The Divine Lamp

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

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 6:47-59

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 22, 2011

This post contains commentary on verses 47-59.

Ver 47. Verily, verily, I say to you, He that believes in me has everlasting life.48. I am that bread of life.49. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.50. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.51a. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever

AUG. Our Lord wishes to reveal what He is; Verily, verily, I say to you, He that believes in Me, has everlasting life. As if He said; He that believes in Me has Me: but what is it to have Me? It is to have eternal life: for the Word which was in the beginning with God is life eternal, and the life was the light of men. Life underwent death, that life might kill death.

CHRYS. The multitude being urgent for bodily food, and reminding Him of that which was given to their fathers, He tells them that the manna was only a type of that spiritual food which was now to be tasted in reality, I am that bread of life.

CHRYS. He calls Himself the bread of life, because He constitutes one life, both present, and to come.

AUG. And because they had taunted Him with the manna, He adds, Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. Your fathers they are, for you are like them; murmuring sons of murmuring fathers. For in nothing did that people offend God more, than by their murmurs against Him. And therefore are they dead, because what they saw they believed, what they did not see they believed not, nor understood.

CHRYS. The addition, In the wilderness, is not put in without meaning, but to remind them how short a time the manna lasted; only till the entrance into the land of promise. And because the bread which Christ gave seemed inferior to the manna, in that the latter had come down from heaven, while the former was of this world, He adds, This is the bread which comes down from heaven.

AUG. This was the bread the manna typified, this was the bread the altar typified. Both the one and the other were sacraments, differing in symbol, alike in the thing signified. Hear the Apostle, They did all eat the same spiritual meat.

CHRYS. He then gives them a strong reason for believing that they were given for higher privileges than their fathers. Their fathers eat manna and were dead; whereas of this bread He says, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. The difference of the two is evident from the difference of their ends. By bread here is meant wholesome doctrine, and faith in Him, or His body: for these are the preservatives of the soul.

AUG. But are we, who eat the bread that comes down from heaven, relieved from death? From visible and carnal death, the death of the body, we are not: we shall die, even as they died. But from spiritual death which their fathers suffered, we are delivered. Moses and many, acceptable of God, eat the manna, and died not, because they understood that visible food in a spiritual sense, spiritually tasted it, and were spiritually filled with it. And we too at this day receive the visible food; but the Sacrament is one thing, the virtue of the Sacrament another. Many a one receives from the Altar, and perishes in receiving; eating and drinking his own damnation, as said the Apostle. To eat then the heavenly bread spiritually, is to bring to the Altar an innocent mind. Sins, though they be daily, are not deadly. Before you go to the Altar, attend to the prayer you repeat: Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. If you forgive, you are forgiven: approach confidently; it is bread, not poison. None then that eat of this bread, shall die. But we speak of the virtue of the Sacrament, not the visible Sacrament itself; of the inward, not of the outward eater.

ALCUIN. Therefore I say, He that eats this bread, dies not: I am the living bread which came down from heaven.

THEOPHYL. By becoming incarnate, He was not then first man, and afterwards assumed Divinity, as Nestorius fables.

AUG. The manna too came down from heaven; but the manna was shadow, this is substance.

ALCUIN. But men must be quickened by my life: If any man eat of this bread, he shall live, not only now by faith and righteousness, but for ever.

51b. – And the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

AUG. Our Lord pronounces Himself to be bread, not only in respect of that Divinity, which feeds all things, but also in respect of that human nature, which was assumed by the Word of God: And the bread, He says, that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

BEDE. This bread our Lord then gave, when He delivered to His disciple the mystery of His Body and Blood, and offered Himself to God the Father on the altar of the cross. For the life of the world, i.e. not for the elements, but for mankind, who are called the world.

THEOPHYL. Which I shall give: this shows His power; for it shows that He was not crucified as a servant, in subjection to the Father, but of his own accord; for though He is said to have been given up by the Father, yet He delivered Himself up also. And observe, the bread which is taken by us in the mysteries, is not only the sign of Christ’s flesh, but is itself the very flesh of Christ; for He does not say, The bread which I will give, is the sign of My flesh, but, is My flesh. The bread is by a mystical benediction conveyed in unutterable words, and by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, transmuted into the flesh of Christ. But why see we not the flesh? Because, if the flesh were seen, it would revolt us to such a degree, that we should be unable to partake of it. And therefore in condescension to our infirmity, the mystical food is given to us under an appearance suitable to our minds. He gave His flesh for the life of the world, in that, by dying, He destroyed death. By the life of the world too, I understand the resurrection; our Lord’s death having brought about the resurrection of the whole human race. It may mean too the sanctified, beatified, spiritual life; for though all have not attained to this life, yet our Lord gave Himself for the world, and, as far as lies in Him, the whole world is sanctified.

