St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on John 1:29-34
Posted by Dim Bulb on January 14, 2017
29 The next day he seeth Jesus coming to him.
In a very little time, the Baptist is declared to be Prophet alike and Apostle. For Whom he was heralding as coming, Him now come he points out. Therefore, he bounded beyond even the measure of prophets, as the Saviour Himself saith when discoursing with the Jews concerning him, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A prophet, yea, I say unto you and more than a prophet. For they in their times prophesied that Christ should be revealed, but he, crying that He shall come, also pointed Him out come. For the next day, saith he, he seeth Jesus coming to him.
And saith, Behold the Lamb of God, Which taketh away the sin of the world.
No longer has prepare ye the way fit place, since He at length is seen and is before the eyes for Whom the preparation is made: the nature of the thing began to need other words. It needed to explain, Who He is Who is come, and to whom He maketh His descent Who hath come to us from Heaven. Behold, therefore, saith he, the Lamb of God Which taketh away the sin of the world, Whom the Prophet Isaiah did signify to us, saying, He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb: Whom of old, too, saith he, the law of Moses typified, but then it saved in part, not extending mercy to all (for it was a type and shadow): but now He Who of old was dimly pictured, the very Lamb, the spotless Sacrifice, is led to the slaughter for all, that He |132 might drive away the sin of the world, that He might overturn the destroyer of the earth, that dying for all He might bring to nought death, that He might undo the curse that is upon us, that He might at length end Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return, that He might become the second Adam, not of the earth, but from heaven, and might be the beginning of all good to the nature of man, deliverance from the imported corruption, Bestower of eternal life, foundation of our reconciliation to God, beginning of godliness and righteousness, way to the Kingdom of Heaven. For one Lamb died for all, saving the whole flock on earth to God the Father, One for all, that He might subject all to God, One for all, that He might gain all: that at length all should not henceforth live to themselves but to Him Which died for them and rose again. For since we were in many sins, and therefore due to death and corruption, the Father hath given the Son a redemption for us, One for all, since all are in Him, and He above all. One died for all, that all should live in Him. For death having swallowed up the Lamb for all, hath vomited forth all in Him and with Him. For all we were in Christ, Who on account of us and for us died and rose again. But sin being destroyed, how could it be that death which was of it and because of it should not altogether come to nothing? The root dying, how could the shoot yet survive? wherefore should we yet die, now that sin hath been destroyed? therefore jubilant in the Sacrifice of the Lamb of God we say: O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? For all iniquity, as the Psalmist sings somewhere, shall stop her mouth, no longer able to accuse those who have sinned from infirmity. For it is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth? Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, that we might escape the curse from transgression.
30 This is He of Whom I said.
He leads the hearers to remembrance of his words, and yields to Christ the superiority in glory, accomplishing the work, not of love, but rather of truth and necessity. For the creature is subject, even if it willeth not, to the Creator? |133 the bond to the Lord, the supplied to the Giver. But in what manner Christ was after John, but preferred before him, for He was before him, as himself confesseth, we have spoken sufficiently in what has preceded.
31 And I knew Him not, but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.
He that leaped in the depth of the womb of his mother at the voice of the Holy Virgin while yet bearing the Lord, prophet before the travail-pang, disciple in the womb, says of the Saviour, I knew Him not, and says truly, for he does not lie. For God knows all things of Himself and untaught, but the creature, by being taught. For the Spirit indwelling in the Saints, fulfils what is lacking, and gives to human nature His Own good, I mean, knowledge of things to come, and of the hidden mysteries. Therefore the holy Baptist saying that he does not know the Lord, will by no means speak untruly, in regard of the property of human nature, and the measure befitting the creature, but will attribute the knowledge of all things to God Alone, Who through the Holy Ghost enlighteneth man to the apprehension of hidden things. And very profitably doth he say that of himself he knew not Christ, but is come for that very purpose, to make Him manifest to Israel, that he may not seem to run of his own accord to bear testimony, nor be thought by any the minister of his own will, but the worker of the Divine dispensation, the minister of the Counsel from above revealing to him the Lamb Which taketh away the sin of the world.
