The Divine Lamp

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

Pope St Leo the Great’s Homily on Matthew 17:1-13 (The Transfiguration)

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 11, 2017

I. S. Peter’s confession shown to lead up to the Transfiguration

The Gospel lesson, dearly-beloved, which has reached the inner hearing of our minds through our bodily ears, calls us to the understanding of a great mystery, to which we shall by the help of God’s grace the better attain, if we turn our attention to what is narrated just before.

The Saviour of mankind, Jesus Christ, in founding that faith, which recalls the wicked to righteousness and the dead to life, used to instruct His disciples by admonitory teaching and by miraculous acts to the end that He, the Christ, might be believed to be at once the Only-begotten of God and the Son of Man. For the one without the other was of no avail to salvation, and it was equally dangerous to have believed the Lord Jesus Christ to be either only God without manhood, or only man without Godhead4, since both had equally to be confessed, because just as true manhood existed in His Godhead, so true Godhead existed in His Manhood. To strengthen, therefore, their most wholesome knowledge of this belief, the Lord had asked His disciples, among the various opinions of others, what they themselves believed, or thought about Him: whereat the Apostle Peter, by the revelation of the most High Father passing beyond things corporeal and surmounting things human by the eyes of his mind, saw Him to be Son of the living God, and acknowledged the glory of the Godhead, because he looked not at the substance of His flesh and blood alone; and with this lofty faith Christ was so well pleased that he received the fulness of blessing, and was endued with the holy firmness of the inviolable Rock on which the Church should be built and conquer the gates of hell and the laws of death, so that, in loosing or binding the petitions of any whatsoever, only that should be ratified in heaven which had been settled by the judgment of Peter.

II. The same continued

But this exalted and highly-praised understanding, dearly-beloved, had also to be instructed on the mystery of Christ’s lower substance, lest the Apostle’s faith, being raised to the glory of confessing the Deity in Christ, should deem the reception of our weakness unworthy of the impassible God, and incongruous, and should believe the human nature to be so glorified in Him as to be incapable of suffering punishment, or being dissolved in death. And, therefore, when the Lord said that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and scribes and chief of the priests, and the third day rise again, the blessed Peter who, being illumined with light from above, was burning with the heat of his confession, rejected their mocking insults and the disgrace of the most cruel death, with, as he thought, a loyal and outspoken contempt, but was checked by a kindly rebuke from Jesus and animated with the desire to share His suffering. For the Saviour’s exhortation that followed, instilled and taught this, that they who wished to follow Him should deny themselves, and count the loss of temporal things as light in the hope of things eternal; because he alone could save his soul that did not fear to lose it for Christ. In order, therefore, that the Apostles might entertain this happy, constant courage with their whole heart, and have no tremblings about the harshness of taking up the cross, and that they might not be ashamed of the punishment of Christ, nor think what He endured disgraceful for themselves (for the bitterness of suffering was to be displayed without despite to His glorious power), Jesus took Peter and James and his brother John, and ascending a very high1 mountain with them apart, showed them the brightness of His glory; because, although they had recognised the majesty of God in Him, yet the power of His body, wherein His Deity was contained, they did not know. And, therefore, rightly and significantly, had He promised that certain of the disciples standing by should not taste death till they saw “the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom2,” that is, in the kingly brilliance which, as specially belonging to the nature of His assumed Manhood, He wished to be conspicuous to these three men. For the unspeakable and unapproachable vision of the Godhead Itself, which is reserved till eternal life for the pure in heart, they could in no wise look upon and see while still surrounded with mortal flesh. The Lord displays His glory, therefore, before chosen witnesses, and invests that bodily shape which He shared with others with such splendour, that His face was like the sun’s brightness and His garments equalled the whiteness of snow.

III. The object and the meaning of the Transfiguration

And in this Transfiguration the foremost object was to remove the offence of the cross from the disciple’s heart, and to prevent their faith being disturbed by the humiliation of His voluntary Passion by revealing to them the excellence of His hidden dignity. But with no less foresight, the foundation was laid of the Holy Church’s hope, that the whole body of Christ might realize the character of the change which it would have to receive, and that the members might promise themselves a share in that honour which had already shone forth in their Head. About which the Lord had Himself said, when He spoke of the majesty of His coming, “Then shall the righteous shine as the sun in their Father’s Kingdom3,” whilst the blessed Apostle Paul bears witness to the self-same thing, and says: “for I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the future glory which shall be revealed in us4:” and again, “for ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. For when Christ our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory5.” But to confirm the Apostles and assist them to all knowledge, still further instruction was conveyed by that miracle.

IV. The significance of the appearance of Moses and Elias

For Moses and Elias, that is the Law and the Prophets, appeared talking with the Lord; that in the presence of those five men might most truly be fulfilled what was said: “In two or three witnesses stands every word6.” What more stable, what more steadfast than this word, in the proclamation of which the trumpet of the Old and of the New Testament joins, and the documentary evidence of the ancient witnesses7 combine with the teaching of the Gospel? For the pages of both covenants8 corroborate each other, and He Whom under the veil of mysteries the types that went before had promised, is displayed clearly and conspicuously by the splendour of the present glory. Because, as says the blessed John, “the law was given through Moses: but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ9,” in Whom is fulfilled both the promise of prophetic figures and the purpose of the legal ordinances: for He both teaches the truth of prophecy by His presence, and renders the commands possible through grace.

V. S. Peter’s suggestion contrary to the Divine order

The Apostle Peter, therefore, being excited by the revelation of these mysteries, despising things mundane and scorning things earthly, was seized with a sort of frenzied craving for the things eternal, and being filled with rapture at the whole vision, desired to make his abode with Jesus in the place where he had been blessed with the manifestation of His glory. Whence also he says, “Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt let us make three tabernacles1, one for Thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias.” But to this proposal the Lord made no answer, signifying that what he wanted was not indeed wicked, but contrary to the Divine order: since the world could not be saved, except by Christ’s death, and by the Lord’s example the faithful were called upon to believe that, although there ought not to be any doubt about the promises of happiness, yet we should understand that amidst the trials of this life we must ask for the power of endurance rather than the glory, because the joyousness of reigning cannot precede the times of suffering.

VI. The import of the Father’s voice from the cloud

And so “while He was yet speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold a voice out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.” The Father was indeed present in the Son, and in the Lord’s brightness, which He had tempered to the disciples’ sight, the Father’s Essence was not separated from the Only-begotten: but, in order to emphasize the two-fold personality, as the effulgence of the Son’s body displayed the Son to their sight, so the Father’s voice from out the cloud announced the Father to their hearing. And when this voice was heard, “the disciples fell upon their faces, and were sore afraid,” trembling at the majesty, not only of the Father, but also of the Son: for they now had a deeper insight into the undivided Deity of Both: and in their fear they did not separate the One from the Other, because they doubted not in their faith2. That was a wide and manifold testimony, therefore, and contained a fuller meaning than struck the ear. For when the Father said, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom, &c.,” was it not clearly meant, “This is My Son,” Whose it is to be eternally from Me and with Me? because the Begetter is not anterior to the Begotten, nor the Begotten posterior to the Begetter. “This is My Son,” Who is separated from Me, neither by Godhead, nor by power, nor by eternity. “This is My Son,” not adopted, but true-born, not created from another source, but begotten of Me: nor yet made like Me from another nature, but born equal to Me of My nature. “This is My Son,” “through Whom all things were made, and without Whom was nothing made3,” because all things that I do He doth in like manner: and whatever I perform, He performs with Me inseparably and without difference: for the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son4, and Our Unity is never divided: and though I am One Who begat, and He the Other Whom I begat, yet is it wrong for you to think anything of Him which is not possible of Me. “This is My Son,” Who sought not by grasping, and seized not in greediness5, that equality with Me which He has, but remaining in the form of My glory, that He might carry out Our common plan for the restoration of mankind, He lowered the unchangeable Godhead even to the form of a slave.

VII. Who it is we have to hear

“Here ye Him,” therefore, unhesitatingly, in Whom I am throughout well pleased, and by Whose preaching I am manifested, by Whose humiliation I am glorified; because He is “the Truth and the Life6,” He is My “Power and Wisdom7.” “Hear ye Him,” Whom the mysteries of the Law have foretold, Whom the mouths of prophets have sung. “Hear ye Him,” Who redeems the world by His blood, Who binds the devil, and carries off his chattels, Who destroys the bond of sin, and the compact of the transgression. Hear ye Him, Who opens the way to heaven, and by the punishment of the cross prepares for you the steps of ascent to the Kingdom? Why tremble ye at being redeemed? why fear ye to be healed of your wounds? Let that happen which Christ wills and I will. Cast away all fleshly fear, and arm yourselves with faithful constancy; for it is unworthy that ye should fear in the Saviour’s Passion what by His good gift ye shall not have to fear even at your own end.

VIII. The Father’s words have a universal application to the whole Church

These things, dearly-beloved, were said not for their profit only, who heard them with their own ears, but in these three Apostles the whole Church has learnt all that their eyes saw and their ears heard. Let all men’s faith then be established, according to the preaching of the most holy Gospel, and let no one be ashamed of Christ’s cross, through which the world was redeemed. And let not any one fear to suffer for righteousness’ sake, or doubt of the fulfilment of the promises, for this reason, that through toil we pass to rest and through death to life; since all the weakness of our humility was assumed by Him, in Whom, if we abide in the acknowledgment and love of Him, we conquer as He conquered, and receive what he promised, because, whether to the performance of His commands or to the endurance of adversities, the Father’s fore-announcing voice should always be sounding in our ears, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him:” Who liveth and reigneth, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever. Amen.

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St Augustine’s Sermon on Matthew 17:1-9

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 11, 2017

1. WE must now look into and treat of that vision which the Lord showed on the mount. For it is this of which He had said, “Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here which shall not taste of death till they see the Son of Man in His Kingdom.”5 Then began the passage which has just been read. “When He had said this, after six days He took three disciples, Peter, and James, and John, and went up into a mountain.”6 These three were those “some,” of whom He had said, “There be some here which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man in His kingdom.” There is no small difficulty here. For that mount was not the whole extent of His kingdom.7 What is a mountain to Him who possesseth the heavens? Which we not only read He doth, but in some sort see it with the eyes of the heart. He calleth that His kingdom, which in many places He calleth the “kingdom of heaven.” Now the kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of the saints. “For the heavens declare the glory of God.”8 And of these heavens it is immediately said in the Psalm, “There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their sound is gone out through all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world.”9 Whose words, but of the heavens? And of the Apostles, and all faithful preachers of the word of God. These heavens therefore shall reign together with Him who made the heavens. Now consider what was done, that this might be made manifest.

2. The Lord Jesus Himself shone bright as the sun; His raiment became white as the snow; and Moses and Elias talked with Him.10 Jesus Himself indeed shone as the sun, signifying that “He is the light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”11 What this sun is to the eyes of the flesh, that is He to the eyes of the heart; and what that is to the flesh of men, that is He to their hearts. Now His raiment is His Church. For if the raiment be not held together by him who puts it on, it will fall off. Of this raiment, Paul was as it were a sort of last border. For he says himself, “I am the least of the Apostles.”12 And in another place, “I am the last of the Apostles.” Now in a garment the border is the last and least part. Wherefore as that woman which suffered from an issue of blood, when she had touched the Lord’s border was made whole,13 so the Church which came from out of the Gentiles, was made whole by the preaching of Paul. What wonder if the Church is signified by white raiment, when you hear the Prophet Isaiah saying, “Though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow”?14 Moses and Elias, that is, the Law and the Prophets, what avail they, except they converse with the Lord? Except they give witness to the Lord, who would read the Law or the Prophets? Mark how briefly the Apostle expresses this; “For by the Law is the knowledge of sin; but now the righteousness of God without the Law is manifested:” behold the sun; “being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,”15 behold the shining of the Sun.

3. Peter sees this, and as a man savouring the things of men says, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”16 He had been wearied with the multitude, he had found now the mountain’s solitude; there he had Christ the Bread of the soul. What! should he depart thence again to travail and pains, possessed of a holy love to Godward, and thereby of a good conversation? He wished well for himself; and so he added, “If Thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.” To this the Lord made no answer; but notwithstanding Peter was answered. “For while he yet spake, a bright cloud came, and overshadowed them.”17 He desired three tabernacles; the heavenly answer showed him that we have One, which human judgment desired to divide. Christ, the Word of God, the Word of God in the Law, the Word in the Prophets. Why, Peter, dost thou seek to divide them? It were more fitting for thee to join them. Thou seekest three; understand that they are but One.

4. As the cloud then overshadowed them, and in a way made one tabernacle for them, “a voice also sounded out of the cloud, which said, This is My beloved Son.” Moses was there; Elias was there; yet it was not said, “These are My beloved sons.” For the Only Son is one thing; adopted sons another. He was singled out1 in whom the Law and the prophets glorified. “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear Him!” Because ye have heard Him in the Prophets, and ye have heard Him in the Law. And where have ye not heard Him? “When they heard this, they fell” to the earth. See then in the Church is exhibited to us the Kingdom of God. Here is the Lord, here the Law and the Prophets; but the Lord as the Lord; the Law in Moses, Prophecy in Elias; only they as servants and as ministers. They as vessels; He as the fountain: Moses and the Prophets spake, and wrote; but when they poured out, they were filled from Him.

5. But the Lord stretched out His hand, and raised them as they lay. And then “they saw no man, save Jesus only.”2 What does this mean? When the Apostle was being read, you heard, “For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.”3 And “tongues shall cease,” when that which we now hope for and believe shall come. In then that they fell to the earth, they signified that we die, for it was said to the flesh, “Earth thou art, and unto earth shalt thou return.”4 But when the Lord raised them up, He signified the resurrection. After the resurrection, what is the Law to thee? what Prophecy? Therefore neither Moses nor Elias is seen. He only remaineth to thee, “Who in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”5 He remaineth to thee, “that God may be all in all.” Moses will be there; but now no more the Law. We shall see Elias there too; but now no more the Prophet. For the Law and the Prophets have only given witness to Christ, that it behoved Him to suffer, and to rise again from the dead the third day, and to enter into His glory. And in this glory is fulfilled what He hath promised to them that love Him, “He that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him.”6 And as if it were said, What wilt Thou give him, seeing Thou wilt love him? “And I will manifest Myself unto him.” Great gift! great promise! God doth not reserve for thee as a reward anything of His own, but Himself. O thou covetous one; why doth not what Christ promiseth suffice thee? Thou dost seem to thyself to be rich; yet if thou have not God, what hast thou? Another is poor, yet if he hath God, what hath he not?

6. Come down, Peter: thou wast desiring to rest on the mount; come down, “preach the word, be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”7 Endure, labour hard, bear thy measure of torture; that thou mayest possess what is meant by the white raiment of the Lord, through the brightness and the beauty of an upright labouring in charity. For when the Apostle was being read we heard in praise of charity, “She seeketh not her own.8 She seeketh not her own;” since she gives what she possesses. In another place there is more danger in the expression, if you do not understand it right. For the Apostle, charging the faithful members of Christ after this rule of charity, says, “Let no man seek his own, but another’s.”9 For on hearing this, covetousness is ready with its deceits, that in a matter of business under pretence of seeking another’s, it may defraud a man, and so, “seek not his own, but another’s.” But let covetousness restrain itself, let justice come forth; so let us hear and understand. It is to charity that it is said, “Let no man seek his own, but another’s.” Now, O thou covetous one, if thou wilt still resist, and twist the precept rather to this point, that thou shouldest covet what is another’s; then lose what is thine own. But as I know thee well, thou dost wish to have both thine own and another’s. Thou wilt commit fraud that thou mayest have what is another’s; submit then to robbery that thou mayest lose thine own. Thou dost not wish to seek thine own, but then thou takest away what is another’s. Now this if thou do, thou doest not well. Hear and listen, thou covetous one: the Apostle explains to thee in another place more clearly this that he said, “Let no man seek his own, but another’s.” He says of himself, “Not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”10 This Peter understood not yet when he desired to live on the mount with Christ. He was reserving this for thee, Peter, after death. But now He saith Himself, “Come down, to labour in the earth; in the earth to serve, to be despised, and crucified in the earth. The Life came down, that He might be slain; the Bread came down, that He might hunger; the Way came down, that He might be wearied in the way; the Fountain came down, that He might thirst; and dost thou refuse to labour? ‘Seek not thine own.’ Have charity, preach the truth; so shalt thou come to eternity, where thou shalt find security.”

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A Brief Sermon on the Transfiguration by St Augustine

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 11, 2017

WE heard when the Holy Gospel was being read of the great vision on the mount, in which Jesus showed Himself to the three disciples, Peter, James, and John. “His face did shine as the sun:” this is a figure of the shining of the Gospel. “His raiment was white as the snow:”1 this is a figure of the purity of the Church, to which it was said by the Prophet, “Though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow.”2 Elias and Moses were talking with Him; because the grace of the Gospel receives witness from the Law and the Prophets. The Law is represented in Moses, the Prophets in Elias; to speak briefly. For there are the mercies of God vouchsafed through a holy Martyr to be rehearsed. Let us give ear Peter desired three tabernacles to be made, one for Moses, one for Elias, and one for Christ. The solitude of the mountain had charms for him; he had been wearied with the tumult of the world’s business. But why sought be three tabernacles, but because he knew not as yet the unity of the Law, and of Prophecy, and of the Gospel? Lastly, he was corrected by the cloud, “While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them.” Lo, the cloud hath made one tabernacle; wherefore didst thou seek for three? “And a voice came out of the cloud, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye Him.”3 Elias speaketh; but “hear Him;” Moses speaketh; but “hear Him.” The Prophets speak, the Law speaketh; but “hear Him,” who is the voice of the Law, and the tongue of the Prophets. He spake in them, and when He vouchsafed so to do, He appeared in His own person. “Hear ye Him:” let us then hear Him. When the Gospel spake, think it was the cloud: from thence hath the voice sounded out to us. Let us hear Him; that is, let us do what He saith, let us hope for what He hath promised.

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St Alphonsus Ligouri’s Sermon on the Transfiguration of Christ

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 11, 2017

SERMON XVI.—SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT

On Heaven

“Lord, it is good for us to be here.”—Mt. 17:4.

In this day’s gospel we read, that wishing to give his disciples a glimpse of the glory of Paradise, in order to animate them to labour for the divine honour, the Redeemer was transfigured, and allowed them to behold the splendour of his countenance. Ravished with joy and delight, St. Peter exclaimed: “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” Lord, let us remain here; let us never more depart from this place; for, the sight of thy beauty consoles us more than all the delights of the earth. Brethren, let us labour during the remainder of our lives to gain heaven. Heaven is so great a good, that, to purchase it for us, Jesus Christ has sacrificed his life on the cross. Be assured, that the greatest of all the torments of the damned in hell, arise from the thought of having lost heaven through their own fault. The blessings, the delights, the joys, the sweetness of Paradise may be acquired; but they can be described and understood only by those blessed souls that enjoy them. But let us, with the aid of the holy Scripture, explain the little that can be said of them here below.

1. According to the Apostle, no man on this earth can comprehend the infinite blessings which God has prepared for the souls that love him. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9.) In this life we cannot have an idea of any other pleasures than those which we enjoy by means of the senses. Perhaps we imagine that the beauty of heaven resembles that of a wide extended plain covered with the verdure of spring, interspersed with trees in full bloom, and abounding in birds fluttering about and singing on every side; or, that it is like the beauty of a garden full of fruits and flowers, and surrounded by fountains in continual play. “Oh! what a Paradise,” to behold such a plain, or such a garden! But, oh! how much greater are the beauties of heaven! Speaking of Paradise, St. Bernard says: O man, if you wish to understand the blessings of heaven, know that in that happy country there is nothing which can be disagreeable, and everything that you can desire. “Nihil est quod nolis, totum est quod velis.” Although there are some things here below which are agreeable to the senses, how many more are there which only torment us? If the light of day is pleasant, the darkness of night is disagreeable: if the spring and the autumn are cheering, the cold of winter and the heat of summer are painful. In addition, we have to endure the pains of sickness, the persecution of men, and the inconveniences of poverty; we must submit to interior troubles, to fears, to temptations of the devil, doubts of conscience, and to the uncertainty of eternal salvation.

2. But, after entering into Paradise, the blest shall have no more sorrows. “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” The Lord shall dry up the tears which they have shed in this life. “And death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow, shall be any more, for the former things are passed away. And he that sat on the throne, said: “Behold, I make all things new.” (Apoc. 21:4, 5.) In Paradise, death and the fear of death are no more: in that place of bliss there are no sorrows, no infirmities, no poverty, no inconveniencies, no vicissitudes of day or night, of cold or of heat. In that kingdom there is a continual day, always serene, a continual spring, always blooming. In Paradise there are no persecutions, no envy; for all love each other with tenderness, and each rejoices at the happiness of the others, as if it were his own. There is no more fear of eternal perdition; for the soul confirmed in grace can neither sin nor lose God.

3. “Totum est quod velis.” In heaven you have all you can desire. “Behold, I make all things new.” There everything is new; new beauties, new delights, new joys. There all our desires shall be satisfied. The sight shall be satiated with beholding the beauty of that city. How delightful to behold a city in which the streets should be of crystal, the houses of silver, the windows of gold, and all adorned with the most beautiful flowers. But, oh! how much more beautiful shall be the city of Paradise! the beauty of the place shall be heightened by the beauty of the inhabitants, who are all clothed in royal robes; for, according to St. Augustine, they are all kings. “Quot cives, tot reges.” How delighted to behold Mary, the queen of heaven, who shall appear more beautiful than all the other citizens of Paradise! But, what it must be to behold the beauty of Jesus Christ! St. Teresa once saw one of the hands of Jesus Christ, and was struck with astonishment at the sight of such beauty. The smell shall be satiated with odours, but with the odours of Paradise. The hearing shall be satiated with the harmony of the celestial choirs. St. Francis once heard for a moment an angel playing on a violin, and he almost died through joy. How delightful must it be to hear the saints and angels singing the divine praises! “They shall praise thee for ever and ever.” (Ps. 83:5.) What must it be to hear Mary praising God! St. Francis de Sales says, that, as the singing of the nightingale in the wood surpasses that of all other birds, so the voice of Mary is far superior to that of all the other saints. In a word, there are in Paradise all the delights which man can desire.

