Catholic Encyclopedia
Church Fathers
Classics Library
Church Documents
Prayer Requests
Ray of Hope
Social Doctrine

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

That the Son is not a Partaker of Life from any other, but rather Life by Nature, as being begotten of God the Father Who is Life by Nature.

57 As the Living Father sent Me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth Me, he too shall live by Me.

OBSCURE is the meaning of this passage, and enveloped in no passing difficulty: but it will not entirely attain to impenetrability: for it will be apprehended and got at by those who choose to think aright. When then the Son saith that He was sent, He signifieth His Incarnation, and nothing else. And when we speak of His Incarnation, we mean that He was made Man complete. As then the Father (He saith) hath made Me Man, and since I God the Word, was begotten Life of That which is by Nature Life, and, made Man, have filled My Temple, that is, My Body, with Mine Own Nature; in like manner shall he also who eateth My Flesh live because of Me. For I took mortal Flesh: but, having dwelt in it, being by Nature Life, because I am of the Living Father, I re-elemented it wholly into Mine Own Life, I have not been overcome of the corruption of the flesh but have rather overcome it, as God. As then (for again I will say it shrinking not for profits sake) although I was made (He says) Flesh (for this the being sent meaneth), I live again because of the Living Father, that is, retaining in Myself the natural excellence of Him That begat Me, so he too who, by the participation of My Flesh, receiveth Me in himself shall live, wholly trans-elemented entire into Me, Who am able to give life, because I am (as it were) of life-giving Root, that is God the Father. But He says that He was Incarnate by the Father, although Solomon says, Wisdom builded her an house: and the blessed Gabriel attributeth the creation of the Divine Body to the Operation of the Spirit when he was speaking with the holy Virgin (for The Holy Ghost, he says, shall come upon thee, and the Power of the Highest shall overshadow thee) that thou mayest again understand, that the Godhead being by Nature One, conceived of both in the Father and the Son and in the Holy Ghost,—not severally will Each in-work as to ought of things that are, but whatever is said to be done by One, this is wholly the work of the whole Divine Nature. For since the Holy Trinity is One in respect of consubstantiality, one full surely will be also Its Power in respect to every thing. For all things are of the Father through the Son in the Spirit. But what we have often said, this we will again say For to say the same things, though it be burdensome, yet it is safe. It was the habit of our Saviour Christ for our profit to attribute those things which surpass the power suitable to man, to the Operation of the Father. For He hath humbled Himself being made Man: and since He accepted the Form of a servant, He spurneth not the measure of servants, yet will He not be excluded from doing all things with the Father. And He That begat Him worketh all things through Him, according to the Word of the Saviour Himself, The Father (He says) That dwelleth in Me, Himself doeth the works. Having then given to the dispensation of the Flesh what befits it, He attributeth to God the Father what is above man’s power. For the building a Temple in the Virgin surpasseth man’s power.

But our opponent will again reply: ‘And in what other mode did the Son reveal what He is by Nature, or how did He shew clearly that the Father is greater, save by saying, I live because of the Father? For if the Father is the Giver of Life to the Son, who will rush on to so great stupidity as not full surely to conceive that that which partakes of life, will not be the same by nature as life or that which is mighty to quicken?’

