is providentially ordered, that just then came those who forbade to keep company with the Gentiles in order that from Jerusalem they might obtain great encouragement, and so go their ways with boldness. And besides, it shows that in their temper there was nothing of self-will: for they come, at the same time showing their boldness, in that without the authority of those (at Jerusalem) they had preached to the Gentiles, and their obedience, in that they refer the matter to them: for they were not made arrogant, as (apenohqhsan) having achieved so great successes. “Whence,” it says, “they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they had fulfilled.” And yet moreover the Spirit had said, “Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” (Acts 13:2.) “And when they were come, and had gathered the Church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. And there they abode long time with the disciples.” (v. 27, 28.) For the city being great had need of teachers.-But let us look over again what has been said.

(Recapitulation.) “Which when the Apostles,” etc. (v. 14). First by the sight they checked them, by rending their garments. This did Joshua the son of Nun upon the occasion of the defeat of the people. Then think not that this action was unworthy of them: for such was the eagerness, they would not otherwise have restrained it would not otherwise have quenched the conflagration (puran). Therefore when need is to do something that is fit to be done, let us not decline it. For if even after all this they hardly persuaded them, if they had not acted thus, what might have been the consequence? For if they had not done thus, they would have been thought to make a show of humility (tapeinoqronein), and to be all the more desirous of the honor. And observe their language, how in rebuking it is moderated, alike full of wonder and of rebuke. This above all it was that hindered them, the saying, “Preaching unto you to turn from these vanities unto God.” (v. 15.) We are men indeed, they say, but greater than these: for these are dead things, Mark how they not only subvert (the false), but teach (the true), saying nothing about things invisible-“Who made,” say they, “heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein. Who in times past,” etc. (v. 16, 17.) He names as witnesses even the years (in their courses).11 “And there came thither certain Jews,” etc. (v. 19.) O that Jewish madness! Among a people [that had so honored the Apostles, they bad the hardihood to come, and to stone Paul. “And they dragged him out of the city,” being afraid of those (others),-“Supposing he had been dead.” (k) “Howbeit,” etc. “and came into the city.” (v. 20.) For that the spirits of the disciples might not be downcast because they who were accounted gods suffered such treatment, they came in unto them and discoursed. “Then on the morrow,” etc. And observe, first he goes forth to Derbe, and then comes back to Lystra and Iconium and Antioch, (v. 21) giving way to them while their passions are roused, but when they have ceased, then attacking them again. Do you mark, that it was not by (supernatural) grace that they managed all that they did, but by their own diligence? “Confirming,” it says “the souls of the disciples:” episthrizontej, “further establishing;” so that they were established, but they added more thereto. “And that we must,” etc. (v. 22): they foretold (this), that they might not be offended. “And when they had appointed for them,” etc. Again the ordinations accompanied with fastings: and again fasting, that purifying of our souls. (m) “And having prayed,” it says, “with fastings, they commended them unto the Lord” (v. 23): they taught them to fast also in their trials. (o) Why did they not make elders in Cyprus nor in Samaria? Because the latter was near to Jerusalem, the former to Antioch, and the word was strong there; whereas in those parts they needed much consolation, especially they of the Gentiles, who behooved to have much instruction. “And when they were come,” etc. (v. 27.) They came, teaching them that with good reason had they been ordained by the Spirit. (n) They said not what they themselves, but “what God had done with them.” It seems to me, that they mean their trials. It was not for nothing that they, come here, nor to rest, but providentially guided by the Spirit, to the end that the preaching to the Gentiles might be firmly established. (p) And mark Paul’s ardor. He does not ask whether it be right to speak to Gentiles, but he straightway speaks: therefore it is that he says, “I did not refer myself to flesh and blood.” (Gal 1:16.)

For it is indeed12 a great thing, a great, a generous soul (like this)! How many have since believed, and none of them all has shone like him! What we want is earnestness, exceeding ardor, a soul ready to encounter death. Else is it not possible to attain unto the Kingdom, not being crucified. Let us not deceive ourselves. For if in war it is impossible to come off safe while living daintily, and trafficking, and huckstering and idling, much more in this war. Or think ye not that it is a war worse than all others? (Infra, p. 204, note 1.) “For we wrestle not,” he says, “against flesh and blood.” (Eph 6:12.) Since even while taking our meals and walking, and bathing, the enemy is present with us, and knows no time of truce, except that of sleep only: nay, often even then he carries on the war, injecting into us unclean thoughts, and making us lewd by means of dreams. We watch not, we do not rouse ourselves up, do not look to the multitude of the forces opposed to us, do not reflect, that this very thing constitutes the greatest misfortune-that though surrounded by so great wars, we live daintily as in time of peace. Believe me, worse than Paul suffered may have to be suffered now. Those enemies wounded him with stones: there is a wounding with words, even worse than stones. What then must we do? The same that he did: he did not hate those who cast stones at him, but after they had dragged him out, he entered again into their city, to be a benefactor to those who had done him such wrongs. If thou also endurest him who harshly insults thee, and has done thee wrongs, then hast thou too been stoned. Say not, “I have done him no injury.” For what injury had Paul done, that he should be stoned? He was announcing a Kingdom, he was bringing men away from error, and bringing them to God: benefits these, worthy of crowns, worthy of proclamation by voice of herald, worthy of a thousand good things-not of stones. And yet (far from resenting) he did13 just the contrary. For this is the splendid victory. “And they dragged him,” (v. 19) it says, These too they often drag: but be not thou angry; on the contrary, preach thou the word with gentleness. Hath one insulted thee? Hold thy peace, and bless if thou canst, and thou also hast preached the word, hast given a lesson of gentleness, a lesson of meekness. I know that many do not so smart under wounds, as they do under the blow which is inflicted by words: as indeed the one wound the body receives the other the soul. But let us not smart, or rather feeling the smart let us endure. Do you not see the pugilists, how, with their heads sorely battered, they bite their teeth into their lips, and so bear their smarts kindly? No need to grind the teeth, no need to bite (the lips). Remember thy Master, and by the remembrance thou hast at once applied the remedy. Remember Paul: reflect that thou, the beaten hast conquered, and he the beater, is defeated; and by this hast thou cured the whole. It14 is the turning of the scale a moment and thou hast achieved the whole: be not hurried away, do not even move, thou hast extinguished the whole (fire). Great15 eloquence of persuasion there is in suffering aught for Christ: thou preachest not the word of faith, but thou preachest the word of patience (filosofiaj). But, you will say, the more he sees my gentleness, the more he sets upon me. Is it for this then that thou art pained, that he increases thy rewards the more? “But16 this is the way,” you say, “to make him unbearable.” This is mere pretext of thine own littleness of mind: on the contrary, the other is the way to make him unbearable, namely, that thou avenge thyself. If God had known, that through forbearance of revenge, the unjust became unbearable, He would not have done17 this Himself: on the contrary, He would have said, Avenge thyself: but He knew, that other than this is the more likely way to do good. Make not thou a law contrary to God: do as He bids thee. Thou art not kinder than He that made us. He hath said, “Bear to be wronged:” thou sayest, “I requite wrong for wrong, that he may not become unbearable.” Hast thou then more care for him than God has? Such talk is mere passion and ill temper, arrogance and setting up laws against God’s laws. For even if the man were hurt (by our forbearance), would it not be our duty to obey? When God orders anything, let us not make a contrary law. “A submissive answer,” we read, turneth away wrath” (Prov 16:1): not an answer of opposition. If it profits thee, it profits him also: but if it hurts thee who art to set him right, how much more will it hurt him? “Physician, heal thyself.” Hath one spoken ill of thee? Commend him thou. Hath he reviled thee? Praise him thou. Hath he plotted against thee? Do him a kindness. Requite him with the contrary things, if at least thou at all carest for his salvation and wish not thou to revenge thine own suffering. And yet, you will say, though he has often met with long-suffering from me he has become worse. This is not thine affair, but his. Wilt thou learn what wrongs God suffered? They threw down His altars, and slew His prophets (1 Kings 19:10), vet He endured it all. Could He not have launched a thunderbolt from above? Nay, when He had sent His prophets, and they killed them, then He sent His Son (Matt 21:37), when they wrought greater impieties, then He sent them greater benefits. And thou too, if thou seest one exasperated, then yield the more: since this madness has greater need of soothing.

The more grievous his abuse of thee, the more meekness does he need from thee: and even as a gale18 when it blows strong, then it requires yielding to, so also he who is in a passion. When the wild beast is most savage, then we all flee: so also should we flee from him that is angry. Think not that this is an honor to him: for is it an honor we show to the wild beast, and to madmen, when we turn aside out of their way? By no means it is a dishonor and a scorn: or rather not dishonor and scorn, but compassion and humanity. Seest thou not how the sailors, when the wind blows violently, take down their sails, that the vessel may not sink? how, when the horses have run away with the driver, he only leads them into the (open) plain, and does not pull against them that he may not voluntarily exhaust his strength? This do thou also. Wrath is afire, it is a quick flame needing fuel: do not supply food to the fire, and thou hast soon extinguished the evil. Anger has no power of itself; there must be another to feed it. For thee there is no excuse. He is possessed with madness, and knows not what he does; but when thou, seeing what he is, fallest into the same evils, and art not brought to thy right senses by the sight, what excuse can there be for thee? If coming to a feast thou see at the very outset of the feast some one drunken and acting unseemly, would not he, who after seeing him makes himself drunk, be much more inexcusable? Just so it is here. Do we think it any excuse to say, I was not the first to begin? This is against us, that even the sight of the other in that condition did not bring us to our fight senses. It is just as if one should say, “I did not murder him first.” For this very thing makes thee deserving of punishment, that even upon the warning of such a spectacle thou didst not restrain thyself. If thou shouldest see the drunken man in the act of vomiting, retching, bursting, his eyes strained, filling the table with his filthiness, everybody hurrying out of his way, and then shouldest fall into the same state thyself, wouldest thou not be more hateful? Like him is he that is in a passion: more than he who vomits, he has his veins distended, his eyes inflamed, his bowels racked; he vomits forth words far more filthy than that food; all crude what he utters, nothing duly digested, for his passion will not let it be. But as in that case excess of fumes (kumwn), making an uproar in the stomach, often rejects all its contents; so here, excess of heat, making a tumult in the soul suffers him not to conceal what it were right to leave unsaid, but things fit and unfit to be spoken, he says all alike, not putting the hearers but himself to shame. As then we get out of the way of those that vomit, so let us from those who are angry. Let us cast dust upon their vomit: By doing what?19 By holding our peace: let us call the dogs to eat up the vomit. I know that ye are disgusted at hearing this: but I wish you to feel this same disgust when ye see these things take place, and not to be pleased at the thing. The abusive man is filthier than the dog that returneth to its own vomit. For if indeed having vomited once he were done with it, he would not be like that dog: but if he vomits the same things again, it is plain that he does so from having eaten the same again. What then is more abominable than such an one? What filthier than that mouth which chews such food? And yet this is a work of nature, but the other not or rather both the one and the other are contrary to nature. How? Since it is not according to nature to be causelessly abusive, but against nature: he speaks nothing then like a man, but part as beast, part as madman. As then the disease of the body is contrary to nature, so also is this. And to show that it is contrary to nature, if he shall continue in it, he will perish by little and little: but if he continue in that which is natural, he will not perish. I had rather sit at table with a man who eats dirt, than with one who speaks such words. See ye not the swine devouring dung? So also do these. For what is more stinking than the words which abusive men utter? It is their study to speak nothing wholesome, nothing pure, but whatever is base, whatever is unseemly, that they study both to do and say: and what is worse, they think to disgrace others, while they in fact are disgracing themselves. For that it is themselves they disgrace is plain. For, leaving out of the question those who speak lies (in their railings), say it be some notorious harlot, or even from the stage some other (abandoned creature), and let that person be having a fight with some other person: then let the latter cast this up to the former (what she or he is), and the former retort upon the latter the same reproach: which of them is most damaged by the words? For20 the former is but called what in fact he or she is, which is not the case with the other: so that the first gets nothing more in the way of shame (than there was before), while to the other there accrues a great accession of disgrace. But again, let there be some hidden actions (mod. text eirgasmena “which have been done”), and let only the person abusing know of them: then, holding his peace until now, let him openly parade (ekpompeuetw) the reproach: even so, he himself is more disgraced than the other. How? by making himself the herald of the wickedness, so21 getting for himself either the imputation of not being privy to any such thing, or the character of one not fit to be trusted. And you shall see all men forthwith accuse him: “If indeed he had been privy to a murder being done, he ought to have revealed it all:” and so they regard him with aversion as not human even, they hate him, they say he is a wild beast, fierce and cruel: while the other they pardon much rather than him. For we do not so much hate those that have wounds, as those that compel one to uncover and show them. Thus that man has not only disgraced the other, but himself as well and his hearers, and the common nature of men: he has wounded the hearer, done no good. For this reason Paul says: “If there be any word that is good for edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” (Eph 4:29.) Let us get a tongue speaking only good things, that we may be lovely and amiable. But indeed, everything is come to that pitch of wickedness, that many boast of the very things, for which they should hide their faces. For the threats of the many are of this kind: “thou canst not bear my tongue,” say they. Words, these, worthy only of a woman, of an abandoned drunken old hag, one of those that are dragged (to punishment)22 in the forum, a procuress. Nothing more shameful than these words, nothing more unmanly, more womanlike, than to have your strength in the tongue, and to think great things of yourself because you can rail, just like the fellows in processions, like the buffoons, parasites, and flatterers. Swine they are rather than men, who pride themselves upon this. Whereas you should (sooner) have buried yourself, and if another gave you this character, should recoil from the charge as odious and unmanly, instead of that you have made yourself the herald of (your own) disgrace (ubrewn). But you will not be able to hurt him you speak ill of. Wherefore I beseech you, considering how the wickedness is come to such a height, that many boast of it, let us return to our senses, let us recover those who are thus mad, let us take away these councils23 out of the city, let us make our tongue gracious, let us rid it of all evil speaking, that being clean from sins, we may be able to draw down upon us the good-will from above, and to have mercy vouchsafed unto us from God, through the grace and compassion of His only-begotten Son, with Whom to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, might, honor, now and ever, world without end. Amen.

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Pope John Paul II’s Commentary/Meditation on Psalm 57

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 21, 2011

1. It is a dark night; devouring wild beasts are perceived in the surroundings. The one who prays is waiting for the coming of dawn so that the light will dispel the darkness and fear. This is the background of Psalm 56 (57) on which we reflect today. It is a night prayer made by the one who prays at the break of day, anxiously awaited, in order to be able to praise the Lord with joy (cf. vv. 9-12). In fact, the psalm passes from dramatic lament addressed to God to serene hope and joyful thanksgiving, the latter using words that resound again in another psalm (cf. Ps 107 [108],2-6).

In reality, one assists at the passage from fear to joy, from night to day, from nightmare to serenity, from supplication to praise. It is an experience that is often described in the Psalter: “You changed my mourning into dancing, you took off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness. With my whole being I sing endless praise to you. Lord, my God, forever will I will give you thanks” (Ps 29,12-13).


2. Psalm 56 (57) that we are meditating on has two parts. The first part is the experience of fear before the assault of the evil which tries to strike the just one (cf. vv. 2-7). At the centre of the scene there are lions poised to attack. In no time this image is transformed into a picture of war, complete with spears, arrows, and swords. The one who prays feels assailed by a kind of death squadron. Around him there is a band of hunters, setting traps and digging pits to capture their prey. But this tense atmosphere is suddenly dissolved. In fact, already at the beginning (cf. v. 2), the protective symbol of the divine wings appears which refer, specifically, to the Ark of the Covenant with the winged cherubim, sign of the presence of God among the faithful in the holy temple on Mt Zion.

3. The one who prays asks God insistently to send from heaven his messengers to whom he assigns the symbolic names of “Faithfulness” and “Grace” (v. 4), the qualities proper to the saving love of God. For that reason, even if he shudders at the terrible roaring of the wild beasts and the perfidy of his persecutors, the faithful one remains serene and confident within, like Daniel in the lions’ den (cf. Dn 6,17-25).


The presence of the Lord does not delay in showing its efficacy by means of the self inflicted punishment of his adversaries: they tumble into the pit which they had dug for the just one (cf. v. 7). Such confidence in divine justice, which is always expressed in the Psalter, wards off discouragement and surrender to the power of evil. Sooner or later, God sides with the faithful one upsetting the manoeuvres of the wicked, tripping them up in their own evil plots.

4. Now we reach the second part of the Psalm, that of thanksgiving (cf. vv. 8-12). There is a passage which shines because of its intensity and beauty: “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast. I will sing and make melody. Awake my soul. Awake O harp and lyre. I will awake the dawn” (vv. 8-9). Now the darkness has been dispelled: the dawn of salvation has coloured the song of the one who prays.

Applying this image to himself, the Psalmist seems to translate into terms that belong to the religious imagery of the Bible, which is rigorously monotheistic, the custom of the Egyptian or Phoenician priests who were in charge of “awakening the dawn”, of making the sun reappear, since it was considered a beneficent god. He also alludes to the use of hanging up musical instruments and covering them in a time of mourning and trial (cf. Ps 136 [137],2), and of “reawakening” them to a festive sound in times of liberation and joy. Hope blossoms from the liturgy: one turns to God asking him to draw near to his people again and to hear their prayer. In the Psalter, dawn is often the moment when God grants a favour after a night of prayer.

Divine Intervention 

5. The Psalm closes with a hymn of praise to the Lord, who works with his two great saving qualities, that already appear with different names in the first part of the supplication (cf. v. 4). Now virtually personified, divine Goodness and Faithfulness enter the scene. They flood the heavens with their presence and are like light that shines in the darkness of trials and persecutions (cf. v. 11). For this reason the Christian tradition has used Psalm 56 (57) as a canticle of awakening to Easter light and joy, which shines out to the faithful removing the fear of death and opening the horizon of heavenly glory.