4. But the delights of which we have spoken are the least of the blessings of Paradise. The glory of heaven consists in seeing and loving God face to face. “Totum quod expectamus,” says St. Augustine, “duæ syllabæ sunt, Deus.” The reward which God promises to us does not consist altogether in the beauty, the harmony, and other advantages of the city of Paradise. God himself, whom the saints are allowed to behold, is, according to the promises made to Abraham, the principal reward of the just in heaven. “I am thy reward exceeding great.” (Gen. 15:1.) St. Augustine asserts, that, were God to show his face to the damned, “Hell would be instantly changed into a Paradise of delights.” (Lib. de trip. habit., tom. 9.) And he adds that, were a departed soul allowed the choice of seeing God and suffering the pains of hell, or of being freed from these pains and deprived of the sight of God, “she would prefer to see God, and to endure these torments.”

5. The delights of the soul infinitely surpass all the pleasures of the senses. Even in this life divine love infuses such sweetness into the soul when God communicates himself to her, that the body is raised from the earth. St. Peter of Alcantara once fell into such an ecstacy of love, that, taking hold of a tree, he drew it up from the roots, and raised it with him on high. So great is the sweetness of divine love, that the holy martyrs, in the midst of their torments, felt no pain, but were on the contrary filled with joy. Hence, St. Augustine says that, when St. Lawrence was laid on a red-hot gridiron, the fervour of divine love made him insensible to the burning heat of the fire. “Hoc igne incensus non sentit incendium.” Even on sinners who weep for their sins, God bestows consolations which exceed all earthly pleasures. Hence St. Bernard says: “If it be so sweet to weep for thee, what must it be to rejoice in thee!”

6. How great is the sweetness which a soul experiences, when, in the time of prayer, God, by a ray of his own light, shows to her his goodness and his mercies towards her, and particularly the love which Jesus Christ has borne to her in his passion! She feels her heart melting, and as it were dissolved through love. But in this life we do not see God as he really is: we see him as it were in the dark. “We see now through a glass in a dark manner, but then face to face.” (1 Cor. 13:12.) Here below God is hidden from our view; we can see him only with the eyes of faith: how great shall be our happiness when the veil shall be raised, and we shall be permitted to behold God face to face! We shall then see his beauty, his greatness, his perfection, his amiableness, and his immense love for our souls.

7. “Man knoweth not whether he be worthy of love or hatred.” (Eccl. 9:1.) The fear of not loving God, and of not being loved by him, is the greatest affliction which souls that love God endure on the earth; but, in heaven, the soul is certain that she loves God, and that he loves her; she sees that the Lord embraces her with infinite love, and that this love shall not be dissolved for all eternity. The knowledge of the love which Jesus Christ has shown her in offering himself in sacrifice for her on the cross, and in making himself her food in the sacrament of the altar, shall increase the ardour of her love. She shall also see clearly all the graces which God has bestowed upon her, all the helps which he has given her, to preserve her from falling into sin, and to draw her to his love. She shall see that all the tribulations, the poverty, infirmities, and persecutions which she regards as misfortunes, have all proceeded from love, and have been the means employed by Divine Providence to bring her to glory. She shall see all the lights, loving calls, and mercies which God had granted to her, after she had insulted him by her sins. From the blessed mountain of Paradise she shall see so many souls damned for fewer sins than she had committed, and shall see that she herself is saved and secured against the possibility of ever losing God.

8. The goods of this earth do not satisfy our desires: at first they gratify the senses; but when we become accustomed to them they cease to delight. But the joys of Paradise constantly satiate and content the heart. “I shall be satisfied when thy glory shall appear.” (Ps. 16:15.) And though they satiate they always appear to be as new as the first time when they were experienced; they are always enjoyed and always desired, always desired and always possessed. “Satiety,” says St. Gregory, “accompanies desire.” (Lib. 13, Mor., c. xviii.) Thus, the desires of the saints in Paradise do not beget pain, because they are always satisfied; and satiety does not produce disgust, because it is always accompanied with desire. Hence the soul shall be always satiated and always thirsty: she shall be for ever thirsty, and always satiated with delights. The damned are, according to the Apostle, vessels full of wrath and of torments, “vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction.” (Rom. 9:22.) But the just are vessels full of mercy and of joy, so that they have nothing to desire. “They shall be inebriated with the plenty of thy house.” (Ps. 35:9.) In beholding the beauty of God, the soul shall be so inflamed and so inebriated with divine love, that she shall remain happily lost in God; for she shall entirely forget herself, and for all eternity shall think only of loving and praising the immense good which she shall possess for ever, without the fear of having it in her power ever to lose it. In this life, holy souls love God; but they cannot love him with all their strength, nor can they always actually love him. St. Thomas teaches, that this perfect love is only given to the citizens of heaven, who love God with their whole heart, and never cease to love him actually. “Ut totum cor hominis semper actualiter in Deum feratur ista est perfectio patriæ.” (2, 2 quæst. 44, art. 4, ad. 2.)

9. Justly, then, has St. Augustine said, that to gain the eternal glory of Paradise, we should cheerfully embrace eternal labour. “Pro æterna requie æternus labor subeundus esset.” “For nothing,” says David, “shalt thou save them.” (Ps. 55:8.) The saints have done but little to acquire Heaven. So many kings, who have abdicated their thrones and shut themselves up in a cloister; so many holy anchorets, who have confined themselves in a cave; so many martyrs, who have cheerfully submitted to torments—to the rack, and to red-hot plates—have done but little. “The sufferings of this life are not worthy to be compared to the glory to come.” (Rom. 8:18.) To gain heaven, it would be but little to endure all the pains of this life.

10. Let us, then, brethren, courageously resolve to bear patiently with all the sufferings which shall come upon us during the remaining days of our lives: to secure heaven they are all little and nothing. Rejoice then; for all these pains, sorrows, and persecutions shall, if we are saved, be to us a source of never-ending joys and delights. “Your sorrows shall be turned into joy.” (John 16:20.) When, then, the crosses of this life afflict us, let us raise our eyes to heaven, and console ourselves with the hope of Paradise. At the end of her life, St. Mary of Egypt was asked, by the Abbot St. Zozimus, how she had been able to live for forty-seven years in the desert where he found her dying. She answered: “With the hope of Paradise.” If we be animated with the same hope, we shall not feel the tribulations of this life. Have courage! Let us love God and labour for heaven. There the saint expects us, Mary expects us, Jesus Christ expects us; he holds in his hand a crown to make each of us a king in that eternal kingdom.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 16

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 11, 2017

Christ’s future victory and triumph over the world, and death

1 Preserve me, O Lord, for I have put my trust in thee.

Which may be supposed to be said by Christ or by any sincere Christian; that is, guard, protect me from the impending trouble, for in thee alone, and in no created being, have I put my trust, which is evident from what follows: for,

2 I have said to the Lord, thou art my God, for thou hast no need of my goods.

I have confessed to the Lord, and said from my heart: “Thou art my God,” varying the expression from Lord, “for thou hast no need of my goods,” but I rather have need of thine; you, in nowise, depend on me, I entirely depend on you; you are, therefore, my only true and supreme Lord, and, therefore, in thee alone I hope and confide. These expressions proceed from the prophet in the person of Christ; at the time he was not only man, but liable to suffering and death.

3 To the saints, who are in his land, he hath made wonderful all my desires in them.

“As God has no need of my goods,” I will seek to confer them on his elect, and of which friendly intentions God is witness, for “He has made wonderful all my desires in them;” that is, all my benevolence and good will towards his saints and his elect. God is said to have made the benevolence of Christ to the elect wonderful, by declaring it both through the prophets, through the various figures of the Old Testament, as well as by the miracles of Christ and his apostles; and wonderful was Christ’s love for his elect, when he laid down his life for them.

4 Their infirmities were multiplied: afterwards they made haste. I will not gather together their meetings for blood offerings: nor will I be mindful of their names by my lips.

The effect of the benevolence of Christ towards his elect; they who, by reason of the grievous wounds of sin, so as to be unable to walk, when healed by the grace of God now began to run in the way of the commandments. “Their infirmities are multiplied;” that is, their spiritual infirmities and diseases; hence the apostle to the Romans, chap. 5, “When we were as yet infirm, Christ suffered for us;” and, in a few verses after, in explanation of the passage, he says: “When we were sinners.” The Hebrew for “infirmity” is made by many translators to stand for “idols;” such is not its signification; it properly means infirmity accompanied with pain, and may be figuratively applied to idols; because idols are infirm and powerless, or because they make sinners of men, and thus infirm. “Afterwards they made haste,” which means the very weakest among them, made so by the multiplicity of their sins, but afterwards, restored by grace, became so strong “as to exult in running their way.” Such was the case in the infancy of the Church, when the converts so hastened to the scaffold. “I will not gather together their meetings for blood offerings;” I do not approve of their “meetings for blood offerings;” and, therefore, I will not call them together, “nor will I be mindful of their names by my lips;” I will not only refuse to call such meetings together, but I will not even speak or make mention of such meetings. The connection between this latter part and the beginning of the verse now appears, for he assigns a reason why the elect, after having fallen into a number of sins, and especially idolatry, made such haste “in running in the way of the Lord;” because, in consequence of their having the most thorough abhorrence of idols and of their worship, so much so, as not to allow their name even to be mentioned; he therefore cleansed the elect in Christ from the sin of idolatry, and thus made them saints, “To run in the way of his commandments.”

5 The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup: it is thou that wilt restore my inheritance to me.

Having declared his detestation of idols and of sin, he adds his reason for so doing: because he places all his happiness in God alone. An expression most becoming the Redeemer who, entirely “separated from sinners,” and in thorough union with God the Father, places all his happiness in him. A thing we, too, as far as we are able, are bound to. “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance;” that is, the portion which came to me by inheritance, my whole, my all, my everything; “and of my cup;” a repetition of the idea, for the word “cup,” from being divided among the guests, is often made to signify the inheritance which is divided among the children. If you will, “inheritance” may signify substantial wealth, or valuables, and “cup,” delicacies; when the meaning would be, that all my substantial and refined pleasures are fixed in God alone; “it is thou that wilt restore my inheritance to me.” These words are supposed to have been used by Christ, while yet a mortal, before he had got full possession of his inheritance. When we use them, we hold all happiness in God in desire, but not yet in actual possession. That possession is in God’s keeping, and he will hand it over to us on the last day, as he did to Christ on the day of his resurrection. St. Paul alludes to this when he says, “For I know whom I have believed; and I am certain that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him, against that day.”

6 The lines are fallen unto me in goodly places: for my inheritance is goodly to me.

By a simile drawn from an inheritance in this world, he declares the superiority of that in eternity, for those who seek God and his glory. When an inheritance was divided among a family, the fields were measured with lines, and divided, and lots were cast for the several divisions; and the lines were said to fall in goodly places, when the best part of the land was had by lot. The meaning then is, I have obtained the best part of the inheritance by a most fortunate cast or lot, “for my inheritance is goodly to me;” a mere repetition of the same. He alludes to the division by lot; that he may remind us that the principle of the inheritance comes from predestination, and predestination in our regard is a sort of lot; whence St. Paul, Ephes. 1:11, says, “In whom we are also called by lot;” and Coloss. 1:12, “To be partakers of the lot of the saints.”

7 I will bless the Lord, who hath given me understanding: moreover, my reins also have corrected me even till night.

Thanks to God for having inspired him with the thought, and inflamed him with the desire of choosing so valuable an inheritance. “I will bless the Lord.” I will praise him, the author of such a blessing, “who hath given me understanding,” who makes me know, and prudently choose the inheritance; “moreover my reins also have corrected me even till night.” Reins or loins, in the Scriptures signify affections, or desires; whence the expression, “Searching the heart and reins;” and, “prove my heart and my reins;” the heart signifying the thoughts; the reins, the affections: “night” means the time of tribulation; and day, that of prosperity: the expression “correct me,” would be more properly translated by the word “instructed.” Thus the sense will be: not only in prosperity, but in adversity, my whole affections, inflamed to love God, instructed me in a most urgent manner to bear my sufferings patiently, hoping for the best always from Almighty God.

8 I set the Lord always in my sight: for he is at my right hand, that I be not moved.

From the intelligent and affectionate manner in which he praised God, in the preceding verse, it is quite clear God must have been always before his eyes, for the soul is more where it loves, than where it animates. “For he is at my right hand, that I be not moved;” nor was I deceived in having God always before my eyes; that is, the eyes of my heart; for he is really always on my right hand, as if he were protecting my side, and preceding me, like a brave auxiliary; that I may not be disturbed from my path, but persist and persevere to the very end.

9 Therefore my heart hath been glad, and my tongue hath rejoiced: moreover, my flesh also shall rest in hope.

He now tells what that “great inheritance” is that God is “to restore” to him and to others, who have chosen God. “Therefore,” because the “Lord is on my right hand,” a most faithful helper and protector, “my heart hath been glad,” with that true and solid joy of which our Lord speaks in the gospel, when he says, “Your heart shall rejoice, and nobody shall take your joy from you.” “And my tongue hath rejoiced,” because eternal joy is wont to show itself externally; moreover my flesh also shall rest in hope;” that is, my soul shall rejoice, and my flesh shall sleep in secure and placid death, being in certain expectation of a very speedy resurrection.

10 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; nor wilt thou give thy holy one to see corruption.

This is explained by the apostles Peter and Paul, Acts 2 and 13; and though, strictly speaking; it applies to Christ alone, whose soul was not left in hell, meaning the limbo of the holy fathers; nor did his body in the sepulchre undergo any putrefaction, yet we can all apply it to ourselves, inasmuch as we are members of Christ, and through him, as the apostle has it, “God has raised us up together,” 2 Ephes; and because our souls will not be left in hell, meaning purgatory, nor will our flesh see corruption.

11 Thou hast made known to me the ways of life, thou shalt fill me with joy with thy countenance: at thy right hand are delights even to the end.

The complete promise of the inheritance is here explained. “Thou hast made known to me the ways of life;” you have “taught me the way” of returning to life from death. A most beautiful metaphor, by which the mode of resurrection is called a way unknown up to that time, because nobody to that time, with the exception of Christ, had truly risen. And he adds, you have not only taught me the way of rising from the dead, but “Thou wilt fill me with joy with thy countenance;” making me glorious, immortal, and happy, by showing me your countenance; because, from the beatific vision, in which consists essential happiness, glory even redounds on the body, which glory was the only one that Christ had not always; for his soul had such glory from the time of his conception, “at thy right hand are delights even to the end.” Not content with conferring glory on me, you will place me on your right hand in heaven, where the glory will be everlasting. All which apply to the elect too, in a certain sense; to whom God shows the road to life when he teaches them that the observance of his law is the way to the kingdom of heaven. “He fills the elect too, with joy,” when he shows himself to them, “face to face;” when, with his right hand he offers them delights even unto the end;” when he places them on his right hand, and with his right hand fills them, as if from an inexhaustible fountain, with delights interminable. We may here note the incredible rashness of Theodore Bera, “You will not leave my soul in hell;” “You will not leave my body in the grave.” If this be not a corruption of the sacred text, we have none. I have demonstrated most clearly in the “Controversies,” that the words in this passage and in Acts 2, signify, both in the Hebrew and in the Greek, not “corpse” and “grave,” but “soul” and “hell,” and can signify nothing else.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 23

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 5, 2017

1 The Lord ruleth me: and I shall want nothing.

The happiness of the elect, under the figure of sheep in charge of some excellent shepherd, is described in this Psalm. David, one of such sheep, exclaims, “The Lord ruleth me, and I shall want nothing;” I am one of God’s sheep, and he being a most wise, powerful, and good shepherd, I may confidently assert, “I shall want nothing.” This is the language of one of the happy, “on the road,” and “in hope.” For the happy, actually so, and “at home,” do not use the future tense, but the present, because they are done with labor and grief, and have already “entered into the joy of their Lord.” But the blessed on the road, and in hope, cannot say, I want nothing, being subject to many passions; but they can justly say, “I will want nothing;” because, when they will want they will get; when they shall be hungry, they will not fail to be supplied with food; when they shall be sick, they will be sure of a physician. The words, “I shall want nothing,” come to be explained by him after. Sheep require, first, rich pasture; secondly, pure water; thirdly, one to bring them back when they stray; fourthly, to be brought through easy passages; fifthly, to be protected from wolves and wild beasts; sixthly, to be supported when tired and weary; seventhly, if cut or maimed by passing through cliffs or rocks, to be cured; and, lastly, at the close of day, at the end of their journey, to have a home wherein they may securely rest. All these matters God gives in abundance to his elect, and they can, therefore, justly say, “I shall want nothing.” David takes up the first in these words, “He hath set me in a place of pasture;” not in a barren or desert spot, but in prairie land, where an abundance of the choicest and most wholesome grass is to be had; where the sheep have food in abundance; the food, in a spiritual sense, being the knowledge of God, his sacraments, especially the Eucharist, Truth himself, for these are what support, nourish, and increase the spiritual life within us.

2 He hath set me in a place of pasture. He hath brought me up, on the water of refreshment:

The second necessary for the sheep, viz., to have not only plenty of wholesome pasture, but to have plenty of pure water at hand, to be cooled in the heat and the thirst. The spiritual water that extinguishes the thirst of us sheep, is the grace of God, of which Christ himself speaks in the Gospel, Jn. 4, “Whosoever shall drink of the water I will give him, shall not thirst forever.” Nothing is so effectual in curbing our carnal desires, as a taste of the love of God; to the soul who once tastes of it, everything else seems insipid.

3 He hath converted my soul. He hath led me on the paths of justice, for his own name’s sake.

The third want of the sheep, the being brought back when they stray; for man, though he may by his own strength turn from God, cannot by his own strength return to him. He says then: The good shepherd sought me out when I strayed, brought me back, and, more than that, never allowed me to stray again—a peculiar privilege to the elect. “He hath led me on the paths of justice.” The fourth duty of the shepherd, made me walk in the narrow path of his commandments; and, thereby, lead the life of the just. That he effected by taking from the power and strength of the tempter, by an increase of charity, by additional sweetness, by illuminating with his justice, by enticements, by excitement, by endearment, by terror, and other innumerable ways, on which, if we would only reflect for a moment, we would never cease, during our whole lifetime, to return thanks to so sweet a Pastor; the more so, when all this has been done, not by reason of our previous merits, but “on account of his own name, that he may make known the riches of his mercy to the praise of the glory of his grace.”

4 For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they have comforted me.

The fifth service rendered the sheep, is their protection from wolves and other wild beasts. “For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death;” through dark, dreary places, exposed to all manner of dangers from wild beasts, robbers, precipices, “I will fear no evils, for thou art with me.” And, in truth, no one can well imagine the security a faithful soul feels when they bring to mind that God, who cannot be resisted, accompanies them. “The shadow of death” is of frequent recurrence in the Scripture; the proper meaning of which is that dense darkness, which shuts out all light, and is caused by death. The blind are said to be in darkness, because they see nothing; and with much more reason are the dead said to be so, because they feel nothing. Hence, the poets make the dead to dwell in shady places, wrapped up in darkness; and hence, the Scripture promiscuously uses darkness for the shadow of death, to explain one through the other, as in Job 3, “Let darkness and the shadow of death cover it;” and Job 10, “To a land that is dark, and covered with the mist of death;” Isaias 9, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen;” in each of which passages “dwelling in darkness,” and “dwelling in the region of the shadow of death,” are used to signify the same thing. And as dark places are exposed to a great many dangers, and we generally go through them with no small amount of fear, David, therefore, says, “Though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death:” in dense darkness, surrounded by danger, “I will fear no evils, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they have comforted me.” The sixth benefit conferred on the sheep, their being supported when weary. He now drops the simile of the sheep, and takes up the shepherd, for sheep are not supported, when weary, by a staff, but are carried on the shoulders of the shepherd; which God is always ready to offer his faithful souls when weary.

5 Thou hast prepared a table before me against them that afflict me. Thou hast anointed my head with oil; and my chalice which inebreateth me, how goodly is it!

The seventh favor, namely, the wonderful consolation extended by God to his elect, in the troubles incidental to them in this world. The meaning of this verse is, not that God has prepared a table, wine and oil, against his enemies, as if they were the weapons wherewith to fight; but the meaning is, that God provides great consolations to meet great tribulations; and, as the enemy seeks to do us much injury, so God pours upon us many consolations, which are pictured as if we were enjoying a feast, where the table was overspread with the choicest meats, with the rarest wines, and the most precious perfumed ointments, such as we read of Mary Magdalen having poured on the head of our Savior. “Against them that afflict me.” This is clearer in the Greek, and the meaning of it is, that out of the persecution and trouble prepared for me by my enemies, you have extracted great consolation—a well furnished table for me. “thou hast anointed my head with oil.” Thou hast poured precious ointment on my head, and thus “made my face cheerful with oil:” nor was there wanting the cup of wine, inebriating me with thy grace, so “goodly,” and so “gladdening to the heart.” Such another passage occurs in Psalm 93, “According to the multitude of my sorrows in my heart, thy comforts have given joy to my soul.” And in 2 Cor. 7, “I am filled with comfort: I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulation.”

6 And thy mercy will follow me all the days of my life. And that I may dwell in the house of the Lord unto length of days.

This is the last good, that brings to the supreme good. “Thy mercy will follow me,” not for a time, but forever, which is the peculiar privilege of the elect. “And that I may dwell;” that is, it will follow me for that purpose, “to dwell in the house of the Lord, unto length of days;” that is, forever.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 9:1-41

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 26, 2017

1. And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
2. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
3. Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
4. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
5. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
6. When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,
7. And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lvi. 1.) The Jews having rejected Christ’s words, because of their depth, He went out of the temple, and healed the blind man; that His absence might appease their fury, and the miracle soften their hard hearts, and convince their unbelief. And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth. It is to be remarked here that, on going out of the temple, He betook Himself intently to this manifestation of His power. He first saw the blind man, not the blind man Him: and so intently did He fix His eye upon him, that His disciples were struck, and asked, Rabbi, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?

Bede. Mystically, our Lord, after being banished from the minds of the Jews, passed over to the Gentiles. (non occ.). The passage or journey here is His descent from heaven to earth, where He saw the blind man, i. e. looked with compassion on the human race.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 1, 2.) For the blind man here is the human race. Blindness came upon the first man by reason of sin: and from him we all derive it: i. e. man is blind from his birth.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 1, 2.) Rabbi is Master. They call Him Master, because they wished to learn: they put their question to our Lord, as to a Master.

Theophylact. This question does not seem a proper one. For the Apostles had not been taught the fond notion of the Gentiles, that the soul has sinned in a previous state of existence. It is difficult to account for their putting it.

