22, 23 The morrow, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there save that one whereinto His disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with His disciples into the boat, yet that His disciples had gone away, howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks.
The miracle does not escape notice, I mean Jesus walking on. the very sea, although it took place by night and in the dark, and was ordered in secret. But the crowd of those who were wont to follow Him perceives, assured (as is probable) by much watching, that He had neither sailed with His disciples, nor had crossed in any other ship. For there was there the Apostles’ ship alone, which they took and went away before Him. Nought then is hidden of what is good even though it be performed in secret by any, and here we see that that is true, Nothing is secret that shall not be made manifest, neither hid that shall not be known and come abroad. I say then that he who desireth to track the footsteps of Christ, and, as far as man can, to be moulded after His Pattern, ought not to be eager to live in much boasting, nor when he practises virtue to be led away in pursuit of praise, nor if he enter upon an extraordinary and exceeding disciplined life, should he desire to glory immoderately thereat, but should desire to be seen alone by the Eyes of the Deity, Who revealeth hidden things, and |342 that which is performed in secret bringeth He into clearest apprehension.
24 When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there neither His disciples, they also took shipping and came to Capernaum seeking for Jesus.
These men follow Him, marvelling perchance at His miracles, yet not receiving any profit from them unto the duty of faith, but as though they were making some return to the Wonder-worker by merely bestowing on Him a not undesired praise. For this is a dreary disease of a mind and soul which is never accustomed to be led to the choice of what is profitable for her. The reason why this was so with them was, that they delighted solely in the pleasures of the flesh, and jumped eagerly at the meanest temporal food, rather than hasten after spiritual goods, and endeavour to gain what would support them to life eternal. This you will learn clearly by what follows too.
25 And when they had found Him on the other side of the sea, they said unto Him, Rabbi when camest Thou hither?
Their speech takes the form of being that of those who love Him and feigns sweetness, but is convicted of being exceeding senseless and childish. For they ought not on meeting with so great a teacher, to have talked to no purpose, and taken no pains to learn anything. For what was the need of being eager to ask Him, when He came there? what good would they be likely to get from knowing? We must then seek wisdom from the wise, and let a prudent silence be preferred to undisciplined words. For the disciple of Christ bids that our speech be seasoned with salt: and another of the wise exhorts us to this, saying, My son, if thou hast a word of understanding, answer, if not, lay thy hand upon thy mouth. And how evil it is to be condemned for an undisciplined tongue, we shall know from another: for he says, If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. |343
26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, I say unto you, ye seek Me, not because ye saw the miracle, but because ye ate of the loaves and were filled.
We will say something common, yet worn by little use. Great teachers are often wont to be not slightly angry, when they are questioned about vain and useless matters. And we shall find them so, not out of haughtiness, but rather from annoyance at the folly of the questioners. Of us therefore and those like us I think that this is not unrightly said: but the Saviour inflicts a warm rebuke upon those who made those enquiries, for speaking uninstructedly, and unwisely enquiring not because it was their duty to seek out the things whereby they might become honest and good, but because they followed Him for carnal reward and that a most mean one. For what is less than daily food, and that not sumptuous? We must then practise piety towards Christ and Love of Him, not that we may obtain ought of carnal goods but that we may gain the salvation that is through Him; and let us not say good words to Him, as these say Rabbi, nor devise fair-speaking as a foundation of gain and boundless ingathering of riches. Truly he that attempts such things, will not be ignorant that he shall encounter Christ Who keenly convicteth him, and revealeth his hidden wickedness.
It is meet again to admire also the economy herein. For when He saw that they were enveloped with the afore-mentioned disease, as a Physician skilful and master of his art, He devised a twofold medicine for them, entwining the helpful reproof with most glorious miracle. The miracle then we shall find in His knowing their thoughts; and in the Wonder-worker not telling them what they sought not out of piety to know, you will behold the reproof. And the advantage is twofold. For in that He knows perfectly their devices and has accurate perception thereof, He shews that they are without understanding, in that they think to escape the Divine Eye, while they heap up wickedness in their heart, and practise sweet words with their tongue. But this is the part of One Who |344 persuades them to leave off this their disease, and to cease from no slight sin. For outrageous is he and lawless, who hath this conception of God. In usefully convicting them of sinning, He restrains in some sort the future course of evil. For that which has no hindrance, creeps on and extends itself; but when caught in the fact, it is well-nigh ashamed, and like a rope contracts into itself. Therefore the Lord profiteth them by reproving also, and by those things whereby one thinks that He smites, by these very things He is seen to be their Benefactor. We must then hold that even though some flatter or with mild words wheedle the rulers of the Churches, yet are not sound concerning the faith, it is not meet that they should be carried away by their fawnings nor by way of payment for their applause lend in turn to them who need correcting, silence in regard to their faults: but we ought rather boldly to rebuke them, and to persuade them to change for the better, or at least hereby if so be to profit others, according to that spoken by Paul, Them that sin rebuke before all, that the rest also may fear.
This then for the subjects separately: but that they are in connexion, and of necessity follow those before considered, I think I ought to shew. We said then that our Saviour’s coming down from the mountain typified His second and future Coming to us from Heaven, and we added as in summary, that He appeared to His disciples while they were watching, and yet toiling, and released them from their fear, and brought the ship at once to land. And what is hence pourtrayed to us, as in a type, we have there declared. But now observe, that after Jesus had come down from the mountain, certain miss following Him, and come to Him at last. For they come on the day following, the Evangelist having not without care added this also. Then on meeting with Him, they endeavour to wheedleHim with good words: but Christ chides them, bringing upon them hot and keen reproof, that we might consider this again, that after the Coming of our Lord to us from Heaven, most vain and profitless unto men is the search after good things, nor |345 will the desire to follow Him find any fitting season. Yea even though certain approach Him, thinking to appease Him with smoothest words, they shall meet the Judge no longer mild and gentle, but reproving and avenging. For thou wilt see the flattery of them that are reproved, and the reproof itself in the words of the Saviour, when He saith, Many will say to Me in that Day, to wit, the Day of Judgment, Lord, Lord, did we not in Thy Name cast out devils? But says He, Then will I profess unto them, Verily I say unto you, I never knew you. For ye sought Me not purely (saith He) nor loved to excel in holiness, for thereby would I have known you, but since ye practised piety in semblance only and in mere imaginaries for the purpose of gain, justly do I confess that I have not known you. What then in that passage is Lord, Lord, here is Rabbi. To whomsoever therefore punishment is a bitter thing, let him not fall into inertness 13 nor be manifoldly infirm in transgression, looking to the goodness of God, but let him prepare his works for his going forth, as it is written, and make it fit for himself in the field, i. e., while he is in the world. For the Saviour interpreted that the field is the world. Let him prepare to shew holiness and righteousness before the Divine Judgment Seat. For he will behold no unseasonably clement Judge, nor yet yielding to entreaties for mercy, in Him Whom he ought without delay to have obeyed when He was calling him to salvation, while the time of mercy was granting to him both to beg for forgiveness for his already past transgressions, and to seek for loving-kindness from God Who saves.
