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 Commentary on John 15:26-16:4

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 28, 2011

26, 27 But when the Comforter is come, Whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall bear witness of Me. And ye also bear witness, because ye have been with Me from the beginning.

When He says that both He Himself and His Father were hated by the perverse Jews, this hatred of theirs being gratuitous and without justification, He with good reason makes mention of the Spirit. He thus at once adds to the Word the completion of the Holy Trinity, and also shows that it was dishonoured, to the intent that the spectators of His miracles, who were guilty of insult against the Son, might also be convicted of treating with contumely the power which so far excels every substance, not only by refusing to accept Christ, even though He had worked great marvels to convince them, but also by their actions against Him. For they treated Him with an impiety which is shocking even to think of; and yet one might say, O senseless Jew, Christ was a worker of wonders before you far exceeding the glory of Moses and the glory of every Saint. For the saying of the Lord, If I had not done among them the works which none other did, brings back a thought before our minds. While then you crown with honours so illustrious Moses, the servant and minister of lesser things than these, you do not blush when you so perversely reject Him Who is immeasurably superior and a worker of far nobler deeds; even though He brought to their long foretold fulfilment the oracles given by Moses, and terminated the shadow by the truth. Our Lord Jesus Christ therefore of necessity joined the mention |431 of the Spirit to that of Himself and the Father. And He also shows what has been said to be true; that is, that if any one chooses to hate the Son, he will also utterly contemn the Father from Whom He proceeds. And how, or in what way, consider further.

For observe, when calling the Comforter “the Spirit of truth,” that is, His own, He says that He comes from the Father. For as the Spirit naturally belongs to the Son,being in Him and proceeding through Him, so also He belongs to the Father. But the qualities of Their Substance cannot be distinct, where the Spirit is common to both. Let not then any of those who are accustomed impiously to employ the language of folly lead us to the perverted opinion that the Son, executing as it were a kind of ministerial service, vouchsafes the Spirit that is received from the Father to the creature. For some have not scrupled perversely to say this. But it is more consistent to believe that since the Spirit belongs to Him, as He also certainly belongs to God the Father, He sends Him to His holy disciples to sanctify them. For if they think that in making the Son in this also a minister and servant to us, they form and utter a shrewd conception, surely it follows that we say to them: Ye fools and blind; do you not perceive that you are going back, and diminishing the glory of the Only-begotten, when you string together miserable sophistries from the ignorance that is in you? For if the Son ministers the Spirit from the Father, being ranked as a servant, surely it is necessary to admit that the Spirit is utterly different in Essence from Him, and perhaps His superior and far above Him, if the case be as you in your ignorance suppose. For if the Son does not proceed from the Father, that is, from His Essence, as you think, surely the Spirit when compared with the Son would be regarded as superior to Him. What then say we, when we hear Christ himself saying of the Spirit: He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine and shall declare it unto you? |432

Now, besides what has been mentioned, this also will necessarily follow. For if you consider that the Son performs a ministerial service, providing us with That which is of another Nature, that is, the Spirit proceeding from God the Father Which is naturally holy, the Son is not by Nature holy, but only by participation, as we are. For by the ignorance of the impious He is declared to be different in Substance from the Father, from Whom also the Spirit provided unto us by Him proceeds. It will then be possible, since the Spirit does not belong to the Son, but He Himself is sanctified by adoption, as is the case with the creature, that He may fall away from the holiness that is in Him. For that which has been acquired as an addition might surely be removed, at the pleasure of Him Who has bestowed it. Who then will not flee away from such doctrines as these? I think, however, that our statement is more conformable to the truth.

The truth then is dear to us, as are the dogmas, expressing the truth; and we will not follow those heretics, but, pursuing the faith handed down by the holy fathers, we declare that the Comforter, that is, the Holy Spirit, belongs to the Son, and is not introduced from outside nor acquired in His case, as He is in that of those who receive sanctification, in whom though not originally innate He is implanted; but that the Son is of one Substance with the Spirit, as also He is with the Father. For if we take this view, the power of the doctrines of the Church will not be reduced in our case to a polytheistic mythology, but the Holy Trinity is united in the doctrine of a Single Divinity. Showing then that there is a Unity of Substance, I mean that of Himself and God the Father, in the same Being, in saying that the Comforter is the Spirit of truth He declares that He proceeds from the Father, and makes plain and beyond contradiction that the opposer of Christ is wholly at enmity with God. For he who in any degree allows himself to contemn the Son may be reasonably considered to transgress against Him from Whom He proceeds. |433