Chrysostom. (Hom. liv. 1. c. 5.) They were led to ask this question, by our Lord having said above, on healing the man sick of the palsy, Lo, thou art made whole; sin no more. Thinking from this that the man had been struck with the palsy for his sins, they ask our Lord of the blind man here, whether he did sin, or his parents; neither of which could have been the reason of his blindness; the former, because he had been blind from his birth; the latter, because the son does not suffer for the father.

Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 3) Was he then born without original sin, or had he never added to it by actual sin? Both this man and his parents had sinned, but that sin was not the reason why he was born blind. Our Lord gives the reason; viz. That the works of God should be made manifest in him.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lvi. 1, 2.) He is not to be understood as meaning that others had become blind, in consequence of their parents’ sins: for one man cannot be punished for the sin of another. But had the man therefore suffered unjustly? Rather I should say that that blindness was a benefit to him: for by it he was brought to see with the inward eye. At any rate He who brought him into being out of nothing, had the power to make him in the event no loser by it. Some too say, that the that here, is expressive not of the cause, but of the event, as in the passage in Romans, The law entered that sin might abound; (Rom. 5:20) the effect in this case being, that our Lord by opening the closed eye, and healing other natural infirmities, demonstrated His own power.

Gregory. (in Præf. Moral. c. 5.) One stroke falls on the sinner, for punishment only, not conversion; another for correction; another not for correction of past sins, but prevention of future; another neither for correcting past, nor preventing future sins, but by the unexpected deliverance following the blow, to excite more ardent love of the Saviour’s goodness.

Chrysostom. (Hom. liv. 2.) That the glory of God should be made manifest, He saith of Himself, not of the Father; the Father’s glory was manifest already. I must work the works of Him that sent Me: i. e. I must manifest Myself, and shew that I do the same that My Father doeth.

Bede. For when the Son declared that He worked the works of the Father, He proved that His and His Father’s works were the same: which are to heal the sick, to strengthen the weak, and enlighten man.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 4.) By His saying, Who sent Me, He gives all the glory to Him from Whom He is. The Father hath a Son Who is from Him, but hath none from whom He Himself is.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lvi. 2.) While it is day, He adds; i. e. while men have the opportunity of believing in Me; while this life lasts; The night cometh, when none can work. Night here means that spoken of in Matthew, Cast him into outer darkness. (Mat. 22:13) Then will there be night, wherein none can work, but only receive for that which he has worked. While thou livest, do that which thou wilt do: for beyond it is neither faith, nor labour, nor repentance.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 5.) But if we work now, now is the day time, now is Christ present; as He says, As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. This then is the day. The natural day is completed by the circuit of the sun, and contains only a few hours: the day of Christ’s presence will last to the end of the world: for He Himself has said, Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. (Mat. 28:20)

Chrysostom. (Hom. lvi. 2.) He then confirms His words by deeds: When He had thus spoken, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. He who had brought greater substances into being out of nothing, could much more have given sight without the use of any material: but He wished to shew that He was the Creator, Who in the beginning used clay for the formation of man. (Hom. lvii. 1). He makes the clay with spittle, and not with water, to make it evident that it was not the pool of Siloam, whither He was about to send him, but the virtue proceeding from His mouth, which restored the man’s sight. And then, that the cure might not seem to be the effect of the clay, He ordered the man to wash: And He said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam. The Evangelist gives the meaning of Siloam, which is by interpretation, Sent, to intimate that it was Christ’s power that cured him even there. As the Apostle says of the rock in the wilderness, that that Rock was Christ, (1 Cor. 10:14) so Siloam had a spiritual character: the sudden rise of its water being a silent figure of Christ’s unexpected manifestation in the flesh. But why did He not tell him to wash immediately, instead of sending him to Siloam? That the obstinacy of the Jews might be overcome, when they saw him going there with the clay on his eyes. Besides which, it proved that He was not averse to the Law, and the Old Testament. And there was no fear of the glory of the case being given to Siloam: as many had washed their eyes there, and received no such benefit. And to shew the faith of the blind man, who made no opposition, never argued with himself, that it was the quality of clay rather to darken, than give light, that He had often washed in Siloam, and had never been benefited; that if our Lord had the power, He might have cured him by His word; but simply obeyed: he went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. (Hom. lvi. 2). Thus our Lord manifested His glory: and no small glory it was, to be proved the Creator of the world, as He was proved to be by this miracle. For on the principle that the greater contains the less, this act of creation included in it every other. Man is the most honourable of all creatures; the eye the most honourable member of man, directing the movements, and giving him sight. The eye is to the body, what the sun is to the universe; and therefore it is placed aloft, as it were, upon a royal eminence.

Theophylact. Some think that the clay was not laid upon the eyes, but made into eyes.

Augustine. (Tr. xlv. 2.) Our Lord spat upon the ground, and made clay of the spittle, because He was the Word made flesh. The man did not see immediately as he was anointed; i. e. was, as it were, only made a catechumen. But he was sent to the pool which is called Siloam, i. e. he was baptized in Christ; and then he was enlightened. The Evangelist then explains to us the name of this pool: which is by interpretation, Sent: for, if He had not been sent, none of us would have been delivered from our sins.

Gregory. (viii. Moral. c. xxx. [49.].) Or thus: By His spittle understand the savour of inward contemplation. It runs down from the head into the mouth, and gives us the taste of revelation from the Divine splendour even in this life. The mixture of His spittle with clay is the mixture of supernatural grace, even the contemplation of Himself with our carnal knowledge, to the soul’s enlightenment, and restoration of the human understanding from its original blindness.

8. The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged?
9. Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he.
10. Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened?
11. He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight.
12. Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not.
13. They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind.
14. And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes.
15. Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see.
16. Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the Sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.
17. They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lvii. s. 1.) The suddenness of the miracle made men incredulous: The neighbours therefore, and they which had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? Wonderful clemency and condescension of God! Even the beggars He heals with so great considerateness: thus stopping the mouths of the Jews; in that He made not the great, illustrious, and noble, but the poorest and meanest, the objects of His providence. Indeed He had come for the salvation of all. Some said, This is he. The blind man having been clearly recognised in the course of his long walk to the pool; the more so, as people’s attention was drawn by the strangeness of the event; men could no longer say, This is not he; Others said, Nay, but he is like him.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 8.) His eyes being opened had altered his look. But he said, I am he. He spoke gratefully; a denial would have convicted Him of ingratitude.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lvii. s. 2.) He was not ashamed of his former blindness, nor afraid of the fury of the people, nor averse to shew himself, and proclaim his Benefactor. Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? How they were, neither he nor any one knew: he only knew the fact; he could not explain it. He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes. Mark his exactness. He does not say how the clay was made; for he could not see that our Lord spat on the ground; he does not say what he does not know; but that He anointed him he could feel. And said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash. This too he could declare from his own hearing; for he had heard our Lord converse with His disciples, and so knew His voice. Lastly, he shews how strictly he had obeyed our Lord. He adds, And I went, and washed, and received sight.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. s. 8.) Lo, he is become a proclaimer of grace, an evangelist, and testifies to the Jews. That blind man testified, and the ungodly were vexed at the heart, because they had not in their heart what appeared upon his countenance. Then said they unto him, Where is He?

Chrysostom. (Hom. lvii. 2.) This they said, because they were meditating His death, having already begun to conspire against Him. Christ did not appear in company with those whom He cured; having no desire for glory, or display. He always withdrew, after healing any one; in order that no suspicion might attach to the miracle. His withdrawal proved the absence of all connexion between Him and the healed; and therefore that the latter did not publish a false cure out of favour to Him. He said, I know not.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 8.) Here he is like one anointed, but unable yet to see: he preaches, and knows not what he preaches.

Bede. Thus he represents the state of the catechumen, who believes in Jesus, but does not, strictly speaking, know Him, not being yet washed. It fell to the Pharisees to confirm or deny the miracle.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lvii. 2.) The Jews, whom they asked, Where is He? were desirous of finding Him, in order to bring Him to the Pharisees; but, as they could not find Him, they bring the blind man. They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind; i. e. that they might examine him still more closely. The Evangelist adds, And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes; in order to expose their real design, which was to accuse Him of a departure from the law, and thus detract from the miracle: as appears from what follows, Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. But mark the firmness of the blind man. To tell the truth to the multitude before, from whom he was in no danger, was not so great a matter: but it is remarkable, now that the danger is so much greater, to find him disavowing nothing, and not contradicting any thing that he said before: He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. He is more brief this time, as his interrogators were already informed of the matter: not mentioning the name of Jesus, nor His saying, Go, and wash; but simply, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see; the very contrary answer to what they wanted. They wanted a disavowal, and they receive a confirmation of the story.

Therefore said some of the Pharisees.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 9.) Some, not all: for some were already anointed. But they, who neither saw, nor were anointed, said, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Rather He kept it, in that He was without sin; for to observe the sabbath spiritually, is to have no sin. And this God admonishes us of, when He enjoins the sabbath, saying, In it thou shall do no servile work. (Exod. 20:10) What servile work is, our Lord tells us above, Whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin. (c. 8:34) They observed the sabbath carnally, transgressed it spiritually.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lvii. 2.) Passing over the miracle in silence, they give all the prominence they can to the supposed transgression; not charging Him with healing on the sabbath, but with not keeping the sabbath. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? They were impressed by His miracles, but only in a weak and unsettled way. For whereas such might have shewn them, that the sabbath was not broken; they had not yet any idea that He was God, and therefore did not know that it was the Lord of the sabbath who had worked the miracle. Nor did any of them dare to say openly what his sentiments were, but spoke ambiguously; one, because he thought the fact itself improbable; another, from his love of station. It follows, And there was a division among them. That is, the people were divided first, and then the rulers.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 4, 5) It was Christ, who divided the day into light and darkness.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lviii. 1.) Those who said, Can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? wishing to stop the others’ mouths, make the object of our Lord’s goodness again come forward; but without appearing to take part with Him themselves: They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of Him, that He hath opened thine eyes?

Theophylact. See with what good intent they put the question. They do not say, What sayest thou of Him that keepeth not the sabbath, but mention the miracle, that He hath opened thine eyes; meaning it would seem, to draw out the healed man himself; He hath benefited them, they seem to say, and thou oughtest to preach Him.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 9.) Or they sought how they could throw reproach upon the man, and cast him out of their synagogue. He declares however openly what he thinks: He said, He is a Prophet. Not being anointed yet in heart, he could not confess the Son of God; nevertheless, he is not wrong in what he says: for our Lord Himself says of Himself, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country. (Luke 4:24)

18. But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight.
19. And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see?
20. His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind:
21. But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself.
22. These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.
23. Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lviii. 1.) The Pharisees being unable, by intimidation, to deter the blind man from publicly proclaiming his Benefactor, try to nullify the miracle through the parents: But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they had called the parents of him that had received his sight.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. s. 10.) i. e. had been blind, and now saw.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lviii. 3.) But it is the nature of truth, to be strengthened by the very snares that are laid against it. A lie is its own antagonist, and by its attempts to injure the truth, sets it off to greater advantage: as is the case now. For the argument which might otherwise have been urged, that the neighbours knew nothing for certain, but spoke from a mere resemblance, is cut off by introduction of the parents, who could of course testify to their own son. Having brought these before the assembly, they interrogate them with great sharpness, saying, Is this your son, (they say not, who was born blind, but) who ye say was born blind? Say. Why what father is there, that would say such things of a son, if they were not true? Why not say at once, Whom ye made blind? They try two ways of making them deny the miracle: by saying, Who ye say was born blind, and by adding, How then doth he now see?

Theophylact. Either, say they, it is not true that he now sees, or it is untrue that he was blind before: but it is evident that he now sees; therefore it is not true that he was born blind.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lviii. 2.) Three things then being asked,—if he were their son, if he had been blind and how he saw,—they acknowledge two of them: His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind. But the third they refuse to speak to: But by what means he now seeth, we know not. The enquiry in this way ends in confirming the truth of the miracle, by making it rest upon the incontrovertible evidence of the confession of the healed person himself; He is of age, they say, ask him; he can speak for himself.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 10.) As if to say, We might justly be compelled to speak for an infant, that could not speak for itself: but he, though blind from his birth, has been always able to speak.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lvii. 2.) What sort of gratitude is this in the parents; concealing what they knew, from fear of the Jews? as we are next told; These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews. And then the Evangelist mentions again what the intentions and dispositions of the Jews were: For the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that He was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 10.) It was no disadvantage to be put out of the synagogue: whom they cast out, Christ took in.

Therefore said his parents, He is of age, ask him.

Alcuin. The Evangelist shews that it was not from ignorance, but fear, that they gave this answer.

Theophylact. For they were fainthearted; not like their son, that intrepid witness to the truth, the eyes of whose understanding had been enlightened by God.

24. Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner.
25. He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.
26. Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes?
27. He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?
28. Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples.
29. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.
30. The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes.
31. Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.
32. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.
33. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.
34. They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lviii. 2.) The parents having referred the Pharisees to the healed man himself, they summon him a second time: Then again called they the man that was blind. They do not openly say now, Deny that Christ has healed thee, but conceal their object under the pretence of religion: Give God the praise, i. e. confess that this man has had nothing to do with the work.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. s. 11.) Deny that thou hast received the benefit. This is not to give God the glory, but rather to blaspheme Him.

Alcuin. They wished him to give glory to God, by calling Christ a sinner, as they did: We know that this man is a sinner.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lviii. 2.) Why then did ye not convict Him, when He said above, Which of you convinceth Me of sin? (c. 8:46)

Alcuin. The man, that he might neither expose himself to calumny, nor at the same time conceal the truth, answers not that he knew Him to be righteous, but, Whether He be a sinner or no, I know not.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lviii. 2.) But how comes this, whether He be a sinner, I know not, from one who had said, He is a Prophet? did the blind fear? far from it: he only thought that our Lord’s defence lay in the witness of the fact, more than in another’s pleading. And he gives weight to his reply by the mention of the benefit he had received: One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see: as if to say, I say nothing as to whether He is a sinner; but only repeat what I know for certain. So being unable to overturn the fact itself of the miracle, they fall back upon former arguments, and enquire the manner of the cure: just as dogs in hunting pursue wherever the scent takes them: Then said they to him again, What did He do to thee? How opened He thine eyes? i. e. was it by any charm? For they do not say, How didst thou see? but, How opened He thine eyes? to give the man an opportunity of detracting from the operation. So long now as the matter wanted examining, the blind man answers gently and quietly; but, the victory being gained, he grows bolder: He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? i. e. Ye do not attend to what is said, and therefore I will no longer answer you vain questions, put for the sake of cavil, not to gain knowledge: Will ye also be His disciples?

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. s. 11.) Will ye also? i. e. I am already, do ye wish to be? I see now, but do not envy (video, non invideo). He says this in indignation at the obstinacy of the Jews; not tolerating blindness, now that he is no longer blind himself.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lviii. 2.) As then truth is strength, so falsehood is weakness: truth elevates and ennobles whomever it takes up, however mean before: falsehood brings even the strong to weakness and contempt.

Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art His disciple.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 12.) A malediction only in the intention of the speakers, not in the words themselves. May such a malediction (ἐλοιδόρησαν, maledixerunt, Vulg.) be upon us, and upon our children! It follows: But we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses. But ye should have known, that our Lord was prophesied of by Moses, after hearing what He said, Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me, for he wrote of Me. (c. 5:46) Do ye follow then a servant, and turn your back on the Lord? Even so, for it follows: As for this fellow, we know not whence He is.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lviii. s. 3.) Ye think sight less evidence than hearing; for what ye say, ye know, is what ye have heard from your fathers. But is not He more worthy of belief, who has certified that He comes from God, by miracles which ye have not heard only, but seen? So argues the blind man: The man answered and said, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not whence He is, and yet He hath opened mine eyes. He brings in the miracle every where, as evidence which they could not invalidate: and, inasmuch as they had said that a man that was a sinner could not do such miracles, he turns their own words against them; Now we know that God heareth not sinners; as if to say, I quite agree with you in this opinion.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. s. 13.) As yet however He speaks as one but just anointed1, for God hears sinners too. Else in vain would the publican cry, God be merciful to me a sinner. (Luke 18:13) By that confession he obtained2 justification, as the blind man had his sight.

Theophylact. Or, that God heareth not sinners, means, that God does not enable sinners to work miracles. When sinners however implore pardon for their offences, they are translated from the rank of sinners to that of penitents.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lviii. 3.) Observe then, when he said above, Whether He be a sinner, I know not, it was not that he spoke in doubt; for here he not only acquits him of all sin, but holds him up as one well pleasing to God: But if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth His will, him He heareth. It is not enough to know God, we must do His will. Then he extols His deed: Since the world began, was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind: as if to say, If ye confess that God heareth not sinners; and this Man has worked a miracle, such an one, as no other man has; it is manifest that the virtue whereby He has wrought it, is more than human: If this Man were not of God, He could do nothing.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 13.) Freely, stedfastly, truly. For how could what our Lord did, be done by any other than God, or by disciples even, except when their Lord dwelt in them?

Chrysostom. (Hom. lviii. 3.) So then because speaking the truth he was in nothing confounded, when they should most have admired, they condemned him: Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us?

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 14.) What meaneth altogether? That he was quite blind. Yet He who opened his eyes, also saves him altogether.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lviii. 3.) Or, altogether, that is to say, from thy birth thou art in sins. They reproach his blindness, and pronounce his sins to be the cause of it; most unreasonably. So long as they expected him to deny the miracle, they were willing to believe him, but now they cast him out.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 14.) It was they themselves who had made him teacher; themselves, who had asked him so many questions; and now they ungratefully cast him out for teaching.

Bede. It is commonly the way with great persons to disdain learning any thing from their inferiors.

35. Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?
36. He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?
37. And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.
38. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
39. And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.
40. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?
41. Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see: therefore your sin remaineth.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lix. 1.) Those who suffer for the truth’s sake, and confession of Christ, come to greatest honour; as we see in the instance of the blind man. For the Jews cast him out of the temple, and the Lord of the temple found him; and received him as the judge doth the wrestler after his labours, and crowned him: Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He saith unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? The Evangelist makes it plain that Jesus came in order to say this to him. He asks him, however, not in ignorance, but wishing to reveal Himself to him, and to shew that He appreciated his faith; as if He said, The people have cast reproaches on Me, but I care not for them; one thing only I care for, that thou mayest believe. Better is he that doeth the will of God, than ten thousand of the wicked.

Hilary. (vi. de Trin. circa fin.) If any mere confession whatsoever of Christ were the perfection of faith, it would have been said, Dost thou believe in Christ? But inasmuch as all heretics would have had this name in their mouths, confessing Christ, and yet denying the Son, that which is true of Christ alone, is required of our faith, viz. that we should believe in the Son of God. But what availeth it to believe on the Son of God as being a creature, when we are required to have faith in Christ, not as a creature of God, but as the Son of God.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lix. 1.) But the blind man did not yet know Christ, for before he went to Christ he was blind, and after his cure, he was taken hold of by the Jews: He answered and said, Who is He, Lord, that I might believe on Him? The speech this of a longing and enquiring mind. He knows not who He is for whom he had contended so much; a proof to thee of his love of truth. The Lord however says not to him, I am He who healed thee; but uses a middle way of speaking, Thou hast both seen Him.

Theophylact. This He says to remind him of his cure, which had given him the power to see. And observe, He that speaks is born of Mary, and the Son is the Son of God, not two different Persons, according to the error of Nestorius: And it is He that talketh with thee.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 15.) First, He washes the face of his heart. Then, his heart’s face being washed, and his conscience cleansed, he acknowledges Him as not only the Son of man, which he believed before, but as the Son of God, Who had taken flesh upon Him: And he said, Lord, I believe. I believe, is a small thing. Wouldest thou see what he believes of Him? And falling down, he worshipped Him. (Vulgate)

Bede. An example to us, not to pray to God with uplifted neck, but prostrate upon earth, suppliantly to implore His mercy.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lix. 1.) He adds the deed to the word, as a clear acknowledgment of His divine power. The Lord replies in a way to confirm His faith, and at the same time stirs up the minds of His followers: And Jesus said, For judgment have I come into this world.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 16, 17.) The day then was divided between light and darkness. So it is rightly added, that they which see not, may see; for He relieved men from darkness. But what is that which follows: And that they which see might he made blind. Hear what comes next. Some of the Pharisees were moved by these words: And some of the Pharisees which were with Him heard these words, and said unto Him, Are we blind also? What had moved them were the words, And that they which see might be made blind. It follows; Jesus saith unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin; i. e. If ye called yourselves blind, and ran to the physician. But now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth: for in that saying, We see, ye seek not a physician, ye shall remain in your blindness. This then which He has just before said, I came, that they that see not might see; i. e. they who confess they cannot see, and seek a physician, in order that they may see: and that they which see not may be made blind; i. e. they which think they can see, and seek not a physician, may remain in their blindness. This act of division He calls judgment, saying, For judgment have I come into this world: not that judgment by which He will judge quick and dead at the end of the world.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lix. 1.) Or, for judgment, He saith; i. e. for greater punishment, shewing that they who condemned Him, were the very ones who were condemned. Respecting what He says, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind; it is the same which St. Paul says, The Gentiles which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. (Rom. 9:30, 31)

Theophylact. As if to say, Lo, he that saw not from his birth, now sees both in body and soul; whereas they who seem to see, have had their understanding darkened.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lix. 1.) For there is a twofold vision, and a twofold blindness; viz. that of sense, and that of the understanding. But they were intent only on sensible things, and were ashamed only of sensible blindness: wherefore He shews them that it would be better for them to be blind, than seeing so: If ye were blind, ye should have no sin; your punishment would be easier; But now ye say, We see.

Theophylact. Overlooking the miracle wrought on the blind man, ye deserve no pardon; since even visible miracles make no impression on you.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lix. 1, 2.) What then they thought their great praise, He shews would turn to their punishment; and at the same time consoles him who had been afflicted with bodily blindness from his birth. For it is not without reason that the Evangelist says, And some of the Pharisees which were with him, heard these words; but that he may remind us that those were the very persons who had first withstood Christ, and then wished to stone Him. For there were some who only followed in appearance, and were easily changed to the contrary side.