In order therefore that the Jews may the more easily come to believe on our Saviour Christ, and may have the most worthy conception of Him, he says that having not known Him, he knows Him, that they may understand then at length God Who revealed Him, and awestruck at the judgment from above, may receive his word concerning Him, and, seeing the servant so great, may proportionally estimate the Dignity of the Master. For his saying, that he was come to make Him manifest to Israel, how does it not denote the care belonging to a servant? |134
32, 33 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from Heaven like a dove, and It abode upon Him. And I knew Him not: but He That sent me to baptize with water, the Same said unto me, Upon Whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, the Same is He Which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
Having said above that he knew Him not, he profitably explains and uncovers the Divine Mystery, both shewing that He Who told him was God the Father, and clearly relating the manner of the revelation. By all does he profit the mind of the headers; and whereby he says that the Mystery of Christ to men-ward was taught him of God, he shews that his opposers are fighting against the decree from above, and to their own peril arraying themselves against the mighty purpose of the Father. For this was the part of one skillfully persuading them to desist from their vain counsel, and to receive Him Who by the goodwill of the Father came for the salvation of all. He therefore testifieth, both that he saw the Spirit descending from Heaven upon Him, in the form of a Dove, and that It abode upon Him. Then besides, he says that himself was the ear-witness of Him Who sent him to baptize with water, that He upon Whom the Spirit came and abode upon Him is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. Most worthy of belief then the witness, supernatural the sign, above all the Father Who revealed.
And these things are thus. But perchance the heretic fond of carping will jump up, and with a big laugh, say; What again, sirs, say ye to this too, or what argument will ye bring |135 forth, wresting that which is written? Lo, he saith that the Spirit descendeth upon the Son; lo, He is anointed by God the Father; That Which He hath not, He receives forsooth, the Psalmist co-witnessing with us and saying, as to Him: Wherefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows. How then will the Son any more be Consubstantial with the Perfect Father, not being Himself Perfect, and therefore anointed? To this then I think it right to say to those who overturn the holy doctrines of the Church, and pervert the truth of the Scriptures: Awake, ye drunkards, from your wine, that viewing the clear beauty of the truth, ye may be able with us to cry to the Son: Of a truth Thou art the Son of God. For if thou fully believe that He is by Nature God, how will He not have perfection? For time is it that ye now speak impiously against the Father Himself also: for whence must He needs, as thou sayest, have perfection? how will He not be brought down to the abasement of His Offspring, which according to you is imperfect, in that the Divine Essence in the Son has once received the power of not having Perfection, according to your unlearned and uninstructed reasoning? For we will not divide that Great and Untaint Nature into different Words, so that it should be imperfect perchance in one, and again Perfect in the other. Since the definition of human nature too is one in respect of all men, and equal in all of us, what man will be less, qua man? but neither will he be considered more so than another. And I suppose that one angel will differ in nothing from another angel in respect of their being what they are, angels to wit, from sameness of nature, being all linked with one another unto one nature. How then can the Nature Which is Divine and surpassing all, shew Itself in a state inferior to things originate in Its own special good, and endure a condition which the creature cannot endure? How will It be at all simple and uncompounded, if Perfection and imperfection appear in It? For It will be compounded of both, since Perfection is not of the same kind as imperfection. For if they be of the same kind, and there be no difference between them, every thing which is perfect will without |136 distinction be also imperfect: and if ought again be imperfect, this too will be perfect. And the charge against the Son will be nought, even though according to your surmisings He appear not Perfect: but neither will the Father Himself, though witnessed to in respect of His Perfection, surpass the Son, and there is an end of our dispute. But if much interval severs imperfection from perfection, and the Divine Nature admits both together, It is compound, and not simple.
