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 1:35-42

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 1, 2012

Ver 35. Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;36. And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he said, Behold the Lamb of God!

CHRYS. Many not having attended to John’s words at first, he rouses them a second time: Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples.

BEDE; John stood, because he had ascended that citadel of all excellences, from which no temptations could cast him down: his disciples stood with him, as stout-hearted followers of their master.

CHRYS. But wherefore went he not all about, preaching in every place of Judea; instead of standing near the river, waiting for His coming, that he might point Him out? Because he wished this to be done by the works of Christ Himself. And observe how much greater an effort was produced; He struck a small spark, and suddenly it rose into a flame. Again, if John had gone about and preached, it would have seemed like human partiality, and great suspicion would have been excited.

Now the Prophets and Apostles all preached Christ absent; the former before His appearance in the flesh, the latter after His assumption. But He was to be pointed out by the eye, not by the voice only; and therefore it follows: And looking upon Jesus as He walked, he said, Behold the Lamb of God!

THEOPHYL. Looking he said, as if signifying by his looks his love and admiration for Christ.

AUG. John was the friend of the Bridegroom; he sought not his own glory, but bore witness to the truth. And therefore he wished not his disciples to remain with him, to the hindrance of their duty to follow the Lord; but rather showed them whom they should follow, saying, Behold the Lamb of God.

CHRYS. He makes not a long discourse, having only one object before him, to bring them and join them to Christ; knowing that they would not any further need his witness. John does not however speak to his disciples alone, but publicly in the presence of all. And so, undertaking to follow Christ, through this instruction common to all, they remained thenceforth firm, following Christ for their own advantage, not as an act of favor to their master. John does not exhort: he simply gazes in admiration on Christ, pointing out the gift He came to bestow, the cleansing from sin: and the mode in which this would be accomplished: both of which the word Lamb testifies to. Lamb has the article affixed to it, as a sign of preeminence.

AUG. For He alone and singly is the Lamb without spot, without sin; not because His spots are wiped off; but because He never had a spot. He alone is the Lamb of God, for by His blood alone can men be redeemed. This is the Lamb whom the wolves fear; even the slain Lamb, by whom the lion was slain.

BEDE. The Lamb therefore he calls Him; for that He was about to give us freely His fleece, that we might make of it a wedding garment; i.e. would leave us an example of life, by which we should be warmed into love.

ALCUIN. John stands in a mystical sense, the Law having ceased, and Jesus comes, bringing the grace of the Gospel, to which that same Law bears testimony. Jesus walks, to collect disciples.

BEDE. The walking of Jesus has a reference to the economy of the Incarnation, by means of which He has condescended to come to us, and give us a pattern of life.

Ver 37. And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.38. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, What seek you? They said unto Him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwell you?39. He said to them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.40. One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.

ALCUIN. John having borne witness that Jesus was the Lamb of God, the disciples who had been hitherto with him, in obedience to his command, followed Jesus: And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

CHRYS. Observe; when he said, He that comes after me is made before me, and, Whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose, he gained over none; but when he made mention of the economy, and gave his discourse a humbler turn, saying, Behold the Lamb of God, then his disciples followed Christ. For many persons are less influenced by the thoughts of God’s greatness and majesty, than when they hear of His being man’s Helper and Friend; or any thing pertaining to the salvation of men. Observe too, when John says, Behold the Lamb of God, Christ says nothing.

The Bridegroom stands by in silence; others introduce Him, and deliver the Bride into His hands; He receives her, and so treats her that she no longer remembers those who gave her in marriage. Thus Christ came to unite to Himself the Church; He said nothing Himself; but John, the friend of the Bridegroom, came forth, and put the Bride’s right hand in His; i.e. by his preaching delivered into His hands men’s souls, whom receiving He so disposed of, that they returned no more to John. And observe farther; As at a marriage the maiden goes not to meet the bridegroom, (even though it be a king’s son who weds a humble handmaid,) but he hastens to her; so is it here. For human nature ascended not into heaven, but the Son of God came down to human nature, and took her to His Father’s house.