Theophylact. Or, if ye were blind, i. e. ignorant of the Scriptures, your offence would be by no means so heavy a one, as erring out of ignorance: but now, seeing ye call yourselves wise and understanding in the law, your own selves condemn you.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 9:1-42

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 26, 2017

Analysis

This chapter commences with an account of the miraculous cure, performed by our Lord in restoring sight to a man who was born blind. The questions proposed by the disciples, as to the cause of his blindness. Our Redeemer’s reply. At the same time, He declares Himself to be the light of the world (1–5). The manner in which the cure was effected (6–13). The bitter animadversion of the Pharisees, as usual, denouncing the violation of the Sabbath. The discussion among them, as to our Lord’s character. The appeal to the man who was cured, as to his opinion respecting our Lord. The appeal to the man’s parents, as to his identity (15–24) Their vile abuse of the man for showing an inclination to respect and speak in terms of praise of our Lord (24–29). His courageous reply, and his expulsion from the place of meeting, in consequence (30–34). The gift of faith or spiritual enlightenment, bestowed on him by our Lord (34–39). Our Lord’s denunciation of the Pharisees for their perversity and resistance to God’s heavenly light, thereby entailing on themselves the more grievous sin (39–41).

1 And Jesus passing by, saw a man who was blind from his birth.

And Jesus passing by,” etc. The common opinion is, that the occurrences here referred to took place in connexion with the foregoing, immediately after our Lord left the Temple. This is, however, questioned by others, who hold that some interval elapsed. These say, it may refer to some other time, when the Pharisees sought an occasion for assailing our Redeemer, on which account, the Evangelist now records it, and they ground their opinion, chiefly on our Lord’s disappearance, coupled with the fact, that His disciples were present. There is nothing, however, to prevent one from holding, that His disciples may have met Him outside, as, most likely, on His disappearing, they, too, left the Temple.

A man blind from his birth,” which rendered his case the more difficult, and the miracle wrought more remarkable.

2 And his disciples asked him: Rabbi, who hath sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?

Who hath sinned,” etc. This question probably took its rise from the prevailing popular opinion, that diseases and corporal ailments were the punishment of sin. This may be true; but, not always, as may be seen from the case of Job, as well as of Tobias, etc. Great calamities, sudden deaths, by no means argue any particular commission of sin (Luke 13:1–4). Others hold, that the question was suggested by our Lord’s admonition to the man sick of the palsy. “Go, sin no more, lest anything worse,” etc. (5:14).

The question as regards the man himself committing sin, so as to induce the curse of blindness, is quite unmeaning, as if he could commit actual sin, before he was born. It is intelligible, so far as it may concern his parents, since God often punishes children, on account of the sins of their fathers. “A jealous God visiting the iniquity of the Fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 20:5).

St. Chrysostom and Theophylact say the disciples speak thus, not by way of interrogation, as if they suspected that either child or parents were in fault, but by way of doubting, as much as to say; neither of them could give rise to it.

3 Jesus answered: Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

Neither this man sinned,” etc. The question requires the words to be added, “that he should be born blind.” Our Lord does not deny that this man or his parents had been guilty of sin, besides original sin—(the source of all our misfortunes)—in which we were all born. What He denies is that this blindness was the result or effect of any particular sin of theirs, on account of which it was inflicted.

That the works of God,” etc. It happened, in order that an occasion would be afforded, for having the works of God’s power and goodness manifested in his miraculous cure by our Lord; and that thus, it would be proved that our Lord was sent by God, and men would be stimulated to believe in Him and follow Him.

4 I must work the works of him that sent me, whilst it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

I must”—considering My Father’s decree—“work the works of Him that sent Me,” which My Father, commissioned Me, as His legate to perform, so as to bring men to the faith and to eternal salvation, “whilst it is day,” during the course of My mortal life and during my corporal presence among men. “The night cometh”—the time of My death and of My absence from among men, is fast drawing to a close. “When no man can work.” I can no more work among men, after My departure out of this world, than any one else can. After death, men can perform no work, neither can I. “Neither work, nor reason, nor wisdom in hell (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Our Lord wishes to convey that after death, He cannot work by His own visible personal operation, as He did in life. He can neither suffer, nor die, nor teach men, nor perform miracles for man’s salvation; though, indeed, after death, He works through His holy Spirit, and by means of Apostolic men.

5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

As long,” etc. Therefore, must I work while it is day. I must not hide my light under a bushel. I must not be idle. I must enlighten the world. Not that He ceased to enlighten the world after His departure. For, even now, it is He, “that enlightens every man that cometh into the world.” But, He would not enlighten it, as He did during His life time, by personally working miracles, and instructing men in person.

These words are also allusive to the miracle of restoring sight to the blind man, and enlightening him, which our Lord is about to effect.

6 When he had said these things, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and spread the clay upon his eyes,

. “When He had said,” etc., as if to show practically, in a partial way, that He was the light of the world, destined to enlighten those who sat in darkness, whether spiritually or corporally, He, at once, proceeds to effect the cure of the blind man. He might have accomplished this by His sole word of command, but He employs the instrumentality of His creatures, in a way, that conveys some mystery, and contains some recondite, hidden meaning. “He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and spread it on the eyes” of the blind man.

Various conjectures are hazarded, as to why He did this. Some say, He wished to show, that as He originally formed man out of the slime of the earth; so, He employed the same material for the repairing of human nature, that He used in its formation. He makes use, in restoring sight, of the very thing, which if applied to the eyes of a sound man, would render him perfectly blind, to convey that the restoration of his sight would appear from the contrary and inadequate means employed, attributable, not to human natural agency, but solely as the effect of Divine power. Sometimes, in the Old Testament, did the Prophets employ such means and instrumentality. For instance, see Miracles of Eliseus (4 Kings 20:21; 6:5, 6), thereby showing that the wonderful results are the effects of God’s power, owing to the inadequacy of the human means employed

Similar is the economy of God’s Providence in carrying out His greatest work, the work of man’s redemption (see 1 Cor. 1. Commentary on).

Our Lord mixed with the clay, spittle, the foam of His own mouth, to show how salutary was every thing emanating from Him.

Those, who impiously jeer at the use of ceremonies, and material elements in connexion with spiritual effects, which they symbolize, have a clear refutation in this action, and several similar actions on the part of our Divine Redeemer for similar effects (Mark 7:33; 8:23).

To try his obedience, our Lord, who might have cured the blind man on the spot, tells him, “Go and wash in the pool of Siloe.” He might have also in view, to have the miracle, which He wrought on the Sabbath, more generally known, when the people saw this man passing a long way through the midst of the city, towards the pool, with the clay on his eyes, thus taking away from the unbelievers all excuse for rejecting Him. The Prophet Elizeus acted similarly with Naaman, the Syrian (2 Kings 5:10).

7 And said to him: Go, wash in the pool of Siloe, which is interpreted, Sent. He went therefore and washed: and he came seeing.

Wash in the pool of Siloe.” Siloe or Siloam, had its origin in a fountain at the foot of Mount Sion, which, as we are told by St. Jerome (in Isaias 8), sent forth its waters, not continuously, but, only intermittently, at certain seasons and certain days, discharging them with great noise through subterranean passages and the fissures of the hardest rocks, till they formed the pool now spoken of, called the pool of Siloam.

St. Epiphanius (in vita Prophetarum c. 7) tells us, the waters gushed from the rock at the prayer of Isaias. The waters having passed through the cavities of the rocks with great noise, formed the pool here referred to, in the western side of the valley of Josaphat, outside, but quite close to Jerusalem; and from the pool, the waters glided gently (Isaias 8) into the little brook of Cedron, of which mention is made in the history of our Lord’s Passion (John 18:1). Allusion is made to the pool of Siloam in Nehemias (2:15).

Which is interpreted, sent,” being derived from the Hebrew Shalach, to send. It is not without some latent cause, the Evangelist gives the meaning and interpretation of “Siloe” to signify “sent.” It was a type of our Lord who was sent from the bosom of His Father to save and enlighten mankind, and of His mysteries and ordinances; especially of the rite of Baptism, instituted by Him to cleanse and wash us from our spiritual defects, and enlighten us spiritually by the light of Divine grace, of which St. Augustine tells us the waters of Siloe were a type.

He went therefore,” asking no questions, raising no doubts as to our Lord’s meaning, believing in His miraculous curative powers. “Washed,” as he was ordered, in reward of which “He came, seeing,” his sight being perfectly restored.

8 The neighbours, therefore, and they who had seen him before that he was a beggar, said: Is not this he that sat and begged? Some said: This is he.

The neighbours,” etc. This blind man was well known, and the remarks of his neighbours served to place the reality of His miraculous cure in the clearest light.

9 But others said: No, but he is like him. But he said: I am he.
10 They said therefore to him: How were thy eyes opened?
11 He answered: That man that is called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me: Go to the pool of Siloe and wash. And I went: I washed: and I see.

The man called Jesus,” etc. This he did not say out of disrespect; but merely to show that he was yet a stranger to Him. He heard of Him, he knew Him only by report.

12 And they said to him: Where is he? He saith: I know not.
13 They bring him that had been blind to the Pharisees.
14 Now it was the sabbath, when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.

As this miracle and the entire operation occurred on the Sabbath, the people doubt as to whether it could come from God. Hence, they bring the blind man before the Pharisees—members of the Sanhedrim—as judges in such cases. God’s Providence so arranged it, that the Pharisees themselves could not deny the fact of the miracle. “Cæcus confitebatur et cor impiorum frangebatur.” (St. Augustine.)

Our Lord, in order to refute the false notions of the Pharisees regarding Sabbatical observances, frequently fixed on the Sabbath, as the time for performing miracles.

15 Again therefore the Pharisees asked him how he had received his sight. But he said to them: He put clay upon my eyes: and I washed: and I see.
16 Some therefore of the Pharisees said: This man is not of God, who keepeth not the sabbath. But others said: How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.

They had their own ideas about keeping the Sabbath, to which they wished all others to conform. The reality of the miracle they could not deny. Indeed, the reality of all our Lord’s miracles were undeniable. The facts were patent. So undeniable were they, that even in the Synagogue, they secured followers for our Lord, timid followers, however, on account of the violent persecution from the Jews.

A sinner,” an impostor or deceiver. Could God possibly grant the power of such miracles, performed in such a way, in proof of His own sanctity and Divine mission, to an impostor? Unable to deny the reality of our Lord’s miracles, His enemies, then, as also happened at all future periods, ascribed them to other than Divine agency.

There was a division,” etc. A schism. They were divided into two separate parties.

17 They say therefore to the blind man again: What sayest thou of him that hath opened thy eyes? And he said: He is a prophet.

They had their own ideas about keeping the Sabbath, to which they wished all others to conform. The reality of the miracle they could not deny. Indeed, the reality of all our Lord’s miracles were undeniable. The facts were patent. So undeniable were they, that even in the Synagogue, they secured followers for our Lord, timid followers, however, on account of the violent persecution from the Jews.

A sinner,” an impostor or deceiver. Could God possibly grant the power of such miracles, performed in such a way, in proof of His own sanctity and Divine mission, to an impostor? Unable to deny the reality of our Lord’s miracles, His enemies, then, as also happened at all future periods, ascribed them to other than Divine agency.

There was a division,” etc. A schism. They were divided into two separate parties.

18 The Jews then did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight,

Seeing their views were not strengthened by the opinion of the blind man, to whom they appealed; the enemies of our Lord unable to deny the miraculous fact, now question the man’s identity, and have recourse to his parents to know if he were their son; thus, hoping in case of any difference of testimony, to discredit the miracle.

19 And asked them, saying: Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then doth he now see?
20 His parents answered them and said: We know that this is our son and that he was born blind:
21 But how he now seeth, we know not: or who hath opened his eyes, we know not. Ask himself: he is of age: Let him speak for himself.

The Pharisees propose three questions. The man’s parents answer two of them. For prudential reasons, they decline answering the third, viz., how he was cured, as they did not wish to run the risk of excommunication. He is no longer an infant; he is of age to answer for himself and give testimony. The age for giving testimony among the Jews was the age of thirteen.

22 These things his parents said, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had already agreed among themselves that if any man should confess him to be Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.

Put out of the Synagogue,” was a kind of excommunication among the Jews entailing the heaviest religious and social penalties. The excommunicated were deprived of all religious intercourse; excluded from religious worship and sacrifice. They were deprived of all social intercourse also, even with their nearest and dearest friends. The very necessaries of life could not be sold to them.

23 Therefore did his parents say: He is of age. Ask himself.
24 They therefore called the man again that had been blind and said to him: Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.

Give glory to God.” This was a form of adjuration or obtestation; or of administering an oath in use among the Jews (Josue 7:19; 1 Kings 6:5; Jeremiah 12:16). They did not mean, give glory to God for thy cure. This they scornfully denied. Tell the truth, as in the presence of God, for the glory of God, whose sovereign veracity is thus honoured, as essentially loving the truth. Admit that there is an imposition in this case, that thou hast told us a lie, and endeavoured to impose on us; and thus thou wilt give glory to God, who hates and condemns all imposture, as He is the essential and eternal truth. To induce Him to make this acknowledgment, they say, “we”—who are the proper authority to decide such matters—“know,” we declare “this man,” this violator of the Sabbath, far from being a “Prophet” commissioned by God, to be “a sinner,” a blasphemous seducer.

25 He said therefore to them: If he be a sinner, I know not. One thing I know, that whereas I was blind. now I see.

I know not.” I have no opinion to offer. Facts speak for themselves. “One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see,” owing to His having opened my eyes.

26 They said then to him: What did he to thee? How did he open thy eyes?

They want to confound Him by their questions, and to elicit from Him some contradiction, in order to injure the credibility of the miraculous cure.

27 He answered them: I have told you already, and you have heard. Why would you hear it again? Will you also become his disciples?

Justly indignant at their conduct and factious persistency, he loses patience on clearly seeing the wicked passions that prompted this unmeaning cavilling, and asks, “will you also,” as well as His other followers, become His disciples? What other object can you have in thus sifting my case, unless after discovering the truth, to become, like others among them, myself included, “His disciples?” This stinging, reproachful irony was calculated to annoy them. He saw well their determined malice, and their incurable hatred of our Lord.

28 They reviled him therefore and said: Be thou his disciple; but we are the disciples of Moses.

They reviled Him,” heaping imprecations on Him, especially by saying, what they considered the most insulting and ignominious charge. You are His disciple, “or, be you His disciple,” the follower of an impostor—a fate which your seeming attachment to Him merits for you. Or, “You are His disciple.” You show yourself so degraded, as to be a fit follower of such a blasphemous impostor.

As for us, “we are disciples of Moses.” We follow his law regarding Sabbatical and other observances, unlike the man, who impiously prides himself in trampling on them.

29 We know that God spoke to Moses: but as to this man, we know not from whence he is.

We know that God spoke to Moses.” Therefore, in following his law, we obey God’s law. “As for this man”—they speak contemptuously—“we know not from whence He is.” Whatever His country or descent may be, we know not whether He derives His commission or doctrine from God or from the devil. Of this we are totally ignorant.

30 The man answered and said to them: why, herein is a wonderful thing, that you know not from whence he is, and he hath opened my eyes.

Herein is a wonderful thing.” It is a matter to be greatly wondered at, viz., “that you,” who are the teachers of the people, you, who boast of being so learned in the law—“know not whence He is,” cannot see, whence He derives His mission and authority. “And—yet—He hath opened my eyes.” Whence could He derive His mission, but from God, who, in proof of His Divine mission, has performed such stupendous miracles, among the rest, opening my eyes, who was born blind—a miracle that you cannot, in any way, question?

31 Now we know that God doth not hear sinners: but if a man be a server of God and doth his will, him he heareth.

Now we know,” as a matter commonly and generally believed. In this, the blind man gives expression to the opinion commonly entertained. Hence, he says, “we know.”

That God doth not hear sinners.” This, taken in a general or universal sense, is not true; for, God does hear sinners and lends an ear to their petitions when they approach Him with proper dispositions of penance and sorrow. But, the words have here a restricted meaning, from the context, which has reference to the working of miracles, and then the words mean: God does not hear sinners, who persevere in a sinful course, so as to give them the power of working miracles, in proof of their Divine mission and personal sanctity, as in the case of miracles wrought by our Divine Lord. God never gives the seal of His power in the operation of miracles, to prove men to be holy who are not so, or to be sent by Him, who were not sent, but ran of themselves.

These are the words of the blind man. We are not bound to defend their accuracy. All the Scriptures are committed to is, that he uttered the words, which is no doubt true.

But if a man be a server of God,” a true sincere worshipper, announcing true, sound doctrine, and in addition, “doth His will,” observes His commandments, “him He heareth,” whenever He calls upon him, when necessary, for power to work wonders. Then, God grants Him this power. In this, it is implied, that whenever men work miracles, they do so, not by their own innate power, but by the power of God.

32 From the beginning of the world it hath not been heard, that any man hath opened the eyes of one born blind.

From the beginning of the world.” In the whole history of miracles wrought from the beginning of the world, whether by Moses or the Prophets, or any one else, there is no instance of restoring sight to a man born blind in so extraordinary a way, by rubbing and wiping off clay. Hence the superiority of this man, whom you spurn and reject, over Moses or the Prophets who have gone before us.

33 Unless this man were of God, he could not do anything.

. The conclusion is, that this, being so rare and stupendous a miracle, could only come from the power of God, especially as it had for object, like all the other miracles of our Redeemer, to prove His sanctity and mission from God. “Unless this man were from God, He could not do any thing,” like the miracle just wrought by Him.

34 They answered and said to him: Thou wast wholly born in sins; and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.

Finding they could neither shake the confidence nor impugn the veracity, nor answer the arguments of this man, now laying aside their affected mildness, assumed in order to elicit inconvenient replies, they show themselves in their true colours, and indulge in abuse of the grossest kind.

Thou”—a wretched ignorant mendicant—“wast born wholly in sins,” defiled with sin, soul and body, from your birth to this day; and in punishment of these sins hast been cursed with blindness from your very birth. Likely, these men entertained the notions regarding the infliction of bodily maladies in punishment of sin, expressed by our Lord’s disciples (v. 2).

And dost thou teach us?” “Thou” and “us” are emphatic. “Teach us,” so famed for sanctity of life, and a profound knowledge of the law.

And they cast him out,” from the place of meeting, whatever it was. Some say, the Synagogue, thus excommunicating Him. This latter opinion is hardly likely, as the man did not yet explicitly declare that our Lord was the Messiah.

35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out. And when he had found him, he said to him: Dost thou believe in the Son of God?

Our Lord arranged to find out this man, so dishonoured for his intrepid defence of his heavenly deliverer and the avowal of his miraculous cure. In order to compensate him for this injury, He now bestows on him the priceless spiritual enlightenment of faith, for which the restoration of his bodily sight had gradually disposed him.

He asked him, “Dost thou believe in the Son of God?” Our Lord asked him this, when there was question of his spiritual enlightenment, or the gift of faith about to be bestowed on him, to secure his co-operation; while in regard to corporal enlightenment, no co-operation was needed, according to the teaching of St. Augustine. “Qui fecit te sine te, non justificat te sine te; fecit nescientem, justificat volentem.” (Sermo. 15, de verbis Apostoli.)

He uses the words, “Dost thou believe in the Son of God?” rather than, “Dost thou believe in Me?” as He gradually wished to reveal Himself to him, and cause him no sudden surprise, by declaring Himself at once the Son of God. Likely, the man cured, did not know it was our Lord cured him, since he was sent to the Pool of Siloe to be healed, and had not seen our Lord up to this. He believed our Lord to be a Prophet, and proclaimed Him as such. He did not, however, as yet fully believe, though, no doubt, well disposed, to do so, in His Divinity. It may be, the man knew from His voice, that it was our Lord cured him; but, in any case, he did not believe in His Divinity. He knew in case he recognised Him as his benefactor, that He would not deceive him; and hence, he cried out.

36 He answered, and said: Who is he, Lord, that I may believe in him?

Who is He, Lord?” etc. The word, “Lord,” is a term of respect, and might be rendered, “Sir.” From his heart, he was ready to believe, but he did not precisely know who the person was, in whom he was to believe. Hence, the question.

37 And Jesus said to him: Thou hast both seen him; and it is he that talketh with thee.

Our Lord then manifests Himself to him. “Thou hast seen Him,” reminding him of the blessing of sight conferred on him, “and it is He that talketh with thee.”

38 And he said: I believe, Lord. And falling down, he adored him.

By words—“I believe, Lord”—by acts, “and falling down, he adored Him,” the man who was blind proclaimed his faith in our Lord’s Divinity, whom hitherto he regarded, on account of the great miracle, in the light of a holy man sent by God; but, in that light only.

39 And Jesus said: For judgment I am come into this world: that they who see not may see; and they who see may become blind.

And Jesus said”—as is clear from verse 40—to the Pharisees. “For judgment,” in order to exercise a judgment of discernment, to separate the humble believers from the haughty unbelievers—or, “judgment” may mean, to execute the high and mysterious decree of God, giving the faith to the blind unbelieving Gentiles, who, like this blind man, are disposed humbly to embrace the faith; and rejecting the haughty Jews, wise and enlightened in their own opinion.

That”—so that, as a consequence. For, their own perversity was the cause of the rejection of the Jews and of the haughty.

They who see not,” who are in ignorance and error of the true faith and spiritually blind, but disposed to lay aside their errors and embrace the truth.

May see,” and be enlightened.

And they who see,” who fancy they are rich in faith and gifts of sanctity, may, in punishment of their pride and haughty resistance to grace, “see not,” become obdurate and impenitent. Like the Pagan philosophers referred to by St. Paul (Rom. 1), “Dicentes se esse sapientes, stulti facti sunt.” Our Lord did not come for the purpose of blinding the Jews; but He permitted them to continue blind, as a punishment of their resistance to grace.

40 And some of the Pharisees, who were with him, heard: and they said unto him: Are we also blind?

Some of the Pharisees who were with Him,” tracking His footsteps, wherever He went, in order to catch Him in His words, “heard,” and understanding that they were pointedly alluded to as spiritually blind, “said”—in an arrogant and malignant spirit—“Are we also blind?” “We also,” as well as the man whom You pretend to have enlightened. “Are we,” the rulers and teachers of the people, pronounced by you to be struck with spiritual blindness?

41 Jesus said to them: If you were blind, you should not have sin: but now you say: We see. Your sin remaineth.

If you were blind,” in your own estimation and judgment—it is opposed to “but now you say we see”—and humbly acknowledged yourselves blind and ignorant and foolish in the affairs of your salvation, “You should not have sin.” You would cease to be overwhelmed with the weight of sin in which you are; because, you would humbly have had recourse to Me for your spiritual cure, owing to the consciousness of your miseries. “But now you say we see.” Now, you, arrogantly regard yourselves as having light and sanctity, you scorn any exhortation to have recourse to Me—the true Son of justice—“the true light, that enlightens every man that cometh into this world.” Hence, “your sin remaineth.” You continue, on account of your self-esteem, pride and arrogance, in your infidelity and sinful state.

