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 17:1-11

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 1, 2011

John 17:1 These things spake Jesus; and lifting up His eyes to heaven He said, Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may also glorify Thee.

Having given His disciples a sufficiency of things necessary for salvation, and incited them by fitting words and arguments to a more accurate apprehension of His doctrines, and made them best able to battle against temptation, and confirmed the courage of each one, he straightway changes the form of His speech for our profit, and turns it into a kind of prayer, allowing no interval to elapse between His discourse to them and His prayer to God the Father; herein also by His own conduct suggesting to us a type of admirable life. For the man who aims at serving God ought, I think, to bear in mind that he ought at all events either to be fond of discoursing to his brethren of things profitable or necessary for their salvation, or, if he be not so engaged, to hasten to employ the service of the tongue in supplications to God, so as to render it impossible for any random words to slip in between; for in this way the governance of the tongue may be well and suitably ordered. For is it not quite obvious that, in vain conversations, things blameworthy may very readily escape a man? Moreover, a wise man has said: In the |479 multitude of words thou shalt not escape sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.

You may find besides another thing to admire, which is in no small degree profitable for us. The beginning of His prayer has reference to His own glory and that of God the Father, and afterwards, in intimate connexion with this, He introduces His prayer for us. And why is this? The reason is one which convinces the pious man that loves God, and actually disposes the worker of good deeds to prayer. For just as we ought to perform good actions, and do all things, not turning to our own glory our zeal herein, but to the glory of the Father of the Universe, I mean God, for He says: Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father Which is in heaven; so also it best befits us, when occasion calls us to prayer, to pray for what redounds to God’s glory before what concerns ourselves, as indeed Christ also Himself enjoins us when He says: After this manner pray ye: Our Father Which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done as in Heaven so on earth. Give us this day our daily bread. What Christ here does, then, ought to be to us the pattern of prayer. For it was necessary that not an elder or messenger, but Christ Himself, should manifest Himself to be our Leader and Guide in all good, and in the way which leadeth to God. For we are called, and are in very truth, as the prophet says, taught of God.

And what He says to His Father it is right that we should consider with the greatest care. For I think we ought in a spirit of the most earnest attention to handle the investigation of His words, and most carefully search after the true intent of His teaching. Father, then, He says, The hour is come; glorify Thy Son that Thy Son may also glorify Thee. So far as the mere form of His language is concerned, one could think that the speaker had some lack of glory; but any one who considers the majesty of the Only-begotten would, I think, quickly |480 shrink from so grievous a conclusion. For it were great folly to think that the Son has any lack of glory, or falls short of the honour which is His due, though He is the Lord of glory, for so the inspired writings call Him. Especially when in another place we observe Him saying to His Father: O Father, glorify Me with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was. Then who can any longer doubt, or who is so demented and so far the enemy of all truth as not to know and confess that the Only-begotten is not bereft of Divine glory so far as His own Nature is concerned; but that since being in the form of God, and in perfect equality with Him, He counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God, but nevertheless descended to the humiliation of human nature, and emptied Himself of His glory, wearing this mean body; and from love towards us putting on the likeness of human littleness, now that the fitting time had actually arrived, at which He was destined, after fulfilling the mystery of our redemption, to gird Himself about with His pristine and essential glory; having wrought out the salvation of the whole world, and secured life and the knowledge of God to those that are therein; herein I say He shows that He has God’s Will and favour, and makes this speech to Him, saying that He ought to recover the majesty due unto His Nature.

And how does He ascend into heaven? Surely He That even in the flesh showed Himself able to accomplish the deeds of a God was not in this subject to another’s power, but ascended of Himself, being the Wisdom and Might of God the Father. For we must think that thus in no other way He accomplishes the words of a God with power. For all things are from the Father, but not without the Son. For how could God the Father perform any of His proper functions, if His Wisdom and Might, I mean the Son, were not with Him, and accomplishing with Him those things in which His power is seen in active operation? Therefore also the wise Evangelist who wrote this book at the beginning of |481 His work says: All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made. Since then the doctrine of His Consubstantiality compels us by consequence to think that all things proceed from the Father, but wholly through the Son in the Spirit, and that He, having slain death and corruption and taken away from the devil his kingdom, was about to illumine the whole world with the light of the Spirit, and to show Himself thereby henceforth in very deed the true God by Nature, He is impelled to say, Father, glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may also glorify Thee. And no man of sense would maintain that the Son asks glory from the Father as a man from man, but rather that He also promises to give Him glory, as it were, in return. For it would be very unbecoming, nay rather wholly foolish, to have such an idea about God. The Saviour indeed spake these words to show how very necessary His own glory was to the Father, that He might be known to be Consubstantial with Him. For just as it would entail dishonour on God the Father, that the Son That was begotten of Him should not be such as He That is God by Nature and of God ought to be, so I think, to have His own Son invested with those attributes, which He is conceived of as having, and which are predicated of Him, will confer honour and glory upon Him. The Father therefore is glorified in the glory of His Offspring, as I said just now; giving glory to the Son, by considering throughout His earthly career, both from how great, and of what, a Father the Only-begotten sprang; and in turn receiving glory from the Son by the consideration of how great indeed is the Son, of Whom He is the Father. The honour and glory then, which is Theirs essentially and by Nature, will be reflected from the Son on the Father, and in turn from the Father on the Son.

