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

That the Son is naturally One with God His Father; and that He is in the Father and the Father in Him, according to the essential bond and character of their Unity; and that likewise also we ourselves, when we receive faith in Him, are proved one with each other and with God, both in a corporeal and in a spiritual sense

20 Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me.

Christ is, as it were, the Firstfruits of those who are built up into newness of life, and Himself the first heavenly Man. For, as Paul says: The second Adam is the Lord from heaven Therefore also John wrote: And no man hath ascended into heaven, but He That descended out of heaven, even the Son of man. And in close connexion with Him, the Firstfruits, yea, and far nearer unto Him than others, were those who were chosen to be disciples, and who held the rank of His followers; who also with their own eyes beheld His glory, ever attending upon Him, and in converse with Him, and gathering in, as it were, the firstfruits of His succour into their hearts. They were then, and are after Him, Who is far above all others, the Head of the body, the Church, the precious and more estimable members thereof. Furthermore, He prays that on them the blessing and sanctification of the Spirit may be sent down from His Father, but through Him wholly; for it could not be otherwise, since He is the living, and true, and active, and all-performing wisdom and power of Him That begat Him. But that none of those, who are not well-practised attentively to hearken to the inspired writings, might thoughtlessly imagine that upon the disciples only He prayed that the Spirit of God might come down, and that He did not pray for us, who clearly follow after them, and live in an early age of Christianity, the Mediator between God and man, the Advocate and High Priest of our souls, is induced, with a view to check beforehand the foolish imaginations of such men, to add this passage to what He had said, namely: Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on Me through their word. For it would have been in a manner absurd, that the sentence of condemnation should fall upon all men through one man, who was the first, I mean Adam; and that those who had not sinned at that time, that is, at which the founder of our race transgressed the commandment given unto him, should wear the dishonourable image of the earthy; and yet that when Christ came among us, Who was the Man from heaven, those who were called through Him to righteousness, the righteousness of course that is through faith, should not all be moulded into His Image. And, just as we say that the unlovely image of the earthy is seen in types, and in a form bearing the defilement of sin, and the weakness of death and corruption, and the impurity of fleshly lusts and worldly thoughts; so also, on the other hand, we think that the Image of the heavenly, that is, Christ, shines forth in purity and sincerity, and perfect incorruption, and life, and sanctification. It was, perhaps, impossible for us who had once fallen away through the original transgression to be restored to our pristine glory, except we obtained an ineffable communion and unity with God; for the nature of men upon the earth was ordered at the beginning. And no man can attain to union with God, save by communion with the Holy Spirit, Who implants in us the sanctification of His own Person, and moulds anew into His own life the nature which was subject to corruption, and so brings back to God and to His Likeness that which was bereft of the glory that this confers. And the Son is the express Image of the Father, and His Spirit is the natural Likeness of the Son. For this cause, moulding anew, as it were, into Himself the souls of men, He stamps them with the Likeness of God, and seals them with the Image of the Most High.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, then, prays not for the twelve Apostles alone, but rather for all who were destined in every age to yield to and obey the words that exhort those who hear to receive that sanctification that is through faith, and to that purification which is accomplished in them through partaking of the Spirit. And He thought it not right to leave us in doubt about the objects of His prayer, that we might learn hereby what manner of men we ought to show ourselves, and what path of righteousness we ought to tread, to accomplish those things which are well-pleasing to Him. What, then, is the manner of His prayer? That, He says, they may be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us. He asks, then, for a bond of love, and concord, and peace, to bring into spiritual unity those who believe; so that their unitedness, through perfect sympathy and inseparable harmony of soul, might resemble the features of the natural and essential unity that exists between the Father and the Son. But the bond of the love that is in us, and the power of concord, will not of itself altogether avail to keep them in the same unchangeable state of union as exists between the Father and the Son, Who preserve the manner of Their union in identity of Substance. For the one is, in fact, natural and actual, and is seen in the very definition of the existence of God; while the other only assumes the appearance of the unity which is actual. For how can the imitation be wholly like the reality? For the semblance of truth is not the same in conception with truth itself, but presents a similar appearance, and will not differ from it so long as there does not occur an occasion of distinction.