It may also mean, “If you were blind,” and had not the knowledge of SS. Scriptures proclaiming Me to be the Son of God, and of the many miracles wrought by Me, which should convince you that I am come from God; then, indeed, you might have some excuse. I would have treated you leniently and have attracted you to Myself by My grace. Your sin would be comparatively trifling. But, now, you sin in the face of the light, and “your sin remains” unremitted, and, so you persevere in your infidelity.

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentaries on John 4:5-42

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 25, 2017

Ver. 5, 6. “He cometh to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there.”

Why is the Evangelist exact about the place? It is, that when thou hearest the woman say, “Jacob our father gave us this well,” thou mayest not think it strange. For this was the place where Levi and Simeon, being angry because of Dinah, wrought that cruel slaughter. And it may be worth while to relate from what sources the Samaritans were made up; since all this country is called Samaria. Whence then did they receive their name? The mountain was called “Somor” from its owner (1 Kings 16:24): as also Esaias saith, “and the head of Ephraim is Somoron” (Isa. 7:9, LXX.), but the inhabitants were termed not “Samaritans” but “Israelites.” But as time went on, they offended God, and in the reign of Pekah, Tiglath-Pileser came up, and took many cities, and set upon Elah, and having slain him, gave the kingdom to Hoshea.10 (2 Kings 15:29.) Against him Shalmaneser came and took other cities, and made them subject and tributary. (2 Kings 17:3.) At first he yielded, but afterwards he revolted from the Assyrian rule, and betook himself to the alliance of the Ethiopians.11 The Assyrian learnt this, and having made war upon them and destroyed their cities, he no longer allowed the nation to remain there, because he had such suspicions that they would revolt. (2 Kings 17:4.) But he carried them to Babylon and to the Medes, and having brought thence nations from divers places, planted them in Samaria, that his dominion for the future might be sure, his own people occupying the place. After this, God, desiring to show that He had not given up the Jews through weakness, but because of the sins of those who were given up, sent lions against the foreigners,1 who ravaged all their nation. These things were reported to the king, and he sent a priest to deliver to them the laws of God. Still not even so did they desist wholly from their impiety, but only by halves. But as time went on, they in turn abandoned2 their idols, and worshiped God. And when things were in this state, the Jews having returned, ever after entertained a jealous feeling towards them as strangers and enemies, and called them from the name of the mountain, “Samaritans.” From this cause also there was no little rivalry between them. The Samaritans did not use all the Scriptures, but received the writings of Moses only, and made but little account of those of the Prophets. Yet they were eager to thrust themselves into the noble Jewish stock, and prided themselves upon Abraham, and called3 him their forefather, as being of Chaldæa; and Jacob also they called their father, as being his descendant. But the Jews abominated them as well as all (other nations). Wherefore they reproached Christ with this, saying, “Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil.” (c. 8:48.) And for this reason in the parable of the man that went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, Christ makes the man who showed pity upon him to have been “a Samaritan” (Luke 10:33), one who by them was deemed mean, contemptible, and abominable. And in the case of the ten lepers, He calls one a “stranger” on this account, (for “he was a Samaritan,”) and He gave His charge to the disciples in these words, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not.” (Matt. 10:5.)

[3.] Nor was it merely to describe the place that the Evangelist has reminded us of Jacob, but to show that the rejection of the Jews had happened long ago. For during the time of their forefathers these Jews possessed the land, and not the Samaritans; and the very possessions which not being theirs, their forefathers had gotten, they being theirs, had lost by their sloth and transgressions. So little4 is the advantage of excellent ancestors, if their descendants be not like them. Moreover, the foreigners when they had only made trial of the lions, straightway returned to the right worship5 of the Jews, while they, after enduring such inflictions, were not even so brought to a sound mind.

To this place Christ now came, ever rejecting a sedentary and soft6 life, and exhibiting7 one laborious and active. He useth no beast to carry Him, but walketh so much on a stretch, as even to be wearied with His journeying. And this He ever teacheth, that a man should work for himself, go without superfluities, and not have many wants. Nay, so desirous is He that we should be alienated from superfluities, that He abridgeth many even of necessary things. Wherefore He said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.” (Matt. 8:20.) Therefore He spent most of His time in the mountains, and in the deserts, not by day only, but also by night. And this David declared when he said, “He shall drink of the brook in the way” (Ps. 110:7): by this showing His frugal8 way of life. This too the Evangelist shows in this place.

Ver. 6, 7, 8. “Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey, sat thus by the well; and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus saith unto her, Give Me to drink. For His disciples were gone away into the city to buy meat.”

Hence we learn His activity in journeying, His carelessness about food, and how He treated it as a matter of minor importance.9 And so the disciples were taught to use the like disposition themselves; for they took with them no provisions for the road. And this another Evangelist declares, saying, that when He spake to them concerning “the leaven of the Pharisees” (Matt. 16:6), they thought that it was because they carried no bread; and when he introduces them plucking the ears of corn, and eating (Matt. 12:1), and when he saith that Jesus came to the fig-tree by reason of hunger (Matt. 21:18), it is for nothing else but only to instruct us by all these to despise the belly, and not to deem that its service is anxiously to be attended to. Observe them, for instance, in this place neither bringing anything with them, nor because they brought not anything, caring for this at the very beginning and early part of the day, but buying food at the time when all other people were taking their meal.10 Not like us, who the instant we rise from our beds attend to this before anything else, calling cooks and butlers, and giving our directions with all earnestness, applying ourselves afterwards to other matters, preferring temporal things to spiritual, valuing those things as necessary which we ought to have deemed of less importance.11 Therefore all things are in confusion. We ought, on the contrary, making much account of all spiritual things, after having accomplished these, then to apply ourselves to the others.

And in this place it is not His laboriousness alone that is shown, but also His freedom from pride; not merely by His being tired, nor by His sitting by the way-side, but by His having been left alone, and His disciples having been separated1 from Him. And yet it was in His power, if He had willed it, either not to have sent them all away, or when they departed to have had other ministers. But He would not; for so He accustomed His disciples to tread all pride beneath their feet.

“And what marvel,” saith one, “if they were moderate in their wishes, since they were fishermen and tentmakers?” Yes! Fishermen and tentmakers they were; but they had in a moment2 mounted even to the height of heaven, and had become more honorable than all earthly kings, being deemed worthy to become the companions of the Lord of the world, and to follow Him whom all beheld with awe. And ye know this too, that those men especially who are of humble origin, whenever they gain distinction, are the more easily lifted up to folly, because they are quite ignorant how to bear their sudden3 honor. Restraining them therefore in their present humblemindedness, He taught them always to be moderate,4 and never to require any to wait upon them.

“He therefore,” saith the Evangelist, “being wearied with His journey, sat5 thus at the well.”6

Seest thou that His sitting was because of weariness? because of the heat? because of his waiting for His disciples? He knew, indeed, what should take place among the Samaritans, but it was not for this that He came principally; yet, though He came not for this, it behooved not to reject the woman who came to Him, when she manifested such a desire to learn. The Jews, when He was even coming to them, drove Him away; they of the Gentiles, when He was proceeding in another 1direction, drew Him to them. They envied, these believed on Him. They were angry with, these revered and worshiped Him. What then? Was He to overlook the salvation of so many, to send away such noble zeal? This would have been unworthy of His lovingkindness. Therefore He ordered all the matter in hand with the Wisdom which became Him. He sat resting His body and cooling It by the fountain; for it was the very middle of the day, as the Evangelist has declared, when he says,

“It was about the sixth hour.”

He sat “thus.” What meaneth “thus”? Not upon a throne, not upon a cushion, but simply, and as He was,7 upon the ground.

Ver. 7. “There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water.”

[4.] Observe how he declareth that the woman came forth for another purpose, in every way silencing the shameless gainsaying of the Jews, that none might say that He acted in opposition to His own command, bidding (His disciples) not to enter into any city of the Samaritans, yet conversing with Samaritans. (Matt. 10:5.) And therefore the Evangelist has put,

Ver. 8. “For His disciples were gone away into the city to buy meat.”8

Bringing in many reasons for His conversation with her. What doth the woman? When she heard, “Give Me to drink,”9 she very wisely makes the speech of Christ an occasion for a question, and saith,

Ver. 9. “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a Samaritan? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.”

And whence did she suppose Him to be a Jew? From His dress, perhaps, and from His dialect. Observe, I pray you, how considerate the woman was. If there was need of caution, Jesus needed it, not she. For she doth not say, “The Samaritans have no dealings with the Jews,” but, “The Jews do not admit the Samaritans.” Yet still, although free herself from blame,10 when she supposed that another was falling into it she would not even so hold her peace, but corrected, as she thought, what was done unlawfully. Perhaps some one may ask how it was that Jesus asked drink of her, when the law11 did not permit it. If it be answered that it was because He knew beforehand that she would not give it, then for this very reason He ought not to have asked. What then can we say? That the rejecting such observances as these was now a matter of indifference to Him; for He who induced others to do them away, would much more Himself pass them by. “Not that which goeth in,” saith He, “defileth a man, but that which goeth out.” (Matt. 15:11.) And this conversation with the woman would be no slight charge against the Jews. For often did He draw them to Himself, both by words and deeds, but they would not attend; while observe how she is detained by a simple request.12 For He did not as yet enter on the prosecution of this business,13 nor the way,14 yet if any came to Him He did not prevent them. And to the disciples also He said thus, “Into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not.” He did not say, “And when they come to you, reject them”; that would have been very unworthy of His lovingkindness. And therefore He answered the woman, and said,

Ver. 10. “If thou knewest the gift of God and who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.”

First, He showeth that she is worthy to hear and not to be overlooked, and then He revealeth Himself. For she, as soon as she had learnt who He was, would straightway hearken and attend to Him; which none can say of the Jews, for they, when they had learned, asked nothing of Him, nor did they desire to be informed on any profitable matter, but insulted and drove Him away. But when the woman had heard these words, observe how gently she answers:

Ver. 11. “Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; from whence then hast thou that living water?”

Already He hath raised her from her low opinion of Him, and from deeming that He is a common man. For not without a reason doth she here call Him, “Lord”;1 but assigning to Him high honor. That she spake these words to honor Him, is plain from what is said afterwards, since she did not laugh nor mock, but doubted for a while. And wonder not if she did not at once perceive all, for neither did Nicodemus. What saith he? “How can these things be?” and again, “How can a man be born when he is old?” and again, “Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” But this woman more reverently: “Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; from whence then hast thou that living water?” Christ said one thing, and she imagined another, hearing nothing beyond the words, and as yet unable to form any lofty thought. Yet, had she spoken hastily, she might have said, “If thou hadst had that living water, thou wouldest not have asked of me, but wouldest rather have provided for thyself. Thou art but a boaster.” But she said nothing like this; she answers with much gentleness, both at first and afterwards. For at first she saith, “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me?” she saith not, as though speaking to an alien and an enemy, “Far be it from me to give to thee, who art a foe and a stranger to our nation.” And afterwards again, when she heard Him utter great words, a thing at which enemies are most annoyed, she did not mock nor deride2; but what saith she?

Ver. 12. “Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?”

Observe how she thrusts herself into the noble stock of the Jews. For what she saith is somewhat of this kind: “Jacob used this water, and had nothing better to give us.” And this she said showing that from the first answer (of Christ) she had conceived a great and sublime thought; for by the words, “he drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle,” she implies nothing else, than that she had a notion of a better Water, but that she3 never found it, nor clearly knew it. More clearly to explain what she means to say, the sense of her words is this: “Thou canst not assert that Jacob gave us this well, and used another himself; for he and his children drank of this one, which they would not have done if they had had another and a better. Now of the water of this well it is not in thy power to give me, and thou canst not have another and a better, unless thou dost confess that thou art greater than Jacob. Whence then hast thou that water which thou promisest that thou wilt give us?” The Jews did not converse with Him thus mildly, and yet He spake to them on the same subject, making mention of the like water, but they profited nothing; and when He made mention of Abraham, they even attempted to stone Him. Not so does this woman approach Him; but with much gentleness, in the midst of the heat, at noon, she with much patience saith and hears all, and does not so much as think of what the Jews most probably would have asserted, that “This fellow is mad, and beside himself: he hath tied me to this fount and well, giving me nothing, but using big words”; no, she endures and perseveres until she has found what she seeks.

[5.] If now a woman of Samaria is so earnest to learn something profitable, if she abides by Christ though not as yet knowing Him, what pardon shall we obtain, who both knowing4 Him, and being not by a well, nor in a desert place, nor at noon-day, nor beneath the scorching sunbeams, but at morning-tide, and beneath a roof like this, enjoying shade and comfort,5 yet cannot endure to hear anything that is said, but are wearied6 by it. Not such was that woman; so occupied was she by Jesus’ words, that she even called others to hear them. The Jews, on the contrary, not only did not call, but even hindered and impeded those who desired to come to Him,7 saying, “See, have any of the rulers believed on him? but this people, which knoweth not the Law, are cursed.”8 Let us then imitate this woman of Samaria; let us commune with Christ. For even now He standeth in the midst of us, speaking to us by the Prophets and Disciples; let us hear and obey. How long shall we live uselessly and in vain? Because, not to do what is well-pleasing to God is to live uselessly, or rather not merely uselessly, but to our own hurt; for when we have spent the time which has been given us on no good purpose, we shall depart this life to suffer severest punishment for our unseasonable extravagance. For it can never be that a man who has received money to trade with, and then has eaten it up, shall have it1 required at his hands by the man who intrusted it to him; and that one who has spent such a life as ours to no purpose shall escape punishment. It was not for this that God brought us into this present life, and breathed into us a soul, that we should make use of the present time only,2 but that we should do all our business with a regard to the life which is to come. Things irrational only are useful for the present life; but we have an immortal soul, that we may use every means to prepare ourselves for that other life. For if one enquire the use of horses and asses and oxen, and other such-like animals, we shall tell him that it is nothing else but only to minister to the present life; but this cannot be said of us; our best condition is that which follows on our departure hence; and we must do all that we may shine there, that we may join the choir of Angels, and stand before the King continually, through endless3 ages. And therefore the soul is immortal, and the body shall be immortal too, that we may enjoy the never-ending blessings. But if, when heavenly things are proffered thee, thou remainest nailed to earth, consider what an insult is offered to thy Benefactor, when He holdeth forth to thee things above, and thou, making no great account of them choosest earth instead. And therefore, as despised by thee, He hath threatened thee with hell; that thou mayest learn hence of what great blessings thou deprivest thyself. God grant that none make trial of that punishment, but that having been well-pleasing to Christ, we may obtain everlasting blessings, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ; to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.

HOMILY XXXII

John 4:13, 14.

“Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but 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 up into everlasting Life.”

[1.] Scripture calls the grace of the Spirit sometimes “Fire,” sometimes “Water,” showing that these names are not descriptive of its essence, but of its operation; for the Spirit, being Invisible and Simple, cannot be made up of different substances. Now the one John declares, speaking thus, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with Fire” (Matt. 3:11): the other, Christ, “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38.) “But this,” saith John, “spake He of the Spirit, which they should receive.” So also conversing with the woman, He calleth the Spirit water;4 for, “Whosoever shall drink of the water which I shall give him, shall never thirst.” So also He calleth the Spirit by the name of “fire,” alluding to the rousing and warming property of grace, and its power of destroying transgressions; but by that of “water,” to declare the cleansing wrought by it, and the great refreshment which it affordeth to those minds which receive it. And with good reason; for it makes the willing soul like some5 garden thick with all manner of trees fruitful and ever-flourishing, allowing it neither to feel despondency nor the plots of Satan, and quenches6 all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

And observe, I pray you, the wisdom of Christ,7 how gently He leads on8 the woman; for He did not say at first, “If thou knewest who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink,” but when He had given her an occasion of calling Him “a Jew,” and brought her beneath the charge of having done so, repelling the accusation He saith, “If thou knewest who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of Him”; and having compelled her by His great promises to make mention9 of the Patriarch, He thus alloweth the woman to look through,10 and then when she objects, “Art thou greater than our father Jacob?” He saith not, “Yea, I am greater,” (for He would have seemed but to boast, since the proof did not as yet appear,) but by what He saith He effecteth this. For He said not simply, “I will give thee water,” but having first set that given by Jacob aside, He exalteth that given by Himself, desiring to show from the nature of the things given, how great is the interval and difference between the persons of the givers,1 and His own superiority to the Patriarch. “If,” saith He, “thou admirest Jacob because he gave thee this water, what wilt thou say if I give thee Water far better than this? Thou hast thyself been first to confess that I am greater than Jacob, by arguing against Me, and asking, ‘Art thou greater than Jacob, that thou promisest to give me better water?’ If thou receivest that Water, certainly thou wilt confess that I am greater.” Seest thou the upright judgment of the woman, giving her decision from facts, both as to the Patriarch, and as to Christ? The Jews acted not thus; when they even saw Him casting out devils, they not only did not call Him greater than the Patriarch but even said that He had a devil. Not so the woman, she draws her opinion whence Christ would have her, from the demonstration afforded by His works. For by these He justifieth Himself, saying, “If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not; but if I do, if ye believe not Me, believe the works.” (c. 10:37, 38.) And thus the woman is brought over to the faith.

Wherefore also He, having heard, “Art thou greater than our father Jacob,” leaveth Jacob, and speaketh concerning the water, saying, “Whosoever shall drink of this water, shall thirst again”; and He maketh His comparison, not by depreciating one, but by showing the excellence of the other; for He saith not, that “this water is naught,” nor “that it is inferior and contemptible,” but what even nature testifies that He saith: “Whosoever shall drink of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever shall drink of the Water which I shall give him, shall never thirst.” The woman before this had heard of “living Water” (v. 10), but had not known its meaning. Since because that water is called “living” which is perennial and bubbles up unceasingly from uninterrupted springs, she thought that this was the water meant. Wherefore He points out this more clearly by speaking thus, and establishing by a comparison the superiority (of the water which He would give). What then saith He? “Whosoever shall drink of the Water that I shall give him, shall never thirst.” This and what was said next especially showed the superiority, for material water possesses none of these qualities. And what is it that follows? “It shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” For as one that hath a well within him could never be seized by thirst, so neither can he that hath this Water.

The woman straightway believed, showing herself much wiser than Nicodemus, and not only wiser, but more manly. For he when he heard ten thousand such things neither invited any others to this hearing, nor himself spake forth openly; but she exhibited the actions of an Apostle, preaching the Gospel to all, and calling them to Jesus, and drawing a whole city forth to Him. Nicodemus when he had heard said, “How can these things be?” And when Christ set before him a clear illustration, that of “the wind,” he did not even so receive the Word. But the woman not so; at first she doubted, but afterwards receiving the Word not by any regular demonstration, but in the form of an assertion, she straightway hastened to embrace it. For when Christ said, “It shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting Life,” immediately the woman saith,

Ver. 15. “Give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.”

Seest thou how little by little she is led up to the highest doctrines? First she thought Him some Jew who was transgressing the Law; then when He had repelled that accusation, (for it was necessary that the person who was to teach2 her such things should not be suspected,) having heard of “living water,” she supposed that this was spoken of material water; afterwards, having learnt that the words were spiritual, she believed that the water could remove the necessity caused by thirst, but knew not yet what this could be; she still doubted, deeming it indeed to be above material things, but not being exactly informed. But here having gained a clearer insight, but not yet fully perceiving the whole, (for she saith, “Give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw,”) she for the time preferreth Him to Jacob. “For” (saith she) “I need not this well if I receive from thee that water.” Seest thou how she setteth Him before the Patriarch? This is the act of a fairly-judging3 soul. She had shown how great an opinion she had of Jacob, she saw One better than he, and was not held back by her prepossession. Thus this woman was neither of an easy temper, (she did not carelessly receive what was said, how can she have done so when she enquired with so great exactness?4) nor yet disobedient, nor disputatious, and this she showed by her petition. Yet to the Jews once He said, “Whosoever shall eat of My flesh5 shall never hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst” (c. 6:35); but they not only did not believe, but were offended at Him. The woman had no such feeling, she remains and petitions. To the Jews He said, “He that believeth on Me shall never thirst”; not so to the woman, but more grossly, “He that drinketh of this Water shall never thirst.” For the promise referred to spiritual and unseen1 things. Wherefore having raised her mind by His promises, He still lingers among expressions relating to sense, because she could not as yet comprehend the exact expression of spiritual things. Since had He said, “If thou believest in Me thou shalt not thirst,” she would not have understood His saying, not knowing who it could be that spake to her, nor concerning what kind of thirst He spake. Wherefore then did He not this in the case of the Jews? Because they had seen many signs, while she had seen no sign, but heard these words first. For which reason He afterwards reveals His power by prophecy, and does not directly introduce His reproof,2 but what saith He?

Ver. 16–19. “Go, call thy husband, and come thither. The woman answered and said I have no husband. Jesus saith unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: for thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. The woman saith unto Him, Sir, I perceive that Thou art a Prophet.”

[2.] O how great the wisdom of the woman! how meekly doth she receive the reproof! “How should she not,” saith some one? Tell me, why should she? Did He not often reprove the Jews also, and with greater reproofs than these? (for it is not the same to bring forward the hidden thoughts of the heart, as to make manifest a thing that was done in secret; the first are known to3 God alone, and none other knoweth them but he who hath them in his heart; the second, all who were sharers in it know;) but still when reproved did not bear it patiently. When He said, “Why seek ye to kill me?” (c. 7:19), they not only did not admire as the woman did but even mocked at and insulted Him; yet they had a demonstration from other miracles, she had only heard this speech. Still they not only did not admire, but even insulted Him, saying, “Thou hast a demon, who seeketh to kill thee?” While she not only doth not insult but admires, and is astonished at Him, and supposes Him to be a Prophet. Yet truly this rebuke touched the woman more than the other touched them; for her fault was hers alone, theirs was a general one; and we are not so much stung by what is general as by what is particular. Besides they thought they should be gaining a great object if they could slay Christ, but that which the woman had done was allowed by all to be wicked; yet was she not indignant, but was astonished and wondered. And Christ did this very same thing in the case of Nathanael. He did not at first introduce the prophecy, nor say, “I saw thee under the fig-tree,” but when Nathanael said, “Whence knowest thou me?” then He introduced this. For He desired to take the beginnings of His signs and prophecies from the very persons who came near to Him, so that they might be more attached4 by what was done, and He might escape the suspicion of vainglory. Now this He doth here also; for to have charged her first of all that, “Thou hast no husband,” would have seemed burdensome and superfluous, but to take the reason (for speaking) from herself, and then to set right all these points, was very consistent, and softened the disposition of the hearer.