6. Gregory of Nyssa discovers in the words of the Psalm a kind of typical description of what happens in every human experience open to the recognition of the wisdom of God. “Indeed, He saved me – he exclaims – by shading me with the cloud of the Spirit, and those who trampled me underfoot were humiliated” (From the Italian translation of On the Titles of the Psalms, Rome, 1994, p. 183).

Later, quoting the expressions at the end of the Psalm, where it says, “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens. Let your glory be above the earth”, he concludes, “To the degree that the glory of God is extended on earth, increased by the faith of those who are saved, the heavenly powers extol God, exulting for our salvation” (ibid. p. 184). (source).

Posted in Bible, Catechetical Resources, Catholic, Christ, Devotional Resources, John Paul II Catechesis, liturgy, Meditations, Notes on the Lectionary, NOTES ON THE PSALMS, PAPAL COMMENTARY ON THE PSALMS, Quotes, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on John 15:1-8

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 21, 2011

15:1 I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Husbandman.

He wishes to show us that it behoves us to love, to hold fast to our love towards Him, and how great a gain we shall have from our union with Him, when He says that He is the Vine, by way of illustration; and that those who are united and fixed and rooted in a manner in Him, and who are already partakers in His nature through their participation in the Holy Spirit are branches; for it is His Holy Spirit Which has united us with the Saviour Christ, since connexion with the Vine produces a choice of those things which belong to It, and our connexion with It holds us fast. From a firm resolve in goodness we proceed onward by faith, and we become His people, obtaining from Him the dignity of Sonship. For according to the holy Paul, He that is joined unto the Lord is one Spirit. As then in other places He has been called the foundation and coping-stone by the voice of the prophets, for upon Him we are built up, ourselves being the stones, living and spiritual stones, into a holy priesthood for a habitation of God in the Spirit, and in no other way are we able to be built up into this, save only if Christ be the coping-stone, so here by a similar reflection He says that He is a Vine, as it were the mother and nourisher of its branches. For we are begotten of Him and in Him in the Spirit, to produce the fruits of life; not the old life |364 of former days, but that which consists in newness of faith and love towards Him. And we are preserved in our hold on this life by clinging as it were to Him, and holding fast to the holy commandment given to us, and by making haste to preserve the blessing of our high birth; that is, by our refusing to grieve in any way whatever the Holy Spirit That has taken up His abode in us, by Whom God is conceived to dwell in us. For in what manner we are in Christ and He in us the wise John will show us when He says: Hereby we know that we are in Him and He in us, by the Spirit Which He gave us; and again, 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 he makes this even clearer to his hearers by the words, He that keepeth His commandments abideth in Him, and He in him. For if the keeping of His commandments worketh love towards Him, and we are joined to Him by love, surely what has been said has been shown to be true by these quotations. For just as the root of the vine ministers and distributes to the branches the enjoyment of its own natural and inherent qualities, so the Only-begotten Word of God imparts to the Saints as it were an affinity to His own nature and the nature of God the Father, by giving them the Spirit, insomuch as they have been united with Him through faith and perfect holiness; and He nourishes them in piety, and worketh in them the knowledge of all virtue and good works.

And when He calls the Father Husbandman, why does He give Him this title, for the Father is not idle or inert in His dealings with us, and while the Son nourishes us and sustains us in a perfect state by the Holy Spirit, the rectification of our condition is as it were the function of the whole sacred and consubstantial Trinity, and the will and power to do all the actions done by It pervades the whole Divine Nature? Therefore it is glorified by us in its entirety, and in one single aspect. For we call God a Saviour, not gaining the graces which are |365 compassionately bestowed upon us partly from the Father, and partly from the Son Himself or the Holy Spirit, but calling our salvation the work of One Divinity. And if we must apportion the gifts which are bestowed upon us, or those activities which They display about creation, to each person of the Trinity separately, none the less do we believe that everything proceeds from the Father by the Son in the Spirit. You will think then quite rightly that the Father nourishes us in piety by the Son in the Spirit. He husbands us, that is He watches over us, and cares for us, and deems us worthy of His sustaining providence by the Son in the Spirit. For this view will be more correct than any other, in my opinion. For if we attribute to each a separate activity in His dealings with us, apart from the others, is it not beyond controversy that since the Son is called a Vine and the Father a Husbandman, we are nourished and sustained in well-being especially by the Son alone, while from the Father we receive merely His providential care. For it is the function of the vine to nourish the branches, and of the tiller of the soil to tend them. And if we think aright, we shall believe that neither the one function, if performed apart from the Father, nor the other apart from the Son or the Holy Ghost, could sustain the whole. For all proceeds from the Father by the Son in the Spirit, as we have said. Very appropriately now the Saviour called the Father a Husbandman, and it is not at all difficult to assign the cause. For it was to the intent that no one might think that the Only-begotten merely exercised care over us that He represents God the Father as co-operating with Him, calling Himself the Vine that quickens His own branches with life and productive power, and the Father a Husbandman, and for this reason teaching us that providential care over us is a sort of distinct activity of the Divine Substance. For we were bound to know that God did not only make us partakers of His nature, conceived of as belonging to the Holy and |366 consubstantial Trinity, but also He watches over us with, the most diligent care, which is illustrated to us very appropriately on this occasion by the figure of husbandry. For when He has before spoken of the vine and its branches, how is not the illustration of the husbandman most apt, introducing the One Who takes the care and charge of the whole, that is God. And if we are convinced that the Son is really and truly in His own Father, and He has Him that begat Him in His own nature, and all things are brought to perfection by Both in the Spirit as by One Divinity, neither will the Father be without His share in nourishing us, nor can the Son be thought not to partake in His husbandry. For where Their identity of nature is seen in unmistakeable language, there too there is no division of activity, though any one may think that they have manifold diversities of operations. And, as there is one Substance, that is the true and real Godhead conceived of in three Persons, that is in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, is it not extremly clear and incontrovertible that when we speak of an activity of one, it is a function of the One and entire Divinity, in the way of inherent power?

Moreover, our Lord Jesus Christ, accepting His Father as His Fellow-worker in all He did, once went amongst the impious Jews and said: Many good works have I showed you from My Father: for which of those works do ye stone Me? And again, about working on the Sabbath-day: My Father worketh even until now, and I work. And no one would think He said that the Father acts separately in His dealings with the world, and so also the Son. For since the Father does all things by the Son, and could not otherwise act, as He is His wisdom and power, for this reason He, on the other hand, called the Father the doer of His own works, when He said: I do nothing of Myself; but the Father abiding in Me doeth His works. I think, therefore, we ought to take this view and no other, that Christ takes |367 the place of the vine, and we are dependent on Him as branches, enriched as it were by His grace, and drinking in by the Spirit spiritual power to bear fruit.

And since we who have chosen the right path are assailed by the trenchant arguments of our adversaries, who try to persuade us to take a false view, we will make things clear to our hearers, compressing into short compass what one of them has set forth at length. “Well,” he says, “has the Only-begotten refuted and brought to shame those who think that He is of the same Substance with God the Father. For note how He clearly calls Himself the Vine and the Father the Husbandman: for as the vine is not the same in substance with the husbandman, for the one is wood and the other is man, and these things are altogether separate and alien in nature, so the Son is not of the same Essence with the Father, and the definition of Their Essence is widely different and distinguishes Them, if the One is a Husbandman and the Other a Vine. For there is no question that some people unjustifiably attempt to prove that this has only reference to the Incarnation. For He does not say that His Flesh is the Vine, but rather His Godhead. But will it not be clear to everyone,” he says, “that our body has no dependence on the Flesh of the Saviour as the branches on the vine, nor yet is the fruit of the Saints fleshly but spiritual? Therefore,” he says, “putting on one side for the present all reference to the flesh, we say that the meaning of the speech relates to the Divinity itself of the Son; and we maintain that that Divinity is the Vine on which we depend by faith.”

These idle ravings then suggested themselves to him, as he capriciously rejected according to his own private judgment the correct interpretation of the Divine doctrine, and distorted it, in his headstrong folly, into conformity with his own preconceived theory. But we who cling to the truth are quite of the opposite opinion, and following in the lines of the knowledge of the holy |368 fathers shall retain the correct doctrine. We may now pertinently inquire, according to our lights, how we ought to interpret the meaning of the text, and we must also see how and in what manner we may equip ourselves to encounter their arguments. For if we saw that no harm could steal therefrom unto the hearts of the simple-minded, we would pass them over in silence, and, rightly disdaining to intermeddle with their vain theories, have embarked on the investigation of the ensuing passage. But since such doctrines would be very calamitous if they gained acceptance, does it not follow that we ought, fired with religious zeal, to enter on the contest of words and arguments? For thus the wickedness of our adversaries can be very easily detected. Let us commence by saying that it is the height of folly unseasonably to reject what has been given by way of illustration and brought in as a similitude of the relations of the Trinity to display the manner of Their Nature or Essence. For I say that those who wish rightly to comprehend anything that is said, do well in looking at the purpose of the discussion, and ought attentively to consider what is the meaning of the Maker of the speech in His conversation. For consider, too, in the light of what lies before us, whether I do not seem to you to speak well. It was not the purpose of our Saviour Christ to teach the disciples that He was different in nature or separate from the Father; and it was not for this reason that He resolved to call Him That begat Him the Husbandman and Himself the Vine. For if this was His aim, why did He not end His speech here, without adding any qualification to it? For He would have illustrated what His purpose was, according to your idea, without chance of confusion, if He had merely given these names to Himself and the Father. But now, after premising that He was the Vine, and saying that we depend on Him as branches, and then investing the Father with the character of the Husbandman, He makes it quite clear and obvious to all, I think, that He |369 has no such meaning as you suppose, and wishes, by palpable illustrations visible to the bodily eye, to persuade His hearers that all power of producing the fruits of the Spirit proceeds from Him; as the branches which grow up from the root are pervaded by its inherent quality. For every good thing which we have is given; but it is not so with God. For He is in Himself the originator of His own peculiar attributes, glory and might, which appertain to Him alone. Therefore Christ, being as it were the root, is the Vine, and we are the branches. And if He called the Father the Husbandman, do not think that He spoke of Him as being different in substance. For He does not mean this, as we have said; but wishes to point out that the Divine Nature is the root and origin in us of the power of producing the fruits of the Spirit of life, besides the blessings we have spoken of, tending us like a husbandman, and extending over those who are called by faith to partake in it the providence of love. The unlikeness of the illustrations used then has no reference to the definition of the essence, for it is not the purpose of our Saviour Christ to speak on that subject, but His teaching has quite another object.

And since the deluded heretic chooses to propound his false views in his folly, and says that no argument will induce those who as it were distort the aim of the words which are before us from their right meaning, and attribute to them a reference to the Incarnation of Christ, for we were not united to Him in the body, nor yet did the Apostles as branches abide in the body of Christ, nor were they after this fashion connected with Him, but in temper of mind and faith unfeigned; let us briefly reply to this, and show him that he is altogether astray, and does not follow aright the holy writings. For that we are spiritually united with Christ in a disposition made conformable to perfect love, in true and uncorrupted faith, in virtue and purity of mind, the statement of our doctrine will no way deny. For we confess that he is |370 quite right in saying this; but in venturing to say that no reference is intended to our union with Him after the flesh, we will point out that he is wholly out of harmony with the inspired writings. For how could it be disputed, or what right-minded man could deny, that Christ is the Vine in this relation? And we, as being branches after a figure, receive into ourselves life out of and proceeding from Him, as Paul says: For we are all one body in Christ, seeing that we who are many are one bread: for we all partake of the one bread. And let any one account for this and give us an interpretation of it without reference to the power of the blessed mystery. Why do we receive it within us? Is it not that it may make Christ to dwell in us corporeally also by participation and communion of His Holy Flesh? Rightly would he answer, I deem. For Paul writes, that the Gentiles have become fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers, and fellow-heirs of Christ. How are they shown to be “embodied”? Because, being admitted to share the Holy Eucharist, they become one body with Him, just as each one of the holy Apostles. For why did he (S. Paul) call his own, yea, the members of all as well as his own, the members of Christ? For he writes thus: Know ye not that your members are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ, and make them members of a harlot? God forbid. And the Saviour Himself says: He that eateth My Flesh and drinketh My Blood, abideth in Me, and I in him. For here it is especially to be observed that Christ saith that He shall be in us, not by a certain relation only, as entertained through the affections, but also by a natural participation. For as, if one entwineth wax with other wax and melteth them by the fire there resulteth of both one, so through the participation of the Body of Christ and of His precious Blood, He in us, and we again in Him, are co-united. For in no other way could that which is by nature corruptible be made alive, unless it were bodily entwined with the Body of That Which is by nature |371 Life, the Only-begotten. And if any be not persuaded by my words, give credence to Christ Himself, crying aloud: Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, ye have not life in yourselves. He that eateth My Flesh and drinketh My Blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up in the last day. Thou nearest now Himself plainly declaring that, unless we “eat His Flesh, and drink His Blood,” we “have not in ourselves,” that is, in our flesh, “Eternal Life.” But Eternal Life may be conceived to be, and most justly, the Flesh of that which is Life, that is, the Only-begotten. And how or in what manner this raises us up on the last day hear now; and I will not scruple to tell you. For since the Life, that is the Word which shone forth from God the Father, took unto Himself flesh, the flesh became transformed into a living principle, and it is inconceivable that the life should be vanquished by death. Therefore, since the life is in us, it will not endure the bondage of death, but will wholly vanquish corruption, since it cannot endure its results. For corruption does not inherit incorruption, as Paul says. For if Christ uses the emphatic expression, I will raise him up, He not only invested His own Flesh with the power of raising those who are asleep, but the Divine and Incarnate Word, being one with His own Flesh, says, I will raise him up, and with good reason. For Christ is not severed into a duality of Sons, nor can any one think that His Body is alien from the Only-begotten, as no doubt no one could maintain that the body in which the soul dwells is alien from it.

When then by these disquisitions Christ has been shown to us to be the Vine in this sense, and we the branches, inasmuch as we partake in a fellowship with Him that is not merely spiritual but also corporeal, why does he talk so vainly, asserting that, since our dependence on our fellowship with Him is not corporeal, but consisting rather in faith and disposition to love according to the law, He did not call His own Flesh, he says, the vine, |372 but rather His Godhead? And yet, why, some one may say, does he reject the interpretation that is more fitting and appropriate to the passage, and hasten to adopt one widely divergent? For shall we not grant that Christ is the Vine in a more appropriate way also according to the fellowship of the flesh, and that we are branches through the similarity of our nature? For that which proceeds from the vine is of like nature with it. And this we say, not as attempting to deny the possibility of union with Christ by right faith and sincere love, but rather from a wish to point out that Christ is the Vine and we are the branches, both in a spiritual and corporeal sense.

Further, the statement of the truth is simple and obvious; but our adversary, in his wickedness, disdains the admission that Christ was the Vine in a corporeal sense also, as conferring His own Life on the branches, that is to say on us, just as the visible and earthly vine confers life on the branches that cling to it. He distorts and does violence to the meaning of the thought, making it have reference only to His Godhead. For he thought that he might thus bring a calumny against it, raising this ignorant contention: “If the Son is the Vine,” he says, “and the Father the Husbandman, and the Son differs in nature from Him, as in the figure of the vine, the Son will not be of the same Substance with the Father.”

And he thinks he has built up a profound, trenchant, and incontrovertible theory against the doctrines of the Church, but will no less here also be convicted of folly. For when he first asserts that the Son is alien in nature, and places Him outside the Substance of Him That begat Him, how then can he any longer call God a Father, and the Son a Son in any sense? For if he says that He was not begotten, that is, proceeded from the Substance of the Father, just as the offspring of men from men, how could He be in any true sense the Son? How then can he set aside the blessed John, when he says: He that denieth the Son, will deny the Father also: he that confesseth the |373 Son, confesseth the Father also? And the saying is true. For the denial or confession of the One altogether involves the denial or confession of the Other. For the Father could not exist if the Son did not; nor could the Son be conceived of if He That begat Him were not conceived of with Him. If then he denies the Son, for he says that He belongs to another class, he thereby denies the Father also. What answer then, my good Sir, have you to make? Whom has faith left? Where is the glory of the Holy Trinity? For the nature that rules over the universe is hereby wholly taken away; that nature which is shown to us in plain language in the Holy Scripture. For their temerity and falsehood force us into the midst of difficult discussions. But, perhaps shrinking from so prodigious a blasphemy, he says that the Son belongs to another class, but was begotten of God the Father. But we will ask him once more to tell us how then does he grant and confess that He is begotten? For if as one of created beings, according to a state of mind that is in love and according to will, for all things are said to be produced from God, this none the less involves the same blasphemy. And if he says that He is truly the Son, but asserts that He is alien, and asserts even after saying this that He is different in class, even after this admission he commits an impiety against the Father Himself. For that which the nature of created beings disdained to suffer, this he would show that God underwent. For surely is not that which is truly the offspring of anything by nature manifestly of the same substance with the father of it? Is it not quite obvious to every one? The world then proceeds according to a suitable principle, for no creature produces anything different in kind from itself. And only in God shall we find the reverse, since He has begotten the Son different in kind and not of His own Nature.