27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for the meat which endureth unto everlasting life.
Something of this sort doth Paul teach us expanding the discourse universally and more generally, saying, He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption, but he that soiveth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life |346 everlasting. For he says that they sow to the flesh who giving as it were full rein to the pleasures of the flesh, advance at full speed to whatever they will, by no means distinguishing what is profitable for them from what is hurtful and injurious, nor in any way accustomed to approve what seems good unto the Law-giver, but heedlessly hurried off to that alone which is pleasant and agreeable, and preferring nothing to things seen. Again he affirms that they sow to the Spirit, who expend the whole aim of their mind on those things wherein the Holy Ghost willeth us to excel, employing a mind so intense toward the cultivation of good things, that, did not voice of nature not to be disregarded constrain them to minister needful food to the flesh, they would not endure to descend even to this. I think then that we ought to take no forethought whatever for the flesh for the lusts thereof, but rather to apply ourselves to what is most needful, and to be zealous in practising those things, which bring us to the everlasting and Divine Life. For admiration for the delights of the body, and the esteeming nothing better than the superfluities of the belly, is truly brutish and akin to the extremest folly. But to apply ourselves to good things, and earnestly to strive to excel in virtues, and to be subject to the laws of the Spirit, and with all readiness to seek after the things of God, which are able to support us unto salvation:—-I will grant that this truly beseemeth him who knoweth his own nature, and is not ignorant that he hath been made a reasonable creature after the Image of Him that created him. Therefore as the Saviour somewhere saith, Take we no thought, what shall we eat? or, what shall we drink? or, wherewithal shall we be clothed? but considering that the soul is more than meat, and the body than raiment, let us take thought how the more precious part of us may do well.
For though the body do well, and be fat with succession of delights, it will not profit the miserable soul; but on the contrary, will work it much harm. For it will depart into the everlasting fire, since they who have wrought no good, must needs undergo punishment for it: but if the body |347 have been bridled with due reason, and brought under the law of the Spirit, both must surely be saved together. It is then most absurd, that for the flesh we should so take thought, which is but for a time and even now shall perish, as to think that it ought not to lack any one thing which it loves: and to take care for the soul, by way of appendix, or as though it were nothing worth; albeit I think we ought to apply ourselves so much the rather to cares for the soul, as it is of more value than the body. For so of a truth preferring what surpasses in the comparison to what is inferior, and giving a just vote in this matter, we shall become holy and wise jurors, and not bestow upon any other the palm of right reasoning, but rather shall put it upon our own heads. Let us then, as the Saviour saith, labour not for the meat which perisheth, which when it hath passed into the belly, and for a very little while deluded the mind with pettiest pleasure, goeth out into the draught, and is conveyed forth again from the belly. But the spiritual food which strengthened the heart, keepeth the man unto life everlasting, which also Christ promiseth to give us, saying, Which the Son of Man shall give unto you; at once knitting the human with that which is Divine, and connecting the whole mystery of the economy with Flesh in its order. But He hints, I suppose, at the Mystic and more Spiritual Food, whereby we live in Him, sanctified in body and soul. But we shall see Him speaking more openly of this hereafter. The discourse then must be kept for its fit time and place. |348
Verse 27 cont. which the Son of Man shall give unto you: for Him the Father sealed, God.
He was not ignorant, as God, of the charges that would result from Jewish folly, nor of the reasons why they were often foolishly enraged. He knew that they would reason in themselves, looking to the flesh alone, and not conceiving of God the Word therein, Who is This That seizeth upon God-befitting words? for who can give unto men food that keepeth them unto everlasting life? for wholly foreign to man’s nature is such a thing, and it beseemeth Him Alone Who is God over all. The Saviour therefore defends Himself beforehand, and by seasonable arguments, shames their looked-for shameless talk. For He says that the Son of Man will give them the food which nourisheth them unto everlasting life, and immediately affirmed that He is sealed by the Father. Sealed again is either put for anointed (for he who is anointed is sealed), or as shewing that He has been by Nature formed unto the Father. Just as if He had said, I am not unable to give you food which endureth and bringeth up unto everlasting life and delight. For though I seem as one of you, that is Man with flesh, yet was I anointed and sealed by God the Father unto an exact Likeness with Him. For ye shall see (He saith) that He is in Me, and I again in Him Naturally, even though for your sakes I was born Man of a woman, according to the Ineffable order of the economy. For I can do all things in God-befitting Authority and do not in any way come short of the Might inherent in My Father. And |349 though God the Father giveth you the Spiritual Food, which preserveth unto everlasting life, it is clear that the Son too will give it, even though made in Flesh, since He is His Exact Image; the Likeness in every thing being conceived, not after the lineaments of flesh, nor yet ought conceived of in bodily form, but in God-befitting glory and Equal Power and royal Authority. But we must observe again, that when He says that the Son of Man will give the things God-befitting and that He hath been sealed unto the Image of God the Father, He endureth not the division of him that separateth the Temple of the Virgin from the true Sonship, but defines Himself and willeth to be conceived of again as One. For One in truth over us is Christ, bearing as it were the royal purple His Own Robe, I mean His Human Body, or His Temple, to wit of Soul and Body; since One too of Both is Christ.
But, most excellent sir, will the Christ-opposer again say, give the truth the power of overcoming: deal not subtillywith the saying, dishonourably turning it about, whithersoever thou wilt. Lo clearly hereby is the Son proved to be not of the Essence of the Father, but rather a copy of His Essence. Suppose some such thing (say they) as we say: A seal or signet impressed on wax, for example, or any other matter fit to receive it, and engraving a likeness only of itself, is taken away again by him who pressed it on, having lost no part of itself: so the Father, having imposed and imprinted Himself Wholly upon the Son in some way by a most accurate Likeness, from Himself hath He surely no part of His Essence, nor is conceived of as therefrom but a mere image and accurate likeness.
Let him that is zealous for knowledge see that now too is our opponent darting on us, like a serpent, and rears aloft his head surcharged with venom: but He Who shattereth the heads of the Dragon, will shatter it too, and will give us power to escape his manifold stubbornness. Let him then tell us, who has just been dinning us with dreadful words, Does not the seal or signet, which is made (it may be) of wood or of iron or of gold, full surely seal with |350 some impress those things whereon it comes, and will it not be and be conceived of as a seal apart from the impress? But I suppose that any one of our opponents too, even against his will constrained by fitness unto the very truth would confess that it will by all means seal with an impress; and without an impress, according to fair reasoning, not at all. Since then, as the Divine Scripture testifieth to us, the Son is the Impress of the Person of God the Father, in that He is in It and of It by Nature, whereupon is Himself impressed, or through whom else will the Father seal His Own Impress? For no one will say that the Father is not altogether in God-befitting Form, which is the Son, the Form of Him That begat Him; Whom if any behold spiritually, it is manifest that he will see the Father. Wherefore He says that He too is in Him Naturally, even though He be conceived to be of Him by reason of His Own Existence: as the brightness for instance, is in the brightening and of the brightening, and something different, according to the mode of conception, and again not different, as viewed in relation to it, because it is said to be of it, and again in it. And not I suppose in the way of division and complete essential partition are these things considered of: for they are inherent in respect of identity of essence in those things whence they are, and of which they are believed to be, tending forth according to expression in idea to something else, of their own, yet not separate. The Word of the Essence of the Father, not bare Word, nor without Flesh, is sealed then by the Father, yea rather through Him are sealed those things which are brought to likeness with God, as far as can be, as we understand in that which certain say, The light of Thy Countenance was marked upon us, O Lord. For he says that the Countenance of God the Father, is the Son, Which is again the Impress, but the light thereof is the grace which through the Spirit passeth through unto the creation, whereby we are remoulded unto God through faith, receiving through Him as with a seal, the conformation unto His Son, Who is |351 the Image of the Father, that our being made after the Image and Likeness of the Creator, might be well preserved in us. But since the Son is confessedly the Countenance of God the Father, He will surely be the Impress too with which God seals.
