Golden Chain 12118
12118 Jn 1,18
ORIGEN; Heracleon asserts, that this is a declaration of the disciple, not of the Baptist: an unreasonable supposition; for if the words, Of His fullness have we all received, are the Baptist's, does not the connection run naturally, that he receiving of the grace of Christ, the second in the place of the first grace, and confessing that the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ; understood here that no man had seen God at any time, and that the Only Begotten, who was in the bosom of the Father, had committed this declaration of Himself to John, and all who with him had received of His fullness? For John was not the first who declared Him; for He Himself who was before Abraham, tells us, that Abraham rejoiced to see His glory.
CHRYS. Or thus; the Evangelist after showing the great superiority of Christ's gifts, compared with those dispensed by Moses, wishes in the next place to supply an adequate reason for the difference. The one being a servant was made a minister of a lesser dispensation: but the other Who was Lord, and Son of the King, brought us far higher things, being ever coexistent with the Father, and beholding Him. Then follows, No man has seen God at any time, &c.
AUG. What is that then which Jacob said, I have seen God face to face; and that which is written of Moses, he talked with God face to face; and that which the prophet Isaiah said of himself, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne?
GREG. It is plainly given us to understand here, that while we are in this mortal state, we see God only through the medium of certain images, not, in the reality of His own nature. A soul influenced by the grace of the Spirit may see God through certain figures, but cannot penetrate into his absolute essence. And hence it is that Jacob, who testifies that he saw God, saw nothing but an Angel: and that Moses, who talked with God face to face, says, Show me Your way, that I may know You: meaning that he ardently desired to see in the brightness of His own infinite Nature, Him Whom he had only as yet seen reflected in images.
CHRYS. If the old fathers had seen That very Nature, they would not have contemplated It so variously, for It is in Itself simple and without shape; It sits not, It walks not; these are the qualities of bodies. Whence he said through the Prophet, I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the Prophets: i.e. I have condescended to them, I appeared that which I was not. For inasmuch as the Son of God was about to manifest Himself to us in actual flesh, men were at first raised to the sight of God, in such ways as allowed of their seeing Him.
AUG. Now it is said, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God; and again, When He shall appear, we shall be like to Him, for we shall see Him as He is. What is the meaning then of the words here: No man has seen God at any time? The reply is easy: those passages speak of God, as to be seen, not as already seen. They shall see God, it is said, not, they have seen Him: nor is it, we have seen Him, but, we shall see Him as He is. For, No man has seen God at any time, neither in this life, nor yet in the Angelic, as He is; in the same way in which sensible things are perceived by the bodily vision.
GREG. If however any, while inhabiting this corruptible flesh, can advance to such an immeasurable height of virtue, as to be able to discern by the contemplative vision, the eternal brightness of God, their case affects not what we say. For whoever sees wisdom, that is, God, is dead wholly to this life, being no longer occupied by the love of it.
AUG. For unless any in some sense die to this life, either by leaving the body altogether, or by being so withdrawn and alienated from carnal perceptions, that he may well not know, as the Apostle says, whether he be in the body or out of the body, he cannot be carried away, and borne aloft to that vision.
GREG. Some hold that in the place of bliss, God is visible in His brightness, but not in His nature. This is to indulge in over much subtlety. For in that simple and unchangeable essence, no division can be made between the nature and the brightness.
AUG. If we say, that the text, No one has seen God, at any time, applies only to men; so that, as the Apostle more plainly interprets it, Whom no man has seen nor can see, no one is to be understood here to mean, no one of men: the question may be solved in a way not to contradict what our Lord says, Their Angels do always behold the face of My Father; so that we must believe that Angels see, what no one, i.e. of men, has ever seen.
GREG. Some however there are who conceive that not even the Angels see God.
CHRYS. That very existence which is God, neither Prophets, nor even Angels, nor yet Archangels, have seen. For inquire of the Angels; they say nothing concerning His Substance; but sing, Glory to God in the highest, and Peace on earth to men of good will. Nay, ask even Cherubim and Seraphim; you will hear only in reply the mystic melody of devotion, and that heaven and earth are full of His glory.
AUG. Which indeed is true so far, that no bodily or even mental vision of man has ever embraced the fullness of God; for it is one thing to see, another to embrace the whole of what you see. A thing is seen, if only the sight of it be caught; but we only see a thing fully, when we have no part of it unseen, when we see round its extreme limits.
