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

Posts Tagged ‘Notes on John’s Gospel’

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on John 3:5-8

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 4, 2017

This post contains two homilies by St John Chrysostom. The first is a complete homily on John 3:5; the second is on 3:6-8 and has been excerpted from a longer sermon. The remainder of that sermon will be used with tomorrow’s reading on 3:7b-11.

HOMILY XV
John 3:5

“Verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.”

[1.] LITTLE children who go daily to their teachers receive their lessons, and repeat1 them, and never cease from this kind of acquisition, but sometimes employ nights as well as days, and this they are compelled2 to do for perishable and transient things. Now we do not ask of you who are come to age such toil as you require of your children; for not every day, but two days only in the week do we exhort you to hearken to our words, and only for a short portion of the day, that your task may be an easy one. For the same reason also we divide3 to you in small portions what is written in Scripture, that you may be able easily to receive and lay them up in the storehouses of your minds, and take such pains to remember them all, as to be able exactly to repeat them to others yourselves, unless any one be sleepy, and dull, and more idle than a little child.

Let us now attend to the sequel of what has been before said. When Nicodemus fell into error and wrested the words of Christ to the earthly birth, and said that it was not possible for an old man to be born again, observe how Christ in answer more clearly reveals the manner of the Birth, which even thus had difficulty for the carnal enquirer, yet still was able to raise the hearer from his low opinion of it. What saith He? “Verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” What He declares is this: “Thou sayest that it is impossible, I say that it is so absolutely possible as to be necessary, and that it is not even possible otherwise to be saved.” For necessary things God hath made exceedingly easy also. The earthly birth which is according to the flesh, is of the dust, and therefore heaven4 is walled against it, for what hath earth in common with heaven? But that other, which is of the Spirit, easily unfolds to us the arches5 above. Hear, ye as many as are unilluminated,6 shudder, groan, fearful is the threat, fearful the sentence.7 “It is not (possible),” He saith, “for one not born of water and the Spirit, to enter into the Kingdom of heaven”; because he wears the raiment of death, of cursing, of perdition, he hath not yet received his Lord’s token,8 he is a stranger and an alien, he hath not the royal watchword. “Except,” He saith, “a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of heaven.”

Yet even thus Nicodemus did not understand. Nothing is worse than to commit spiritual things to argument; it was this that would not suffer him to suppose anything sublime and great. This is why we are called faithful, that having left the weakness of human reasonings below,9 we may ascend to the height of faith, and commit most of our blessings to her10 teaching;11 and if Nicodemus had done this, the thing would not have been thought by him impossible. What then doth Christ? To lead him away from his groveling imagination, and to show that He speaks not of the earthly birth, He saith, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the Kingdom of heaven.” This He spoke, willing to draw him to the faith by the terror of the threat, and to persuade him not to deem the thing impossible, and taking pains to move him from his imagination as to the carnal birth. “I mean,” saith He, “another Birth, O Nicodemus. Why drawest thou down the saying to earth? Why subjectest thou the matter to the necessity of nature? This Birth is too high for such pangs as these; it hath nothing in common with you; it is indeed called ‘birth,’ but in name only has it aught in common, in reality it is different. Remove thyself from that which is common and familiar; a different kind of childbirth bring I into the world; in another manner will I have men to be generated: I have come to bring a new manner of Creation. I formed (man) of earth and water; but that which was formed was unprofitable, the vessel was wrenched awry;12 I will no more form them of earth and water, but ‘of water’ and ‘of the Spirit.’ ”

And if any one asks, “How of water?” I also will ask, How of earth? How was the clay separated into different parts? How was the material uniform, (it was earth only,) and the things made from it, various and of every kind? Whence are the bones, and sinews, and arteries, and veins? Whence the membranes, and vessels of the organs, the cartilages, the tissues, the liver, spleen, and heart? whence the skin, and blood, and mucus, and bile? whence so great powers, whence such varied colors? These belong not to earth or clay. How does the earth, when it receives the seeds, cause them to shoot, while the flesh receiving them wastes them? How does the earth nourish what is put into it, while the flesh is nourished by these things, and does not nourish them? The earth, for instance, receives water, and makes it wine; the flesh often receives wine, and changes it into water. Whence then is it clear that these things are formed of earth, when the nature of the earth is, according to what has been said;1 contrary to that of the body? I cannot discover by reasoning, I accept it by faith only. If then things which take place daily, and which we handle, require faith, much more do those which are more mysterious and more spiritual than these. For as the earth, which is soulless and motionless, was empowered by the will of God, and such wonders were worked in it; much more when the Spirit is present with the water, do all those things so strange and transcending reason, easily take place.

[2.] Do not then disbelieve these things, because thou seest them not; thou dost not see thy soul, and yet thou believest that thou hast a soul, and that it is a something different besides2 the body.

But Christ led him not in by this example, but by another; the instance of the soul, though it is incorporeal, He did not adduce for that reason, because His hearer’s disposition was as yet too dull. He sets before him another, which has no connection with the density of solid bodies, yet does not reach so high as to the incorporeal natures; that is, the movement of wind. He begins at first with water, which is lighter than earth, but denser than air. And as in the beginning earth was the subject material,3 but the whole4 was of Him who molded it; so also now water is the subject material, and the whole5 is of the grace of the Spirit: then, “man became a living soul,” (Gen. 2:7); now he becomes “a quickening Spirit.” But great is the difference between the two. Soul affords not life to any other than him in whom it is; Spirit not only lives, but affords life to others also. Thus, for instance, the Apostles even raised the dead. Then, man was formed last, when the creation had been accomplished; now, on the contrary, the new man is formed before the new creation; he is born first, and then the world is fashioned a new. (1 Cor. 15:45.) And as in the beginning He formed him entire, so He creates him entire now. Then He said, “Let us make for him a help” (Gen. 2:18, LXX.), but here He said nothing of the kind. What other help shall he need, who has received the gift of the Spirit? What further need of assistance has he, who belongs to6 the Body of Christ? Then He made man in the image of God, now He hath united7 him with God Himself; then He bade him rule over the fishes and beasts, now He hath exalted our first-fruits above the heavens; then He gave him a garden for his abode,8 now He hath opened heaven to us; then man was formed on the sixth day, when the world9 was almost finished; but now on the first, at the very beginning, at the time when light was made before. From all which it is plain, that the things accomplished belonged to10 another and a better life, and to a condition11 having no end.

The first creation then, that of Adam, was from earth; the next, that of the woman, from his rib; the next, that of Abel, from seed; yet we cannot arrive at the comprehension of12 any one of these, nor prove the circumstances by argument, though they are of a most earthly nature;13 how then shall we be able to give account of the unseen14 generation15 by Baptism, which is far more exalted than these, or to require arguments16 for that strange and marvelous Birth?17 Since even Angels stand by while that Generation takes place, but they could not tell the manner of that marvelous working, they stand by only, not performing anything, but beholding what takes place. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, worketh all. Let us then believe the declaration of God; that is more trustworthy than actual seeing. The sight often is in error, it is impossible that God’s Word should fail; let us then believe it; that which called the things that were not into existence may well be trusted when it speaks of their nature. What then says it? That what is effected is A GENERATION. If any ask, “How,” stop his mouth with the declaration of God,18 which is the strongest and a plain proof. If any enquire, “Why is water included?” let us also in return ask, “Wherefore was earth employed at the beginning in the creation of man?” for that it was possible for God to make man without earth, is quite plain to every one. Be not then over-curious.

That the need of water is absolute and indispensable,1 you may learn in this way. On one occasion, when the Spirit had flown down before the water was applied, the Apostle did not stay at this point, but, as though the water were necessary and not superfluous, observe what he says; “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” (Acts 10:47.)

What then is the use of the water? This too I will tell you hereafter, when I reveal to you the hidden mystery.2 There are also other points of mystical teaching connected with the matter, but for the present I will mention to you one out of many. What is this one? In Baptism are fulfilled the pledges of our covenant with God;3 burial and death, resurrection and life; and these take place all at once. For when we immerse our heads in the water, the old man is buried as in a tomb below, and wholly sunk forever;4 then as we raise them again, the new man rises in its stead.5 As it is easy for us to dip and to lift our heads again, so it is easy for God to bury the old man, and to show forth the new. And this is done thrice, that you may learn that the power of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost fulfilleth all this. To show that what we say is no conjecture, hear Paul saying, “We are buried with Him by Baptism into death”: and again, “Our old man is crucified with Him”: and again, “We have been planted together in the likeness of His death.” (Rom. 6:4, 5, 6.) And not only is Baptism called a “cross,” but the “cross” is called “Baptism.” “With the Baptism,” saith Christ, “that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized” (Mark 10:39): and, “I have a Baptism to be baptized with” (Luke 12:50) (which ye know not); for as we easily dip and lift our heads again, so He also easily died and rose again when He willed or rather much more easily, though He tarried the three days for the dispensation of a certain mystery.

[3.] Let us then who have been deemed worthy of such mysteries show forth a life worthy of the Gift, that is, a most excellent conversation;6 and do ye who have not yet been deemed worthy, do all things that you may be so, that we may be one body, that we may be brethren. For as long as we are divided in this respect, though a man be father, or son, or brother, or aught else, he is no true kinsman, as being cut off from that relationship which is from above. What advantageth it to be bound by the ties of earthly family, if we are not joined by those of the spiritual? what profits nearness of kin on earth, if we are to be strangers in heaven? For the Catechumen is a stranger to the Faithful. He hath not the same Head, he hath not the same Father, he hath not the same City, nor Food, nor Raiment, nor Table, nor House, but all are different; all are on earth to the former, to the latter all are in heaven. One has Christ for his King; the other, sin and the devil; the food7 of one is Christ, of the other, that meat which decays and perishes; one has worms’ work for his raiment, the other the Lord of angels; heaven is the city of one, earth of the other. Since then we have nothing in common, in what, tell me, shall we hold communion? Did we remove the same pangs,8 did we come forth from the same womb? This has nothing to do with that most perfect relationship. Let us then give diligence that we may become citizens of the city which is above. How long do we tarry over the border,9 when we ought to reclaim our ancient country? We risk no common danger; for if it should come to pass, (which God forbid!) that through the sudden arrival of death we depart hence uninitiated,10 though we have ten thousand virtues, our portion will be no other than hell, and the venomous worm, and fire unquenchable, and bonds indissoluble. But God grant that none of those who hear these words experience that punishment! And this will be, if having been deemed worthy of the sacred mysteries, we build upon that foundation gold, and silver, and precious stones; for so after our departure hence we shall be able to appear in that place rich, when we leave not our riches here, but transport them to inviolable treasuries by the hands of the poor, when we lend to Christ. Many are our debts there, not of money, but of sins; let us then lend Him our riches, that we may receive pardon for our sins; for He it is that judgeth. Let us not neglect Him here when He hungereth, that He may ever feed us there. Here let us clothe Him, that He leave us not bare of the safety which is from Him. If here we give Him drink, we shall not with the rich man say, “Send Lazarus, that with the tip of his finger he may drop water on my broiling11 tongue.” If here we receive Him into our house, there He will prepare many mansions for us; if we go to Him in prison, He too will free us from our bonds; if we take Him in when He is a stranger, He will not suffer us to be strangers to the Kingdom of heaven, but will give us a portion in the City which is above; if we visit Him when He is sick, He also will quickly deliver us from our infirmities.

Let us then, as receiving great things though we give but little, still give the little that we may gain the great. While it is yet time, let us sow, that we may reap. When the winter overtakes us, when the sea is no longer navigable, we are no longer masters of this traffic. But when shall the winter be? When that great and manifest Day is at hand. Then we shall cease to sail this great and broad sea, for such the present life resembles. Now is the time of sowing, then of harvest and of gain. If a man puts not in his seed at seed time and sows in harvest, besides that he effects nothing, he will be ridiculous. But if the present is seed time, it follows that it is a time not for gathering together, but for scattering; let us then scatter, that we may gather in, and not seek to gather in now, lest we lose our harvest; for, as I said, this season summons us to sow, and spend, and lay out, not to collect and lay by. Let us not then give up the opportunity, but let us put in abundant seed, and spare none of our stores, that we may receive. them again with abundant recompense, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, world without end. Amen.

HOMILY XVI
John 3:6-8

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh: and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

[1.] GREAT mysteries are they, of which the Only-begotten Son of God has counted us worthy; great, and such as we were not worthy of, but such as it was meet for Him to give. For if one reckon our desert, we were not only unworthy of the gift, but also liable to punishment and vengeance; but He, because He looked not to this, not only delivered us from punishment, but freely gave us a life much more bright1 than the first, introduced us into another world, made us another creature; “If any man be in Christ,” saith Paul, “he is a new creature.” (2 Cor. 5:17.) What kind of “new creature”? Hear Christ Himself declare; “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” Paradise was entrusted to us, and we were shown unworthy to dwell even there, yet He hath exalted us to heaven. In the first things we were found unfaithful, and He hath committed to us greater; we could not refrain from a single tree, and He hath provided for us the delights2 above; we kept not our place in Paradise, and He hath opened to us the doors of heaven. Well said Paul, “O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Rom. 11:33.) There is no longer a mother, or pangs, or sleep, or coming together, and embracings of bodies; henceforth all the fabric3 of our nature is framed above, of the Holy Ghost and water. The water is employed, being made the Birth to him who is born; what the womb is to the embryo, the water is to the believer; for in the water he is fashioned and formed. At first it was said, “Let the waters bring forth the creeping things that have life” (Gen. 1:20, LXX.); but from the time that the Lord entered the streams of Jordan, the water no longer gives forth the “creeping thing that hath life,” but reasonable and Spirit-bearing souls; and what has been said of the sun, that he is “as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber” (Ps. 18:6), we may now rather say of the faithful, for they send forth rays far brighter than he. That which is fashioned in the womb requires time, not so that in water, but all is done in a single moment. Here our life is perishable, and takes its origin from the decay of other bodies; that which is to be born comes slowly, (for such is the nature of bodies, they acquire perfection by time,) but it is not so with spiritual things. And why? Because the things made are formed perfect from the beginning.

When Nicodemus still hearing these things was troubled, see how Christ partly opens to him the secret of this mystery, and makes that clear which was for a while obscure to him. “That which is born,” saith He, “of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” He leads him away from all the things of sense, and suffers him not vainly to pry into the mysteries revealed with his fleshly eyes; “We speak not,” saith He, “of flesh, but of Spirit, O Nicodemus,” (by this word He directs him heavenward for a while,) “seek then nothing relating to things of sense; never can the Spirit appear to those eyes, think not that the Spirit bringeth forth the flesh.” “How then,” perhaps one may ask, “was the Flesh of the Lord brought forth?” Not of the Spirit only, but of flesh; as Paul declares, when he says, “Made of a woman, made under the Law” (Gal. 4:4); for the Spirit fashioned Him not indeed out of nothing, (for what need was there then of a womb?) but from the flesh of a Virgin. How, I cannot explain unto you; yet it was done, that no one might suppose that what was born is alien to our nature. For if even when this has taken place there are some who disbelieve in such a birth, into what impiety would they not have fallen had He not partaken of the Virgin’s flesh.

“That which is born1 of the Spirit is spirit.” Seest thou the dignity of the Spirit? It appears performing the work of God; for above he said of some, that, “they were begotten of God,” (c. 1:13,) here He saith, that the Spirit begetteth them.

“That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” His meaning is of this kind; “He that is born2 of the Spirit is spiritual.” For the Birth which He speaks of here is not that according to essence,3 but according to honor and grace. Now if the Son is so born also, in what shall He be superior to men so born? And how is He, Only-begotten? For I too am born of God, though not of His Essence, and if He also is not of His Essence, how in this respect does He differ from us? Nay, He will then be found to be inferior to the Spirit; for birth of this kind is by the grace of the Spirit. Needs He then the help of the Spirit that He may continue a Son? And in what do these differ from Jewish doctrines?
Christ then having said, “He that is born of the Spirit is spirit,” when He saw him again confused, leads His discourse to an example from sense, saying,

Ver. 7, 8. “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.4 The wind bloweth where it listeth.”
For by saying, “Marvel not,” He indicates the confusion of his soul, and leads him to something lighter than body. He had already led him away from fleshly things, by saying, “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit”; but when Nicodemus knew not what “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” meant, He next carries him to another figure, not bringing him to the density of bodies, nor yet speaking of things purely incorporeal, (for had he heard he could not have received this,) but having found a something between what is and what is not body, namely, the motion of the wind, He brings him to that next. And He saith of it,

“Thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth.”

Though He saith, “it bloweth where it listeth,” He saith it not as if the wind had any power of choice, but declaring that its natural motion cannot be hindered, and is with power. For Scripture knoweth how to speak thus of things without life, as when it saith, “The creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly.” (Rom. 8:20.) The expression therefore, “bloweth where it listeth,” is that of one who would show that it cannot be restrained, that it is spread abroad everywhere, and that none can hinder its passing hither and thither, but that it goes abroad with great might, and none is able to turn aside its violence.

[2.] “And thou hearest its voice,”5 (that is, its rustle, its noise,) “but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”

Here is the conclusion of the whole matter. “If,” saith He, “thou knowest not how to explain the motion nor the path of this wind6 which thou perceivest by hearing and touch, why art thou over-anxious about the working of the Divine Spirit, when thou understandest not that of the wind, though thou hearest its voice?” The expression, “bloweth where it listeth,” is also used to establish the power of the Comforter; for if none can hold the wind, but it moveth where it listeth, much less will the laws of nature, or limits of bodily generation, or anything of the like kind, be able to restrain the operations of the Spirit.

That the expression, “thou hearest its voice,” is used respecting the wind, is clear from this circumstance; He would not, when conversing with an unbeliever and one unacquainted with the operation of the Spirit, have said, “Thou hearest its voice.” As then the wind is not visible, although it utters a sound, so neither is the birth of that which is spiritual visible to our bodily eyes; yet the wind is a body, although a very subtle one; for whatever is the object of sense is body. If then you do not complain because you cannot see this body, and do not on this account disbelieve, why do you, when you hear of “the Spirit,” hesitate and demand such exact accounts, although you act not so in the case of a body? What then doth Nicodemus? still he continues in his low Jewish opinion, and that too when so clear an example has been mentioned to him. Wherefore when he again says doubtingly,

 

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St Augustine’s Tractates on John 3:1-8

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 4, 2017

The following post contains all of St Augustine’s Tractate # 11 on Jn 2:23-3:5. It includes an excerpt from Tractate # 12 on Jn 3:6-8.

TRACTATE XI
CHAPTER 2:23–25; 3:1–5.

1. OPPORTUNELY has the Lord procured for us that this passage should occur in its order to-day: for I suppose you have observed, beloved, that we have undertaken to consider and explain the Gospel according to John in due course. Opportunely then it occurs, that to-day you should hear from the Gospel, that, “Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he shall not see the kingdom of God.” For it is time that we exhort you, who are still catechumens, who have believed in Christ in such wise, that you are still bearing your sins. And none shall see the kingdom of heaven while burdened with sins; for none shall reign with Christ, but he to whom they have been forgiven: but forgiven they cannot be, but to him who is born again of water and of the Holy Spirit. But let us observe all the words what they imply, that here the sluggish may find with what earnestness they must haste to put off their burden. For were they bearing some heavy load, either of stone, or of wood, or even of some gain; if they were carrying corn, or wine, or money, they would run to put off their loads: they are carrying a burden of sins, and yet are sluggish to run. You must run to put off this burden; it weighs you down, it drowns you.

