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

St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on John 14:15-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 24, 2011

15 If ye love Me, keep My commandments.

Having ordained that when men pray they must ask in His Name and promising that He will Himself supply to them that ask whatsoever they desire to receive, He takes great thought not to seem to speak falsehood, having in view the unholy slanders of such as are wont to be captious. For a man can see, and best out of the Sacred Writings themselves, that some approach and ask earnestly in His Name, and notwithstanding in no wise receive; because God is not ignorant of what is fitting for each and profitable for the askers. Therefore to the end that our Lord Jesus the Christ might clearly exhibit who they are in reference to whom the word has been spoken and stands good, and to whom is due the grace of the promise; He straightway introduced the |298 mention of the persons who love Him, in whose case the promise will assuredly be fulfilled, and conjoins with His saying the exactly-defined keeper of the law, showing that unto such and not unto others shall the promise of kindness and the bestowal of the spiritual blessings hold good and come to pass. For that oftentimes the bounteous hand of God is shortened in hesitation, cutting off from them that will not ask aright the consummation of their hopes, thou wilt easily understand, from what the disciple of Christ is at pains to write on this wise: Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, when ye will spend it in your pleasures. Wherefore also again he says, about them that are wont to be double-minded: For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord; for [he is] a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. For to them that ask for the grace that is from above, not for establishing of virtue, but for enjoyment of carnal pleasure and worldly lusts, God well-nigh shuts fast His ear, and in no wise grants them anything; for what things soever He forbids and wholly casts out by reason of the abomination that is in them, how could He grant them to any? And the spring of all sweetness, how could it give forth a bitter stream? But that unto the lovers of spiritual gifts with rich and readiest hand He distributes blessings, thou shalt easily perceive, when thou hearest Him saying unto them by the mouth of Isaiah the prophet: While thou art yet speaking, 1 will say, What is it? and by the voice of the Psalmist: The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayer.

So having determined and expressly declared that the enjoyment of the heavenly blessings, supplied, that is, through Him by the Father, is both due to them that love Him, and in very truth shall be theirs; He straightway goes on to describe the power of love, and instructs us excellently and irreproachably, for our profit, with intent that we should devote ourselves to |299 the pursuit thereof. For albeit a man say that he loves God, he will not therefore straightway win the credit of truly loving, forasmuch as the power of virtue stands not in bare speech, nor is the beauty of piety towards God fashioned in naked words; but rather it is really distinguished by means of good deeds effected and an obedient temper; and the keeping of the Divine precepts best gives living expression to love towards the Divinity, and presents the picture of a virtue wholly living and true; not sketched out in mere sounds that flow from the tongue, as we have said, but gleaming as it were and altogether radiant with brilliant colours, to wit, the portraits of good works. And indeed our Lord Jesus the Christ shows us this plainly, when He 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. For the proof of faith lies not in barren words or professions, but in the qualities of acts, and indeed the Holy Scripture says that it is dead when the works do not follow therewith. For the knowledge that God is One, it says, we shall find, not only in human minds, but in the unclean devils themselves; who also shudder, even involuntarily, at the power of Him that made them. Howbeit to keep the radiance of their acts concurrent with their faith is manifestly the beauty and ornament of those only who truly love God. So then the proof of love and the most perfect definition of faith is the observance of the Evangelic decrees and the keeping of the Divine precepts. And perhaps it would be in no wise difficult to add other things hereunto, akin in their drift; only that I suppose they do not suit the present occasion. Wherefore we must once more betake ourselves to such points as are more suitable to what lies before us. If ye love Me, He says, ye will keep My commandments. For indeed thou must understand once again and call well to mind that oftentimes, when conversing with His own disciples or even with the Jews themselves, He would |300 say: The words that I speak are not Mine, but His Who sent Me; and again: I speak not from Myself, but the Father Which sent Me, He hath given Me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak; and again: The things therefore which I speak, are not Mine, but His Who sent Me. And yet now again, notwithstanding He has confessed at large, up and down His discourses, that the words He addressed to us are God the Father’s, He here says they are His own commandments, which He has spoken to us. And no one that has sense will suppose that He speaks falsely, for let not this thought come into the mind of a Christian; and moreover He will of course speak truly, forasmuch as He is Himself the Truth. For it was not in the manner of one of the prophets, as if with the rank of a minister and a servant, that He conveyed the message from the Father to us; but as bearing such likeness to Him that not even in word was He haply observed to differ, but rather naturally to speak on such wise as the Father Himself might peradventure talk with us. For the exact similarity of essence leads us to believe that the Son also corresponds in His utterances to Him that begat Him; and inasmuch as He is Himself the Word and Wisdom and Purpose of God the Father, He says that He has received commandment what to say and what He shall speak. For we also ourselves individually see that our own minds well-nigh even lay a commandment on our speech uttered through words, as it proceeds to the world without, that it shall interpret what is in the mind itself. Small indeed is the force of the illustration as applied to God; but notwithstanding this, by taking the analogy of human things to assure us of the things that transcend them, we apprehend the Divine Mysteries as it were in a mirror and darkly.