“And what kind of connection,” saith some one, “is there in the saying, ‘Go, call thy husband’?” The discourse was concerning a gift and grace surpassing mortal nature: the woman was urgent in seeking to receive it. Christ saith, “Call thy husband,” showing that he also must share in these things; but she, eager to receive5 (the gift), and concealing the shamefulness of the circumstances, and supposing that she was conversing with a man, said, “I have no husband.” Christ having heard this, now seasonably introduces His reproof, mentioning accurately both points; for He enumerated all her former husbands, and reproved her for him whom6 she now would hide. What then did the woman? she was not annoyed, nor did she leave Him and fly, nor deem the thing an insult, but rather admired Him, and persevered the more. “I perceive,” saith she, “that Thou art a Prophet.” Observe her prudence; she did not straightway run to Him, but still considers Him, and marvels at Him. For, “I perceive,” means, “Thou appearest to me to be a Prophet.” Then when she suspected this, she asks Him nothing concerning this life, not concerning bodily health, or possessions, or wealth, but at once concerning doctrines. For what saith she?

Ver. 20. “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain,” (meaning Abraham and his family, for thither they say that he led up his son,) “and how say ye7 that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship?”

[3.] Seest thou how much more elevated in mind she has become? She who was anxious that she might not be troubled for thirst, now questions concerning doctrines. What then doth Christ? He doth not resolve the question, (for to answer simply to men’s words was not His care, for it was needless,8) but leads the woman on to the greater height, and doth not converse with her on these matters, until she has confessed that He was a Prophet, so that afterwards she might hear His Word with abundant belief; for having been persuaded of this, she could no longer doubt concerning what should be said to her.

Let us now after this be ashamed, and blush. A woman who had had five husbands, and who was of Samaria, was so eager concerning doctrines, that neither the time of day, nor her having come for another purpose, nor anything else, led her away from enquiring on such matters but we not only do not enquire concerning doctrines, but towards them all our dispositions are careless and indifferent. Therefore everything is neglected. For which of you when in his house takes some Christian book1 in hand and goes over its contents, and searches the Scriptures? None can say that he does so, but with most we shall find draughts and dice, but books nowhere, except among a few. And even these few have the same dispositions as the many; for they tie up their books, and keep them always put away in cases, and all their care is for the fineness of the parchments, and the beauty of the letters, not for reading them. For they have not bought them to obtain advantage and benefit from them, but take pains about such matters to show their wealth and pride. Such is the excess of vainglory. I do not hear any one glory that he knows the contents, but that he hath a book written in letters of gold. And what gain, tell me, is this? The Scriptures were not given us for this only, that we might have them in books, but that we might engrave them on our hearts. For this kind of possession, the keeping the commandments merely in letter, belongs to Jewish ambition; but to us the Law was not so given2 at all, but in the fleshy tables of our hearts.3 And this I say, not to prevent you from procuring Bibles, on the contrary, I exhort and earnestly pray that you do this, but I desire that from those books you convey the letters and sense into your understanding, that so it may be purified when it receiveth the meaning of the writing.4 For if the devil will not dare to approach a house where a Gospel is lying, much less will any evil spirit, or any sinful nature,5 ever touch or enter a soul which bears about with it such sentiments as it contains. Sanctify then thy soul, sanctify thy body, by having these ever in thy heart, and on thy tongue. For if foul speech defiles and invites devils, it is clear that spiritual reading sanctifies and draws down the grace of the Spirit. The Scriptures6 are divine charms, let us then apply to ourselves and7 to the passions of our souls the remedies to be derived from them. For if we understand what it is that is read, we shall hear it with much readiness. I am always saying this, and will not cease to say it. Is it not strange that those who sit by the market can tell the names, and families, and cities of charioteers, and dancers, and the kinds of power possessed by each, and can give exact account of the good or bad qualities of the very horses, but that those who come hither should know nothing of what is done here, but should be ignorant of the number even of the sacred Books? If thou pursuest those worldly things for pleasure, I will show thee that here is greater pleasure. Which is sweeter, tell me, which more marvelous, to see a man wrestling with a man, or a man buffering with a devil, a body closing with an incorporeal power, and him who is of thy race victorious? These wrestlings let us look on, these, which also it is seemly and profitable to imitate, and which imitating, we may be8 crowned; but not those in which emulation brings shame to him who imitates them. If thou beholdest the one kind of contest, thou beholdest it with devils; the other, with Angels and Archangels, and the Lord of Archangels. Say now, if thou wert allowed to sit with governors and kings, and to see and enjoy the spectacle, wouldest thou not deem it to be a very great honor? And here when thou art a spectator in company with the King of Angels, when thou seest the devil grasped by the middle of the back,9 striving much to have the better, but powerless, dost thou not run and pursue after such a sight as this? “And how can this be?” saith some one. If thou keep the Bible in thy hands; for in it thou shalt see the lists, and the long races, and his grasps,10 and the skill of the righteous one. For by beholding these things thou shalt learn also how to wrestle so thyself, and shalt escape clear of devils; the performances of the heathen are assemblies of devils, not theaters of men. Wherefore I exhort you to abstain from these Satanic assemblies;11 for if it is not lawful to enter into an idol’s house, much less to Satan’s festival. I shall not cease to say these things and weary you, until I see some change; for to say these things, as saith Paul, “to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.” (Phil. 3:1.) Be not then offended at my exhortation. If any one ought to be offended, it is I who often speak and am not heard, not you who are always hearing and always disobeying. God grant that you be not always liable to this charge, but that freed from this shame you be deemed worthy to enjoy the spiritual spectacle,1 and the glory which is to come, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

HOMILY XXXIII

John 4:21, 22.

“Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.”

[1.] Everywhere, beloved, we have need of faith, faith the mother of blessings, the medicine of salvation; and without this it is impossible to possess any one of the great doctrines. Without this, men are like to those who attempt to cross2 the open sea without a ship, who for a little way hold out by swimming, using both hands and feet, but when they have advanced farther, are quickly swamped by the waves: in like manner they who use their own reasonings, before they have learnt anything, suffer shipwreck; as also Paul saith, “Who concerning faith have made shipwreck.” (1 Tim. 1:19.) That this be not our case, let us hold fast the sacred anchor by which Christ bringeth over the Samaritan woman now. For when she had said, “How say ye3 that Jerusalem is the place in which men ought to worship?” Christ replied, “Believe Me, woman, that the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in Jerusalem, nor yet in this mountain, worship the Father.” An exceedingly great4 doctrine He revealed to her, and one which He did not mention either to Nicodemus or Nathanael. She was eager to prove her own privileges more honorable than those of the Jews; and this she subtly argued from the Fathers, but Christ met not this question. For it was for the time distracting5 to speak on the matter, and to show why the Fathers worshiped in the mountain, and why the Jews at Jerusalem. Wherefore on this point He was silent, and having taken away from both places priority in dignity, rouses her soul by showing that neither Jews nor Samaritans possessed anything great in comparison with that which was to be given; and then He introduceth the difference. Yet even thus He declared that the Jews were more honorable, not preferring place to place, but giving them the precedence because of their intention. As though He had said, “About the ‘place’ of worship ye have no need henceforth to dispute, but in the ‘manner’ the Jews have an advantage over you Samaritans, for ‘ye,’ He saith, ‘worship ye know not what; we know what we worship.’ ”

How then did the Samaritans “know not” what they worshiped? Because they thought that God was local and partial; so at least they served Him, and so they sent to the Persians, and reported that “the God of this place is wroth with us” (2 Kings 17:26.), in this respect forming no higher opinion of Him than of their idols. Wherefore they continued to serve both Him and devils, joining things which ought not to be joined. The Jews, on the contrary, were free from this supposition, at least the greater part of them, and knew that He was God of the world. Therefore He saith, “Ye worship ye know not what; we know what we worship.” Do not wonder that He numbereth Himself among Jews, for He speaketh to the woman’s opinion of Him as though He were a Jewish Prophet, and therefore He putteth, “we worship.” For that He is of the objects of worship is clear to every one, because to worship belongs to the creature, but to be worshiped to the Lord of the creature. But for a time He speaketh as a Jew; and the expression “we” in this place meaneth “we Jews.” Having then exalted what was Jewish, He next maketh Himself credible, and persuadeth the woman to give the greater heed to His words, by rendering His discourse above suspicion, and showing that He doth not exalt what belongs to them by reason of relationship6 to those of His own tribe. For it is clear, that one who had made these declarations concerning the place on which the Jews most prided themselves, and thought that they were superior to all, and who had taken away their high claims, would not after this7 speak to get favor of any, but with truth and prophetic power. When therefore He had for a while removed her from such reasonings,8 saying, “Woman, believe Me,” and what follows, then He addeth, “for salvation is of the Jews.” What He saith is of this kind: neither, that blessings to the world came from them, (for to know God and condemn idols had its beginning, from them, and with you the very act of worship, although ye do it not rightly, yet received its origin from them,) or else, He speaketh of His own Coming. Or rather, one would not be wrong in calling both these things “salvation” which He said was “of the Jews”; which Paul implied when he said, “Of whom is Christ according to the flesh, who is God over all.” (Rom. 9:5.) Seest thou how He commendeth1 the old Covenant, and showeth that it is the root of blessings, and that He is throughout not opposed to the Law, since He maketh the groundwork2 of all good things to come from the Jews?

Ver. 23. “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father.”

“We, O woman,” He saith, “excel you in the manner of our worship, but even this shall henceforth have an end. Not the places only, but even the manner of serving God shall be changed. And this change is at your very doors. ‘For the hour cometh, and now is.’ ”

[2.] For since what the Prophets said they said long before the event, to show that here it is not so,3 He saith, “And now is.” Think not, He saith, that this is a prophecy of such a kind as shall be accomplished after a long time, the fulfillment is already at hand and at your very doors, “when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” In saying “true,”4 He excludeth Jews as well as Samaritans; for although the Jews be better than the Samaritans, yet are they far inferior to those that shall come, as inferior as is the type to the reality. But He speaketh of the Church, that she5 is the “true” worship, and such as is meet for God.

“For the Father seeketh such to worship Him.”

If then He in times past sought such as these, He allowed to those others their way of worship, not willingly,6 but from condescension, and for this reason,7 that He might bring them in also. Who then are “the true worshipers”? Those who confine not their service by place, and who serve God in spirit; as Paul saith, “Whom I serve in my spirit8 in the Gospel of His Son”: and again, “I beseech you that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, acceptable unto God, your reasonable service.” (Rom. 1:9 and 12:1.) But when he saith,

Ver. 24. “God is a Spirit” [God is spirit].

He declareth nothing else than His incorporeal Nature. Now the service of that which is incorporeal must needs be of the same character, and must be offered by that in us which is incorporeal, to wit, the soul, and purity of mind. Wherefore He saith, “they that worship Him, must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” For because both Samaritans and Jews were careless about the soul, but took great pains about the body, cleansing it in divers ways, it is not, He saith, by purity of body, but by that which is incorporeal in us, namely the mind, that the incorporeal One is served. Sacrifice then not sheep and calves, but dedicate thyself to the Lord; make thyself a holocaust, this is to offer a living sacrifice. Ye must worship “in truth”9; as former things were types, such as circumcision, and whole burnt offerings, and victims, and incense, they now no longer exist, but all is “truth.” For a man must now circumcise not his flesh, but his evil thoughts, and crucify himself, and remove and slay his unreasonable desires.” The woman was made dizzy by His discourse, and fainted10 in at the sublimity of what He said, and, in her trouble, hear what she saith:

Ver. 25, 26. “I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when He is come, He will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I am that speak unto thee.”

And whence came the Samaritans to expect the coming of Christ, seeing that they received Moses only?11 From the writings of Moses themselves. For even in the beginning He revealed the Son. “Let Us make man in Our Image, after Our Likeness” (Gen. 1:26), was said to the Son. It was He who talked with Abraham in the tent. (Gen. 18.) And Jacob prophesying concerning Him said, “A ruler shall not fail from Judah, nor a leader from his thighs, until He come for whom it is reserved,12 and He is the expectation of nations.” (Gen. 18.) And Moses himself saith, “The Lord thy God will raise up unto you a Prophet of your brethren like unto me, unto Him shall ye hearken.” (Deut. 18:15.) And the circumstances attending the serpent, and the rod of Moses, and Isaac, and the sheep, and many other things they who chose might select as proclaiming His coming.

“And why, pray,” saith one, “did not Christ lead on the woman by these means? why did He instance the serpent to Nicodemus, and mention prophecy to Nathanael, but to her say nothing of the kind? For what reason, and why?” Because they were men, and were versed in these things, she a poor ignorant woman unpracticed in the Scriptures. Wherefore He doth not speak to her from them, but draweth her on by the “water” and by prophecy, and bringeth her to make mention of Christ and then revealeth Himself; which had He at first told the woman when she had not questioned Him, He would have seemed to her to trifle and talk idly, while as it is by bringing her little by little to mention Him, at a fitting time He revealed Himself. To the Jews, who continually said, “How long dost Thou make us to doubt? tell us if Thou art the Christ” (c. 10:24), to them1 He gave no clear answer, but to this woman He said plainly, that He is. For the woman was more fair-minded than the Jews; they did not enquire to learn, but always to mock at Him, for had they desired to learn, the teaching which was by His words, and by the Scriptures, and by His miracles would have been sufficient. The woman, on the contrary, said what she said from an impartial judgment and a simple mind, as is plain from what she did afterwards; for she both heard and believed, and netted2 others also, and in every circumstance we may observe the carefulness and faith of the woman.

Ver. 27. “And upon this came His disciples,” (very seasonably did they come when the teaching was finished,) “and marveled that He talked with the woman, yet no man said, What seekest Thou? or, Why talkest Thou with her?”

[3.] At what did they marvel? At His want of pride and exceeding humility, that looked upon as He was, He endured with such lowliness of heart to talk with a woman poor, and a Samaritan. Still in their amazement the); did not ask Him the reason, so well were they taught to keep the station of disciples, so much did they fear and reverence Him. For although they did not as yet hold the right opinion concerning Him, still they gave heed unto Him as to some marvelous one, and paid Him much respect. Yet they frequently are seen to act confidently; as when John lay upon His bosom, when they came to Him and said, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” (Matt. 18:1), when the sons of Zebedee entreated Him to set one of them on His right hand, and the other on His left. Why then did they not here question Him? Because since all those instances related to themselves, they had need to enquire into them, while what here took place was of no such great importance to them. And indeed John did that a long time after towards the very end, when He enjoyed greater confidence, and was bold in the love of Christ; for he it was,3 he saith, “whom Jesus loved.” What could equal such blessedness?

But, beloved, let us not stop at this, the calling the Apostle blessed, but let us do all things that we also may be of the blessed, let us imitate the Evangelist, and see what it was that caused such great love. What then was it? He left his father, his ship, and his net, and followed Jesus. Yet this he did in common with his brother, and Peter, and Andrew, and the rest of the Apostles. What then was the special4 thing which caused this great love? Shall we discover it? He saith nothing of this kind about himself, but only that he was beloved; as to the righteous acts for which he was beloved he has modestly been silent. That Jesus loved him with an especial love was clear to every one; yet John doth not appear conversing with or questioning Jesus privately, as Peter often did, and Philip, and Judas, and Thomas, except only when he desired to show kindness and compliance to his fellow Apostle; for when the chief5 of the Apostles by beckoning constrained him, then he asked. For these two had great love each for the other. Thus, for instance, they are seen going up together into the Temple and speaking in common to the people. Yet Peter in many places6 is moved, and speaks more warmly than John. And at the end he hears Christ say, “Peter,7 lovest thou Me more than these?” (c. 21:15.) Now it is clear that he who loved “more than these” was also beloved. But this in his case was shown by loving Jesus, in the case of the other by being beloved by Jesus8

What then was it which caused this especial love? To my thinking, it was that the man displayed great gentleness and meekness, for which reason he doth not appear in many places speaking openly. And how great a thing this is, is plain also from the case of Moses. It was this which made him such and so great as he was. There is nothing equal to lowliness of mind. For which cause Jesus with this began the Beatitudes, and when about to lay as it were the foundation and base of a mighty building, He placed first lowliness of mind. Without this a man cannot possibly be saved; though he fast, though he pray, though he give alms, if it be with a proud spirit, these9 things are abominable, if humility be not there; while if it be, all these things are amiable and lovely, and are done with safety. Let us then be modest,1 beloved, let us be modest; success is easy, if we be sober-minded. For after all what is it, O man, that exciteth thee to pride? Seest thou not the poverty of thy nature? the unsteadiness2 of thy will? Consider thine end, consider the multitude of thy sins. But perhaps because thou doest many righteous deeds thou art proud. By that very pride thou shall undo them all. Wherefore it behoveth not so much him that has sinned3 as him that doeth righteousness to take pains to be humble. Why so? Because the sinner is constrained by conscience, while the other, except he be very sober, soon caught up as by a blast of wind is lifted on high, and made to vanish like the Pharisee. Dost thou give to the poor? What thou givest is not thine, but thy Master’s, common to thee and thy fellow-servants. For which cause thou oughtest especially to be humbled, in the calamities of those who are thy kindred foreseeing thine own, and taking knowledge of thine own nature in their cases. We ourselves perhaps are sprung from such ancestors; and if wealth has shifted to you, it is probable that it will leave you again. And after all, what is wealth? A vain4 shadow, dissolving smoke, a flower of the grass, or rather something meaner than a flower. Why then art thou high-minded over grass? Doth not wealth fall to thieves, and effeminates, and harlots, and tomb-breakers? Doth this puff thee up, that thou hast such as these to share in thy possession? or dost thou desire honor? Towards gaining honor nothing is more serviceable than almsgiving. For the honors arising from wealth and power are compulsory, and attended with hatred, but these others are from the free wilt and real feeling of the honorers; and therefore those who pay them can never give them. Now if men show such reverence for the merciful, and invoke all blessings upon them, consider what return, what recompense they shall receive from the merciful God. Let us then seek this wealth which endureth forever, and never deserts5 us, that, becoming great here and glorious there, we may obtain everlasting blessings, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.

HOMILY XXXIV

John 4:28, 29.

“The woman then left her water pot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a Man which told me all things that ever I did; is not this the Christ?”

[1.] We require much fervor and uproused zeal, for without these it is impossible to obtain the blessings promised to us. And to show this, Christ at one time saith, “Except a man take6 up his cross and follow Me, he is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:38); at another, “I am come to send fire upon the earth, and what will I if it be already kindled?” (Luke 12:49); by both these desiring to represent to us a disciple full of heat and fire, and prepared for every danger. Such an one was this woman. For so kindled was she by His words, that she left her water pot and the purpose for which she came, ran into the city, and drew all the people to Jesus. “Come,” she saith, “see a Man which told me all things that ever I did.”

Observe her zeal and wisdom. She came to draw water, and when she had lighted upon the true Well, she after that despised the material one; teaching us even by this trifling instance when we are listening to spiritual matters to overlook the things of this life, and make no account of them. For what the Apostles did, that, after her ability, did this woman also.7 They when they were called, left their nets; she of her own accord, without the command of any, leaves her water pot, and winged by joy8 performs the office of Evangelists. And she calls not one or two, as did Andrew and Philip, but having aroused a whole city and people, so brought them to Him.

Observe too how prudently she speaks; she said not, “Come and see the Christ,” but with the same condescension9 by which Christ had netted her she draws the men to Him; “Come,” she saith, “see a Man who told me all that ever I did.” She was not ashamed to say that He “told me all that ever I did.” Yet she might have spoken otherwise, “Come, see one that prophesieth”; but when the soul is inflamed with holy fire, it looks then to nothing earthly, neither to glory nor to shame, but belongs to one thing alone, the flame which occupieth it.

“Is not this the Christ?” Observe again here the great wisdom of the woman; she neither declared the fact plainly, nor was she silent, for she desired not to bring them in by her own assertion, but to make them to share in this opinion by hearing Him; which rendered her words more readily acceptable to them. Yet He had not told all her life to her, only from what had been said she was persuaded (that He was informed) as to the rest. Nor did she say, “Come, believe,” but, “Come, see”.; a gentler1 expression than the other, and one which more attracted them. Seest thou the wisdom of the woman? She knew, she knew certainly that having but tasted that Well, they would be affected in the same manner as herself. Yet any one of the grosser sort would have concealed the reproof which Jesus had given; but she parades her own life, and brings it forward before all men, so as to attract and capture all.

Ver. 31. “In the mean time His disciples asked2 Him, saying, Master, eat.” “Asked,” here is “besought,” in their native language; for seeing Him wearied with the journey, and the oppressive heat, they entreated Him; for their request concerning food proceeded not from hastiness, but from loving affection for their Teacher? What then saith Christ?

Ver. 32, 33. “I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore” (saith the Evangelist) “said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought Him aught to eat?”

Why now wonderest thou that the woman when she heard of “water,” still imagined mere water to be meant, when even the disciples are in the same case, and as yet suppose nothing spiritual, but are perplexed? though they still show their accustomed modesty and reverence toward their Master, conversing one with the other, but not daring to put any question to Him. And this they do in other places, desiring to ask Him, but not asking. What then saith Christ?

Ver. 34. “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work.”

He here calleth the salvation of men “meat,” showing what an earnest desire He hath of providing for us;3 for as we long for food, so He that we may be saved. And hear how in all places He revealeth not all off-hand, but first throweth the hearer into perplexity, in order that having begun to seek the meaning of what has been said, and then being perplexed and in difficulty, he may when what he sought appears, receive it the more readily, and be made more attentive to listening. For wherefore said He not at once, “My meat is to do the will of My Father?” (though not even this would have been clear, yet clearer than the other.) But what saith He? “I have meat to eat that ye know not of”; for He desireth, as I said, first to make them more attentive through their uncertainty, and by dark sayings like these to accustom them to listen to His words. But what is “the will of the Father”? He next speaketh of this, and explaineth.

Ver. 35. “Say ye not, that there are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look upon the fields, for they are white already to harvest.”

[2.] Behold, He again by familiar words leadeth them up to the consideration of greater matters; for when He spoke of “meat,” He signified nothing else than the salvation of the men who should come to Him; and again, the “field” and the “harvest” signify the very same thing, the multitude of souls prepared for the reception of the preaching; and the “eyes” of which He speaketh are those both of the mind and of the body; (for they now beheld the crowd of Samaritans advancing;) and the readiness of their will He calleth, “fields already white.” For as the ears of corn, when they have become white, and are ready for reaping, so these, He saith, are prepared and fitted for salvation.