2. Behold, you have heard that when our Lord Jesus Christ “was in Jerusalem at the Passover, on the feast day, many believed in His name, seeing the signs which He did.” “Many believed in His name;” and what follows? “But Jesus did not trust Himself to them.” Now what does this mean, “They believed,” or trusted, “in His name;” and yet “Jesus did not trust Himself to them;”? Was it, perhaps, that they had not believed on Him, but were feigning to have believed, and that therefore Jesus did not trust Himself to them? But the evangelist would not have said, “Many believed in His name,” if he were not giving a true testimony to them. A great thing, then, it is, and a wonderful thing: men believe on Christ, and Christ trusts not Himself to men. Especially is it wonderful, since, being the Son of God, He of course suffered willingly. If He were not willing, He would never have suffered, since, had He not willed it, He had not been born; and if He had willed this only, merely to be born and not to die, He might have done even whatever He willed, because He is the almighty Son of the almighty Father. Let us prove it by facts. For when they wished to hold Him, He departed from them. The Gospel says, “And when they would have cast Him headlong from the top of the mountain, He departed from them unhurt.”1 And when they came to lay hold of Him, after He was sold by Judas the traitor, who imagined that he had it in his power to deliver up his Master and Lord, there also the Lord showed that He suffered of His own will, not of necessity. For when the Jews desired to lay hold of Him, He said to them, “Whom seek ye? But they said, Jesus of Nazareth. And said He, I am He. On hearing this saying, they went backward, and fell to the ground.”2 In this, that in answering them He threw them to the ground, He showed His power; that in His being taken by them He might show His will. It was of compassion, then, that He suffered. For “He was delivered up for our sins, and rose again for our justification.”3 Hear His own words: “I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again: no man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself, that I may take it again.”1 Since, therefore, He had such power, since He declared it by words, showed it by deeds, what then does it mean that Jesus did not trust Himself to them, as if they would do Him some harm against His will, or would do something to Him against His will, especially seeing that they had already believed in His name? Moreover, of the same persons the evangelist says, “They believed in His name,” of whom he says, “But Jesus did not trust Himself to them.” Why? “Because He knew all men, and needed not that any should bear witness of man: for Himself knew what was in man.” The artificer knew what was in His own work better than the work knew what was in itself. The Creator of man knew what was in man, which the created man himself knew not. Do we not prove this of Peter, that he knew not what was in himself, when he said, “With Thee, even to death”? Hear that the Lord knew what was in man: “Thou with me even to death? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.”2 The man, then, knew not what was in himself; but the Creator of the man knew what was in the man. Nevertheless, many believed in His name, and yet Jesus did not trust Himself to them. What can we say, brethren? Perhaps the circumstances that follow will indicate to us what the mystery of these words is. That men had believed in Him is manifest, is true; none doubts it, the Gospel says it, the truth-speaking evangelist testifies to it. Again, that Jesus trusted not Himself to them is also manifest, and no Christian doubts it; for the Gospel says this also, and the same truth-speaking evangelist testifies to it. Why, then, is it that they believed in His name, and yet Jesus did not trust Himself to them? Let us see what follows.

3. “And there was a man of the Pharisees, Nicodemus by name, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Him by night, and said unto Him, Rabbi (you already know that Master is called Rabbi), we know that Thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these signs which Thou doest, except God be with him.” This Nicodemus, then, was of those who had believed in His name, as they saw the signs and prodigies which He did. For this is what he said above: “Now, when He was in Jerusalem at the passover on the feast-day, many believed in His name.” Why did they believe? He goes on to say, “Seeing His signs which He did.” And what says he of Nicodemus? “There was a ruler of the Jews, Nicodemus by name the same came to Him by night, and says to Him, Rabbi, we know that Thou art a teacher come from God.” Therefore this man also had believed in His name. And why had he believed? He goes on, “For no man can do these signs which Thou doest, except God be with him.” If, therefore, Nicodemus was of those who had believed in His name, let us now consider, in the case of this Nicodemus, why Jesus did not trust Himself to them. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Therefore to them who have been born again doth Jesus trust Himself. Behold, those men had believed on Him, and yet Jesus trusted not Himself to them. Such are all catechumens: already they believe in the name of Christ, but Jesus does not trust Himself to them. Give good heed, my beloved, and understand. If we say to a catechumen, Dost thou believe on Christ? he answers, I believe, and signs himself; already he bears the cross of Christ on his forehead, and is not ashamed of the cross of his Lord. Behold, he has believed in His name. Let us ask him, Dost thou eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink the blood of the Son of man? he knows not what we say, because Jesus has not trusted Himself to him.

4. Therefore, since Nicodemus was of that number, he came to the Lord, but came by night; and this perhaps pertains to the matter. Came to the Lord, and came by night; came to the Light, and came in the darkness. But what do they that are born again of water and of the Spirit hear from the apostle? “Ye were once darkness, but now light in the Lord; walk as children of light;”3 and again, “But we who are of the day, let us besober.”4 Therefore they who are born again were of the night, and are of the day; were darkness, and are light. Now Jesus trusts Himself to them, and they come to Jesus, not by night, like Nicodemus; not in darkness do they seek the day. For such now also profess: Jesus has come near to them, has made salvation in them; for He said, “Except a man eat my flesh, and drink my blood, he shall not have life in him.”5 And as the catechumens have the sign of the cross on their forehead, they are already of the great house; but from servants let them become sons. For they are something who already belong to the great house. But when did the people Israel eat the manna? After they had passed the Red Sea. And as to what the Red Sea signifies, hear the apostle: “Moreover, brethren, I would not have you ignorant, that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea.” To what purpose passed they through the sea? As if thou wert asking of him, he goes on to say, “And all were baptized by Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”1 Now, if the figure of the sea had such efficacy, how great will be the efficacy of the true form of baptism! If what was done in a figure brought the people, after they had crossed over, to the manna, what will Christ impart, in the verity of His baptism, to His own people, brought over through Himself? By His baptism He brings over them that believe; all their sins, the enemies as it were that pursue them, being slain, as all the Egyptians perished in that sea. Whither does He bring over, my brethren? Whither does Jesus bring over by baptism, of which Moses then showed the figure, when he brought them through the sea? Whither? To the manna. What is the manna? “I am,” saith He, “the living bread, which came down from heaven.”2 The faithful receive the manna, having now been brought through the Red Sea? Why Red Sea? Besides sea, why also “red”? That “Red Sea” signified the baptism of Christ. How is the baptism of Christ red, but as consecrated by Christ’s blood? Whither, then, does He lead those that believe and are baptized? To the manna. Behold, “manna,” I say: what the Jews, that people Israel, received, is well known, well known what God had rained on them from heaven; and yet catechumens know not what Christians receive. Let them blush, then, for their ignorance; let them pass through the Red Sea, let them eat the manna, that as they have believed in the name of Jesus, so likewise Jesus may trust Himself to them.

5. Therefore mark, my brethren, what answer this man who came to Jesus by night makes. Although he came to Jesus, yet because he came by night, he still speaks from the darkness of his own flesh. He understands not what he hears from the Lord, understands not what he hears from the Light, “which lighteth every man that cometh into this world.”3 Already hath the Lord said to him, “Except a man be born again, he shall not see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto Him, How can a man be born again when he is old?” The Spirit speaks to him, and he thinks of the flesh. He thinks of his own flesh, because as yet he thinks not of Christ’s flesh. For when the Lord Jesus had said, “Except a man eat my flesh, and drink my blood, he shall not have life in him,” some who followed Him were offended, and said among themselves, “This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” For they fancied that, in saying this, Jesus meant that they would be able to cook Him, after being cut up like a lamb, and eat Him: horrified at His words, they went back, and no more followed Him. Thus speaks the evangelist: “And the Lord Himself remained with the twelve; and they said to Him, Lo, those have left Thee. And He said, Will ye also go away?”—wishing to show them that He was necessary to them, not they necessary to Christ. Let no man fancy that he frightens Christ, when he tells Him that he is a Christian; as if Christ will be more blessed if thou be a Christian. It is a good thing for thee to be a Christian; but if thou be not, it will not be ill for Christ. Hear the voice of the psalm, “I said to the Lord, Thou art my God, since Thou hast no need of my goods.”4 For that reason, “Thou art my God, since of my goods Thou hast no need.” If thou be without God, thou wilt be less; if thou be with God, God will not be greater. Not from thee will He be greater, but thou without Him wilt be less. Grow, therefore, in Him; do not withdraw thyself, that He may, as it were, diminish. Thou wilt be renewed if thou come to Him, wilt suffer loss if thou depart from Him. He remains entire when thou comest to Him, remains entire even when thou fallest away. When, therefore, He had said to His disciples, “Will ye also go away?” Peter, that Rock, answered with the voice of all, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” Pleasantly savored the Lord’s flesh in his mouth. The Lord, however, expounded to them, and said, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth.” After He had said, “Except a man eat my flesh, and drink my blood, he shall not have life in him,” lest they should understand it carnally, He said, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth, but the flesh profiteth nothing: the words which I have spoken unto you are spirit and life.”5

6. This Nicodemus, who had come to Jesus by night, did not savor of this spirit and this life. Saith Jesus to him, “Except a man be born again, he shall not see the kingdom of God.” And he, savoring of his own flesh, while as yet he savored not of the flesh of Christ in his mouth, saith, “How can a man be born a second time, when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” This man knew but one birth, that from Adam and Eve; that which is from God and the Church he knew not yet: he knew only those parents that bring forth to death, knew not yet the parents that bring forth to life; he knew but the parents that bring forth successors, knew not yet the ever-living parents that bring forth those that shall abide.
Whilst there are two births, then, he understood only one. One is of the earth, the other of heaven; one of the flesh, the other of the Spirit; one of mortality, the other of eternity; one of male and female, the other of God and the Church. But these two are each single; there can be no repeating the one or the other. Rightly did Nicodemus understand the birth of the flesh; so understand thou also the birth of the Spirit, as Nicodemus understood the birth of the flesh. What did Nicodemus understand? “Can a man enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” Thus, whosoever shall tell thee to be spiritually born a second time, answer in the words of Nicodemus, “Can a man enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” I am already born of Adam, Adam cannot beget me a second time. I am already born of Christ, Christ cannot beget me again. As there is no repeating from the womb, so neither from baptism.

7. He that is born of the Catholic Church, is born, as it were, of Sarah, of the free woman; he that is born of heresy is, as it were, born of the bond woman, but of Abraham’s seed. Consider, beloved, how great a mystery. God testifies, saying, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Were there not other patriarchs? Before these, was there not holy Noah, who alone of the whole human race, with all his house, was worthy to be delivered from the flood,—he in whom, and in his sons, the Church was prefigured? Borne by wood, they escaped the flood. Then afterwards great men whom we know, whom Holy Scriptures commends, Moses faithful in all his house.1 And yet those three are named, just as if they alone deserved well of him: “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob: this is my name for ever.”2 Sublime mystery! It is the Lord that is able to open both our mouth and your hearts, that we may speak as He has deigned to reveal, and that you may receive even as it is expedient for you.

8. The patriarchs, then, are these three, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You know that the sons of Jacob were twelve, and thence the people Israel; for Jacob himself is Israel, and the people Israel in twelve tribes pertaining to the twelve sons of Israel. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob three fathers, and one people. The fathers three, as it were in the beginning of the people; three fathers in whom the people was figured: and the former people itself the present people. For in the Jewish people was figured the Christian people. There a figure, here the truth; there a shadow, here the body: as the apostle says, “Now these things happened to them in a figure.” It is the apostle’s voice: “They were written,” saith he, “for our sakes, upon whom the end of the ages is come.”3 Let your mind now recur to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In the case of these three, we find that free women bear children, and that bond women bear children: we find there offspring of free women, we find there also offspring of bond women. The bond woman signifies nothing good: “Cast out the bond woman,” saith he, “and her son; for the son of the bond woman shall not be heir with the son of the free.” The apostle recounts this; and he says that in those two sons of Abraham was a figure of the two Testaments, the Old and the New. To the Old Testament belong the lovers of temporal things, the lovers of the world: to the New Testament belong the lovers of eternal life. Hence, that Jerusalem on earth was the shadow of the heavenly Jerusalem, the mother of us all, which is in heaven; and these are the apostle’s words.4 And of that city from which we are absent on our sojourn, you know much, you have now heard much. But we find a wonderful thing in these births, in these fruits of the womb, in these generations of free and bond women: namely, four sorts of men; in which four sorts is completed the figure of the future Christian people, so that what was said in the case of those three patriarchs is not surprising, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” For in the case of all Christians, observe, brethren, either good men are born of evil men, or evil men of good; or good men of good, or evil men of evil: more than these four sorts you cannot find. These things I will again repeat: Give heed, keep them, excite your hearts, be not dull; take in, lest ye be taken, how of all Christians there are four sorts. Either of the good are born good, or of the evil, are born evil; or of the good are born evil, or of the evil good. I think it is plain. Of the good, good; if they who baptize are good, and also they who are baptized rightly believe, and are rightly numbered among the members of Christ. Of the evil, evil; if they who baptize are evil, and they who are baptized approach God with a double heart, and do not observe the morals which they hear urged in the Church, so as not to be chaff, but grain, there. How many such there are, you know, beloved. Of the evil, good; sometimes an adulterer baptizes, and be that is baptized is justified. Of the good, evil; sometimes they who baptize are holy, they who are baptized do not desire to keep the way of God.

9. I suppose, brethren, that this is known in the Church, and that what we are saying is manifest by daily examples; but let us consider these things in the case of our fathers before us, how they also had these four kinds. Of the good, good; Ananias baptized Paul. How of the evil, evil? The apostle declares that there were certain preachers of the gospel, who, he says, did not use to preach the gospel with a pure motive, whom, however, he tolerates in the Christian society, saying, “What then, notwithstanding every way, whether by occasion or in truth, Christ is preached, and in this I rejoice.”1 Was he therefore malevolent, and did he rejoice in another’s evil? No, but rejoiced because through evil men the truth was preached, and by the mouths of evil men Christ was preached. If these men baptized any persons like themselves, evil men baptized evil men: if they baptized such as the Lord admonishes, when He says, “Whatsoever they bid you, do; but do not ye after their works,”2 they were evil men that were baptizing good. Good men baptized evil men, as Simon the sorcerer was baptized by Philip, a holy man.3 Therefore these four sorts, my brethren, are known. See, I repeat them again, hold them, count them, think upon them; guard against what is evil; keep what is good. Good men are born of good, when holy men are baptized by holy; evil men are born of evil, when both they that baptize and they that are baptized live unrighteously and ungodly; good men are born of evil, when they are evil that baptize, and they good that are baptized; evil men are born of good, when they are good that baptize, and they evil that are baptized.

10. How do we find this in these three names, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? We hold the bond women among the evil, and the free women among the good. Free women bear the good; Sarah bare Isaac: bond women bear the evil; Hagar bare Ishmael. We have in the case of Abraham alone the two sorts, both when the good are of the good, and also when the evil are of the evil. But where have we evil of good figured? Rebecca, Isaac’s wife, was a free woman: read, She bare twins; one was good, the other evil. Thou hast the Scripture openly declaring by the voice of God, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”4 Rebecca bare those two, Jacob and Esau: one of them is chosen, the other is reprobated; one succeeds to the inheritance, the other is disinherited. God does not make His people of Esau, but makes it of Jacob. The seed is one, those conceived are dissimilar: the womb is one, those born of it are diverse. Was not the free woman that bare Jacob, the same free woman that bare Esau? They strove in the mother’s womb; and when they strove there, it was said to Rebecca, “Two peoples are in thy womb.” Two men, two peoples; a good people, and a bad people: but yet they strive in one womb. How many evil men there are in the Church! And one womb carries them until they are separated in the end: and the good cry out against the evil, and the evil in turn cry out against the good, and both strive together in the bowels of one mother. Will they be always together? There is a going forth to the light in the end; the birth which is here figured in a mystery is declared; and it will then appear that “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”

11. Accordingly we have now found, brethren, of the good, good—of the free woman, Isaac; and of the evil, evil—of the bond woman, Ishmael; and of the good, evil—of Rebecca, Esau: where shall we find of the evil, good? There remains Jacob, that the completion of these four sorts may be concluded in the three patriarchs. Jacob had for wives free women, he had also bond women: the free bear children, as do also the bond, and thus come the twelve sons of Israel. If you count them all, of whom they were born, they were not all of the free women, nor all of the bond women; but yet they were all of one seed. What, then, my brethren? Did not they who were born of the bond women possess the land of promise together with their brethren? We have there found good sons of Jacob born of bond women, and good sons of Jacob born of free women. Their birth of the wombs of bond women was nothing against them, when they knew their seed in the father, and consequently they held the kingdom with their brethren. Therefore, as in the case of Jacob’s sons, that they were born of bond women did not hinder their holding the kingdom, and receiving the land of promise on an equality with their brothers; their birth of bond women did not hinder them, but the father’s seed prevailed: so, whoever are baptized by evil men, appear as if born of bond women; nevertheless, because they are of the seed of the Word of God, which is figured in Jacob, let them not be cast down, they shall possess the inheritance with their brethren. Therefore, let him who is born of the good seed be without fear; only let him not imitate the bond woman, if he is born of a bond woman. Do not thou imitate the evil, proud, bond woman. For how came the sons of Jacob, that were born of bond women, to possess the land of promise with their brethren, whilst Ishmael, born of a bond woman, was cast out from the inheritance? How, but because he was proud, they were humble? He proudly reared his neck, and wished to seduce his brother while he was playing with him.

12. A great mystery is there. They were playing together, Ishmael and Isaac: Sarah sees them playing, and says to Abraham, “Cast out the bond woman and her son; for the son of the bond woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.” And when Abraham was sorrowful, the Lord confirmed to him the saying of his wife. Now here is evidently a mystery, that the event was somehow pregnant with something future. She sees them playing, and says, “Cast out the bond woman and her son.” What is this, brethren? For what evil had Ishmael done to the boy Isaac, in playing with him? That playing was a mocking; that playing signified deception. Now attend, beloved, to this great mystery. The apostle calls it persecution; that playing, that play, he calls persecution: for he says, “But as then he that was born after the flesh, persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, so also now;” that is, they that are born after the flesh persecute them that are born after the Spirit. Who are born after the flesh? Lovers of the world, lovers of this life. Who are born after the Spirit? Lovers of the kingdom of heaven, lovers of Christ, men that long for eternal life, that worship God freely. They play, and the apostle calls it persecution. For after he said these words, “And as then be that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, so also now;” the apostle went on, and showed of what persecution, he was speaking: “But what says the Scripture? Cast out the bond woman and her son: for the son of the bond woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.”1 We search where the Scripture says this, to see whether any persecution on Ishmael’s part against Isaac preceded this; and we find that this was said by Sarah when she saw the boys playing together. The playing which Scripture says that Sarah saw, the apostle calls persecution. Hence, they who seduce you by playing, persecute you the more. “Come,” say they, “Come, be baptized here, here is true baptism for thee.” Do not play, there is one true baptism; that other is play: thou wilt be seduced, and that will be a grievous persecution to thee. It were better for thee to make Ishmael a present of the kingdom; but Ishmael will not have it, for he means to play. Keep thou thy father’s inheritance, and hear this: “Cast out the bond woman and her son; for the son of the bond woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.”