To such things we too will array in turn the word of the truth, and opportunely say, The fool will speak folly, and his heart will conceive vain things, to practise transgression, and to utter error against the Lord. For what can be more wicked than such a conception of the heretics? How is not the deepest error uttered by them against Christ who quickeneth all things, since those most foolish ones blush not to say, that He lives by partaking of life from another, just like His creatures? Will then the Son at last be a creature too, inasmuch as it is a partaker of life, but is not very life by nature? for the creature must needs be wholly other than that which is the life in it. But if they suppose that they may be the same, let them call every creature life. But I do not suppose that any one in his senses would do that. Therefore neither is the Only-Begotten a creature, but will be conceived of as by Nature Life: for how would He be true in saying, I am the Resurrection and the Life? for life is that which gives life, not that which needs to receive it from another, just as wisdom too is understood to be that which can make wise, not that which receives wisdom. Therefore according to you the Truth will be false, and Christ will not be true, Who says, I am the Life. Yea and the brilliant choir of saints again will speak falsely, uttering words through the Spirit, and calling the Only-Begotten Life. For the Divine Psalmist is found saying to the Father, With Thee is the Fountain of Life. And the wondrous Evangelist John in his epistles thus says, That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we beheld, and our hands handled, of the Word of Life: and the Word was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and declare unto you the Eternal Life, Which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us. Seest thou that the Psalmist speaks true, even by the testimony of John, when he says to God the Father of all, With Thee is the Fountain of Life? For the Son was and is with Him the Fountain of Life. For that the Spirit-clad says these things of Him, he will again prove by his words: for he thus writes, And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him That is True, and we are in His True Son Jesus Christ. This is the True God and Eternal Life. Then who (tell me) will any longer endure the trifling of the heretics? or who will not justly cry out against their impiety, in daring to say that the Son is partaker of life from another, albeit the holy and God-inspired Scripture says no such thing of Him; but rather openly cries aloud, that He is both God by Nature, and Very, and the Fountain of Life, and again Life Eternal. For how will He be conceived of as Very God, who needs life from another, and is not rather Himself Life by Nature? or how will He any more be called Fountain of Life, if He is holpen by another’s gifts to be able to live?

But yea (says the opponent) we grant that the Son is so far Life, that He too can quicken, as having in Himself the Living Father.

Yet this will not suffice, most noble sirs, to exempt you from blasphemy against the Only-Begotten: but in this too shall your argument be proved untutored and every way falling to pieces. For to have to say that the Son is called Life, because He can quicken things recipient of life, by reason He has in Himself the Father, how is it not replete with unmeasured folly? For ye know not (it seems) what by nature means, or what ‘being of any thing by nature’ means as compared with so being by circumstances. As fire is hot by nature, and other things too are hot, by partaking of its operation, as iron or wood: but not because they are heated, are they said to be fire: for they have an external and not a physical operation in them. But our argument will proceed by means of illustrations in regard to ourselves too. Grammar for instance, or Geometry, are held to be species of reasoning science, but when any one becomes skilled in grammar or the other, he is not himself conceived of as Grammar or Geometry, but from the Grammar that is in him, he is called a Grammarian, and similarly with regard to the other: so too that which is by nature life, is something altogether different from the things wherein it is, transfashioning to itself what is not so by nature. When therefore ye say that the Father is in the Son, as He might be in matter (for instance), in order that, since He is Life by Nature, He too may be able to quicken, ye foolishly grant still that He is Life, and not rather participant of it from another, yet by relation, and not by Essence called to the dignity of a dispenser thereof. And as one would not reasonably call the heated iron fire, albeit it has the operation of the fire, in that it is heated from it: or again a man skilful in grammar is not called grammar, because he can lead others also unto the science, so I do not imagine that any man of sense would call the Son Life because He can quicken others also, though He have not by Nature, according to them, the being Life, but as from the engrafted Operation of the Father, or by reason of the indwelling Father. For what (tell me) is to hinder us at last from conceiving of the Son as one of us, that is, of corruptible nature, if He live because of the Father, that is, having received the gift of life from the Father, as they understand it? For He would perish, according to the analogy of their notions, if He had not the living Father in Himself. And if we confess that He speaks truly, I am in the Father and the Father in Me; He indeed has in Himself the Father Who is Life by Nature, and is Himself in the Father though not Life by Nature. I pass over the blasphemy, though one must utter it to convict the fighters against God of their impiety: for the Father will be found to have in Himself that which is destitute of Life, that is, decay, or a decaying nature. For since the nature of the matter in hand compels us so to conceive of the Son, we must investigate further, and go through various considerations, since our aim is by due precision to refine the question. You say that God the Father is by Nature Life. Well, so He is, but He is in the Son also. For this your argument too allows. I would now with reason ask you, desiring to learn it, ‘What will He work in respect of His Son, being in Him? Will He impart of His Own Life to His Offspring, as though He needed it and had not Life of Himself? how then must we not suppose the Son to be void of Life? That which is void of Life, what is it, but subject to decay? But He will not impart of His Own Life to His Offspring: for He is Life, even though He receive it not from Him.