CHRYS. In this complete sense only the Son and the Holy Ghost see the Father. For how can created nature see that which is uncreated? So then no man knows the Father as the Son knows Him: and hence what follows, The Only-Begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared, Him. That we might not be led by the identity of the name, to confound Him with the sons made so by grace, the article is annexed in the first place; and then, to put an end to all doubt, the name Only-Begotten is introduced.
HILARY; The Truth of His Nature did not seem sufficiently explained by the name of Son, unless, in addition, its peculiar force as proper to Him were expressed, so signifying its distinctness from all beside. For in that, besides Son, he calls Him also the Only-Begotten, he cut off altogether all suspicion of adoption, the Nature of the Only-Begotten guaranteeing the truth of the name.
CHRYS. He adds, Which is in the bosom of the Father. To dwell in the bosom is much more than simply to see. For he who sees simply, has not the knowledge thoroughly of that which he sees; but he who dwells in the bosom, knows every thing. When you hear then that no one knows the Father save the Son, do not by any means suppose that he only knows the Father more than any other, and does not know Him fully. For the Evangelist sets forth His residing in the bosom of the Father on this very account: viz. to show us the intimate converse of the Only-Begotten, and His co-eternity with the Father.
AUG. In the bosom of the Father, i.e. in the secret Presence of the Father: for God has not the fold on the bosom, as we have; nor must be imagined to sit, as we do; nor is He bound with a girdle, so as to have a fold: but from the fact of our bosom being placed innermost, the secret Presence of the Father is called the bosom of the Father. He then who, in the secret Presence of the Father, knew the Father, the same has declared what He saw.
CHRYS. But what has He declared? That God is one. But this the rest of the Prophets and Moses proclaim: what else have we learnt from the Son Who was in the bosom of the Father? In the first place, that those very truths, which the others declared, were declared through the operation of the Only Begotten: in the next place, we have received a far greater doctrine from the Only Begotten; viz. that God is a Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth; and that God is the Father of the Only Begotten.
BEDE; Farther, if the word declared have reference to the past, it must be considered that He, being made man, declared the doctrine of the Trinity in unity, and how, and by what acts we should prepare ourselves for the contemplation of it. If it have reference to the future, then it means that He will declare Him, when He shall introduce His elect to the vision of His brightness.
AUG. Yet have there been men, who, deceived by the vanity of their hearts, maintained that the Father is invisible, the Son visible. Now if they call the Son visible, with respect to His connection with the flesh, we object not; it is the Catholic doctrine. But it is madness in them to say He was so before His incarnation; i.e. if it be true that Christ is the Wisdom of God, and the Power of God. The Wisdom of God cannot be seen by the eye. If the human word cannot be seen by the eye, how can the Word of God?
CHRYS. The text then, No man has seen God at any time, applies not to the Father only, but also to the Son: for He, as Paul said, is the Image of the invisible God; but He who is the Image of the Invisible, must Himself also be invisible.
12119 Jn 1,19-23
ORIGEN; This is the second testimony of John the Baptist to Christ, the first began with, This is He of Whom I spoke; and ended with, He has declared Him.
THEOPHYL. Or, after the introduction above of John's testimony to Christ, is preferred before me, the Evangelist now adds when the above testimony was given, And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem.
ORIGEN; The Jews of Jerusalem, as being of kin to the Baptist, who was of the priestly stock, send Priests and Levites to ask him who he is; that is, men considered to hold a superior rank to the rest of their order, by God's election, and coming from that favored above all cities, Jerusalem. Such is the reverential way in which they interrogate John. We read of no such proceeding towards Christ: but what the Jews did to John, John in turn does to Christ, when he asks Him, through His disciples, Are you He that should come, or look we for another?
CHRYS. Such confidence had they in John, that they were ready to believe him on his own words: witness how it is said, To ask him, Who are you?
AUG. They would not have sent, unless they had been impressed by his lofty exercise of authority, in daring to baptize.
ORIGEN; John, as it appears, saw from the question, that the Priests and Levites had doubts whether it might not be the Christ, who was baptizing; which doubts however they were afraid to profess openly, for fear of incurring the charge of credulity. He wisely determines therefore first to correct their mistake, and then to proclaim the truth.
Accordingly, he first of all shows that he is not the Christ: And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. We may add here, that at this time the people had already begun to be impressed with the idea that Christ's advent was at hand, in consequence of the interpretations which the lawyers had collected out of the sacred writings to that effect. Thus Theudas had been enabled to collect together a considerable body, on the strength of his pretending to be the Christ; and after him Judas, in the days of the taxation, had done the same. Such being the strong expectation of Christ's advent then prevalent, the Jews send to John, intending by the question, Who are you? to extract from him whether he were the Christ.