13. These men, too, dare to say that they are wont to suffer persecution from catholic kings, or from catholic princes. What persecution do they bear? Affliction of body: yet if at times they have suffered, and how they suffered, let themselves know, and settle it with their consciences; still they suffered only affliction of body: the persecution which they cause is more grievous. Beware when Ishmael wishes to play with Isaac, when he fawns on thee, when he offers another baptism: answer him, I have baptism already. For if this baptism is true, he who would give thee another would be mocking thee. Beware of the persecution of the soul. For though the party of Donatus has at times suffered somewhat at the hands of catholic princes, it was a bodily suffering, not the suffering of spiritual deception. Hear and see in the very facts of Old Testament history all the signs and indications of things to come. Sarah is found to have afflicted her maid Hagar: Sarah is free. After her maid began to be proud, Sarah complained to Abraham, and said, “Cast out the bond woman;” she has lifted her neck against me. His wife complains of Abraham, as if it were his doing. But Abraham, who was not bound to the maid by lust, but by the duty of begetting children, inasmuch as Sarah had given her to him to have offspring by her, says to her: “Behold, she is thy handmaid; do unto her as thou wilt.” And Sarah grievously afflicted her, and she fled from her face. See, the free woman afflicted the bond woman, and the apostle does not call that a persecution; the slave plays with his master, and he calls it persecution: this afflicting is not called persecution; that playing is. How does it appear to you, brethren? Do you not understand what is signified? Thus, then, when God wills to stir up powers against heretics, against schismatics, against those that scatter the Church, that blow on Christ as if they abhorred Him, that blaspheme baptism, let them not wonder; because God stirs them up, that Hagar may be beaten by Sarah. Let Hagar know herself, and yield her neck: for when, after being humiliated, she departed from her mistress, an angel met her, and said to her, “What is the matter with thee, Hagar, Sarah’s handmaid?” When she complained of her mistress, what did she hear from the angel? “Return to thy mistress.”1 It is for this that she is afflicted, that she may return; and would that she may return, for her offspring, just like the sons of Jacob, will obtain the inheritance with their brethren.

14. But they wonder that Christian powers are roused against detestable scatterers of the Church. Should they not be moved, then? How otherwise should they give an account of their rule to God? Observe, beloved, what I say, that it concerns Christian kings of this world to wish their mother the Church, of which they have been spiritually born, to have peace in their times. We read Daniel’s visions and prophetical histories. The three children praised the Lord in the fire: King Nebuchadnezzar wondered at the children praising God, and at the fire around them doing them no harm: and whilst he wondered, what did King Nebuchadnezzar say, he who was neither a Jew nor circumcised, who had set up his own image and compelled all men to adore it; but, impressed by the praises of the three children when he saw the majesty of God present in the fire what said he? “And I will publish a decree to all tribes and tongues in the whole earth.” What sort of decree? “Whosoever shall speak blasphemy against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut off, and their houses shall be made a ruin.”2 See how an alien king acts with raging indignation that the God of Israel might not be blasphemed, because He was able to deliver the three children from the fire: and yet they would not have Christian kings to act with severity when Christ is contemptuously rejected, by whom not three children, but the whole world, with these very kings, is delivered from the fire of hell! For those three children, my brethren, were delivered from temporal fire. Is He not the same God who was the God of the Maccabees and the God of the three children? The latter He delivered from the fire; the former did in body perish in the torments of fire, but in mind they remained steadfast in the ordinances of the law. The latter were openly delivered, the former were crowned in secret.3 It is a greater thing to be delivered from the flame of hell than from the furnace of a human power. If, then, Nebuchadnezzar praised and extolled and gave glory to God because He delivered three children from the fire, and gave such glory as to send forth a decree throughout his kingdom, “Whosoever shall speak blasphemy against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut off, and their houses shall be brought to ruin,” how should not these kings be moved, who observe, not three children delivered from the flame, but their very selves delivered from hell, when they see Christ, by whom they have been delivered, contemptuously spurned in Christians, when they hear it said to a Christian, “Say that thou art not a Christian”? Men are willing to do such deeds, but they do not wish to suffer, at all events, such punishments.

15. For see what they do and what they suffer. They slay souls, they suffer in body: they cause everlasting deaths, and yet they complain that they themselves suffer temporal deaths. And yet what deaths do they suffer? They allege to us some martyrs of theirs in persecution. See, Marculus was hurled headlong from a rock; see, Donatus of Bagaia was thrown into a well. When have the Roman authorities decreed such punishments as casting men down rocks? But what do those of our party reply? What was done I know not; what, however, do ours tell? That they lung themselves headlong and cast the infamy of it upon the authorities. Let us call to mind the custom of the Roman authorities, and see to whom we are to give credit. Our men declare that those men cast themselves down headlong. If they are not the very disciples of those men, who now cast themselves down precipices, while no man persecutes them, let us not credit the allegation of our men: what wonder if those men did what these are wont to do? The Roman authorities never did employ such punishments: for had they not the power to put them to death openly? But those men, while they wished to be honored when dead, found not a death to make them more famous. In short, whatever the fact was, I do not know. And even if thou hast suffered corporal affliction, O party of Donatus, at the hand of the Catholic Church, as an Hagar thou hast suffered it at the hand of Sarah; “return to thy mistress.” A point which it was indeed necessary to discuss has detained us somewhat too long to be at all able to expound the whole text of the Gospel Lesson. Let this suffice you in the meantime, beloved brethren, lest, by speaking of other matters, what has been spoken might be shut out from your hearts. Hold fast these things, declare such things; and while yourselves are inflamed, go your way thither, and set on fire them that are cold.

TRACTATE 12 (Excerpt)
Chapter 3:6-8

1. WE observe, beloved, that the intimation with which we yesterday excited your attention has brought you together with more alacrity, and in greater number than usual; but meanwhile let us, if you please, pay our debt of a discourse on the Gospel Lesson, which comes in due course. You shall then hear, beloved, as well what we have already effected concerning the peace of the Church, and what we hope yet further to accomplish. For the present, then, let the whole attention of your hearts be given to the gospel; let none be thinking of anything else. For if he who attends to it wholly apprehends with difficulty, must not he who divides himself by diverse thoughts let go what he has received? Moreover, you remember, beloved, that on the last Lord’s day, as the Lord deigned to help us, we discoursed of spiritual regeneration. That lesson we have caused to be read to you again, so that what was then left unspoken, we may now, by the aid of your prayers in the name of Christ, fulfill.

2. Spiritual regeneration is one, just as the generation of the flesh is one. And Nicodemus said the truth when he said to the Lord that a man cannot, when he is old, return again into his mother’s womb and be born. He indeed said that a man cannot do this when he is old, as if he could do it even were he an infant. But be he fresh from the womb, or now in years, he cannot possibly return again into the mother’s bowels and be born. But just as for the birth of the flesh, the bowels of woman avail to bring forth the child only once, so for the spiritual birth the bowels of the Church avail that a man be baptized only once. Therefore, in case one should say, “Well, but this man was born in heresy, and this in schism:” all that was cut away, if you remember what was debated to you about our three fathers, of whom God willed to be called the God, not that they were thus alone but because in them alone the figure of the future people was made up in its completeness. For we find one born of a bond woman disinherited, one born of a free woman made heir: again, we find one born of a free woman disinherited, one born of a bond woman made heir. Ishmael, born of a bond woman, disinherited; Isaac, born of a free woman, made heir: Esau, born of a free woman, disinherited; the sons of Jacob, born of bond women, made heirs. Thus, in these three fathers the figure of the whole future people is seen: and not without reason God saith, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob: this,” saith He, “is my name for ever.”1 Rather let us remember what was promised to Abraham himself: for this was promised to Isaac, and also to Jacob. What do we find? “In thy seed shall all nations be blessed.”2 At that time the one man believed what as yet he saw not: men now see, and are blinded. What was promised to the one man is fulfilled in the nations; and they who will not see what is already fulfilled, are separating themselves from the communion of the nations. But what avails it them that they will not see? See they do, whether they will or no; the open truth strikes against their closed eyes.

3. It was in answer to Nicodemus, who was of them that had believed on Jesus, that it was said, And Jesus did not trust Himself to them. To certain men, indeed, He did not trust Himself, though they had already believed on Him. Thus it is written, “Many believed in His name, seeing the signs which He did. But Jesus did not trust Himself to them. For He needed not that any should testify of man; for Himself knew what was in man.” Behold, they already believed on Jesus, and yet Jesus did not trust Himself to them. Why? because they were not yet born again of water and of the Spirit. From this have we exhorted and do exhort our brethren the catechumens. For if you ask them, they have already believed in Jesus; but because they have not yet received His flesh and blood, Jesus has not yet trusted Himself to them. What must they do that Jesus may trust Himself to them? They must be born again of water and of the Spirit; the Church that is in travail with them must bring them forth. They have been conceived; they must be brought forth to the light: they have breasts to be nourished at; let them not fear lest, being born, they may be smothered; let them not depart from the mother’s breasts.

4. No man can return into his mother’s bowels and be born again. But some one is born of a bond woman? Well, did they who were born of bond women at the former time, return into the wombs of the free to be born anew? The seed of Abraham was in Ishmael also; but that Abraham might have a son of the bond maid, it was at the advice of his wife. The child was of the husband’s seed, not of the womb, but at the sole pleasure of the wife. Was his birth of a bond woman the reason why he was disinherited? Then, if he was disinherited because he was the son of a bond woman, no sons of bond women would be admitted to the inheritance. The sons of Jacob were admitted to the inheritance; but Ishmael was put out of it, not because born of a bond woman, but because he was proud to his mother, proud to his mother’s son; for his mother was Sarah rather than Hagar. The one gave her womb, the other’s will was added: Abraham would not have done what Sarah willed not: therefore was he Sarah’s son rather. But because he was proud to his brother, proud in playing, that is, in mocking him; what said Sarah? “Cast out the bond woman and her son; for the son of the bond woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.”1 It was not, therefore, the bowels of the bond woman that caused his rejection, but the slave’s neck. For the free-born is a slave if he is proud, and, what is worse, the slave of a bad mistress, of pride itself. Thus, my brethren, answer the man, that a man cannot be born a second time; answer fearlessly, that a man cannot be born a second time. Whatever is done a second time is mockery, whatever is done a second time is play. It is Ishmael playing, let him be cast out. For Sarah observed them playing, saith the Scripture, and said to Abraham, “Cast out the bond woman and her son.” The playing of the boys displeased Sarah. She saw something strange in their play. Do not they who have sons like to see them playing? She saw and disapproved it. Something or other she saw in their play; she saw mockery in it, observed the pride of the slave; she was displeased with it, and she cast him out. The children of bond women, when wicked, are cast out; and the child of the free woman, when an Esau, is cast out. Let none, therefore, presume on his birth of good parents; let none presume on his being baptized by holy men. Let him that is baptized by holy men still beware lest he be not a Jacob, but an Esau. This would I say then, brethren, it is better to be baptized by men that seek their own and love the world, which is what the name of bond woman imports, and to be spiritually seeking the inheritance of Christ, so as to be as it were a son of Jacob by a bond woman, than to be baptized by holy men and to become proud, so as to be an Esau to be cast out, though born of a free woman. Hold ye this fast, brethren. We are not coaxing you, let none of your hope be in us; we flatter neither ourselves nor you; every man bears his own burden. It is our duty to speak, that we be not judged unhappily: yours to hear, and that with the heart, lest what we give be required of you; nay, that when it is required, it may be found a gain, not a loss.

5. The Lord says to Nicodemus, and explains to him: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Thou, says He, understandest a carnal generation, when thou sayest, Can a man return into his mother’s bowels? The birth for the kingdom of God must be of water and of the Spirit. If one is born to the temporal inheritance of a human father, be he born of the bowels of a carnal mother; if one is born to the everlasting inheritance of God as his Father, be he born of the bowels of the Church. A father, as one that will die, begets a son by his wife to succeed him; but God begets of the Church sons, not to succeed Him, but to abide with Himself. And He goes on: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” We are born spiritually then, and in spirit we are born by the word and sacrament. The Spirit is present that we may be born; the Spirit is invisibly present whereof thou art born, for thou too must be invisibly born. For He goes on to say: “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The Spirit bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest its voice, but knowest not whence it cometh, or whither it goeth.” None sees the Spirit; and how do we hear the Spirit’s voice? There sounds a psalm, it is the Spirit’s voice; the gospel sounds, it is the Spirit’s voice; the divine word sounds, it is the Spirit’s voice. “Thou hearest its voice, and knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth.” But if thou art born of the Spirit, thou too shalt be so, that one who is not born of the Spirit knows not, as for thee, whence thou comest, or whither thou goest. For He said, as He went on, “So is also every one that is born of the Spirit.”

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 20:19-31

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 4, 2017

19 Now when it was late the same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst and said to them: Peace be to you.

 “Late that same day,” not at night time, but in the evening of Resurrection day, “the first of the week,” after the disciples had, in the evening, returned from Emmaus. There is reference to the same apparition, as in Luke 24:26; Mark 16:14.

And the doors were shut … for fear of the Jews.” Our Lord’s disciples still timorous and terrified at the cruel treatment inflicted by the Jews on their Divine Master, were in dread of similar treatment themselves. Hence, “the doors” of the apartment in which they were assembled, “were shut,” as a security against attack.

Jesus came,” entered the apartment, in virtue of the gift of subtility appertaining to His glorified body, “and stood in their midst, and said to them. Peace be to you.” This was a form of salutation common among the Jews, implying the plenitude of all benedictions, temporal and spiritual. It was meant here, to inspire the disciples with confidence and consolation, in their present depressed and dejected condition.

20 And when he had said this, he shewed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord.

He showed them His hands and His side,” as a proof of His identity. The traces and marks of the wounds in His sacred body, would show He was the same whose hands and side were perforated on the cross. Whether they touched His hands and feet, is disputed.

The disciples, therefore, were glad.” Joy succeeded sadness, “when they saw the Lord,” and had no doubts of His identity. He now fulfils the promise made them on a former occasion, that “He would again see them, and their sorrow would be turned into joy” (16:22).

21 He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you.

 “He said, therefore, to them again. Peace be to you.” Now being convinced that it was the Lord, they were, therefore, somewhat confused and disturbed at their inconstancy and want of firm faith. Hence, compassionating their weakness, He removes their uneasiness, and addresses them in words of consolation, giving them His peace; thus, remitting their own sins, receiving them back into favour, and preparing them for the great spiritual gift of remitting the sins of others. Also, about to send them into the entire world, He communicates His peace, which they were to impart to a world of unrest and sin.

As the Father hath sent Me,” to redeem mankind, to sanctify and save them. He was thus constituted by His Father, an Apostle, which means, “one sent”—St. Paul terms Him (Heb. 3:1), “the Apostle of our Confession”—“I also send you,” thus constituting them His Apostles and vicars, with full power to apply the merits of His Redemption, by preaching His Gospel including the precepts of faith and morals, by instituting in His name, or at least, inculcating the necessity of, the Sacraments. They were also to edify the world by the example of good and holy lives. In a word, He sends them to perfect the work of Redemption, achieved by Him, at such sacrifices, privations, and sufferings, including even the ignominious death of the cross; and communicates to them, all the authority in its fulness that the Father gave Him. The parallelism is remarkable in all the words. “The Father” (who is God), “I” (who also am God), “sent,” “send” (with the fulness and plenitude of authority), “Me,” “you.”

Catholic Tradition enables us to specify what amount of the authority here communicated, in regard to the remission of sin, was reserved for the Bishops, the successors of the Apostles to the consummation of ages; and what amount for the priests, to whom also was communicated the radical power of remitting sin, with some limitations, as to its actual exercise. The word, “as,” does not express full equality; as if the Apostles received the same amount of authority, and in the same way, as He received from His Father; but, only similarity, in many respects.

22 When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost.

Breathed on them.” This breathing on the Apostles was an exterior sign of His communicating of the Holy Ghost which He was about giving them—a Spirit who proceeds from the Father and Him. This breathing denotes, that as God, in the original creation, breathed into man the soul, which was the principle of natural life; so, the same God, now in the second creation and regeneration of man, breathes into him the Holy Spirit, who is the principle of spiritual and everlasting life.

Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” It is quite clear He now actually imparts to them His Holy Spirit. It was, however, for a certain purpose, and in reference to a certain special gift, viz., the remission of sins, the only means for securing peace and reconciliation to sinful man. This gift, although given by the Father also, is attributed by appropriation to our Lord, who died for sin and specially merited this power. The full abundance of all the gifts of the Holy Ghost, the working of miracles, the gift of tongues, etc., etc., was reserved for the day of Pentecost, and not publicly given, until after He ascended to the Father, as He Himself declared (16:7). But here, although the Apostles had previously received the Holy Ghost in the gift of sanctifying grace, a special gift was granted which they had not before, viz., the power to remit sin, after He Himself had paid a full ransom for sin, on the tree of the cross. It was a partial concession at present of the gifts given in their plenitude on Pentecost; just as the Apostles had previously, in receiving sanctifying grace, received the Holy Ghost. This was not publicly given, with great external show and display, as on the day of Pentecost. The power to remit sin belonged to God only, who was offended by sin. But this power is communicated by Him to the Apostles. Hence, in receiving it, they are said to “receive the Holy Ghost.”

23 Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.

Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven.” The power here given, as to the number or quality of sins is universal and without exception. All depends, so far as its efficacious exercise is concerned, on the dispositions and qualities of the subject, as is clear from the words, “whose sins,” etc. It is also clear, that they to whom this power is given, to the end of time, do actually remit sin and, not declare them remitted, as the Innovators teach. They remit on earth; and the sins thus remitted by a subordinate, delegated, ministerial exercise of power, are remitted by the sovereign power of God, in the High Court of Heaven. Similar are the words, “Whatsoever you shall loose on earth, shall be loosed also in heaven” (Matthew 17:18).

Similar is the power given to Peter (Matthew 16:19). “Whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.”

And whose sins you shall retain,” when in the exercise of judicial discretion, you declare the subjects unfit for absolution, undeserving of receiving pardon from God, from want of proper dispositions, wanting contrition, wanting in a sincere desire to make reparation, and the other required conditions.

This two-fold power of remitting and retaining, which was not to be exercised capriciously, but with a just discretion, considering the merits of each case, shows the necessity of the confession of all sins; otherwise the party exercising would not know the case. Many grievous sins are occult—there are also sins of wicked thoughts. Neither could the dispositions of the sinner be known, save from his own confession. Hence, the necessity of a full and distinct confession of sins for the just exercise of the power here granted by our Lord to His Church (see Matthew 3:6, Commentary).

The Council of Trent defines, that the words of this verse are to be understood of the power of remitting and retaining sins in the Sacrament of Penance, as the Catholic Church always understood from the beginning; and anathematizes any one who, denying this, would wrest them, contrary to the institution of this Sacrament, to the authority of preaching the Gospel. (SS. xiv. Canon iii.)

They also condemn any one who, confounding the Sacraments, shall say that Baptism itself is the Sacrament of Penance, as if these two Sacraments were not distinct. (SS. xiv. Canon 2).

Thomas was absent when this power was given (v. 24). Some, however, maintain, that although absent, being a member of the Apostolic College, the gifts bestowed on his colleagues, as a body, were communicated to him; just as of old, the spirit of prophecy given through Moses to the Seventy of the Ancients of Israel, was given to Eldad and Medad, who were numbered among them, although absent when the gift of prophecy was given to the Seventy (Numbers 11:27).

Others, considering Thomas’s incredulity at the time, hold that this power of forgiving sins, etc., was given him after he made a full profession of faith (v. 28).