If any man concede that, owing to the degradation of His Incarnation, our Lord here speaks more humbly than His true Nature warrants, for this was His custom, he will not altogether miss arriving at a proper |482 conclusion, but will not quite attain to the truth in the inquiry. For, if He were seeking only honour from the Father, there would be nothing unlikely in setting down the request to the inferiority of human nature; but, since He promises to glorify the Father in turn, does it not follow of necessity, that we should readily embrace the view we have just given? |483

2 Even as Thou gavest Him authority over all flesh, that whatsoever Thou hast given Him, to them He shall give eternal life.

In these words Christ expounds once more to us the kind of glory whereby God will exalt and glorify His own Son; and He will also Himself be glorified in turn by His own Offspring. And He expands the saying, and makes the point clear to our edification and profit. For what need had God the Father, Who knoweth all things, of learning the kind of request? He invites then the Father’s goodness towards us. For since He is the High Priest of our souls, insomuch as He appeared as Man, though being by Nature God together with the Father, He most fittingly makes His prayer on our behalf; trying to persuade us to believe that He is, even now, the propitiation for our sins, and a righteous Advocate; as John saith. Therefore also Paul, wishing us to be of this mind, thus exhorts us: For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but One that hath been in all points tempted like as we are; yet without sin. Then, since He is an High Priest, insomuch as He is Man, and, at the same time, brought Himself a blameless sacrifice to God the Father, as a ransom for the life of all men, being as it were the firstfruits of mortality, that in all things He might have the pre-eminence, as Paul says; and He reconciles to Him the reprobate race of man upon the earth, purifying them |484 by His own Blood, and shaping them to newness of life through the Holy Spirit; and since, as we have often said, all things are accomplished by the Father through the Son in the Spirit; He moulds the prayer for blessings towards us, as Mediator and High Priest, though He unites with His Father in giving and providing Divine and spiritual graces. For Christ divideth the Spirit, according to His own Will and pleasure, to every man severally, as He will.

So far with reference to this. Now let us examine and declare what is meant by the form of prayer used. Father, then, He saith, glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may also glorify Thee. How then, or in what manner, will what I have said be brought to pass? I will, He says, that as Thou hast given Me power over all flesh, that so also, all that Thou hast given Me may have life eternal. For the Father glorified His own Son, putting the whole world under His rule: and He was glorified Himself also in turn by Him. For the Son was glorified of the Father, being believed of all to be the Offspring and Fruit of Him That is all-powerful, and at His pleasure puts all things under the yoke of His Son’s kingly power; and the Father was glorified in turn, so to speak, by His own Son. For since the Son was known to be able to accomplish all things at His pleasure, the splendour of His reputation has reached to Him That begat Him. As therefore, He says, Thou didst glorify and wast glorified, giving to the Son power and sovereignty over all, after the manner just now stated, so I will that nothing that Thou hast given Me be lost; for this honour will pass from the Father to the Son, and from the Son to the Father. For it was meet that all those who were wholly subject to, and under, the rule of the Word, the all-powerful God, now having been saved once for all, should also abide in blessings without end; so as to be freed from the power of death, and the dominion of corruption and sin, and should no longer lie in subjection to their ancient enemies. |485

And, as the words, Thou gavest Him authority over all flesh, may possibly perplex some simple-minded hearers, let us make a few reflections thereon which may be useful; without scruple, as it is necessary, even though language may be wholly inadequate to such an exposition. For the Lord will say this most suitably in the character He had assumed; I mean His humiliation and His lowly humanity. For listen to the argument: If indeed we feel ashamed, when we hear that He became a slave for our sakes, though Lord of all with the Father; and that He was set up as King upon His holy hill of Zion, though He had the power to reign over the universe by right of His own Nature, and borrowed it not from others; we must needs also feel ashamed, if He says that He receives anything as Man. And, if we marvel at His voluntary subjection, when we bear in mind the dignity that is His by birthright, why are we not also astonied when we hear this saying? For, possessing all things as God, He says that He receives as Man, to whom kingly power comes, not by natural right, but by gift. For What hast thou that thou didst not receive? will suit the limitations of created beings; and Christ is also a creature in so far as He is Man; though by Nature uncreate, in so far as He came from God. For all things are conceived of, as naturally and individually being in God’s hand, and are so in truth; but all good things in us are borrowed and brought down to us by Divine grace. When then, as Man, being appointed to rule over us, He says that the Father has given Him power over all flesh, we must not be offended at it; for we must bear in mind the scheme of our redemption. But, if you choose to listen to His words as having more reference to His Divinity, think on what the Lord said to the Jews: Verily, verily, I say unto you, no man can come to Me except the Father which sent Me draw Him. For whom the Father will quicken, them, as by His own life-giving power, He brings to His Son, and through Him gives them power and wisdom; nay. if He will to bring any into subjection to |486 His own rule, He calls them in no other way, save by the living and all-sufficient Might, whereby He rules over the universe—-I mean His Son. For men, who have of themselves no power to accomplish anything that is above and beyond themselves, borrow from God the power, which can bring all things superhuman into subjection; for through Him, kings have their dominion, according to the Scripture, and monarchs through Him rule over the earth. And the God of the universe, having this power in Himself alone, subjects to Himself the race of man, who are reprobates from His love, and have shaken off the yoke of His kingdom, together with all beside; receiving, as it were, from His own might, the gift of dominion over them, and subjugating thereby whatsoever He will. For God the Father subjects them to His Son, as to His own power; and through Him wholly, and in no other way, all things that exist become His willing subjects, through obedience to His yoke. For as He endows with wisdom, and quickens with life, all things through Him, so also He rules over the universe through Him.