16, 17 And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth: Whom the world cannot receive; for it beholdeth |301 Him not, neither knoweth Him: ye know Him; for He abideth with you, and shall be in you.

He mingles once more the human with the Divine, and neither reverts to the pure glory of the Godhead, nor yet altogether confines His range within the limits of humanity, but traverses both, wondrously and at the same time indistinguishably too, forasmuch as He is at once both God and man. For He was God by His nature, inasmuch as He was the Fruit of the Father and the Effulgence of His essence; and again, He was man, inasmuch as He has become Flesh. Accordingly He speaks as God and at the same time as man: for after this manner it was possible to preserve duly such forms of language as befitted the dispensation in flesh. Notwithstanding, while we are searching for the meaning of the passage before us, we say this: that at this point also, of necessity, our Lord has introduced the mention of God the Father, for the building up of their faith, and for the exceeding profit of the hearers; as indeed the argument will demonstrate as it proceeds. For when He bade us ask in His Name, and revealed, along with the other truths, a manner of praying unused among the ancients, promising withal even very earnestly that He will give whatsoever things we wish to receive: with intent that He might not seem thereby to thrust aside the Person of God the Father, nor yet to curtail the power of Him Who begat Him, the power (I mean) of satisfying the aspirations of the saints, He said that the Father would be a Co-Supplier for our profit, and would join in bestowing on us the Paraclete: adding also the words “I will ask,” as man; and referring peculiarly to the whole Divine and unspeakable nature what befits it especially, as in the Person of God the Father. For this was His custom, as we have oftentimes said already in the foregoing parts of this work.

Another Paraclete, however, is the name He gives to the Spirit that proceeds from the essence of God the Father and from that of Himself. For the kind of the |302 essence is the same in the case of Both, not excluding the Spirit, but allowing the manner of His distinctness to be understood as lying solely in His being and subsisting in a separate personality. For the Spirit is not a Son, but we will accept in faith verily and properly to be and to subsist as That Which He is; for He is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son. But [the Son] knowing that He Himself also both is in truth a Paraclete and is so named in the Sacred Writings, He calls the Spirit another Paraclete; not on the ground that the Spirit can skill to effect in the Saints something else perchance more than what He also can, Whose Spirit He both is and is called. And that the Son also Himself both was named and is a Paraclete, John will bear record, in his own compositions, when he says: These things say I unto you, that ye may not sin. And if any man sin, we have a Paraclete with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins. So Jesus calls the Spirit another Paraclete, willing Him to be conceived of as possessing the attributes of a proper personality; albeit having so close a likeness to Himself, and able so to work in exact correspondence what things soever He Himself might haply work, as that He might seem to be the Son Himself and no whit different: for He is His Spirit. And indeed Jesus called Him the Spirit of Truth, saying also in the discourse before us that He is Himself the Truth.

But any one will naturally say to those who suppose the Son alien to the essence of God the Father: “How is it, pray, that the Father gives the Spirit of Truth, that is, of the Son, not as foreign or alien, but as His own Spirit; notwithstanding that according to you He has the kind of His essence distinct from that of the Son, and, for of this there is no question, the Spirit is the Son’s? And once more, how is it, if it be so that the Son is of another essence, that He gives the Spirit of the Father as His own?” For it is written |303 that He breathed on His disciples, saying, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. So then will not a man suppose, and very rightly, or rather will he not be even firmly convinced, that the Son, being essentially partaker of the natural excellences of God the Father, has the Spirit after the same manner as the Father also would be understood to have Him: that is, not as something added or from without, for it were simple or rather mad to hold such an opinion; but as each of us has within himself his own breath, and pours it forth without from the inmost parts of his body? For indeed it was for this cause that Christ breathed on them even bodily, showing that as the breath proceeds bodily from the human mouth, so also from the Divine essence the [Spirit] from Him is in God-befitting manner poured forth. Forasmuch then as He is the Spirit both of God the Father and of the Son, how can it be but that the power They thus possess at once in division and in conjunction will be altogether one? For the Father is a Father and not a Son, and the Son is a Son and not a Father; notwithstanding, the Father is in the Son, and the Son in the Father; moreover, it is not the Father separately by Himself, or the Son separately by Himself, Who gives the Paraclete or the Holy Spirit, but rather He is supplied to the saints from the Father through the Son. For indeed on this account [we must understand that] when the Father is said to give, the Son also gives, through Whom are all things; and that when the Son is said to give, the Father also gives, of Whom are all things.