From Catholic Tradition we learn that the words, “receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins,” etc., were confined, from among those present, to the Apostles, to whom He addressed the words, “as the living Father sent Me,” etc. From the words thus understood, is proved the Sacrament of Penance and the necessity of confession (as above). The words also prove, that confession of sins with the absolution of the Priests, is the only ordinary means for the remission of sins; otherwise, it would not be true to say, “whose sins you shall retain,” etc. I say, ordinary; because, from other passages of Sacred Scripture, we know that perfect contrition, including perfect love of God, remits sin. But this contrition including the love of God involves a resolution to observe God’s commandments. Now, one of God’s commandments is, to have recourse, when convenient, to the Priests of the Church for absolution and remission of sin. On the observance of this precept, when practicable, the remission of sins, by means of contrition, is dependent and conditional. To it is it subordinate. (See Treatises on Theology, passim).

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, who is called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

Thomas, one of the twelve.” He says, “one of the twelve,” although the Apostolic College was now reduced to eleven, because “twelve” was the original number, just as in the case of the “Decemvirs,” they would be thus termed, although only nine out of the ten were present on a particular occasion.

Who is called Didymus.” “Didymus” is not a sirname, but, only a Greek rendering of the term, “Thomas,” which, in Hebrew, means what Didymus signifies, in Greek, that is to say, “twin,” probably, because he was one of two who were born at the same birth.

Some Commentators seem to think Thomas was present; because, St. Luke (24:33), informs us, that when the disciples returned from Emmaus, they found “the eleven gathered together” where our Lord appeared to them. But, as the Apostolic College went by the name of “the eleven,” after our Lord’s death, they might be called “the eleven,” even if any of them were absent on any particular occasion. The words of this verse very clearly state that Thomas was absent on this occasion. It may be, he did not return after the flight of the Apostles at our Lord’s Passion; or, he may have gone out on some business, and be absent when our Lord appeared. Possibly, the account given by the disciples, who returned that evening from Emmaus, may have been too much for his incredulity; and he may, becoming impatient at their recital, have left the chamber.

25 The other disciples therefore said to him: We have seen the Lord. But he said to them: Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails and put my finger into the place of the nails and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.

Our Lord, as we learn from St. Luke (24:40), showed them His feet also. Hence, not only His hands were each perforated with a rough nail; but, His feet also—“foderunt manus meas et pedes meos.” Whether two distinct nails were used for His feet, a nail for each, or only one for both feet, is disputed. In this is displayed the obstinate incredulity of Thomas.

Our Lord mercifully permitted this hesitation on the part of Thomas, in order to strengthen our faith, and remove all doubt on our part, “Plus enim nobis Thomœ infidelitas ad fidem, quam fides credentium discipulorum profuit. Quia, dum ille ad fidem palpando reducitur, nostra mens omni dubitatione posthabita, in fide solidatur”—(St. Gregory, Homil. in Evangel. 26).

26 And after eight days, again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Jesus cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst and said: Peace be to you.

The disciples were within.” It is disputed whether this took place in the same room at Jerusalem, where He appeared before, or in Galilee, whither He ordered them to repair. (Matthew 28) It seems more likely, that it occurred at Jerusalem, as the Apostles, who were well known, and would be closely watched by the persecuting Jews, would hardly venture much out at this time, while the memory of recent events was still fresh in men’s minds. Moreover, the uniformity of narrative in regard to this and the preceding apparition would indicate the same place. There was no reason for assembling with closed doors in Galilee. The eighth day was selected, as likely having been assembled on the preceding Sabbath, they did not depart all at once. Our Lord wished to appear when they were together, so that in bestowing the faith on Thomas, He could confirm the faith of all the rest.

27 Then he said to Thomas: Put in thy finger hither and see my hands. And bring hither the hand and put it into my side. And be not faithless, but believing.

Then He saith to Thomas,” specially addressing Him, whose infidelity he came to cure. He employs the language of doubt used by Thomas, thereby showing His Divinity and Omniscience, conveying to him, that, although absent when Thomas used the language of unbelief, He still knew what he said. Hence, with merciful condescension, He said to him: as you would not believe unless you saw the prints of the nails in My hands, etc., thus irreverently dictating to Me what proof of My Resurrection I was to adduce, as if I could not bring home conviction by the sole act of My will; come now, do what you said, and, by touching Me, “see My hands,” etc.

We cannot but admire the wonderful love and condescension of our Lord in coming to bring about the conversion of His unbelieving Apostle. It is likely, though others think He durst not do it, that Thomas did actually touch our Lord’s hands and feet, which, although now glorified, were, by divine dispensation, made sensible to the sense of touch. “See My hands,” etc. The sense of seeing is made to comprise all the other senses.

And be not faithless, but believing,” as if He said, thou didst say that unless thou hadst seen My perforated hands and side, thou wouldst not believe. Now, thou hast seen them; I have done My part, by exhibiting My wounds for your inspection, with the merciful design of curing thy blindness and unbelief. Do thou, therefore, thy part; give up thy incredulity, and become a sincere believer.

St. Thomas, it is thought, was guilty of the sin of disbelieving our Lord’s Resurrection. As regards His Divinity, he would seem to have very unsettled and hazy notions. He was guilty of pride, obstinacy and self-conceit, from which his sin of incredulity sprang.

28 Thomas answered and said to him: My Lord and my God.

Thomas”—addressing our Lord—“said to Him, My Lord,” etc. This short incisive sentence, clearly expresses Thomas’s earnestness. It was a clear confession, on the part of Thomas, of our Lord’s humanity, through which He accomplished Redemption, and thus became, by purchase, Thomas’s “Lord” and Master; and of His Divinity, “my God.” In these words, Thomas acknowledges our Lord to be Man and God, and, that not only did He rise again, but raised Himself up by His own power.

The attempt on the part of some to evade the force of these words, which, in their plain and literal import, clearly denote faith in our Lord’s Divinity and humanity; by saying they were a mere exclamation, “O, My God,” as the Pagans used to exclaim, “Mi Hercle,” etc., is more deserving of ridicule than refutation, as Patrizzi (in hunc locum) observes.

The language is addressed to our Lord Himself. “Thomas … said to Him,” without reproof from our Lord, who, far from reproving him for this irreverent exclamation, as He would have done were it so; on the contrary, commends His faith, of which these words are the only expression on record.

Moreover, it would have been a shocking profanity on the part of Thomas—a thing held in horror by the Jews—to invoke the name of God, so inconsiderately. These words are, therefore, an expression of faith on the part of St. Thomas, in our Lord’s Divinity, accepted and commended by our Lord as such.

29 Jesus saith to him: Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen and have believed.

Because thou hast seen Me … thou hast believed.” Our Lord clearly commends the faith of Thomas, who, having seen the proofs of His Resurrection, aided by God’s grace, believed in His invisible Divinity, and also believed in what he did not see. viz., that His Resurrection was brought about by His own Divine power. This followed from his believing Him to be his “God.” Our Lord does not reprimand Thomas’s faith, but accepts it. Hence, He accepts his profession, that He was Himself God by nature, and not by participation. He was his “Lord” in right of Redemption, thus indicating His human nature. His “God,” in whom the Divine nature and all the Divine attributes were essentially resplendent.

The words, “thou hast believed,” may be understood of faith in our Lord’s Resurrection. Thomas did not believe in our Lord’s Resurrection, until he had the testimony of the senses and his own experience in proof of it. But, then, having experimental knowledge of the fact, he believed in it, not on account of his knowledge; but, on account of the authority of God revealing it. For His Resurrection proved Him to be God. Our Lord had frequently predicted His own Resurrection. The truth of this Revelation at once dawned on Thomas, and aided by Divine grace, he believed in our Lord’s Resurrection. He believed in His Divinity and Humanity, believed in all He revealed and disclosed. While our Lord commends the faith of Thomas, He tacitly reproaches him for his mode of believing, for his tardiness, and for not simply confiding in the narrative of the other Apostles, who declared they saw Him. In contrast with the obstinate tardiness of Thomas, He praises the simple faith of the others.

Blessed are they that have not seen.” Under the past, by a Hebrew idiom, often used by the prophets in expressing future events in a past form, is, as if they had actually occurred, included the present, and not the Apostles alone, but, all future believers, such as are referred to, who have not seen.”

Blessed,” is used in a comparative sense, a thing, by no means unusual in Scriptures—more blessed. For, Thomas himself was “blessed,” in his faith, “credidisti,” which faith our Lord commends.

The faith of these simple believers referred to by our Lord, is deserving of higher commendation, who, without waiting for the argument of experience and demonstration, as a motive of credibility, accept the proposed truths at once on competent authority propounding them.

30 Many other signs also did Jesus in the sight of his disciples, which are not written in this book.

Many other signs,” etc. Some understood these words of all the miracles performed by our Lord both during His mortal life and after His Resurrection, of which this is a brief epitome. Others, more probably understand those of the miracles He wrought after His Resurrection in presence of His disciples, in order to confirm their faith in His Resurrection, the foundation of all Christian faith. The miracles performed during His missionary life were performed in presence of others, as well as “in the sight of His disciples.” “Which are not written in the book;” these are recorded partly by the other Apostles. Hence, it is not necessary to repeat them here; as those already recorded are sufficient to prove His Resurrection.

31 But these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing, you may have life in his name.

But these,” viz., the things recorded in this Gospel, “are written,” not only that you may have a record of them, but also, and chiefly, “that you may believe, that Jesus.” the man so called, whose history I have written, “is the Christ,” the promised Messias, “the (natural) Son of God;” and, therefore, consubstantial, and of the same identical Divine nature, with His Father.

And that (thus) believing, you may have life,” the supernatural life of grace here, and the eternal life of glory, hereafter. “In His name,” through His merits and the redemption wrought by Him. To prove our Lord’s Divinity was the whole scope and end St. John had in view in writing this Gospel. With this theme he commenced, and now with the same he almost concludes his Gospel. He also had in view, as he says here, to bring conviction and faith to the minds of all; and thus to secure for them, life eternal. This design is strictly adhered to throughout the entire Gospel. The record of the miraculous works, arguments and discourses of our Blessed Lord had this clearly in view throughout.

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on John 20:24-31

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 4, 2017

The following is excerpted from St John’s 87th Homily on the Gospel of St John.
“But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said, Except I shall see in His hands1—I will not believe.”
[1.] AS to believe carelessly and in a random way, comes of an over-easy temper; so to be beyond measure curious and meddlesome, marks a most gross understanding. On this account Thomas is held to blame. For he believed not the Apostles when they said, “We have seen the Lord”; not so much mistrusting them, as deeming the thing to be impossible, that is to say, the resurrection from the dead. Since he saith not, “I do not believe you,” but, “Except I put my hand—I do not believe.” But how was it, that when all were collected together, he alone was absent? Probably after the dispersion which had lately taken place, he had not returned even then. But do thou, when thou seest the unbelief of the disciple, consider the lovingkindness of the Lord, how for the sake of a single soul He showed Himself with His wounds, and cometh in order to save even the one, though he was grosser than the rest; on which account indeed he sought proof from the grossest of the senses, and would not even trust his eyes. For he said not, “Except I see,” but, “Except I handle,” he saith, lest what he saw might somehow be an apparition. Yet the disciples who told him these things, were at the time worthy of credit, and so was He that promised; yet, since he desired more, Christ did not deprive him even of this.

And why doth He not appear to him straight way, instead of “after eight days”?3 (Ver. 26.) In order that being in the mean time continually instructed by the disciples, and hearing the same thing, he might be inflamed to more eager desire, and be more ready to believe for the future. But whence knew he that His side had been opened? From having heard it from the disciples. How then did he believe partly, and partly not believe? Because this thing was very strange and wonderful. But observe, I pray you, the truthfulness of the disciples, how they hide no faults, either their own or others’, but record them with great veracity.

Jesus again presenteth himself to them, and waiteth not to be requested by Thomas, nor to hear any such thing, but before he had spoken, Himself prevented him, and fulfilled his desire; showing that even when he spake those words to the disciples, He was present. For He used the same words, and in a manner conveying a sharp rebuke, and instruction for the future. For having said,

Ver. 26. “Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side”; He added,

“And be not faithless, but believing.”

Seest thou that his doubt proceeded from unbelief? But it was before he had received the Spirit; after that, it was no longer so, but, for the future, they were perfected.

And not in this way only did Jesus rebuke him, but also by what follows; for when he, being fully satisfied, breathed again, and cried aloud,

Ver. 28. “My Lord, and my God,” He saith,
Ver. 29. “Because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed; blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.”

For this is of faith, to receive things not seen; since, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1.) And here He pronounceth blessed not the disciples only, but those also who after them should believe. “Yet;” saith some one, “the disciples saw and believed.” Yes, but they sought nothing of the kind, but from the proof of the napkins, they straightway received the word concerning the Resurrection, and before they saw the body, exhibited all faith. When therefore any one in the present day say, “I would that I had lived in those times, and had seen Christ working miracles,” let them reflect, that, “Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.”

It is worth enquiring, how an incorruptible body showed the prints of the nails, and was tangible by a mortal hand. But be not thou disturbed; what took place was a matter of condescension. For that which was so subtle and light as to enter in when the doors were shut, was free from all density1; but this marvel was shown, that the Resurrection might be believed, and that men might know that it was the Crucified One Himself, and that another rose not in His stead. On this account He arose2 bearing the signs of the Cross, and on this account He eateth. At least the Apostles everywhere made this a sign of the Resurrection, saying, “We, who did eat and drink with Him.” (Acts 10:41.) As therefore when we see Him walking on the waves before the Crucifixion, we do not say, that that body is of a different nature, but of our own; so after the Resurrection, when we see Him with the prints of the nails, we will no more say, that he is therefore3 corruptible. For He exhibited these appearances on account of the disciple.

Ver. 30. “And many other signs truly did Jesus.”

[2.] Since this Evangelist hath mentioned fewer than the others, he tells us that neither have all the others mentioned them all, but as many as were sufficient to draw the hearers to belief. For, “If,” it saith, “they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books.” (c. 21:25.) Whence it is clear, that what they have mentioned they wrote not for display, but only for the sake of what was useful. For how could they who omitted the greater part, write these others4 for display? But why went they not through them all? Chiefly on account of their number; besides, they also considered, that he who believed not those they had mentioned, would not give heed to a greater number; while he who received these, would have no need of another in order to believe. And here too he seems to me to be for the time speaking of the miracles after the Resurrection. Wherefore He saith,

“In the presence of His disciples.”5

For as before the Resurrection it was necessary that many should be done, in order that they might believe that He was the Son of God, so was it also after the Resurrection, in order that they might admit that He had arisen. For another reason also he has added, “In the presence of His disciples,” because He conversed with them alone after the Resurrection; wherefore also He said, “The world seeth Me no more.” (c. 14:19.) Then, in order that thou mayest understand that what was done was done only for the sake of the disciples, he added,

Ver. 31. “That believing ye might have life in His Name.”6

Speaking generally to mankind, and showing that not on Him who is believed on, but on ourselves, he bestows a very great favor. “In His Name,” that is, “through Him”; for He is the Life.

[3.] Perhaps when ye heard these things, ye glowed, and called those happy who were then with Him, and those who shall be with Him at the day of the general Resurrection. Let us then use every exertion that we may see that admirable Face. For if when now we hear we so burn, and desire to have been in those days which He spent upon earth, and to have heard His Voice, and seen His face, and to have approached, and touched, and ministered unto Him; consider how great a thing it is to see Him no longer in a mortal body, nor doing human actions, but with a body guard of Angels, being ourselves also in a form of unmixed purity, and beholding Him, and enjoying the rest of that bliss which passes all language. Wherefore, I entreat, let us use every means, so as not to miss such glory. For nothing is difficult if we be willing, nothing burdensome if we give heed. “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.” (2 Tim. 2:12.) What then is, “If we endure”? If we bear tribulations, if persecutions, if we walk in the strait way. For the strait way is by its nature laborious, but by our will it is rendered light, from the hope of things to come. “For our present light affliction worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at those which are not seen.” (2 Cor. 4:17, 18.) Let us then transfer our eyes to heaven, and continually imagine “those” things, and behold them. For if we always spend our time with them, we shall not be moved to desire the pleasures of this world, nor find it hard to bear its sorrows; but we shall laugh at these and the like, and nothing will be able to enslave or lift us up, if only we direct our longing thither,10 and look to that love.11 And why say I that we shall not grieve at present troubles? We shall henceforth not even appear to see them. Such a thing is strong desire.12 Those, for instance, who are not at present with us, but being absent are loved, we image every day. For mighty is the sovereignty of love,1 it alienates the soul from all things else, and chains to the desired object. If thus we love Christ, all things here will seem to be a shadow, an image, a dream. We too shall say, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress?” (Rom. 8:35.) He said not, “money, or wealth, or beauty,” (these are very mean and contemptible,) but he hath put the things which seem to be grievous, famines, persecutions, deaths. He then spat on these even, as being nought; but we for the sake of money separate ourselves from our life, and cut ourselves off from the light. And Paul indeed prefers “neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, nor any other creature,” to the love which is towards Him; but we, if we see a little portion of gold, are fired, and trample on His laws. And if these things are intolerable when spoken of, much more are they so when done.2 For the terrible thing is this, that we shudder to hear, but do not shudder to do: we swear readily, and perjure ourselves, and plunder, and exact usury, care nothing for sobriety, desist from exactness in prayer, transgress most of the commandments, and for the sake of money make no account of our own members.3 For he that loves wealth will work ten thousand mischiefs to his neighbor, and to himself as well. He will easily be angry with him, and revile him, and call him fool, and swear and perjure himself, and does not4 even preserve the measures of the old law. For he that loves gold will not love his neighbor; yet we, for the Kingdom’s sake, are bidden to love even our enemies. Now if by fulfilling the old commandments, we shall not be able to enter the Kingdom of heaven, unless our righteousness exceed and go beyond them, when we transgress even these, what excuse shall we obtain? He that loves money, not only will not love his enemies, but will even treat his friends as enemies.
[4.] But why speak I of friends? the lovers of money have often ignored nature itself. Such a one knows not kindred, remembers not companionship, reverences not age, has no friend, but will be ill-disposed towards all, and above all others to himself, not only by destroying his soul, but by racking himself with ten thousand cares, and toils, and sorrows. For he will endure foreign travels, hatreds, dangers, plots, anything whatever, only that he may have in his house the root of all evil, and may count much gold. What then can be more grievous than this disease? It is void of any luxury or pleasure, for the sake of which men often sin, it is void of honor or glory. For the lover of money suspects that he has tens of thousands, and really has many, who accuse, and envy, and slander, and plot against him. Those whom he has wronged hate him as having been ill-used; those who have not yet suffered, fearing least they may suffer, and sympathizing with those who have, manifest the same hostility; while the greater and more powerful, being stung and indignant on account of the humbler sort, and at the same time also envying him, are his enemies and haters. And why speak I of men? For when one hath God also made his enemy, what hope shall there then be for him? what consolation? what comfort? He that loves riches will5 never be able to use them; he will be their slave and keeper, not their master. For, being ever anxious to make them more, he will never be willing to spend them; but he will cut short himself, and be in poorer state than any poor man, as nowhere stopping in his desire. Yet riches are made not that we should keep, but that we should use them; but if we are going to bury them for others, what can be more miserable than we, who run about desiring to get together the possessions of all men,6 that we may shut them up within, and cut them off from common use? But there is another malady not less than this. Some men bury their money in the earth, others in their bellies, and in pleasure and drunkenness; together with injustice adding to themselves the punishment of wantonness. Some minister with their substance to parasites and flatterers, others to dice and harlots, others to different expenses of the same kind, cutting out for themselves ten thousand roads that lead to hell, but leaving the right and sanctioned road which leads to heaven. And yet it hath not greater gain only, but greater pleasure than the things we have mentioned. For he who gives to harlots is ridiculous and shameful, and will have many quarrels, and brief pleasure; or rather, not even brief, because, give what he will to the women his mistresses, they will not thank him for it; for, “The house of a stranger is a cask with holes.” (Prov. 23:27, LXX.) Besides, that sort of persons is impudent,7 and Solomon hath compared their love to the grave; and then only do they stop, when they see their lover stripped of all. Or rather, such a woman doth not stop even then, but tricks herself out the more, and tramples on him when he is down, and excites much laughter against him, and works him so much mischief, as it is not possible even to describe by words. Not such is the pleasure of the saved; for neither hath any one there a rival, but all rejoice and are glad, both they that receive blessings, and they that look on. No anger, no despondency, no shame, no disgrace, besiege the soul of such a one, but great is the gladness of his conscience, and great his hope of things to come; bright his glory, and great his distinction; and more than all is the favor and safety which is from God, and not one precipice, nor suspicion, but a waveless harbor, and calm. Considering therefore all these things, and comparing pleasure with pleasure, let us choose the better,1 that we may obtain the good things to come, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

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St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on John 1:29-34

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 14, 2017

29 The next day he seeth Jesus coming to him.

In a very little time, the Baptist is declared to be Prophet alike and Apostle. For Whom he was heralding as coming, Him now come he points out. Therefore, he bounded beyond even the measure of prophets, as the Saviour Himself saith when discoursing with the Jews concerning him, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A prophet, yea, I say unto you and more than a prophet. For they in their times prophesied that Christ should be revealed, but he, crying that He shall come, also pointed Him out come. For the next day, saith he, he seeth Jesus coming to him.