We must observe, however, that it was not to Israel alone any longer, that the favour of the Divine love of mankind was confined, but it was extended to all flesh. For that which is wholly subject to the power of the Saviour, will wholly partake in life and grace from Him. |487

3 And this is life eternal, that they should know Thee the only true God, and Him Whom Thou didst send, even Jesus Christ.

He defines faith as the mother of eternal life, and says that the power of the true knowledge of God will be such as to cause us to remain for ever in a state of incorruption, and blessedness, and sanctification. And we say that that is true knowledge of God, which cannot incur the reproach of turning aside to aught else, or running after things unseemly. For some have worshipped the creature rather than the Creator, and have dared to say to a block of wood: Thou art my Father; and to a stone, Thou hast begotten me. For to such abysmal ignorance did miserable men relapse, that they even gave, in all its fulness, the great Name of God, to senseless blocks of wood; and invested them with the ineffable glory of that Nature, which is over all. He calls God the Father, then, the only true God, by contrast to spurious gods, and with the intention to distinguish the true God, from those who are so named in error; for this is the object of His words. Very appropriately, then, He first speaks of God as being One and One only, and then makes mention of His own glory in the words: And Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent. For a man can in nowise attain to complete knowledge of the Father, unless side by side, and in most intimate connexion with it, he lay hold on the knowledge of His Offspring; that is, the Son. For, if a man know what the |488 Father is, he cannot but know also the Son. When, then, He said that the Father was the true God, He did not exclude Himself. For being in Him, and of Him, by Nature, He will be also Himself the true God and the only God, as He is the only God: for beside Him, there is none other god who is the only true God. For the gods of the heathen are devils. For the creation is enslaved, and I know not how any worship them, or sink into such a slough of unreasoning and sensuous folly. With the many gods, then, in this world, who are erroneously so conceived, and have won this spurious title, the only true God is brought into contrast; and the Son also, Who is by Nature in Him, and of Him, at once in diversity and in identity of Nature, according to a natural Unity. I say in diversity of Nature, because He has in fact an individual Existence; for the Son is the Son, and not the Father. In identity of Nature also, because the Son, Who came forth from Him, is inseparably joined by Nature, with the existence of His Father. For the Father is one with the Son, even though He is the Father; and is so spoken of, because He did in fact beget Him.

This, then, He says, is eternal life, that they should know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent. Then one of those who are never weary of hearkening to the Scripture, and seriously pursue the study of Divine doctrines, will ask: Do we say that knowledge is eternal life; and that to know the one true and living God will suffice to give us complete security of expectation, and nothing else be lacking? Then how is faith apart from works dead? And when we speak of faith, we mean the true knowledge of God, and nothing else; for by faith comes knowledge: and the prophet Isaiah bears us witness, who said to some: If ye do not believe neither shall ye understand. And that the writings of the holy men are referring to the knowledge which consists in barren speculations, a thing wholly profitless, I think you will perceive from what follows. For one of the holy disciples said: Thou believest that |489 God is one; thou doest well: the devils also believe and shudder. What then shall we say to this? How does Christ speak truth, when He says that eternal life is the knowledge of God the Father, the One true God, and (with Him) of the Son? I think, indeed, we must answer that the saying of the Saviour is wholly true. For this knowledge is life, travailing as it were in birth of the whole meaning of the mystery, and vouchsafing unto us participation in the mystery of the Eucharist, whereby we are joined unto the living and life-giving Word. And for this reason, I think, Paul says that the Gentiles are made fellow-members of the body and fellow-partakers of Christ; inasmuch as they partake in His blessed Body and Blood; and our members may in this sense be conceived of, as being members of Christ. This knowledge, then, which also brings to us the Eucharist by the Spirit, is life. For it dwells in our hearts, shaping anew those who receive it into sonship with Him, and moulding them into incorruption and piety towards God, through life according to the Gospel. Our Lord Jesus Christ, then, knowing that the knowledge of the One true God brings unto us, and, so to speak, promotes our union with, the blessings of which we have spoken, says that it is eternal life; insomuch as it is the mother and nurso of eternal life, being in its own power and nature pregnant with those things which cause life, and lead unto it.

And I think we ought attentively to observe in what way Christ says that the knowledge of the One true God is perfected in us in all its fulness. For see how it cannot exist apart from the contemplation of the Son, and it is clear that it cannot exist apart from the Holy Spirit; for such is the nature of the belief in each Person of the Trinity, according to the Scripture. The Jews indeed, following in the steps of Moses’ commandments, rejected the many false gods, and betook themselves to the worship of the One true God, under his guidance. Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, saith the Law, and Him |490 only shalt thou serve. But those who still cling to the worship of the One true God, as not yet having complete knowledge of Him they worship, are called thereto to know not that the Creator of all things is one only, the One true God, but that He is a Father and has begotten a Son; and moreover, and yet more than all this, to gaze attentively on Him in His unchangeable Likeness, that is, the Son. For through the lineaments of that which is modelled, we can readily attain to perfect knowledge of the model. Very necessary then was it, for our Lord Jesus Christ to tell us, that those who have been called through faith to sonship and eternal life, not only ought to learn that the true God is One only, but that He is also a Father; and is the Father of One Who became flesh for our sakes, and Who was sent to restore the corrupted nature of rational beings, that is, of mankind. |491

4, 5 I glorified Thee on the earth: I accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do it. And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own Self, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.