Again; There were disciples of John who not only did not follow Christ, but were even enviously disposed toward Him; but the better part heard, and followed; not from contempt of their former master, but by his persuasion; because he promised them that Christ would baptize with the Holy Ghost. And see with what modesty their zeal was accompanied. They did not straightway go and interrogate Jesus on great and necessary doctrines, nor in public, but sought private converse with Him; for we are told that Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, What seek you? Hence we learn, that when we once begin to form good resolutions, God gives us opportunities enough of improvement. Christ asks the question, not because He needed to be told, but in order to encourage familiarity and confidence, and show that He thought them worthy of His instructions.

THEOPHYL. Observe then, that it was upon those who followed Him, that our Lord turned His face and looked upon them. Unless you by your good works follow Him, you shall never be permitted to see His face, or enter into His dwelling.

ALCUIN. The disciples followed behind His back, in order to see Him, and did not see His face. So He turns round, and, as it were, lowers His majesty, that they might be enabled to behold His face.

ORIGEN. Perhaps it is not without a reason, that after six testimonies John ceases to bear witness, and Jesus asks seventhly, What seek you?

CHRYS. And besides following Him, their questions showed their love for Christ; They said to Him, Rabbi, (which is, being interpreted, Master,) where dwell You? They call Him, Master, before they have learnt any thing from Him; thus encouraging themselves in their resolution to become disciples, and to show the reason why they followed.

ORIGEN. An avowal, befitting persons who came from hearing John’s testimony. They put themselves under Christ’s teaching, and express their desire to see the dwelling of the Son of God.

ALCUIN. They do not wish to be under His teaching for a time only, but inquire where He abides; wishing an immediate initiation in the secrets of His word, and afterwards meaning often to visit Him, and obtain fuller instruction. And, in a mystical sense too, they wish to know in whom Christ dwells, that profiting by their example they may themselves become fit to be His dwelling. Or, their seeing Jesus walking, and straightway inquiring where He resides, is an intimation to us, that we should, remembering His Incarnation, earnestly entreat Him to show us our eternal habitation. The request being so good a one, Christ promises a free and full disclosure. He said to them, Come and see: that is to say, My dwelling is not to be understood by words, but by works; come, therefore, by believing and working, and then see by understanding.

ORIGEN. Or perhaps come, is an invitation to action; see, to contemplation.

CHRYS. Christ does not describe His house and situation, but brings them after Him, showing that he had already accepted them as His own. He says not, It is not the time now, tomorrow you shall hear if you wish to learn; but addresses them familiarly, as friends who had lived with him a long time. But how is it that He said in another place, The Son of man has no where to lay His head? when here He says, Come and see where I live? His not having where to lay His head, could only have meant that He had no dwelling of His own, not that He did not live in a house at all: for the next words are, They came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day. Why they stayed the Evangelist does not say: it being obviously for the sake of His teaching.

AUG. What a blessed day and night was that! Let us too build up in our hearts within, and make Him an house, whither He may come and teach us.

THEOPHYL. And it was about the tenth hour. The Evangelist mentions the time of day purposely, as a hint both to teachers and learners, not to let time interfere with their work.

CHRYS. It showed a strong desire to hear Him, since even at sunset they did not turn from Him. To sensual persons the time after meals is unsuitable for any grave employment, their bodies being overloaded with food. But John, whose disciples these were, was not such a one. His evening was a more abstemious one than our mornings.

AUG. The number here signifies the law, which was composed of ten commandments. The time had come when the law was to be fulfilled by love, the Jews, who acted from fear, having been unable to fulfill it, and therefore was it at the tenth hour that our Lord heard Himself called, Rabbi; none but the giver of the law is the teacher of the law.

CHRYS. One of the two which heard John speak and followed Him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. Why is the other name left out? Some say, because this Evangelist himself was that other. Others, that it was a disciple of no eminence, and that there was no use in telling his name any more than those of the seventy-two, which are omitted.

ALCUIN. Or it would seem that the two disciples who followed Jesus were Andrew and Philip.

Ver 41. He first finds his own brother Simon, and said to him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.42. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, You are Simon the son of Jonas: you shall be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, Peter.

CHRYS. Andrew kept not our Lord’s words to himself; but ran in haste to his brother, to report the good tidings: He first finds his own brother Simon, and said to him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.

BEDE. This is truly to find the Lord; viz. to have fervent love for Him, together with a care for our brother’s salvation.