And saith, Behold the Lamb of God, Which taketh away the sin of the world.

No longer has prepare ye the way fit place, since He at length is seen and is before the eyes for Whom the preparation is made: the nature of the thing began to need other words. It needed to explain, Who He is Who is come, and to whom He maketh His descent Who hath come to us from Heaven. Behold, therefore, saith he, the Lamb of God Which taketh away the sin of the world, Whom the Prophet Isaiah did signify to us, saying, He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb: Whom of old, too, saith he, the law of Moses typified, but then it saved in part, not extending mercy to all (for it was a type and shadow): but now He Who of old was dimly pictured, the very Lamb, the spotless Sacrifice, is led to the slaughter for all, that He |132 might drive away the sin of the world, that He might overturn the destroyer of the earth, that dying for all He might bring to nought death, that He might undo the curse that is upon us, that He might at length end Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return, that He might become the second Adam, not of the earth, but from heaven, and might be the beginning of all good to the nature of man, deliverance from the imported corruption, Bestower of eternal life, foundation of our reconciliation to God, beginning of godliness and righteousness, way to the Kingdom of Heaven. For one Lamb died for all, saving the whole flock on earth to God the Father, One for all, that He might subject all to God, One for all, that He might gain all: that at length all should not henceforth live to themselves but to Him Which died for them and rose again. For since we were in many sins, and therefore due to death and corruption, the Father hath given the Son a redemption for us, One for all, since all are in Him, and He above all. One died for all, that all should live in Him. For death having swallowed up the Lamb for all, hath vomited forth all in Him and with Him. For all we were in Christ, Who on account of us and for us died and rose again. But sin being destroyed, how could it be that death which was of it and because of it should not altogether come to nothing? The root dying, how could the shoot yet survive? wherefore should we yet die, now that sin hath been destroyed? therefore jubilant in the Sacrifice of the Lamb of God we say: O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? For all iniquity, as the Psalmist sings somewhere, shall stop her mouth, no longer able to accuse those who have sinned from infirmity. For it is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth? Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, that we might escape the curse from transgression.

30 This is He of Whom I said.

He leads the hearers to remembrance of his words, and yields to Christ the superiority in glory, accomplishing the work, not of love, but rather of truth and necessity. For the creature is subject, even if it willeth not, to the Creator?  |133 the bond to the Lord, the supplied to the Giver. But in what manner Christ was after John, but preferred before him, for He was before him, as himself confesseth, we have spoken sufficiently in what has preceded.

31 And I knew Him not, but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.

He that leaped in the depth of the womb of his mother at the voice of the Holy Virgin while yet bearing the Lord, prophet before the travail-pang, disciple in the womb, says of the Saviour, I knew Him not, and says truly, for he does not lie. For God knows all things of Himself and untaught, but the creature, by being taught. For the Spirit indwelling in the Saints, fulfils what is lacking, and gives to human nature His Own good, I mean, knowledge of things to come, and of the hidden mysteries. Therefore the holy Baptist saying that he does not know the Lord, will by no means speak untruly, in regard of the property of human nature, and the measure befitting the creature, but will attribute the knowledge of all things to God Alone, Who through the Holy Ghost enlighteneth man to the apprehension of hidden things. And very profitably doth he say that of himself he knew not Christ, but is come for that very purpose, to make Him manifest to Israel, that he may not seem to run of his own accord to bear testimony, nor be thought by any the minister of his own will, but the worker of the Divine dispensation, the minister of the Counsel from above revealing to him the Lamb Which taketh away the sin of the world.

In order therefore that the Jews may the more easily come to believe on our Saviour Christ, and may have the most worthy conception of Him, he says that having not known Him, he knows Him, that they may understand then at length God Who revealed Him, and awestruck at the judgment from above, may receive his word concerning Him, and, seeing the servant so great, may proportionally estimate the Dignity of the Master. For his saying, that he was come to make Him manifest to Israel, how does it not denote the care belonging to a servant? |134

32, 33  And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending  from Heaven like a dove, and It abode upon Him. And I knew Him not: but He That sent me to baptize with water, the Same said unto me, Upon Whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, the Same is He Which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.

Having said above that he knew Him not, he profitably explains and uncovers the Divine Mystery, both shewing that He Who told him was God the Father, and clearly relating the manner of the revelation. By all does he profit the mind of the headers; and whereby he says that the Mystery of Christ to men-ward was taught him of God, he shews that his opposers are fighting against the decree from above, and to their own peril arraying themselves against the mighty purpose of the Father. For this was the part of one skillfully persuading them to desist from their vain counsel, and to receive Him Who by the goodwill of the Father came for the salvation of all. He therefore testifieth, both that he saw the Spirit descending from Heaven upon Him, in the form of a Dove, and that It abode upon Him. Then besides, he says that himself was the ear-witness of Him Who sent him to baptize with water, that He upon Whom the Spirit came and abode upon Him is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. Most worthy of belief then the witness, supernatural the sign, above all the Father Who revealed.

And these things are thus. But perchance the heretic fond of carping will jump up, and with a big laugh, say; What again, sirs, say ye to this too, or what argument will ye bring |135 forth, wresting that which is written? Lo, he saith that the Spirit descendeth upon the Son; lo, He is anointed by God the Father; That Which He hath not, He receives forsooth, the Psalmist co-witnessing with us and saying, as to Him: Wherefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows. How then will the Son any more be Consubstantial with the Perfect Father, not being Himself Perfect, and therefore anointed? To this then I think it right to say to those who overturn the holy doctrines of the Church, and pervert the truth of the Scriptures: Awake, ye drunkards, from your wine, that viewing the clear beauty of the truth, ye may be able with us to cry to the Son: Of a truth Thou art the Son of God. For if thou fully believe that He is by Nature God, how will He not have perfection? For time is it that ye now speak impiously against the Father Himself also: for whence must He needs, as thou sayest, have perfection? how will He not be brought down to the abasement of His Offspring, which according to you is imperfect, in that the Divine Essence in the Son has once received the power of not having Perfection, according to your unlearned and uninstructed reasoning? For we will not divide that Great and Untaint Nature into different Words, so that it should be imperfect perchance in one, and again Perfect in the other. Since the definition of human nature too is one in respect of all men, and equal in all of us, what man will be less, qua man? but neither will he be considered more so than another. And I suppose that one angel will differ in nothing from another angel in respect of their being what they are, angels to wit, from sameness of nature, being all linked with one another unto one nature. How then can the Nature Which is Divine and surpassing all, shew Itself in a state inferior to things originate in Its own special good, and endure a condition which the creature cannot endure? How will It be at all simple and uncompounded, if Perfection and imperfection appear in It? For It will be compounded of both, since Perfection is not of the same kind as imperfection. For if they be of the same kind, and there be no difference between them, every thing which is perfect will without |136 distinction be also imperfect: and if ought again be imperfect, this too will be perfect. And the charge against the Son will be nought, even though according to your surmisings He appear not Perfect: but neither will the Father Himself, though witnessed to in respect of His Perfection, surpass the Son, and there is an end of our dispute. But if much interval severs imperfection from perfection, and the Divine Nature admits both together, It is compound, and not simple.

But perchance some one will say, that contraries are incompatible, and not co-existent in one subject at the same time, as for instance in a body white and black skin together. Well, my friend, and very bravely hast thou backed up my argument. For if the Divine Nature be One, and there be none other than It, how, tell me, will It admit of contraries? How will things unlike to one another come together into one subject? But since the Father is by Nature God, the Son too is by Nature God. He will therefore in nothing differ, in respect of being Perfect, from the Father, since He is begotten of His Divine and most Perfect Essence. For must not He needs be Perfect Who is of a Perfect Parent, since He is both His exact Likeness, and the express Image of His Person, as it is written? But every one will I suppose consent and agree to this. Or let him come forward and say, how the Son is the exact Image of the Perfect Father, not having Perfection in His Own Nature, according to the uncounsel of some. For since He is the Impress and Image, He is Himself too perfect as He, Whose Image He is.

But, says one, John saw the Spirit descending from Heaven upon the Son, and He has Sanctification from without, for He receives it as not having it. Time then is it to call Him openly a creature, barely honoured with a little excellence, perfected and sanctified in equal rank with the rest, and having His supply of good things an acquired one. Then how does the Evangelist not lie, when he says, Of His fulness have all we received? For how will He be full in His Own Nature, Who Himself receiveth from Another? Or how |137 will God be at all conceived of as Father if the Only-Begotten is a creature, and not rather Son? For if this be so, both Himself will be falsely called Father, and the Son will not be Truth, having upon Him a spurious dignity, and a title of bare words. The whole therefore will come to nothing; the Father being neither truly father, nor the Son this by Nature, which He is said to be. But if God be truly Father, He surely has whereof He is Father, the Son, that is, of Himself.

Then how will the Godhead Holy by Nature beget that of Itself which is void of holiness, and bring forth Its own Fruit destitute of Its own inherent Properties? For if He hath sanctification from without, as they babbling say;—-they must needs confess, even against their will, that He Was not always holy, but became so afterwards, when the Spirit descended upon Him, as John saith. How then was the Son holy even before the Incarnation? for so did the Seraphim glorify Him, repeating the Holy, in order, from the first to the third time. If then He was holy, even before the Incarnation, yea rather being ever with the Father, how needed He a sanctifier, and this in the last times, when He became Man? I marvel how this too escapes them, with all their love of research. For must we not needs conceive, that the Son could at any time reject sanctification, if it be not in Him essentially, but came to Him as it does to us, or any other reasonable creature? But that which falls away from sanctification, will it not be altogether under the bonds of sin, and sink to the worse, no longer retaining power to be apart from vice? Therefore neither will the Son be found to be unchangeable, and the Psalmist will lie crying in the Spirit as to Him, But Thou art the Same.

Besides what has been already said, let this too be considered, for it brings in a kindred idea: All reasoning will demonstrate that the partaken is somewhat other by nature than the partaker. For if this be not true, but that shall in no wise differ from this, and is the same; that which partakes of ought partakes of itself, which is incredible even to think of (for how can any one be imagined to partake of |138 himself?). But if the things mentioned lie altogether in natural diversity one to another, and the necessity of reasoning separates them, let them who give the Spirit by participation to the Only-Begotten, see to what a depth of impiety they sink unawares. For if the Son is partaker of the Spirit, and the Spirit is by Nature holy, He Himself will not be by Nature holy, but is shewn to be hardly so through combination with another, transelemented by grace to the better, than that wherein He was at first. But let the fighter against God again see, into how great impiety the question casts him down. For first some change and turning, as we said before, will be found to exist respecting the Son. And being according to you changed, and having advanced unto the better, He will be shewn to be not only not inferior to the Father, but even somehow to have become superior: and how this is, we will say, taking it from the Divine Scripture. The divine Paul says somewhere of Him: Be each among you so 1 minded, according to what was also in Christ Jesus, Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied Himself, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a Man, He humbled Himself. Since then even before the Incarnation, He was in the form and equality of the Father, but at the time of the Incarnation receiving the Spirit from Heaven was sanctified, according to them, and became by reason of this better alike and greater than Himself, He surpasses at length it is plain even the measure of His Father. And if on receiving the Spirit He mounted up unto dignity above that of the Father, then is the Spirit superior even to the Father Himself, seeing that He bestows on the Son the superiority over Him. Who then will not shudder at the mere hearing of this? For hard is it in truth even to go through such arguments, but no otherwise can the harm of their stubbornness be driven off. Therefore we will say again to them: If when the Word of God became Man, He is then also sanctified by receiving |139 the Spirit: but before the Incarnation was in the Form and Equality of the Father, not yet according to them sanctified, time is it they should boldly say, that God the Father is not holy, if the Word Who is in all things altogether Con-formal and Equal to Him, was not holy in the beginning, but barely in the last times became so. And again, if He is truly the Word of God, Who receiveth the Spirit, and is sanctified in His Own Nature, let our opponents say, whether in doing this, He became greater or less than Himself, or remained the Same. For if He hath nothing more from the Spirit, but remaineth the same as He was, be not offended at learning that It descended on Him. But if He was injured by receiving It, and became less, you will introduce to us the Word as passible, and will accuse the Essence of the Father as wronging rather than sanctifying. But if He became better by receiving the Spirit, but was in the Form and Equality of the Father, even before, according to you, He became bettered, the Father hath not attained unto the height of glory, but will be in that measure of it, in which the Son Who hath advanced to the better was Con-formal and Equal to Him. Convenient is it then, I deem, to say to the ill-instructed heretics, Behold o foolish people and without understanding, which have eyes, and see not; which have ears and hear not; for the god of this world hath indeed blinded the eyes of them, which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto them: worthy of pity are they rather than of anger. For they understand not, what they read.

But that the reasoning is true, will be clear from hence, even if we have not, by our previous attempts, made the demonstration perfectly clear. Again shall this that is spoken by the mouth of Paul be brought forward: Be each among you, saith he, so minded, according to what was also in Christ Jesus, Who being in the Form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied Himself, and took upon Him the Form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a Man, He humbled Himself. Lo, he much marvels at the Son, as being Equal and Con-formal |140 with God the Father, not, by reason of His Love to us, seizing this, but descending to lowliness, through the Form of a servant, emptied by reason of His Manhood. But if, sirs, He on receiving the Spirit were sanctified rather, when He became Man, and were, through the sanctification, rendered superior to Himself, into what kind of lowliness shall we see Him to have descended? How is That made low that was exalted, how did That descend that was sanctified, or how did it not rather ascend, and was exalted for the better? What emptiness hath filling through the Spirit? or how will He at all be thought to have been Incarnate for our sakes, Who underwent so great profit in respect of Himself? How did the Rich become poor for our sakes, who was enriched because of us? How was He rich even before His Advent, Who according to them received in it what He had not, to wit the Spirit? Or how will He not rather justly offer to us thank-offering for what by means of us He gained? Be astonished, as it is written, O ye heavens, at this: and be horribly afraid, saith the Lord: for the people of the heretics have in truth committed two evils, understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm, and think it not grievous thus to incur such danger in the weightiest matters. For else would they, shedding bitter tears from their eyes, and lifting up a mighty voice on high, have approached, saying, Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, keep the door of my lips. Incline not my heart to words of wickedness. For words of wickedness in truth are their words, travailing with extremest mischief to the hearers. But we, having expelled their babbling from our heart, will walk in the right way of the faith, bearing in mind that which is written: Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. Come then, and bringing into captivity our mind as to the subjects before us, let us subject it to the glory of the Only-Begotten, bringing all things wisely to His obedience, that is, to the mode of the Incarnation. For, being Rich, for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich. |141

Receive then, if you please, our proof through that also which is now before us, opening a forbearing ear to our words. The Divine Scripture testifies that man was made in the Image and Likeness of God Who is over all. And indeed, he who compiled the first book for us (Moses, who above all men was known to God) says, And God created man, in the Image of God created He him. But that through the Spirit he was sealed unto the Divine Image, himself again taught us, saying, And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. For the Spirit at once began both to put life into His formation and in a Divine manner to impress His own Image thereon. Thus the most excellent Artificer God, having formed the reasonable living creature upon the earth, gave him the saving commandment. And he was in Paradise, as it is written, still keeping the Gift, and eminent in the Divine Image of Him That made him, through the Holy Ghost That indwelt him. But when perverted by the wiles of the devil, he began to despise his Creator, and by trampling on the law assigned him, to grieve his Benefactor, He recalled the grace given to him, and he that was made unto life then first heard Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. And now the Likeness to God was through the inroad of sin defaced, and no longer was the Impress bright, but fainter and darkened because of the transgression. But when the race of man had reached to an innumerable multitude, and sin had dominion over them all, manifoldly despoiling each man’s soul, his nature was stripped of the ancient grace; the Spirit departed altogether, and the reasonable creature fell into extremest folly, ignorant even of its Creator. But the Artificer of all, having endured a long season, at length pities the corrupted world, and being Good hastened to gather together to those above His runaway flock upon earth; and decreed to trans-element human nature anew to the pristine Image through the Spirit. For no otherwise was it possible that the Divine Impress should again shine forth in him, as it did aforetime.

What then He contrives to this end, how He implanted in us the inviolate grace, or how the Spirit again took root in man, |142 in what manner nature was re-formed to its old condition, it is meet to say. The first man, being earthy, and of the earth, and having, placed in his own power, the choice between good and evil, being master of the inclination to each, was caught of bitter guile, and having inclined to disobedience, falls to the earth, the mother from whence he sprang, and over-mastered now at length by corruption and death, transmits the penalty to his whole race. The evil growing and multiplying in us, and our understanding ever descending to the worse, sin reigned, and thus at length the nature of man was shewn bared of the Holy Ghost Which indwelt him. For the Holy Spirit of wisdom will flee deceit, as it is written, nor dwell in the body that is subject unto sin. Since then the first Adam preserved not the grace given him of God, God the Father was minded to send us from Heaven the second Adam. For He sendeth in our likeness His own Son Who is by Nature without variableness or change, and wholly unknowing of sin, that as by the disobedience of the first, we became subject to Divine wrath, so through the obedience of the Second, we might both escape the curse, and its evils might come to nought. But when the Word of God became Man, He received the Spirit from the Father as one of us, (not receiving ought for Himself individually, for He was the Giver of the Spirit); but that He Who knew no sin, might, by receiving It as Man, preserve It to our nature, and might again inroot in us the grace which had left us. For this reason, I deem, it was that the holy Baptist profitably added, I saw the Spirit descending from Heaven, and It abode upon Him. For It had fled from us by reason of sin, but He Who knew no sin, became as one of us, that the Spirit might be accustomed to abide in us, having no occasion of departure or withdrawal in Him.