Yea (says our opponent) we believe that God through the Spirit seals the Saints, but the things that you are bringing forward have no place in the present question. Wherefore we will recapitulate and say, The seal supposed to be of iron, or may be gold, impresses its own likeness on the matter whereon it comes, losing nothing of its own, but by the operation only of its being pressed on does it mark the things that receive it: thus do we hold that the Son has been sealed by the Father, not having ought of His Essence but possessing merely an accurate likeness thereof, and being Other than He, as the image to the archetype.
O boundless folly, and perilous conceit! how easily hast thou forgotten those things just now gone through. For we said that the Son was the Impress of the Father, and that with Him was sealed other than He, and not Himself, lest He be thought to be His Own Impress. But thou, having not rightly spurned our argument hereon, dost not blush to put about Him a likeness of operation only. In image only then will the Son be God according to you, and by Nature not at all, but merely in that He was fashioned and well formed after the Likeness of Him That begat; haply no longer of Him That begat: for it is time that ye should on these accounts take away the begetting also, yea rather there is every need even if ye will it not. On the duty of believing that the Son is begotten of the Father, we have already expended much argument, or shall do so in its place. But it were more fitting that we should proceed to the matter in hand, putting forward to those who are accustomed unrestrainedly to shameless talk the question, Will they not surely say that that which is given may also be taken away, and confess that that which is added can altogether be also lost? for does it not at |352 some time happen that every thing is rejected, which is not firmly rooted in any by nature? It is evident, even should any of them not assent thereto. Some time then or other, according to the argument of possibility, the Son will be bereft of His Likeness. For He was sealed (as ye say) by the mere Operation of His Father upon Him, not having the stability that’is of natural Endowments, but conceived of and existing wholly other than His Father, and completely severed from His Essence. Doing then very excellently and fore-seeing matters by most cunning reasoning did ye secure the Father, by saying that He gives nought of Himself to the Son, save that He vouchsafes Him Likeness only, lest ought of passion should be conceived of as about Him. For this is your foolish mystery. For belike ye were ignorant that God the Father Who doeth all things without passion, will also beget without passion, and is superior to fire (for the argument brings us down to this necessity) which without passion or corporeal division, begets the burning which is of it. Let those then hear who are zealous in fancies only, and account unrestrained blasphemy to be not an unholy thing, but rather a virtue, that if they say that the Son is classed with the Father, in the propriety of likeness alone, He will abide in no secure possession of good things, but will wholly risk His being by Nature God, and will in possibility at least, admit of change for the worse. For there was said to that governor of Tyre too, words which reason necessitates us to attribute to the person of the devil, Thou art the seal of the likeness: but he to whom that speech is addressed, is found to have fallen from the likeness. Thou seest then, and clearly too, by such instances, that the mere being in the likeness of God is no security for an unmoved stability in things spiritual, nor yet does it suffice to perfect endurance in the good things in which they are, to have been duly sealed unto the Nature of the Maker. For they too fall, and are borne headlong, oft-times changing into a worse mind, than they had at the beginning. It is then possible, according to this argument, |353 that the Son, attaining to Likeness with the Father by sameness of work only, and not firm fixed by the propby Nature, but having His stability in the mere motions of His Own Will, should undergo change, or, though He do not suffer it, should find the not so suffering the result of admirable purpose, and not rather the steadfastness of Native stability, as God.
What then, most noble sirs, is the Son no longer God in truth? And if according to you, He is so found, why do we worship Him? why is He co-glorified with God the Father? why is He borne, as God, upon the highest Powers? Are then with us the Holy Seraphim themselves too ignorant that they do greatly err from what is fit, in glorifying Him Who is not by Nature God? They err, it seems, in calling Him Who is honoured with equal honour Lord of Sabaoth. Or shall we not say, that the highest Powers, Principalities Thrones and Dominions and Lordships, essay, after their power, to appear conformed to God? For if the so small animal of the earth, in respect of that creation, I mean man, be honoured with such beauty, what reason has one not for fully thinking, that to them who are far better than we, far better things are allotted? How then do they both call Him Lord of Sabaoth, and stand around as a guard, as ministering to the King of the universe? why sitteth He with the Father, and that on His Right Hand, the bond with the Lord, the creature with the Creator? For is it not fitter to bring that which by means of heed and wariness is free from passion and perfect, to the level of things originate rather than of God by Essence Who hath Naturally the inability to suffer? But it is manifest, though they confess it not. Who then will endure these babblers, or how will they not with reason hear, Woe to them that are drunken without wine?
But perchance they will Be ashamed of the absurdities of such arguments, and will betake themselves to this, and say, that the Son was sealed by the Father unto a most accurate Likeness, and is Unchangeable in Nature, even though He be not from the Father. |354
How then, tell me, will that which is not of God by Nature, bear His Attribute, and that be found not without share-essentially of the Excellences of the Divine Essence, which proceeded not therefrom, after the true mode of generation? For it is, I suppose, clear and confessed by all, that the Properties of the Godhead are wholly unattainable by the created nature, and that the qualities belonging to It by Nature will not exist in ought else that is, in equal and exact manner: as for example, Immutability is in God Naturally; in us by no means so, but a kind of stability likens us thereto, through heed and vigilance not suffering us readily to go after those things which we ought not. But if it were possible, that according to them, ought of Divine Attributes should be in any who is not of the Divine Nature Essentially, and that they should be so in him as they are in It; what (tell me) is to prevent all things God-befitting from at length coming down even upon those who are not by nature gods? For if one of them unhindered finds place (I mean Immutability) there will be room for the rest also, and what follows? utter confusion. For will not the superior pass below, and the inferior mount up into the highest place? And what is there yet to hinder even the Most High God from being brought down to our level, and us again from being gods even as the Father, when there no longer is or is seen any difference intervening, if the qualities which belong to God Only pass to us, and are in us naturally? And since God the Father contains in Himself Alone, as it seems, those Properties whereby we should be as He, we have remained men, and the angels likewise with us what they are, not mounting up to That which is above all. For if God should reveal Himself not Jealous, by putting His Own Attribute into the power of all, many surely would be those who were by nature gods, able to create earth and heaven and all the rest of the creation. For the Excellencies of Him Who is by Nature the Creator having once passed on, how will not they be as He is? or what prevents that which is radiant with equal goods from appearing in equal glory? But the |355 God-opposer surely sees completely, how great the multitude of strange devices which is hence heaped up upon us and exclaims against the mislearningthat is in him. The Godhead then will remain in Its Own Nature, and the creature will partake of It through spiritual relationship, but will never mount up unto the Dignity that unchangeably belongs to It. But our argument being thus arranged, we shall find that Immutability exists Essentially in the Son: He is then God by Nature, and of necessity of the Father, lest ought that is not of Him by Nature should reach to an equal dignity of Godhead.