It were likely then that our adversary should not like to make any reply; but if he persists in his folly, and thinks that the Son is different in kind from God the Father, we will not be slack in our advocacy of the |374 doctrines of the truth. For we shall show that he says that God the Father is the same in kind with created beings; and how, or in what way, you may now learn. He clearly contends and maintains that it is not so much the flesh as the Divinity Itself of the Only-begotten that is called the Vine. Suppose it is so then. For I will ask the question, and let him make the reply. “Does he think that the Son is truly God, or not; or does he maintain that He is spurious, or that His dignity only consists in empty titles?” And if he maintains that He is not God by nature, let him ponder over the testimony of the Only-begotten Himself, when He says, I am the Truth. For the truth has only one form, and does not admit of the spurious or mis-named. And let him accept the witness hereon of the most wise John, when he clearly exclaims, and says: And we are in the true God, Jesus Christ: this is the true God and eternal life. But if perhaps he is ashamed of this, and gives up his contention, and confesses that the Son is truly God, we will not shift our position, but will use his own words to overturn what he said. “Is not the Father, as the Husbandman, different in nature from the vine; for the one is man and the other wood?” Thus must not the vine be conceived of as really and truly of the same nature with its branches? And I suppose some would attain such a pitch of folly as to venture to deny what is so clear. When then, being truly God, He is of the same Substance with the true and living God, that is the Father, and He is the vine, and we are the branches, of the same nature plainly for this reason with the vine; shall not we ourselves also surely be Gods by nature, putting off as it were our own nature? But such an idea, only those wicked men, who shrink from no impiety, can entertain. For we have been created, and the Son is God by nature. Then how can this be? And how can that which was said of Him be true, if the branches are of the same nature with the vine? For it must be that either we ourselves are uplifted into the nature of the true Godhead, or that is brought down to |375 us. For the branches are of like nature with the vine. And since the Son clearly says: I and the Father are one, either we shall ascend with Him to perfect likeness with the Father, or the Father Himself will be drawn down with the Son, Who is like in nature to us, into our likeness. You see then what a mass of blasphemies we have arising from his statement. Therefore we will rather follow the true doctrine, believing that the Son says by way of illustration: “I am the Vine, ye are the branches, My Father is the Husbandman.”

2 Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit, He taketh it away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He cleanseth it, that it may bear more fruit.

Our connexion with Christ is of the mind, and implies a power of union affecting the tenor of our lives; perfecting us in love and faith. And the faith dwells in our hearts, making the manifestation of the Divine knowledge complete: while the manner of the love requires us to keep the commandment laid down for us by Him. For thus He also indicated him that loves Him, saying: “He that loveth Me will keep My commandments.” We must know then that being united with Him by faith, and giving effect to the manner of our union in mere barren confessions of faith, and not clenching the bond of our union by the good works that proceed from love, we will be branches indeed, but still dead and without fruit. For faith without works is dead, as the Saint says. If then after this manner the branch be seen to exist fruitlessly, depending, so to speak, from the trunk of the vine, know that such a man will encounter the pruning-knife of the husbandman. For He will wholly cut it off, and will give it to the fire to consume as worthless rubbish; for this is the judgment of the barren, as I think also in the case of the fig-tree, which was set before us by way of parable. The lord of the vineyard says to the tiller of the soil: Cut it down; why doth it also cumber the ground? So in this case too I think that the God |376 and Father of all mows down the thick and barren burden of branches that hangs down from the vine in the figure with no produce of fruit. And I think that the Overseer of our souls, that is God, wishes to show by the parable here employed what and how great is the injury which the soul that is cut off from fellowship with Him has to endure. For it will wholly wither away, and become barren of every good work, and will unquestionably be abandoned to punishment, and be the prey of all consuming flames. Moreover, by the mouth of the prophet Ezekiel, wishing to show this very clearly, He said: Son of man, what is the vine-tree more than any other tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest? Shall wood be taken thereof to do any work? Or will men take it to hang any vessel upon it? The yearly purging of it the fire performs; and at last it faileth. Is it meet for any work? Know then that that which has once been cut off and wholly severed is altogether useless, and cannot be taken to serve for any necessary purpose, but is soon only useful for firewood. Is it not clear that if we be a branch, and have been drawn away from the deceitfulness of a plurality of gods, and have confessed the faith of Christ, but are still barren, so far as the union which shows itself in works is concerned, we shall surely suffer the fate of the barren branches? And what then? For we are wholly cut off, and we shall be given to the flames, and shall have lost besides that life-giving sap, that is to say, the Spirit, Which we once had from the Vine. For that which Christ said of the man who buried his talent one may see accomplished in the case of those who have suffered complete severance. For just as the talent was taken away from him at once, so I think also is the Spirit taken from the branch, as in figure of sap or quality. And why is it taken away? That the Spirit of the Lord may not seem to share in the condemnation of those who are doomed to go to the perdition of fire by the sentence of the judge. For if earthly rulers will not |377 on a sudden determine the fate of those who have once been held in honour, and dignified by kingly favours, but if such an one be convicted of some crime for which he may justly pay the penalty, this fate could not overtake him before he has been robbed of his honours; is it not necessary then that the soul that has been sentenced by the verdict from above to the fate of punishment, should in a manner be divested of, and lay aside, the grace of the Spirit before experiencing the evils? We say further that the barren branch will suffer such a fate, wishing to confirm our minds as far as possible, to be prone to lay fast hold on love towards Him by the active principle of virtue within us and faith unshaken, while He says that the fruitful branch will not at all be left without experiencing the care of the tiller of the soil, but will be throughly cleansed, so as to be more able to bear fruit. For God works with those who have chosen to live the best and most perfect life, and to do good works so far as in them lies, and have elected to seek perfection as citizens of God. He, as it were, uses the working-power of the Spirit as a pruning-hook, and circumcising in them sometimes the pleasures which are always calling us to fleshly lusts and bodily passions, and sometimes all those temptations which are wont to assail the souls of men, defiling the mind by divers kinds of evils. For this we say is that circumcision which is not the work of hands, but is truly that of the Spirit, of which Paul in one place says: For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly: neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly: and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. And in another place, again: In Whom ye also believed and were circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands. And therefore they say to some, that if the branches of the vine in the figure suffer any purging, that cannot take place, I suppose, without suffering. |378 For it is painful so far as, and to the extent that, the wood can suffer pain. In the same way then we must think it affects the Saints: and, if we consider attentively, we shall give them our consent and approval. For our God, Who loves virtue, instructs us by pain and tribulation. Moreover the prophet Isaiah says thus: When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the sons and daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning. And the inspired Paul himself too says: If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as sons, for what son is there whom his father chasteneth not? Nay, more, the choir of the Saints themselves, who exceed all conception, do not reject the instruction given by the Holy Ones, but rather eagerly welcome it with the words: Instruct us, Lord, but in judgment, and not in wrath, that Thou make us not few. For in wrath will be accomplished the complete severance of the barren branches, for He sends them to punishment; but in judgment rather—-that is, consideration and in mercy—-will be accomplished the purging of those which bear fruit, which brings but small pain, to the quickening of their fertility, and occasioning a greater abundance of blossom springing up. Further, some accepting this exclaim: Lord, by brief tribulation dost Thou chasten us; for the tribulation of purification lasts but a short while, but, giving us instruction from above, makes us blessed. And we will receive the blessed David as a witness, who thus exclaims: Blessed is the man whom Thou, Lord, chastenest, and instructest in Thy law, to comfort him in evil days. For the days of the impartial judgment are truly days of evil omen, and dreadful to those who are wholly cut off and doomed to the perdition of punishment by fire; but to those who are chastened in that day the Lord robs them of their terrors. For such a man can no way be numbered among those who are doomed to judgment and punishment, as he is not a |379 barren branch. Let then the fervour that shows itself in works be combined with the confession of the faith, and let it unite action with the doctrines concerning God. For then shall we be with Christ, and experience the secure and safe power of fellowship with Him, escaping the peril that results from being cut off from Him.

We made these observations because we thought we ought to deal with the investigation of the passage after a spiritual manner, and it is likely that Christ wished to hint at some other meaning, by His clearly saying: Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit, He taketh it away; and every branch that beareth fruit, He cleanseth it, that it may bear more fruit. For by the branch that has been taken away from fellowship with Christ by the severance of the Father, He means, I think, the people of the Jews, who are not capable of bearing fruit; against whom the thrice-blessed John declares that the axe will be brought; saying that the wood which is cut off will be given over to the flames; while by those branches which do not need to be completely cut off, but which abide in the Vine, and which are to be purged by the providence of God, He means those among the Jews themselves who believed, and the converts to them from other nations, who have one and the same purification; for it is accomplished in the Holy Spirit, according to the Scriptures: but the manner of their purification is separate and distinct. For the children of Israel have cast off from them the wish to guide their life and conduct by the Mosaic Law, while the heart of the worshippers of idols is stripped of the past deceitfulness that held sway over their hearts, and also of the rubbish of impure and ignorant customs, in order that they may bring forth the fruit of the divine training of the Gospel, which may be meet for the table of God, and be acceptable to Him. And that what we have said is clearly true there is no difficulty in satisfying ourselves from the inspired writings themselves. For the inspired |380 Paul enjoins those of the Jews who believed, when making light of the doctrines of the Gospel, they were once more backsliders, honouring the shadows of the Law: Ye are alienated from Christ, ye who would he justified by the Law; ye are fallen away from grace. And again: I say unto you that if ye receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing. And if the wish to be justified according to the Law alienates them from Christ, is it not beyond question that it is the discarding of the Law as a guide of conduct that invites the power of union with Christ? In this way, then, the Israelites are circumcised, or rather purged, and so also he that once worshipped the creature more than the Creator, by getting rid of his past disease. And what does Paul say to them? For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God, through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life. And he charges them in another passage, and says: But now, after ye have come to know God, or rather to be known of God, how turn ye back again to the weak and beggarly rudiments of the world, whereunto ye desire to be in bondage over again? As therefore those who are willing to serve the beggarly elements become alienated from Christ, while those who do not endure to serve the creature rather than the Creator become one with Him, shall we not confess that the manner of the purification of the Gentiles shall be the most profitable cutting away by the Spirit of the old deceit, bringing in all manner of good things to us in divers ways in its stead? For in the putting off and casting aside of evil things, the beauty of virtue is conspicuous by contrast. For where vileness is driven out, there holiness is seen to arise.

We must show, too, that our circumcision is by the Spirit fulfilling the need of purification in us, and that the Son brings in the Spirit; for of His fulness we all received, as John saith; and He it is that says to us, Receive ye the Holy Spirit. The Father then worketh |381 our purification through the Son, by means of the circumcision that we conceive of through the Spirit. We have humbled then the rash and impious hardihood of our adversaries, who did not scruple to maintain that as Christ spoke of Himself as the Vine, and God the Father as the Husbandman, He could not be the same by nature with Him. “For no argument shall convince us,” he says, “that the husbandman and the vine are identical in essence.” When then the Son is found to be a Husbandman through the circumcision by the Spirit, they must be of this mind for the future, that since husbandmen are of the same class with each other, in so far as they are men, it is clear that the Son is not alien to God the Father, but like in substance with Him.

3 Already ye are clean, because of the word which I have spoken unto you.

He makes then His disciples a palpable and convincing demonstration of the art of the purifier of their souls; for already, He says, they are purged, not through a participation in anything else, but merely by the word spoken unto them, that is, the divine guidance of the Gospel. And this word proceeds from Christ. What man of sense, then, can any longer call in question that the Father has, as it were, a pruning-knife and hand, through whose instrumentality everything exists; that is, the Son, fulfilling the activity of that husbandry in us, which He attributes to the person of the Father, teaching us that all things proceed from the Father but by the instrumentality of the Son? For it is the Word of the Saviour that purgeth us, though the husbandry of our souls is attributed to God the Father. For this is His Living Word, sharp as a sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. For, reaching into the depths of each man’s inmost soul, and having every man’s |382 hidden purpose revealed before It as God, It brings Its keen edge to bear upon our vain pursuits by the working of the Spirit. For in this, I suppose, we shall deem our purification to consist. And all things that profit us in the attainment of virtue It increases and multiplies to bear the fruit which is conceived in righteousness.

When then the manner of His husbandry of our souls is shown in the excellence of its operation, the ingenious and impious attempt of our adversaries is surely brought to nought, when they say that the Son is distinct in nature from God the Father, as He is called the Vine, and the Father the Husbandman. Let us consider and reflect on the fact that He declares that His disciples are clean, not through the special and distinct working of God the Father in them, that is, apart from the Only-begotten, but because they were obedient to His Word. As then He is the Quickener of our souls by the Son, and in the Son, in the same way as He is also the Husbandman or Guardian, He may properly be thought to act not otherwise than by the Son. And if those who start the argument against us think they ought to abide by the false theory they once broached, and, as Christ said that He was the Vine, think they are therefore, as it were, perforce compelled to degrade Him into a separate and foreign nature, what is there now to hinder us too from going to the same height of shamelessness, and distorting the meaning of the illustration, and being converted against our will by a like folly, and choosing to revolt from this puerile and ridiculous conception? For if, since He is spoken of as the Vine, they think that for this reason He falls away from His natural relationship with God the Father, and is wholly different in Substance, since the vine and the husbandman are not identical in nature; why cannot we also, encountering them with an argument as ignorant and unscholarly as their own, say this—-Are only the branches profited by the care of the tiller of the soil; and will the branches |383 that depend from the stem alone reap the profit of His art, or will the nourisher or nurse too of the branches, that is, the vine, to which they cling and are fixed by nature, require some tending? I do not think this will be difficult to demonstrate. For our adversary himself will at once agree with us that if the trunk were not tended, the branches could not remain in good condition. Since then Christ has called Himself the Vine, and the trunk itself of the vine requires the fostering care of the tiller of the soil, or it will be wholly and entirely ruined, we shall draw the inference that the Son is on a level with ourselves, and requires, as we do, the Father’s providence, that He may not Himself be distorted from what He is into something else, and fall away from His native dignity or the position that He holds. For the ridiculous argument of the enemies of divine truth reduces itself to this.

But let us have done with these diseased and foolish ravings, and enter upon a discussion concerning the Holy Apostles. For He says: Already ye are clean, because of the word which I have spoken unto you: just as though He were to say, the manner of your spiritual purification, which is conceived of as by the Spirit and in the Spirit, has been wrought by the Father, through My Word on you first. Behold, casting off the burden of the vain customs and corruption of this world, be ready to bring forth fruits acceptable to God: rid yourselves of the vain and profitless law of the Jews, and pay heed to it no more. My Word has purified you: for no longer do you conduct your lives by the Mosaic Law, or according to the dispensation of the writings thereof. For you will not seek sanctification in what ye eat and drink, nor in doctrines of baptisms, nor yet in sacrificial atonements; but consider that ye are established in firm faith, and make haste to appease God by every kind of good work. For in them is seen the power of spiritual bondage. Those who are destined to be pure will be, He says, even as you are. For they, just escaping from the |384 net of the devil, and getting away from the snares of idol-worship, will be taught no longer to be governed by his decrees; but, shaking off the impurity of former customs as vain rubbish, and being thus for the future fitted to bear the fruits of the virtue that loves God, will be joined to Me in the manner of branches; and, being dependent on their love towards Me, will have their hearts enriched by the influences of the Spirit, and, imbibing the grace of My goodness, will continue stedfast to the end and be nurtured in righteousness. The Israelites, when they have been converted to faith in Me, and have been attached to Me in the manner of branches, then receiving into their mind purification through My Word, no longer devote themselves to the service of the letter; and not fixing their heart, as now, on shadows and types, bear the fruit of a true and spiritual service to God. For God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him, must worship in Spirit and truth. At the same time also He shows clearly, as in a figure, to His disciples the beauty that will belong to those who are about to be purified, and gives them the greatest encouragement to attain the still more ample excellence; showing them that their service and the training of their past teaching had not been vain —-that teaching of the Gospel, through which they were destined to benefit those who dwell in the whole world—-displaying themselves as an example to those that believe on Christ. For it has been written concerning the

Saints, that it behoves us to watch closely the issue of their life, and to imitate their faith. And Paul incites those who serve God to be imitators of himself.

4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; so neither can ye, except ye abide in Me.

We shall know then, by an accurate investigation of the words before us, that the being received of Christ through faith pure and true is the first work of that zeal which is requisite and dear to God. For this is the |385 meaning of being numbered among the branches, which cling to the true Vine, I mean Christ. But the fruit of our second meditation is by no means less in importance than our first, but it has, indeed, an even more pregnant meaning: the loving to be united to God, and to lay fast hold on Him, through a love exhibited in works, which has the fulfilment of the holy and Divine command. For this causes us inseparably to inhere in, and to be closely united to, Him, as the Psalmist expresses it: My soul has been joined unto Thee. The being received then as it were into the rank of branches will not be sufficient for complete joy of heart, or for the sanctification which, as it were, exhibits Christ sanctifying us. But I maintain that the following Him purely through love perfect and unfailing is also necessary. For by this means, the power of union or intimate conjunction with the Father may be best maintained and preserved. When therefore Christ said to His disciples, Already ye are clean because of the word which I have spoken unto you; lest any one of those who have once been purified should be considered incapable of falling away, even though he should bestow no care to remain in a state of grace, He adds this useful injunction—-that it is necessary to abide in Him. And what will this be? Nothing else, as I think, but quite obviously that which Paul well expresses: Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. For a thousand backslidings befall those who think that they are firmly fixed, and who do not take great precautions not to lose the place which they have obtained; and I think that we require the utmost modesty and sobriety, even though a man think himself firmly fixed by the progress he has already made towards establishing himself in righteousness. He then has shown the nature and extent of the punishment of him who has, as it were, been cut off from intimate union with God, through slipping back from negligence into what is wrong, in the statement, As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, so neither |386 can ye, except ye abide in Me. For unless the branch had supplied to it from its mother the vine the life-producing sap, how would it bear grapes, or what fruit will it bring forth, and from what source? You will perceive that the language of Christ has an application by analogy to ourselves. For no fruit of virtue will spring up anew in us, who have once fallen away from intimate union with Christ. To those, however, who are joined to Him Who is able to strengthen them, and Who nourishes in righteousness, the capacity of bearing fruit will readily be added by the provision and grace of the Spirit, as by life-producing water. And knowing this, the Only-begotten said in the Gospels: If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink. And to this, the Evangelist, inspired by the Spirit, has testified, when in his excellent explanation he says: But this spake He of the Spirit, Which they that believe on Him were to receive. And the blessed David, speaking as though to God the Father, thus addressed Him: With Thee is the fountain of life, and Thou shalt give them to drink of the river of blessedness. For by the fountain of Divine and spiritual life and of the fulness of blessedness, who else could be meant but the Son, Who fattens and waters our souls in the position of branches clinging to Him by faith and love, with the quickening and joy-giving grace of the Spirit.