How then do certain unguardedly babbling still accuse Him, and say that the Son therefore lives, because He hath in Himself the Father who is by Nature Life? For if He live also apart from the Father, as being Essentially Life’s Very self, He will never live because of the Father, that is, because of participation of the Father. But if He have the Father the giver of His Own Life, manifestly He has no Life of His Own. For He borrows it of another, and is (as we said at first) a creature rather than Life, and of a nature subject to decay. How then does He call Himself Life? For either we too may safely say, I am the Life, or if this be no safe word (for it is not lawful for the creature to mount up to God-befitting dignities), the Son knows that He is by Nature Life: since how will He be the Impress of the Person of Him That begat Him, how the Image and accurate Likeness? or how was not Philip right in saying, Shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us? For in truth one ought to consider, that he that had seen the Son, had not yet seen the Father, since the One is by Nature Life, the Other participant of life from Him. For one will never see that which quickeneth in that which is quickened, Him That lacketh not in him that lacketh. Hence in another way too will He be untrue in saying, He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.

But he who loveth the pious doctrines of the Church sees what great absurdities will follow their pratings. Let him then turn from them, and pass away, as it is written, and let him make straight paths, and direct his ways, and look to the simple beauty of the truth, believing that God the Father is by Nature Life, the Son Begotten of Him Life too. For as He is said to be Light of Light, so too Life of Life: and as God the Father lighteneth things lacking Light by His Own Light, His Son, and gives wisdom to things recipient thereof, through His Own Wisdom, and strengtheneth things needing strength, through again His Own Strength, so too He quickeneth things whatever lack the Life from Him, by His Own Life which floweth forth from Him, His Son. When then He says, I live because of the Father, do not suppose that He confesses that He lives because He receives Life from the Father, but asserted that because He was begotten of a Living Father, that therefore He also lives. For it were impossible that He who is of a Living Father, should not live. As though any of us were to say, I am a reasonable man on account of my father, for I was born the child of a reasonable man: so do thou conceive in respect of the Only-Begotten also. I live (He says) because of the Father. For since the Father who begat Me is Life by Nature, and I am His Natural and Proper Offspring, I gain by Nature what is His, i. e., being Life: for this the Father too is. For since He is conceived to be and is One of One (for the Son is from the Father, even though He were with Him eternally); He with reason glories in the Natural Attributes of Him That begat Him, as His Own.

58 This is the Bread Which came down from heaven, not as your fathers ate the manna and died; he that eateth of This My Bread shall live for ever.

Great (saith He) ought to be the effects of great things, and the gifts of the Grace from above, should appear God-befitting and worthy of the Divine Munificence. For if thou have wholly received in faith that the Bread came down from heaven, let it produce continous life in them that long after it, and have the unceasing Operation of immortality. For this will be a clear proof of its being the Bread from heaven, that is from God: since we say that it befits the Eternal to give what is eternal, and not the enjoyment of temporary food, which is barely able to last for just the least moment. For one will no longer wisely suppose that that was the bread from God and from above, which our forefathers eating, were overcome by death, and repelled not the evil of corruption, and no wonder; for that was not the Bread which availeth to render immortal. Hence neither will it be rightly conceived and said by any to be from heaven. For it was a work befitting that which came down thence, to render the partakers of It superior to death and decay. By undoubted proof again will it be confirmed, that this was the Bread from Heaven, that to wit through Christ, i. e., His Body. For It makes him that tastes thereof to live for ever. Herein too is seen a great pledge of the Divine Nature, Which vouchsafes not to give a little thing, but everything wonderful, even surpassing our understanding, so as for the greatness of the Grace, to be even disbelieved by the more simple. For with so wealthy a Hand how should not the Will to give largely be present? Wherefore Paul too says in amazement, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God prepared for them that love Him. By little examples was the Law typifying great ones, having the shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things, as it is written: as in the food of manna is seen the Blessing that is through Christ. For the shadow of the good things to come was prefigured to them of old.