But perchance some one will say, that contraries are incompatible, and not co-existent in one subject at the same time, as for instance in a body white and black skin together. Well, my friend, and very bravely hast thou backed up my argument. For if the Divine Nature be One, and there be none other than It, how, tell me, will It admit of contraries? How will things unlike to one another come together into one subject? But since the Father is by Nature God, the Son too is by Nature God. He will therefore in nothing differ, in respect of being Perfect, from the Father, since He is begotten of His Divine and most Perfect Essence. For must not He needs be Perfect Who is of a Perfect Parent, since He is both His exact Likeness, and the express Image of His Person, as it is written? But every one will I suppose consent and agree to this. Or let him come forward and say, how the Son is the exact Image of the Perfect Father, not having Perfection in His Own Nature, according to the uncounsel of some. For since He is the Impress and Image, He is Himself too perfect as He, Whose Image He is.
But, says one, John saw the Spirit descending from Heaven upon the Son, and He has Sanctification from without, for He receives it as not having it. Time then is it to call Him openly a creature, barely honoured with a little excellence, perfected and sanctified in equal rank with the rest, and having His supply of good things an acquired one. Then how does the Evangelist not lie, when he says, Of His fulness have all we received? For how will He be full in His Own Nature, Who Himself receiveth from Another? Or how |137 will God be at all conceived of as Father if the Only-Begotten is a creature, and not rather Son? For if this be so, both Himself will be falsely called Father, and the Son will not be Truth, having upon Him a spurious dignity, and a title of bare words. The whole therefore will come to nothing; the Father being neither truly father, nor the Son this by Nature, which He is said to be. But if God be truly Father, He surely has whereof He is Father, the Son, that is, of Himself.
Then how will the Godhead Holy by Nature beget that of Itself which is void of holiness, and bring forth Its own Fruit destitute of Its own inherent Properties? For if He hath sanctification from without, as they babbling say;—-they must needs confess, even against their will, that He Was not always holy, but became so afterwards, when the Spirit descended upon Him, as John saith. How then was the Son holy even before the Incarnation? for so did the Seraphim glorify Him, repeating the Holy, in order, from the first to the third time. If then He was holy, even before the Incarnation, yea rather being ever with the Father, how needed He a sanctifier, and this in the last times, when He became Man? I marvel how this too escapes them, with all their love of research. For must we not needs conceive, that the Son could at any time reject sanctification, if it be not in Him essentially, but came to Him as it does to us, or any other reasonable creature? But that which falls away from sanctification, will it not be altogether under the bonds of sin, and sink to the worse, no longer retaining power to be apart from vice? Therefore neither will the Son be found to be unchangeable, and the Psalmist will lie crying in the Spirit as to Him, But Thou art the Same.
Besides what has been already said, let this too be considered, for it brings in a kindred idea: All reasoning will demonstrate that the partaken is somewhat other by nature than the partaker. For if this be not true, but that shall in no wise differ from this, and is the same; that which partakes of ought partakes of itself, which is incredible even to think of (for how can any one be imagined to partake of |138 himself?). But if the things mentioned lie altogether in natural diversity one to another, and the necessity of reasoning separates them, let them who give the Spirit by participation to the Only-Begotten, see to what a depth of impiety they sink unawares. For if the Son is partaker of the Spirit, and the Spirit is by Nature holy, He Himself will not be by Nature holy, but is shewn to be hardly so through combination with another, transelemented by grace to the better, than that wherein He was at first. But let the fighter against God again see, into how great impiety the question casts him down. For first some change and turning, as we said before, will be found to exist respecting the Son. And being according to you changed, and having advanced unto the better, He will be shewn to be not only not inferior to the Father, but even somehow to have become superior: and how this is, we will say, taking it from the Divine Scripture. The divine Paul says somewhere of Him: Be each among you so 1 minded, according to what was also in Christ Jesus, Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied Himself, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a Man, He humbled Himself. Since then even before the Incarnation, He was in the form and equality of the Father, but at the time of the Incarnation receiving the Spirit