But that the Spirit is both Divine and not of another essence, in reference I mean to the Father and the Son, is I imagine doubtful to no one who is right-minded; and furthermore a necessary argument will convince us thereof. For if a man say that the Spirit is not of the essence of God, how then henceforward would the creature in receiving the Spirit be a partaker of God? And after what manner shall we be entitled temples of |304 God, and be so, if we receive a created or an alien spirit, and not rather That Which is of God? And how are those who have a share of the Spirit partakers of the Divine nature, according to the words of the sacred writers, if He is in the number of the things that are made, and does not rather proceed for us from the Divine nature itself; not passing through it unto us, as something foreign to it, but so to speak becoming in us a certain quality of the Godhead, and dwelling in the saints, and remaining for ever—-[as He does] if by cleansing the eye of their understanding by all goodness, and by unyielding earnestness in the pursuit of every virtue, they preserve the grace in their hearts. For Christ says that the Spirit is uncontainable and invisible for them that are in the world, that is, for those that savour of the things in the world, and choose to love the things that are on earth; yet that He is containable and easily beheld by the saints. For what reason? They who have an uncleanness hard to be washed out of them, and who have filled their own mind as it were with some unhealthy humour, do not narrowly consider the beauty of the Divine nature, nor yet accept the law of the Spirit, forasmuch as they are wholly tyrannised over by the passions of the flesh; whereas the good and sober, keeping their heart free from the evils that are in the world, voluntarily induce the Paraclete to dwell within themselves, and after receiving Him keep Him and (so far as it is attainable by men) behold Him spiritually, winning therefrom something large and great and enviable for their prize. For He will sanctify them, and will make them at once fulfillers of all good things, and will release them from the shame of man-befitting slavery, and will endue them with the prerogative of the adoption of sons. And Paul will bear witness to this, saying: And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. |305 

18 I will not leave you desolate: I come unto you.

Of necessity our Lord Jesus the Christ at this point finishes the discourse touching the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity. For He has already shown before, setting forth both words and facts for assurance unto them that love Him, both that He is in His nature God and is begotten of God the Father, and is of equal might and like mind with Him. For to this end He also at one time said: What I speak, I speak not from Myself; and at another time again: If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not. But if I do them, though ye believe not Me, believe My works. But besides these things it was in no small measure needful also that men should receive the right and irreproachable doctrine with reference to the Holy Spirit Himself; for so might the minds of His hearers be directed wholly unto Tightness of faith. Therefore I will set forth in few words what Christ teaches us by the passage before us. By saying that “Another” shall be sent unto us from God the Father, He once more, in accordance with His careful and wise plan, renders the expression of the faith secure. For it was only likely that some, not rightly understanding what was said, would think that He meant that the Holy Spirit was not of the essence of God (as in fact some of the witless did suppose), but that He was in His nature something different; for to say “Another,” among the more ignorant sort at least, might carry the appearance of some such ground for its use. So with intent to exhibit clearly that He does not wish the kind of distinctness which the Spirit possesses to be understood in any other way, save solely in virtue of His being in a peculiar and proper sense that which His Name implies, for the Spirit is a Spirit and not a Son, even as the Son is a Son and not a Father; after saying that the Paraclete shall be sent forth, He promises that He will come Himself; showing that the Spirit is not something other than what He is |306 Himself, forasmuch as He is a proper Spirit proceeding from the Father, and is conceived of as the Son’s, and for this cause is also called His Mind. For example, Paul says, signifying withal this very thing: But we have the Mind of Christ. So then, understanding the matter rightly and without all error, and rejecting as ungainly all perversion in any direction contrary to what is reasonable, and following the words of the inspired Scripture, we say that He is not something different from the Son so far as regards natural identity, but the same; yet with characteristics both distinct and personal. For, so understanding it, I imagine, the inspired Paul also oftentimes mingles Them and introduces Either as identical with the Other; the Paraclete, I mean, and the Son. For thou wilt find him saying: But if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His, and again directly after: And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of the sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. Hearest thou how he expressly confesses that they have Christ who have received His Spirit? And he says also in another place: For I think that I also have the Spirit of God. And he who spake this unto us, also says: If ye seek a proof of Christ That speaketh in Me; and oftentimes prays that in us also, who have believed, Christ may dwell by faith, howbeit himself receiving the Holy Spirit. And let no one suppose that we say that he annuls the fixity of name or person in respect of each, or that he says that the Son is not a Son but a Spirit, or at least that he does not know the Spirit as Spirit, but says He is a Son; this was not the aim in his mind, and indeed neither do we so believe. For he knows how to count the Persons of the Holy and Coessential Trinity, and teaches that each of the Persons signified subsists in His proper distinctness: notwithstanding he proclaims clearly that the Holy Trinity is fixed in absolute identity. Else how ean it be that the Spirit is and is called God? For do ye not know, he says, that ye are a temple of God, and |307 the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? But if, forasmuch as the Spirit dwelleth in us, we are made temples of God, how can the Spirit not be of God, i.e. of His Essence, whereas He makes God to dwell in us through Himself? So then by way of showing that the Spirit is not alien from His own Nature, the Only-begotten, having said that the Paraclete is being sent forth from the Father for the Saints, promises that He will come Himself and fill the place of a father, to the end that they be not found like some orphans destitute of the assistance of one to stand forth for them, and for this cause be found henceforth easy to be taken in the snares of the devil, and exceedingly easily assailed by the offences in the world, for all they be many and come as of necessity, by reason of the ungovernable madness of them that bring them to pass. So then for a shield and an irrefragable security unto our souls, the Father has given the Spirit of Christ, to fulfil in us His grace and presence and power. For it were impossible for a man’s soul to effect ought that is good, or to have power over its own passions, or to escape the great subtilty of the snare of the devil, if it were not fortified by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and had not Christ Himself by reason thereof within itself. And indeed the inspired Psalmist? composing for us through the wisdom that was in him his thanksgivings on this behalf, cried aloud unto God: Lord, Thou didst crown us as with a shield of favour—-meaning by a shield of favour nothing else than the Holy Spirit Who shields us, and constrains us, by gifts of unexpected strength, to [the fulfilling of] the good pleasure of God. And so He promises that none the less He will be present and will help through the Spirit them that believe on Him, albeit He ascend into the very heavens, after His Revival from the dead, now to appear in the presence of God for us, according to the words of Paul. |308