59 These things said He in the Synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.

The most wise Evangelist introducing to us the exposition of marvellous mysteries, with reason attributes to our Saviour Christ, the commencement of the doctrine thereof, by the clear view of His Person shaming the gainsayer, and scaring off beforehand those who should come with a view to gainsay: for sometimes the renown of the teachers makes the hearer more ready to believe, and demands a more earnest assent on the part of the learners. Full well too does he add, In the Synagogue. For the expression wellnigh shews that not one chance person, or two, heard Christ say these things: but He is seen teaching openly in the synagogue to all, as Himself saith by the Prophet Isaiah too, Not in secret have I spoken nor in a dark place of the earth. For He was discoursing openly of these things, rendering their judgment without excuse to the Jews, and rendering the charges of not believing on Him heavier to the disobedient. For they, if not yet instructed in so dread Mystery, might reasonably have deprecated punishment, and pleading utter ignorance, have undergone a lighter sentence from the Judge: but since they knowing, and often initiated, still outraged Him with their unbelief, how will they not reasonably be punished, all mercy at last taken away, and pay most bitter penalty to Him that was dishonoured of them? some such thing hath the Saviour Himself too said of them, If I had not come (He says) and spoken unto them, they had not had sin, but now they have no cloke for their sin.

We must then guard against, yea rather renounce, disobedience, as the bringer in of death, and look upon faith in what Christ teaches, as the giver of life. For thus shall we escape being punished with them. But he adds that Christ had spoken these things in Capernaum, that he may be proved to have remembered accurately. For he that knoweth both place and village, how shall he fail in the relation of the things taught?

60 Many therefore of His disciples, when they had heard this, saith, Hard is this saying, who can hear it? 61 when Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples are murmuring at it, He said unto them,

This is the custom of the simple: they ever find fault with the more subtle doctrines and foolishly tear in pieces any thought that is above them, because themselves understand it not: although they ought rather to have been eager to learn, and to have loved to search diligently the things spoken, not on the contrary to rise up against so wise words, and call that hard, which they ought to have marvelled at. For they are somewhat in the same plight, as one may see those in who have lost their teeth. For the one hurrying to the more delicate food, often reject the more wholesome, and sometimes blame the more excellent, not acknowledging the disease, whereby they are compelled to decline it: and these, the foster-brethren of unlearning and bereft of sound mind, shrink from knowledge, which they ought to have pursued with exceeding much toil, and to have attained by intent zeal. The spiritual man then will delight himself in the words of our Saviour, and will justly cry out, How sweet are Thy words unto my throat, yea, above honey and the comb to my mouth; while the carnal Jew ignorantly esteeming the spiritual Mystery to be foolishness, when admonished by the Words of the Saviour to mount up to the understanding befitting man, ever sinketh down to the folly which is his foster-brother, calling evil good, and good evil, according to the Prophet’s voice. He follows again his fathers, and herein too is he detected imitating the unlearning of his forefathers. For the one on receiving the manna from God, and being made partakers of the blessing from above, were dragged down to their wonted coarseness, and sought for the unsavourinesses of Egypt, desiring to behold onions, leeks, and kettles of fish: and these on being exhorted to receive the life-giving Grace of the Spirit, and taught to feed on the Very Bread, which cometh from God the Father, turn aside after their own error, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God: and as their forefathers used to find fault with the very food of manna, daring to say, And our soul is dried away with this manna: so do these too again reject the Very Bread, and blush not to say, Hard is this saying.

