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 8:21-30

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 3, 2012

Ver 21. Then said Jesus again to them, I go my way, and you shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, you cannot come.22. Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he said, Whither I go, you cannot come.23. And he said to them, You are from beneath; I am from above: you are of this world, I am not of this world.24. I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins: for if you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sins.

AUG. In accordance with what was just, He said that no man laid hands on Him, because His hour was not yet come; He now speaks to the Jews of His passion, as a free, and not a compulsory sacrifice on His part: Then said Jesus again to them, I go My way. Death to our Lord was a return to the place whence He had come.

BEDE. The connection of these words is such, that they might have been spoken at one place and one time, or at another place and another time: as either nothing at all, or some things, or many may have intervened.

ORIGEN. But some one will object: If this was spoken to men who persisted in unbelief, how is it He says, You shall seek Me? For to seek Jesus is to seek truth and wisdom. You will answer that it was said of His persecutors, that they sought to take Him. There are different ways of seeking Jesus. All do not seek Him for their health and profit: and only they who seek Him aright, find peace. And they are said to seek Him aright, who seek the Word which was in the beginning with God, in order that He may lead them to the Father.

AUG. You shall seek Me, then, He says, not from compassionate regret, but from hatred: for after He had departed from the eyes of men, He was sought for both by those who hated, and those who loved Him: the one wanting to persecute, the other to have His presence. And that you may not think that you shall seek Me in a good sense, I tell you, You shall die in your sin. This is to seek Christ amiss, to die in one’s sin: this is to hate Him, from Whom alone comes salvation. He pronounces sentence on them prophetically, that they shall die in their sins.

BEDE Note: sin is in the singular number, your in the plural; to express one and the same wickedness in all.

ORIGEN. But I ask, as it is said below that many believed on Him, whether He speaks to all present, when He says, You shall die in your sins? No: He speaks to those only, whom He knew would not believe, and would therefore die in their sins, not being able to follow Him. Whither I go, He says, You cannot come; i.e. there where truth and wisdom are, for with them Jesus dwells. They cannot, He says because they will not: for had they wished, He could not reasonably have said, You shall die in your sin.

AUG. This He tells His disciples in another place; without saying to them, however, You, shall die in your sin, He only says Whither I go, you cannot follow Me now; not preventing, but only delaying their coming.

ORIGEN. The Word, while still present, yet threatens to depart. So long as we preserve the seeds of truth implanted in our minds, the Word of God does not depart from us. But if we fall into wickedness then He says to us, I go away; and when we seek Him, we shall not find Him, but shall die in our sin, die caught in our sin. But we should not pass over without notice the expression itself: You shall die in your sins. If you shall die be understood in the ordinary sense, it is manifest that sinners die in their sins, the righteous in their righteousness. But if we understand it of death in the sense of sin; then the meaning is, that not their bodies, but their souls were sick to death. The Physician seeing them thus grievously sick, says You shall die in your sins. And this is evidently the meaning of the words, Whither I go you cannot come. For or when a man dies in his sin, he cannot go where Jesus goes: no dead man can follow Jesus: The dead praise not You, O Lord.

AUG. They take these words, as they generally do, in a carnal sense, and ask, Will He kill Himself, because He said, Whither I go, you cannot come? A foolish question. For why? Could they not go where He went, if He killed Himself; Were they never to die themselves? Whither I go, then, He says; meaning not His departure at death, but where He went after death.

THEOPHYL. He shows here that He will rise again in glory, and sit at the right hand of God.