And wherefore instead of calling them “fields” and “harvest,” did He not plainly say, that “the then were coming to believe and were ready to receive the Word, having been instructed by the Prophets; and now bringing forth fruit”? What mean these figures used by Him? for this He doth not here only, but through all the Gospel; and the Prophets also employ the same method, saying many things in a metaphorical manner. What then may be the cause of this? for the grace of the Spirit did not ordain it to be so without a reason, but why and wherefore? On two accounts; one, that the discourse may be more vivid, and bring what is said more clearly before our eyes. For the mind when it has laid hold on a familiar image of the matters in hand, is more aroused, and beholding them as it were in a picture, is occupied by them to a greater degree. This is one reason; the other is, that the statement may be sweetened, and that the memory of what is said may be more lasting. For assertion does not subdue and bring in an ordinary hearer so much as narration by objects, and the representation of experience.4 Which one may here see most wisely effected by the parable.

Ver. 36. “And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal.”

For the fruit of an earthly harvest profiteth not to life eternal, but to this which is for a time; but the spiritual fruit to that which hath neither age nor death. Seest thou that the expressions are of sense, but the thoughts spiritual, and that by the very words themselves He divideth things earthly from heavenly? For when in discoursing of water He made this the peculiar property of the heavenly Water, that “he who drinketh it shall never thirst,” so He doth here also when He saith, “that this fruit is gathered unto eternal life.”

“That both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.”

Who is “he that soweth”? Who “he that reapeth”? The Prophets are they that sowed but they reaped not, but the Apostles. “Yet not on this account are they deprived of the pleasure and recompense of their labors, but they rejoice and are glad with us, although they reap not with us. For harvest is not such work as sowing. I therefore have kept you for that in which the toil is less and the pleasure greater, and not for sowing because in that there is much hardship and toil. In harvest the return is large, the labor not so great; nay there is much facility.”1 By these arguments He here desireth to prove, that “the wish of the Prophets is, that all men should come to Me.” This also the Law was engaged in effecting; and for this they sowed, that they might produce this fruit.2 He showeth moreover that He sent them also, and that there was a very intimate connection between the New Covenant and the Old, and all this He effecteth at once by this parable. He maketh mention also of a proverbial expression generally circulated.

Ver. 37. “Herein,” He saith, “is that saying true, One soweth and another reapeth.”

These words the many used whenever one party had supplied toil and another had reaped the fruits; and He saith, “that the proverb is in this instance especially true, for the Prophets labored, and ye reap the fruits of their labors.” He said not “the rewards,” (for neither did their great labor go unrewarded,) but “the fruits.” This also Daniel did, for he too makes mention of a proverb, “Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked”; and David in his lamenting makes mention of a similar proverb.3 Therefore He said beforehand, “that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.” For since He was about to declare, that “one hath sowed and another reapeth,” lest any one should deem that the Prophets were deprived of their reward, He asserteth something strange and paradoxical, such as never chanceth in sensual things, but is peculiar to spiritual only. For in things of sense, if it chance that one sow and another reap, they do not “rejoice together,” but those who sowed are sad, as having labored for others, and those who reap alone rejoice. But here it is not so, but those who reap not what they sowed rejoice alike with those who reap; whence it is clear that they too share the reward.

Ver. 38. “I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labors; other men labored, and ye are entered into their labors.”

By this He the more encourageth them; for when it seemed a very hard matter to go through all the world and preach the Gospel, He showeth them that it is even most4 easy. The very difficult work was that other, which required great labor, the putting in the seed, and introducing the uninitiated soul to the knowledge of God. But wherefore uttereth He these sayings? It is that when He sendeth them to preach they may not be confounded, as though sent on a difficult task. “For that of the Prophets,” He saith, “was the more difficult, and the fact witnesseth to My word, that ye are come to what is easy; because as in harvest time the fruits are collected with ease, and in one moment the floor is filled with sheaves, which await5 not the revolutions of the seasons, and winter, and spring, and rain, so it is now. The facts proclaim it aloud.” While He was in the midst of saying these things, the Samaritans came forth, and the fruit was at once gathered together. On this account6 He said, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white.” Thus He spake, and the fact was clear, and the words seen (true) by the event. For saith St. John,

Ver. 39. “Many of the Samaritans of that city believed on Him for the saying of the woman which testified, He told me all that ever I did.”

They perceived7 that the woman would not from favor have admired One who had rebuked her sins, nor to gratify another have paraded her own course of life.

[3.] Let us then also imitate this woman, and in the case of our own sins not be ashamed of men, but fear, as is meet, God who now beholdeth what is done, and who hereafter punisheth those who do not now repent. At present we do the opposite of this, for we fear not Him who shall judge us, but shudder at those who do not in anything hurt us, and tremble at the shame which comes from them. Therefore in the very thing which we fear, in this do we incur punishment. For he who now regards only the reproach of men, but when God seeth is not ashamed to do anything unseemly, and who will not repent and be converted, in that day will be made an example, not only before one or two, but in the sight of the whole world. For that a vast assembly is seated there to behold righteous actions as well as those which are not such, let the parable of the sheep and the goats teach thee, as also the blessed Paul when He saith, “For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10), and again, “Who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness.” (1 Cor. 4:5.) Hast thou done or imagined any evil thing, and dost thou hide it from man? yet from God thou hidest it not. But for this thou careth nothing; the eyes of men, these are thy fear. Think then that thou wilt not be able to escape the sight even of men in that day1; for all things as in a picture shall then be set before our very eyes, so that each shall be self-condemned. This is clear even from the instance of Dives, for the poor man whom he had neglected, Lazarus I mean, he saw standing before his eyes, and the finger which he had often loathed, he intreats may become a comfort to him then. I exhort you therefore, that although no one see what we do, yet that each of us enter into his own conscience, and set reason for his judge, and bring forward his transgressions, and if he desire them not to be exposed to public view then in that fearful day, let him now heal his wounds, let him apply to them the medicines of repentance. For it is in the power, yea, it is in the power of one full of ten thousand wounds to go hence whole. For “if ye forgive,” He saith, “your sins are forgiven unto you.”2 (Matt. 6:14, not verbally quoted.) For as sins buried3 in Baptism appear no more, so these4 also shall disappear, if we be willing to repent. And repentance is the not doing the same again; for he that again puts his hand to the same, is like the dog that returneth to his own vomit, and like him in the proverb who cards wool into the fire,5 and draws water into a cask full of holes. It behooves therefore to depart both in action and in thought from what we have dared to do, and having departed, to apply to the wounds the remedies which are the contraries of our sins. For instance: hast thou been grasping and covetous? Abstain from rapine, and apply almsgiving to the wound. Hast thou been a fornicator? Abstain from fornication, and apply chastity to the wound. Hast thou spoken ill of thy brother, and injured him? Cease finding fault,6 and apply kindness. Let us thus act with respect to each point in which we have offended, and let us not carelessly pass by our sins, for there awaiteth us hereafter, there awaiteth us a season of account. Wherefore also Paul said, “The Lord is at hand: be careful for nothing.” (Phil. 4:5, 6.) But we perhaps must add the contrary of this, “The Lord is at hand, be careful.” For they might well hear, “Be careful for nothing,” living as they did in affliction, and labors, and trials; but they who live by rapine, or in luxury, and who shall give a grievous reckoning, would in reason hear not this, but that other, “The Lord is at hand, be careful.” Since no long time now remains until the consummation, but the world is hastening to its end; this the wars declare, this the afflictions, this the earthquakes, this the love which hath waxed cold. For as the body when in its last gasp and near to death, draws to itself ten thousand sufferings; and as when a house is about to fall, many portions are wont to fall beforehand from the roof and walls; so is the end of the world nigh and at the very doors, and therefore ten thousand woes are everywhere scattered abroad. If the Lord was then “at hand,” much more is He now “at hand.” If three hundred7 years ago, when those words were used, Paul called that season “the fullness of time,” much more would he have called the present so. But perhaps for this very reason some disbelieve, yet they ought on this account to believe the more. For whence knowest thou, O man, that the end is not “at hand,” and the words shortly to be accomplished? For as we speak of the end of the year not as being the last day, but also the last month, though it has thirty days; so if of so many years I call even four hundred years “the end,” I shall not be wrong; and so at that time Paul spoke of the end by anticipation. Let us then set ourselves in order, let us delight in the fear of God; for if we live here without fear of Him, His coming will surprise us suddenly, when we are neither careful, nor looking for Him. As Christ declared when He said, “For as in the days of Noah, and as in the days of Lot, so shall it be at the end of this world.” (Matt. 24:37, not verbally quoted.) This also Paul declared when he said, “For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child.” (1 Thess. 5:3.) What means, “as travail upon a woman with child”? Often have pregnant women when sporting, or at their meals, or in the bath or market-place, and foreseeing nothing of what was coming, been seized in a moment by their pains. Now since our case is like theirs, let us ever be prepared, for we shall not always hear these things, we shall not always have power to do them. “In the grave” saith David, “who shall give Thee thanks?”1 (Ps. 6:5.) Let us then repent here, that so we may find God merciful unto us in the day that is to come, and be enabled to enjoy abundant forgiveness; which may we all obtain, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and dominion now and ever, and world without end. Amen.

HOMILY XXXV

John 4:40–43.

“So when the Samaritans were come unto Him, they besought Him that He would tarry with them: and He abode there two days. And many more believed because of His own Word; and said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that This is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. Now after two days He departed thence, and went into Galilee.”

Nothing is worse than envy and malice, nothing more mischievous than vainglory; it is wont to mar ten thousand good things. So the Jews, who excelled the Samaritans in knowledge, and had been always familiar with2 the Prophets, were shown from this cause inferior to them. For these believed even on the testimony of the woman, and without having seen any sign, came forth beseeching Christ to tarry3 with them; but the Jews, when they had beheld His wonders, not only did not detain Him among them, but even drove Him away, and used every means to cast Him forth from their land, although His very Coming4 had been for their sake. The Jews expelled Him, but these even entreated Him to tarry with them. Was it not then rather fitting, tell me, that He should receive those who asked and besought Him, than that He should wait upon those who plotted against and repulsed Him, while to those who loved and desired to retain Him He gave not Himself? Surely this would not have been worthy of His tender care;5 He therefore both accepted6 them, and tarried with them two days. They desired to keep Him among them continually, (for this the Evangelist has shown by saying, that “they besought Him that He would tarry with them,”) but this He endured not, but stayed with them only two days; and in these many more believed on Him. Yet there was no likelihood that these would have believed, since they had seen no sign, and had hostile feelings towards the Jews; but still, inasmuch as they gave in sincerity their judgment on His words, this stood not in their way, but they received a notion which surmounted their hindrances, and vied with each other to reverence Him the more. For, saith the Evangelist, “they said to the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.” The scholars overshot their instructress. With good reason might they condemn the Jews, both by their believing on, and their receiving Him. The Jews, for whose sake He had contrived7 the whole scheme,8 continually were for stoning Him,9 but these, when He was not even intending to come to them, drew Him to themselves. And they, even with signs, remain uncorrected; these, without signs, manifested great faith respecting Him, and glory in this very thing that they believe without them; while the others ceased not asking10 for signs and tempting Him.

Such need is there everywhere of an honest soul; and if truth lay hold on such an one, she easily masters it; or if she masters it not, this is owing not to any weakness of truth, but to want of candor11 in the soul itself. Since the sun too, when he encounters clear eyes, easily enlightens them; if he enlightens them not, it is the fault of their infirmity, not of his weakness.

Hear then what these say; “We know that this is of a truth the Christ, the Saviour of the world.” Seest thou how they at once understood that He should draw the world to Him, that He came to order aright12 our common salvation, that He intended not to confine His care to the Jews, but to sow His Word everywhere? The Jews did not so, but going about to establish their own righteousness, submitted not themselves to the righteousness of God; while these confess that all are deserving of punishment, declaring with the Apostle, that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace.” (Rom. 3:23, 24.) For by saying that He was “the Saviour of the world,” they showed that it was of a lost world,1 and He not simply a Saviour, but one of the very mightiest. For many had come to “save,” both Prophets and Angels2; but this, saith one, is the True Saviour, who affordeth the true salvation, not that which is but for a time. This proceeded from pure faith. And in both ways are they admirable; because they believed, and because they did so without signs, (whom Christ also calleth “blessed,” saying, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed,”) (c. 20:29,) and because they did so sincerely. Though they had heard the woman say doubtfully, “Is not this the Christ?” they did not also say, “we too suspect,” or, “we think,”3 but, “we know,” and not merely, “we know,” but, “we know that this is of a truth the Saviour of the world.” They acknowledged Christ not as one of the many,4 but as the “Saviour” indeed. Yet whom had they seen saved? They had but heard His words, and yet they spake as they would have spoken had they beheld many and great marvels. And why do not the Evangelists tell us these words, and that He discoursed admirably? That thou mayest learn that they pass by many important matters, and yet have declared the whole to us by the event. For He persuaded an entire people and a whole city by His words. When His hearers are not persuaded, then the writers are constrained to mention what was said, lest any one from the insensibility of the hearers should give a judgment against Him who addressed them.

“Now after two days He departed thence and went into Galilee.”

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St Augustine’s Tractate on John 4:1-42

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 25, 2017

1. It is nothing new to your ears, beloved, that the Evangelist John, like an eagle, takes a loftier flight, and soars above the dark mist of earth, to gaze with steadier eyes upon the light of truth. From his Gospel much has already been treated of and discussed through our ministry, with the Lord’s help; and the passage which has been read to-day follows in due order. What I am about to say, with the Lord’s permission, many of you will hear in such wise that you will be reviewing what you know, rather than learning what you know not. Yet, for all that, your attention ought not to be slack, because it is not an acquiring, but a reviewing, of knowledge. This has been read, and we have in our hands to discourse upon this passage—that which the Lord Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. The things spoken there are great mysteries, and the similitudes of great things; feeding the hungry, and refreshing the weary soul.

2. Now when the Lord knew this, “when He had heard that the Pharisees had learned that He was making more disciples than John, and baptized more (though Jesus baptized not, but His disciples), He left Judea, and departed again into Galilee.” We must not discourse of this too long, lest, by dwelling on what is manifest, we shall lack the time to investigate and lay open what is obscure. Certainly, if the Lord saw that the fact of their coming to know that He made more disciples, and baptized more, would so avail to salvation to the Pharisees in following Him, as to become themselves His disciples, and to desire to be baptized by Him; rather would He not have left Judea, but would have remained there for their sakes. But because He knew their knowledge of the fact, and at the same time knew their envy, and that they learned this, not to follow, but to persecute him, He departed thence. He could, indeed, even when present, cause that He should not be taken of them, if He would not; He had it in His power not to be put to death, if He would not, since He had the power not to be born, if He would not. But because, in everything that He did as man, He was showing an example to them who were to believe on Him (that any one servant of God sinneth not if he retire into another place, when he sees, it may be, the rage of his persecutors, or of them that seek to bring his soul into evil; but if a servant of God did this he might appear to commit sin, had not the Lord led the way in doing it), that good Master did this to teach us, not because He feared it.

3. It may perhaps surprise you why it is said, that “Jesus baptized more than John;” and after this was said, it is subjoined, “although Jesus baptized not, but His disciples.” What then? Was the statement made false, and then corrected by this addition? Or, are both true, viz. that Jesus both did and also did not baptize? He did in fact baptize, because it was He that cleansed; and He did not baptize, because it was not He that touched. The disciples supplied the ministry of the body; He afforded the aid of His majesty. Now, when could He cease from baptizing, so long as He ceased not from cleansing? Of Him it is said by the same John, in the person of the Baptist, who saith, “This is He that baptizeth.” Jesus, therefore, is still baptizing; and so long as we continue to be baptized, Jesus baptizeth. Let a man come without fear to the minister below; for he has a Master above.

4. But it may be one saith, Christ does indeed baptize, but in spirit, not in body. As if, indeed, it were by the gift of another than He that any is imbued even with the sacrament of corporal and visible baptism. Wouldest thou know that it is He that baptizeth, not only with the Spirit, but also with water? Hear the apostle: “Even as Christ,” saith he, “loved the Church, and gave Himself for it, purifying it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.”Eph. 5:25–27.

“>1 Purifying it. How? “With the washing of water by the Word.” What is the baptism of Christ? The washing of water by the Word. Take away the water, it is no baptism; take away the Word, it is no baptism.

5. This much, then, on the preliminary circumstances, by occasion of which He came to a conversation with that woman, let us look at the matters that remain; matters full of mysteries and pregnant with sacraments. “And He must needs pass through Samaria. He cometh then to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground which Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s fountain was there.” It was a well; but every well is a fountain, yet not every fountain a well. For where the water flows from the earth, and offers itself for use to them that draw it, it is called a fountain; but if accessible, and on the surface, it is called only a fountain: if, however, it be deep and far down, it is called a well, but in such wise as not to lose the name of fountain.

6. “Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey, sat thus on the well. It was about the sixth hour.” Now begin the mysteries. For it is not without a purpose that Jesus is weary; not indeed without a purpose that the strength of God is weary; not without a purpose that He is weary, by whom the wearied are refreshed; not without a purpose is He weary, by whose absence we are wearied, by whose presence we are strengthened. Nevertheless Jesus is weary, and weary with His journey; and He sits down, and that, too, near a well; and it is at the sixth hour that, being wearied, He sits down. All these things hint something, are intended to intimate something, they make us eager, and encourage us to knock. May Himself open to us and to you; He who has deigned to exhort us, so as to say, “Knock, and it shall be opened to you.” It was for thee that Jesus was wearied with His journey. We find Jesus to be strength, and we find Jesus to be weak: we find a strong and a weak Jesus: strong, because “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God: the same was in the beginning with God.” Wouldest thou see how this Son of God is strong? “All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made:” and without labor, too, were they made. Then what can be stronger than He, by whom all things were made without labor? Wouldest thou know Him weak? “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” The strength of Christ created thee, the weakness of Christ created thee anew. The strength of Christ caused that to be which was not: the weakness of Christ caused that what was should not perish. He fashioned us by His strength, He sought us by His weakness.

7. As weak, then, He nourishes the weak, as a hen her chickens; for He likened Himself to a hen: “How often,” He saith to Jerusalem, “would I have gathered thy children under my wings, as a hen her chickens; but thou wouldest not!”Matt. 23:37.

“>1 And you see, brethren, how a hen becomes weak with her chickens. No other bird, when it is a mother, is recognized at once to be so. We see all kinds of sparrows building their nests before our eyes; we see swallows, storks, doves, every day building their nests; but we do not know them to be parents, except when we see them on their nests. But the hen is so enfeebled over her brood, that even if the chickens are not following her, if thou see not the young ones, yet thou knowest her at once to be a mother. With her wings drooping, her feathers ruffled, her note hoarse, in all her limbs she becomes so sunken and abject, that, as I have said, even though thou seest not her young, yet thou perceivest her to be a mother. In such manner was Jesus weak, wearied with His journey. His journey is the flesh assumed for us. For how can He, who is present everywhere, have a journey, He who is nowhere absent? Whither does He go, or whence, but that He could not come to us, except He had assumed the form of visible flesh? Therefore, as He deigned to come to us in such manner, that He appeared in the form of a servant by the flesh assumed, that same assumption of flesh is His journey. Thus, “wearied with His journey,” what else is it but wearied in the flesh? Jesus was weak in the flesh: but do not thou become weak; but in His weakness be strong, because what is “the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

8. Under this image of things, Adam, who was the figure of Him that was to be, afforded us a great indication of this mystery; rather, God afforded it in him. For he was deemed worthy to receive a wife while he slept, and that wife was made for him of his own rib: since from Christ, sleeping on the cross, was the Church to come,—from His side, namely, as He slept; for it was from His side, pierced with the spear, as He hung on the cross, that the sacraments of the Church flowed forth. But why have I chosen to say this, brethren? Because it is the weakness of Christ that makes us strong. A remarkable figure of this went before in the case of Adam. God could have taken flesh from the man to make of it a woman, and it seems that this might have been the more suitable. For it was the weaker sex that was being made, and weakness ought to have been made of flesh rather than of bone; for the bones are the stronger parts it the flesh. He took not flesh to make of it a woman; but took a bone, and of the bone was the woman shaped, and flesh was filled in into the place of the bone. He could have restored bone for bone; He could have taken, not a rib, but flesh, for the making of the woman. What, then, did this signify? Woman was made, as it were, strong, from the rib; Adam was made, as it were, weak, from the flesh. It is Christ and the Church; His weakness is our strength.

9. But why at the sixth hour? Because at the sixth age of the world. In the Gospel, count up as an hour each, the first age from Adam to Noah; the second, from Noah to Abraham; the third, from Abraham to David; the fourth, from David to the removing to Babylon; the fifth, from the removing to Babylon to the baptism of John: thence is the sixth being enacted. Why dost thou marvel? Jesus came, and, by humbling Himself, came to a well. He came wearied, because He carried weak flesh. At the sixth hour, because in the sixth age of the world. To a well, because to the depth of this our habitation. For which reason it is said in the psalm: “From the depth have I cried unto Thee, O Lord.”Ps. 130:1.

“>2 He sat, as I said, because He was humbled.

10. “And there came a woman.” Figure of the Church not yet justified, but now about to be justified: for this is the subject of the discourse. She comes ignorant, she finds Him, and there is a dealing with her. Let us see what, and wherefore. “There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water.” The Samaritans did not belong to the nation of the Jews: they were foreigners, though they inhabited neighboring lands. It would take a long time to relate the origin of the Samaritans; that we may not be detained by long discourse of this, and leave necessary matters unsaid, suffice to say, then, that we regard the Samaritans as aliens. And, lest you should think that I have said this with more boldness than truth, hear the Lord Jesus Himself, what He said of that Samaritan, one of the ten lepers whom He had cleansed, who alone returned to give thanks: “Were there not ten cleansed? And where are the nine? There was not another to give glory to God, save this stranger.”Luke 17:17.

“>3 It is pertinent to the image of the reality, that this woman, who bore the type of the Church, comes of strangers: for the Church was to come of the Gentiles, an alien from the race of the Jews. In that woman, then, let us hear ourselves, and in her acknowledge ourselves, and in her give thanks to God for ourselves. For she was the figure, not the reality; for she both first showed forth the figure and became the reality. For she believed on Him who, of her, set the figure before us. “She cometh, then, to draw water.” Had simply come to draw water, as people are wont to do, be they men or women.