5, 6 I am the Vine, ye are the brandies: he that abideth in Me and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for apart from Me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

Our Lord Jesus Christ openly says that He has been called the Vine for this reason, and this reason only, that we may clearly understand, and not merely perceive with the eyes of the body, as by a palpable, sensible, and most visible figure, that to those who are eager to be closely |387 joined to Him, and who choose to enjoy a close union with His nature, will be added the capacity and the conditions requisite for the production of virtue and spiritual fruit-bearing; since they are evidently provided, from its source, as from the vine their mother, with a potential and an actual force. In those however who have as it were been torn away or cut off from their hold on Him, by turning to what is wrong and to conduct displeasing to God, not merely will no capacity of a fitness for virtue, or of being able to show the fruits that spring from goodness be seen, but the doom of being consumed by all-devouring fire, as by an inevitable necessity, will await them. For that which is useless for righteousness seems fit to pay the penalty, just as the withered branches will be only useful for the fire.

You would find an indisputable and true proof of what we have said, not by perusing the chapters of the saints of old, but rather by applying your attention to the study of the holy Apostles themselves. For they, by neglecting in no way love towards Christ, but abiding in Him, and considering that nothing whatever should be set before righteousness towards Him, have become known throughout the world. And they exhibited through the world the fruit of their virtue, and showing themselves a pattern of a God-loving state, as a bright image to all under the sun, they wreathed for themselves the fadeless crown of glory with God. But he, who by a few pieces of silver was entrapped into the net of destruction, I mean the base and most mercenary Judas, was cut off from the true Vine, that is Christ, and withered away in a certain sense, and lost together his position of discipleship and the quickening quality of the Spirit. For he was cast outside, according to the saying of the Saviour. For he became alienated from Christ, and was given over like rubbish to him that chastises with fire. Pertinently then does our Lord Jesus Christ set forth to His hearers the joy of heart that springs from the desire of intimate union with Him, and on the other hand place before them the |388 punishment resulting from severance, thus conceiving a twofold method of salvation. For either by an aim which looks forward to glory and life, or our dread of the chastisement by fire, we shall lay hold more earnestly, with all the strength of our mind, on intimate union with Him.

But He calls the Father Husbandman, attributing to His Divine Nature the watchful care over us, as also we have previously shown at length. For He will be found doing the work of a hand to the Husbandman, Who uses no other hand, according to His Consubstantiality both from Him, and in Him; as is really the case, and as it is in our power to see in the following way. For as a proof that all things are done by the Son, as by the hand of the Father, listen to what the Father Himself says respecting His creatures: My hand made all these things; whereas all things were made by the Son, according to the holy writings.

We must observe that the divine Paul figures darkly to us the true cutting, even though it be not that of a vine, when he says: Behold then the goodness and severity of God: toward them that fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

7 If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

He says that the love of unbroken union with Him, and the keeping in mind as a Divine and spiritual treasure entrusted to them the pure treasure of the lessons of the Gospel, and the true instruction of the doctrines of the faith, established also by unerring interpretations, will be the root of the most perfect goodness. For the whole discourse of the Saviour would convey this meaning to us, if we consider the aim set forth in the Gospels. For in the promise of Christ that He will continually give what is good to those who ask Him, how shall we deny that a very clear pledge of this is given to us? I suppose |389 it is necessary to inquire what in addition is the accurate meaning of the words: If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you. For can any one say that to abide in Christ can be attained without keeping in oneself also His words? Now to this question men of sense will doubtless answer “No.” For our hearer must remember, that when inquiring into the kind of love towards Christ, and investigating what it was, and how it could exist in perfection, we said that there are two methods given; I mean that through faith which is wholly blameless, and that again which projects itself in actuality, which enters secretly by pure love. And if we trust our Saviour’s words that this is so with us, it follows that they adopt a dangerous and intolerable explanation of the relationship, in admitting the bare faith, which consists in words only, but not receiving the love which is moulded by right actions to perfection. They indeed abide in Christ in the sense of the relationship that results from belief, and so far as they do not adopt another religious worship; but when they no longer have His words in themselves they will be condemned. And we do not go so far as to say that, burying the preaching of the Gospels in oblivion, they are altogether unmindful of the words of the Saviour, submitting everything to their own pleasures, and directing their unbridled impulse to the consideration of earthly things alone, and, on account of this, carry themselves away from the true Vine, and, despising the favour of intimate relationship with Him, by their own passions, they deem the citizenship that is in Christ of no account. Now concerning every such person Christ Himself says: Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doeth the will of My Father Which is in heaven. And that faith which is alone, and by itself, and which does not obtain the assistance of the light that proceeds from works, will not suffice to secure an intimate relationship with God, the disciple of Christ |390 also proves, saying: Thou believest that God is one; the devils also believe and shudder. Shall one then say to those who think that a faith bare and alone will be sufficient to enable them to get possession of the fellowship that is from above,—-will even the band of demons rise to fellowship with God, since they acknowledge His Unity, and have believed in His Existence? How could this be? For the mere knowledge that the Creator and Producer of all things is One God is useless. But I think it necessary that the confession of piety towards Him should accompany faith. For such a man abideth in Christ, and will be seen to possess His words, according to the text in the Book of Psalms: I have kept Thy saying in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee. Just as if any one should place into a brazen vessel the element of fire, he will make the vessel entirely the sharer of the warmth arising from it, so also the mind which in soul and heart is wholly possessed by the Divine and heavenly doctrine, by striving up to every kind of virtue is always thereby inflamed towards it. For it is written: Thy word is very pure: therefore Thy servant loveth it.

” Let him therefore,” He says, “who establishes himself therein, and has attained to this high honour, so as to remain in Me, and to have My words in him, go boldly on, and with complete confidence ask for whatever tendeth to bliss, and without delay it shall be given him. For,” He says, “I will grant it.” “Well then,” says our opponent,” if any one should ask for what is wrong, will He take more fully of this, and will He that loves virtue allot him such a portion as this?” Get thee behind me, thou man of evil counsel! For God will provide nothing that is opposed to His own Nature, nor any of those things which are numbered among evil things. But my view seems more appropriate: does it not appear right and just? It is clear then that He who abides in Christ, and has His words in him, knows, by the very fact of his goodness and righteousness, how |391 to think only those things which are acceptable to God. For it is clear that He has permitted to those who have His Word in their hearts to ask whatsoever they may reasonably wish; well knowing that they only aim at a participation in blessings of a spiritual and Divine nature. As then our Saviour Christ has excellently defined, in these words, the character of the man who prays and asks to receive whatever he wills from God, let us mould our own condition into conformity with this ideal, if we desire to obtain the heavenly blessing. But if you know that you are yourself not such an one as Christ has just indicated to us, take it not ill if you stumble, but if the effort seems burdensome to you, uniting with your faith the glory which proceeds from good works, (for this is abiding in Christ), and, having in yourself His words, go forward in confidence, and yourself receive without delay whatever you request from God.

8 Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, and so shall ye be My disciples.

He says that God His Father has been glorified, being justly admired for His incomparable goodness and crowning as it were His exceeding kindness with actual proof. For He so loved the world according to the Scripture, that He gave His Only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have eternal life. The life of all, that of course which is fulfilled by Christ, is then the fruit of the kindness of God the Father. For this reason I suppose He Himself, conversing with God the Father, said: I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to fulfil it. For the Only-begotten, being entrusted as it were with the salvation of us all, has well accomplished it by the Father, and He a Being not comprehended under the condition of necessary obedience, but Himself the absolute wisdom and power of His Father, apart from Whom nothing whatever can |392 exist. For all things are by Him, according to the Holy Evangelist, and we in a special manner. And for this reason the blessed David declares that the ordering of all that concerns us, and the directing aright of the life of all is entrusted by the Father to the Son, as His power and wisdom, when he says: O God, order the working of Thy power: O God, confirm that which Thou hast prepared; and once more: O God, give Thy judgment to the King. For it was the work of Him Who alone reigns with God the Father to restore the earth that was entirely corrupted, and to be able to mould it anew into its former state. Therefore My Father was glorified by giving His Own Son as a ransom for the life of the world, being content to see among us Him Who is above every creature, not that He might bring any addition of perfection to His Own Nature. For He is all perfect and self-sufficing, having power over all things, but in order that you may bring forth more fruit and become My disciples. For if He had not become man, we should not, being deemed worthy of sharing His nature, and being united to Him like branches, and gaining for Him the power of bearing fruit by sharing in His Spirit, have produced the fruit of a state of life pleasing to God, which He even calls much, putting in the background that which sprang from service of the Law, and showing that it is of less importance. For the Law hath made nothing perfect, according to the saying of Paul. For this reason He said to His holy disciples, nay to all of us who have been united to Him by faith and perfect love: Verily, verily I say unto you, Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again: Every scribe who hath been made a disciple to the kingdom of heaven, is like unto a rich man which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old; casting, as it were, from the treasury of their hearts the Mosaic injunctions, and the memory of the ancient |393 writings. He therefore, who is a willing hearer, and ready to learn, and is full of the torchlight of the Gospel, has his wealth increased and multiplied; I mean, of course, spiritual wealth. For he brings forth things new and old, transforming the shadow of the Law and the power of servitude to the Law into the pattern of citizenship according to the Gospel. For what the Law figured by types, this Christ did openly in truth. Wherefore also He said: I came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil; and again: Verily, verily, I say unto you, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the Law, till all things be accomplished. The power then of the service of the Gospel is the much fruit, spiritual, and in truth; seeing that the Only-begotten became Man for the glory of God the Father. And on this account it has followed that those who are on the earth are His disciples. For He spoke to those of old time and formerly through the prophets as God; but has told us and said concerning us: And they shall all be taught of God. For to us who believe in Him, not merely has no other person intervened and conveyed the message from Him, or become a mediator of His Will towards us, as Moses doubtless was to the Israelites in Mount Sinai: or again, the prophets after Moses to those among them; but Christ Himself has taught us. And for this reason we are all taught of God. We should not then have at all become His disciples, we should not have brought forth the fruits of love towards God, and this in abundance, unless the Father had been glorified by His goodness, taking such pleasure in us, that the Word proceeding from His Essence should become Man. For we shall think thus when we hear the Holy Scripture declaring that He gave His own Son. For He also approved of His choosing to suffer this for us; and, on this account, is said to have given Him: and with justice. |394

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Tuesday, May 24: St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (John 14:27-31a)

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 21, 2011

27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful.

Herein when He reminds His holy Apostles of His ascension into heaven, and prepares them for the knowledge that they will be left thereby alone by the saying: These things have I spoken unto you while yet abiding with you, He was stricken at heart by the knowledge, being as He was by nature God, that the saying gave them no small alarm, and put them into great fear and trembling, and by laying a burden of grief upon them had stirred the mind of each to its depths. For what could be more grievous than their sorrow, and what so burdensome as to be robbed of the highest blessings and to undergo the unexpected loss of that which was most dear to them? He therefore stablishes them when they were disturbed by grief and fear. For the cause and root of their sorrow, His being about to leave them and go to His Father, was most well-grounded. But He considered their apprehension of unknown suffering as the cause of their grief, and very readily, as He Who was strong to save was no longer present, according to the actual vision of the body. And how does He stablish them, and in what way does He produce in them the brightness of a cheerful spirit, and how are their minds lulled again into a Divine calm? Peace I give unto you, He says, My peace I leave with you. I have often told you, He says, that I will not leave you desolate, nor will |341 you dwell alone in the earth, stripped and robbed of your defender; nay, rather, I will be with you, and though absent in the flesh will again edify you by My consolations as God, and will set you above every terror, and no man shall surpass you in boldness; for all fear shall dwindle away, and cowardice shall vanish from your path, and a Divine power shall spring up in you, bringing you with peaceful mind, and heart at rest, to the revelation of those things which pass man’s understanding. And now, He says, Peace I give unto you, not simply, but My peace. And this was clearly nothing else but saying: I will bring the Spirit, and of Myself will abide with those who receive Him.

For that the peace of Christ is His Spirit, it needs no long argument to completely demonstrate. But I suppose one ought to say this, if He is peace in heaven and on the earth, how can it fail to be clear to everyone, that as we have said, the peace is certainly His Spirit? And indeed the inspired Paul said to some: And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall guard your hearts and your thoughts. And surely it is right to reflect, that it is not about that peace which has reference to common thought and action that He says this. For that disposition which loathes dispute and strife has and works peace, so far as its own waverings and inclinations will allow it. And we shall not think that the peace which is here meant is something which has not a real and independent existence; but we must suppose that it is found in the temper of those who love it. How then can one think that such a peace as this surpasses all understanding? For that which nowhere and nohow has an independent existence, how could that be thought better and nobler than men, or angels, or even higher beings? for these too we say are mind. The peace therefore that is above all principality, and power, and thrones, and sovereignties, and excels all intellectual existence, is the Spirit of Christ, by Which the Son reconciles all things to God the Father, by willing the things that are His and by wishing to |342 think and do them, and not by being perverted or falling away through turning aside to wickedness. And it is easy and expedient to reflect on this. For just in the same way as since the Son is by nature life, and wisdom, and power, and the Spirit is called and is His, the Spirit is of life, and wisdom, and power; so since the true and sovereign peace is He Himself and no other, His Spirit might rightly be named and thought as He is—-” peace.” For this reason and in a special manner referring His own peace, that is to say the Spirit, to His own nature, He says concerning Him, My peace I leave with you. That also in the holy prophets the Spirit of Christ has been so named, you will easily perceive, when you hear this from the mouth of Isaiah: O Lord our God grant us peace: for Thou hast given us all things. For as the Law brought nothing to completion, and righteousness according to it did not suffice to bring men to perfect piety, He entreats that the Holy Spirit be vouchsafed, by Whom, reconciled to God the Father, we have been admitted into fellowship with Him, who have before been shown to be reprobates through the sin that reigneth in us. Grant us then peace, he says, Lord; for Thou hast given us all things. And what he wants to show, I say, is this: “Grant us too, Lord, the peace; for we shall then confess that we have all things, and no blessing will be found lacking to him that has once for all reached the fulness of Christ. For it is the completion of all good that God should dwell in us by the Spirit.” For since the Spirit is fully sufficient to allay all tumult of the mind, and to dispel all cowardice in us, He promises to give us as provision by the way, that which is needful to maintain our courage and peace, when He says, My peace I leave with you: let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful.

28 Ye heard how I said to you, I go away, and I come unto you.

You learnt, He says, from no other lips than Mine My |343 departure hence, for you heard My sayings with your own ears, and what have I, Who cannot lie, promised unto you? I go away, and I come unto you. If then His words had threatened that His departure would leave them comfortless, and that their bereavement would be eternal, it was very likely that they would thereupon be dreadfully dismayed, and find it unbearable, and fall into excess of despondency. And whereas I said unto you not simply that I would go away, but that I would come again in due season, why then, He says, do you let into your hearts only the cause of grief, and slight by your forgetfulness that which is able to cheer. Let that which knows how to succour arise in you to combat that which affrights: and let the power of the Comforter wrestle with the incitements to grief. For it has been ordained that I should ascend to God the Father, but I have promised to come again. He allays then the agony of grief He found in His disciples; and just as a fond and good father, compelled for some needful purpose to take his children from the nurse that bears them, and seeing a flood of tears bedewing their delicate and dear cheeks, he tries every blandishment, and by always insisting on the good that will result from her absence, arms in some sort hope against grief, where the affections are most nearly concerned; so also our Lord Jesus Christ shields the souls of His Saints from sorrow. For He knew, being truly God, that His abandonment of them would be very grievous unto them, although He were ever with them by the Spirit. And this proves His love and extreme holiness. For to wish to be with Christ, how does not that most truly become the Saints? And of a truth the admirable Paul has this aim in view when he says: It is better to depart and be with Christ. |344

28 If ye loved Me, ye would have rejoiced, because I go unto the Father; for My Father is greater than I.

He turns the occasion of sorrow into a source of solace, and plainly rebukes them because they do not rather rejoice at what now gives them pain: and at the same time tries to teach them, that those who practise an unaffected and sincere love towards others, must not merely seek their own pleasure and advantage, but rather to benefit those they love, when an opportunity to do this gives them inducement. Therefore also Paul exhorts us in the words: Love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own. He speaks of some who seek not their own but others’ good. For true love shows itself in our not only providing for our own advantage but also considering our neighbour’s benefit. For our Saviour, in the words before us, persuades His disciples to lay this to heart. And, further, let us imprint the power of this thought in clearer characters on our hearts as on a tablet, and thereby attain unto the mystery of Christ. For a type taken from trifling things will oftentimes avail to enable us to arrive even at those things which we hold to admit of no comparison. It was pleasant then, for example, to the disciples of Paul that they should be always with him, but better for Paul to depart and be with Christ, as he has assured us by his own words. It was the duty then |345 of those who chose to love him to be eager to fulfil their love towards him, and not to consider that only as endurable which was pleasant to themselves, but rather to reflect upon this, that his departure would be to the benefit of their master; for he was eager to be with Christ.