19 Yet a little while and the world beholdeth Me no more; but ye behold Me: because I live, ye shall live also.

Now that the Passion is close at hand, and brings along with it the moment of His Assumption, He says that He will be invisible to the world, that is, to them that value the enjoyment of things temporal before the Divine blessings, and set more store by earthly things than by heavenly. And by way of making our belief to the end thereof kindred and consistent with what has been already said above, we shall be right in saying, that God the Father has given the Paraclete, i.e. the Holy Spirit, of course through the Son; for all things are through Him from the Father. Notwithstanding He has come, not on all indiscriminately, both evil and good, but on them on whom it was fitting He should go forth. For so far forth as touches the most rich and unstinted grace of the Giver, no man of all in the earth remained a non-partaker: For I will pour out, He says in the prophets, of my Spirit on all flesh. Yet each man is unto himself an accessory cause of his possessing or else wholly failing to get the God-given blessing. For some men, because that in no wise do they strive to cleanse their own mind by all goodness, but love exceedingly to dwell in the evils in the world, shall abide non-partakers of the Divine grace, and shall not see Christ in themselves, forasmuch as they have a heart void of the Spirit. For this cause albeit they are ranged on the side of the Protector of the orphans they are torn in pieces by simply everything that is strong enough to overreach, be it a passion or a devil, or yet any other worldly lust, and by everything that can drag them down as it were and overpower them unto sin. Howbeit, unto the holy and them that were purposed to receive Him, He said, as was likely He would, forasmuch as they were going to endure none of those ills, I will not leave you orphans, I am coming unto you. And so He says He shall be invisible and wholly unbeheld by them that mind the |309 things in the world, after His Departure hence, I mean His Ascension into heaven. But He says He will be found visible unto the holy, forasmuch as the Holy Spirit is putting a certain Divine and spiritual flash in the eyes of their heart, and sowing therein all good knowledge.

For we shall either suppose that this is what He means by Yet a little while and the world beholdeth Me no more; but ye behold Me; or else turning aside to a different point of view—-especially when there is intertwined with His words the saying Because I live, ye shall live also—-we reason somewhat on this wise. For after His Revival from the dead, when He had effected for our nature the return unto that whereunto it existed from the beginning, and had made man incorruptible, He ascended, as it were by way of first-fruits and in the Temple of His own Body first, unto God the Father in heaven. But after in the meanwhile accomplishing a short time, He will descend again, as we believe, and will return again unto us, in the glory of His Father with the Holy Angels, and will set up the appalling tribunal before all men, both evil and good. For all created things shall come to judgment. And rendering becoming awards, corresponding to the life each one has led, He will say to them on the left, i.e. to those that have minded the things in the world: Depart from Me ye cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; howbeit to them on the right, i.e. to the holy and good: Come ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For they shall be with Christ and shall reign with Him, and shall revel in the heavenly blessings, having been made conformable to His Resurrection, and escaped the meshes of the ancient corruption, being endued with the long and ineffable life, and living endlessly with the ever-living Lord. For that they who have practised a life dear to God and exalted, shall be with Christ without ceasing, to wit contemplating His |310 divine and unspeakable beauty, Paul will make clear where he says: For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord; and again, to them that have chosen to mortify worldly passions: For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with Him be manifested in glory. So—-for I will sum up the meaning of the Lord’s saying—-the lovers of the evil things in the world shall go down to Hades and be banished from the presence of Christ; howbeit there shall be with Him and dwell with Him for ever the lovers of virtue, they who have kept inviolate the earnest of the Spirit, and being with Him of a surety they shall also behold His Divine Beauty without all hindrance. For, he says, the Lord shall be thine eternal Light, and God thy glory. And it is also likely that this is what the Lord means to make manifest, when we hear Him saying: Yet a little while and the world beholdeth Me no more; but ye behold Me; because I live ye shall live also. Howbeit in no wise will He speak falsely in saying that the time intervening, before His Revelation as it were, is a little while. For to God Who always is, even what is a long time with us counts utterly for nothing; and the Psalmist will testify this when he says: For a thousand years in Thy sight, O Lord, are but as yesterday that is past, and a watch in the night.