ORIGEN. May they not however have a higher meaning in saying this? For they had opportunities of knowing many things from their apocryphal books or from tradition. As then there was a prophetical tradition, that Christ was to be born at Bethlehem, so there may have been a tradition also respecting His death, viz. that He would depart from this life in the way which He declares, No man takes it from Me, I lay it down of Myself: So then the question, Will He kill Himself, is not to be taken in its obvious sense, but as referring to some Jewish tradition about Christ. For His saying, I go My way , shows that He had power over His own death, and departure from the body; so that these were voluntary on His part. But I chink that they bring forward this tradition which had come down to them, on the death of Christ, contemptuously, and not with any view to give Him glory. Will He kill Himself? say they: whereas, they ought to have used a loftier way of speaking, and have said, Will His soul wait His pleasure, to depart from His body? Our Lord answers, You are from beneath, i.e. you love earth; your hearts are not raised upwards,. He speaks to them as earthly men, for their thoughts were earthly.

CHRYS. As if to say, No wonder that you think as you do, seeing you are carnal, and understand nothing spiritually. I am from above.

AUG. From whom above? From the Father Himself, Who is above all. You are of this world, I am not of this world. How could He be of the world, by Whom the world was made?

BEDE. And Who was before the world, whereas they were of the world, having been created after the world had begun to exist.

CHRYS. Or He says, I am not of this world, with reference to worldly and vain thoughts.

THEOPHYL. I affect nothing worldly, nothing earthly: I could never come to such madness as to kill Myself. Apollinarius, however, falsely infers from these words, that our Lord’s body was not of this world, but came down from heaven. Did the Apostles then, to whom our Lord says below, You are not of this world, derive all of them their bodies from heaven? In saying then, 1 am not of this world, He must be understood to mean, I am not of the number of you, who mind earthly things.

ORIGEN. Beneath, and, of this world, are different things. Beneath, refers to a particular place; this material world embraces a different tracts, which all are beneath, as compared with things immaterial and invisible, but, as compared with one another, some beneath, some above. Where the treasure of each is, there is his heart also. If a man then lay up treasure upon earth, he is beneath: if any man lay up treasure in heaven, he is above; yes, ascends above all hearers, attains to a most blissful end. And again, the love of this world makes a man of this world: whereas he who loves not the world, neither the things that are in the world, is not of the world. Yet is there beyond this world of sense, another world, in which are things invisible the beauty of which shall the pure in heart behold, yes, the First-born of every creature may be called the world, insomuch as He is absolute wisdom, and in wisdom all things were made. In Him therefore was the whole world, differing from the material world, in so far as the scheme divested of the matter, differs from the subject matter itself. The soul of Christ then says, I am not of this world; i.e. because it has not its conversation in this world.

AUG. Our Lord expresses His meaning in the words, You are of this world, i.e. you are sinners. All of us are born in sin; all have added by our actions to the sin in which we were born. The misery of the Jews then was, not that they had sin, but that they would die in their sin: I said; therefore to you, that you shall die in your sin. Amongst the multitude, however, who heard our Lord, there were some who were about to believe; whereas this most severe sentence had gone forth against all: You shall die in your sin; to the destruction of all hope even in those who should hereafter believe. So His next words recall the latter to hope: For if you believe not that I am He, you shall die in your sin: therefore if you believe that I am He, you shall not die in your sin.

CHRYS. For if He came in order to take away sin, and a man cannot put that off, except by washing, and cannot be baptized except he believe; it follows, that he who believers not must pass out of this life, with the old man, i.e. sin, within him: not only because he believes not, but because he departs hence, with his former sins upon him.

AUG. His saying, If you believe not that I am, without adding any thing, proves a great deal. For thus it was that God spoke to Moses, I am that I am. But how do I understand, I am that I am, and, If you believe not that I am? In this way. All excellence, of whatever kind, if it be mutable, cannot be said really to be, for there is no real to be, where there is a not to be. Analyze the idea of mutability, and you will find, was, and will be; contemplate God, and you will find is, without possibility of a past. In order to be, you must leave him behind you. So then, If you believe not that I am, means in fact, If you believe not that I am God; this being the condition, on which we shall not die in our sins. God be thanked that He says, If you believe not, not, If you understand not; for who could understand this?