Whenever, then, a heretic, imagining that he can upset the doctrine of the natural identity and consequent unity of the Son with God the Father, and then, to demonstrate and establish his crazy theory, brings forward our own case, and says, “Just as we are not all one by reason of actual physical identity, nor yet by the fusion of our souls together, but in temper and disposition to love God, and in a united and sympathetic purpose to accomplish His Will, so also the Son is One with the Father,” we shall then reject him wholly, as guilty of great ignorance and folly. And for what reason? Because things superhuman do not entirely follow the analogy of ourselves; nor can that which has no body be subject to the laws to which bodies are subject; nor do things Divine resemble things human. For if there were nothing at all to separate or create a distinction between us and God, we might then apply the analogy of our own case to the things which concern God; but if we find the interval betwixt us to be something we cannot fathom, why do men set up the attributes of our own nature as a rule and standard for God, conceiving of that Nature Which is not bound by any law in the light of our own weaknesses, and so suffer themselves to be guilty of doing a thing which is most irrational and absurd? In so doing, they are constructing the reality from the shadow, and the truth from that which is conformed to its image; giving the second place of honour to that which has of right the first, and inferring their conception of that which is first from that which is second to it.

But that we may not seem to dwell too long on the discussion of this subject, and so to be straying away from the text, we must once more repeat the assertion, that when Christ brings forward the essential unity which the Father has with Himself, and Himself also with the Father, as an Image and Type of the inseparable fellowship, and concord, and unity that exists in kindred souls, He desires us in some sort to be blended with one another in the power that is of the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity; so that the whole body of the Church may be in fact one, ascending in Christ through the fusion and concurrence of two peoples into one perfect whole. For as Paul says: For He is our peace, Who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in His Flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that He might create in Himself of the twain one New Man, so making peace; and might reconcile them both in one Body unto God through the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby. And this was, in fact, accomplished; those who believed on Christ being of one soul one with another, and receiving, as it were, one heart, through their complete resemblance in piety towards God, and their obedience in believing, and aspirations after virtue.

And I think that what I have said is not wide of the mark, but is rather requisite and necessary. But, as the meaning of the passage compels us, leaving this subject, to enter upon a more profound inquiry, and our Saviour’s words especially incite us thereto: Even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us, we must attentively consider what explanation we must here give. For in what has gone before we rightly maintained that the union of believers, in concord of heart and soul, ought to resemble the manner of the Divine unity, and the essential identity of the Holy Trinity, and Their intimate connexion with Each Other; but in this place we are now desirous of pointing out a sort of natural unity by which we are joined into each other, and all of us to God, not altogether falling short of a kind of physical unity, I mean with each other, even though we are distinguished by having different bodies, each one of us, as it were, retiring to his own personal environment and individuality. For Peter cannot be Paul, or be spoken of as such; or again, Paul as Peter, even though both be in fact one, after the manner of their union through Christ. Taking for granted, then, the physical unity that exists between the Father and the Son, and also of course the Holy Spirit (for we believe and glorify One Godhead in the Holy Trinity), let us further inquire in what manner we are proved to be one with each other and with God, both in a corporeal and a spiritual sense. The Only-begotten, then, proceeding from the very Substance of God the Father, and having entirely in His own Nature Him That begat Him, became Flesh according to the Scripture, blending Himself, as it were, with our nature by an unspeakable combination and union with this body that is earthy; and thus He That is God by Nature became, and is in truth, a Man from heaven; not inspired merely, as some of those who do not rightly understand the depth of the mystery imagine, but being at the same time God and Man, in order that, uniting as it were in Himself things widely opposed by nature, and averse to fusion with each other, He might enable man to share and partake of the Nature of God. For even unto us has reached the fellowship and abiding Presence of the Spirit, which originated through Christ and in Christ first, when He is in fact become even as we are, that is, a Man, receiving unction and sanctification, though He is by Nature God, insomuch as He proceeded from the Father Himself, sanctifying with His own Spirit the temple of His Body as well as all the creation that to Him owes its being, and to which sanctification is suitable. The mystery, then, that is in Christ is become, as it were, a beginning and a way whereby we may partake of the Holy Spirit and union with God; for in Him are we all sanctified, after the manner I have just indicated.