20 In that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you.

The meaning of the passage before us is somewhat hard to reach, and as it were demands that the inquiry applied to it be keen, and imposes very considerable delay on our discourse: howbeit we believe that Christ |311 will once more direct us into truth. Now some, albeit among the number of those once supposed among the impious heretics to be of eminence, refusing malignantly to confess that the Son is of the essence of God the Father, and is therefore in Him, conceive that the union is an accidental one and not one of nature; and in fact they have written—-belching forth thereby what proceeds from their own minds, not from the Holy Spirit—-that, forasmuch as the Son is loved by the Father, and Himself loves the Father in return, it is after this sort that He is in Him. And these demented men bring as a proof hard to overthrow, the words attached to the clause before us, to wit concerning us and Him; and indeed they say, resting withal their blasphemies on the staff of a reed, that as we are said to be in Him, and have Him in ourselves, and are not united to Him in the matter of our essence, but the manner of the union is determined by our capacity to love and be loved in return; so the Son also, one of them would say, is not at all within the essence of God the Father, but being wholly distinct in the matter of His nature, and being quite differently characterised, is understood to be in the Father solely by virtue of the law of love. For it is their aim, as we said just now, to show that the Only-begotten is an effect and a creature, and produced and honoured merely with His preeminence over the rest of the creatures, notwithstanding He is external to the essence of God the Father.

But forasmuch as concerning this we have already spoken at length, assaying thereby to show to the best of our power, that the Son is by nature in the Father and that the union which He has with Him is substantial, we will forbear further for the present to extend our remarks touching this subject. Howbeit we will not wholly leave as it were the ground of the argument clear for our opponents to overrun, but will set the battle in array against them in a few words, exhibiting so far as possible at once the mischief and the ignorance |312 of their wicked and loathsome artifice; and particularly we will say: If it is solely by reason that He is loved and loves that the Son is in the Father, and if by the same law we are in Him and He in us, and no different bond of union is discernible, whether we consider that which binds the Son to the Father, or us to Him and Him to us: in what sense or on what principle, I pray you, does He say that it is in that day we shall know the mystery of this? For seemingly we do not yet know that the Father loves the Son, and the Son also loves the Father; nor, I suppose, do we yet know our own condition, but a vain calculation mocks us, when we think that the Son loved us, and for this cause won us unto the Father, and that we also loved Him! For when He says In that day ye shall know, He shows that the time of the knowledge is not yet present; then, why did the Lord all in vain make our ears ring with His words: The Father loveth the Son? For that He Himself loves the Father, who will deny? And how, I pray you, said He also that His choosing to suffer in our behalf was a clear proof of His love to us-ward? For greater love hath no man than this, He says, that a man lay down His life for His friends. And why did He manifestly seek for love from us towards Himself, and that for this cause we should be eager to fulfil His good pleasure? For he that loveth Me, He says, will keep My commandments. For when shall we keep the Divine commandment, if at the present we make no account thereof? Forasmuch then as it is fit we believe that the Son loves the Father, and loves us and is beloved by us, how is it not consistent to conceive that the Son has purposed to signify something diverse from this, and not to define the manner of the union by the law of love; or rather that He has manifestly introduced it to us as after some different sort, when He says: In that day ye shall know that I am in My Father and ye in Me and I in you. But peradventure the opponent will answer, that |313 before the Passion Christ said such things as these to us, to wit that He loves the Father and is loved again by the Father, and He loves us also and we Him; but that after the Passion and the Revival from the dead, when we saw that He burst the bonds of death, we learnt that He is in the Father, forasmuch as also He is loved, and for this cause rose from the dead. For this cause also He is in us and we in Him, according to the same law of love.