The hearers therefore of the Divine Mysteries must be wise, they must be approved exchangers, so as to know the approved and counterfeit coin, and neither unseasonably to bring inextricable questioning on those things which are to be received in faith, nor to lavish a faith sometimes harmful upon those things that require investigation, but to render to every thing that is said its due, and to advance as it were by a straight path, refusing to turn aside on either hand. For by a royal road beseems it him to travel who runneth to uprightness of faith which is in Christ.

62 Doth this offend you? what and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before?

From utter ignorance, certain of those who were being taught by Christ the Saviour, were offended at His words. For when they heard Him saying, Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of man and drink His Blood, ye have no life in you, they supposed that they were invited to some brutish savageness, as though they were enjoined to eat flesh and to sup up blood, and were constrained to do things which are dreadful even to hear. For they knew not the beauty of the Mystery, and that fairest economy devised for it. Besides this, they full surely reasoned thus with themselves, How can the human body implant in us everlasting life, what can a thing of like nature with ourselves avail to immortality? Christ therefore understanding their thoughts (for all things are naked and bared to His eyes), heals them again, leading them by the hand manifoldly to the understanding of those things of which they were yet ignorant. Very foolishly, sirs, (saith He) are ye offended at My Words. For if ye cannot yet believe, albeit oftentimes instructed, that My Body will infuse life into you, how will ye feel (He saith) when ye shall see It ascend even into heaven? For not only do I promise that I will ascend even into heaven itself, that ye may not again say, How? but the sight shall be in your eyes, shaming every gainsayer. If then ye shall see (saith He) the Son of Man ascending into heaven, what will ye say then? For ye will be convicted of no slight folly. For if ye suppose that My Flesh cannot put life into you, how can It ascend into heaven like a bird? For if It cannot quicken, because its nature is not to quicken, how will It soar in air, how mount up into the heavens? for this too is equally impossible for flesh. But if it ascends contrary to nature, what is to hinder it from quickening also, even though its nature be not to quicken, of its own nature? For He Who made That heavenly which is from earth, will render it Lifegiving also, even though its nature be to decay, as regards its own self?

We must observe how He doth not endure to be divided into two christs, according to the uncounsel of some. For He keepeth Himself every way undivided after the Incarnation. For He says that the Son of man ascendeth up where He was before, although the earthly Body was not above before this, but only the Word by Itself before His Concurrence with flesh. Well then hath Paul put in his epistles. One Lord Jesus Christ. For He is One Son, both before the Incarnation and after the Incarnation, and we do not reckon His own Body as alien from the Word. Wherefore He says that the Word which came down from above from heaven is also Son of Man. For He was made Flesh, as the blessed Evangelist saith, and did not pass into flesh by change (for He is without turning and Unchangeable by Nature as God) but as it were dwelling in His own Temple, I mean that from the Virgin, and made Man in very deed. But by saying that He will ascend up where He was before also, He gives His hearers to understand that He hath comedown from heaven. For thus it was like that they understanding the force of the argument, should give heed to Him not as to a man only, but should at length know that He is God the Word in the Flesh, and believe that His Body too is Life-giving.

63 It is the Spirit That quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing.

It is not unreasonably (He says) that ye have clothed the flesh in no power of giving life. For when the nature of the flesh is considered alone and by itself, plainly it is not life-giving. For never will ought of things that are, give life, but rather it hath itself need of Him who is mighty to quicken. But when the Mystery of the Incarnation is carefully considered, and ye then learn who it is who dwelleth in this Flesh, ye will then surely feel (He says) unless you would accuse the Divine Spirit Itself also, that It can impart life, although of itself the flesh profiteth not a whit. For since it was united to the Life-giving Word, it hath become wholly Life-giving, hastening up to the power of the higher Nature, not itself forcing unto its own nature Him who cannot in any wise be subjected. Although then the nature of the flesh be in itself powerless to give life, yet will it inwork this, when it has the Life-working Word, and is replete with His whole operation. For it is the Body of that which is by Nature Life, not of any earthly being, as to whom that might rightly hold, The flesh proflteth nothing. For not the flesh of Paul (for instance) nor yet of Peter, or any other, would work this in us; but only and specially that of our Saviour Christ in whom dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. For verily it would be a thing most absurd that honey should infuse its own quality into things which naturally have no sweetness, and should have power to transfer into itself that wherewith it is mingled, and that the Life-giving Nature of God the Word should not be able to elevate to Its own good that Body which It indwelt. Wherefore as to all other things the saying will be true, that the flesh profiteth nothing; but as to Christ alone it holdeth not, by reason that Life, that is the Only-Begotten, dwelt therein. And He calls Himself Spirit, for God is a Spirit and as the blessed Paul saith, For the Lord is the Spirit. And we do not say these things, as taking away from the Holy Ghost His Proper Existence; but as He calls Himself Son of man, since He was made Man, so again He calls Himself Spirit from His Own Spirit. For not Other than He is His Spirit.