When then, He says, the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, that is My Spirit, Which proceeds from the Father, is come, He will testify of Me. And how will He testify? By working marvels in you, and by you He will be a just and true witness of My Godlike authority, and of the greatness of My power. For He that works in you is My Spirit, and as He is My Spirit, so also is He That of God the Father. Therefore it is necessary to consider that they who, to confirm our faith, work marvels in us by the one good Spirit are alike insulted in the Person of Christ, in Whom dwelt, as Paul says, no mere part of the ineffable Divine Nature, but all the fulness [of the Godhead] bodily.

But when the Spirit bears witness, you yourselves also, He says, will bear witness with Him. For you have been eye-witnesses and spectators of what I have done among My own, being even with Me as My disciples.

16:1 These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be made to stumble.

The Saviour, having clearly set before His disciples the madness of the Jews, was perhaps about to add to what He had said, that these misguided men would reach such a height of disobedience, and so stubbornly refuse to listen, and in their cowardice advance so far in hatred of God, that even if there should be two witnesses of His glory they would decline to admit it—-and this though the Law openly declares that whatever is testified by two or three witnesses should be believed and received as unquestionably true. But He avoids mentioning this on the present occasion for good reasons. For His statement would thus have produced in them an immoderate grief, and, breaking the hearts of His disciples even to despair, would have made the entrance of faint-heartedness and cowardice into their hearts absolutely certain. For they might reasonably have questioned among themselves;—-If the masses of the Jews would not only lend |434 to no one a complete obedience, but also set at nought the Comforter though He astonished them with marvels passing description, and in spite of this would actually afterwards be found as guilty of hating Christ as they were before, and in hating Him of hating the Father, what necessity was there for spending their labour in vain? Why should they not rid themselves of their troubles, and choose silence in preference to teaching men unwilling to hear? Knowing then in all likelihood the thoughts that would agitate His disciples, He skilfully conceals what was too grievous to be told, and what would have been calculated to produce cowardice and faint-heartedness in the duty of teaching. But He rightly turns the drift of His speech into an exhortation to hold themselves in readiness and make vigorous preparation for the results that might be expected to follow in the future. For whatever comes to men suddenly and unexpectedly is likely to disturb even the mind that is stable. For the reception of that, the advent of which has been anticipated, the way is made smooth and its burden is lightened, since it has been already foreseen, and lost its edge by the expectation of certain suffering. Something of this kind, I think, Christ wishes to signify. For if, He says, I have already worked such marvels even before your eyes, the Comforter also will work marvels in you. And if the headstrong madness of the Jews is not diminished, and their conduct is the same as before, and even worse, be not offended, He says, when you find yourselves its victims. But keep ever in mind My words: A disciple is not above his master, nor a servant above his lord.

2 They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you shall think that he offereth service unto God.

He extends His forewarning of danger to that which is the most dreadful of all terrors, but not with the intention of arousing in His disciples an unmanly panic. For |435 this would not harmonise with His anxiety to stimulate them to a fearless proclamation of the heavenly message. His object rather was that, thrusting aside the extremity of fear, as already anticipated and for this reason having lost its edge, they might gain a complete victory over every evil, and consider even the possible approach of intolerable evils as of no account whatsoever. For what loss could the lesser evil inflict on those who do not even dread the greater? And how could those who know how to be superior to the worst objects of fear be dismayed by any of the rest? In order then that they might have their minds bent on enduring everything with a cheerful courage, and to convince them of the necessity of so far withstanding the malice of the Jews as not even to fear an immediate and cruel death, He not only tells them that these things will continually happen, and the devices or opposition of the Jews not be satisfied with merely turning them out of the synagogues, but forewarns them that their impiety will reach such a height of cruelty as to make them consider their extreme inhumanity towards them to be the path of piety towards God. It must be plain that those who held fast to the love of Christ actually were cast out of the synagogues by the Jews, and endured this punishment at the outset of their work—-when we are told by the Evangelist that nevertheless even of the rulers many believed on Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; and again: For the Scribes and Pharisees had agreed already, that if any man should confess Him to be the Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. But if, He says, any are indisposed to endure the malice of the Jews, let them then know that their devices against you will not stop here. For be not at all alarmed, He says, even though you must endure this suffering. Their audacity will reach such a pitch of wickedness as to make them suppose your death to be as an actual service towards God. And this we shall find happening in the case of the holy Stephen, the |436 first of the martyrs, and in that of the inspired Paul. For involving Stephen in a charge of blasphemy, and simulating herein the zeal that loves God, they slew him by stoning him. And some of the Jews were so enraged against the holy and wise Paul that they bound themselves under a curse neither to eat nor to drink till they had slain him. For we shall find this recorded in the Acts of the holy Apostles. Excellent then and profitable is His prediction, moderating by anticipation their fear of what was dreadful, and forging His disciples anew (as having as it were already suffered), into a courageous disposition. For the foreknowledge in the minds of the sufferers of the dreadfulness of their danger will give them strength beforehand, while it deprives the approach of evil of its power.