AUG. But when does flesh receive the bread which He calls His flesh? The faithful know and receive the Body of Christ, if they labor to be the body of Christ. And they become the body of Christ, if they study to live by the Spirit of Christ: for that which lives by the Spirit of Christ, is the body of Christ. This bread the Apostle sets forth, where he says, We being many are one body. O sacrament of mercy, O sign of unity, O bond of love! Whoso wishes to live, let him draw nigh, believe, be incorporated, that he may be quickened.

Ver  52. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?53. Then Jesus said to them, Verily, verily, I say to you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you.54. Whoso eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

AUG. The Jews not understanding what was the bread of A peace, strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us His flesh to eat? Whereas they who eat the bread strive not among themselves, for God makes them to dwell together in unity.

BEDE. The Jews thought that our Lord would divide His flesh into pieces, and give it them to eat: and so mistaking Him, strove.

CHRYS. AS they thought it impossible that He should do as He said, i.e. give them His flesh to eat, He shows them that it was not only possible, but necessary: Then said Jesus to them, Verily, verily, I say to you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you.

AUG. As if He said, The sense in which that bread is eaten, and the mode of eating it, you know not; but, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you.BEDE And that this might not seem addressed to them alone, He declares universally, Whoso eats My flash, and drinks My blood, has eternal life.

AUG. And that they might not understand him to speak of this life, and make that an occasion of striving, He adds, has eternal life. This then he has not who eats not that flesh, nor drinks that blood. The temporal life men may have without Him, the eternal they cannot. This is not true of material food. If we do not take that indeed, we shall not live, neither do we live, if we take it: for either disease, or old age, or some accident kills us after all. Whereas this meat and drink, i.e. the Body and Blood of Christ, is such that he that takes it not has not life, and he that takes it has life, even life eternal.

THEOPHYL. For it is not the flesh of man simply, but of God: and it makes man divine, by inebriating him, as it were, with divinity.

AUG. There are some who promise men deliverance from eternal punishment, if they are washed in Baptism and partake of Christ’s Body, whatever lives they live. The Apostle however contradicts them, where he says, The works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkeness, revelings, and such like; of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Let us examine what is meant here. He who is in the unity of His body, (i.e. one of the Christian members,) the Sacrament of which body the faithful receive when they communicate at the Altar; he is truly said to eat the body, and drink the blood of Christ. And heretics and schismatics, who are cut off from the unity of the body, may receive the same Sacrament; but it does not profit them, may, rather is hurtful, as tending to make their judgment heavier, or their forgiveness later. Nor ought they to feel secure in their abandoned and damnable ways, who, by the iniquity of their lives, desert righteousness, i.e. Christ; either by fornication, or other sins of the like kind. Such are not to be said to eat the body of Christ; forasmuch as they are not to be counted among the members of Christ For, not to mention other things, men cannot be members of Christ, and at the same time members of an harlot.

AUG. By this meat and drink then, He would have us understand the society of His body, and His members, which is the Church, in the predestined, and called, and justified, and glorified saints and believers. The Sacrament whereof, i.e. Of the unity of the body and blood of Christ, is administered, in some places daily, in others on such and such days from the Lord’s Table: and from the Lord’s Table it is received by some to their salvation, by others to their condemnation. But the thing itself of which this is the Sacrament, is for our salvation to every one who partakes of it, for condemnation to none. To prevent us supposing that those who, by virtue of that meat and drink, were promised eternal life, would not die in the body, Ho adds, And I will raise him up at the last day; i.e. to that eternal life, a spiritual rest, which the spirits of the Saints enter into. But neither shall the body be defrauded of eternal life, but shall be endowed With it at the resurrection of the dead in the last day.

Ver 55. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.56. He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him.57. As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eats me, even he shall live by me.58. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eats of this bread shall live for ever.59. These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.

BEDE. He had said above, Whoso eats My flesh and drinks My blood, has eternal life: and now to show the great difference between bodily meat and drink, and the spiritual mystery of His body and blood, Ho adds, For My flesh its meat indeed, and My blood its drink indeed.

CHRYS. i.e. this is no enigma, or parable, but you must really eat the body of Christ; or He means to say that the true meat was He who saved the soul.

AUG. Or thus: Whereas men desire meat and drink to satisfy hunger and thirst, this effect is only really produced by that meat and drink, which makes the receivers of it immortal and incorruptible; i.e. the society of Saints, where is peace and unity, full and perfect. On which account our Lord has chosen for the types of His body and blood, things which become one out of many. Bread is a quantity of grains united into one mass, wine a quantity of grapes squeezed together. Then He explains what it is to eat His body and drink His blood: He that eats My flesh, and drinks My blood, dwells in Me, and I in him. So then to partake of that meat and that drink, is to dwell in Christ and Christ in you. He that dwells not in Christ, and in whom Christ dwells not, neither eats His flesh, nor drinks His blood: but rather eats and drinks the sacrament of it to his own damnation.