Therefore through Himself He receives the Spirit for us, and renews to our nature, the ancient good. For thus is He also said for our sakes to become poor. For being rich, as God and lacking no good thing, He became Man lacking all things, to whom it is somewhere said and that very well, What hast thou that thou didst not receive? As then, being by |143 Nature Life, He died in the Flesh for our sakes, that He might overcome death for us, and raise up our whole nature together with Himself (for all we were in Him, in that He was made Man): so does He also receive the Spirit for our sakes, that He may sanctify our whole nature. For He came not to profit Himself, but to be to all us the Door and Beginning and Way of the Heavenly Goods. For if He had not pleased to receive, as Man, or to suffer too, as one of us, how could any one have shewn that He humbled Himself? or how would the Form of a servant have been fittingly kept, if nothing befitting a servant were written of Him? Let not then the all-wise account of the dispensation be pulled to pieces, whereof the divine Paul himself rightly cries in admiration: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. For wisdom indeed and God-befitting, is the great mystery of the Incarnation seen to be.

Such an apprehension of our Saviour do I suppose that we who choose to be pious, and rejoice in orthodox doctrines, ought to have. For we too will not descend to such lack of reason as to suppose that in the Son by Nature was the Spirit by participation and not rather essentially inherent even as in the Father Himself. For as of the Father, so also of the Son, is the Holy Ghost. So did we also read in the Divine Scriptures. For it says: After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus 2 suffered them not.

But if it seem good to any one, with over contentious zeal, to object to our words hereon, and to assert again, that the Spirit is in the Son by participation, or that, not being in Him before, He then came to be in Him, when He was baptized, in the period of His Incarnation, let him see, into what and how great absurdities he will fall. For first, the Saviour saith: Among them that are born of women there |144 hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist. And the word is true: but we see him who hath attained to the summit of glory and virtue that belong to us, honouring Christ with incomparable excellencies. For I am not worthy, says he, to stoop down and unloose the latchet of His shoes. How then is it not absurd, yea rather impious, to believe that John was filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb, because it is so written of him: and to suppose that his Master, yea rather the Master and Lord of all, then first received the Spirit, when He was baptized, albeit holy Gabriel says to the holy Virgin: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the Power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy Thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God. And let the lover of learning see, with how great a meaning the word travaileth. For of John, it saith, he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost (for the Holy Ghost was in him as a gift, and not essentially), but of the Saviour, he no longer saith shall be filled, (in rightness of conception,) but that holy Thing which shall be born of thee. Nor did he add shall be, for It was always Holy by Nature, as God.

But since I deem that we ought to seek after what is profitable from all quarters; the voice of the archangel having been once brought forward, come, let us exercise ourselves a little in it. The Holy Ghost, says he, shall come upon thee, and the Power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also That Holy Thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God. Let him then, who from great unlearning, opposeth the right doctrines of the Church, tell us, whether even before the Incarnation the the Word of God the Father was Son, or had the glory in name only, but was a bastard, and falsely called. For if he say that He was not the Son at all, he will deny the Father (for of whom will He be the Father, if He have no Son?): and he will think contrary to all the Divine Scriptures. But if he confess that the Son even before the Incarnation both was and was called Son, how does the Archangel tell us that That which should be born of the holy Virgin shall |145 be called the Son of God, albeit He was this by Nature even long before? As therefore the Son being from eternity with the Father, as having Origin of Being, is at the time of His Incarnation called Son of God, from His appearing in the world with a Body; so, having in Himself Essentially His Own Spirit, He is said to receive It as Man, preserving to the Humanity the order befitting it, and with it appropriating for our sakes the things befitting it. But how can the Word be thought of at all apart from Its Own Spirit? For would it not be absurd to say, that the spirit of man, which is in him, according to the definition of nature, and for the completeness of the living-being, was separated from him? But I suppose that this is most evident to all. How then shall we sever the Spirit from the Son, Which is so inherent and essentially united, and through Him proceeding and being in Him by Nature, that It cannot be thought to be Other than He by reason both of Identity of working, and the very exact likeness of Nature. Hear what the Saviour saith to His own disciples, If ye love Me, keep My Commandments, and I will pray the Father, and He shall give you Another Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot receive. Lo, plainly He calls the Holy Ghost Spirit of Truth. But that He and none other than He is the Truth, hear Him again saying, I am the Truth. The Son by Nature then being and being called Truth, see how great Oneness with Him the Spirit hath. For the disciple John saith somewhere of our Saviour, This is He that came by water and blood and the spirit 3, Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood: and it is the Spirit That beareth witness, because the Spirit is Truth. Therefore also, the Holy Ghost indwelling in our inner man, Christ Himself is said to dwell therein, and so it is. And indeed the blessed Paul most clearly teaching this, says, But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, If so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. And if Christ be in you, the body |146 is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. Apply, sir, a quick ear to what is said. Having named the Spirit of Christ That dwelleth in us, he straightway added, If Christ be in you, introducing the exact likeness of the Son with the Spirit, Which is His Own and proceeding from Him by Nature. Therefore He is called the Spirit of adoption also, and in Him we cry Abba, Father. And as the blessed John somewhere says, Hereby know we that He dwelleth in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit.

I think then that these things will suffice, to enable the children of the Church to repel the mischief of the heretics. But if any one be soused in the unmixed strong drink of their unlearning, and suppose that the Son then first received the Spirit, when He became Man: let him shew that the Word of God was not holy before the Incarnation, and we will hold our peace.

But one may well wonder that the holy Evangelist every where preserves with much observance what befits the Divine Nature. For since he said above, that no man hath seen God at any time, and now says that the blessed Baptist saw the Spirit descend from Heaven upon the Son, he adds of necessity, I saw the Spirit, but in the form of a Dove, not Himself by Nature, as He is, but shadowed in the gentlest animal; that in this again He might be shewn to preserve His Natural Affinity and Likeness to the Son, Who saith, Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart. Therefore the Spirit will not fall away from being God by Nature: for the never having been seen at any time has been preserved to Him, save under the form of a dove, by reason of the need of the disciple. For the blessed Baptist says that the descent of the Spirit was given him by way of a sign and token, adding to his testimonies respecting our Saviour, He that sent me to baptize with water, the Same said unto me, Upon Whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him, the Same is He Which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. Therefore I think we may fitly laugh to scorn those senseless heretics who take as matter of fact, that which was set forth by way of sign, even though |147 it took place as part of the oeconomy, as hath been already said, for the need’s sake of the human race.

34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.

Sure is the witness; who, what he hath actually seen, that he also speaketh. For haply he was not ignorant of that which is written, That which thine eyes have seen, tell. I saw then, says he, the sign, and understood That Which was signified by it. I bear record that this is the Son of God, Who was proclaimed by the Law that is through Moses, and heralded by the voice of the holy Prophets. The blessed Evangelist seems to me again to say with some great confidence, This is the Son of God, that is, the One, the Only by Nature, the Heir of the Own Nature of the Father, to Whom we too, sons by adoption, are conformed and through Whom we are called by grace to the dignity of sonship. For as from God the Father every family in Heaven and earth is named, from His being properly, and first, and truly Father, so is all sonship too from the Son, by reason of His being properly and Alone truly Son, not bastard nor falsely-called, but of the Essence of God the Father, not by off-cutting or emanation or division or severance (for the Divine Nature is altogether Impassible): but as One of One, ever Co-existing and Co-eternal and Innate in Him Who begat Him, being in Him, and coming forth from Him, Indivisible and without Dimensions; since the Divinity is neither after the manner of a body, nor bounded by space, nor of nature such as to make progressive footsteps. But like as from fire proceedeth the heat that is in it, appearing to be separate from it in idea, and to be other than it, though it is of it and in it by nature, and proceedeth from it without suffering any harm in the way of offcutting, division, or emanation (for it is preserved whole in the whole fire): so shall we conceive of the Divine Offspring too, thinking thereon in a manner most worthy of God, and believing that the Son subsists of Himself, yet not excluding Him from the One Ineffable Godhead, nor saying that He is Other in substance than the Father. For then would He no longer be rightly conceived |148 of as Son, but something other than He, and a new god would arise, other than He That Only Is. For how shall not that which is not consubstantial with God by Nature, wholly fall away from being Very God? But since the blessed Baptist is both trustworthy, and of the greatest repute, and testifieth that This is the Son of God: we will confess the Son to be altogether Very God, and of the Essence of the Father. For this and nothing else, does the name of Sonship signify to us. (source)

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Father Lapide’s Commentary on John 3:1-8

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 3, 2016

Joh 3:1 And there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.

There was a man, &c. Nicodemus means in Greek the conqueror of the people. Such was this man; who, overcoming the fear of the people, the Pharisees, and the priests, believed in Christ. Wherefore Lucian thus writes concerning him in “The Invention of the Body of S. Stephen,” from the mouth of Gamaliel: “The Jews, knowing that Nicodemus was a Christian, removed him from his office and cursed him, and drove him out of the city. Then I Gamaliel, inasmuch as he had suffered persecution for Christ’s sake, took him to my estate, and fed and clothed him to the end of his life; and when he died I buried him honourably beside the loved Stephen.”

Wherefore Nicodemus is enrolled among the saints in the Roman Martyrology on the 3d of August; where we read as follows, “Invention of the body of S. Stephen, Protomartyr; also of the bodies of SS. Gamaliel, Nicodemus, Abibo, &c., in the reign of Honorius.

Joh 3:2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him: Rabbi, we know that thou art come a teacher from God; for no man can do these signs which thou dost, unless God be with him.

This man came to Jesus by night, for he was ashamed to approach the lowly Jesus by day, in the presence of others, and to become His disciple. For he was a master in Israel: and such a thing seemed beneath his authority and dignity. Another reason was that he might not incur the hatred of the Pharisees, who despised Christ. However, he found the light which he sought by night, as Ruperti says, and drank of the great sacraments of salvation. He seems to have come alone, without servant or companion, by night, to Christ, to have spoken with Him face to face, and to have imbibed His spirit and doctrine.

Thou are come a Teacher: Syriac, that Thou mayest be a Teacher, i.e., of the Jews. He does not say, Thou hast come that Thou mayest be the Messias, because about this he as yet felt no certainty. For Christ did not wish to enunciate this at the beginning of His preaching, but made it known by degrees.

These signs (Vulg.), these wonderful works which we have seen and heard that Thou hast done at the recent Passover, in the Temple; as, for instance, that Thou alone didst drive out of it all that bought and sold in it.

Unless God be with him: except he be supported by the authority and omnipotence of God. For miracles are the works of God. They are not wrought by the power of men, or angels, but by God alone working supernaturally.

Joh 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him: Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Jesus answered, &c., Amen, Amen. John on many occasions doubles the Amen, when the other Evangelists have only one. Why was this? I answer (1.) because he had above the rest the most lofty revelations, and knew the deepest mysteries of the Deity. This was especially the case in his exile at Patmos, where he wrote the Apocalypse, which has, says S. Jerome, as many mysteries as it has words. And after this he wrote his Gospel when he was very old, and the sole survivor of the Apostolic College. Wherefore he was thenceforth the mouthpiece and oracle of the Church, the foundation and pillar of the faith, the patriarch of patriarchs. He saith therefore, as it were with plenary authority, as it were the Elder of elders, Amen, Amen. It is as though he said, “I announce to you, with the utmost weight and confidence, things most lofty and sublime, which surpass all human understanding and belief, but which Christ has revealed to me, which are therefore most certain, and most salutary for you. For Christ really used this twofold Amen, to indicate the sublimity and certainty of what He said. But the other Evangelists, studying conciseness, included two under one: but I, John, because I, beyond the others, have weighed and penetrated both the words of Christ and their meaning, say, Amen, Amen, as Christ Himself spoke.”

2. Because Amen is the same as Verily. S. John was delighted with the name of Truth. And this he calls Christ, because He was The Word, that is, the Truth of the Father.

3. Because Amen is either a word signifying true, or else an adverb meaning truly. Wherefore we may explain thus – He who is the Amen, i.e., Christ, whose name is True, and the Truth, saith Amen, i.e., in truth, or most truly. Thus it is said in the Apocalypse (Rev 3:14), “Thus saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness,” (Greek, ό ̉Αμὴν), i.e., He who is the Amen; He who is steadfast, true, constant, faithful; who is steadfastness itself, Truth itself, Faithfulness itself.

4. Amen, Amen, denotes the perfect truth and certainty of the matter and the things which are recorded by S. John The things which I say are most true and certain, more true than all other truths, more certain than all other certainty.

5. By Amen, Amen, he intimates a twofold manner of certainty, viz., that S. John knew the things which he wrote by means of a twofold knowledge, natural and Divine; that is, by experience and revelation. For with his eyes he saw these things, and with his ears he heard them, and by Christ’s revelation, when he lay upon His breast, he understood them. Wherefore in his first Epistle he thus writes, “What we have seen and heard, and our hands have handled . . . we make known unto you.”

Unless a man be born again. Observe that John leaves us to gather from this answer that Nicodemus, either tacitly or expressly, asked Christ to teach him the way to the kingdom of heaven which He preached. For Christ answers by saying that baptism was the way to heaven.

Again: Greek, άνωθεν (anothen), which has a twofold meaning. 1. From above, from heaven, meaning, Except any one be born again by a heavenly and Divine regeneration, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 2. άνωθεν signifies again, a second time. And it is plain that it is so to be understood here from the answer of Nocodemus, Joh 3:4. So S. Chrysostom and others. The Syriac translates from the beginning. And the meaning is, man has two births, one which is natural and carnal, in which he is brought forth under the bond of original sin. Wherefore this birth does not give a man a title to heaven, but to hell. In order therefore that a man may be freed from this sin contracted through his natural birth, a second and spiritual birth must be experienced, by which he must in baptism be born again of water and of the Spirit, and so be cleansed and sanctified from sin. In my opinion άνωθεν (anothen) should be understood according to the first sense given above, i.e., from above. Nicodemus clearly understand ανωθεν (anothen) as meaning “born again.” but it is clearly the other meaning, “born from above,” that our Lord has in mind, especially in light of verses 6-15 (most notably verses 12-14). The concept of regeneration/rebirth is not absent here, but the emphasis is on its origin. Only by ascending back to the Father above can Jesus send the Spirit and thus give new life from above.

Cannot see, i.e., possess, enjoy.

Joh 3:4 Nicodemus saith to him: How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born again?

Nicodemus saith, &c. “He knew,” says S. Augustine, “but of one birth, that from Adam and Eve.”

Joh 3:5 Jesus answered: Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Jesus answered, &c. Calvin, in order to detract from the effect of justification by baptism, and therefore from the necessity of baptism (for he maintains that the children of believers are justified in the womb simply because they are the children of believers), denies that baptism is here spoken of. He says that by water is to be understood, but the Holy Ghost, who, through faith, cleanses like water those who believe in Christ. He explains as follows, “unless any one be born again of water, and (that is, of) the Holy Ghost.” Thus he says it is similarly spoken (S. Mat 3:11), He shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and fire, i.e., with the Holy Spirit, who, like fire, shall inflame you with the love of God. But all this is absurd and perverse, and condemned by the Church as heretical.

For, in the first place, why does Christ here make mention of water, if not men, but only fishes, are born again of water? Why did He not say briefly and simply to Nicodemus, who was ignorant of Christian doctrines (whom He here catechises and instructs like a child), unless a man be born again of the Holy Ghost?

2. Because in a similar way S. Paul, alluding to this conversation, (Tit 3:5), calls baptism the laver of regeneration. There in this spiritual birth we are born again of water, and are made sons of God, who before were children of the devil and wrath (Eph 2:3).

3. If it be lawful with Calvin to wrest this passage, then we may do the same with every other passage, and so pervert the whole of Scripture. No commandment will survive, not even the institution of baptism itself.

4. Calvin and his followers cannot possibly prove against the Anabaptists that infants, who are devoid of the exercise of reason and faith, ought to be baptized, from any other passage of Holy Scripture but this. Therefore, since they do not allow of tradition, they must needs prove infant baptism from this passage, unless they are willing to confess themselves vanquished by the Anabaptists.

5. All the Fathers and orthodox interpreters explain the passage in the same way as the Council of Trent (Sess. 7, Can. 2). Nor are the words in S. Matthew, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire,” any contradiction. For there real fire is to be understood, as here true water. For there the day of Pentecost was referred to, when the Holy Ghost came down upon the apostles in the likeness of tongues of fire.

Very appropriately, moreover, was water ordained by Christ in baptism for this spiritual regeneration. 1. Because water excellently represents inward regeneration. For out of water at the beginning of the world were the whole heavens and all other things born and produced. 2. Because moisture, such as is in water, is a chief agent in the production of offspring, as physicists teach. Again, because justification is a cleansing of the soul from the filth of sin it is well figured by water. As S. Chrysostom says upon this passage, “Like as it were in a tomb our heads are submerged beneath the water: our old man being buried is hidden beneath the water, and then the new man ariseth in its stead.” Lastly, the commonness and abundance of water makes it to be convenient matter for the necessity of this sacrament. For it is everywhere easily procurable.

You may ask why Christ says, except a man be born of water and the Holy Ghost, and did not rather say, of water and the form of baptism? For water is the matter of baptism, but the form is, I baptize thee in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. For the sacrament of baptism consists of its matter and form, as its essential parts. I reply, because Christ wished to describe to Nicodemus, a prejudiced old man, the new teaching of spiritual life and generation, by means of the analogy and similitude of natural generation, in which a father and mother concur. So in like manner to spiritual regeneration, which takes place in baptism, water as it were the mother concurs, and the Holy Ghost as the Father. For He is the chief agent and producer of grace and holiness, by which the children of God are born again in baptism.

From this passage S. Augustine (lib. 1, de peccat. c. 10) proves, against Pelagius, that infants are born in original sin. For that is the reason why they must be born again in baptism, that they may be cleansed from that sin. And he exposes the folly of the Pelagians, who, in order to elude the force of this passage, said that infants dying without baptism would enter into the kingdom of heaven and eternal life, but not into the kingdom of God; as if the kingdom of God were something different from the kingdom of heaven.

Lastly, born of water ought here to be understood either in actual fact, or by desire. For he who repents of his sins, and desires to be baptized, but either from want of water, or lack of a minister, is not able to receive it, is born again through (ex) the desire and wish for baptism. So the Council of Trent fully explains this passage (Sess. 7, Can. 4).

Some are of opinion that the sacrament of baptism was at this time instituted by Christ. But it is not probable that Christ secretly, in the presence of only Nicodemus, instituted the universal sacrament of baptism. Rather, He publicly instituted it at His own baptism in the river Jordan. Baptism, however, although it had been publicly instituted by Christ, was not binding upon the Jews and other men until after Christ’s death, at Pentecost. For then the promulgation of the Evangelical Law took place, whose beginning is baptism. Of this time Christ here speaks. As though He said, “The time for the obligation of the Law of the Gospel is close at hand. When that shall have come, the ancient Law, and circumcision, will cease, and in its place the new Law will succeed, and baptism, in which none save those who are born again of water and of the Holy Ghost will be able to enter into the kingdom of God.” Wherefore this precept of Christ has rather reference to the time after Pentecost, than the present.

Moreover, the expression, unless a man beborn again, intimates that baptism had been already a short time previously instituted by Christ. For Christ spake these words to Nicodemus shortly after His own baptism. And He would not have told him that baptism was necessary for salvation, unless He had already instituted it.

