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

That the Son is not bare of God-befitting glory, even though He is found saying to the Father, And now glorify Me with the glory which I had, &c.

4 I glorified Thee on the earth: I accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do it. 5 And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own Self, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.

Our Saviour’s speech now intertwines the human element in His Nature with the Divine, and is of composite nature, looking both ways; not merging overmuch the Person of the Speaker in the perfect power and glory of His Divinity, nor allowing it altogether to rest on the lowly level of His Humanity; but mingling the twain into one, which is not foreign to either. For our Lord Jesus Christ thought that He ought to teach His believers, not merely that He is God the Only-begotten, but that He also became Man for us, that He might reconcile us all to God the Father, and mould us into newness of life; purchasing humanity with His own Blood, and venturing His life for the salvation of the world, while, though He was One, He was more precious than all mankind. He says, then, that He glorified the Father upon the earth, for He finished the work which He gave Him to do.

Come now, let us follow out, as it were, two roads, in our investigation of this passage, and say that it has reference both to His Divine and His Human Nature. If then, as Man, He says this, you may take it in this way: Christ is for us a type and origin and pattern of the Divine life, and shows us plainly how, and in what way, we ought to live our lives; for after this fashion the commentators on the Divine writings give a most subtle exposition of the passage. He instructs us, then, by what He here says, that each one of us, if he fulfils his allotted task, and follows out to the end what is commanded of God, then in truth he glorifies Him by his righteous acts; not indeed as though He had any lack of glory, for the Ineffable Nature of God is complete, but because he causes His praise to be sung by those who see his acts, and are profited thereby. Yea, the Saviour saith: Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father Which is in heaven For when we are made truly manly, and willing to do good works for God’s sake, we are not winning for our own selves the reputation thereof, but are carrying God’s worship into our actions, to the honour and glory of Him That ruleth over all. For just as when, for leading a profligate life displeasing to God, we are rightly called to account, as doing despite unto His unspeakable glory, and make our own souls liable to punishment, as the prophet tells, if we hearken to his voice: My Name through you is continually blasphemed among the Gentiles, on the same grounds I think that when we display pre-eminent virtue, we are then preparing for Him a song of praise. When, therefore, we have accomplished the work that God has given us to do, then and most rightly may we attain to a freedom of speech in His own most seemly words; and claim, as it were, like glory in return from God Who has been glorified by us: For as I live, saith the Lord, them that honour Me will I honour, and he that lightly esteemeth Me shall be lightly esteemed. In order, then, that He might show us, that we might suitably ask for glory in return from the only true God, I mean glory in the world to come, when we have displayed towards Him perfect and blameless obedience, and have shown ourselves keepers of His commandments to the letter, Christ says that He glorified the Father, when He finished the work upon earth that He gave Him. He requests, however, for Himself in return, no foreign or borrowed glory, as we do, but rather that honour and renown which is His own. For we were bound to ask for it, and not He. Observe how in and through His own Person, He first renders possible to our nature this boldness of speech, on two accounts. For in Him first, and through Him, we have been enriched both with the ability to fulfil those things essential to our salvation, which are entrusted to us by God, and also the duty of boldly asking for the honour which is due to those who distinguish themselves in His service. For of old time, through the sin that reigned in us, and the fall that was in Adam, we both failed of ability to accomplish any of those things which make for virtue, and also were very far removed from freedom of speech with God. Yea, God, to that end, out of the abundance of His kindness, spake consolation by the voice of the prophet, saying: Fear not, because Thou hast been ashamed, neither be confounded because thou hast been put to shame. As, then, in all other things that are good our Lord Jesus Christ is the Beginning, and the Gate, and the Way, so also is He here.

But if the Saviour is seeking His own glory that He had before the world began, and we, suiting the meaning of the passage so as to make it apply to our case, maintain that we ourselves ought also with great zeal to do God’s Will, and so boldly ask for glory from above, let no one think that we say this,—that it becomes a man imitating Christ, to ask for some ancient glory that was before the world began, as due also to himself; but let him rather remember that each ought to speak according to his deserts. For if Christ, like us, had only the human element in His Nature, let Him then speak only as befits the earth-born, and not exceed the limits of humanity. But if the Word, being God, became Flesh, when He says anything as God, it will be suitable to Himself alone, and not to those who are not as He is.