But we reply: Your opposition is exceeding idle, and wholly without understanding, and a tissue of rotten words. But, excellent Sirs, consider once more that what we knew of a truth before the Resurrection from the dead, there was no need to learn after the Resurrection. For if it was only imperfectly that we believed that the Son is loved of His own Father, and Himself loves the Father, it was indeed necessary to await the Resurrection, with intent we might therefrom have the perfection of knowledge. But if the Father be worthy of belief when He says even before the Resurrection: He is My beloved Son; and if the Saviour Himself also speaks true when He says: The Father loveth the Son; and if the law of love is fittingly to be conceived in its entire perfection; why do ye foolishly strike at us with hard words? And why, thrusting aside the beauty of the Truth, do ye fashion you an unsightly lie, dragging outside of the Father’s essence the Son that is of Him and through Him, and withal inventing right rotten words, and contriving tricks of absurd argumentation? For that the Only-begotten loved us, and that we also loved Him, will be open to any one to see with utmost readiness, so he be willing to regard intently the nature of the truth: For being in the form of God the Father, He counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant. Then what, I pray you, was the ground of such actions? Was it not the law of love towards us? And how is it possible to doubt? And our willingness too on behalf of Christ and |314 readiness to abandon our very life to the persecutors, that we may not deny our own Lord, will it not supply proof to demonstration of our love to Him? But a man will also say that this either is entirely true, or will condemn the Holy Martyrs as having wrought a desperate struggle for Christ for no useful end, and endured so grievous a danger all unrecompensed. So then, whereas it is proved with all clearness that the Father has towards the Son love in perfection, and that in like sort also He loves the Father, and we Him and He us, what reason could there be in supposing that the discernment thereof is referred perchance to other times, when the Lord says: In that day ye shall know that I am in the Father, and ye in Me, and I in you.

For away with their idle talkings and the pretentiousness of their God-hating speculations! But we waxing bold in the consciousness of bearing the torch of the Spirit, will not hesitate to say what seems to be right, with intent to clear up the questions at issue. So then, having said above: Because I live ye shall live also, straightway He is found to have added: In that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you. Then to what man, upright and wont to think rightly, would it not be abundantly clear, that He limits a day, the time to wit of the knowledge hereof, upon which we ourselves also, renovated after His likeness, shall ascend unto eternal life, escaping from the curse of death? And something after this sort the Christ-bearer seems to me to indicate—-I mean, Paul—-when, revealing to us the Divine Mystery, he writes to some: For ye died and your life is hid with Christ in God; when then Christ, which is your life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory. For He shall transform the body of our humiliation—-this body assuredly, and not a diverse—-to be conformable unto His glory, and shall transmute the nature of man unto the ancient type with power unspeakable, changing all things easily unto whatsoever He will, none forbidding; for He is very |315 God That maketh all things and changeth the fashion of them, as it is written. So then at that day, or time, when ye also yourselves shall live—-for I do live, albeit made man like unto you, and clad with the body which as touching its proper nature is subject to corruption—-ye shall recognise clearly, He says, that I am in the Father, and ye in Me, and I in you. And we shall be disposed to think that the Lord said this unto us, not with intent we might suppose that He is in the Father according to the law of love, as indeed our opponents thought fit to believe, but according to the power of a deep mystery, which is also both difficult to conceive, and hard to utter; howbeit I will essay how I may be able to expound it.