3 And these things will they do, because they have not known the Father nor Me.

He showed that the zeal of the Jews was a zeal not according to knowledge, as also Paul says, but that it had gone far astray and wandered out of the straight path, even though according to the purpose that was in them it seemed to be manifested for the sake of God. For these misguided men thought that by arming themselves with the command given by Moses they pleased God, the Giver of the Law, and actually supposed, that by opposing the prophetic utterances of Christ, they gained credit with Him. For it was for this reason that they persecuted so hotly the preachers of the message of the Gospel, but were ignorant that they were falling into every kind of folly, and by their insults against the Son were transgressing against God the Father Himself, and further, were convicted of complete ignorance of the Nature of the Father and that of the Son Who manifested Himself from Him. And, what is marvellous, they were eager to crown Moses, the wisest of men, who was a minister of the Law given by angels, with the highest honours, but did not shrink from loading with the worst insults our Lord |437 Jesus Christ, Who expounded the unspeakable Will of God, and said clearly, I do nothing of Myself: but the Father which sent Me He hath given Me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak—-even though God the Father worked marvels with Him, and testified by a voice heard from above: This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased. It is then unquestionable that if any one should choose bitterly to assail those who convey the Divine message, he will be in complete ignorance of the Undivided and Consubstantial Trinity. For such an one, when he excludes from the honour that is His due the Word manifesting Himself from Him, to suit his own conceit, knows not the Father. For would it not be received as an assured truth by those who are able discreetly to deal with the doctrine of the Trinity, that, since He is of the same Substance with the Father, He will speak in absolute conformity with the Will of the Father; and that, as He partakes in His glory, the dignity of the Father will be equally insulted when He is attacked? In these words then the Lord Jesus Christ defends Himself, and also accuses the audacity of the Jews; fastening thereby a bitter and dreadful censure on those who dishonour Him by their cruelty towards the holy Apostles. For the charge of transgression will not merely have reference to the Saints, but will mount up to Him Who laid upon them the service of apostleship; just as God said unto the holy Samuel concerning the children of Israel: They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me.

Most dangerous is it then to refuse to bestow on the Saints the honour which is their due; for the charge of transgression against them will mount up to Him Who gave them their mission.

4 But these things have I spoken unto you, that when their hour is come, ye may remember them, how that I told you.

He contends that mention has been made to them of these things for no other reason except that they might |438 know that, meeting for His sake the assaults of sin, they would at all events gain glory therefrom. For I have not foretold it unto you, He says, from any wish to enfeeble your courage or to inspire in you a premature alarm by the anticipation of suffering, but rather to give you foreknowledge, in order that by this means you may derive a double benefit. For in the first place, remembering that I forewarned you, you will marvel at My foreknowledge, and the time of peril will itself conduce to complete the security of your faith. For He Who knows the future must be by nature God. And bring this, too, to your recollection; He who is prepared and knows beforehand that he will suffer, will have his fear much diminished; for he will readily overcome all that seems to be dreadful, and will have his mind undisturbed, even in the midst of troubles. For I think the sudden and unexpected advent of suffering sharpens its sting; and for this reason the Psalmist says: I was prepared and was not dismayed. He bids His disciples then, for a good and necessary reason, to remember that He has foretold unto them the future. For it was certain that on this account they would believe Him to be the true God (for omniscience is peculiar to the true God), and they will readily believe that He will extricate them from their dangers.

8 Responses to “St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on John 15:26-16:4”

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