You have the outline of the speculation so far as concerns Christ’s human nature. Let us therefore, illuminating as it were with varied tints our sketch of the power of the mystery of Christ, clearly show the absolute truth. For the Only-begotten, being in the form of God the Father, and in equality with the Spirit, counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God, and through His love towards us emptied Himself of His glory, taking the form of a servant, and underwent this that He might direct us all to perfect knowledge of virtue, so as to prepare us by the incomparable brightness of His miracles to behold the power, and glory, and exceeding might that is inherent in the Divine Nature. For so He might have induced those who have fallen into the depths of ignorance to recover knowledge once more, and no longer to worship the creature beyond the Creator, but to figure to themselves the One true and living God. And the Only-begotten has aided us in other ways by His incarnation, for He destroyed the power of death, and loosed the bonds of sin, and granted us to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. It was then, and with great reason, sweet and pleasant beyond all description to ourselves and the holy disciples, to have continual converse with Christ the Giver of such blessings to us, and to be ever present with Him and in His company. But it was clearly not to His advantage, so long a time to choose to abide in the guise of humility, which He had taken for our advantage, through His love to us, as we just now said: rather was He bound, when His dispensation towards us had been already suitably accomplished, to ascend to His own glory, and, with the flesh that He had |346 taken for our sake, to hasten back to equality with God the Father, which thinking it not robbery to do (for He might have had this honour in His own right), He descended to human humiliation. For while He was yet upon the earth, though He was truly God and Lord of all, He was thought no better than the rest of men, by those who knew not His glory. Nay, more, He was smitten, and spat upon, and crucified, and underwent the ridicule of the impious Jews, who dared to say, If Thou art the Son of God, come down now from the cross, and we will believe Thee. And when after He had fulfilled the mystery of our redemption, He ascended to God the Father in the heavens, when the time of His humiliation was already past, and the period of His voluntary degradation accomplished, He showed Himself very God to the powers above. For heaven did not deny the Lord of all when He ascended, but the charge was given to the sentinels at the gates above, that the Lord of Hosts was drawing nigh, although He was borne upward in the raiment of the flesh; and the Spirit was representing the opening of the gates, when He said: Lift up the gates ye rulers, and be lifted up ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in. The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle, the Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory. For the manifold wisdom of God which He purposed in Christ was known unto the principalities and the powers, as Paul says. For when He ascended to the Father, although He may be thought greater than the Son in this respect, that He remained in His everlasting home, while the Son underwent voluntary humiliation, and descended in the form of a servant, and ascended up again to His own glory, and heard the words: Sit down on My right hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool. And it was to the intent that He might not seem too presumptuous, and that God the Father in the heavens had not of His own will made the Son sit on His right hand, the Father Himself is introduced saying this: Sit Thou on My |347 right hand, the Psalmist says this. And no one with any sense will say that the Father has the second place of honour though He has the Son on His right hand, but will rather take what I have said into consideration. For it is not the Father, but rather the Son, on account of His voluntary degradation and suffering, Who must be conceived as sitting on the right hand, and having a place from which no inferiority could be inferred, as He might be numbered among inferior beings by those who cannot comprehend the mystery of His Incarnation. Therefore a place on the right hand of His Father, against Whom no such charge can be brought, is allotted to the Son that His equality may be maintained.

We have done well to introduce these explanations now, which have an intimate connexion with the present subject. Now taking up again and unfolding from the beginning the whole purpose of our disquisition, I proceed to say that continual converse with our Saviour Christ is sweet and acceptable and pleasant to us, although for our sake He has emptied Himself of His glory, as has been written, and taken the form of a servant and the dishonour of man’s nature. For what is man’s nature as compared with God! Nor was the Incarnation to the advantage of the Son, but to ascend to His Father profited Him more, and to recover His own glory and power and Divine honour in the sight of all, and no longer obscured. For He sat on the right hand by the will of His Father. For He loves Him as His own Offspring and the fruit of His Substance, and therefore He says, If ye loved Me, ye would have rejoiced because I go unto the Father: for the Father is greater than I. Surely it was a proof of His Father’s love towards Him that He did not sorrow over His seeming abandonment and the compulsory absence that He had taken on Himself, but rather took into consideration that He went to the glory befitting Him, and His due, and to His ancient honour, that is the Godhead manifest. Nay more, the Psalmist, though he speaks mysteries by the |348 Spirit, says, Clap your hands, all ye people: then he explained the occasion of the festival, and introduced the Ascension of the Saviour into heaven, saying, God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trump: meaning by the shout and the trump the piercing and clear voice of the Spirit, when He bade the powers above open the gates, and named Him Lord of Hosts, as we said just now. On the same occasion moreover, we shall find the choir of the Saints rejoicing with great joy of heart. Then too he said in one place, The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice; and in another, The Lord reigneth: the Lord hath put on glorious apparel, the Lord hath put on and girded Himself with might. For He that was with us as a man before His resurrection from the dead, when He ascended to His Father in the heavens, then put on His own glorious apparel, and girded Himself with the might that was His from the beginning, for He sat and reigneth with the Father. Then it is right and meet that those who love Him should rejoice because He has gone to His Father in the heavens, to take upon Him His own glory, and to reign again with Him as at the beginning. And He says that He is greater, not because He sat down on the right hand as God, but as He was still with us, that is, in human shape. For as He still wore the guise of a servant, and the time had not yet come that He should be reinstated, He calls God the Father greater. Moreover, when He endured the precious cross for us, the Jews brought Him vinegar and gall when He was athirst, and when He drank, He said, It is finished. For already the time of His humiliation was fulfilled, and He was crucified as man. He had overcome the power of death, not as man but rather as God, I say by the working of His power and the glory and might of His conquest, not according to the flesh. The Father then is greater since the Son was still a servant and in the world, as He says that He is God of Himself, and adds this attribute to His human form. For if we believe |349 that He degraded and humbled Himself, will it not be obvious to all that He descended from superiority to an inferiority, and rather from equality with the Father to the reverse. The Father underwent nothing of this, and He abode where He was at the beginning. He is greater therefore than He that chose inferiority by His own dispensation, and remained in such a state until He was restored to His ancient condition, I mean His own and natural glory in which He was at the beginning. We may rightly judge that His equality with the Father, which while He might have had it uninterruptedly He did not consider robbery to take for our sake, is His own and natural position.

And as we have spoken at length about the equality of the Son with God the Father in previous books, it may well be fitting to proceed to illustrate all things in order, leaving long discussions on the subject for the present. And since a certain dull-witted heretic, receiving from the Jews some marvellous knowledge of the holy writings, and attempting to explain the verse we have before us, has committed to writing intolerable blasphemies against the Only-begotten, I deemed it a mark of feebleness, and very unbecoming to myself, calmly to pass them by, and to dismiss in silence the awful madness of the man to whom I allude. I think then we ought to encounter him in argument, and show that his words are baseless and old wives’ fables, and wholly devoid of sense, and the quibbles of a perverted logic. And with reference to the same passage, I will read over to you what he has dared to write when giving the view he took of the text: “When He called His Father greater than Himself, He not only displayed His own humility but also refuted the heresy of those who maintain that His nature is twofold.” And having thus shattered the opinion of Sabellius, he makes a furious and vigorous onslaught, as he thinks, on those who put the Son on an equality with the Father in these words: “Some have reached such a pitch of |350 madness that they cannot at all endure to say that the Father is superior to the divinity of the Only-begotten, but only that the Father seems to surpass Him when compared with Him in reference to the Incarnation, though they are not even able to look at them together in this aspect; and things different in kind can in no way be compared. For no one would ever say that man is wiser than a beast, or that a horse runs faster than a tortoise; but that one man has more reason than another, and that one horse has greater speed than another. Since then only things belonging to the same class are capable of comparison with each other, we must admit that the Father is greater even than the divinity of the Son. For those who fall into the contrary error of drawing a comparison with reference to the Incarnation, so far as in them lies, lessen the honour of the Father.”

Such are his puerile babblings. And we must take care to show that he does not even know that he is inconsistent with himself. For he admits that the Son maintains becoming humility, when He says, The Father is greater than I; and I marvel that he did not also lay this to heart. For whatever was it which induced him to meddle with theology, although one would not make of no account the knowledge of the fitting time to speak or act if one were wise? What need was there then of such unseasonable discussion of the Divine Nature to His disciples in their agony, when He was about to depart from the world to God the Father? For what kind of consolation could this consideration bring to them? And why does not He merely rebuke them, saying, “If you loved Me, you would rejoice that I go to the Father, because the Father is greater than I?” Tell me then, did He think that this tended to solace the disciples, or to rid them of the sorrow they felt from their love of God, that He was going to the Father Who was greater than Himself? Although when Philip asked Him and said, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us, then |351 indeed, and very opportunely, as the occasion for theological teaching had arrived, He showed that the Father was in Him, and He Himself in the Father, and that He was in no way inferior to Him, but distinguished by His perfect equality, when He said: Have I been so long time with you, and dost thou not know Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father. Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? I and the Father are one. Then indeed, very opportunely, He unravels His discourse thereupon, and it is worthy of admiration. But here, how is the reference opportune? Or what construction would it admit of other than His desire to allay His disciples’ grief, and to furnish them, as it were, with a medicine of consolation bidding them rejoice because He “goes to the Father?” Is it not then obvious to any one, however dull-witted he may be, from the very state of the case, that since He was hastening to return to His own glory with the Father, He bade those who loved Him rejoice at this, devising this admirable means of consolation for them with the rest?

But I will now pass this by, and will not lay much stress on their demented folly. But I say that we ought rather to go on to the following considerations. For He thought perhaps when comparing His Incarnate Nature with His Divine, they could not help making profit out of the inquiry, when we say that the Son was emptied of His glory when He became a Man. Is it not so? How could it be otherwise? But speaking of His Divine glory, in contrast with His place as a servant, and His position of subjection, we say that the Son was inferior to the Father, in so far as He was human; but that He was reinstated into His equality with the Father after His sojourn here, not endued with any new, or adventitious, or unaccustomed glory, but rather restored to that state in which He was at the beginning with the Father. And indeed, the inspired writer who initiates us into mysteries, I mean Paul, no longer attributing to Him the humiliation |352 belonging to man’s estate after His resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven, exhorts us saying: Even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know Him so no more. And of himself again: Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ. And yet, why is it that when He says that on His second coming to us He will change the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of His glory, he now denies it, saying: Not from men, neither through man, although destined to be an apostle by Jesus Christ? But how is it that he says he knew Him not in the flesh? Did he then, tell me, deny the Master that bought him? God forbid; for he is rightminded. For when the period of the actual humiliation or degradation of the Only-begotten had been accomplished, and come to an end, He makes haste to proclaim Himself and to gain recognition, not in the character which He presented when emptied of His glory, but of His natural attributes of God. For when it had once been known and admitted that He was human, He was bound to instruct believers in Him that He was also God by nature; and for this reason He chooses to speak of His divinity, rather than anything else.

And I marvel that the heretic of whom we are speaking does not blush when he says that “as only things which belong to the same class admit of comparison with each other, they must confess the Father is greater than the Divinity of the Son.” For he does not perceive, it seems, that he has armed his own argument against himself. For let him answer us this pertinent inquiry: From what starting point can comparisons of things of the same class best proceed? Can we reasonably start with what they are, according to the common definition of their nature, or with the qualities which belong to, or are deficient in each, or inhere or do not inhere in each? And I will give an example, and will select that which he gave to us by way of illustration. If any one choose to |353 compare one man with another, looking to the one common definition of their essence, he would find no distinction; for there is no difference between man and man, so far as each is a thinking animal, mortal, and capable of sense and knowledge, as in all men there is one and the same definition of their essence. Nor does one horse differ from another in its essential character as a horse; but one man differs from another in some special sort of knowledge, as writing, and in divers other ways. This does not affect the essence, but clearly proceeds from quite another cause. So also one horse excels another in speed, or is smaller or larger than another; but you will find that superiority or inferiority in these respects lies outside the definition of their essence, otherwise things brought into mutual comparison could have no distinctions made between them. For if one man had a less or greater degree of the essential character of man, how could we conceive or speak of him at all? Then all things of the same type in their essential characters are uniform. But the difference lies in those attributes which either inhere in them, or which lie outside (viewing them in the light of accidents). Since then, according to his premise or statement, which I will proceed to deal with, only things of like nature admit of comparison at all appropriately, he must start by admitting that the Son is of the same class as the Father, that is, of the same Essence. For so you will have the same class in view; for he proved that man might be compared with man, and horse with horse. Then let him go on to tell us the reason why, when the Son is compared with God the Father as being of the same class He has any kind of inferiority to Him, and where we shall find it, when one and the same definition of their essence belongs to things of the same class? For in the case of the essence of a class, its definition is not perfect in some cases and imperfect in others, but is one and the same for all. But we may say that any accident may have a separate cause and accrue to a thing in a different manner. |354

In order to make what I have said quite clear, I will set before you the illustration I gave at the outset. No man differs from another in his essential character as man; but one man is pious and another wicked; and one is weak and maimed, while another is healthy and strong; and one is vile and another good. But when a man accurately investigates the reasons for these distinctions, he will not trace them to their common definition of the essence, but rather attributes the causes to diseases of mind or body. As then, there is one definition of Godhead for the Father and the Son both in conception and reality (otherwise one could not but go astray), for They are compared as belonging to the same class, and I will use his words for the purpose of the argument—-let these deluded men tell us what they think it was that paved the way for the inferiority of the Son to God the Father; was it disease, or indolence, and those things which are known to affect created beings’? Who would be so mad and such a slave of contradictions as even to lend an ear to such blasphemy? When then, being (as He is), of the same class as the living God, He Himself also is manifestly by nature God—-for He is brought into comparison with the Father: and nothing can hinder His having a like state with His Father—-how is He inferior?

Since, then, this adversary of the truth has given in detail a mass of contradictions, with reference to the text, and has not hesitated to affirm that “the Father is greater than the Godhead of the Son,” let us then, after having made a brief defence of the Incarnation, and separated it in our demonstration from the consideration of the matter under discussion, compare the Divinity of the Son with that of the Father, according to Their definition; but let us previously inquire of him who dares to say this, whether he thinks that God, when He is God, is so by nature, or something else besides, but honoured with the appellation of Divinity, as there are many so that are called gods and lords in heaven, and many on earth. When then he asserts that the Son has been honoured |355 by the bare appellation of Divinity, but that He is not by nature really that which He is said to be, we who are rightminded will encounter him, and openly exclaim, “My good Sir, if He is not really God, we shall worship the creature in preference to the Creator, and not only we who inhabit this earthly sphere, but also the multitude of holy angels; and we shall also accuse every Saint who has spoken of Him as the real and true God, and most of all we charge S. John, who said of Him: We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know the true God, and we are in His true Son Jesus Christ: this is the true God, and eternal life.” But if, rejecting all inspired writings alike, he confess that He is really God, and be so minded and still suggest the doctrine that even so He falls below the Father’s dignity in some respect, has he not introduced to us a new God, wholly dissevered from His natural connexion with the Father, and conceived of as having a separate existence and not inhering in the substance of God the Father? But I think the matter is obvious to every one. For if nothing is conceived of as being greater or less than itself, but as greater than anything which is less, and less than anything which is greater, must he not perforce admit that there are two true and real Gods, so that one is thought the greater, and the other the less. So the faith of the Church is wholly destroyed and overturned by their doctrine, for we shall have not one God but two. Whose temples then are we according to the Scriptures? Surely His Who established His Spirit in our hearts. When then we find in the Holy Writings the Spirit spoken of as not of the Father only but also of the Son, what are we to infer, and what view must we take? Which of the two reject and call the other God? If, however, we are to admit a duality of Gods, one less and the other greater, we shall say that both abide in our hearts by separate Spirits, and we shall be found temples of more than one God, and there are two Spirits dwelling in us, a greater and a less, |356 corresponding to the nature of those who gave them. For who could tolerate such ravings, and who cannot see that their doctrine is absurd and ridiculous, after he has considered the view I have just set forth? But, perhaps, if he is forced to admit that there is a duality of Gods by nature, one the greater and the other the less, he will proceed to that doctrine that is always recurring in his writings; I mean, he will say that the Son has a separate nature—-though He is not wholly devoid of the nature of a created being, yet neither does He wholly decline from the Divinity of God the Father. For those who do not scruple to say plainly that He is a creature take refuge in refinements of language, trying as it were to gloss over their profanity. When then we say that the Son has such a nature as not to be wholly God, nor yet to fall entirely into the category of creatures, but that He holds an intermediate place, so as to fall beneath the dignity of God the Father, and yet to exceed created beings in glory, we will say first of all, that there is no authority to induce us to lay down the doctrine they choose to propound. For either let them satisfy us from the holy and inspired writings, or confessing they have no voucher for their private opinion, blush for laying down definitions in matters of faith from their own private judgment.

But since it occurred to them to say this in their rash folly, I will proceed to the view they have propounded, and I will say once more that if only things of the same class are properly capable of mutual comparison,—-and the Son has proved that He may properly be compared with God the Father in the plainest language, The Father is greater than I,—-must not then the Father be conceived of as having the same nature you attribute to the Son? What follows then? Your whole speculation is upset. For so long as you maintain that the Father is greater than the Son, but a created being is less according to you, the nature of the Only-begotten lies between the two. And when the nature of the Father is lessened to that of the Son, one of the extremes is left out, as |357 there is no longer anything above and superior to the Son. And if, as he says, He is compared with the Father as being one of the same class, must not the definition of Their Essence be one and the same for both? And if you scruple to admit that the Son is of the same Essence with the Father, but rather put Him in a position of inferiority, and debase the glory of the Father to that of a being whom you reckon less than and inferior to Him, do you not see blasphemy springing up like a thorn? Does not then a root of bitterness springing up rankle in the heart of those thus minded? Why then do you leave the straight path of truth, and launch into such absurd discussions? Grant then to the Only-begotten in your thoughts an equality with God the Father. For thus there will be One God, worshipped and glorified in the holy and consubstantial Trinity, both by us and by the holy angels.

29 And now I have told you before it come to pass, that when it is come to pass, ye may believe.

A prophecy of the future is manifestly a sure pledge of what the future has in store for us. Christ confirms therefore the heart of His disciples, and seems to inspire in them a firm conviction that He is really ascending to God the Father in the heavens, to reign with Him and share His throne as God, and as God really begotten of Him. For do not, He says, set My departure, which is according to the flesh and an object of sight (for I will be with you as God for ever), on a level with that of the holy prophets. For they, as they passed from the earth and paid the debt of nature, were brought low, and died according to the law of human creatures. But I, Who am the true God, am not measured by the same standard as My creatures awaiting the time of the resurrection. For I live for ever, and I am the True Life. And I will send the Comforter, and I will grant you My peace also, and will not lie; but to the intent that, when you: receive the promise and are illumined by the grace of |358 the Holy Spirit, you may ratify the truth of My words, recollecting what I have said in the light of experience, and to the intent that you may have the firm conviction that I live and reign with the Father, I have foretold and spoken this to you. The fulfilment of the promise will then confirm the truth of My words. For if I be not the Life, He says, and if I be not enthroned with God the Father, how can I Myself vouchsafe Divine and spiritual graces? And I will bestow them as I have promised, and I will bring to you the Spirit and peace. Is it not then beyond dispute that I am the Life, and that I reign with the Father. For it is not the act of one who is dead, or powerless to illumine with Divine graces those who love him, but it is the act of One Who is living and powerful and Who reigns for ever. Christ therefore has hereby taught us that He made no empty prophecy of the future. For He says that He made this discourse that they might have their faith in Him confirmed, when they came to think upon and reflect on His promises, after they had experienced His grace.