Our Saviour’s speech now intertwines the human element in His Nature with the Divine, and is of composite nature, looking both ways; not merging overmuch the Person of the Speaker in the perfect power and glory of His Divinity, nor allowing it altogether to rest on the lowly level of His Humanity; but mingling the twain into one, which is not foreign to either. For our Lord Jesus Christ thought that He ought to teach His believers, not merely that He is God the Only-begotten, but that He also became Man for us, that He might reconcile us all to God the Father, and mould us into newness of life; purchasing humanity with His own Blood, and venturing His life for the salvation of the world, while, though He was One, He was more precious than all mankind. He says, then, that He glorified the Father upon the earth, for He finished the work which He gave Him to do.

Come now, let us follow out, as it were, two roads, in our investigation of this passage, and say that it has reference both to His Divine and His Human Nature. If then, as Man, He says this, you may take it in this way: Christ is for us a type and origin and pattern of the. Divine life, and shows us plainly how, and in what |492 way, we ought to live our lives; for after this fashion the commentators on the Divine writings give a most subtle exposition of the passage. He instructs us, then, by what He here says, that each one of us, if he fulfils his allotted task, and follows out to the end what is commanded of God, then in truth he glorifies Him by his righteous acts; not indeed as though He had any lack of glory, for the Ineffable Nature of God is complete, but because he causes His praise to be sung by those who see his acts, and are profited thereby. Yea, the Saviour saith: Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father Which is in heaven. For when we are made truly manly, and willing to do good works for God’s sake, we are not winning for our own selves the reputation thereof, but are carrying God’s worship into our actions, to the honour and glory of Him That ruleth over all. For just as when, for leading a profligate life displeasing to God, we are rightly called to account, as doing despite unto His unspeakable glory, and make our own souls liable to punishment, as the prophet tells, if we hearken to his voice: My Name through you is continually blasphemed among the Gentiles, on the same grounds I think that when we display pre-eminent virtue, we are then preparing for Him a song of praise. When, therefore, we have accomplished the work that God has given us to do, then and most rightly may we attain to a freedom of speech in His own most seemly words; and claim, as it were, like glory in return from God Who has been glorified by us: For as I live, saith the Lord, them that honour Me will I honour, and he that lightly esteemeth Me shall be lightly esteemed. In order, then, that He might show us, that we might suitably ask for glory in return from the only true God, I mean glory in the world to come, when we have displayed towards Him perfect and blameless obedience, and have shown ourselves keepers of His commandments to the letter, Christ says that He glorified the Father, when He finished the work upon earth that |493 He gave Him. He requests, however, for Himself in return, no foreign or borrowed glory, as we do, but rather that honour and renown which is His own. For we were bound to ask for it, and not He. Observe how in and through His own Person, He first renders possible to our nature this boldness of speech, on two accounts. For in Him first, and through Him, we have been enriched both with the ability to fulfil those things essential to our salvation, which are entrusted to us by God, and also the duty of boldly asking for the honour which is due to those who distinguish themselves in His service. For of old time, through the sin that reigned in us, and the fall that was in Adam, we both failed of ability to accomplish any of those things which make for virtue, and also were very far removed from freedom of speech with God. Yea, God, to that end, out of the abundance of His kindness, spake consolation by the voice of the prophet, saying: Fear not, because Thou hast been ashamed, neither be confounded because thou hast been put to shame. As, then, in all other things that are good our Lord Jesus Christ is the Beginning, and the Gate, and the Way, so also is He here.

But if the Saviour is seeking His own glory that He had before the world began, and we, suiting the meaning of the passage so as to make it apply to our case, maintain that we ourselves ought also with great zeal to do God’s Will, and so boldly ask for glory from above, let no one think that we say this,—-that it becomes a man imitating Christ, to ask for some ancient glory that was before the world began, as due also to himself; but let him rather remember that each ought to speak according to his deserts. For if Christ, like us, had only the human element in His Nature, let Him then speak only as befits the earth-born, and not exceed the limits of humanity. But if the Word, being God, became Flesh, when He says anything as God, it will be suitable to Himself alone, and not to those who are not as He is.

Considering, then, the passage as though He spoke it |494 more as a Man, we shall take it in the sense above given; but if we reflect, on the other hand, on the Divine dignity of Christ, we rightly think it has a meaning above human nature. We say, then, that He glorified His own Father, God, when He fulfilled the work which He received from Him, not being His servant or in any ministerial capacity; and this as of necessity, that the Lord of all might not appear in the lowliness of our nature and that of the creation which is enslaved. For to perform the duties of a servant, and submissively obey the Divine commands, is the part of men and angels. Rather, we say that He, being the Power and Wisdom of His Father, well accomplished the task of our redemption, entrusted as it were to Him; as indeed also said the Divine Psalmist, expounding the meaning of the mystery: O God, command Thy Strength; strengthen, O God, that which Thou hast wrought for us. For in order that he may clearly prove that the Son is the Power of the Father, though not separate from Him so far I mean as His identity of Essence and Nature is concerned, he first says, Command Thy Strength, bringing in a duality of Persons—-I mean Him that commands and Him to Whom the command is given—-he suddenly unites them in their natural unity, attributing to the Ineffable Nature of God in its entirety the result achieved; for he says in his wisdom: “Strengthen, O God, that which Thou hast wrought for us.” The Son, then, receives or has entrusted to Him from the Father, the work of saving the world. But in what manner, or how, God commands His own Strength, we ought to examine and explain, so far as it is possible humanly to interpret things which exceed man’s understanding. Let us take for example, then, some man among us, and imagine him learned in the art of making bronzes. Then let us suppose that he sets himself to mould a statue, or perhaps to repair one that is decayed or mutilated. How, then, will he work, or how will he repair, as he has determined? Clearly he will entrust to the power of his hands and his skill in the art, |495 the fulfilment of what he chooses to do. But if any one thinks his wisdom and power appear distinct in some sense from himself, so far as their conception is concerned, still are they not in fact distinct. For these also are included in the definition of his essence. You must think the case is something like this wise, but must not accept the illustration as exactly similar. For God is above all things, and must be thought superior to any power of illustration. The sun and the fire, taking this by way of illustration, may be thought to occupy a similar relative position. For, just as the sun commands the light which it sheds to illumine the whole world, and allots to the power of its rays as their function, so to say, to cast the power of their heat on all things that receive it, so likewise also the fire commands and enjoins in some sort the peculiar qualities of its nature to fulfil its peculiar duties; but we do not, on this account, say that the ray and the light are in the position of ministers and servants to the sun, or the power of burning to the fire. For each of the two works by means of its own inherent qualities. But if they appear to be in a sense not self-working, yet are they not distinct in nature from their own. Some such idea we must hold about the relation between God the Father and the Word Who is by Nature begotten of Him, whenever He is said to be entrusted with work to do to us-ward.