Now I hold that the mind of any man on earth is very far from equal to the accurate exposition hereof; notwithstanding, in the fervour of love, albeit with powers of sight and utterance but little whetted, let us now consider the aim of the Incarnation of the Only-begotten. Let us, I pray you, examine the cause, wherefore, being as God in the form of God the Father, He counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, and endured the cross despising the shame. For in this way the depth of the mysteries before us will be manifest, so far as is possible, howbeit hardly so. But we shall learn how the Son is in the Father, naturally, that is, and not by virtue of the relation of being loved and loving as invented by our opponents; and we again in Him after the same sort, and He in us. Well then, one cause the wise Paul expounded was a true and most general cause of the Incarnation of the Only-begotten, when he said: For God the Father was pleased to gather together in one all things in Christ; and “gathering in one,” both the name and the thing, plainly involves the bringing back again and resumption of the things that have digressed to an unconformable end unto what they were in the beginning. Then desiring to put before us in a clear |316 light the methods of the gathering in detail, at one time he said: For what the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the ordinance of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit; and at another again: Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, He also Himself in like manner partook of the same; that through death He might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. And herein we have two methods of the gathering together which Paul expounded the doctrine of the Incarnation of the Only-begotten as of necessity involving; but a further method, inclusive of the others, was set forth by the wise Evangelist John. For he writes thus touching Christ: He came unto His own, and they that were His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on His Name: which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. So then it is abundantly evident and manifest I conceive unto all, that it was for these causes especially that, being by nature God and of God, the Only-begotten has become man; namely with intent to condemn sin in the flesh, and by His own Death to slay Death, and to make us Sons of God, regenerating in the Spirit them that are on earth unto supernatural dignity. For it was, I trow, exceeding good, after this sort to gather together again into one and to recover unto the ancient estate the sore-stumbled race, to wit, the human. Again, let us set each of the causes just given side by side with the Lord’s saying, and thereupon make such remarks that seem fit. For we must inquire in what sense it may be seemly to conceive that God the Father condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son in |317 likeness of sinful flesh. For albeit the Son were by nature God and had shone forth from His essence and possessed naturally the immutability of His proper being, and for this cause in no wise could stumble into sin, or turn aside anywhither into what is not right, the Father caused him voluntarily to descend into the flesh that is subject to sin, with intent that making very flesh His own, He might bring it over unto His own natural property, to wit, sinlessness. For, I conceive, we shall not be right in believing that it was with intent to effect this for the Temple of His own Body alone that the Only-begotten has been made man; for where were the glory and profit of His Advent unto us to be seen, if He accomplished the salvation of His own Body alone? But we believe rather that it was to secure the benefits for all nature through Himself and in Himself first as in the firstfruits of humanity, that the Only-begotten has become like us. For like as we have followed after not only death but all the sufferings of the flesh, undergoing this suffering in the first man by reason as well of the transgression as of the divine curse; after the same sort, I conceive, shall we all of us follow Christ, as He saves in many ways and sanctifies the nature of the flesh in Himself. Wherefore also Paul said: And as we love the image of the earthy, we shall bear also the image of the heavenly. For the image of the earthy, to wit of Adam, is to be in sufferings and corruption; and the image of the heavenly, to wit of Christ, is to be in impassibility and incorruption. So then the Word being God by nature condemned sin in His own flesh, by charging it to cease its activity, or rather so amending it as that it should move after the good pleasure of God, and no longer at its own will; and so whereas the body was natural, He made it spiritual. This then is one method of the gathering together; but the method that is most befitting and appropriate to the drift of the passage before us shall follow it. And it will be our task to speak touching eternal life and the slaying of Death, and how |318 the Only-begotten removed from human nature the corruption that came of the transgression. Therefore forasmuch as the children are partakers of blood and flesh, He also in like manner took part in the same with intent to slay Death, and that He that created all things unto immortality and made the generations of the world healthful, according as it is written, might remould once more the fashion of things unto their ancient estate.

And once again, albeit my argument be more minute than behoves, yet, as it needs must, it shall proceed, setting forth the ancient condition of our estate. For I conceive the sincere purpose to grasp the meaning of the words before us, will wholly escape the dangers that come of mere loitering. So then this rational creature upon earth, I mean man, was made from the beginning after the image of Him that created him, according to the Scriptures; and the meaning of image is various. For an image may be, not after one sort, but after many; howbeit the element of the likeness to God that made him, which is far the most manifest of all, was his incorruptibility and indestructibility. But never, I conceive, would the creature have been sufficient unto himself to be so, merely by virtue of the law of his own nature; for how could he that is of the earth in his own nature have been shown to possess the glory of incorruption, unless it were from the God that is by nature both incorruptible and indestructible and ever the same, that he was enriched with this boon in like manner as with all others? For what hast thou that thou didst not receive? saith somewhere unto us the inspired Paul, with exceeding reason and truth. With intent then that what was once brought into being out of that which is not, might not, by sinking back to its own original, once more vanish into nothing, but rather be preserved evermore—-for this was the aim of Him that created it—-God makes it partaker of His own nature. For He breathed into his face the breath of life, i.e. the Spirit of the Son, for He is Himself the Life with the Father, |319 holding all things together in being. For the things that are receptive of life both move in Him and live, according to the words of Paul.