from Heaven was sanctified, according to them, and became by reason of this better alike and greater than Himself, He surpasses at length it is plain even the measure of His Father. And if on receiving the Spirit He mounted up unto dignity above that of the Father, then is the Spirit superior even to the Father Himself, seeing that He bestows on the Son the superiority over Him. Who then will not shudder at the mere hearing of this? For hard is it in truth even to go through such arguments, but no otherwise can the harm of their stubbornness be driven off. Therefore we will say again to them: If when the Word of God became Man, He is then also sanctified by receiving |139 the Spirit: but before the Incarnation was in the Form and Equality of the Father, not yet according to them sanctified, time is it they should boldly say, that God the Father is not holy, if the Word Who is in all things altogether Con-formal and Equal to Him, was not holy in the beginning, but barely in the last times became so. And again, if He is truly the Word of God, Who receiveth the Spirit, and is sanctified in His Own Nature, let our opponents say, whether in doing this, He became greater or less than Himself, or remained the Same. For if He hath nothing more from the Spirit, but remaineth the same as He was, be not offended at learning that It descended on Him. But if He was injured by receiving It, and became less, you will introduce to us the Word as passible, and will accuse the Essence of the Father as wronging rather than sanctifying. But if He became better by receiving the Spirit, but was in the Form and Equality of the Father, even before, according to you, He became bettered, the Father hath not attained unto the height of glory, but will be in that measure of it, in which the Son Who hath advanced to the better was Con-formal and Equal to Him. Convenient is it then, I deem, to say to the ill-instructed heretics, Behold o foolish people and without understanding, which have eyes, and see not; which have ears and hear not; for the god of this world hath indeed blinded the eyes of them, which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto them: worthy of pity are they rather than of anger. For they understand not, what they read.
But that the reasoning is true, will be clear from hence, even if we have not, by our previous attempts, made the demonstration perfectly clear. Again shall this that is spoken by the mouth of Paul be brought forward: Be each among you, saith he, so minded, according to what was also in Christ Jesus, Who being in the Form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied Himself, and took upon Him the Form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a Man, He humbled Himself. Lo, he much marvels at the Son, as being Equal and Con-formal |140 with God the Father, not, by reason of His Love to us, seizing this, but descending to lowliness, through the Form of a servant, emptied by reason of His Manhood. But if, sirs, He on receiving the Spirit were sanctified rather, when He became Man, and were, through the sanctification, rendered superior to Himself, into what kind of lowliness shall we see Him to have descended? How is That made low that was exalted, how did That descend that was sanctified, or how did it not rather ascend, and was exalted for the better? What emptiness hath filling through the Spirit? or how will He at all be thought to have been Incarnate for our sakes, Who underwent so great profit in respect of Himself? How did the Rich become poor for our sakes, who was enriched because of us? How was He rich even before His Advent, Who according to them received in it what He had not, to wit the Spirit? Or how will He not rather justly offer to us thank-offering for what by means of us He gained? Be astonished, as it is written, O ye heavens, at this: and be horribly afraid, saith the Lord: for the people of the heretics have in truth committed two evils, understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm, and think it not grievous thus to incur such danger in the weightiest matters. For else would they, shedding bitter tears from their eyes, and lifting up a mighty voice on high, have approached, saying, Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, keep the door of my lips. Incline not my heart to words of wickedness. For words of wickedness in truth are their words, travailing with extremest mischief to the hearers. But we, having expelled their babbling from our heart, will walk in the right way of the faith, bearing in mind that which is written: Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. Come then, and bringing into captivity our mind as to the subjects before us, let us subject it to the glory of the Only-Begotten, bringing all things wisely to His obedience, that is, to the mode of the Incarnation. For, being Rich, for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich. |141