But since they hold out to us as an incontestable argument their saying that the Son is other than the Father, as Image to archetype, and through this subtlety4 think to sever Him from the Essence of Him That begat Him, they shall be caught in no slight folly, and to have studied their assertion to no purpose, of any force in truth to accomplish fairly what they have at heart. For what further are they vainly contending for, or whence do they from only the distinctness of His own Being, sever the Son from the Father? For the fact that He exists Personally does not (I suppose) prove that He is diverse from the Essence of Him who begat Him. For He is confessedly of the Father, as being of His Essence; He is again in the Father, by reason of His being in Him by Nature; and you will hear Him say, at one time, I proceeded forth from the Father, and am come, again at another time, I am in the Father and the Father in Me. For He will not withdraw into a Personality wholly and completely separated, seeing that the Holy Trinity is conceived of as being in One Godhead; but being in the Father, in mode or position undivided as to consubstantiality, He will be conceived of as likewise of Him, according to the Procession which ineffably manifesteth Him in respect of beaming forth. For He is Light of Light. Therefore in the Father and of the Father, alike Undivided and separate, in Him as Impress, but as Image to Archetype will He be conceived of in His Own Person. But we will not simply discourse |356 concerning this, but will confirm it by example from the Law, on all sides fortifying the force of truth against those who think otherwise.
The Law then appointed to the children of Israel to give to every man a ransom for his poll, half a didrachm. But one stater contains a didrachm. Yea and herein again was shadowed out to us Christ Himself, Who offered Himself for all, as by all, a Ransom to God the Father, and is understood in the one drachma, but not separately from the other, because that in the one coin, as we said before, two drachmae are contained. Thus may both the Son be conceived of in respect of the Father, and again the Father in respect of the Son, Both in One Nature, but Each Separate in part, as existing in His own Person, yet not wholly severed, nor One apart from the Other. And as in the one coin were two drachmae, having equal bulk with one another, and in no ways one less than the other; so shalt thou conceive of the in nought differing Essence of the Son in respect of God the Father, and again of the Father in respect of the Son, and thou shalt at length receive wholesome doctrine upon all points spoken of concerning Him.
28, 29 They said therefore unto Him, What shall we do, that we might work the work of God? Jesus answered and said unto them,
Not of good purpose is the enquiry, nor yet as one might suppose does the question proceed from desire of knowledge on their part, but is rather the result of exceeding arrogance. For as if they would deign to learn nought beyond what they knew already, they well nigh say something of this sort, Sufficient, good Sir, to us are the writings of Moses: we know as much as we need of the things at which he who is skilful in the works of God ought to aim. What new thing then wilt Thou supply, in addition to those which were appointed at that time? what strange thing wilt Thou teach, which was not shewn us before by the Divine words? The enquiry then is rather of folly, than really of a studious will. You have |357 something of this kind in blessed Matthew too. For a certain young man, overflowing with not the most easily-gotten abundance of wealth, was intimating that he would enter upon the due service of God. When he came to Jesus, he eagerly enquired what he should do, that he might be found an heir of everlasting life. To whom the Lord saith, Thou knowest surely the commandments, Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not bear false witness, and the like. But he, as lacking none of these things, or even not accepting an exposition of teaching which fell far short of his existing practice, says. All these things have I kept from my youth up, what lack I yet? what then he did joining haughtiness to ignorance in his question, what lack I yet, the same do these too through their over much arrogance alike and self-conceit, saying, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?
A good thing then is a low conceit, and it is the work of a noble soul, to commit to her teachers the thorough knowledge of what is profitable, and so to yield to their lessons, which they think it right to instil, seeing they are superior in knowledge. For how shall they be accepted at all as teachers, if they have not superiority of understanding above what the mind of their pupils hath, since their advance will scarcely end at the measure of their masters’ knowledge, according to the word of the Saviour, The disciple is not above his Master, and, It is enough for the disciple that he be as his Master?
This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom HE sent.
Most severely doth the Lord, even though secretly as yet and obscurely, attack the folly of the questioners. For one would suppose, looking merely at the simple meaning of the words, that Jesus was commanding them nothing else, save to believe on Him: but on examining the intent of the words, he will see that they refer to something else. For full well does He arrange His discourse suitably to the folly of the questioners. For they, as though they learnt sufficiently through the Law how |358 to work what was well-pleasing to God, blasphemously neglect the teaching of our Saviour, saying, what shall we do, that we might work the work of God? But it was necessary that He should shew them, that they were still very far removed from the worship most pleasing unto God, and that they knew no whit of the true good things, who cleaving to the letter of the law, have their mind full of mere types and forms. Therefore with some great emphasis does He say, opposing the fruit of faith to the worship of the Law, This is the work of God that ye believe on Him whom HE sent. That is, it is not what YE supposed (He says) looking to the types alone; but know ye, even though ye will not learn it, that the Lawgiver took no pleasure in your sacrifices of oxen, nor needest thou to sacrifice sheep, as though God willed and required this. For what is frankincense, though it curl in the air in fragrant steam, what will the he-goat profit (saith He) and the costly offerings of cinnamon? God eateth not the flesh of bulls, nor yet drinketh He the blood of goats: He knoweth all the fowls of the Heaven, and the wild beasts of the field are with Him. But He hath hated and despised your feasts, and will not smell in your solemn assemblies, as Himself saith: nor spake He unto your fathers concerning whole burnt offerings or sacrifices. Therefore not this is the tvork of God, but rather that, that ye should believe on Him whom He sent. For of a truth better than the legal and typical worship is the salvation through faith and the grace that justifieth than the commandment that condemneth.
The work then of the pious soul is faith to Christ-ward, and more excellent far the zeal for to become wise in the knowledge of Him, than the cleaving to the typical shadows. You will marvel also at this besides: for whereas Christ was wont to take no notice of those who questioned Him, tempting Him, He answers this for the present economically (even though He knew that they would be nothing profited) to their own condemnation, as He says elsewhere too, If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; but now they have no cloke for their sin. |359
30, 31 They said therefore unto Him, What sign doest THOU then, that we may see and believe Thee? what dost Thou work? our fathers ate the manna in the desert, as it is written, Bread from Heaven gave He them to eat.