And let none of us found hereupon any words of false teaching, by supposing that we said that the Divine inbreathing has become a soul unto the living creature; for this we deny, guided unto the truth of the matter by such reasoning as this. If any suppose that the Divine inbreathing became a soul, let him tell us whether it was turned aside from its own nature and has been made into a soul, or has it remained in its own identity? For if they say it has been on anywise changed and that it traversed the law of its own nature, they will be convicted of blasphemy; for they will say that the immutable and ever-unchanging Nature is altogether mutable; whereas if it was in no wise turned aside, but has ever remained what it always was, after coming forth from God, to wit His inbreathing, how did it deflect unto sin, and become susceptible of so great diversity of passions? For, I trow, they would not say that there is, in anywise, in the Divine Nature the possibility of transgression. But to get over the words due to the subject before us without using lengthy proofs, I say we must repeat this once again and say,—-that no one, I imagine, rightly minded would suppose that the Breath which proceeded from the Divine Essence became the creature’s soul, but that after the creature was ensouled, or rather had attained unto the propriety of its perfect nature by means of both, soul and body to wit, then like a stamp of His own Nature the Creator impressed on it the Holy Spirit, i. e. the Breath of Life, whereby it became moulded unto the archetypal Beauty, and completed after the image of Him that created it, enabled unto every form of excellence, by virtue of the Spirit given to dwell in it. But whereas, being free of will, and entrusted with the reins of its own purposes—-for this also is an element in the image, forasmuch as God has power over His own purposes—-it turned and has |320 fallen—-but how this came to pass the Holy Scripture must teach you, for the account of it therein is plain—-God the Father both determined and took in hand to gather together once more in Christ the nature of man unto its ancient estate, and willing it accomplished it withal. So then it naturally follows that we should observe how it has come to pass. It was not otherwise possible for man, forasmuch as he was of a nature that was perishing, to escape death, save by recovering that ancient grace, and partaking once more in God Who holdeth all things together in being and preserveth them in life through the Son in the Spirit. Therefore He hath become partaker of blood and flesh, i.e. He hath become man, being by nature Life, and begotten of the Life that is by nature, i.e. of God the Father—-to wit, His Only-begotten Word, with intent that ineffably and inexpressibly and as He alone could skill to do, uniting Himself with the flesh that by the law of its own nature was perishing, He might bring it back unto His own Life and make it through Himself partaker of God the Father. For He is Mediator between God and men, according as it is written, knit unto God the Father naturally as God and of Him, and again unto men as man; and withal having in Himself the Father and being Himself in the Father; for He is the impress and effulgence of His Person, and not distinct from the Essence, whereof He is impress and wherefrom He proceeds as effulgence; but both being Himself in It, and having It in Himself; and again having us in Himself according as He wears our nature and our body has become entitled the Body of the Word. For the Word was made flesh, according to the utterance of John. And He wears our nature, remoulding it unto His own Life. And He is also Himself in us; for we have all been made partakers of Him, and have Him in ourselves through the Spirit; for, for this cause we have Both, being made partakers of the Divine Nature, and are entitled sons, after this sort having in us also the Father Himself through the Son. |321 And Paul will testify hereof where he says: Because ye are sons God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. For His Spirit is not something diverse from the Son, I mean as touching the law of identity, to wit, identity of nature.

This being the result of the progress of our discourse of these things, let us now take the meaning of what has been set forth, and adapt it to the interpretation of our Saviour’s words: For in that day ye shall know, He says, that I am in the Father, and ye in Me, and I in you. For I live Myself, He says, for I am Life by nature, and have shown the Temple of My own Body alive; but when ye also yourselves, albeit ye are of a corruptible nature, shall behold yourselves living in like manner as I do, then indeed ye shall know exceeding clearly, that I, being Life by nature, did knit you through Myself unto God the Father, Who is also Himself by nature Life, making you partakers as it were and sharers in His Incorruption. For naturally am I in the Father—-for I am the Fruit of His Essence and Its real Offspring, subsisting in It, having shone forth from It, Life of Life—-and ye are in Me and I in you, forasmuch as I appeared as a man Myself, and made you partakers of the Divine Nature by putting My Spirit to dwell in you. For Christ is in us through the Spirit, converting that which has a natural tendency to corruption into incorruption, and transferring it from the condition of dying unto that which is otherwise. Wherefore also Paul says that He that raised Jesus Christ from the dead, shall quicken also your mortal bodies, through His Spirit that dwelleth in you. For albeit the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, yet He comes through the Son, and is His Own; for all things are through the Son from the Father. For that it was through the Spirit we were wrought anew unto eternal life, the Divine Psalmist will bear us record, when he cries as unto the God of all: When Thou openest Thine Hand, all things shall be filled with goodness; when |322 Thou turnest away Thy Face they shall be troubled; Thou shalt take away their breath and they shall fail and shall turn again to their dust. Thou shalt send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be made, and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth. Hearest thou how the transgression that was in Adam, and the “turning away” as it were from the Divine precepts, sore troubled the nature of man, and made it return to its own earth? But when God sent forth His Spirit, and made us partakers of His own Nature, and through Him renewed the face of the earth, we were transfigured unto newness of life, casting off the corruption that comes of sin, and once more grasping eternal life, through the grace and love towards mankind of our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom and with Whom unto God the Father, be glory with the Holy Spirit unto the ages.

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. (source)

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2 Responses to “St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on John 14:15-21”

  1. […] St Cyril of Alexandria on the Gospel (John 14:15-21). […]

  2. […] St Cyril of Alexandria on the Gospel (John 14:15-21). […]

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