Receive then, if you please, our proof through that also which is now before us, opening a forbearing ear to our words. The Divine Scripture testifies that man was made in the Image and Likeness of God Who is over all. And indeed, he who compiled the first book for us (Moses, who above all men was known to God) says, And God created man, in the Image of God created He him. But that through the Spirit he was sealed unto the Divine Image, himself again taught us, saying, And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. For the Spirit at once began both to put life into His formation and in a Divine manner to impress His own Image thereon. Thus the most excellent Artificer God, having formed the reasonable living creature upon the earth, gave him the saving commandment. And he was in Paradise, as it is written, still keeping the Gift, and eminent in the Divine Image of Him That made him, through the Holy Ghost That indwelt him. But when perverted by the wiles of the devil, he began to despise his Creator, and by trampling on the law assigned him, to grieve his Benefactor, He recalled the grace given to him, and he that was made unto life then first heard Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. And now the Likeness to God was through the inroad of sin defaced, and no longer was the Impress bright, but fainter and darkened because of the transgression. But when the race of man had reached to an innumerable multitude, and sin had dominion over them all, manifoldly despoiling each man’s soul, his nature was stripped of the ancient grace; the Spirit departed altogether, and the reasonable creature fell into extremest folly, ignorant even of its Creator. But the Artificer of all, having endured a long season, at length pities the corrupted world, and being Good hastened to gather together to those above His runaway flock upon earth; and decreed to trans-element human nature anew to the pristine Image through the Spirit. For no otherwise was it possible that the Divine Impress should again shine forth in him, as it did aforetime.
What then He contrives to this end, how He implanted in us the inviolate grace, or how the Spirit again took root in man, |142 in what manner nature was re-formed to its old condition, it is meet to say. The first man, being earthy, and of the earth, and having, placed in his own power, the choice between good and evil, being master of the inclination to each, was caught of bitter guile, and having inclined to disobedience, falls to the earth, the mother from whence he sprang, and over-mastered now at length by corruption and death, transmits the penalty to his whole race. The evil growing and multiplying in us, and our understanding ever descending to the worse, sin reigned, and thus at length the nature of man was shewn bared of the Holy Ghost Which indwelt him. For the Holy Spirit of wisdom will flee deceit, as it is written, nor dwell in the body that is subject unto sin. Since then the first Adam preserved not the grace given him of God, God the Father was minded to send us from Heaven the second Adam. For He sendeth in our likeness His own Son Who is by Nature without variableness or change, and wholly unknowing of sin, that as by the disobedience of the first, we became subject to Divine wrath, so through the obedience of the Second, we might both escape the curse, and its evils might come to nought. But when the Word of God became Man, He received the Spirit from the Father as one of us, (not receiving ought for Himself individually, for He was the Giver of the Spirit); but that He Who knew no sin, might, by receiving It as Man, preserve It to our nature, and might again inroot in us the grace which had left us. For this reason, I deem, it was that the holy Baptist profitably added, I saw the Spirit descending from Heaven, and It abode upon Him. For It had fled from us by reason of sin, but He Who knew no sin, became as one of us, that the Spirit might be accustomed to abide in us, having no occasion of departure or withdrawal in Him.
Therefore through Himself He receives the Spirit for us, and renews to our nature, the ancient good. For thus is He also said for our sakes to become poor. For being rich, as God and lacking no good thing, He became Man lacking all things, to whom it is somewhere said and that very well, What hast thou that thou didst not receive? As then, being by |143 Nature Life, He died in the Flesh for our sakes, that He might overcome death for us, and raise up our whole nature together with Himself (for all we were in Him, in that He was made Man): so does He also receive the Spirit for our sakes, that He may sanctify our whole nature. For He came not to profit Himself, but to be to all us the Door and Beginning and Way of the Heavenly Goods. For if He had not pleased to receive, as Man, or to suffer too, as one of us, how could any one have shewn that He humbled Himself? or how would the Form of a servant have been fittingly kept, if nothing befitting a servant were written of Him? Let not then the all-wise account of the dispensation be pulled to pieces, whereof the divine Paul himself rightly cries in admiration: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. For wisdom indeed and God-befitting, is the great mystery of the Incarnation seen to be.