30, 31 I will no more speak much with you, for the prince of the world cometh: and he hath nothing in Me; but that the world may know that I love the Father, as the Father gave Me commandment even so I do.

Now when the impious Jews were already at hand, with the band of soldiers whom they brought, and their leader who also had promised to betray Him, and were ready to take Him and bear Him away in no long time to His sufferings upon the cross, and before the Crucifixion, He declared that He would break off His discourse with them. For, He says, the time is short and already past. And now that the bloodthirsty spirit of the Jews is at its height against Me, and shows itself already within the gates, the time for speech with you is past, and the period of My passion has arrived. But He says, The prince of this world hath nothing in Me. And I shall die very gladly, and undergo death to save |359 the world, and through reverence to My Father and love towards Him willingly encounter inconceivable anguish, that I may fulfil His Will. The aim of what He says here is very plain, and compressing His words into smaller compass we say: Adam, the author of our race, underwent death by a Divine curse, through his breaking the commandment given to him, accused by himself and the devil. He indeed seems to have suffered for good reason, since the doom of punishment justly pursues those who have sinned from indolence; but the second Adam, that is our Lord Jesus Christ, Who can have no such charge brought against Him at all, for He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth, underwent His sufferings for us, having of Himself no responsibility whatever for them, but by His sufferings procured a ransom for the world, owing to His love for the Father, Who yearned for the salvation of the world. For it was truly the work of His love for the Father not to set at nought His decree and firm resolve, but to hasten to bring it into effect. And what was this decree? He willed that His own Son, though of like fashion with Himself and distinguished by His perfect equality with Him, should descend to such humiliation as to take the form of man for our sakes, and not shrink from death to save the world. This the Son did through love of His Father, Who is said to have ordered Him by His own power to suffer death in His fleshly nature, and to destroy the power of corruption, and to quicken the dead, and to restore them to their ancient state. Therefore He says that the time for speech is short. For My suffering is drawing nigh, and the presumptuous counsels of the Jews have burst into flame. I will suffer willingly, as for this cause I have come.

But the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me; that is, I shall not be convicted of sin, and the Jews will not be able to establish their charge of drunkenness against Me, the devil hath no part in Me, for vices are as it were his attributes, and wickedness |360 owes its parentage to him. For the truth of our Saviour’s words will be most clearly seen from what follows. For how did He sin, Who knew no sin, the true and living God, Who was wholly incapable of turning from the path of righteousness? And we shall see this most clearly by the actual writings of the holy Evangelists. For the most wise John has represented Pilate saying, I find no crime in Him; and again, after putting on Him the crown of thorns, as saying these words: Behold, I bring Him out to you, that ye may know that I find no crime in Him; and Matthew says that he so hated the crime, that he washed his hands before the Jews and said, I am innocent of the blood of this righteous man; and the same Evangelist points Him out to us, when He was brought into the presence of the high priests themselves, and says: Now the chief priests and the whole council sought false witness against the Christ, that they might put Him to death; and they found it not, though many false witnesses came. Still, though accusations were sought against Him by the agency of men, the devil used them as ministers and instruments of his own malice, and it was he more than any one else who sought to find sin in Him. It is then true that the devil had no part in Him, whom Christ called prince of this world, speaking of the present moment, not as though he were truly lord of it, but as a foreign intruder who has gained by the law of conquest what does not belong to him. For by sin he subjected mankind to himself, and driving them away from God as sheep who have no shepherd, he ruled over them though they were not his own. Therefore was he rightly cast out from the kingdom he had so obtained. For Christ has become King over us, and therefore He says: Now shall the prince of this world be east out; and I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Myself.

Arise, let us go hence. 

The common and usual acceptation of the words before |361 us suggests the thought, that as the period of the madness of the Jews had come, and the priceless Cross of our Saviour was well-nigh set up, He was hastening to depart with His holy disciples, to that place in which the band of men and officers found and took Him. And the thought is a plausible one. But probably there was another meaning hinted at; I mean a spiritual and hidden meaning. For when He says the words, Arise, let us go hence, He means to signify that to all of us there lies open by Him and with Him a change from one state to another, and a refuge from a worse condition in a better; in order that we may realise some such conception as this,—-the passing from death unto life, and from corruption into incorruption, by Him and with Him, as I just said, as passing from one place into another. It is a fine saying then, Arise, and let us go hence; or you may interpret it to yourselves in some other way. From henceforth we are bound to be transformed from loving to think on earthly things into choosing the will to do God’s pleasure; and besides this, to pass from slavery into the dignity of sonship; from earth into the city above; from sin to righteousness,—-the righteousness I mean that is due to faith in Christ; from the impurity of man’s nature to the sanctification by the Spirit; from dishonour to honour; from ignorance to knowledge; and from cowardice and faintheartedness to endurance in goodness.

Localising then, figurating as it were, our transgressions upon earth in the spot whereon He stood, He says, Arise, and let us go hence. For if this meaning entered into the scope of His speech, and He means to show thereby His affinity to us, it can do us no harm at all to act in this way, since He found it in His nature so to do. Moreover, in other places you will find Him saying to His own disciples: We must work the works of Him That sent us, while it is day; the night cometh, when no man can work. Do you hear how He implicates Himself together with us in the duty of doing work, although He |362 does not lie under the necessity of working as we do? And this form of speech is usual with us, and we shall find it just as much amongst ourselves; and the inspired Paul, when he rebuked the Corinthians, ventured on this expression, exhorting them in these words: Now these things, my brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos; that in us ye might learn not to think beyond the things which are written. And there is no question that we have not an elder, nor an angel, but the Lord of all Himself, though He was not subject to our infirmities, to point out the way to all that is good, and to turn us from our old lusts to better things. For we have been ransomed not by ourselves, nor by any other creature, but rather by Christ Himself our Saviour. Therefore, when escaping as it were with us, in our company, from the wickedness of the world, He says, Arise, let us go hence. He speaks these words not as subject to it as we are, or bound by human infirmities; but as our leader and champion and guide, to point out the way to incorruption and life in sanctification and love of God. |363 (source).

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Monday, May 23: St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (John 14:21-26)

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 21, 2011

21 He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself unto him.

Our Saviour here says that the revelation of the mystery in us will then be clearest when we see ourselves living in conformity with His likeness. For as I live, He says, ye shall live also; the mind of each being fulfilled as it were not with what he has heard and believed merely, but rather with what he actually enjoys, when he has reached the completion of the promise. For experience is more powerful than language in ability to convince and satisfy. That we may not think that all without distinction are endowed with the power to partake of so holy a blessing, even though they be not good men and illuminated by the fear of God, He has added at once to His speech the qualification, “they that love Me;” clearly showing thereby that no others will be allowed to choose so incomparable a grace, but those who have chosen to live most righteously: for they would be “those that love Him.” For even if it be the fact that Christ raises the bodies of all men, for there will be a resurrection of the evil and the good alike, yet not to all without distinction will a new life of glory and felicity be given. For it is clear that some only rise again to punishment, and will have a life more grievous than any death, while others spending ages of blessedness, will actually live the desirable and holy |325 life in Christ. For that they who are doomed to receive the sentence of punishment from Christ on the occasion of the judgment, will abide without a taste of the blessed life, although they shared with the Saints the lot of resurrection, He makes plain by these words: He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life, but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God shall abide on Him. For know that although while all the evil and the good alike await the resurrection, He says that those who are fast bound by the charge of disobedience cannot even attain to a glimpse of the life, as He declares that it is not the mere act of resurrection that is life, but that that life rather consists in rest and glory and felicity, spiritual of course and of no other kind. A spiritual kind of felicity is meant, the perfect knowledge of God and the complete revelation of the mysteries of Christ, not as in a glass and in riddles, even as now showing the characters of the object of our quest dimly, but shining out to us and glistening in perfect purity and making our knowledge quite complete. For that which is in part shall be done away, as Paul says.

Our Lord Jesus Christ then, when He teaches us that to those who choose to love Him and to those who do His commandments is the promise of His revelation given, and to them it is more appropriate and pertinent, and not to those who are otherwise minded and who do the contrary, has conveyed this useful lesson in the words: He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me. And a man has His commands when he has received the faith, and, laying it to heart, has let into his inmost soul the unpolluted and unmistakeable teaching of the Gospel commandments. And he fulfils them by carrying them out into actuality, and by making haste to distinguish himself by the light of his actions. Such a man then is perfect and wholly wedded to righteousness, a shining light by his faith and conduct, who has witness borne him of his holiness after |326 the pattern of Christ. For At the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established, according to the Scripture. A man of this sort again, God the Father will surely love, and no less also the Son will love him. For as He is of the same Substance, so also has He the same Will as His Father. For as the Substance is one the Will also is one, and there is one purpose over all, and there is no discord severing Their Wills in twain. For to those who are thought worthy of the Divine love He promises that He will give a glorious reward and that He will crown them with exceeding great blessings. For I will manifest Myself unto him, He says. For to the pure in heart the mystery of the Godhead will be clearly revealed, and Christ gives them light, illuminating the path of every duty by His Spirit, and unveiling Himself and making Himself visible as it were by the ineffable torchlight of the soul. And those who have made their choice once for all are blessed and worthy of all admiration. And methinks the prophet David was a man after this sort when he says, I will hear what the Lord God will say in me. And so is also the Divine Apostle when he exhorts us, saying, If ye seek a proof of Christ that speaketh in me; for He speaks of things concerning Himself in His Saints by His Spirit; yea, reveals other mysteries besides. Therefore it is true that knowing these things well, the Saints sometimes say, Unto us God revealed them through the Spirit; sometimes, But we have the mind of Christ, meaning by His mind His Spirit.

22 Judas (not Iscariot) saith unto Him, Lord, what is come to pass that Thou wilt manifest Thyself unto us, and not unto the world?

It is out of love that the disciple proceeds to make this inquiry, but he clearly does not quite understand our Saviour’s language. For our Lord Jesus Christ promised to His Saints a kind of special knowledge and not like that vouchsafed to others. For the characters of Divine |327 mysteries are more defined and shine out far more clearly among the men of God: while those who have not yet attained to such purity of heart as to be able definitely to choose the knowledge of those things which pass understanding by the gift of the Spirit, display their knowledge in bare logical processes, and it is limited to their chance acquaintance with the doctrine that Christ is God and truly the Son of the living God. Although then there lies this vast difference between them, widely dissevering the knowledge of the vulgar from that which is seen in the Saints, the disciple, making no distinction, proceeds to inquire why He does not promise to reveal Himself to all in the world, but only to the Saints. And by the exclamation, How comes it to pass? he means to hint at some such meaning as this: Is the aim of Thy coming amongst us, Lord, to give to some a complete knowledge of Thyself, which to others is wholly denied? For we heard in the prophets that all flesh shall see the salvation of God, and Thou Thyself didst cry out, saying, Rejoice and be glad, daughter of Sion, for lo! I come and shall dwell in thy midst, saith the Lord, and all nations shall flee to the Lord on that day and shall be His people. And when we had continual converse with Thee, we heard with our own ears Thy voice when Thou didst say unto us, I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Myself; and Thou saidst also to the Jews themselves, And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall become one flock, one shepherd. Now then, when the expectation is raised that Thy grace will be poured upon all men and that all will be gathered in to the knowledge of God, and when Thou Thyself hast made us this clear promise and the voice of the holy prophets bears this testimony—-What is come to pass? cries the Apostle. Whither has the purpose of the promise then shifted and diverted? Why dost Thou manifest Thyself not to all that are in the world but only to us? This then and no other I think |328 is the meaning of the disciple’s words. It is well to show what it was that in fact led him astray from truly apprehending our Saviour’s words.

For when our Lord Jesus Christ used the words, A little while, and, the world beholdeth Me no more; but ye behold Me, it is very clear that by the world He did not at all mean those who are in this life or living upon the earth, for all men are in this world, evil and good alike: but by the world He rather meant those who are persuaded to mind earthly; things, who have yoked their understanding to the vanity of the world. The disciple then, not quite understanding this, thought that He said that of all the rest of mankind who dwell in this earthly sphere He would escape the eye, I mean the inner and secret vision of the soul, and would be wholly unseen, and known by no living man but His disciples only; and this was the cause of the disciple’s misapprehension. For if he had understood at first, he would never have proceeded to ask, What is come to pass that Thou wilt manifest Thyself unto us, and not unto the world? For he had this meaning I have spoken of suggested to him through his taking the signification of the word in its common and generally-received sense. For we are accustomed to mean by the world, using it in its well-worn and obvious sense, all the inhabitants of the world, just as when one speaks of the city one means all the dwellers in it. Still the disciple, even when he says these words, deserves our admiration. For see how he longs that the glory of the Saviour should shine forth through all the world like the sun, although if he had only been taking thought for his own personal welfare, he might, as he had the promise of knowledge, have enjoyed blessings peculiar to himself. But it was not enough to gratify his soul that the boon should be granted as it were to him individually, but because he was at once a lover of God and of his fellow men he longs for the glory of the Saviour to have a wider field and that grace should be extended to all his brethren. |329 For what joy can equal the being called to the complete knowledge of God?

23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me, he will keep My word: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

When He saw that the disciple did not quite understand, He goes back again to what He said at first, and teaches clearly that He will not manifest Himself to His own, according to the conception he had formed in his mind, but that the manner of His manifestation will be special to His disciples, and not that common to the rest of mankind. For the vulgar, and those, for instance, who have just escaped from the deceitfulness of idols and have been called to the knowledge of the Living God, rest their faith on bare and unquestioned axioms, merely having learnt to know that there is no idol in the world, and that the Living God is One only; while they who have their minds illumined by every virtue and are already in a state to fitly apprehend Divine and hidden mysteries, will receive the torch of the Spirit, and will behold with the eyes of the soul the Lord Himself, Who has taken up His abode in them. The knowledge therefore that the Saints possess is not common to the rest, but is in a manner special and distinct and widely diverse. Christ then benefits us by every kind of word and way. For, first of all, anyone that loves Him is very broadly distinguished from the rest, showing as it seems to me, and as I justly apprehend, that it has not been given to all men to receive the power of His grace, but only to those in whom the glory of intimate connexion with Him may be seen indwelling through their keeping His commandments.

Then in what way He will declare Himself and how He will take up His abode in them He goes on to declare. For My Father will love him, He says. For any man who has honoured by his obedience to the Son the Father from Whom He springs, will reap His love as |330 the fruit of his conduct. Then He clearly shows what will be the issue thereof and what profit such a man will gain when He says, I and the Father will come unto him and make Our abode with him. For when our Saviour Christ dwells in us by the Holy Spirit, surely there too will be also His Father; for the Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of the Father Himself also, and the inspired Paul at one time speaks of the Spirit as belonging to the Father, and at another as belonging to the Son: not by way of logical contradiction, but rather saying what is true of either, for it is so in fact. He says then to some: He that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall quicken also your mortal bodies through His Spirit that dwelleth in you. Then again, And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Do you see that the same Spirit is of the Father and the Son? When then the Only-begotten dwells in your hearts, the Father is not far from you: for the Son hath in Himself the Father, being of one substance with Him, and is Himself by nature in the Father.

This then we may give as the definition and incontrovertible doctrine of the faith; and I should be glad to question thereupon those who have chosen heretical opinions from excess of ignorance and who arm their tongues with conceits about the Spirit. For what have they to answer when we say to them, “If the Spirit is created and alien to the substance of God, as you say, how can God abide in us through Him? And how can he that receiveth the Spirit partake of God?” For if it is within the bounds of possibility by the agency of any created being whatever for us to partake of the ineffable Divine Nature, what can be found to hinder God the Father thrusting aside the Spirit and by means of any other created being that He chooses to select dwelling in us and sanctifying us? But this is impossible: for no one can partake of the living God by any other means than by the Spirit. The Spirit therefore is God and of |331 God, and is not numbered among creatures, as some think.

This consideration also must be taken into account. That which partakes of anything as being superior in nature and distinct from what it is itself must of necessity be different in nature from that which is partaken of. If then the Spirit is created or made, what remains for the sum of creation to partake of? Surely not itself! For in that case both that which partakes and that which is partaken of would alike owe their origin to a creator. But as it is, we being by nature both created and begotten partake of the Spirit as being different in nature from ourselves. The Spirit therefore is not created. And if this is true, and it is true, the Spirit is God and of God, as we have said. For nothing that exists can escape being included in the category of created things except the living God alone, from Whom the Holy Spirit, ineffably proceeding, dwelleth in us as He from Whom He springs. For He is an attribute of His Substance, and as it were a quality of His holiness.

So much for my controversy with these heretics. But as against the Anomoeans and those who have resolved on war with the Son, who are diseased with a like and kindred madness to these which we have just spoken of, I will refute them as briefly as possible. If a man love Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love Him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him. What, then, my good Sirs, have you to say if any one chooses to inquire and desires to know of you whether we shall have two Gods indwelling in us, the Father and the Son, or whether you conceive of one God as really existing in us. For if the Son is wholly distinct in nature and is conceived of as having a separate nature, how can we avoid believing that there is a duality of Gods in us when we keep His commandment? And if we are temples of one, that is, and not of two Gods, when the Father and the Son take up Their abode in us, how can you prove that the two coalesce |332 unto unity in us, as, according to your crazy notion, identity of nature is out of the question? For either you must say that Christ has told us falsehoods, and that the Father only dwells in us by the Spirit, or He Himself dwells in us and the Father is absent. But this is absurd, and there is one God in us when we receive both. The Only-begotten then will appear to be not different in substance from His Father, but of Him and in Him, as the light includes the effulgence which proceeds from it. Such, and no other, is the true meaning of the mystery. And certainly the inspired Paul did not call us temples of two Gods, but clearly of one and the same. Know ye not, he says, that ye are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? You see that making the Father and Son coalesce in identity of Substance he says that we have been made temples not of Gods but of one God. Why then do you bring your rash arguments into conflict with the power of the truth, and sow the seed of your poisonous impiety in those who are wont heedlessly to handle the holy and inspired writings?