In order, then, that we ourselves also may join together, and be blended into unity with God and with each other, although, through the actual difference which exists in each one of us, we have a distinct individuality of soul and body, the Only-begotten has contrived a means which His own due Wisdom and the Counsel of the Father have sought out. For by one Body, that is, His own, blessing through the mystery of the Eucharist those who believe on Him, He makes us of the same Body with Himself and with each other. For who could sunder or divide from their natural union with one another those who are knit together through His holy Body, Which is one in union with Christ? For if we all partake of the one Bread we are all made one Body; for Christ cannot suffer severance. Therefore also the Church is become Christ’s Body, and we are also individually His members, according to the wisdom of Paul. For we, being all of us united to Christ through His holy Body, inasmuch as we have received Him Who is one and indivisible in our own bodies, owe the service of our members to Him rather than to ourselves. And that, while Christ is accounted the Head, the Church is called the rest of the Body, as joined together of Christian members, Paul will prove to us by the words: That we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; but, speaking truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him, Which is the Head, even Christ; from Whom all the Body, fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in due measure of each several member, maketh the increase of the Body unto the building up of itself in love And that those who partake of His holy Flesh do gain therefrom this actual physical unity, I mean with Christ, Paul once more bears witness, when he says, with reference to the mystery of godliness: Which in other generations was not made known unto the sons of men, as it hath now been revealed unto His holy Apostles and Prophets in the Spirit; to wit, that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ. And if we are all of us of the same Body with one another in Christ, and not only with one another, but also of course with Him Who is in us through His Flesh, are we not then all of us clearly one both with one another and with Christ? For Christ is the bond of union, being at once God and Man. With reference, then, to the unity that is by the Spirit, following in the same track of inquiry, we say once more, that we all, receiving one and the same Spirit, I mean the Holy Spirit, are in some sort blended together with one another and with God. For if, we being many, Christ, Who is the Spirit of the Father and His own Spirit, dwells in each one of us severally, still is the Spirit one and indivisible, binding together the dissevered spirits of the individualities of one and all of us, as we have a separate being, in His own natural singleness into unity, causing us all to be shown forth in Him, through Himself, and as one. For as the power of His holy Flesh maketh those in whom It exists to be of the same Body, so likewise also the indivisible Spirit of God That abideth in all, being one, bindeth all together into spiritual unity. Therefore also the inspired Paul thus addressed us: Forbearing one another in love; giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one Body, and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, Who is over all, and through all, and in all. For while the Spirit, Which is One, abideth in us, the One God and Father of all will be in us, binding together into unity with each other and with Himself whatsoever partaketh of the Spirit. And that we are made one with the Holy Spirit through partaking of It, will be made manifest hereby. For if, giving up the natural life, we have surrendered ourselves wholly to the laws of the Spirit, is it not henceforth beyond question, that by denying, as it were, our own lives, and taking upon ourselves the transcendent Likeness of the Holy Spirit, Who is joined unto us, we are well-nigh transformed into another nature, so to say, and are become no longer mere men, but also sons of God, and heavenly men, through having been proved partakers of the Divine Nature? We are all, therefore, one in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; one, I mean, both in identity of mental condition (for I think we ought not to forget what we said at first), and also in conformity to the life of righteousness, and in the fellowship of the holy Body of Christ, and in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, Which is One, as we just now said.

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