GREG. He denied directly being what he was not, but he did not deny what he was: thus, by his speaking truth, becoming a true member of Him Whose name he had not dishonestly usurped.
CHRYS. Or take this explanation: The Jews were influenced by a kind of human sympathy for John, whom they were reluctant to see made subordinate to Christ, on account of the many marks of greatness about him; his illustrious descent in the first place, he being the son of a chief priest; in the next, his hard training, and his contempt of the world. Whereas in Christ the contrary were apparent; a humble birth, for which they reproach Him; Is not this the carpenter's son? an ordinary way of living; a dress such as every one else wore.
As John then was constantly sending to Christ, they send to him, with the view of having him for their master, and thinking to induce him, by blandishments, to confess himself Christ. They do not therefore send inferior persons to him, ministers and Herodians, as they did to Christ, but Priests and Levites; and not of these an indiscriminate party, but those of Jerusalem, i.e. the more honorable ones; but they send them with this question, to ask, Who are you? not from a wish to be informed, but in order to induce him to do what I have said. John replies then to their intention, not to their interrogation: And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
And observe the wisdom of the Evangelist: he repeats the same thing three times, to show John's virtue, and the malice and madness of the Jews. For it is the character of a devoted servant, not only to forbear taking to himself his lord's glory, but even, when numbers offer it to him, to reject it. The multitude indeed believed from ignorance that John was the Christ, but in these it was malice; and in this spirit they put the question to him, thinking, by their blandishments to bring him over to their wishes.
For unless this had been their design, when he replied, I am not the Christ, they would have said, We did not suspect this; we did not come to ask this. When caught, however, and discovered in their purpose, they proceed to another question: And they asked him, What then? Are you Elias?
AUG. For they knew that Elias was to preach Christ; the name of Christ not being unknown to any among the Jews; but they did not think that our Lord was the Christ: and yet did not altogether imagine that there was no Christ about to come. In this way, while looking forward to the future, they mistook at the present.
And he said, I am not.
GREG. These words gave rise to a very different question. In another place, our Lord, when asked by His disciples concerning the coming of Elias, replied, If you will receive it, this is Elias. But John says, I am not Elias. How is he then a preacher of the truth, if he agrees not with what that very Truth declares?
ORIGEN; Some one will say that John was ignorant that he was Elias; as those say, who maintain, from this passage the doctrine of a second incorporation, as though the soul took up a new body, after leaving its old one. For the Jews, it is said, asking John by the Levites and priests, whether he is Elias, suppose the doctrine of a second body to be already certain; as though it rested upon tradition, and were part of their secret system. To which question, however, John replies, I am not Elias: not being acquainted with his own prior existence. But how is it reasonable to imagine, if John were a prophet enlightened by the Spirit, and had revealed so much concerning the Father, and the Only-Begotten, that he could be so in the dark as to himself, as not to know that his own soul had once belonged to Elias?
GREG. But if we examine the truth accurately, that which sounds inconsistent, will be found not really so. The Angel told Zacharias concerning John, He shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias. As Elias then will preach the second advent of our Lord, so John preached His first; as the former will come as the precursor of the Judge, so the latter was made the precursor of the Redeemer. John was Elias in spirit, not in person: and what our Lord affirms of the spirit, John denies of the Person: there being a kind of propriety in this; viz. that our Lord to His disciples should speak spiritually of John, and that John, in answering the carnal multitude, should speak of his body, not of his spirit.
ORIGEN; He answers then the Levites and Priests, I am not, conjecturing what their question meant: for the purport of their examination was to discover, not whether the spirit in both was the same, but whether John was that very Elias, who was taken up, now appearing again, as the Jews expected, without another birth. But he whom we mentioned above as holding this doctrine of a reincorporation, will say that it is not consistent that the Priests and Levites should be ignorant of the birth of the son of so dignified a priest as Zacharias, who was born too in his father's old age, and contrary to all human probabilities: especially when Luke declares, that fear came on all that dwelt round about them.
But perhaps, since Elias was expected to appear before the coming of Christ near the end, they may seem to put the question figuratively, Are you he who announces the coming of Christ at the end of the world? to which he answers, I am not. But there is in fact nothing strange in supposing that John's birth might not have been known to all. For as in the case of our Savior many knew Him to be born of Mary, and yet some wrongly imagined that He was John the Baptist, or Elias, or one of the Prophets; so in the case of John, some were not unacquainted with the fact of his being son of Zacharias, and yet some may have been in doubt whether he were not the Elias who was expected.