24 He that loveth Me not keepeth not My words.

When He has premised and rightly defined who those that love Him are, and of what blessings they will partake, He at once proceeds to treat of others who have not yet chosen to love Him. “For they will not keep My words,” He says; for this is the meaning of the saying, “he will not keep My word,” spoken as if of and concerning one man, even though it has a broad and generic signification. And this that He says has a very apt connexion with what precedes. For, if the keeping of His commandments or His Word is a clear proof of love towards Him, surely the converse of this will be true. For treating His bidding as of no account and thrusting His commandment aside will be a sign that we refuse to love Him, as these are the acts of men inured to evil-doing. But just as He promised that |333 together with God the Father He would Himself abide with those who keep His laws, for the same reason, I think, He will pass away from and wholly abandon those who do the reverse. For thus the truth of Solomon’s saying will be seen: Into the soul of him that maketh iniquity wisdom will not enter, nor dwell in the body given over to sin. For in common life you can observe that a similar result follows: for does not a man gain repute by conversing with those who are likeminded and who choose the same path of life, rather than with others? And Every creature loves his like, according to the saying, and Man will seek union with his like. And if it seems most desirable even among ourselves to live with those of similar habits to ourselves, how can we escape the reflection that this is still more the case with God? For as He is good by nature and the beginning and source of all virtue, He takes up His abode not in the lovers of wickedness but in the workers of virtue, and disdains the impure, and with good reason. As then we ourselves are naturally eager to rid our houses of filth and stench if any such there be, disdaining to live in them, will not the pure and all-holy God still more disdain the polluted soul, and abominate a heart sunk in the slough of sin? Of this there can be no question. For that he that doth not keep His commandment will be found among these and not elsewhere, being as he is impure and of filthy lusts, our speculation will perforce teach you. For in not keeping the Divine commands the origin of sin is found.

For just as the deprivation of light introduces its opposite, I mean darkness, just so refusing to do virtuous acts causes wickedness to spring up. For inasmuch as the subject-matter that underlies them is one and the same, things diverse from each other in quality may admit of comparison (I am far from saying they are identical) according to the law of contraries.

And so vice and virtue are separate and widely |334 opposed to each other in quality, or how could one speak without falling into error? But both characters cannot belong to any one among us in the same relation and be fulfilled in action. For either a man is good or bad, though he may not have reached the height of iniquity or virtue. Then when the one principle is powerful within us, the other, that is the opposite, will be weak. And so if the formal principle of virtue consist in keeping His commandments, is it not most plain that in not keeping them wickedness originates? Just as to have in himself the Father and the Son, which is the origin and basis of all satisfaction of soul and glory, is in store for him that keeps His commandments, so he that keepeth them not is wholly cut off from participation in the ineffable Divine nature; which is, in effect, incapacity to enjoy any blessing. If any man then think it a good and desirable thing to partake of the Divine nature and to have God Who is the Father of the universe indwelling and abiding in the shrine of the heart by His Son, in the Spirit, let him thoroughly purge his soul, and wash away the stain of wickedness, by whatever means he can; and most of all, by all kinds of well-doing. For then will he become truly the temple of God; and He will rest and abide in him, according to the Scripture. For then it will not be with him as it was with the lawyer mentioned in the Gospels, who did not wait for grace from the Saviour, but said that he went self-called to follow Him; and, eager to seize so desirable a blessing, exclaimed, Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest: but what said Christ to him as in a parable and in riddles, The foxes have holes and the birds of the heaven have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His Head. By foxes and birds of the heaven He meant wicked and unclean devils, and the spirits of the world and of the air, which love to dwell and take up their abode in the hearts of pleasure-seekers, fulfilling their own lusts, and so cramping the miserable souls of those who receive them that |335 God can find no place at all for rest in them. This is what He means by laying His Head.

Let us then cleanse our hearts from every defilement, for so will God dwell in us and will render us proof against all the malice of the devil, and will make us happy and blessed, and will render us partakers of His ineffable Divine nature.

24 And the word which ye hear is not Mine but the Father’s Who sent Me.

He once more deals with a difficult subject which required of Him accurate explanation, and again brings forward illustrations by which they might have their understanding better fitted to fully comprehend the depth of the mystery. And He confirms the minds of His hearers in order that they might not be allured by the ignorant prejudices of the Jews, and in their desire to bring their own ideas into conformity with the Jewish do despite unto the holy teaching of the Gospel. What I wish to say is this in plain words: For the law having a shadow and an impressed type until a time of reformation, according to the saying of Paul, hath been our tutor to bring us unto Christ, and provided, as it were, a preliminary training for virtue according to godliness. If any one then were to call the Mosaic dispensation preparatory to true worship in Spirit, he would not miss the mark. For, for this reason, the Law brought nothing to perfection; but our Lord Jesus Christ showed us no longer the shadows of things, but the reality itself openly, no longer sketching the outline of virtue in types and figures, as Moses did, but setting it up naked in the public sight, accomplishing the perfect man in righteousness. The instruction of the words of Christ was then a shifting and moulding of the types into truth. And since, as the truth was already shining forth, it was superfluous for the shadow any longer to prevail, Christ ordained that those who came to Him by faith should no longer frame their conduct by the types |336 of the Law. This was very grievous to the Jews, for they thought that Christ came to destroy the old Law, although they heard Him saying openly, I come not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil. For I say unto you, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the Law till all things be accomplished. The realisation of excellence which was introduced by the laws of Christ brings with it the fulfilment of the shadow of the Law, as we have just said. For inasmuch as in their headstrong passion they became backsliders into disobedience, and assuming a zeal for the Law not according to knowledge, they thought themselves to be advocating the Law by rejecting the commandments of Christ, it was for this very reason in order that He might not seem to any to be laying down some new and peculiar laws adverse to the will of God the Father He conveyed this useful and necessary rebuke—-The word which ye hear is not Mine, but the Father s Who sent Me. Let not any one of those who come to Me by faith, He says, think that I have made any discourse not in accord with the will of God the Father. The tidings of the Gospel are His and not another’s, but He gave them not as ashamed of the older enactments, nor again as though the better commandment had been unveiled at the moment; but rather because the type had been moulded into reality at the fitting time. For He That said those things by Me to the men of old time says this also now to you: for I am the living Word That interprets the ineffable Will of God the Father, wherefore am I called the Angel of great counsel.

For either after this manner we shall receive the saying, I mean the following —- The word which ye hear is not Mine, but the Father s Who sent Me, or we shall understand it in another way. For He says that His own word is the word of God the Father, that they who keep it may know that they honour God when they are persuaded by the words which come from Him: while others, falling into the contrary extreme and not |337 disdaining by disobedience to insult the commandment given to them, sin against the nature of the Most Highest. Now it was possible in two ways to confirm the minds of His hearers: for either the wish to honour God would incline them at all events to obedience, or the fear of coming into conflict with Him would also have this effect. For the calculation of what is useful and expedient runs through both methods. And when He says, “It is not My word,” He does not at all put out of our sight the peculiar character which He bears as the Word and God. And, while He still wears His homely shape, and appears and truly is in the guise of manhood, and is really like as we are when He is saying this, He is not willing that His word should be thought merely human, but really Divine and regal; of necessity merging His character in that of the Father, in order that He might not by sundering Himself admit the conception of two Sons, as the Son is one and the same both before and after His Incarnation. For Christ is one, and not two, as some say: for the Word proceeding from the Father, being God, became flesh according to the saying of John not by conversion into flesh, but by enshrining His divinity in flesh from the womb of the holy virgin. In order then that we may not think His word is merely human, or divest the Gospel teaching of its Divine character, but may be convinced that it comes from the God Who is over all, appropriately and with great reason, inasmuch as He was then appearing to them in the form of man, He attributes His words to His Divine Nature, as in the character of God the Father, from Whom and in Whom He is by nature as His effulgence and His word and the Express Image of His Person.

25, 26 These things have I spoken unto you, while yet abiding with you. But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send unto you in My Name, He shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said.

Contrariwise, His speech has in it the human element, and is not quite foreign to the standards we apply to |338 ourselves, to the extent that the mind into which it entered was fitted to receive the words before us. Perhaps some one will plausibly say that Christ is not amongst us according to the power of His Godhead, although He fills the Universe and is not wholly separated from anything, but rather encompasses with unspeakable might earth and heaven, and does not leave the depths of the abyss: for where is not God”? When, then, He says, These things have I spoken unto you, while yet abiding with you, we must think that He there speaks as a man; and since He was about to vanish from our sight, I mean according to the flesh, He says this when the preparation for His departure into heaven was complete; and He says that the most perfect and complete revelation to us of the mystery is through the Comforter, that is the Holy Ghost, sent from the Father in His Name, I mean that of the Son. For as His Spirit is Christ in us, therefore He says, He shall teach you all things that I said. For since He is the Spirit of Christ, and His mind, as it is written, which is nought else but what He is, in regard to identity of nature, even though He be both conceived of and is existent, He knows all that is in Him. And Paul will be our witness, saying, For who knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of the man which is in him? even so the things of God none knoweth save the Spirit of God. Wherefore as knowing what is in the counsel of the Only-begotten, He reporteth all things to us, not having the knowledge thereof from learning, that is; that He may not seem to fill the rank of a minister and to transmit the words of another but as His Spirit, as we said just now, and knowing untaught all that belongeth to Him of Whom and in Whom He is, He revealeth to the Saints the Divine mysteries; just as man’s mind too, knowing all things that are therein, ministereth externally by uttered word the desires of the soul whose mind it is, being mentally discerned in the thoughts, and named as something else than itself, not other by nature, but |339 as a part complemental of the whole, existing in it and believed to go forth from it. Such a relation as this is inapplicable to the ineffable Divine Nature. For small is all the power of illustrations, even if it go on to subtleties. The perfect knowledge then is begotten in the Saints by the Spirit. And indeed the inspired Paul exhorts some: I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you, and the love which ye show toward all the Saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him; having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the Saints, and what the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working which He hath wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and made Him to sit at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. For in the revelation of these things by the Spirit working in us in an unspeakable way, we see the deep meaning of the Incarnation and the power of the hidden mystery. And that His Spirit, indwelling in the Saints, accomplishes the presence and the power of Christ Himself and teaches all things that He has spoken unto us, Paul will once more make none the less clear to us by the words: For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father, from Whom every family both in heaven and on earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, that ye may be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inward man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith to the end; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the Saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know |340 the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God.

Furthermore, we must show that when He said that all would be revealed by the Spirit to the Saints, He does not give them over to another master—-do not think that: but He keeps them by His side, through the Spirit, no longer seen by the eye of the flesh, but rather gazed upon as became a God by the intellectual vision of the heart. (source)

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Wedneday, May 25: Pope Benedict XVI on Today’s Psalm (122)

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 21, 2011

1. We have just heard and enjoyed as a prayer one of the most beautiful and fervent songs of ascents. It is Psalm 122[121], a living, shared celebration of Jerusalem, the Holy City to which the pilgrims climb.

Indeed, in the opening line, two moments lived by the faithful are amalgamated:  that of the day on which the pilgrim rejoiced when he accepted the invitation to “go to God’s house” (v. 1), and that of his joyful arrival at the “gates” of Jerusalem (cf. v. 2); now at last he is walking on that beloved Holy Land. A festive hymn is on his lips at that very moment in honour of Zion, whose deep spiritual significance he contemplates.

2. As a “strongly compact” city (v. 3), a symbol of security and stability, Jerusalem is the heart of the unity of the 12 tribes of Israel that converge towards it as the centre of their faith and worship. They go up there, in fact, “to praise the Lord’s name” (v. 4) in the place that “Israel’s law” (Dt 12: 13-14; 16: 16) has chosen as the only legitimate and perfect shrine.

There is another important reality in Jerusalem that is also a sign of God’s presence in Israel: “the thrones… of the House of David” (cf. v. 5); that is, the Davidic dynasty governs, an expression of the divine action in history that was to lead to the Messiah (II Sam 7: 8-16).

3. The “thrones… of the House of David” are at the same time called “thrones of judgment” (v. 5), because the king was also the supreme judge. Thus, Jerusalem, a political capital, was also the highest tribunal where controversies were settled in the final instance: in this way, when Jewish pilgrims left Zion, they returned to their villages feeling more righteous and peaceful.

The Psalm thus traced an ideal portrait of the Holy City with her religious and social function, showing that biblical religion is neither abstract nor intimistic, but a leaven of justice and solidarity. Communion with God is necessarily followed by the communion of brothers and sisters with one another.

4. We now come to the final invocation (cf. v. 6-9). It is marked throughout by the Jewish word shalom, “peace”, traditionally considered to be the etymological root of Jerushalajim, the Holy City itself, interpreted as “city of peace”.

It is well known that shalom alludes to the messianic peace that in itself brings joy, prosperity, goodness and abundance. Indeed, in the pilgrim’s final farewell to the temple, to the “house of the Lord our God”, he adds “good” to “peace”: “I will ask for your good” (v. 9). This anticipates the Franciscan greeting: “Peace and good!”. We all have something of a Franciscan soul. This greeting expresses the hope that blessings will be poured out upon the faithful who love the Holy City, upon the physical reality of its walls and buildings in which the life of a people pulsates, on all its brothers and sisters and friends. In this way, Jerusalem will become a hearth of harmony and peace.

5. Let us end our meditation on Psalm 122[121] with an idea for reflection suggested by the Fathers of the Church for whom the ancient Jerusalem was the sign of another Jerusalem, also “built as a city strongly compact”.

This city, St Gregory the Great says in his Homilies on Ezekiel, “has here a great construction in the customs of the saints. In a building, one stone supports the other, because each stone is set upon another, and the one that supports another is in turn supported by another. This is exactly how in our Holy Church each one is sustaining and sustained. The closest support one another, and so it is by using them that the building of charity is erected.

“This explains Paul’s exhortation: “Help carry one another’s burdens; in that way you will fulfil the law of Christ’ (Gal 6: 2). Emphasizing the force of this law, he says: “Love is the fulfilment of the law’ (Rom 13: 10).

“Indeed, if I do not make an effort to accept you as you are and you do not strive to accept me as I am, the building of love between us can no longer be erected, bound though we may be by reciprocal and patient love”.

And to complete the image, let us not forget that “there is one foundation that supports the full weight of the construction; and it is our Redeemer, who alone bears all together the customs of us all. The Apostle says of him: “No one can lay a foundation other than the one that has been laid, namely, Jesus Christ’ (I Cor 3: 11). The foundation sustains the stones but the stones do not sustain the foundation: in other words, our Redeemer bore the burden of all our sins, but in him there was no sin to be borne” (2, 1, 5: Opere di Gregorio Magno, III/2, Rome, 1993, pp. 27, 29).

Thus, Pope St Gregory the Great tells us what the Psalm means for our lives in practice. He tells us that we must be a true Jerusalem in the Church today, that is, a place of peace, “supporting one another” as we are; “supporting one another together” in the joyful certainty that the Lord “supports us all”. In this way the Church will grow like a true Jerusalem, a place of peace. But let us also pray for the city of Jerusalem, that it may increasingly be a place for the encounter of religions and peoples; that it may truly be a place of peace.

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Tuesday, May 24: St Augustine on Today’s Gospel (John 14:27-31a)

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 21, 2011

Tractate 77: On John 14:27 (excerpt).
“Peace,” He said, “I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” It is here we read in the prophet, “Peace upon peace:” peace He leaves with us when going away, His own peace He will give us when He cometh in the end. Peace He leaveth with us in this world, His own peace He will give us in the world to come. His own peace He leaveth with us, and abiding therein we conquer the enemy. His own peace He will give us when, with no more enemies to fight, we shall reign as kings. Peace He leaveth with us, that here also we may love one another: His own peace will He give us, where we shall be beyond the possibility of dissension. Peace He leaveth with us, that we may not judge one another of what is secret to each, while here on earth: His own peace will He give us, when He “will make manifest the counsels of the heart; and then shall every man have praise of God.” And yet in Him and from Him it is that we have peace, whether that which He leaveth with us when going to the Father, or that which He will give us when we ourselves are brought by Him to the Father. And what is it He leaveth with us, when ascending from us, save His own presence, which He never withdraweth? For He Himself is our peace who hath made both one. It is He, therefore, that becomes our peace, both when we believe that He is, and when we see Him as He is. For if, so long as we are in this corruptible body that burdens the soul, and are walking by faith, not by sight, He forsaketh not those who are sojourning at a distance from Himself; how much more, when we have attained to that sight, shall He fill us with Himself?

But why is it that, when He said, “Peace I leave with you,” He did not add, “my;” but when He said, “I give unto you,” He there made use of it? Is “my” to be understood even where it is not expressed, on the ground that what is expressed once may have a reference to both? Or may it not be that here also we have some underlying truth that has to be asked and sought for, and opened up to those who knock thereat? For what, if by His own peace He meant such to be understood as that which He possesses Himself? whereas the peace, which He leaves us in this world, may more properly be termed our peace than His. For He, who is altogether without sin, has no elements of discord in Himself; while the peace we possess, meanwhile, is such that in the midst of it we have still to be saying, “Forgive us our debts.” A certain kind of peace, accordingly, we do possess, inasmuch as we delight in the law of God after the inward man: but it is not a full peace, for we see another law in our members warring against the law of our mind. In the same way we have peace in our relations with one another, just because, in mutually loving, we have a mutual confidence in one another: but no more is such a peace as that complete, for we see not the thoughts of one another’s hearts; and we have severally better or worse opinions in certain respects of one another than is warranted by the reality. And so that peace, although left us by Him, is our peace: for were it not from Him, we should not be possessing it, such as it is; but such is not the peace He has Himself. And if we keep what we received to the end, then such as He has shall we have, when we shall have no elements of discord of our own, and we shall have no secrets hid from one another in our hearts. But I am not ignorant that these words of the Lord may be taken so as to seem only a repetition of the same idea, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you:” so that after saying “peace,” He only repeated it in saying “my peace;” and what He had meant in saying “I leave with you,” He simply repeated in saying “I give unto you.” Let each one understand it as he pleases; but it is my delight, as I believe it is yours also, my beloved brethren, to keep such hold of that peace here, where our hearts are making common cause against the adversary, that we may be ever longing for the peace which there will be no adversary to disturb.