His Wisdom and Power, therefore, that is Christ, glorified God the Father upon the earth, having finished the work which He gave Him. And, as He brings His work to its fitting termination, He claims the glory which always attaches to Him; and now that occasion calls for the recovery of His ancient glory He seeks it. What work, then, has He fulfilled, whereby He says that He glorified the Father? For while He was the true God He became Man, by the approval and will of the Father, through His desire to save the whole world, and raise up anew the fallen race on the earth to endless life and the true knowledge of God. And this was in very |496 truth accomplished by the Divine power and might of Christ, Who made death powerless, upset the dominion of the devil, destroyed sin, and showed incomparable love towards us, by remitting the charges against us all, and giving light to those astray, who now know the One true God. Christ, then, having accomplished this by His own power, the Father was glorified by all—-I mean all those in the world who knew His wisdom, and power, and the mercy and love towards mankind, which is in Him. For He has shone forth and manifested Himself in the Son, Who is, as it were, the Likeness and Express Image of His Person; and by its fruit the tree is known, according to the Scripture. And when the works were fulfilled, and the wonderful scheme of our redemption brought to its fitting conclusion, He returns to His own glory, and assumes His ancient honour; save only, that being still endued with the human shape, He moulds accordingly the form of His prayer, and asks as though He possessed it not: for man hath all things from God. For though in the fullest sense, as He was God of God the Father, He was invested with Divine glory, still, since at the season of His Incarnation for us He in a sense diminished it, taking upon Him this mean body, He with reason seeks it as though He had it not, speaking the words as Man. The wise Paul also himself had some such idea, when he enjoins us concerning Him: Let this mind be in each of you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the Cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted Him, and gave unto Him the Name which is above every name; that in the Name of Jesus Christ every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the |497 glory of God the Father. For though the Son is high, inasmuch as He proceeded as God and Lord from the Father, none the less is the Father recorded to have exalted man in Him, for on man the degradation of his nature brings the need of exaltation. He prays, then, for the recovery of His own glory, even in the flesh. He is not wholly bereft of His own glory when He so speaks, even though He were to ask without receiving, for the Word, being the true God, was never robbed of His own majesty. He rather refers to the glory which belongs ever to Him, and its appropriate temple in the heavens, and His own return thither in the raiment of the flesh, on which the interval of His humiliation had been consequent. For that He may not appear to be claiming for Himself a strange and unusual glory to which He had not been accustomed in time past, He distinguishes it by the addition of the epithet “before the world was,” and the words “with Thine own Self.” For the Son has never been excluded from the honour of the Father, but ever reigneth with Him, and with Him is adored and worshipped by us and by the holy angels as God, and of God, and in God, and with God. And this is, I think, what the inspired Evangelist John means to teach us, when He says: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. |498

6, 7, 8 I manifested Thy Name unto the men whom Thou hast given Me out of the world: Thine they were, and Thou hast given them to Me; and they have kept Thy word. Now they know that all things whatsoever Thou hast given Me are from Thee,: for the words which Thou hast given Me I have given unto them; and they received them and knew of a truth that I came forth from Thee, and they believed that Thou didst send Me.

I have previously stated with reference to the passages I have just examined, not without care, if I may say so, that Christ made His prayer to the Father in the heavens both as Man and also as God. For He carefully moderates His language so as to avoid either extreme, neither keeping it altogether within the limits of humanity, nor yet allowing it to be wholly affected by His Divine glory; and none the less here also may we see the same characteristic observed. For, as being by Nature God, and the express Image of His unspeakable Nature, He says to His Father: I manifested Thy Name unto the men, using the word “Name” instead of “glory;” for this is the usual practice in speech amongst us. Moreover, the wise Solomon wrote: A good name is more to be desired than great riches; that is, “a good reputation and honour” is better than the splendour and eminence which wealth confers. And God Himself says, by the mouth of Isaiah, to those who have made |499 themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake, Let not the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep My commandments, and choose the things that please Me, Even unto them will I give in Mine house and within My walls a place and a name better than of sons and daughters: I will give them an everlasting name. And no man ought to imagine, I think, if he be wise, that the honour with which God will requite them will be paid out in bare names and titles to those who, with noble and virtuous aspirations, have wrestled with worldly pleasure, and have mortified their members which are upon the earth, and regarded only those things which are not displeasing to the Divine law; rather He uses the word name instead of glory, for they who reign with Christ will be enviable and worthy all admiration.