Such an apprehension of our Saviour do I suppose that we who choose to be pious, and rejoice in orthodox doctrines, ought to have. For we too will not descend to such lack of reason as to suppose that in the Son by Nature was the Spirit by participation and not rather essentially inherent even as in the Father Himself. For as of the Father, so also of the Son, is the Holy Ghost. So did we also read in the Divine Scriptures. For it says: After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus 2 suffered them not.
But if it seem good to any one, with over contentious zeal, to object to our words hereon, and to assert again, that the Spirit is in the Son by participation, or that, not being in Him before, He then came to be in Him, when He was baptized, in the period of His Incarnation, let him see, into what and how great absurdities he will fall. For first, the Saviour saith: Among them that are born of women there |144 hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist. And the word is true: but we see him who hath attained to the summit of glory and virtue that belong to us, honouring Christ with incomparable excellencies. For I am not worthy, says he, to stoop down and unloose the latchet of His shoes. How then is it not absurd, yea rather impious, to believe that John was filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb, because it is so written of him: and to suppose that his Master, yea rather the Master and Lord of all, then first received the Spirit, when He was baptized, albeit holy Gabriel says to the holy Virgin: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the Power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy Thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God. And let the lover of learning see, with how great a meaning the word travaileth. For of John, it saith, he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost (for the Holy Ghost was in him as a gift, and not essentially), but of the Saviour, he no longer saith shall be filled, (in rightness of conception,) but that holy Thing which shall be born of thee. Nor did he add shall be, for It was always Holy by Nature, as God.
But since I deem that we ought to seek after what is profitable from all quarters; the voice of the archangel having been once brought forward, come, let us exercise ourselves a little in it. The Holy Ghost, says he, shall come upon thee, and the Power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also That Holy Thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God. Let him then, who from great unlearning, opposeth the right doctrines of the Church, tell us, whether even before the Incarnation the the Word of God the Father was Son, or had the glory in name only, but was a bastard, and falsely called. For if he say that He was not the Son at all, he will deny the Father (for of whom will He be the Father, if He have no Son?): and he will think contrary to all the Divine Scriptures. But if he confess that the Son even before the Incarnation both was and was called Son, how does the Archangel tell us that That which should be born of the holy Virgin shall |145 be called the Son of God, albeit He was this by Nature even long before? As therefore the Son being from eternity with the Father, as having Origin of Being, is at the time of His Incarnation called Son of God, from His appearing in the world with a Body; so, having in Himself Essentially His Own Spirit, He is said to receive It as Man, preserving to the Humanity the order befitting it, and with it appropriating for our sakes the things befitting it. But how can the Word be thought of at all apart from Its Own Spirit? For would it not be absurd to say, that the spirit of man, which is in him, according to the definition of nature, and for the completeness of the living-being, was separated from him? But I suppose that this is most evident to all. How then shall we sever the Spirit from the Son, Which is so inherent and essentially united, and through Him proceeding and being in Him by Nature, that It cannot be thought to be Other than He by reason both of Identity of working, and the very exact likeness of Nature. Hear what the Saviour saith to His own disciples, If ye love Me, keep My Commandments, and I will pray the Father, and He shall give you Another Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot receive. Lo, plainly He calls the Holy Ghost Spirit of Truth. But that He and none other than He is the Truth, hear Him again saying, I am the Truth. The Son by Nature then being and being called Truth, see how great Oneness with Him the Spirit hath. For the disciple John saith somewhere of our Saviour, This is He that came by water and blood and the spirit 3, Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood: and it is the Spirit That beareth witness, because the Spirit is Truth. Therefore also, the Holy Ghost indwelling in our inner man, Christ Himself is said to dwell therein, and so it is. And indeed the blessed Paul most clearly teaching this, says, But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, If so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. And if Christ be in you, the body |146 is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. Apply, sir, a quick ear to what is said. Having named the Spirit of Christ That dwelleth in us, he straightway added, If Christ be in you, introducing the exact likeness of the Son with the Spirit, Which is His Own and proceeding from Him by Nature. Therefore He is called the Spirit of adoption also, and in Him we cry Abba, Father. And as the blessed John somewhere says, Hereby know we that He dwelleth in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit.