But when the Lord proceeded to say, “Not as the world giveth, give I unto you,” what else does He mean but, Not as those give who love the world, give I unto you? For their aim in giving themselves peace is that, exempt from the annoyance of lawsuits and wars, they may find enjoyment, not in God, but in the friendship of the world; andalthough they give the righteous peace, in ceasing to persecute them, there can be no true peace where there is no real harmony, because their hearts are at variance. For asone is called a consort who unites his lot (sortem) with another, so may he be termed concordant whose heart has entered into a similar union. Let us, therefore, beloved, with whom Christ leaveth peace, and to whom He giveth His own peace, not after the world’s way, but in a way worthy of Him by whom the world was made, that we should be of one heart with Himself. having our hearts run into one, that this one heart, set on that which is above, may escape the corruption of the earth.

Tractate 78 on John 14:27-28.
Wehave just heard, brethren, these words of the Lord, which He addressed to His disciples: “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come unto you: if ye loved me, ye would surely rejoice, because I go unto the Father; for the Father is greater than I.” Their hearts might have become filled with trouble and fear, simply because of His going away from them, even though intending to return; lest, possibly, in the very interval of the shepherd’s absence, the wolf should make an onset on the flock. But as God, He abandoned not those from whom He departed as man: and Christ Himself is at once both man and God. And so He both went away in respect of His visible humanity, and remained as regards His Godhead: He went away as regards the nature which is subject to local limitations, and remained in respect of that which is ubiquitous. Why, then, should their heart be troubled and afraid, when His quitting their eyesight was of such a kind as to leave unaltered His presence in their heart? Although even God, who has no local bounds to His presence, may depart from the hearts of those who turn away from Him, not with their feet, but their moral character; just as He comes to such as turn to Him, not with their faces, but in faith, and approach Him in the spirit, and not in the flesh. But that they might understand that it was only in respect of His human nature that He said, “I go and come to you,” He went on to say, “If ye loved me, ye would surely rejoice, because I go unto the Father; for the Father is greater than I.” And so, then, in that very respect wherein the Son is not equal to the Father, in that was He to go to the Father, just as from Him is He hereafter to come to judge the quick and the dead: while in so far as the Only-begotten is equal to Him that begat, He never withdraws from the Father; but with Him is everywhere perfectly equal in that Godhead which knows of no local limitations. For “being as He was in the form of God,” as the apostle says, “He thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” For how could that nature be robbery, which was His, not by usurpation, but by birth? “But He emptied Himself, taking upon Him the form of a servant;” and so, not losing the former, but assuming the latter, and emptying Himself in that very respect wherein He stood forth before us here in a humbler state than that wherein He still remained with the Father. For there was the accession of a servant-form, with no recession of the divine: in the assumption of the one there was no consumption of the other. In reference to the one He says, “The Father is greater than I;” but because of the other, “I and my Father are one.”

Let the Arian attend to this, and find healing in his attention; that wrangling may not lead to vanity, or, what is worse, to insanity. For it is the servant-form which is that wherein the Son of God is less, not only than the Father, but also than the Holy Spirit; and more than that, less also than Himself,for He Himself, in the form of God, is greater than Himself. For the man Christ does not cease to be called the Son ofGod, a name which was thought worthy of being applied even to His flesh alone as it lay in the tomb. And what else than this do we confess, when we declare that we believe in the only-begotten Son of God, who, under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, and buried? And what of Him was buried, save the flesh without the spirit? And so in believing in the Son of God, who was buried, we surely affix the name, Son of God, even to His flesh, which alone was laid in the grave. Christ Himself, therefore, the Son of God, equal with the Father because in the form of God, inasmuch as He emptied Himself, without losing the form of God, but assuming that of a servant, is greater even than Himself; because the unlost form of God is greater than the assumed form of a servant. And what, then, is there to wonder at, or what is there out of place, if, in reference to this servant-form, the Son of God says, “The Father is greater than I;” and in speaking of the form of God, the self-same Son of God declares, “I and my Father are one”? For one they are, inasmuch as “The Word was God;” and greater is the Father, inasmuch as “the Word was made flesh.” Let me add what cannot be gainsaid by Arians and Eunomians: in respect of this servant-form, Christ as a child was inferior also to His own parents, when, according to Scripture, “He was subject” as an infant to His seniors. Why, then, heretic, seeing that Christ is both God and man, when He speaketh as man, dost thou calumniate God? He in His own person commends our human nature; dost thou dare in Him to asperse the divine? Unbelieving and ungrateful as thou art, wilt thou degrade Him who made thee, just for the very reason that He is declaring what He became because of thee? For equal as He is with the Father, the Son, by whom man was made, became man, in order to be less than the Father: and had He not done so, what would have become of man?

Tractate 79 on John 14:29-31.
Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, had said unto His disciples, “If ye loved me, ye would surely rejoice, because I go unto the Father; for the Father is greater than I.” And that He so spake in His servant-form, and not in that of God, wherein He is equal with the Father, is well known to faith as it resides in the minds of the pious, not as it is reigned by the scornful and senseless. And then He added, “And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.” What can He mean by this, when the fact rather is, that a man ought, before it comes to pass, to believe that which demands his belief? For it forms the very encomium of faith when that which is believed is not seen. For what greatness is there in believing what is seen, as in those words of the same Lord, when, in reproving a disciple, He said, “Because thou hast seen, thou hast believed; blessed are they that see not, and yet believe.” And I hardly know whether any one can be said to believe what he sees; for this same faith is thus defined in the epistle addressed to the Hebrews: “Now faith is the substance of those that hope, the assurance of things not seen.” Accordingly, if faith is in things that are believed, and that, too, in things which are not seen, what mean these words of the Lord, “And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe”? Ought He not rather to have said, And now I have told you before it come to pass, that ye may believe what, when it is come to pass, ye shall see? For even he who was told, “Because thou hast seen, thou hast believed,” did not believe only what he saw; but he saw one thing, and believed another: for he saw Him as man, and believed Him to be God. He perceived and touched the living flesh, which he had seen in the act of dying, and he believed in the Deity infolded in that flesh. And so he believed with the mind what he did not see, by the help of that which was apparent to his bodily senses. But though we may be said to believe what we see, just as every one says that he believes his own eyes, yet that is not to be mistaken for the faith which is built up by God in our souls; but from things that are seen, we are brought to believe in those which are invisible. Wherefore, beloved, in the passage before us, when our Lord says,”And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe;” by the words, “when it is come to pass,” He certainly means, that they would yet see Him after His death, alive, and ascending to His I Father; at the sight of which they should then be compelled to believe that He was indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God, seeing He could do such a thing, even after predicting it, and also could predict it before He did it: and this they should then believe, not with a new, but with an augmented faith; or at least [with a faith] that had been impaired by His death, and was now repaired by His resurrection. For it was not that they had not previously also believed Him to be the Son of God, but when His own predictions were actually fulfilled in Him, that faith, which was still weak at the time of His here speaking to them, and at the time of His death almost ceased to exist, sprang up again into new life and increased vigor).

But what says He next? “Hereafter I will not talk much with you; for the prince of this world cometh;” and who is that, but the devil? “And hath nothing in me;” that is to say, no sin at all. For by such words He points to the devil, as the prince, not of His creatures, but of sinners, whom He here designates by the name of this world. And as often as the name of the world is used in a bad sense, He is pointing only to the lovers of such a world; of whom it is elsewhere recorded, “Whosoever will be a friend of this world, becomes the enemy of God.” Far be it from us, then, so to understand the devil as prince of the world, as if he wielded the government of the whole world, that is, of heaven and earth, and all that is in them; of which sort of world it was said, when we were lecturing on Christ the Word, “And the world was made by Him.” The whole world therefore, from the highest heavens to the lowest earth, is subject to the Creator, not to the deserter; to the Redeemer, not to the destroyer; to the Deliverer, not to the enslaver; to the Teacher, not to the deceiver. And in what sense the devil is to be understood as the prince of the world, is still more clearly unfolded by the Apostle Paul, who, after saying, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood,” that is, against men, went on to say, “but against principalities and powers, and the world-rulers of this darkness.” For in the very next word he has explained what he meant by “world,” when he added, “of this darkness;” so that no one, by the name of the world, should understand the whole creation, of which in no sense are fallen angels the rulers. “Of this darkness,” he says, that is, of the lovers of this world: of whom, nevertheless, there were some elected, not from any deserving of their own, but by the grace of God, to whom he says, “Ye were sometimes darkness; but now are ye light in the Lord.” For all have been under the rulers of this darkness, that is, [under the rulers] of wicked men, or darkness, as it were, in subjection to darkness: but “thanks be to God, who hath delivered us,” says the same apostle, “from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” And in Him the prince of this world, that is, of this darkness, had nothing; for neither did He come with sin as God, nor had His flesh any hereditary taint of sin in its procreation by the Virgin. And, as if it were said to Him, Why, then, dost Thou die, if Thou hast no sin to merit the punishment of death? He immediately added, “But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do: arise, let us go hence.” For He was sitting at table with those who were similarly occupied. But “let us go,” He said, and whither, but to the place where He, who had nothing in Him deserving of death, was to be delivered up to death? But He had the Father’s commandment to die, as the very One of whom it had been foretold, “Then I paid for that which I took not away;” and so appointed to pay death to the full, while owing it nothing, and to redeem us from the death that was our due. For Adam had seized on sin as a prey, when, deceived, he presumptuously stretched forth his hand to the tree, and attempted to invade the incommunicable name of that Godhead I which was disallowed him, and with which the Son of God was endowed by nature, and not by robbery.

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St John Chrysostoms Homiletic Commentary on John 14:27-31

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 21, 2011

Jn 14:27. “Peace I leave to you.”

All but saying, “What are ye harmed by the trouble of the world, provided ye be at peace with  Me? For this peace is not of the same kind as that. The one is external, is often mischievous and unprofitable, and is no advantage to those who possess it; but I give you peace of such a kind that ye be at peace with one another, which thing rendereth you stronger.” And because He said again, “I leave,” which was the expression of One departing, and enough to confound them, therefore He again saith,

 “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Seest thou that they were affected partly by loving affection, partly by fear?

Jn 14:28. “Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved Me, ye would rejoice because I said, I go unto the Father; for My Father is greater than I.”

And what joy would this bring to them? What consolation? What then mean the words? They did not yet know concerning the Resurrection, nor had they right opinion concerning Him; (for how could they, who did not even know that He would rise again?) but they thought that the Father was mighty. He saith then, that “If ye are fearful for Me, as not able to defend Myself, and if ye are not confident that I shall see you again after the Crucifixion, yet when ye heard that I go to the Father, ye ought then to have rejoiced because I go away to One that is greater, and able to undo all dangers.” “Ye have heard how I said unto you.” Why hath He put this? Because, He saith, “I am so firmly confident about the things which come to pass, that I even foretell them, so far am I from fearing.” This also is the meaning of what follows.

Jn 14:29. “And now I have told you before it come to pass, that when it is come to pass, ye might believe that I Am.”  As though He had said, “Ye would not have known, had I not told you. And I should not have told you, had I not been confident.” Seest thou that the speech is one of condescension? for when He saith, “Think ye that I cannot pray to the Father, and He shall presently give Me more than twelve legions of Angels” (Mt 26:53), He speaketh to the secret thoughts of the hearers; since no one, even in the height of madness, would say that He was not able to help Himself, but needed Angels; but because they thought of Him as a man, therefore He spoke of “twelve legions of Angels.” Yet in truth He did but ask those who came to take Him a question, and cast them backwards. (Jn 18:6). (If any one say that the Father is greater, inasmuch as  He is the cause of the Son, we will not contradict this. But this doth not by any means make the Son to be of a different Essence). But what He saith, is of this kind: “As long as I am here, it is natural that you should deem that I am  in danger; but when I am gone ‘there,’  be confident that I am in safety; for Him none will be able to overcome.” All these words were addressed to the weakness of the disciples, for, “I Myself am confident, and care not for death.” On this account, He said, “I have told you these things before they come to pass”; “but since,” He saith, “ye are not yet able to receive the saying concerning them, I bring you comfort even from the Father, whom ye entitle great.” Having thus consoled them, He again telleth them sorrowful things,

Jn 14:30. “Hereafter I will not talk  with you.” Wherefore? “For the ruler of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.”

By “ruler of this world,” He meaneth the devil, calling wicked men also by the same name. For he ruleth not heaven and earth, since he would have been subverted, and cast down all things, but he ruleth over those who give themselves up to him. Wherefore He calleth him, “the ruler of the darkness of this world,” in this place again calling evil deeds, “darkness.” “What then, doth the devil slay Thee?” By no means; “he hath nothing in Me.” “How then do they kill Thee?” Because I will it, and,

Jn 14:31. “‘That the world may know that I love the Father.’”

“For being not subject,” He saith, “to death, nor a debtor to it, I endure it through My love to the Father.” This He saith, that He may again rouse their souls, and that they may learn that not unwillingly but willingly He goeth to this thing, and that He doth it despising the devil. It was not enough for Him to have said, “Yet a little while I am with you” (Jn 7:33), but He continually handleth this painful subject, (with good reason,) until He should make it acceptable to them, by weaving along with it pleasant things. Wherefore at one time He saith, “I go, and I come again”; and, “That where I there ye may be also”; and, “Ye cannot follow Me now, but afterwards ye shall follow Me”; and, “I go to the Father”; and, “The Father is greater than I”; and, “Before it come to pass, I have told you”; and, “I do not suffer these things from constraint, but from love for the Father.” So that they might consider, that the action could not be destructive nor hurtful, if at least He who greatly loved Him, and was greatly loved by Him, so willed. On this account, while intermingling these pleasant words, He continually uttered the painful ones also, practicing their minds. For both the, “remaineth with you” (Jn 16:7), and, “My departure is expedient for you,” were expressions of One giving comfort. For this reason He spake by anticipation ten thousand sayings concerning the Spirit,  the, “Is in you,” and, “The world cannot receive,” and, “He shall bring all things to your remembrance,” and, “Spirit of truth,” and, “Holy Spirit,” and, “Comforter,” and that “It is expedient for you,” in order that they might not despond, as though there would be none to stand before and help them. “It is expedient,” He saith, showing that It  would make them spiritual.

This at least, we see, was what took place. For they who now trembled and feared, after they had received the Spirit sprang into the midst of dangers, and stripped themselves for the contest against steel, and fire, and wild beasts, and seas, and every kind of punishment; and they, the unlettered and ignorant, discoursed so boldly as to astonish their hearers. For the Spirit made them men of iron instead of men of clay, gave them wings, and allowed them to be cast down by nothing human. For such is that grace; if it find despondency, it disperses it; if evil desires, it consumes them; if cowardice, it casts it out, and doth not allow one who has partaken of it to be afterwards mere man, but as it were removing him to heaven itself, causes him to image to himself all that is there. (Acts 4:32, and Acts 2:46). On this account no one said that any of the things that he possessed was his own, but they continued in prayer, in praise, and in singleness of heart. For this the Holy Spirit most requireth, for “the fruit of the Spirit is joy, peace—faith, meekness.” (Gal 5:22-23). “And yet spiritual persons often grieve,” saith some one. But that sorrow is sweeter than joy. Cain was sorrowful, but with the sorrow of the world; Paul was sorrowful, but with godly sorrow. Everything that is spiritual brings the greatest gain, just as everything that is worldly the utmost loss. Let us then draw to us the invincible aid of the Spirit, by keeping the commandments, and then we shall be nothing inferior to the Angels. For neither are they therefore of this character,  because they are incorporeal, for were this the case, no incorporeal being would have become wicked, but the will is in every case the cause of all. Wherefore among incorporeal beings some have been found worse than men or things irrational, and among those having bodies some better than the incorporeal. All just men, for instance, whatever were their righteous deeds, did them while dwelling on earth, and having bodies. For they dwelt on earth as those who were pilgrims and strangers; but in heaven, as citizens. Then say not thou either, “I am clothed with flesh, I cannot get the mastery, nor undertake the toils  which are for the sake of virtue.” Do not accuse the Creator. For if the wearing the flesh make virtue impossible, then the fault is not ours. But that it does not make it impossible, the band of saints has shown. A nature of flesh did not prevent Paul from becoming what he was, nor Peter from receiving the keys of heaven; and Enoch also, having worn flesh, was translated, and not found So also Elias was caught up with the flesh. Abraham also with Isaac and his grandson shone brightly, having the flesh; and Joseph in the flesh struggled against that abandoned woman. But why speak I of the flesh? For though thou place a chain upon the flesh, no harm is done. “Though I am bound,” saith Paul, yet “the word of God is not bound.” (2 Tim 2:9). And why speak I of bonds and chains? Add to these the prison,  and bars, yet neither are these any hindrance to virtue; at least so Paul hath instructed us. For the bond of the soul is not iron but cowardice, and the desire of wealth, and the ten thousand passions. These bind us, though our body be free. “But,” saith some one, “these have their origin from the body.” An excuse this, and a false pretense. For had they been produced from the body, all would have undergone them. For as we cannot escape weariness, and sleep, and hunger, and thirst, since they belong to our nature; so too these, if they were of the same kind, would not allow any one to be exempt from their tyranny; but since many escape them, it is clear that such things are the faults of a careless soul. Let us then put a stop to this, and not accuse the body, but subdue it to the soul, that having it under command, we may enjoy the everlasting good things, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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