Joh 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh: and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

That which is born (produced), &c. Christ says this both to show the necessity of regeneration by water and the Holy Ghost, and at the same time to declare the reason for it, its excellence and its profit. His argument then is as follows: Flesh and blood cannot possess the kingdom of God, for they are carnal, but the kingdom of God is spiritual. Since therefore of carnal generation only flesh is born, that is, the animal and carnal man, bound under sin, and prone to sin, and so unfitted for the kingdom of God, it follows that if such an one would enter into God’s spiritual kingdom, he must be spiritually born again of water and the Spirit, that he may become a spirit, that is, spiritual, and so fitted for the kingdom of God. Wherefore you have no cause for wonder, 0 Nicodemus, at what I said, that thou must be born again of water and the Holy Ghost. For as flesh generates flesh, that is, corporeal and carnal substance, so does the Spirit generate spirit, that is, spiritual substance: for like generates like. The Holy Spirit transmits His own substance into that which He begets, so far as it can be transmitted. For the Holy Spirit cannot transmit, or transfuse His own substance, or His Deity, into the baptized, for that would be to make them really and truly gods, as He Himself is really and truly God, which would be impossible. Therefore He transfuses Himself into them as far as is possible, by His grace and spiritual gifts, by which He makes the baptized like unto Himself, that is, spiritual, holy, heavenly, and divine. So SS. Cyril, Chrysostom, and others. Let us add that the Holy Spirit gives Himself with His sevenfold gifts to the soul which He sanctifies, and adopts for His child; and therefore that His justification is truly spiritual regeneration, by which we are born again as sons, and partakers of the Divine nature, as I have shown at large in Hos 1:10, on the words, “Ye shall be called the sons of the living God.”

Joh 3:7 Wonder not that I said to thee: You must be born again.

Wonder not, &c. As S. Chrysostom says, “We are not disputing concerning flesh, but concerning spirit. Do not think either that the Spirit begets flesh, or flesh the Spirit.” Therefore it is necessary to be born again of the Spirit, if thou seekest to become spirit or spiritual, and a candidate for heaven.

Joh 3:8 The Spirit breatheth where he will and thou hearest his voice: but thou knowest not whence he cometh and whither he goeth. So is every one that is born of the Spirit.

The Spirit breatheth where he will, &c Christ proceeds to unfold to Nicodemus the reason and nature of spiritual regeneration, and to take away his wonder how such a thing could be possible.

You will ask what spirit is here to be understood. 1. Plainly and simply wind is the spirit. For He compares the Holy Spirit to the wind, as is plain from what follows, So is every one that is born of the Spirit. The meaning is, As the wind blows where its own will, that is, its natural propensity to blow, leads it, and yet you can see neither it, nor its determined place, but only its effects, and voice, or sound; so much more neither thou, nor any one else, however clever and sharp-sighted, can perceive by natural understanding this spiritual regeneration, its end and term. They can only be known by the revelation and inspiration of the Holy Ghost, even though the outward symbols of water and the washing in baptism may be seen with the body’s eyes. Thus S. Chrysostom says, If thou knowest not the way of the wind which thou feelest, how canst thou search out the operation of the Divine Spirit? Christ here plays upon the analogica1 meaning of the word spirit. For first He takes spirit for wind; then He takes it as the Holy Spirit. For wind is the index and symbol of the Holy Ghost. This is clear from the 2d chapter of the Acts, when the Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles as a “rushing mighty wind.”

2. and more sublimely.  S. Augustine, Nazianzen, S. Ambrose, S. Gregory, whom Toletus cites and follows, understand by spirit (the wind), the Holy Ghost. They expound thus, “The Holy Ghost bloweth where He willeth, and breathes His own influences of faith, repentance and grace into whomsoever He willeth.” And thou hearest His voice (Vulg.), by the preaching of Myself and My preachers, say S. Augustine, 0rigen, Bede, and Rupertus. Or by voice, efficacy and effects are meant, says Ammon. But thou knowst not whence it cometh, or whither it goeth. Thou knowest not how He enters into a man, or how He returns, say Alcuin and Bede, because His nature is invisible. Again, thou knowest not how He leads believers to faith, nor how He draws the faithful to hope, charity, and the other virtues. Neither dost thou know how He regenerates men to be the sons of God, and leads them to the kingdom of God. Lastly, thou knowest not how He changes the soul of a man, renews and sanctifies it. Thou knowest not to what a height of perfection He can lead him who is born of Himself, says the Gloss.

So is every one, &c. The expression so in this sense does not denote comparison, but confirmation: meaning, “thus, entirely as I have said, is it with every creature who is born again in baptism of the Holy Ghost.” It is a similar expression to that in Mark, So is the kingdom of God (Mar 4:26). There is an allusion to the ancient heroes who, impelled by the Spirit of God, wrought deeds of heroic virtue and fortitude. For when Samson did any mighty deed, it is said, “The Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him” (Vulg.) So also the Spirit is said to have clothed Gideon (Jdg 6:34, Vulg.)

3. Maldonatus understands the soul by spirit. “What marvel, O Nicodemus, if thou understandest not how a man can be regenerated by the Holy Ghost, when thou canst not understand how generated of that natural spirit by which he liveth. For the animal spirit bloweth where it listeth, i.e., it animates such bodies as it willeth, and makes them alive from the death. It willeth not all the things that men will, but only those which are so disposed that they can be animated by it.” And thou hearest its voice: “thou hearest a man speaking, or a lion roaring. Thou also in some sense hearest the soul speak, by which means thou understandest that a man is alive, ‘for the breath in our nostrils is smoke, and speech is a spark for moving our heart’ (Wis 2:2). But thou knowest not whence it cometh, or whither it goeth, because thou art ignorant how the soul enters into the body, how it goeth out of the body, how it is produced, or what is its destiny. If therefore thou art ignorant of the spirit, i.e., the soul, which animates what body it willeth, and by it speaks, is born, and dies, knowing neither its generation, nor the way in which it comes and goes, what wonder that thou canst not understand the way of spiritual regeneration, whereby a Christian is born anew of the Spirit in baptism?” This meaning is new, but apposite and connected. It draws the argument from the natural generation of the soul to the supernatural generation of grace which is brought about by the power of the Holy Ghost. And it shows from the fact of the one being unsearchable how much more unsearchable must be the other. So in like manner most unsearchable are the things which God works in the soul which He illuminates by the rays of His light which He consoles, strengthens, inflows, and as it were transforms unto Himself. For as S. Dionysius says, Divine love causes ecstasy, so that a man feels not earthly good or ill, but being lifted up above them, all, he receives and tastes only the things of God.

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A Commentary on John 6:16-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 2, 2016

The following is excerpted from a Protestant word, THE PULPIT COMMENTARY.

Joh_6:16, Joh_6:17 Now when it became evening. This must have been the “second evening;” for the miracle itself was said to he wrought when the day began to decline (Mat_14:15; Luk_9:12). The first evening (ὀψία) lasted from three to six p.m., the “second evening” stretched from sundown to darkness (σκοτία). The night was drawing on. His disciples went down from the higher ground or grassy slopes to the sea (ἐπὶ τὴν θάλασσαν), and having embarked in a ship, they were making for the other side of the sea to Capernaum; or as Mark (Mar_6:45) says, “towards Bethsaida.” This occasions no difficulty to those who remember that there were two Bethsaidas—one, “Bethsaida Julias,” on the northeastern end of the lake; and the other near to Capernaum, called “Bethsaida of Galilee.”” The two towns were so near that the latter Bethsaida might reasonably he regarded as the port of Capernaum.

Joh_6:17, Joh_6:18 And darkness had already come on, and Jesus had not yet come to them. This thrilling touch in John’s narrative makes it more than evident that the beloved disciple was on board. He had been expecting the Master to make his appearance in some form. He had looked long and eagerly to that point on the mountainside whither he knew that Jesus had retired. The dreary and disappointed expectation, the long and weary waiting, left an indelible impression. Their natural course towards Capernaum would have been almost parallel with the shore of the lake; but it was dark and tempestuous, they could not steer. And the sea was being roused from its slumber by reason of a high wind which was blowing. If the wind came from the north, it would drift them out into the darkness and the middle of the lake, which is there, at its widest, about five miles broad, i.e. forty stadia, or furlongs. The statement of the next verse comes then into undesigned coincidence with Mar_6:47, which shows that they were “in the midst of the sea,” i.e. halfway from shore to shore. This would exactly correspond with the following statement.

Joh_6:19 When they had rowed about twenty-five or thirty stadia; or, furlongs. When they had rowed with a northwest wind, one “contrary to them,” about three miles and a half, they would be in the midst of the broadest portion of the lake, and exposed to the force of those gales which often sweep down with astonishing fury upon lakes similarly guarded on all sides by high hills. While the wind was tossing the little lake into angry waves, it was not silent on the mountain side or summit, and Jesus “saw them toiling in rowing.” He loved them to the uttermost. Now, Jesus never went out of his way to work a miracle, but he never went out of his way to avoid one. It seems as natural to him to make his will the cause of events as to submit to the arbitrament of circumstances. The miracle, however, was always for the benefit of others, not for his own advantage and comfort. They beheld Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing near to the ship. Paulus, Gfrorer, and Baumgarten-Crusius suppose that Jesus was walking “along the shore”, and that they had miscalculated their distance, and that there was no manifestation of special power on the occasion, nothing less than one of the most ordinary of all coincidences. The three narrators, each in his own manner, convey a profoundly different impression. The discovery of their Lord thus in near proximity would not have made them “cry out for fear,” and say, “It is a phantasm,” an apparition, a herald of immediate destruction. The loud cry (ἀνέκραξαν) is the especial note of Mark. John simply says, They were affrighted (ἐφοβήθησαν). They might have eagerly longed for his presence, remembering his recent display of power when “the winds and sea obeyed him.” But when the deliverance came, the manner of it was unexpected, and the symbolism ineffably sublime. They could not have been ignorant of the Psalms which spoke of Jehovah walking on the sea, and mightier than its waves (see also Job_9:8, “He alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth on the heights of the sea”). This visible nearness to them of the mighty power of God is enough to have startled them into cries of fear; but it is quite incompatible with the rationalistic interpretation of the event. Matthew and Mark both relate that the Lord came to them at or about the fourth watch (i.e. between three and six a.m.), when the first gleams of light were breaking over the eastern hills. Consequently, their peril had been prolonged and perplexing. The whole of the narrative lends itself to symbol, and suggests the impressive analogy of the calamities to which the ship of God’s Church has been exposed in its long history. Often has the Church been chastised for its secular tastes and worldly passions, buffeted with the storms of the world and tormented by the waves; but in the direst extremity it has seen the deliverer approach, and at first cried out for fear, trembling at his nearness. Individual believers have often seen, in this picture of the storm and the Saviour, an image  of the sore travail and victory of their faith. The disposition on the part of numerous expositors to press these analogies has strengthened the hands of the critical and rationalistic expositors. We can grant that the idea which is so fertile is more important than the narrative per se, but apart from the historic fact itself, who can say that the idea would ever have dawned on human minds? We make no further attempt to think out the modus operandi of the miracle, nor can we with that view accept the docetic conception of the body of Christ, which some have attributed most unfairly to John’s Gospel. It is enough that the will of Christ thus faced the forces of nature, and prophesied the ultimate victory which the will of glorified humanity will likewise win. The great ἔργα of Christ include his power over nature, in its physical elements and forces, in the regions of both animal and vegetable life, over human nature, diseased, crippled, devil ridden, and dead. The highest realm over which he reigned was his own Divine-human Person, as recorded:

(1) in this event,
(2) in his transfiguration,
(3) in his resurrection and ascension.

Joh_6:20 But he saith to them, It is I (literally, I am); be not afraid. These Divine words, in a voice which reminded them of his entire personality, of all his previous beneficence, of all his knowledge of their weakness and fear, are sacredly symbolic. The Church has ever since regarded them as veritably sacramental. In the darkest hour of men and Churches, in the throes of persecution in the furnace of temptation, on a million death-beds, the same voice has been heard. tits Divine Personality, his infinite power and perfect sympathy, the conviction of his specialized regard and veritable nearness (as we count nearness), have scattered doubt and fear.

Joh_6:21 Then they were willing to receive him into the ship: and straightway the ship was at the land whither they were going. Some expositors, who find discrepancy between this statement and that of the synoptists, say, “they were willing, but did not do it,” because the vessel is said by some remarkable process to have been miraculously propelled to the shore (so Lucke, Meyer). There are many passages, however, where a similar expression is used, and where no doubt arises that that which the actors were willing to do they actually did. Chrysostom felt this difficulty, and actually proposed to read ἦλθον instead of ἤθελον, which would remove the difficulty; and א veritably contains this reading, but it has every appearance of an unauthorized correction. The imperfect tense implies a lengthened willingness supervening on fear and outcry—a willingness or wish increased by the sound of his voice, following his first action, his apparent resolve to pass by them; and, still more, by the incident described in Matthew’s Gospel, of Peter’s desire to display the strength of his faith and the eminence of his position among the twelve. This occupied time, during which the wind may have been bearing them briskly in their true direction. They willed, wished, to take him into the ship, and did so, and the calm supervened as described in Matthew and Mark. Their wish is not frustrated by the fact now mentioned, but accompanied by it. “Straightway,” etc. Most expositors confess this to be an additional miracle, that the twenty furlongs or thereabouts (two miles and a half) were suddenly traversed and miraculously abolished. There would be a greater miracle in this than in the two events which preceded. The annihilation of space and time is the obliteration of the very categories of thought, and would, if conveyed by the statement, suggest a stupendous and, so far as we can see, a useless portent. It would strongly tempt us to accept the rationalistic interpretation. Εὐθέως does not always mean “instantaneously,” but simply that the next thing to notice or observe was the fact described. Take Mar_1:21, Mar_1:29. It does not mean that any miraculous rapidity characterized the movement of Christ to the house of Simon and Andrew (Mar_4:17; Gal_1:16; 3Jn_1:14; Joh_13:32; and many other passages). The author of the “Christian Year” has consecrated in sweet lines the supposed addition to the miracle—

“Thou Framer of the light and dark,
Steer through the tempest thine own ark;
Amid the howling wintry sea,
We are in port, if we have thee.”

But there are so many ways in which this “straightway” may be reconciled with an ordinary disembarkation, that there is no necessity to regard it as implied in John’s narrative. John so often leaves gaps unfilled in his chronology and horology that no peat emphasis need be laid upon the annihilation (save in his adoring thought) of the hour before the dawn.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 6:15-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 2, 2016

Ver 15. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.16. And when even was now come, his disciples went down to the sea,17. And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them.18. And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.19. So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh to the ship: and they were afraid.20. But he said to them, It is I; be not afraid.21. Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went

BEDE. The multitude concluding, from so great a miracle, that He was merciful and powerful, wished to make Him a king. For men like having a merciful king to rule over them, and a powerful one to protect them. Our Lord knowing this, retired to the mountain: When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take Him by force to make Him a king, He departed again into a mountain Himself alone. From this we gather, that our Lord went down from the mountain before, where He was sitting with His disciples, when He saw the multitude coming, and had fed them on the plain below. For how could He go up to the mountain again, unless He had come down from it.

AUG. This is not at all inconsistent with what we read, that He went up into a mountain apart to pray: the object of escape being quite compatible with that of prayer. Indeed our Lord teaches us here, that whenever escape is necessary, there is great necessity for prayer.

AUG. Yet He who feared to be made a king, was a king; not made king by men, (for He ever reigns with the Father, in that He is the Son of God,) but making men kings: which kingdom of His the Prophets had foretold. Christ by being made man, made the believers in Him Christians, i.e. members of His kingdom, incorporated and purchased by His Word. And this kingdom will be made manifest, after the judgment; when the brightness of His saints shall be revealed. The disciples however, and the multitude who believed in Him thought that He had come to reign now; and so would have taken Him by force, to make Him a king, wishing to anticipate His time, which He kept secret.

CHRYS. See what the belly can do. They care no more for the violation of the Sabbath; all their zeal for God is fled, now that their bellies are filled: Christ has become a Prophet, and they wish to enthrone Him as king. But Christ makes His escape; to teach us to despise the dignities of the world. He dismisses His disciples, and goes up into the mountain. – These, when their Master had left them went down in the evening to the sea; as we read; And when even was now come, His disciples went down to the sea. They waited till evening, thinking He would come to them; and then, as He did not come, delayed no longer searching for Him, but in the ardor of love, entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. They went to Capernaum thinking they should find Him there.

AUG. The Evangelist now returns to explain why they went, and relate what happened to them while they were crossing the lake: And it was dark, he says, and Jesus was not come to them.

CHRYS. The mention of the time is not accidental, but meant to show the strength of their love. They did not make excuses, and say, It is evening now, and night is coming on, but in the warmth of their love went into the ship. And now many things alarm them: the time, And it was now dark; and the weather, as we read next, And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew; their distance from land, So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs.

BEDE. The way of speaking we use, when we are in doubt; about five and twenty, we say, or thirty.

CHRYS. And at last He appears quite unexpectedly: They see Jesus walking upon the sea, drawing nigh. He reappears after His retirement, teaching them what it is to be forsaken, and stirring them to greater love; His reappearance manifesting His power. They were disturbed, were afraid, it is said. Our Lord comforts them: But He said to them, It is I, be not afraid.

BEDE. He does not say, I am Jesus, but only I am. He trusts to their easily recognizing a c voice, which was so familiar to them, or, as is more probable, He shows that He was the same who said to Moses, I am that I am.

CHRYS. He appeared to them in this way, to show His power; for He immediately calmed the tempest: Then they wished to receive Him into tile ship; and immediately the ship was at the land, whither they went. So great was the calm, He did not even enter the ship, in order to work a greater miracle, and to show his Divinity more clearly.

THEOPHYL. Observe the three miracles here; the first, His walking on the sea; the second, His stilling the waves; the third, His putting them immediately on shore, which they were some distance off, when our Lord appeared.

CHRYS Jesus does not show Himself to the crowd walking on the sea, such a miracle being too much for them to hear. Nor even to the disciples did He show Himself long, but disappeared immediately.

AUG. Mark’s account does not contradict this. He says indeed that our Lord told the disciples first to enter the ship, and go before Him over the sea, while He dismissed the crowds, and that when the crowd was dismissed, He went up alone into the mountain to pray: while John places His going up alone in the mountain first, and then says, And when even was now come, His disciples went down to the sea. But it is easy to see that John relates that as done afterwards by the disciples, which our Lord had ordered before His departure to the mountain.

CHRYS. Or take another explanation. This miracle seems to me to be a different one, from the one given in Matthew: for there they do not receive Him into the ship immediately, whereas here they do: and there the storm lasts for some time, whereas here as soon as He speaks, there is a calm. He often repeats the same miracle in order to impress it on men’s minds.

AUG. There is a mystical meaning in our Lord’s feeding the multitude, and ascending the mountain: for thus was it prophesied of Him, So shall the congregation of the people come about You: for their sake therefore lift up Yourself again: i.e. that the congregation of the people may come about You, lift up Yourself again. But why is it fled; for they could not have detained Him against His wild? This fleeing has a meaning; viz. that His flight is above our comprehension; just as, when you do not understand a thing, you see, It escapes me. He fled alone to the mountain, because He is ascended from above all heavens. But on His ascension aloft a storm came upon the disciples in the ship, i.e. the Church, and it became dark, the light, i.e. Jesus, having gone. As the end of the world draws nigh, error increases, iniquity abounds. Light again is love, according to John, He that hates his brother is in darkness. The waves and storms and winds then that agitate the ship, are the clamors of the evil speaking, and love waxing cold. Nevertheless the wind, and storm, and waves, and darkness were not able to stop, and sink the vessel; For be that endures to the end, the same shall be saved. As the number five has reference to the Law, the books of Moses being five, the number five and twenty, being made up of five pieces, has the same meaning. And this law was imperfect, before the Gospel came. Now the number of perfection is six, so therefore five is multiplied by six, which makes thirty: i.e. the law is fulfilled by the Gospel. To those then who fulfill the law Jesus comes treading on the waves, i.e. trampling under foot all the swellings of the world, all the loftiness of men: and yet such tribulations remain, that even they who believe on Jesus, fear lest they should be lost.