The words that I have spoken unto you, they are Spirit and are life.

He filleth whole His Own Body with the Life-giving operation of the Spirit. For He now calls the Flesh Spirit, not turning It aside from being Flesh: but because by reason of Its being perfectly united to Him, and now endued with His whole Life-giving Power, It ought to be called Spirit too. And no wonder, for be not offended at this. For if he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit, how shall not His Own Body rather be called One with Him? Something of this kind then He means in the passage before us: I perceive from your reasonings within you (saith He) that ye foolishly imagine that I am telling you, that the body of earth is of its own nature life-giving: but this is not the drift of My words. For My whole exposition to you was of the Divine Spirit and of Eternal Life. For it is not the nature of the flesh which renders the Spirit life-giving, but the might of the Spirit maketh the Body life-giving. The words then which I have discoursed with you, are spirit, that is spiritual and of the Spirit, and are life, i. e., life-giving and of that which is by Nature Life. And not as repudiating His Own Flesh does He say these things, but as teaching us what is the truth. For what we have just said, this will we repeat for profit sake. The nature of the flesh cannot of itself quicken (for what more is there in Him That is God by Nature?) yet will it not be conceived of in Christ as Alone and by Itself: for it has united to it the Word, Which is by Nature Life. When therefore Christ calls it life-giving, He does not testify the Power of quickening to It so much, as to Himself, or to His Spirit. For because of Him is His Own Body too Life-giving, since He re-elemented It to His Own Power. But the ‘how,’ is neither to be apprehended by the mind, nor spoken by the tongue, but honoured in silence and faith above understanding.

But that the Son too is often called by the name of Spirit by the God-inspired Scriptures, we shall know by what is subjoined. The blessed John then writes of Him, This is He That came by water and Spirit, Jesus Christ, not by water only, but by water and the Spirit: and it is the Spirit That beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. Lo, he calleth the Spirit Truth, albeit Christ openly crieth out, I am the Truth. Paul again writes to us saying, They that are in the flesh cannot please God: but ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you, but if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. But if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. Lo again herein having proved that the Spirit of God dwelleth in us, he hath said that Christ Himself is in us. For inseparable from the Son is His Spirit, according to the count of Identity of Nature, even though He be conceived of as having a Personal Existence. Therefore He often names indifferently, sometimes the Spirit, sometimes Himself.

64 Yet there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they are that believe not, and who should betray Him: 65 and said, Therefore have I said unto you, that no man can come unto Me, except it have been given unto him of My Father.