ORIGEN. It is manifest, that he, who dies in his sins, though he say that he believes in Christ, does not really believe. For he who believes in His justice does not do injustice; he who believes in His wisdom, does not act or speak foolishly; in like manner with respect to the other attributes of Christ, you will find that he who does not believe in Christ, dies in his sins: inasmuch as he comes to be the very contrary of what is seen in Christ.

Ver 25. Then said they to him, Who are you? And Jesus said to them, Even the same that I said to you from the beginning.26. I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him.27. They understood not that he spoke to them of the Father.

AUG. Our Lord having said, You believe not that I am, you shall die in your sins; they inquire of Him, as if wishing to , know in whom they are to believe, that they might not die in their sin: Then said they to Him, Who are You? For when you said, If you believe not that I am, you did not add, who you are. But our Lord knew that these were some who would believe, and therefore after being asked, Who are You? that such might know what they should believe Him to be, Jesus said to them, The beginning, who also speak to you; not as if to say, I am the beginning, but, Believe Me to be the beginning; as is evident from the Greek, where beginning is feminine. Believe Me then to be the beginning but you die in your sins: for the beginning cannot be changed; it remains fixed in itself, and is the source of change to all things. But it is absurd to call the Son the beginning, and not the Father also. And yet there are not two beginnings, even as these are not two Gods. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and the Son; not being either the Father, or the Son. Yet Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God, one Light, one beginning. He adds, Who also speak to you, i.e. Who humbled Myself for your sakes, and condescended to those words. Therefore believe Me to be the beginning; because that you may believe this, not only am I the beginning but I also speak with you, that you may believe that I am. For if the Beginning had remained with the Father in its original nature, and not taken upon it the form of a servant, how, could men have believed in it? Would their weakly minds have taken in the spiritual Word, without the medium of sensible sound?

BEDE. In some copies we find, Who also speak to you; but it is more consistent to read for (quia), not, who (qui): in which case the meaning is: Believe Me to be the beginning, for your own sakes have I condescended to these words.

CHRYS. See here the madness of the Jews; asking after so long time, and after all His miracles and teaching, Who are You? What is Christ’s answer? From the beginning I speak with you; as if to say, you do not deserve to hear any thing from Me, much less this thing, Who I am. For you speak always, to tempt Me. But I could, if I would confound and punish you: I have many things to say, and to judge of you.

AUG. Above He said, I judge no man but, I judge not, is one thing, I have to judge another. I judge not, He says, with reference to the present time. But the other, I have many things to say, and to judge of you, refers to a future judgment. And I shall be true in My judgment, because I am truth, the Son of the true One. He that sent Me is true. My Father is true, not by partaking of, but begetting truth. Shall we say that truth is greater than one who is true? It we say this, we shall begin to call the Son greater than the Father.

CHRYS. He says this, that they may not think that He allows them to talk against Him with impunity, from inability to punish them, or that He is not alive to their contemptuous designs.

THEOPHYL. Or having said, I have many things to say, and to judge of you, thus reserving His judgment for a future time, He adds, But He that sells Me is true: as If to say, Though you are unbelievers, My Father is true, Who has appointed a day of retribution for you.

CHRYS. Or thus: As My Father has sent Me not to judge the world, but to save the world, and My Father is true, I accordingly judge no man now; but speak thus for your salvation, not your condemnation: And I speak to the world those things that I have heard of Him.

ALCUIN. And do hear from the Father is the same as to be from the Father; He has the hearing from the same sense that He has the being.

AUG. The coequal Son gives glory to the Father: as if to say, I give glory to Him whose Son I am: how proudly you detract from Him, whose servant you are.

ALCUIN. They did not understand however what He meant by saying, He is true that sent Me: they understand not that He spoke to them of the Father. For they had not the eyes of their mind yet opened, to understand the equality of the Father with the Son.