The Saviour therefore plainly declares that He has manifested the Name of God the Father; that is, He has established His glory throughout the whole world. And how? Clearly by the manifestation of Himself, through His exceeding great works. For the Father is glorified in the Son, as in an Image and Type of His own form, for in the lineaments of that which is modelled, the beauty of the model is always clearly seen. The Only-begotten, then, has manifested Himself, being in His Essence Wisdom and Life, Architect and Creator of the universe, superior to death and corruption, holy, blameless, compassionate, sacred, pure. Hereby all men know that He That begat Him is even as He is; for He cannot be different in Nature from His Offspring. He showed Himself, therefore, as in an Image and Type of His own form, in the glory of the Son. Such was indeed the language concerning Him among the men of old time, but now has He manifested Himself to our very sight, and that which we see with our eyes is more convincing than any words.

I think, indeed, that what we have here stated is not irrelevant. We must now, however, tread another path, |500 that is, enter on another line of speculation. For the Son manifested the Father’s Name clearly by bringing us to the knowledge and perfect apprehension, not of the fact that He is God alone (for this message was conveyed to us before His coming by the inspired Scripture), but that, besides being God in truth, He is also Father in no spurious sense; having in Himself, and proceeding from Himself, His own Offspring, Coequal and Coeternal with His own Nature. For He did not beget in time the Creator of the ages. And God’s Name of “Father” is in some sort greater than the Name God itself; for the one is symbolical only of His Majesty, while the other is explanatory of the essential attribute of His Person. For, when a man speaks of God, he indicates the Sovereign of the universe; but, when he utters the Name of Father, he touches on the definition of His individuality, for he manifests the fact that He begat. And Christ Himself gives to God the Name of Father, as in some sense a more appropriate and truer appellation; saying on one occasion, not “I and God” but I and the Father are One; and on another occasion, with reference to Himself, For Him the Father, even God, hath sealed. And also when He bade His disciples baptise all nations, He did not bid them do this in the Name of God, but He expressly enjoined them to do this into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. And the inspired Moses, when he was explaining the origin of the world, did not attribute its creation to a single person, for he wrote, And God said, Let us make man in our Image, after our Likeness: and by the words Let us make, and in our Likeness, the Holy Trinity is signified; for the Father created and called into being the universe, through the Son, in the Spirit. But the men of old found such expressions hard to understand, and the language obscure; for the Father was not individually named, nor was the Person of the Son expressly introduced. Our Lord Jesus Christ, however, without any concealment, and with perfect freedom of speech, called |501 God His Father; and by naming Himself Son, and showing that He was Himself in very truth the Offspring of the Sovereign Nature of the universe, He manifested the Father’s Name, and brought us to perfect knowledge of Him. For the perfect knowledge of God and the Creator of the universe standeth not in believing merely that He is God, but in believing also that He is the Father; and the Father also of a Son, not unaccompanied of course by the Holy Spirit. For the bare belief, that God is God, suits us no better than those under the Law; for it does not exceed the limit of the knowledge the Jews attained. And just as the Law, when it brought in this axiom of instruction, which was insufficient to sustain a life of piety in God’s service, perfected nothing, so also the knowledge which it instilled about God was imperfect; only able to restrain men from love of false gods, and persuade them to worship the One true God: For thou shalt have, it says, no other gods beside Me. Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve. But our Lord Jesus Christ sets better things before those who are under the Law of Moses; and, giving them instruction clearer than the commandment of the Law, vouchsafed them better and clearer knowledge than that of old. For He has made it plain to us, not merely that the Originator and Sovereign of the world is God, but also that He is a Father; and facts prove this; for He has set Himself before us as His Likeness, saying, He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father. I and the Father are One.

And this, as we suppose, as being God and of God by Nature, He saith openly 1, in His Divine character, to His Father; but He adds at once, speaking more as Man: Whom Thou hast given Me out of the world: Thine they were, and Thou hast given them to Me. We must think that our Lord says this, not as though some |502 separate and particular portion had been allotted and belonged to the dominion of the Father, in which the Son Himself had no part, for He is King before the ages began, as the Psalmist says, and eternally shares the Father’s rule. Moreover, the wise Evangelist John, teaching us that all things belong to Him and are put under His sway, wrote: He came unto His own, and they that were His own received Him not; calling those His own who knew Him not, and were rejecting the yoke of His kingdom. He spake this on this occasion, from the wish to make clear to His hearers, that there were some in this world, who did not even so much as receive into their minds the One true God, but served the creature, and devils, and the inventions of devils. Still, though they knew not the Creator of the world, and were astray from the truth, they were God’s; insomuch as He is Lord of all, as their Creator. For all things belong to God, and there is nothing that exists over which the One God is not ruler, though the creature may not know his Maker. For no man can maintain that the fact, that some have gone astray from Him, can avail to deprive the Creator of the world of His universal dominion; but he must rather admit that all things are subjected to His rule, through His having made them and brought them into being. Since, then, this is the truth, even they who were fast bound by the snares of the devil, and entangled in the vanities of the world, belonged in fact to the living God. And how were they given to the Son? For God the Father consented that Emmanuel should reign over them; not as though He then first began His reign—-for He was ever Lord and King as being God by Nature—-but because, having become Man and ventured His life for the salvation of the world, He purchased all men for Himself, and through Himself brought them to God the Father. He then, That of old reigneth from the beginning with His Father, was appointed King as a Man, to Whom like all else the sceptre comes by gift, according to the |503 limitations of human nature. For not in the same sense as that in which man is a rational being, capable of thought and knowledge (these things being included in his natural advantages), is he also a king; for while the former attributes are comprehended in the definition of his essence, the latter is extraneous and additional, and not among those which attach inseparably to his nature; for kingly power is given and taken away from a man, without affecting in any degree at all the definition of his essence. The dignity of kingship, therefore, is thrust upon a man by God as a gift, and from without: For by Me, He says, kings rule, and princes reign over the earth. He then, That ruleth over all with the Father, insomuch as He was, and is, and will be, by Nature God, receives power over the world, according to the form and limits proper to a man.