Considering then, the passage as though He spoke it more as a Man, we shall take it in the sense above given; but if we reflect, on the other hand, on the Divine dignity of Christ, we rightly think it has a meaning above human nature. We say, then, that He glorified His own Father, God, when He fulfilled the work which He received from Him, not being His servant or in any ministerial capacity; and this as of necessity, that the Lord of all might not appear in the lowliness of our nature and that of the creation which is enslaved. For to perform the duties of a servant, and submissively obey the Divine commands, is the part of men and angels. Rather, we say that He, being the Power and Wisdom of His Father, well accomplished the task of our redemption, entrusted as it were to Him; as indeed also said the Divine Psalmist, expounding the meaning of the mystery: O God, command Thy Strength; strengthen, O God, that which Thou hast wrought for us. For in order that he may clearly prove that the Son is the Power of the Father, though not separate from Him so far I mean as His identity of Essence and Nature is concerned, he first says, Command Thy Strength, bringing in a duality of Persons—I mean Him that commands and Him to Whom the command is given—he suddenly unites them in their natural unity, attributing to the Ineffable Nature of God in its entirety the result achieved; for he says in his wisdom: “Strengthen, O God, that which Thou hast wrought for us.” The Son, then, receives or has entrusted to Him from the Father, the work of saving the world. But in what manner, or how, God commands His own Strength, we ought to examine and explain, so far as it is possible humanly to interpret things which exceed man’s understanding. Let us take for example, then, some man among us, and imagine him learned in the art of making bronzes. Then let us suppose that he sets himself to mould a statue, or perhaps to repair one that is decayed or mutilated. How, then, will he work, or how will he repair, as he has determined? Clearly he will entrust to the power of his hands and his skill in the art, the fulfilment of what he chooses to do. But if any one thinks his wisdom and power appear distinct in some sense from himself, so far as their conception is concerned, still are they not in fact distinct. For these also are included in the definition of his essence. You must think the case is something like this wise, but must not accept the illustration as exactly similar. For God is above all things, and must be thought superior to any power of illustration. The sun and the fire, taking this by way of illustration, may be thought to occupy a similar relative position. For, just as the sun commands the light which it sheds to illumine the whole world, and allots to the power of its rays as their function, so to say, to cast the power of their heat on all things that receive it, so likewise also the fire commands and enjoins in some sort the peculiar qualities of its nature to fulfil its peculiar duties; but we do not, on this account, say that the ray and the light are in the position of ministers and servants to the sun, or the power of burning to the fire. For each of the two works by means of its own inherent qualities. But if they appear to be in a sense not self-working, yet are they not distinct in nature from their own. Some such idea we must hold about the relation between God the Father and the Word Who is by Nature begotten of Him, whenever He is said to be entrusted with work to do to us-ward.

His Wisdom and Power, therefore, that is Christ, glorified God the Father upon the earth, having finished the work which He gave Him. And, as He brings His work to its fitting termination, He claims the glory which always attaches to Him; and now that occasion calls for the recovery of His ancient glory He seeks it. What work, then, has He fulfilled, whereby He says that He glorified the. Father? For while He was the true God He became Man, by the approval and will of the Father, through His desire to save the whole world, and raise up anew the fallen race on the earth to endless life and the true knowledge of God. And this was in very truth accomplished by the Divine power and might of Christ, Who made death powerless, upset the dominion of the devil, destroyed sin, and showed incomparable love towards us, by remitting the charges against us all, and giving light to those astray, who now know the One true God. Christ, then, having accomplished this by His own power, the Father was glorified by all—I mean all those in the world who knew His wisdom, and power, and the mercy and love towards mankind, which is in Him. For He has shone forth and manifested Himself in the Son, Who is, as it were, the Likeness and Express Image of His Person; and by its fruit the tree is known, according to the Scripture. And when the works were fulfilled, and the wonderful scheme of our redemption brought to its fitting conclusion, He returns to His own glory, and assumes His ancient honour; save only, that being still endued with the human shape, He moulds accordingly the form of His prayer, and asks as though He possessed it not: for man hath all things from God. For though in the fullest sense, as He was God of God the Father, He was invested with Divine glory, still, since at the season of His Incarnation for us He in a sense diminished it, taking upon Him this mean body, He with reason seeks it as though He had it not, speaking the words as Man. The wise Paul also himself had some such idea, when he enjoins us concerning Him: Let this mind be in each of you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the Cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted Him, and gave unto Him the Name which is above every name; that in the Name of Jesus Christ every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father For though the Son is high, inasmuch as He proceeded as God and Lord from the Father, none the less is the Father recorded to have exalted man in Him, for on man the degradation of his nature brings the need of exaltation. He prays, then, for the recovery of His own glory, even in the flesh. He is not wholly bereft of His own glory when He so speaks, even though He were to ask without receiving, for the Word, being the true God, was never robbed of His own majesty. He rather refers to the glory which belongs ever to Him, and its appropriate temple in the heavens, and His own return thither in the raiment of the flesh, on which the interval of His humiliation had been consequent. For that He may not appear to be claiming for Himself a strange and unusual glory to which He had not been accustomed in time past, He distinguishes it by the addition of the epithet “before the world was,” and the words “with Thine own Self.” For the Son has never been excluded from the honour of the Father, but ever reigneth with Him, and with Him is adored and worshipped by us and by the holy angels as God, and of God, and in God, and with God. And this is, I think, what the inspired Evangelist John means to teach us, when He says: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God

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