The disposition of the Jews unveils itself by little and little, although, hidden and as yet buried in less overt reasonings. For they were saying in their folly, What shall we do that we might work the works of God? as if, as we said before, they held the commandment through Moses sufficient to conduct them to all wisdom, whereby they might know how to perform what was well-pleasing unto God. But their aim being such was concealed, but is now being unveiled, and by little and little comes forth more plainly. For nothing is secret, as the Saviour says, that shall not be made manifest. What then (are they saying) What sign shewest THOU?The blessed Moses was honoured (he says) and with great reason, he was set forth as a mediator between God and man. Yea and he gave too a sufficient sign, for all they that were with him ate the manna in the wilderness. But do THOU at length, since Thou comest to us in a position greater than his, and dost not shrink from adding to the things decreed of old, with what signs wilt Thou give us a warrant, or what of wondrous works dost Thou shewing us, introduce Thyself as the Author of more novel doctrines unto us? Hereby too is our Saviour’s word shewn to be true: for they are convicted by their own words of thinking that they ought to seek Him, not to admire Him for those things which He had in God-befitting manner wrought, but because they did eat of the loaves and were filled. For they demand of Him a sign, not any chance one, but such as (they thought) Moses wrought, when not for one day, but for forty whole years, he fed the people that came out of Egypt in the wilderness, by the supply of manna. For, knowing nothing at all (it seems) of the Mysteries in the Divine Scriptures, they did not consider that it was fit to attribute the marvellous working hereunto to the Divine power which wrought it, but very foolishly crown the head of Moses for this. They therefore ask of |360 Christ a sign equal to that, giving no wonder at all to the sign which had been shewn them for a day, even though it were great, but saying that the gift of food ought to be extended to them for a long time. For that even so hardly would He shame them into confessing and agreeing that most glorious was the Power of the Saviour, and His Doctrine therefore to be received. Manifest then is it even though they do not say it in plain terms, that they wholly disregard signs, and under pretext of marvelling at them, are zealous to serve the impure pleasure of the belly. |361
32 Jesus therefore said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, not Moses hath given you the Bread from Heaven,
Now too does the Saviour most severely convict them of being without understanding, and exceedingly ignorant of what is in the Mosaic writings. For they ought to have known quite clearly that Moses was ministering the things of God to the people, and again those of the children of Israel to God, and was himself the worker in none of the miracles, but a minister rather and under-worker of those things which the Giver to them of all good things willed to do for the benefit of those who had been called out of bondage. What they then were impiously imagining, this Christ very resolutely cuts away (for to attribute things which befit and are due to the Divine Nature Alone, to the honour of men and not rather to It, how is not this replete with folly alike and impiety?) and in that He deprived the hierophant Moses of the miracle, and withdrew it out of his hand, it is (I suppose) manifest that He rather attributes the glory of it to Himself together with the Father, even though He abstained from speaking more openly, by reason of the uninstructedness of His hearers. For it was a thing truly not contrary to expectation, that they should rage, as though Moses were insulted by such words, and should be kindled unto intemperate anger, never enquiring what the truth was, nor recognizing the dignity of the Speaker, but heedlessly going about to only honour Moses, and not reasonably as it happened, when he was compared with what excelled him.
Let us learn then, with more judgment and reason, to |362 practise respect towards our holy fathers and to render, as it is written, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour (for we shall in no wise injure, if we render what fittingly belongs to each, since the spirits of the Prophets are subject to the Prophets) but when any discourse about our Saviour Christ is entered into, then we must needs say, Who in the clouds can be equalled unto the Lord? or who among the sons of the mighty shall be likened unto the Lord?
33 but My Father giveth you the True Bread from heaven: for the Bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven and giveth life unto the world.
It was needful not only to remove Moses from God-befitting Authority, according to their conception, and to shew that he was a minister of that miraculous working, rather than the bestower of it, but also to lessen the wonder though miraculously wrought, and to shew that it was nothing at all in comparison with the greater. For imagine Christ calling out something like this, The great things, sirs, do ye reckon among the little and meanest, and the beneficence of the Lord of all ye have meted out with most petty limits. For with no slight folly do ye suppose that the manna is the Bread from heaven, although it fed the race alone of the Jews in the wilderness, while there are other nations besides without number throughout the world. And ye supposed that God willed to shew forth lovingkindness so contracted, as to give food to one people only (for these were types of universalities, and in the partial was a setting forth of His general Munificence, as it were in pledge, to those who first received it): but when the time of the Truth was at our doors, My Father giveth you the Bread from heaven, which was shadowed forth to them of old in the gift of the manna. For let no one think (saith He) that that was in truth the Bread from heaven, but rather let him give his judgment in favour of That, which is clearly able to feed the whole earth, and to give in full life unto the world.
He accuses therefore the Jew of cleaving to the typical |363 observances, and refusing to examine into the beauty of the Truth. For not that was, properly speaking, the manna, but the Only-Begotten Word of God Himself, who proceedeth from the Essence of the Father, since He is by Nature Life, and quickeneth all things. For since He sprang of the Living Father, He also is by Nature Life, and since the work of that which is by Nature Life is to quicken, Christ quickeneth all things. For as our earthly bread which is gotten of the earth suffereth not the frail nature of flesh to waste away: so He too, through the operation of the Spirit quickeneth our spirit, and not only so, but also holdeth together our very body unto incorruption.
But since our meditations have once got upon the subject of manna, it will not be amiss (I think) for us to consider and say some little on it also, bringing forward out of the Mosaic books themselves severally the things written thereon. For thus having made the statement of the matter most clear, we shall rightly discern each of the things signified therein. But we will shew through them all, that the Very Manna is Christ Himself, understood as given under the type of manna to them of old by God the Father. The beginning of the oracles thereon, speaks on this wise, On the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt, the whole congregation of the children of Israel were murmuring against Moses and Aaron, and the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died, stricken by the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots and were eating bread to the full, for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger. The matter then of the history is clear and very plain, and I do not think it needs any words to test the obvious meaning: but we will speak of it, looking only to the spiritual meaning. The children of Israel then, while still in the country of the Egyptians, by Divine command were keeping typically their feast to Christ, and having taken their supper of the lamb, did thus hardly escape the tyranny of Pharaoh’s |364 rule and shake off the intolerable yoke of bondage. Then having miraculously crossed the Red sea, they got into the wilderness: and there famishing craved flesh to eat, and were dragged down to the accustomed desire for food: and so they began murmuring against Moses and fall into repenting of their free gift from God when they ought to have given no small thanks for it. Egypt then will be darkness, and will signify the condition of the present life, and the worldly state, wherein we enrolled as in some state, serve a bitter serfdom therein, working nothing at all to Godward but fulfilling only the works most delightsome to the Devil, and hasting down unto the pleasures of impure flesh, like clay or stinking mud, enduring a miserable toil, unpaid, profitless, and pursuing a wretched (so to say) love of pleasure.