And therefore He saith: All things whatsoever Thou hast given Me are from Thee. For in a special and peculiar sense all things are God’s, and are given to us His creatures. Universal possession and power are most appropriate to God, but to us it is most fitting to receive. He bore witness, however, before His devout believers, to what was fitting to the servant, and prompted to obedience. For, He saith, the words which Thou hast given Me I have given unto them, and they received them and knew of a truth that I came forth from Thee, and they believed that Thou didst send Me. He expressly here calls His own words the sayings of God the Father, because of Their identity of Substance, and because He is God the Word declaratory of His Father’s Will; just as the word, which proceeds out of our own mouths, and by its utterance assailing the hearing of one who stands by, interprets the hidden mysteries of the heart. Therefore also the saying of the Prophet declared concerning Him: His Name is called Messenger of Great Counsel. For the truly great, wonderful, and mysterious counsel of the Father is conveyed to us by the Word That is in Him, and of Him, through the words He uttered as a |504 Man, when He came among us, and also by the knowledge and light of the Spirit after His ascent into heaven; for He revealeth to His Saints His mysteries, as Paul bears witness, saying: If ye seek a proof of Christ That speaketh in Me.

He testified then to those who love Him, that they received and kept the words given Him by the Father, and were besides satisfied that He came, and was sent, from God; while those who were diseased with the contrary opinion were otherwise minded. For they who neither received His words nor kept their minds open to conviction, were not disposed to believe that He came from God, and was sent by Him. Moreover, the Jews said on one occasion: If this Man were from God, He would not have broken the Sabbath; and on another, We are disciples of Moses: we know that God hath spoken unto Moses, but as for this Man we know not whence He is. You see how they denied His mission; so that they even cried in their shamelessness, they knew not whence He was. And that they did not admit His unspeakably high birth from everlasting, I mean His proceeding from God the Father, diseased as they were by the great perversity of their thoughts, and ready to stone Him with stones merely because of His Incarnation, you may easily satisfy yourself, if you will listen to the words of the Evangelist: For this cause therefore the Jews sought to kill Him, because He not only brake the Sabbath, but also called God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. And what the impious Jews said unto Him is also recorded: For a good work we stone Thee not, but for blasphemy; because that Thou, being a man, makest Thyself God. You will understand then very clearly, that those who truly keep His words have believed and confessed that He manifested Himself from the Father (for this is, I think, what I came forth means), and that He was sent to us to tell us the commandment of the Lord, as is said in the Psalms; while they who laughed to scorn the Word, Who was thus Divine and |505 from the Father, rejected the faith, and plainly denied that He was God and from the Father, and that He came to us for our salvation, and dwelt among us, yet without sin. Justly, then, does He commend to God the Father, those who are good men, and are His own, and have submitted their souls to the hearing of His words, and will ever hold them in remembrance; that what He said may be made clear, beginning from the time of His sojourn amongst us. And what are His words? Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, him will I also confess before My Father Which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father Which is in heaven. This also God the Father Himself long ago declared that He would do, speaking by the mouth of Isaiah: Ye are My witnesses, saith the Lord, and the servant whom I have chosen. Our Saviour then speaks, at the same time, in His character as God, and in His character as Man. For He was at once God and Man, speaking in either character without reproach, suiting each occasion with appropriate words as it required. |506

9, 10, 11 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for those whom Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine: and all things that are Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine; and I am glorified in them. And I am no more in the world, and these are in the world, and I come to Thee.

He once more mediates as Man, the Reconciler and Mediator of God and men; and being our truly great and all-holy High Priest, by His own prayers He appeases the anger of His Father, sacrificing Himself for us. For He is the Sacrifice, and is Himself our Priest, Himself our Mediator, Himself a blameless Victim, the true Lamb Which taketh away the sin of the world. The Mosaic ceremonial was then, as it were, a type and transparent shadowing forth of the mediation of Christ, shown forth in the last times, and the high priest of the Law indicated in his own person that Priest Who is above the Law. For the things of the Law are shadows of the truth. For the inspired Moses, and with him the eminent Aaron, continually intervened between God and the assembly of the people; at one time deprecating God’s anger for the transgressions of the people of Israel, and inviting mercy from above upon them when they were faint; at another, praying and blessing the people, and ordering sacrifices according to the Law and offerings of gifts besides in their appointed order, sometimes for sins, and sometimes thank-offerings for the benefits they felt that they had received from God. But Christ Who manifested |507 Himself in the last times above the types and figures of the Law, at once our High Priest and Mediator, prays for us as Man; and at the same time is ever ready to cooperate with God the Father, Who distributes good gifts to those who are worthy. Paul showed us this most plainly in the words: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. He then prays for us as Man, and also unites in distributing good gifts to us as God. For He, being a holy High Priest, blameless and undefiled, offered Himself not for His own weakness, as was the custom of those to whom was allotted the duty of sacrificing according to the Law, but rather for the salvation of our souls, and that once for all, because of our sin, and is an Advocate for us: And He is the propitiation for our sins, as John saith; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.