CHRYS. Or, having given a promise of eternal life to those that eat Him, He says this to confirm it: He that eats My flesh, and drinks My blood, dwells in Me, and I in him.

AUG. As for those, as indeed there are many, who either eat that flesh and drink that blood hypocritically, or, who having eaten, become apostates, do they dwell in Christ, and Christ in them? Nay, but there is a certain mode of eating that flesh, and drinking that blood, in the which he that eats and drinks, dwells in Christ, and Christ in him.

AUG. That is to say, such an one eats the body and drinks the blood of Christ not in the sacramental sense, but in reality.

CHRYS. And because I live, it is manifest that he will live also: As the living Father has sent Me, and I live by the Father, even so he that eats Me, even he shall live by Me. As if He said, As the Father lives, so do I live; adding, lest you should think Him unbegotten, By the Father, meaning that He has His source in the Father. He that eats Me, even he shall live by Me; the life here meant is not life simply, but the justified life: for even unbelievers live, who never eat of that flesh at all. Nor is it of the general resurrection He speaks, (for all will rise again,) but of the resurrection to glory, and reward.

AUG. He said not, As I eat the Father, and live by the Father, so he that eats Me, even he shall live by Me. For the Son does not grow better by partaking of the Father, as we do by partaking of the Son, i.e. of His one body and blood, which this eating and drinking signifies. So that His saying, I live by the Father, because He is from Him, must not be understood as detracting from His equality. Nor do the words, Even he that eats Me, the same shall live by Me, give us the equality that He has. He does not equalize, but only mediates between God and man. If, however, we understand the words, I live by the Father, in the sense of those below, My Father is greater than I, then it is as if He said, That I live by the Father, i.e. refer my life to Him, as my superior, my humiliation in my incarnation is the cause; but He who lives by Me, lives by Me by virtue of partaking of My flesh.

HILARY. Of the truth then of the body and blood of Christ, no room for doubting remains: for, by the declaration of our Lord Himself, and by the teaching of our own faith, the flesh is really flesh, and the blood really blood. This then is our principle of life. While we are in the flesh, Christ dwells in us by His flesh. And we shall live by Him, according as He lives. If then we live naturally by partaking of Him according to the flesh, He also lives naturally by the indwelling of the Father according to the Spirit. His birth did not give Him an alien or different nature from the Father.

AUG. That we who cannot obtain eternal life of ourselves, might live by the eating that bread, He descended from heaven: This is the bread which comes down from heaven.

HILARY. He calls Himself the bread, because He is the origin of His own body. And lest it should be thought that the virtue and nature of the Word had given way to the flesh, He calls the bread His flesh, that, inasmuch as the bread came down from heaven, it might be seen that His body was not of human conception, but a heavenly body. To say that the bread is His own, is to declare that the Word assumed His body Himself.

THEOPHYL. For we do not eat God simply, God being impalpable and incorporeal; nor again, the flesh of man simply, which would not profit us. But God having taken flesh into union with Himself; that flesh is quickening. Not that it has changed its own for the Divine nature; but, just as heated iron remains iron, with the action of the heat in it; so our Lord’s flesh is quickening, as being the flesh of the Word of God.

BEDE. And to show the wide interval between the shadow and the light, the type and the reality, He adds, Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eats of this bread shall live for ever.

AUG. The death here meant is death eternal. For even those who eat Christ are subject to natural death; but they live for ever, because Christ is everlasting life.

CHRYS. For if it was possible without harvest or fruit of the earth, or any such thing, to preserve the lives of the Israelites of old for forty years, much more will He be able to do this with that spiritual food, of which the manna is the type. He knew how precious a thing life was in men’s eyes, and therefore repeats His promise of life often; just as the Old Testament had done; only that it only offered length of life, He life without end. This promise was an abolition of that sentence of death, which sin had brought upon us. These things said He in the synagogue, as He taught in Capernaum; where many displays of His power took place. He taught in the synagogue and in the temple, with the view of attracting the multitude, and as a sign that He was not acting in opposition to the Father.

BEDE. Mystically, Capernaum, which means beautiful town, stands for the world: the synagogue, for the Jewish people. The meaning is, that our Lord has, by the mystery of the incarnation, manifested Himself to tile world, and also taught the Jewish people His doctrines.

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One Response to “Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 6:47-59”

  1. […] Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 6:51-58. Actually, this post contains commentary on verses 47-59. […]

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