But when the Law of God speaks to our soul, and we behold at length the bitter bondage of these things, then oh then do we, thirsting after riddance from all evil, come to Christ Himself, as to the beginning and door of freedom, and provisioned with the security and grace that come through His Precious Blood, we leave the carnal condition of this life, as it were a troublous and stormy sea, and, out of all the tumult of the world, we at length reach a more spiritual and purer state, as it were sojourning in the wilderness. But since he is not unexercised unto virtue, who is through the Law instructed thereunto, when we find that we are at length in this case, then we falling into the temptations which try us, are sometimes devoured by the memory of carnal lusts, and then, when the lust inflames us mightily, we cry oftentimes out of recklessness, albeit the Divine Law hath called us to liberty, being as it were in hunger for our old accustomed pleasures, and making slight account of our toils after temperance, we look upon the bondage of the world as no longer evil. And in truth, the will of the flesh is sufficient to draw the mind to all faintheartedness after goodness.
And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold I rain you bread |365 from heaven. In these words you may very clearly see that which is sung in the Psalms, He gave them bread of heaven; man did eat angels’ bread. But it is, I suppose, evident to all, that of the reasonable Powers in heaven, none other is the Bread and Food, save the Only Begotten of God the Father. He then is the True Manna, the Bread from heaven, given to the whole rational creation by God the Father. But entering into the order of our subject we say this: Observe how the Divine grace from above draws unto itself the nature of man even though at times sick after its wonted things, and saves it in manifold wise. For the lust of the flesh like a stone falling on the mind thrusts it down, and despotically forces it unto its own will; but Christ brings us round again, as with a bridle, unto longing for better things, and recovers them that are diseased unto God-loving habit of mind. For lo, lo to them that are sinking down into carnal pleasures, He promises to give Food from Heaven, the consolation, that is, through the Spirit, the Spiritual Manna. Through this are we strengthened unto all endurance and manliness and obtain that we fall not through infirmity into those things we ought not. The Spiritual Manna therefore, that is, Christ, was strengthening us before too unto piety.
But since we have once, by reason of need, digressed, I think it well not to leave the subject uninvestigated, since it is very conducive to our profit. Some one then may reasonably ask, Why is God who is so Loving to man and so loveth virtue when it behoved Him to forecome their request, tardy in respect of His Promise: and He nowise punishes those so perverse men, albeit He punished them afterwards, when they were sick with the same lusting, and pictured to themselves bread to the full, and fleshpots, and admitted longing for the rankest onions. For we shall find in Numbers, that both certain were punished, and the place, wherein they were then encamping, was called the graves of lust, for there they buried the people that lusted. With respect then to the first question, we |366 say that it assuredly behoved Him to wait for the desire, and so at length to reveal Himself in due season the Giver. For most welcome is the gift to those in good case, when certain pleasures appear before it and precede it, inciting to thirst after what is not yet come: but the soul of man will be devoid of a more grateful sensation, if it do not first stretch after and labour for the pleasures of being well off. But perhaps you will say that there had been no way any entreaty from them, but murmuring rather, repentance, and outcry: for this would indeed be speaking more truly. To this we say, that entreaty through prayer will befit those who are of a perfect habit: and perchance the murmuring of the more feeble from depressionor whatever cause, will partake of this: and the Saviour of all, being loving to man is not altogether angry at it. For as in those who are yet babes, crying will sometimes avail to the asking of their needs, and the mother is often called by it to find out what will please the child: so to those who were yet babes, and had not yet advanced to understanding, the cry of weariness so to say, has the force of petition before God. And He punisheth not in the beginning, even though He see them worsted by earthly lusts, but after a time, for this reason, as seems to me. They who were but newly come forth of Egypt, not having yet received the manna, nor having the Bread from heaven, which strengtheneth man’s heart, fall as might be expected, into carnal lusts, and therefore are pardoned. But they who had already delighted in the Lord, as it is written, on preferring carnal delights to the spiritual good things, have to give most righteous satisfaction, and over and above their suffering have assigned them a notable memorial of their fate. For the graves of lust is the name of the place of their punishment.
And the people shall go out and gather the day’s portion each day. We will consider the sensible manna a type of the spiritual manna; and the spiritual manna signifies Christ Himself, but the sensible manna adumbrates the grosser teaching of the Law. With reason is the gathering daily, |367 and the lawgiver forbids keeping it till the morrow, darkly hinting to them of old, that when the time of salvation at length shines forth, wherein the Only Begotten appeared in the world with Flesh, the legal types should be wholly abolished, and the gathering food thence in vain, while the Truth Itself lieth before us for our pleasure and enjoyment.
And it shall come to pass, on the sixth day, and they shall prepare that which they bring in, and it shall be double what they gather. Observe again, that thou mayest understand, that He does not suffer them to gather on the seventh day the sensible manna, but commands that which is already provided and gathered to be prepared for their food beforehand. For the seventh day signifies the time of the Advent of our Saviour, wherein we rest in holiness, ceasing from works of sin, and receiving for food, both the fulfilment of our faith, and the knowledge already arranged in us through the Law, no longer gathering it as of necessity, since more excellent food is now before us, and we have the Bread from heaven. The manna is collected in double measure before the holy sabbath: and you will understand thence, that the Law being concluded in respect of its temporal close, and the holy sabbath, that is, Christ’s coming, already beginning, the getting of the heavenly goods will be after some sort in double measure, and the grace two-fold, bringing in addition to the advantages from the Law, the Gospel instruction also. Which the Lord Himself too may be conceived to teach when He says, as in the form of a parable. Therefore every scribe instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a wealthy 14 man which putteth forth out of his treasure things new and old: the old the things of the Law, the new those through Christ.
And Moses and Aaron said unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, At even ye shall know that the Lord brought you forth from the land of Egypt, in the morning |368 ye shall see the glory of the Lord, in that the Lord giveth you in the evening flesh to eat and in the morning bread to the full. Moses promises to them of Israel, that quails shall be given them by God in the evening, and declares that hereby they shall know surely that the Lord brought them up out of Egypt. And in the morning ye shall see plainly, (he says) the glory of the Lord, when He shall give you bread to the full. And consider, I pray you, the difference between each of these. For the quail signifies the Law (for the bird ever flies low and about the earth): thus wilt thou see those too who are instructed through the Law unto a more earthly piety through types, I mean such as relate to sacrifice and purifications and Jewish washing. For these are heaved a little above the earth, and seem to rise above it, but are nevertheless in it and about it: for not in the Law is that which is perfectly good and lofty unto understanding. Moreover it is given in the evening: the account again by evening signifying the obscurity of the letter, or the darksome condition of the world, when it had not yet the Very Light, i. e.,. Christ, who when He was Incarnate said, I am come a Light into the world. But He says the children of Israel shall know that the Lord brought them out of Egypt. For knowledge only of the salvation generally through Christ is seen in the Mosaic book, while grace was not yet present in very person. This very thing He hinted at, when He added, In the morning ye shall see the glory of the Lord, in that He giveth you bread to the full. For when the mist of the Law, as it were night, hath been dispersed, and the spiritual Sun hath risen upon us all, we behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord now present, receiving the Bread from heaven to the full, I mean Christ Himself.