THEOPHYL. When either men or devils try to terrify us, let us hear Christ saying, It is I, be not afraid, i.e. I am ever near you, God unchangeable, immovable; let not any false fears destroy your faith in Me. Observe too our Lord did not come when the danger was beginning, but when it was ending. He suffers us to remain in the midst of dangers and tribulations, that we may be proved thereby, and flee for succor to Him Who is able to give us deliverance when we least expect it. When man’s understanding can no longer help him, then the Divine deliverance comes. If we are willing also to receive Christ into the ship, i.e. to live in our hearts, we shall find ourselves immediately in the place, where we wish to be, i.e. heaven.

BEDE. This ship, however, does not carry an idle crew; they are all stout rowers; i.e. in the Church not the idle and effeminate, but the strenuous and persevering in good works, attain to the harbor of everlasting salvation.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 6:16-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 2, 2016

16 And when evening was come, his disciples went down to the sea.
17 And when they had gone up into a ship, they went over the sea to Capharnaum. And it was now dark: and Jesus was not come unto them.

They went over the sea to Capharnaum,” that is, they directed their course to Capharnaum. They intended going there and making for it. In St. Mark (6:45) it is said, they were ordered by Him, while dismissing the crowds, to make for Bethsaida, which is near Capharnaum. Possibly, the tempest drove them past Bethsaida; and they, then, made for Capharnaum.

For verses 18-21 Fr. MacEvilly sends us to his commentary on Matthew 14:24-33 which I’ve reproduced below.

18 And the sea arose, by reason of a great wind that blew.

Notes on Mt 14:24~The darkness and adverse winds, together with the absence of our Lord, added to their danger, and heightened their terrors. This is more clearly expressed (John 6:17). This storm was purposely caused by our Divine Redeemer, in order to try their faith and confidence in Him during His absence.

19 When they had rowed therefore about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking upon the sea and drawing nigh to the ship. And they were afraid.
20 But he saith to them: It is I. Be not afraid.

Notes on Mt 14:25-27~About five and twenty or thirty furlongs.” Roughly about 3 to 4 miles. According to Matthew the time wasin the fourth watch of the night,” or, about three o’clock in the morning, “He came to them,” &c. Formerly, the Jews divided the night, in their military arrangements, into three watches, of four hours each. The first was called the beginning of the watch (Jeremias Lament 2:19). The second, the middle watch, at which those who were on guard, in the first watch, were relieved and succeeded by others (Judg. 7:19). The third, and last watch, was called, the morning watch (Exod. 14:24). St. Luke refers to this (12:38). But the Romans divided the nights into four watches, dividing the night, from sunset to sunrise, according to the season of the year, into four equal parts. The hours were, of course, according to this arrangement, shorter, or longer, according to the season of the year. At the Equinoxes, the first watch was from six in the evening till nine; the second from nine till twelve; the third from twelve till three in the morning, and the fourth from three till six, or sunrise. In the time of our Lord, the Jews had adopted this Roman division of time into four watches. The Apostles were tossed about by the tempest during the entire night. By walking on the sea, our Redeemer showed, in a remarkable way, His Divine power. It is specially said of God, in the Book of Job (9:8–10), “Who alone spreadeth out the heavens and walketh upon the waves of the sea,” making this one of His Divine qualities or attributes. “Walking upon the sea.” “Upon.” (επι), is used with a verb of motion.

Unable, owing to the darkness, to distinguish the object they saw walking on the waters, and to recognise our Divine Lord, the Apostles were affrighted, taking Him for a spectre, or, as Matthew has it, anapparition.” It was the common belief among the Jews, which was also in accordance with Scripture, and asserted by the Pharisees, who maintained the existence of spirits, that these spirits sometimes appeared, clad in human form. Night was commonly believed to be the time for evil spirits, known to injure man, to make their appearance. Hence, the affright of the Apostles, who imagined the apparition, which now presented itself, to be ominous of coming shipwreck.

And they cried out for fear.” This loud and confused cry indicated their excessive fear. John makes no mention of this.

When their fears reached the highest pitch, our Redeemer, at once, allays them, saying: “Be of good heart,” (in John, “do not be afraid”) in a tone of voice, which at once assured them, and convinced them of His Divine presence. “Be of good heart,” give up all fears. “It is I,” from whom you have nothing to fear, who heretofore rescued you from so many perils. These words, “It is I,” are allusive to the description the Almighty gave of Himself, in addressing Moses, “SUM QUI SUM.” (Exod. 3)

21 They were willing therefore to take him into the ship. And presently the ship was at the land to which they were going.

Notes on Mt 14:32-33~“And when they were come up into the boat,” &c. St. John (6:21), says, “they were willing, therefore, to take him into the ship, and presently the ship was at the land, to which they were going.”

This is not opposed to the account given here by St. Matthew. The Apostles were desirous of taking our Redeemer into the ship, as St. John states, and our Redeemer, as St. Matthew tells us here, gratifying their desires, did actually enter the ship.

They were willing to take Him.” (John 6:21), εθελον λαβειν, is an idiomatic phrase for, εθελοντως ελαβον—“they willingly received Him.” (Bloomfield). A twofold miracle followed, the storm at once abated, and the ship at once reached land. So there were five miracles altogether connected with it—1. Our Lord’s walking on the sea. 2. Peter’s walking on it by His aid. 3. When sinking, Peter is raised 4. The sudden ceasing of the storm. 5. The arrival at land, at once.

The sailors who owned the boat, and the Apostles, who were in the boat with them “adored Him;προσεκυνησαν, means, prostrate adoration (see 2:11). “Indeed, Thou art the Son of God,” that is, the promised Messiah, not merely the adopted, but the natural Son of God, such as He proclaimed Himself, and the Pharisees denied Him to be (John 5:18–33; 19:7). Others say, there is question of the Son of God by excellence, and not by nature; because, according to them, these ignorant sailors, who, with the Apostles, adored our Lord, did not know the mystery of the Trinity, which others answer by saying, they received this knowledge in the boat by revelation.

St. Mark (6:51), says, that seeing the miracle of His walking on the sea, the cessation of the wind, &c., the Apostles were more and more astonished, and he assigns as a reason (v. 52), “for, they understood not concerning the loaves; for, their heart was blinded.”

They were so stupified by the storm and the danger they were in, that they did not attend to the greater miracle of the multiplication of the loaves which our Lord had performed; otherwise, they would not have been astonished at the greatness of the present miracle. Our Divine Lord permitted them to be sorely tried after He had performed the preceding miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, in order that they would the more readily acknowledge Him in the evils which befell them. For, we are generally more affected by the sense of misfortune, than we are by the enjoyment of blessings—and, indeed, as it is most likely, that among these, “that were in the boat,” were included the Apostles, we can hardly suppose, that they, at least, who having lived so long with our Redeemer, heard His discourses, witnessed His many miracles, and must, therefore, by this time, have believed Him to be the natural Son of God, could have uttered the words, “Indeed, Thou art the Son of God,” in any other sense, save that they professed their faith in His Divinity, which the present miracle tended to strengthen. “And presently the ship was at the land to which they were going” (John 6:21).

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, Notes on the Gospel of John, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 6:1-15

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 2, 2016

This post opens with Fr. MacEvilly’s brief analysis of John chapter 6, followed by his comments on verses 1-15. Text in red, if any, are my additions.

ANALYSIS OF JOHN CHAPTER 6

In this chapter we have an account of a miracle wrought by our Lord in the multiplication of five barley loaves and two fishes, so as to satisfy the wants of about five thousand persons. The admiration expressed by the crowd, who were witnesses of this miracle (1–15).

The miracle wrought on the sea, when immediately after having entered the boat in which the disciples laboured hard against the storm, our Lord had the boat suddenly brought to shore (17–22).

The anxious search of the multitude for Him, whom they at last succeeded in finding (24, 25).

Our Lord’s discourse, in which after having referred indistinctly and rather obscurely, to the Eucharistic bread He meant to give them (v. 27), He fully explains the most effectual means of securing this bread, viz., faith in Himself, upon which, after several interruptions, He fully dilates as far as v. 51.

At v. 51, He commences to deliver distinctly, His consoling doctrine regarding His real presence, and the necessity of partaking of His body and blood in the Holy Eucharist. This He inculcates by a threat of exclusion from eternal life, in case of disobedience, and repeated promises of eternal life, to those who obey. At the same time, He refers to the superior excellence of this promised gift (54–60).

After repeatedly corroborating the ideas which the Jews had conceived from His own words, regarding the real manducation of His body, which proves they were right; He next, in reply to their rebellious murmurings, corrects their erroneous carnal ideas regarding the mode of receiving Him.

He points out the source of their murmurings, viz., want of faith in His Divine mission, which they had not humility to pray for, to His Heavenly Father, the source of all blessings (65, 66).

The Evangelist next describes our Lord’s stern resolve, to allow His disciples and apostles leave Him, sooner than withdraw or modify or correct a word of what He delivered, regarding His real presence in the Eucharist (67, 68). He next records the confession of Peter, on behalf of the twelve, in our Lord’s Divinity—our Lord’s reference to the treason of Judas (71, 72).

COMMENTARY ON JOHN 6:1-15

1 After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is that of Tiberias.

After these things,” etc. The occurrences referred to in the preceding chapter, took place about the Pasch or Pentecost of the second year of our Lord’s public ministry. The events the Evangelist is now about recording in this chapter, occurred about the Pasch of the following year. So, that, nearly an interval of a year elapsed between the occurrences recorded in this and the preceding chapter. St. John here passes over the election of the twelve Apostles, the Sermon on the Mount, etc., recorded fully by St. Matthew.

Although the miraculous multiplication of bread was recorded by the other Evangelists; still, St. John repeats it here with some additional circumstances as an appropriate introduction to the discourse, He was about to deliver regarding the heavenly food—His own adorable body—which He promised to give them, and gave them, by a permanent rite, at the Last Supper. The other Evangelists (Matthew 14:13; Mark 6:32; Luke 9:10, etc., record what is narrated here by St. John up to v. 14). It is not known precisely when our Lord left Judea, where the events recorded in the preceding chapter took place.

The Sea of Galilee.” According to Hebrew usage, any large expanse of water is designated a “sea.” Hence, the large lake in question is called, “the Sea of Galilee,” as it was in the province of that name, and “of Tiberias,” situated on its borders. The town was so called, after Tiberius Cæsar, by Herod the Tetrarch, who built it in honour of that Emperor (Josephus, Lib. 18, Antiq. c. 3).

Went over.” (See Matthew 14:13, Commentary on.) Some Commentators maintain, He did not cross the lake from one side to the other, from east to west; but, only crossed several creeks on the same side, the people thus following Him on foot, being even before Him at the several points of destination, owing to the difficulties in sailing. It may be also, that He Himself wished to cross these creeks slowly, so that the people could meet Him.

2 And a great multitude followed him, because they saw the miracles which he did on them that were diseased.

And a great multitude followed Him,” etc. He went by boat; they, on foot. (See Mark 6:32; Mathew 14:13.)

3 Jesus therefore went up into a mountain: and there he sat with his disciples.
4 Now the pasch, the festival day of the Jews, was near at hand.

The Pasch, the Festival day of the Jews,” their greatest and chief festival. The Pasch is mentioned on account of those, who were not well versed in Jewish history or in Jewish religious rite.

For notes on verses 5-15 Fr. MacEvilly refers us to his commentary on Matthew 14:15-22. I”ve reproduced this commentary below.

5 When Jesus therefore had lifted up his eyes and seen that a very great multitude cometh to him, he said to Philip: Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?
6 And this he said to try him: for he himself knew what he would do.
7 Philip answered him: Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them that every one may take a little.

Notes on Mt 14:16~St. John (6:5, &c.) states, that our Redeemer, on seeing the multitude, said to Philip, for the purpose of trying him, “Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat?” Likely, He thus spoke, after the Apostles had suggested to Him to dismiss the crowd, as St. Matthew records it here, so that both accounts contain a full statement of the entire transaction. He, probably, interrogated Philip, either because he was slower of apprehension than the other Apostles, and, by thus questioning him, He meant to impress on him the greatness of the miracle He was about to perform; or, perhaps, He asked him specially, because, being a native of Bethsaida, he was better acquainted with the resources of the district, and the places where food could be had.

It is deserving of remark, that St. John, who usually avoids mentioning what is related by the other Evangelists, especially what happened in Galilee, on this occasion refers to this miracle (c. 6), to introduce the subject of the promised bread of life. He had, moreover, particularly in view, to describe the different Passovers during the term of our Redeemer’s preaching, and, as he remained in Galilee during the third Passover, St. John relates circumstantially His works and miracles performed during that time. What is recorded by one Evangelist is not denied by the other. Both narratives form one perfect account.

Our Redeemer suggested to the Apostles to give the multitude wherewith to satiate their hunger, a thing which they regarded, humanly speaking, as utterly impossible. Mark (6:37) and John (6:7) state, that our Lord was told that two hundred pence would be necessary to procure bread, so as to give each a little, and the Apostles well knew this sum was beyond their reach. Hence, the words of Mark (6:37) are generally supposed to be spoken ironically, as if to say: Yes, indeed, we can give them to eat, but we require two hundred pence worth of bread for the purpose, which you know to be beyond our reach. It was only after He elicited from them an admission of the impossibility, humanly speaking, of what He asked, our Redeemer performed the miracle.

8 One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, saith to him:
9 There is a boy here that hath five barley loaves and two fishes. But what are these among so many?

Notes on Mt 14:17~In order to show more clearly the utter impossibility, humanly speaking, of satiating so large a crowd in the desert, our Redeemer asks, what resources they had at hand; and the Apostles reply, or rather Andrew replies in their name (John 6:8, &c.), that there were only five barley loaves and two fishes, which some boy in the crowd, who, probably, was attending the Apostles, had with him for their immediate use; “but, what are these among so many?” (John 6:9).

10 Then Jesus said: Make the men sit down. Now, there was much grass in the place. The men therefore sat down, in number about five thousand.
11 And Jesus took the loaves: and when he had given thanks, he distributed to them that were set down. In like manner also of the fishes, as much as they would.

Notes on Mt 14:18-19, 21~After commanding them to bring forward the five loaves, &c., He then ordered His disciples to arrange the men in companies, and make them sit down on the grass, with which the place abounded. This they did, arranging them in companies of hundreds and fifties (Mark 6:40; Luke 9:14). By this arrangement the number could be more easily ascertained, and the parties more regularly served.

Five thousand men.” (or, as the Greek has it, ὡσεὶ πεντακισχιλίοι, “about five thousand”). St. John (6:10), has the same form, “about five thousand.”

Besides women and children,” who might, probably, amount to an equal number, but whom it was not usual with the Jews to number. Hence, we find in the Book of Numbers, whenever the priests, and Levites, and soldiers, were numbered, the women and children were left unnumbered.

To feed a multitude in the desert was a wonderful miracle in the eyes of the Jews. “Nunquid poterit, parare mensam in deserto.”

And looking up to heaven,” which (John 6:11) expresses by “giving thanks,” that is, thanking His Heavenly Father, from whom, with His Divinity, He received power of working miracles, for His great goodness in vouchsafing to work so great a miracle, for the temporal and spiritual benefit of His people. It may mean, He invoked the beneficent power of his Father on the loaves, &c.

He took the five loaves,” &c., to show that He was Himself the author of the great miracle He was about performing.

He blessed.” St. Mark says (6:41), “He blessed and broke the loaves.” St. Luke (9:16) says, “He blessed them.” viz., the loaves; and by this benediction, imparted to them the occult efficaciousness of being multiplied.

And gave the loaves to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitudes.” The miraculous multiplication probably occurred partly, in the hands of our Redeemer; and partly, in the hands of the disciples, when distributing them, and placing them in the hands of the crowd, without any outward show. How this occurred, we cannot say. One thing seems certain, that it was not effected by the creation of new loaves or new fishes. For, from the Evangelists, it is quite clear, “He divided the two fishes among them all,” as also the five barley loaves (Mark 6:41; John 6:11).

12 And when they were filled, he said to his disciples: gather up the fragments that remain, lest they be lost.
13 They gathered up therefore and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which remained over and above to them that had eaten.

Notes on Mt 14:20~To place the miracle beyond the reach of cavil or doubt, our Redeemer ordered (John 6:12), that, what remained after the multitude were satiated, should be gathered up. This exceeded in quantity what was originally set before our Lord to be distributed. And to show, that in the exercise of charity, economy and frugality should not be neglected, He did not wish that any of it should be lost.

Twelve full baskets of fragments,” a basket for each of the Apostles.

These “baskets” were, probably, made of osiers. They were commonly used by the Jews on their journeys in other countries, to save their provisions from heathen contact and pollution. Their size is not known. They must certainly have been of considerable dimensions, to serve the purpose referred to. Juvenal (Satire 3–14), refers to them as badges of the Jewish people: “Judæis, quorum Cophinus fœnumque supellex.” Also, speaking of a fortune-telling Jewess (Satire vi. 541), he says, “Cophino fœnoque relicto.” The use of the hay was, probably, to stop the interstices of these wicker baskets, which carried their provisions and money. It is not likely they carried hay about with them in such quantities, as would serve for beds, as some authors imagine. Grotius remarks (Matt. 16:9; Mark 8:19), “In these baskets or little panniers, they used to carry along with them, bread.”

14 Now those men, when they had seen what a miracle Jesus had done, said: This is of a truth the prophet that is to come into the world.
15 Jesus therefore, when he knew that they would come to take him by force and make him king, fled again into the mountains, himself alone.

Notes on Mt 14:22~Our Redeemer, perceiving that the people “would come and make Him king” (John 6:15), forthwith, both from motives of prudence, and to teach us to avoid all vain display, “obliged His disciples to go up into the boat, and to go before Him over the water.” Mark adds (6:45), “to Bethsaida,” whilst He dismissed the crowd. The word, “obliged,” as St. Jerome remarks, shows the great reluctance of the Apostles to be, even for the shortest period, separated from their dear Lord. Their departure, however, would enable Him to dismiss the crowd the more readily, and prevent them from conspiring with the multitude to make Him king. It would afford Him leisure to be alone, for the purposes of prayer, and would also prepare the way for the miracle of calming the sea, which followed. Perhaps the reluctance on the part of the disciples to depart, arose from seeing the glory which awaited their Master, from the crowd, who wished to make Him king. They were ordered to cross the lake in the direction of Bethsaida, but they came to Capharnaum. (John 6) Capharnaum and Bethsaida of Galilee were both on the western shore of the lake, so there is no contradiction between St. Mark and St. John. They went towards Bethsaida, but they reached Capharnaum, it might be, after having first arrived at Bethsaida, on the west shore of the lake; or, it may be, they sailed first to Capharnaum, and then to Bethsaida, which was not far distant (Patrizzi in Marcum vi. 45).

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, Notes on the Gospel of John, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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