Herein again one may clearly see fulfilled that-which was fore-heralded by one of the holy Prophets, With your hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand, and looking shall look and shall not see. For the heart of this people is waxen fat, and they have weighed down their ears and closed their eyes, lest they should at all see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and should convert, and I should heal them. For they being themselves car-witnesses of the doctrines of the Saviour, and from none other of the saints learning them, but rather instructed in the mysteries by the Voice of the Lord of all, yea even seeing Him with their bodily eyes, waxed gross in their folly, and having closed the eyes of their understanding, turned them away from the Sun of Righteousness, not admitting the illumination of the gospel instruction. For evil were they, and guilty of many past offences. Wherefore also the wise Paul testified to us that hardness in part is happened unto Israel. But since it was the work of no common wisdom to acknowledge that He Who was veiled in human form is God, He saith that he cannot come to Him who has not yet received, i. e., understanding from God the Father, and with reason. For if every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of lights, how much more will not the acknowledgement of Christ, be a gift of the Father’s Right Hand, and the apprehension of the truth how will it not be conceived to be beyond all grace? For in proportion as it is shewn to be the Giver of the highest goods, so much the more befits it that it depend upon the Divine Munificence. But not to the unclean does the Father grant the knowledge of Christ, nor to those accustomed to stray unto extravagant unbelief doth He infuse the most helpful grace of the Spirit: for not on mud is it right that the precious ointment be poured forth. And verily the blessed prophet Jeremiah commands that they be first purged by desire unto every good work, who desire to draw near unto Christ through faith, crying out, Seek ye God and when ye find Him call on Him; when He shall be nigh to you, let the ungodly man forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his counsel, and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him, for He will abundantly pardon your sins. Thou seest how he says that he must first depart from his old way, and remove from unlawful devices, that he may obtain remission of sins, i. e., through faith in Christ. For we are justified not by the works of the law, but by the grace that is from Him, and the forgiveness granted us from above.

But some one may say, Therefore what hindered Him from pardoning the Jews also, and from pouring out remission on Israel together with us? for this too would befit Him That was perfectly good. And how too (says he) will He speak truly when He saith to us, I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance?

What shall we say then to those things? For them of Israel alone at the first was the grace of the Saviour devised. For He was sent, as Himself affirmed, only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And in truth they who will believe may yet attain unto life everlasting. But some, living in a nobler course of life, and searchers of the truth, received the grace of God the Father co-working with them unto salvation through faith and were saved: but the haughty Pharisee, and the hard-hearted high-priests with them, and the elders of the people, would not believe, though fore-instructed by Moses and the Prophets. But since through their own ill-counsel, they at length shewed themselves unworthy of everlasting life, they received not the illumination which is from God the Father. And you have the type of this too in the elder writings. For as to them who disbelieved God in the wilderness, entry into the land of promise was not given; so to these who by their unbelief dishonour Christ, entrance was not granted into the kingdom of heaven, whereof the land of promise was the type. And God is not unrighteous Who bringeth His wrath upon each. For He being Just by Nature, will discriminate altogether rightly, and will direct His Own Judgment agreeably to His Own Nature, even though WE understand not the mode of the economy which is above us.

Profitably does the blessed Evangelist tell us that Jesus knew all things, and was not ignorant who should disbelieve, and who was the minister of impiety against Him, that He might again be conceived of as God, as knowing all things before they are.

66 From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.

Hard indeed is ever wisdom to the unwise, and what one thinks will yield them no slight profit, is often seen to be even hurtful. For as to them who are diseased in their bodily sight, the light of the sun is an enemy, and it is pleasant to them to sit in dark places; so to the sick in mind, the more difficult doctrines are hateful, and those that are obscured by hard meanings are an abomination, even though the benefit be great: and petty things are pleasant, and more acceptable, even though sometimes no advantage accrue. Shall we not find this true in the present case? when Christ was laying before them the great and Divine Mystery, and through varied thought was laying open the understanding of it, and all but gathering up now the veil of the temple, and unveiling the inner tabernacle, they loath the so wise and heavenly word, they turn aside again to their brutish unlearning, and went back, as the Evangelist saith, and refuse to walk any more with Him. For this is in truth, falling back. Wherefore by the Prophet Jeremiah He says again to the senseless and obstinate Jerusalem, the nurse of unbelievers, THOU forsookest Me, saith the LORD, and shalt go backward. For of a truth backward falling follows the rejection of good things: and God is All Good. Therefore the miserable men went back, and have fallen backwards, not walking with the Saviour any more, but turning as it were to other paths, and dragged down to their wonted passions.