And it was evening and the quails came up and covered the camp, and in the morning as the dew ceased round about the host, and behold, upon the face of the wilderness a small thing, as coriander seed, white. Look at the arrangement of the things to be considered. He says of the quails, that they covered the camp; of the manna again, that |369 in the morning when the dew was gone up, it lay on the face of the wilderness round about the camp. For the instruction through the Law, I mean that in types and figures, which we have compared to the appearance of quails, covers the synagogue of the Jews: for, as Paul saith, the veil lieth upon their heart, and hardness in part. But when it was morning, that is, when Christ had now risen, and flashed forth upon all the world, and when the dew was gone up, that is, the gross and mist-like introduction of legal ordinances (for Christ is the end of the Law and the Prophets); then of a surety the true and heavenly manna will come down to us, I mean the Gospel teaching, not upon the congregation of the Israelites, but round about the camp, i. e., to all the nations, and upon the face of the wilderness, that is the Church of the Gentiles, whereof it is said that more are the children of the desolate than of the married wife. For over the whole world is dispersed the grace of the spiritual manna, which is also compared to the coriander seed, and is called small. For the power of the Divine Word being of a truth subtle, and cooling the heat of the passions, lulleth the fire of carnal motions within us, and entereth into the deep of the heart. For they say that the effect of this herb, I mean the coriander, is most cooling.
And when the children of Israel saw it they said one to another, What is this? for they wist not what it was; being unused to what had been miraculously wrought and not being able to say from experience what it was, they say one to another What is this? But this very thing which is said interrogatively, they make the name of the thing, and call it in the Syrian tongue, Manna, i.e., What is this? and you will hence see, how Christ would be unknown among the Jews. For that which prevailed in the type, trial shewed that it had also force in the truth.
And Moses said to them, Let no man leave of it till the morning; and they hearkened not unto Moses, but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms and stank, and Moses was wroth with them. The morning in this place |370 signifies the bright and most glorious time of the coming of our Saviour, when the shadow of the Law and the mist of
the devil among the nations, being in some sort undone, the Only-Begotten rose upon us like light, and spiritual dawn appeared. The blessed Moses then commanded not to leave of the typical manna until the morning; for when the aforementioned time hath risen upon us, superfluous and utterly out of place are the shadows of the Law by reason of the now present truth. For that a thing truly useless is the righteousness of the Law when Christ hath now gleamed forth, Paul shewed, saying of Him, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, to wit, glorying in the Law, and do count them dung, that I may win Christ and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness which is of the Law, but that which is through the faith of Jesus Christ. Seest thou then, how as a wise man he took care not to leave of it till the morning? They who kept of it unto the morning are a type of the Jewish multitude which should believe not, whose eager desire to keep the law in the letter, should be a producing of corruption and of worms. For nearest thou how the Lawgiver is exasperated greatly against them? And Moses said unto Aaron, Take one golden pot, and put therein manna, an omer full, and thou shalt lay it up before God to be kept. Well in truth may we marvel hereat, and say, O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! For incomprehensible in truth is the wisdom hidden in the God-inspired Scriptures, and deep their depth, as it is written, who can find it out? Thou seest then how our last comment fitted these things: For since Christ Himself was shewn to be our Very Manna, declared in type by way of image to them of old, needs does he teach in this place, of Whom and of what virtue and glory will he be full, who treasureth up in himself the spiritual Manna, and bringeth Jesus into the inmost recesses of his heart, through right faith in Him and perfect love. For thou hearest how the omer full of manna was put in a golden pot, and by the hand of Aaron laid up before the Lord to be kept. For the holy and truly pious soul, which travaileth of the Word of God |371 perfectly in herself, and receiveth entire the heavenly treasure will be a precious vessel, like as of gold, and will be offered by the High Priest of all to God the Father, and will be brought into the Presence of Him Who holdeth all things together and preserveth them to be kept, not suffering to perish that which is of its own nature perishable. The righteous man then is described, as having in a golden vessel the spiritual Manna, that is Christ, attaining unto incorruption, as in the Sightof God, and remaining to be kept, that is unto long-enduring and endless life. Christ with reason therefore convicts the Jews of no slight madness, in supposing that the manna was given by the all-wise Moses to them of old, and in staying at this point their discourse thereon and considering not one at all of the things presignified thereby, by His saying, Verily I say unto you, Not Moses hath given you the manna. For they ought rather to have considered this and perceived that Moses had brought in the service of mediation merely: but that the gift was no invention of human hand, but the work of Divine Grace, outlining the spiritual in the grosser, and signifying to us the Bread from Heaven, Which giveth Life to the whole world, and doth not feed the one race of Israel as it were by preference.
34, 35 They said therefore unto Him, Lord evermore give us this Bread. Jesus said unto them,
Hereby is clearly divulged, though much desiring to be hid, the aim of the Jews, and that one might see that it is not lawful for the Truth to lie, which said that not because they saw the miracles, were they therefore eager to follow Him, but because they did eat of the loaves and were filled. With reason then were they condemned for their much dulness, and I suppose one should truly say to them, Lo a foolish people and without heart, they have eyes and see not, they have ears and hear not. For while our Saviour Christ by many words, as one may see, is drawing them away from carnal imaginations, and by His all-wise teaching winging them unto spiritual contemplation, they attain |372 not above the profit of the flesh, and hearing of the Bread which giveth life unto the world, they still picture to themselves that of the earth, having their belly for god, as it is written, and overcome by the evils of the belly, that they may justly hear, whose glory is in their shame. And you will find such language very consonant to that of the woman of Samaria. For when our Saviour Christ was expending upon her too a long discourse, and telling her of the spiritual waters, and saying clearly, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again, hut whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing wp into everlasting life: she caught at it through the dulness that was in her, and letting go the spiritual fountain, and thinking nothing at all about it, but sinking down to the gift of sensible wells, says, Lord give me this water, that I thirst not neither come hither to draw. Akin therefore to her language is that of the Jews. For as she was weaklyby nature, in the same way (I think) have these too nought male or manly in their understanding, but are effeminated unto the unmanly lusts of the belly, and shew that that is true of them which is written, For the foolish man will utter folly, and his heart will imagine vain things.