I think then that these things will suffice, to enable the children of the Church to repel the mischief of the heretics. But if any one be soused in the unmixed strong drink of their unlearning, and suppose that the Son then first received the Spirit, when He became Man: let him shew that the Word of God was not holy before the Incarnation, and we will hold our peace.
But one may well wonder that the holy Evangelist every where preserves with much observance what befits the Divine Nature. For since he said above, that no man hath seen God at any time, and now says that the blessed Baptist saw the Spirit descend from Heaven upon the Son, he adds of necessity, I saw the Spirit, but in the form of a Dove, not Himself by Nature, as He is, but shadowed in the gentlest animal; that in this again He might be shewn to preserve His Natural Affinity and Likeness to the Son, Who saith, Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart. Therefore the Spirit will not fall away from being God by Nature: for the never having been seen at any time has been preserved to Him, save under the form of a dove, by reason of the need of the disciple. For the blessed Baptist says that the descent of the Spirit was given him by way of a sign and token, adding to his testimonies respecting our Saviour, He that sent me to baptize with water, the Same said unto me, Upon Whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him, the Same is He Which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. Therefore I think we may fitly laugh to scorn those senseless heretics who take as matter of fact, that which was set forth by way of sign, even though |147 it took place as part of the oeconomy, as hath been already said, for the need’s sake of the human race.
34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
Sure is the witness; who, what he hath actually seen, that he also speaketh. For haply he was not ignorant of that which is written, That which thine eyes have seen, tell. I saw then, says he, the sign, and understood That Which was signified by it. I bear record that this is the Son of God, Who was proclaimed by the Law that is through Moses, and heralded by the voice of the holy Prophets. The blessed Evangelist seems to me again to say with some great confidence, This is the Son of God, that is, the One, the Only by Nature, the Heir of the Own Nature of the Father, to Whom we too, sons by adoption, are conformed and through Whom we are called by grace to the dignity of sonship. For as from God the Father every family in Heaven and earth is named, from His being properly, and first, and truly Father, so is all sonship too from the Son, by reason of His being properly and Alone truly Son, not bastard nor falsely-called, but of the Essence of God the Father, not by off-cutting or emanation or division or severance (for the Divine Nature is altogether Impassible): but as One of One, ever Co-existing and Co-eternal and Innate in Him Who begat Him, being in Him, and coming forth from Him, Indivisible and without Dimensions; since the Divinity is neither after the manner of a body, nor bounded by space, nor of nature such as to make progressive footsteps. But like as from fire proceedeth the heat that is in it, appearing to be separate from it in idea, and to be other than it, though it is of it and in it by nature, and proceedeth from it without suffering any harm in the way of offcutting, division, or emanation (for it is preserved whole in the whole fire): so shall we conceive of the Divine Offspring too, thinking thereon in a manner most worthy of God, and believing that the Son subsists of Himself, yet not excluding Him from the One Ineffable Godhead, nor saying that He is Other in substance than the Father. For then would He no longer be rightly conceived |148 of as Son, but something other than He, and a new god would arise, other than He That Only Is. For how shall not that which is not consubstantial with God by Nature, wholly fall away from being Very God? But since the blessed Baptist is both trustworthy, and of the greatest repute, and testifieth that This is the Son of God: we will confess the Son to be altogether Very God, and of the Essence of the Father. For this and nothing else, does the name of Sonship signify to us. (source)