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Commentary On The Gospel According To Saint John Volumes 1&2

That the Son is by Nature Creator with the Father, as being of His Essence, and not taken to Him as a minister.

3 All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made.

THE blessed Evangelist, having overthrown the intricate objections of the unholy heretics, and having completed his subtil and most exact utterance respecting the Only-Begotten, comes to another snare of the devil compounded of the ancient deceit, and putting forth to us the sting of the polytheic error, which has wounded and cast down many, and widening the way of perdition, and throwing open the broad and spacious gate of death, heaped up souls of men in herds unto hell and set rich food as it were before the devil and brought before him choice meat. For since the children of the Greeks applying themselves to the wisdom of the world, and having plenteously in their mind the spirit of the ruler of this world, were carried away unto polytheic error, and perverted the beauty of the truth and, like to those who walk in mist and darkness, went down to the pit of their own ignorance, serving lifeless idols, and saying to a stock, Thou art my father, and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth: others again transgressing akin to them, devising nevertheless a more polished error, deemed that they ought to worship the creature more than the Creator, and lavished the glory that befitted the Divine Nature Alone on the elements that were made by It, of necessity does the Divine introduce to us the Only-Begotten as Maker and Creator by Nature, saying that all things were made by Him and that without Him nothing passed into being, that he might close for the future the entrance for their deceits, and might show to them that know Him not the Creator of all things, and by the very words wherein he says that the creation was made, might clearly teach that other than it is He Who called it into being, and by His Ineffable Power brought things that are from not being unto birth. For thus at length was it possible by the beauty of the creatures proportionably to see the Maker, and to recognize Him Who is in truth God, through Whom all things have been already made, and made are preserved. Against the false-worship then of the Greeks do I deem that he thus well arrayed the Gospel word, and for this cause do we believe that the Only-Begotten was introduced by the voice of the saint as Maker and Creator.

But since it is meet to consider the crooked inventions of the heretics, I think that we ought looking to their ways too to say again a little.

All things, says he, were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made.

This God-befitting dignity too does he put about the Son, on all sides shewing that He is Consubstantial with God Who begat Him and saying that all things that belong to Him by Nature are in His Offspring: that He may be conceived of as truly God of God, not (as we) having the appellation adventitious and accruing to us by grace alone, according to the words, I have said, Ye are gods and all of you are children of the most High. For if all things were made by Him, He will be Other than they all. For in this, All things, there is nothing which is not seen among all things. As the blessed Paul too is found to have understood the all things: for when in one of his Epistles he was discoursing of our Saviour and said that all things were put in subjection under His feet, excellently does he subjoin, For in that he saith all, he left nothing that is not put under Him. Therefore since we believe that all things were made by the Son, we will not think that He is one of all, but will conclude that He is external to all, and severing Him from the nature and kin of things originate, will at length confess that He is none else save God of God by Nature. For what will intervene between God and the creature? I do not mean in regard of essence, for much intervenes, but only in regard to the position of anything that is, in conception. Or what other position will the Son have, Who surpasses the nature of things made, yea rather is Himself the Maker? For all things were made by Him, as by the Power, as by the Wisdom of God the Father, not hidden in the Nature of Him Who begat Him, as in man is for instance his innate wisdom and power, but existing separately and by Himself, yet proceeding according to the ineffable mode of Generation from the Father, that the Wisdom and Power of the Father may be conceived of as truly-existing Son.

But though the blessed Evangelist says that all things were made through Him, the saying will not I deem at all minister damage to the words concerning Him. For not because it is said that the things that are were made through Him, will the Son be introduced as an underworker, or a minister of others wills, so that He should be no longer conceived of as being by Nature Creator, nor will He be one given the power of creation by some other, but rather being Himself Alone the Strength of God the Father, as Son, as Only-Begotten, He works all things, the Father and the Holy Ghost co-working and co-with Him: for all things are from the Father through the Son in the Holy Ghost. And we conceive of the Father as co-with the Son, not as though He were powerless to work ought of things that are, but as being wholly in Him, by reason of unchangeableness of Essence, and His entire kin and the absence of any medium towards His Natural Procession from Him. As though one were to say that to the sweet scent of a flower, the flower itself was co-present for the operation of the sweet scent, since it proceeds from it naturally. But the force of the example is slight and the Nature That is above all will overpass this too, receiving of it little impresses of ideas. Since how shall we understand, My Father worketh hitherto and I work? For not separately and by Himself does the Son say that God the Father works ought regarding things that are, and that Himself again likewise works apart from the Father, the Essence Whence He is after some sort resting: for so the Creator would be two and not One, if Either work apart and separately. Moreover the Father will be recipient of the power of not having the Son ever in Him, and the Son likewise will be seen to not have the Father ever in Him, if it were possible that Either should work apart and separately with regard to things that are, as we said before, and the Son will not be true, when He says, I am in the Father and the Father in Me. For it is not, I suppose, merely after likeness of Essence, that we see the Son in the Father as Express Image, or again the Father in the Son as Archetype; but we hold that the Son beams forth by Generation from the Essence of the Father, and is and subsists in It and of It in distinct Being, God the Word: and that the Father again is in the Son, as in Consubstantial Offspring, Connaturally, yet severally, according to simply the difference of being, and being conceived of as that which He is. For the Father remains that which He is, even though He be Connaturally in the Son, as we say that the Sun is in its brightness. And the Son again will be conceived of, as not other than He is, even if He be Connaturally in the Father, as in the sun its brightness. For thus, the Father being conceived of and being in truth Father, the Son again being and conceived of as Son, the Holy Ghost having His place with them, the number of the Holy Trinity mounts to One and the Same Godhead.