I am the Bread of life
It is the custom of our Saviour Christ when explaining the more Divine and already foretold Mysteries, to make His Discourse upon them darksome and not too transparent. For He commits not His so dread word to lie unveiled before the unholy and profane indiscriminately at their pleasure, to be trodden down by them, but having veiled it in the armour of obscurity, He renders it not invisible to the prudent, but when He seeth among His hearers any foolish ones, and who understand no whit of the things spoken, He opens clearly what He wills to make known, and removing as it were all mist from His Discourse, He sets the knowledge of the Mystery before them bare and in full view, hereby rendering their |373 unbelief without defence. That it was His wont (as we have said) to use an obscure and reserved method of speaking, He will Himself teach us, saying in the Book of Psalms, I will open My Mouth in parables. And the blessed prophet Isaiah too no less will confirm our explanation hereof, and shew it in no wise mistaken, proclaiming, Behold a righteous King shall reign, and princes shall rule with judgment, and a man shall veil his words: for he says that He has reigned a righteous King over us who saith. Yet was I appointed King by Him, upon Sion His holy mountain, declaring the commandment of the Lord: and princes living together in judgment, that is, in uprightness in every thing, he calls the holy disciples who came to the Saviour Christ oftentimes veiling His words, saying, Declare unto us the parable. And He once on hearing the question, Why speakest Thou unto the multitudes in parables? is found to have declared most manifestly the cause, Because they seeing (He says) see not, and hearing they hear not, nor understand. For they were no ways worthy (it seems) seeing that God who judgeth justly, decreed this sentence upon them. The Saviour then, having devised many turns in His Discourse, when He saw that His hearers understood nothing, at length says more openly, I am the Bread, of life, and well-nigh makes an attack upon their unmeasured want of reason, saying, O ye who have the mastery over all in your incomparable uninstructedness alone, when God declares that He will give you Bread from Heaven, and has made you so great a promise in feeding you with manna, do ye limit the Divine Liberality, and are ye not ashamed of staying the grace from above at this, not knowing that it is but a little thing both for you to receive such things of God, and for God Himself to give them you? Do not then believe (saith He) that that bread is the Bread from Heaven. For I am the Bread of Life, Who of old was fore-announced to you as in promise, and shewn as in type, but now am present fulfilling My due promise. I am the Bread of Life, not bodily bread, which cutteth off the suffering from hunger only, and freeth the flesh from the destruction |374 therefrom, but remoulding wholly the whole living being to eternal life, and rendering man who was formed to be for ever, superior to death. By these words He points to the life and grace through His Holy Flesh, through which this property of the Only Begotten, i. e., life, is introduced into us.
But we must know (for I think we ought with zealous love of learning to pursue what brings us profit) that for forty whole years was the typical manna supplied to them of Israel by God, while Moses was yet with them, but when he had attained the common termination of life, and Jesus was now appointed the commander and general of the Jewish ranks: he brought them over Jordan, as it is written, and having circumcised them with knives of stoneand brought them into the land of promise, he at length arranged that they should be fed with bread, the all-wise God having now stayed His gift of manna. Thus (for the type shall now be transferred to the truer) when Moses was shrouded, that is, when the types of the worship after the Law were brought to nought, and Christ appeared to us, the true Jesus (for He saved His people from their sins), then we crossed the Jordan, then received the spiritual circumcision through the teaching of the twelve stones, that is of the holy disciples, of whom if is written in the Prophets that the holy stones are rolled upon His land. For the holy stones going about and running over the whole earth, are of a surety these, through whom also we were circumcised with the circumcision made without hands in Spirit, i. e., through faith. When then we were called to the kingdom of Heaven by Christ (for this and nought else, I deem, it pointeth to, that some entered into the land of promise), then the typical manna no longer belongeth to us (for not by the letter of Moses are we any longer nourished) but the Bread from Heaven, i. e., Christ, nourishing us unto eternal life, both through the supply of the Holy Ghost, and the participation of His Own Flesh, which infuseth into us the participation of God, and effaceth the deadness that cometh from the ancient curse. |375
He that cometh to Me shall not hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.
There is herein again something concealed which we must say. For it is the wont of the Saviour Christ, not to contend with the praises of the saints, but on the contrary to crown them with glorious honours. But when certain of the more ignorant folk, not perceiving how great His excellence over them, offer them a superior glory, then does He to their great profit bring them to a meeter idea, while they consider Who the Only-Begotten is, and that He will full surely surpass by incomparable Excellencies. But not over clear does He make His Discourse to this effect, but somewhat obscure and free from any boast, and yet by consideration of or comparison of the works it forcibly takes hold on the vote of superiority. For instance, He was discoursing one time with the woman of Samaria, to whom He promised to give living water; and the woman understanding nought of the things spoken said, Art THOU greater than our father Jacob who gave us the well? But when the Saviour wished to persuade her that He was both greater than he, and in no slight degree more worthy of belief, He proceeds to the difference between the water, and says, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again, but whosoever drinlceth of the water that I shall give him, it shall be in him a well of water syringing up into everlasting life. And what thence does He give to understand but surely this, that the Giver of more excellent gifts must needs be surely Himself more excellent than he with whom was the comparison? Some such method then of leading and instruction He uses now too. For since the Jews were behaving haughtily towards Him, and durst think big, putting forward on all occasions their Lawgiver Moses, and often asserting that they ought to follow his ordinances rather than Christ’s, thinking that the supply of manna and the gushing forth of water from the rock, were most reasonable proof of his superiority over all, and over our Saviour Jesus Christ Himself, needs He did return to His wonted plan, and does not say downright, |376 that He is superior to Moses, by reason of the unbridled daring of His hearers, and their being most exceeding prone to wrath; but He comes to this very thing that is marvelled at, and by comparison of it with the greater, proves that it is small. For he that cometh to Me (He says) shall never hunger and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst. Yea (saith He) I too will agree with you that the manna was given through Moses, but they that did eat thereof hungered. I will grant that out of the womb of the rocks was given forth unto you water, but they who drank thirsted, and the aforesaid gift wrought them some little temporary enjoyment; but he that cometh to Me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.
What then doth Christ promise? Nothing corruptible, but rather that Blessing in the participation of His Holy Flesh and Blood, which restoreth man wholly to incorruption, so that he should need none of the things which drive off the death of the flesh, food (I mean) and drink. It seems that He here calls water, the Sanctification through the Spirit, or the Divine and Holy Ghost Himself, often so named by the Divine Scriptures. The Holy Body of Christ then giveth life to those in whom It is, and holdeth them together unto incorruption, being commingled with our bodies. For it is conceived of as the Body of none other, but of Him which is by Nature life, having in itself the whole virtue of the united Word, and inqualitied, yea or rather, fulfilled with His effectuating Might, through which all things are quickened and retained in being. But since these things are so, let them who have now been baptized and have tasted the Divine Grace, know, that if they go sluggishly or hardly at all into the Churches, and for a long time keep away from the Eucharistic giftthrough Christ, and feign a pernicious reverence, in that they will not partake of Him sacramentally, they exclude themselves from eternal life, in that they decline to be quickened; and this their refusal, albeit seeming haply to be the fruit of reverence, is turned into a snare and an offence. |377
For rather ought they urgently to gather up their implanted power and purpose, that so they may be resolute in clearing away sin, and essay to live a life most comely, and so hasten with all boldness to the participation of Life. But since Satan is manifold in his wiles, he never suffers them to think that they ought to be soberminded, but after having denied them with evils, persuades them to shrink from the very grace, whereby it were likely, that they recovering from the pleasure that leads to vice, as from wine and drunkenness, should see and consider what is for their good. Breaking off therefore his bond, and shaking off the yoke cast upon us from his tyranny, let us serve the Lord with fear, as it is written, and through temperance shew ourselves superior to the pleasures of the flesh and approach to that Divine and Heavenly Grace, and mount up unto the holy Participation of Christ; for thus, thus shall we overcome the deceit of the devil, and, having become partakers of the Divine Nature, shall mount up to life and incorruption. (source)