Ver 28. Then said Jesus to them, When you have lifted up the Son of man, then shall you know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father has taught me, I speak these things.29. And he that sent me is with me: the Father has not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.30. As he spoke these words, many believed in him.

AUG. When our Lord said, He is true that sent Me, the Jews did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father. But He saw some there, who, He knew, would believe on Him after His passion. Then said Jesus to them, When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you shall know that I am. Recollect the words, I am that I am, and you will know why I say, I am. I pass over your knowledge, in order that I may fulfill My passion. In your appointed time you will know who I am; when you have lifted up the Son of man. He means the lifting up of the cross; for He was lifted up on the cross, when He hung thereon. This was to be accomplished by the hands of those who should afterwards believe, whom He is now speaking to; with what intent, but that no one, however great his wickedness and consciousness of guilt might despair, seeing even the murderers of our Lord forgiven.

CHRYS. Or the connection is this: When His miracles and teaching had failed to convert men, He spoke of the cross; When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you shall know that I am He: as if to say, you think that you have killed Me; but I say that you shall then, by the evidence of miracles, of My resurrection, and your captivity, know most especially, that I am Christ the Son of God, and that I do not act in opposition to God; But that as My Father has taught Me, I speak these things. Here He shows the likeness of His substance to the Father’s; and that He says nothing beyond the Paternal intelligence. If I were contrary to God, I should not have moved His anger so much against those who did not hear Me.

AUG. Or thus: Having said, Then shall you know that I am, and in this, I am, implied the whole Trinity: lest the Sabellian error should creep in, He immediately adds, And I do nothing of Myself; as if to say, I am not of Myself; the Son is God from the Father. Let not what follows, as the Father has taught Me, I speak these things, suggest a carnal thought to any of you. Do not place as it were two men before your eyes, a Father speaking to his son, as you do when you speak to your sons. For what words could be spoken to the only Word? If the Father speaks in your hearts without sound, how does he speak to the Son? The Father speaks to the Son incorporeally, because He begat the Son incorporeally: not did He teach Him, as having begotten Him untaught; rather the teaching Him, was the begetting Him knowing. For if the nature of truth be simple, to be, in the Son, is the same as to know. As then the Father gave the Son existence by begetting, so He gave Him knowledge also.CHRYS. He gives now a humbler turn to the discourse: And He that sent Me. That this might not be thought however to imply inferiority, He says, Is with Me. The former is His dispensation, the latter His divinity.

AUG. And though  both are together, yet one is sent, the other sends. For the mission is the incarnation; and the incarnation is of the Son only, not of the Father. He says then, He that sent Me, meaning, By whose Fatherly authority I am made incarnate. The Father however, though He sent the Son, did not withdraw from Him, as He proceeds to say: The Father has not left Me alone. For it could not be that where He sent the Son, there the Father was not, He who says, If in heaven and earth. And He adds the reason why He did not leave Him: For I do always those things that please Him; always, i.e. not from any particular beginning, but without beginning and without end. For the generation from the Father has no beginning in time.

CHRYS. Or, He means it as an answer to those who were constantly saying that He was not from God, and that because He did not keep the sabbath; I do always, He says, do those things that please Him; showing that the breaking the sabbath even was pleasing to Him. He takes care in every way to show that He does nothing contrary to the Father. And as this was speaking more after a human fashion, the Evangelist adds, As He spoke these words many believed in Him; as if to say, Do not be disturbed at hearing so humble a speech from Christ; for those who had heard the greatest doctrines from Him, and were not persuaded, were persuaded by these words of humility. These then believed on Him, yet not as they ought; but only out of joy, and approbation of His humble way of speaking. And this the Evangelist shows in his subsequent narration, which relates their unjust proceedings towards Him.

3 Responses to “Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 8:21-30”

  1. […] Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel Reading (John 8:21-29). Includes notes on verse 30. […]

  2. […] Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (John 8:21-30). […]

  3. […] Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (John 8:21-30). […]

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