11. “Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. For His disciples were gone away into the city to buy meat. Then saith the Samaritan woman unto Him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, who am a Samaritan woman? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” You see that they were aliens: indeed, the Jews would not use their vessels. And as the woman brought with her a vessel with which to draw the water, it made her wonder that a Jew sought drink of her,—a thing which the Jews were not accustomed to do. But He who was asking drink was thirsting for the faith of the woman herself.

12. At length, hear who it is that asketh drink: “Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest, it may be, have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.” He asks to drink, and promises to give drink. He longs as one about to receive; He abounds as one about to satisfy. “If thou knewest,” saith He, “the gift of God.” The gift of God is the Holy Spirit. But as yet He speaks to the woman guardedly, and enters into her heart by degrees. It may be He is now teaching her. For what can be sweeter and kinder than that exhortation? “If thou knewest the gift of God,” etc.: thus far He keeps her in suspense. That is commonly called living water which issues from a spring: that which is collected from rain in pools and cisterns is not called living water. And it may have flowed from a spring; yet if it should stand collected in some place, not admitting to it that from which it flowed, but, with the course interrupted, separated, as it were, from the channel of the fountain, it is not called “living water:” but that is called living water which is taken as it flows. Such water there was in that fountain. Why, then, did He promise to give that which He was asking?

13. The woman, however, being in suspense, saith to Him, “Lord, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep.” See how she understood the living water, simply the water which was in that fountain. “Thou wouldst give me living water, and I carry that with which to draw, and thou dost not. The living water is here; how art thou to give it me?” Understanding another thing, and taking it carnally, she does in a manner knock, that the Master may open up that which is closed. She was knocking in ignorance, not with earnest purpose; she is still an object of pity, not yet of instruction.

14. The Lord speaks somewhat more clearly of that living water. Now the woman had said, “Art thou greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself, his children, and his cattle?” Thou canst not give me of the living water of this well, because thou hast nothing to draw with: perhaps thou promisest another fountain? Canst thou be better than our father, who dug this well, and used it himself, and his? Let the Lord, then, declare what He called living water. “Jesus answered and said unto her, Every one that drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but he that drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall not thirst forever; but the water which I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water, springing up into everlasting life.” The Lord has spoken more openly: “It shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into everlasting life. He that drinketh of this water shall not thirst forever.” What more evident than that it was not visible, but invisible water, that He was promising? What more evident than that He was speaking, not in a carnal, but in a spiritual sense?

15. Still, however, the woman has her mind on the flesh: she is delighted with the thought of thirsting no more, and fancies that this was promised to her by the Lord after a carnal sense; which it will be indeed, but in the resurrection of the dead. She desired this now. God had indeed granted once to His servant Elias, that during forty days he neither hungered nor thirsted. Could not He give this always, seeing He had power to give it during forty days? She, however, sighed for it, desiring to have no want, no toil. To be always coming to that fountain, to be burdened with a weight with which to supply her want, and, when that which she had drawn is spent, to be obliged to return again: this was a daily toil to her; because that want of hers was to be relieved, not extinguished. Such a gift as Jesus promised delighted her; she asks Him to give her living water.

16. Nevertheless, let us not overlook the fact that it is something spiritual that the Lord was promising. What means, “Whoso shall drink of this water shall thirst again?” It is true as to this water; it is true as to what the water signified. Since the water in the well is the pleasure of the world in its dark depth: from this men draw it with the vessel of lusts. Stooping forward, they let down the lust to reach the pleasure fetched from the depth of the well, and enjoy the pleasure and the preceding lust let down to fetch it. For he who has not despatched his lust in advance cannot get to the pleasure. Consider lust, then, as the vessel; and pleasure as the water from the depth of the well: when one has got at the pleasure of this world, it is meat to him, it is drink, it is a bath, a show, an amour; can it be that he will not thirst again? Therefore, “Whoso shall drink of this water,” saith He, “will thirst again;” but if he shall receive water of me, “he shall never thirst.” “We shall be satisfied,” it saith, “with the good things of Thy house.”Ps. 65:4.

“>1 Of what water, then, is He to give, but of that of which it is said, “With Thee is the fountain of life”? For how shall they thirst, who “shall be drunk with the fatness of Thy house”?Ps. 36:9, 10.

“>2

17. What He was promising them was a certain feeding and abundant fullness of the Holy Spirit: but the woman did not yet understand; and not understanding, how did she answer? “The woman saith unto Him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.” Want forced her to labor, and her weakness was pleading against the toil. Would that she heard the invitation, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you!”Matt. 11:28.

“>3 This is, in fact, what Jesus was saying to her, that she might no longer labor: but she did not yet understand.

18. At length, wishing her to understand, “Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.” What means this, “Call thy husband”? Was it through her husband that He wished to give her that water? Or, because she did not understand, did He wish to teach her through her husband? Perhaps it was as the apostle says concerning women, “If they wish to learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home.” But this the apostle says of that where there is no Jesus present to teach. It is said, in short, to women whom the apostle was forbidding to speak in the Church.1 Cor. 14:34.

“>4 But when the Lord Himself was at hand, and in person speaking to her, what need was there that He should speak to her by her husband? Was it through her husband that he spoke to Mary, while sitting at His feet and receiving His word; while Martha, wholly occupied with much serving, murmured at the happiness of her sister?Luke 10:40.

“>5 Wherefore, my brethren, let us hear and understand what it is that the Lord says to the woman, “Call thy husband.” For it may be that He is saying also to our soul, “Call thy husband.” Let us inquire also concerning the soul’s husband. Why, is not Jesus Himself already the soul’s real husband? Let the understanding be present, since what we are about to say can hardly be apprehended but by attentive hearers: therefore let the understanding be present to apprehend, and perhaps that same understanding will be found to be the husband of the soul.

19. Now Jesus, seeing that the woman did not understand, and willing her to understand, says to her, “Call thy husband.” “For the reason why thou knowest not what I say is, because thy understanding is not present: I am speaking after the Spirit, and thou art hearing after the flesh. The things which I speak relate neither to the pleasure of the ears, nor to the eyes, nor to the smell, nor to the taste, nor to the touch; by the mind alone are they received, by the understanding alone are they drawn up: that understanding is not with thee, how canst thou apprehend what I am saying? ‘Call thy husband,’ bring thy understanding forward. What is it for thee to have a soul? It is not much, for a beast has a soul. Wherein art thou better than the beast? In having understanding, which the beast has not.” Then what is “Call thy husband”? “Thou dost not apprehend me, thou dost not understand me: I am speaking to thee of the gift of God, and thy thought is of the flesh; thou wishest not to thirst in a carnal sense, I am addressing myself to the spirit: thy understanding is absent. ‘Call thy husband.’ Be not as the horse and mule, which have no understanding.” Therefore, my brethren, to have a soul, and not to have understanding, that is, not to use it, not to live according to it, is a beast’s life. For we have somewhat in common with the beasts, that by which we live in the flesh, but it must be ruled by the understanding. For the motions of the soul, which moves after the flesh, and longs to run unrestrainedly loose after carnal delights, are ruled over by the understanding. Which is to be called the husband?—that which rules, or that which is ruled? Without doubt, when the life is well ordered the understanding rules the soul, for itself belongs to the soul. For the understanding is not something other than the soul, but a thing of the soul: as the eye is not something other than the flesh, but a thing of the flesh. But whilst the eye is a thing of the flesh, yet it alone enjoys the light; and the other fleshy members may be steeped in light, but they cannot feel the light: the eye alone is both bathed in it, and enjoys it. Thus in our soul there is a something called the understanding. This something of the soul, which is called understanding and mind, is enlightened by the higher light. Now that higher light, by which the human mind is enlightened, is God; for “that was the true light which enlighteneth every man coming into this world.” Such a light was Christ, such a light was speaking with the woman: yet she was not present with the understanding, to have it enlightened with that light; not merely to have it shed upon it, but to enjoy it. Therefore the Lord said, “Call thy husband,” as if He were to say, I wish to enlighten, and yet there is not here whom I may enlighten: bring hither the understanding through which thou mayest be taught, by which thou mayest be ruled. Thus, put the soul without the understanding for the woman; and having the understanding as having the husband. But this husband does not rule the wife well, except when he is ruled by a higher. “For the head of the woman is the man, but the head of the man is Christ.”1 Cor. 11:3.

“>1 The head of the man was talking with the woman, and the man was not present. And so the Lord, as if He said, Bring hither thy head, that he may receive his head, says, “Call thy husband, and come hither;” that is, Be here, be present: for thou art as absent, while thou understandest not the voice of the Truth here present; be thou present here, but not alone; be thou here with thy husband.

20. And, the husband being not yet called, still she does not understand, still she minds the flesh; for the man is absent: “I have not,” saith she, “a husband.” And the Lord proceeds and utters mysteries. Thou mayest understand that woman really to have had at that time no husband; she was living with some man, not a lawful husband, rather a paramour than a husband. And the Lord said to her, “Thou hast well said, I have not a husband.” How then didst Thou say, “Call thy husband”? Now hear how the Lord knew well that she had not a husband. “He says to her,” etc. In case the woman might suppose that the Lord had said, “Thou hast well said, I have not a husband,” just because He had learned this fact of her, and not because he knew it by His own divinity, hear something which thou hast not said: “For thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband; this thou hast said truly.”

21. Once more He urges us to investigate the matter somewhat more exactly concerning these five husbands. Many have in fact understood, not indeed absurdly, nor so far improbably, the five husbands of this woman to mean the five books of Moses. For the Samaritans made use of these books, and were under the same law: for it was from it they had circumcision. But since we are hemmed in by what follows, “And he whom thou now hast is not thy husband,” it appears to me that we can more easily take the five senses of the body to be the five former husbands of the soul. For when one is born, before he can make use of the mind and reason, he is ruled only by the senses of the flesh. In a little child, the soul seeks for or shuns what is heard, and seen, and smells, and tastes, and is perceived by the touch. It seeks for whatever soothes, and shuns whatever offends, those five senses. At first, the soul lives according to these five senses, as five husbands; because it is ruled by them. But why are they called husbands? Because they are lawful and right: made indeed by God, and are the gifts of God to the soul. The soul is still weak while ruled by these five husbands, and living under these five husbands; but when she comes to years of exercising reason, if she is taken in hand by the noble discipline and teaching of wisdom, these five men are succeeded in their rule by no other than the true and lawful husband, and one better than they, who both rules better and rules for eternity, who cultivates and instructs her for eternity. For the five senses rule us, not for eternity, but for those temporal things that are to be sought or shunned. But when the understanding, imbued by wisdom, begins to rule the soul, it knows now not only how to avoid a pit, and to walk on even ground—a thing which the eyes show to the soul even in its weakness; nor merely to be charmed with musical voices, and to repel harsh sounds; nor to delight in agreeable scents, and to refuse offensive smells; nor to be captivated by sweetness, and displeased with bitterness; nor to be soothed with what is soft, and hurt with what is rough. For all these things are necessary to the soul in its weakness. Then what rule is made use of by that understanding? Not one to discern between black and white, but between just and unjust, between good and evil, between the profitable and the unprofitable, between chastity and impurity, that it may love the one and avoid the other; between charity and hatred, to be in the one, not to be in the other.

22. This husband had not yet succeeded to those five husbands in that woman. And where he does not succeed, error sways. For when the soul has begun to be capable of reason, it is ruled either by the wise mind or by error: but yet error does not rule but destroys. Wherefore, after these five senses was that woman still wandering, and error was tossing her to and fro. And this error was not a lawful husband, but a paramour: for that reason the Lord saith to her, “Thou hast well said, I have not a husband. For thou hast had five husbands.” The five senses of the flesh ruled thee at first; thou art come to the age of using reason, and yet thou art not come to wisdom, but art fallen into error. Therefore, after those five husbands, “this whom thou now hast is not thy husband.” And if not a husband, what was he but a paramour? And so, “Call,” not the paramour, but “thy husband,” that thou mayest receive me with the understanding, and not by error have some false notion of me. For the woman was still in error, as she was thinking of that water; whilst the Lord was now speaking of the Holy Ghost. Why was she erring, but because she had a paramour, not a husband? Put away, therefore, that paramour who corrupts thee, and “go, call thy husband.” Call, and come that thou mayest understand me.

23. “The woman saith unto Him, Sir, I see that thou art a prophet.” The husband begins to come, he is not yet fully come. She accounted the Lord a prophet, and a prophet indeed He was; for it was of Himself He said, that “a prophet is not without honor, save in his own country.”Luke 4:24.

“>1 Again, of Him it was said to Moses, “A Prophet will I raise up to them of their brethren, like unto thee.”Deut. 18:18.

“>2 Like, namely, as to the form of the flesh, but not in the eminence of His majesty. Accordingly we find the Lord Jesus called a Prophet. Hence this woman is now not far wrong. “I see,” she saith, “that thou art a prophet.” She begins to call the husband, and to shut out the paramour; she begins to ask about a matter that is wont to disquiet her. For there was a contention between the Samaritans and the Jews, because the Jews worshipped God in the temple built by Solomon; but the Samaritans, being situated at a distance from it, did not worship there. For this reason the Jews, because they worshipped God in the temple, boasted themselves to be better than the Samaritans. “For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans:” because the latter said to them, How is it you boast and account yourselves to be better than we, just because you have a temple which we have not? Did our fathers, who were pleasing to God, worship in that temple? Was it not in this mountain where we are they worshipped? We then do better, say they, who pray to God in this mountain, where our fathers prayed. Both peoples contended in ignorance, because they had not the husband: they were inflated against each other, on the one side in behalf of the temple, on the other in behalf of the mountain.

24. What, however, does the Lord teach the woman now, as one whose husband has begun to be present? “The woman saith unto Him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me.” For the Church will come, as it is said in the Song of Songs, “will come, and will pass over from the beginning of faith.”Cant. 4:8, LXX.

“>3 She will come in order to pass through; and pass through she cannot, except from the beginning of faith. Rightly she now hears, the husband being present: “Woman, believe me.” For there is that in thee now which can believe, since thy husband is present. Thou hast begun to be present with the understanding when thou calledst me a prophet. Woman, believe me; for if ye believe not, ye will not understand.Isa. 7:9, LXX.

“>4 Therefore, “Woman, believe me, for the hour will come when ye shall neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we worship what we know; for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour will come.” When? “And now is.” Well, what hour? “When the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth,” not in this mountain, not in the temple, but in spirit and in truth. “For the Father seeketh such to worship Him.” Why does the Father seek such to worship Him, not on a mountain, not in the temple, but in spirit and in truth? “God is Spirit.” If God were body, it were right that He should be worshipped on a mountain, for a mountain is corporeal; it were right He should be worshipped in the temple, for a temple is corporeal. “God is Spirit; and they that worship Him, must worship in spirit and in truth.”

25. We have heard, and it is manifest; we had gone out of doors, and we are sent inward. Would I could find, thou didst say, some high and lonely mountain! For I think that, because God is on high, He hears me the rather from a high place. Because thou art on a mountain, dost thou imagine thyself near to God. and that He will quickly hear thee, as if calling to Him from the nearest place? He dwells on high, but regards the lowly. “The Lord is near.” To whom? To the high, perhaps? “To them who are contrite of heart.”Ps. 34:18.

“>1 ’Tis a wonderful thing: He dwelleth on high, and yet is near to the lowly; “He hath regard to lowly things, but lofty things He knoweth from afar;”Ps. 138:6.

“>2 He seeth the proud afar off, and He is the less near to them the higher they appear to themselves to be. Didst thou seek a mountain, then? Come down, that thou mayest come near Him. But wouldest thou ascend? Ascend, but do not seek a mountain. “The ascents,” it saith, “are in his heart, in the valley of weeping.”Ps. 84:6.

“>3 The valley is humility. Therefore do all within. Even if perhaps thou seekest some lofty place, some holy place, make thyself a temple for God within time. “For the temple of God is holy, which temple are ye.”1 Cor. 3:17.

“>4 Wouldest thou pray in a temple? Pray in thyself. But be thou first a temple of God, for He in His temple heareth him that prays.

26. “The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth. We worship that which we know: ye worship ye know not what; for salvation is of the Jews.” A great thing has He attributed to the Jews; but do not understand Him to mean those spurious Jews. Understand that wall to which another is joined, that they may be joined together, resting on the corner-stone, which is Christ. For there is one wall from the Jews, another from the Gentiles; these walls are far apart, only until they are united in the Corner. Now the aliens were strangers and foreigners from the covenants of God.Eph. 2:11–22.

“>5 According to this, it is said, “We worship what we know.” It is said, indeed, in the person of the Jews, but not of all Jews, not of reprobate Jews, but of such as were the apostles, as were the prophets, as were all those saints who sold all their goods, and laid the price of their goods at the apostles’ feet. “For God hath not rejected His people which He foreknew.”Rom. 11:2.

“>6

27. The woman heard this, and proceeded. She had already called Him a prophet; she observes that He with whom she was speaking uttered such things as still more pertained to the prophet; and what answer did she make? See: “The woman saith unto Him, I know that Messias will come, who is called Christ: when He then is come, He will show us all things.” What is this? Just now she saith, The Jews are contending for the temple, and we for this mountain: when He has come, He will despise the mountain, and overthrow the temple; He will teach us all things, that we may know how to worship in spirit and in truth. She knew who could teach her, but she did not yet know Him that was now teaching her. But now she was worthy to receive the manifestation of Him. Now Messias is Anointed: Anointed, in Greek, is Christ; in Hebrew, Messias; whence also, in Punic, Messe means Anoint. For the Hebrew, Punic and Syriac are cognate and neighboring languages.

28. Then, “The woman saith unto Him, I know that Messias will come, who is called Christ: when He then is come, He will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak with thee am He.” She called her husband; he is made the head of the woman, and Christ is made the head of the man. Now is the woman constituted in faith, and ruled, as about to live rightly. After she heard this, “I that speak with thee am He,” what further could she say, when the Lord Jesus willed to manifest Himself to the woman, to whom He had said, “Believe me?”

29. “And immediately came His disciples, and marvelled that He talked with the woman.” That He was seeking her that was lost, He who came to seek that which was lost: they marvelled at this. They marvelled at a good thing, they were not suspecting an evil thing. “Yet no man said, What seekest Thou, or why talkest Thou with her?”

30. “The woman then left her water-pot.” Having heard, “I that speak with thee am He,” and having received Christ the Lord into her heart, what could she do but now leave her water-pot, and run to preach the gospel? She cast out lust, and hastened to proclaim the truth. Let them who would preach the gospel learn; let them throw away their water-pot at the well. You remember what I said before of the water-pot: it was a vessel with which the water was drawn, called hydria, from its Greek name, because water is hydor in Greek; just as if it were called aquarium, from the Latin. She threw away her water-pot then, which was no longer of use, but a burden to her, such was her avidity to be satisfied with that water. Throwing her burden away, to make known Christ, “she ran to the city, and says to those men, Come, and see a man that told me all things that ever I did.” Step by step, lest those men should get angry and indignant, and should persecute her. “Is this Christ? Then they went out of the city, and came to Him.”

31. “And in the meanwhile His disciples besought Him, saying, Master, eat.” For they had gone to buy meat, and had returned. “But He said, I have meat to eat which ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought Him aught to eat?” What wonder if that woman did not understand about the water? See; the disciples do not yet understand the meat. But He heard their thoughts, and now as a master instructs them, not in a round-about way, as He did the woman while He still sought her husband, but openly at once: “My meat,” saith He, “is to do the will of Him that sent me.” Therefore, in the case of that woman, it was even His drink to do the will of Him that sent Him. That was the reason why He said, “I thirst, give me to drink;” namely, to work faith in her, and to drink of her faith, and to transplant her into His own body, for His body is the Church. Therefore He saith, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me.”

32. “Say ye not, that there are yet four months, and then cometh harvest?” He was aglow for the work, and was arranging to send forth laborers. You count four months to the harvest; I show you another harvest, white and ready. Behold, I say unto you, “Lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are already white for the harvest.” Therefore He is going to send forth the reapers. “For in this is the saying true, that one reapeth, another soweth: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. I have sent you to reap that on which ye have not labored: others have labored, and ye are entered into their labor.” What then? He sent reapers; sent He not the sowers? Whither the reapers? Where others labored already. For where labor had already been bestowed, surely there had been sowing; and what had been sown had now become ripe, and required the sickle and the threshing. Whither, then, were the reapers to be sent? Where the prophets had already preached before; for they were the sowers. For had they not been the sowers, whence had this come to the woman, “I know that Messias will come”? That woman was now ripened fruit, and the harvest fields were white, and sought the sickle. “I sent you,” then. Whither? “To reap what ye have not sown: others sowed, and ye are entered into their labors.” Who labored? Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Read their labors; in all their labors there is a prophecy of Christ, and for that reason they were sowers. Moses, and all the other patriarchs, and all the prophets, how much they suffered in that cold season when they sowed! Therefore was the harvest now ready in Judea. Justly was the corn there said to be as it were ripe, when so many thousands of men brought the price of their goods, and, laying them at the apostles’ feet, having eased their shoulders of this worldly baggage, began to follow the Lord Christ. Verily the harvest was ripe. What was made of it? Of that harvest a few grains were thrown out, and sowed the whole world; and another harvest is rising which is to be reaped in the end of the world. Of that harvest it is said, “They that sow in tears shall reap with joy.”Ps. 126:5.

“>1 But to that harvest not apostles, but angels, shall be sent forth. “The reapers,” saith He, “are the angels.”Matt. 13:39.

“>2 That harvest, then, is growing among tares, and is awaiting to be purged in the end of the world. But that harvest to which the disciples were sent first, where the prophets labored, was already ripe. But yet, brethren, observe what was said: “may rejoice together, both he that soweth and he that reapeth.” They had dissimilar labors in time, but the rejoicing they shall enjoy alike equally; they shall receive for their wages together eternal life.

33. “And many Samaritans of that city believed on Him, because of the saying of the woman, who testified, He told me all that ever I did. And when the Samaritans came to Him, they besought Him that He would tarry with them; and He tarried there two days. And many more believed because of His word; and said to the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy words; for we have heard Him ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world.” This also must be slightly noticed, for the lesson is come to an end. The woman first announced Him, and the Samaritans believed her testimony; and they besought Him to stay with them, and He stayed there two days, and many more believed. And when they had believed, they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of thy word; but we are come to know Him ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world:” first by report, then by His presence. So it is to-day with them that are without, and are not yet Christians. Christ is made known to them by Christian friends; and just upon the report of that woman, that is, the Church, they come to Christ, they believe through this report. He stays with them two days, that is, gives them two precepts of charity; and many more believe, and more firmly believe, on Him, because He is in truth the Saviour of the world.

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