For how will God be at all conceived of as One, if Each of the Persons mentioned withdraw into a complete individuality, and, while wholly removed from Connature and Essential participation with the Other, be called God? Therefore let us conceive of Father, Son and Spirit, according to the mode of individual being, not mixing up the difference of the Persons or names in regard to That Which Each IS: but while we reserve severally to each the being and being called what He IS, and thus believe, referring them still of Nature to One Godhead, and refusing to hold a complete severance, because the Son is called the Word and Wisdom and Brightness and Express Image and Might of the Father. For He is Word and Wisdom, by reason of these being, immediately and without any intervention, of the mind and in the mind, and because of the reciprocal interpassing into one another so to say of both. For the mind is seen in word and wisdom, and word in its turn in the mind, and there is nought that intervenes, or severs the one from the other. He is called Power again, as being a quality inherent without any interval in those who have it, and that can nowise be severed from them in the manner of an accident, apart from the destruction of the subject: Express Image again, as being even connate, and unable to be severed from the essence of which it is the express image.

Hence since Either is naturally and of necessity in Other, when the Father works the Son will work, as being His Natural and Essential and Hypostatic Power. Likewise when the Son works, the Father too works, as the Source of the Creating Word, Naturally In-existent in His Own Offspring, even as the fire too in the heat that proceeds from it.

It is clear then, that vainly has been iterated the accusation of the opponents against the Only-Begotten, who introduce Him to us as creator by having learnt, yea rather as minister too; because of the Blessed Evangelist saying, All things were made through Him and without Him was not anything made. Much do I marvel at the unholy heretics: for whatever seems any way to undo the Dignity of the Only-Begotten and to shew Him second to Him Who begat Him, according to their own view, this they hunt with much zeal, and from all sides bring to it the drugs of their own stubbornness; whatever again are healthfully and rightly said and bring the Son up to the Glory of the Father, these things they bury most surely in deep silence, as having one sole aim, to in vain revile Him Who is glorified of all the creation. For when they hear that All things were made through Him, they hotly bring on Him the name of service, dreaming that the Son is bond instead of free, and worshipper rather than Lord. But when they learn that without Him was not anything made, they do not mount up to think ought great and marvellous of Him. For since it is not in God the Father to create otherwise than by His own Offspring, Which is His Wisdom and Power, the Evangelist says that nought at all was made without Him. For therefore is the Only-Begotten the Glory of God the Father (for He is glorified as Creator through the Son); for He worketh all things and bringeth into being things that are not.

And well will one conceive of the words, without Him was not anything made, if he consider with himself what was said at the creation of man. For Let us make man, says he, in Our image after Our likeness. For here specially one can behold in the Son of a truth nought that is lowly, as in a minister according to their phrase. For God the Father does not command the Word, Make man, but as Co-with Him by Nature and His inseparably so to say In-existing Co-worker, He made Him also Partaker of His Counsel respecting man, not anticipating the knowledge that is in the Son in regard to any conception, but as Mind inseparably and apart from time manifested in the in-imaged and in-existing Word.

Let God-befitting contemplations again be above the reach of the example. Yet we say that He co-works with the Son, not conceiving as of two severally, lest there be conceived to be two gods, nor yet as though both together were one, in order that neither the Son be compressed into Father, nor again the Father into Son, but rather in such sort as if one allowed to be co-existent in the brightness from light the light whence it flashed forth: for in such examples the generator seems to be separated in idea from the generated and that which springs forth from it indivisibly; yet are both one and the same by nature, and the one in no wise separate from the other. But above this too will God again be, inasmuch as He is both Super-substantial and has nothing wholly like Him in things originate, that it should be taken as a image of the Holy Trinity, without any difference, in exactness of doctrine. But if they deem that the word, through Whom, said of the Son, can bring down His Essence from Equality and Natural likeness to the Father, so as to be minister rather than Creator, let those insane consider and come forward and make answer, what we are to conceive of the Father Himself also, and Whom we are to suppose Him too to be, seeing that He clearly receives the words through Whom in the Divine Scripture: for God, says he, is faithful, through Whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son, and Paul an Apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God: again Paul writeth to some, Wherefore thou art no more a servant hut a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. All these then have reference to the Person of God the Father, and no one I suppose will rush to that extreme of madness (except perchance he hold with the above mentioned), as to say that the name and fact of service, is reasonably predicated of the very glory of the Father, because the word through Whom is applied to Him too. For the Divine Scripture is sometimes indifferent in regard to its words, in no wise wronging the subject thereby, but applying to the things signified in a less proper sense both the words themselves and those whereby it deems that they are well explained. But it is well to say of those, that The glory of the Lord veileth speech. For little in truth is all might of words unto the exact exposition of the Ineffable and God-befitting glory. Wherefore one must not be offended at the meanness of the things uttered, but must rather yield supremacy, and might in tongue, and keenness of every mind, to the Divine and unutterable Nature, for thus shall we be and not in small degree pious.








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