CHRYS. The Evangelist does not mention what Christ said to those who followed Him; but we may infer it from what follows. Andrew declares in few words what he had learnt, discloses the power of that Master Who had persuaded them, and his own previous longings after Him. For this exclamation, We have found, expresses a longing for His coming, turned to exultation, now that He was really come.

AUG. Messias in Hebrew, Christus in Greek, Unctus in Latin. Chrism is unction, and He had a special unction, which from Him extended to all Christians, as appears in the Psalm, God, even Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness above Your fellows. All holy persons are partakers with Him; but He is specially the Holy of Holies, specially anointed.

CHRYS. And therefore he said not Messias, but the Messias. Mark the obedience of Peter from the very first; he went immediately without delay, as appears from the next words: And he brought him to Jesus. Nor let us blame him as too yielding, because he did not ask many questions, before he received the word. It is reasonable to suppose that his brother had told him all, and sufficiently fully; but the Evangelists often make omissions for the sake of brevity. But, besides this, it is not absolutely said that he did believe, but only, He took him to Jesus; i.e. to learn from the mouth of Jesus Himself, what Andrew had reported. Our Lord begins now Himself to reveal the things of His Divinity, and to exhibit them gradually by prophecy. For prophecies are no less persuasive than miracles; inasmuch as they are preeminently God’s work, and are beyond the power of devils to imitate, while miracles may be fantasy or appearance: the foretelling future events with certainty is an attribute of the incorruptible nature alone: And when Jesus beheld him, He said, You are Simon the son of Jonas; you shall be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.

BEDE. He beheld him not with His natural eye only, but by the insight of His Godhead discerned from eternity the simplicity and greatness of his soul, for which he was to be elevated above the whole Church. In the word Peter, we must not look for any additional meaning, as though it were of Hebrew or Syriac derivation; for the Greek and Latin word Peter, has the same meaning as Cephas; being in both languages derived from petra. He is called Peter on account of the firmness of his faith, in cleaving to that Rock, of which the Apostle speaks, And that Rock was Christ; which secures those who trust in it from the snares of the enemy, and dispenses streams of spiritual gifts.

AUG. There was nothing very great in our Lord saying whose son he was, for our Lord knew the names of all His saints, having predestinated them before the foundation of the world. But it was a great thing for our Lord to change his name from Simon to Peter. Peter is from petra, rock, which rock is the Church: so that the name of Peter represents the Church. And who is safe, unless he build upon a rock? Our Lord here rouses our attention: for had he been called Peter before, we should not have seen the mystery of the Rock, and should have thought that he was called so by chance, and not providentially. God therefore made him to be called by another name before, that the change of that name might give vividness to the mystery.

CHRYS. He changed the name too to show that He was the same who done so before in the Old Testament; who had called Abram Abraham, Sarai Sarah, Jacob Israel. Many He had named from their birth, as Isaac and Samson; others again after being named by their parents, as were Peter, and the sons of Zebedee. Those whose virtue was to be eminent from the first, have names given them from the first; those who were to be exalted afterwards, are named afterwards.

AUG. The account A here of the two disciples on the Jordan, who follow Christ (before he had gone into Galilee) in obedience to John’s testimony; viz. of Andrew bringing his brother Simon to Jesus, who gave him, on this occasion, the name of Peter; disagrees considerably with the account of the other Evangelists, viz. that our Lord found these two, Simon and Andrew, fishing in Galilee, and then bid them follow Him: unless we understand that they did not regularly join our Lord when they saw Him on the Jordan; but only discovered who He was, and full of wonder, then returned to their occupations. Nor must we think that Peter first received his name on the occasion mentioned in Matthew, when our Lord says, You are Peter, and upon this rock will I build My Church; but rather when our Lord says, You shall be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.

ALCUIN; Or perhaps He does not actually give him the name now, but only fixes beforehand what He afterwards gave him when He said, You are Peter, and upon this rock will I build My Church. And while about to change his name, Christ wishes to show that even that which his parents had given him, was not without a meaning. For Simon signifies obedience, Joanna grace, Jona a dove: as if the meaning was; You are an obedient son of grace, or of the dove, i.e. the Holy Spirit; for you have received of the Holy Spirit the humility, to desire, at Andrew’s call, to see Me. The elder disdained not to follow the younger; for where there is meritorious faith, there is no order of seniority.

 

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2 Responses to “Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 1:35-42”

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