But let us see again, whether we do not find the type of this too in the books of Moses. When then they had travelled through long ways and traversed that wild desert, and were now at the very land of promise, Joshua the son of Nun and certain others with him were sent by Divine command to espy it. But when they had spied out the whole land and were returned again to Moses, some of them began speaking bitter things to the synagogue. For the land (said they) which we spied hath fierce in-habitants, and we saw the sons of the giants there, and concluded by adding such things as would strike terror into the hearers. But Joshua after them tried to adorn the land with many praises, and besought them saying, The land which we searched is an exceeding good land: if the Lord delight in us, He will bring us thereinto. But the forefathers of the Jews maintained that they ought to stone Joshua: and having condemned of powerlessness God Who is mighty to all things, they sat down and wept, as it is written, and hereby with reason provoke the Lord of all. But since they were thus faithless and outrageous, they fell from the promise: for He says, As I sware in My wrath, that they should not enter into My rest. And what besides? God commands them to return and go back again. For He saith to Moses, To morrow do YE strike your tents and return by the way of the Red sea. For since they would not enter into the land whereinto they were called, they are sent to turn round, and are compelled to retrace the same way again. For they would not follow after the words of Joshua, nor on hearing of the good land, did they honour the adviser with their assent. What therefore those then suffered, this do these too now. For taught the way of everlasting life, and exhorted to hasten unto the kingdom of heaven, they outrage Him with their unbelief: wherefore justly did they go back, losing by their own perversity the proceeding onward with their Guide unto salvation.

67 Jesus therefore said unto the twelve, Would YE also go away?

Our Lord Jesus Christ doth not exhort the holy Apostles to leave Him, nor doth He offer them free and unfettered liberty of doing so, nor yet doth He permit them readily to turn aside as though they would get no harm from doing so: yea, rather He threatens them well, that if they be not found superior to the undisciplined conduct of the Jews, they too shall be sent away, and go no more with Him, but depart unto perdition. For it is not at all the number of worshippers that is precious in the sight of God, but the excellent in the ‘right faith, though they be few. Therefore the Divine Scripture says that many are they that have been called, but that only the chosen will be received, and those that are approved, being very few. And this the Divine Word Himself testified to us. It is therefore as though the Saviour said to His disciples, If ye unhesitatingly believe My words, if letting go wavering in ought, ye with simple faith receive the Mystery, if it seem bitter to you and full of intolerable infamy that My Words are accused of being hard, if ye refuse to say in Jewish fashion, How can This Man give us His Flesh to eat, I will gladly see you with Me, and will rejoice in living with you, and will love you as Mine Own, but if ye choose to think with them who have fallen back, I both enjoin you to run away with them, and do justly drive you away. For worshippers will not fail Me, seeing the Gospel message shall be spoken not in Judæa alone, but now goeth about into the whole world, and calleth men together from all parts as it were into one company, and gathereth them together with ease unto the acknowledgment of the truth. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God, as Paul saith; severity towards the unbelievers, goodness again towards them who shall acknowledge Him, if they continue in His goodness, as Paul again affirmeth, else they too shall be cut off. For He That spared not the natural branches, neither shall He spare them that were graffed in. Let him then that of folly halteth concerning the faith know and be taught by these things, that if he will not cease from such a disease, he will go back, and having no longer any Guide unto eternal life, will go down wretched into hell, and there bewail his own mis-counsel. For there (He saith) shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

It is probable however that some other profitable lesson is conveyed to us, by Jesus saying to His disciples, Would YE also go away? for lest they too should be thought to have been carried off by Jewish folly, and to have stumbled together with the unbelievers, or in any other way to cry out against Him with them, as though He taught hard things and tried to instruct His hearers in the knowledge of impossibilities, profitably did He enquire of them if they desired to depart with them, that hereby He might invite them to confession of the right and untaint faith, which indeed also came to pass.

Copyright ©1999-2018 e-Catholic2000.com