But perhaps someone, wishing to controvert what we have said, will exclaim, “Is not what the disciple says quite contrary to the Saviour’s words?” For our Lord Jesus Christ expressly in these words repudiates the necessity of praying to God for the whole world, while the wise John affirmed quite the contrary. For he maintains that the Saviour will be the Advocate and propitiation, not merely for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world. It is not hard to find the solution to this difficulty, or to say how the disciple may be seen to be in accord with his Master’s saying. For the blessed John, as he was a Jew and of the Jews, that some might not perhaps think that our Lord was merely an Advocate for the Israelites, and not in any sense for the rest of the nations scattered over the whole world, though destined to distinguish themselves by faith on Him and to be shortly called to knowledge of salvation through Christ, is perforce impelled to declare that our Lord will not only be the propitiation for the race of Israel, but also for the whole world; that is, those of every nation and kindred, who shall be called through faith to righteousness and sanctification. Our Lord |508 Christ distinguishes from His own those who are otherwise minded, and who have chosen to insult Him by stubborn disobedience; and, referring to those who are prone to listen to His Divine commands, and who have already submitted, as it were, the necks of the hearts, and well-nigh bound round them the yoke of submission to God, said that for them only it was most fitting for Him to pray. For to those only, whose Mediator and High Priest He is, He thought it meet to bring the blessings of His mediation; to those, I mean, who, He says, were given to Himself, but were the Father’s, as there is no other way of fellowship with God save by the Son. And He will Himself teach you this in the words: No one cometh unto the Father, but by Me. For observe how the Father, when He gave to His Son those of whom He speaks, won them over to Himself. And the Apostle, who was so conversant with the sacred writings, knowing this well, says: God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself. For when Christ acted as Mediator, and received those who come to Him by faith, and brought them aright through Himself to the Father, the world was reconciled to God. Therefore also the Prophet Isaiah taught us, in anticipation, to choose peace with God, in Christ: Let us have peace with Him; let us who are in the way have peace. For if we banish from our hearts whatsoever estrangeth us from the love of Christ, I mean the base lasciviousness which hankers after sinful pleasure and is ever inclined to the delights of the world, and is besides the mother and nurse of all vice, and leads us widely astray, we shall become united in fellowship with Christ, and shall make peace with God, being joined to the Father Himself through the Son, inasmuch as we receive in ourselves the Word That was begotten of Him, and cry out in the Spirit, Abba, Father.

Those then who have been given to Christ are the Father’s, but are not therefore removed from Christ. For God the Father reigneth with Him, and through |509 Him ruleth over His own. For the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity share the same kingdom, and their universal dominion is one and the same; and whatever is the Son’s will be subject to the glory of the Son and the Father; and also, whatever is said to be under the rule of the Father, over that the Son will surely hold sway. And therefore He saith: And all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine. For as in Them perfect identity of Nature is visible and evident, the opinion held about Their majesty is not various, and does not attribute anything individually to One apart from the Other, but considers one and the same glory, identical in every respect, to attach to Both. For He That is by right of His Nature the Heir of His Father’s Divine dignities will clearly have all that the Father hath, and will also show that His Father hath all that He Himself hath. For Either naturally reveals the Other in Himself; and the Son is seen in the Father, and the Father also in the Son. This kind of instruction the inspired writings gave us in the mystery. When, then, universal dominion is one of the dignities of the Father, it will belong also to the Son; for He is the express Image of His Person, and can endure no shadow of unlikeness or variance at all. He declares that He has been glorified in them, showing that His prayer for them is, as it were, a recompence well deserved.

What then is His request, and why does He endeavour to obtain God’s favour for His followers? I am no more in the world, He says, and these are in the world, and, I come to Thee. For while He yet lived in converse with His holy Apostles in the flesh upon earth, the consolation of His visible Presence was ever with them in their daily path, as it were to give instant succour to those in peril; and they were therefore sustained in courage. For the mind of man is readier to rely upon the things that are seen than the things that are unseen, for encouragement or pleasure. When we say this, we are far from asserting that the Lord is |510 powerless to save, if He be not visibly present; for any one who thought this would rightly be convicted of folly. For Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, yea, and for ever. But He knew that His disciples were very faint at heart, left desolate as it were on the earth, with the world raging round them like fierce billows, and ever ready to beleaguer with intolerable terrors and imminent and great dangers those who persist in bearing God’s tidings to the uninitiated.

Since then, He says, I come to Thee, for I shall soon ascend to sit on the throne of God the Father, and reign with Him, and these will remain the while in the world, I pray for them, for Thou gavest them Me; and as Thine and Mine now I rightly care for them, and I am glorified in them, for all things whatsoever Thou hast given Me are Thine, and Thine are Mine. And the saying is true. For those in the world who have been given to Christ, and are on that account the Father’s, have not therefore disavowed the duty of praising Him through Whom they were united to God the Father, and having been brought to Him, will remain none the less His. For He hath all things in common with the Father, together with His inherent Godhead and power. For there is one God in us, Who is worshipped in the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity; and we all of us belong to the one true God, being subject as servants to the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity. |511 (source)

5 Responses to “St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on John 17:1-11”

  1. […] St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on the Gospel Reading (John 17:1-11a). […]

  2. […] St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on the Gospel Reading (John 17:1-11a). […]

  3. […] St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on the Gospel Reading (John 17:1-11a). […]

  4. […] St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on the Gospel (John 17:1-11). […]

  5. […] St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on the Gospel (John 17:1-11). […]

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