Again, inasmuch as many prophets had arisen in Israel, but one was especially looked forward to, of whom Moses had prophesied The Lord your God will raise up unto you a Prophet from the midst of you, of your brethren, like to me; to Him shall you hearken: they ask him in the third place, not simply whether he is a prophet, but with the article prefixed, Are you that Prophet? For every one of the prophets in succession had signified to the people of Israel that he was not the one whom Moses had prophesied of; who, like Moses, was to stand in the midst between God and man, and deliver a testament, sent from God to His disciples. They did not however apply this name to Christ, but thought that He was to be a different person; whereas John knew that Christ was that Prophet, and therefore to this question, he answered, No.
AUG. Or because John was more than a prophet: for that the prophets announced Him afar off, but John pointed Him out actually present.
Then said they to him, Who are you? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What say you of yourself?
CHRYS. You see them here pressing him still more strongly with their questions, while he on the other hand quietly puts down their suspicions, where they are untrue, and establishes the truth in their place: saying, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.
AUG. So spoke Esaias: the prophecy was fulfilled in John the Baptist.
GREG. You know that the only-begotten Son is called the Word of the Father. Now we know, in the case of our own utterance, the voice first sounds, and then the word is heard. Thus John declares himself to be the voice, i.e. because he precedes the Word, and, through his ministry, the Word of the Father is heard by man.
ORIGEN; Heracleon, in his discussion on John and the Prophets, infers that because the Savior was the Word, and John the voice, therefore the whole of the prophetic order was only sound. To which we reply, that, if the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for the battle? If the voice of prophecy is nothing but sound, why does the Savior send us to it, saying, Search the Scriptures? But John calls himself the voice, not that cries, but of one that cries in the wilderness; viz. of Him Who stood and cried, If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink. He cries, in order that those at a distance may hear him, and understand from the loudness of the sound, the vastness of the thing spoken of.
THEOPHYL. Or because he declared the truth plainly, while all who were under the law spoke obscurely.
GREG. John cries in the wilderness, because it is to forsaken and destitute Judea that he bears the consolatory tidings of a Redeemer.
ORIGEN; There is need of the voice crying in the wilderness, that the soul, forsaken by God, may be recalled to making straight the way of the Lord, following no more the crooked paths of the serpent. This has reference both to the contemplative life, as enlightened by truth, without mixture of falsehood, and to the practical, as following up the correct perception by the suitable action. Wherefore he adds, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.
GREG. The way of the Lord is made straight to the heart, when the word of truth is heard with humility; the way of the Lord is made straight to the heart, when the life is formed upon the precept.
12124 Jn 1,24-28
ORIGEN; The questions of the priests and Levites being answered, another mission comes from the Pharisees: And they that were sent were of the Pharisees. So far as it is allowable to form a conjecture from the discourse itself here, I should say that it was the third occasion of John's giving his witness. Observe the mildness of the former question, so befitting the priestly and levitical character, Who are you? There is nothing arrogant or disrespectful, but only what becomes true ministers of God.
The Pharisees however, being a sectarian body, as their name implies, address the Baptist in an importunate and contumelious way. And they said, Why baptize you then, if you be not that Christ, neither Elias, neither that Prophet? not caring about information, but only wishing to prevent him baptizing. Yet the very next thing they did, was to come to John's baptism. The solution of this is, that they came not in faith, but hypocritically, because they feared the people.
CHRYS. Or, those very same priests and Levies were of the Pharisees, and, because they could not undermine him by blandishments, began accusing, after they had compelled him to say what he was not. And they asked him, saying, Why baptize you then, if you are not the Christ, neither Elias, neither that Prophet? As if it were an act of audacity in him to baptize, when he was neither the Christ, nor His precursor, nor His proclaimer, i.e. that Prophet.
GREG. A saint, even when perversely questioned, is never diverted from the pursuit of goodness. Thus John to the words of envy opposes the words of life: John answered them, saying, I indeed baptize with water.
ORIGEN; For how would the question, Why then baptize you, be replied to in any other way, than by setting forth the carnal nature of his own baptism?
GREG. John baptizes not with the Spirit, but with water; not being able to remit sins, he washes the bodies of the baptized with water, but not their souls with pardon. Why then cloth he baptize, when he cloth not remit sins by' baptism? To maintain his character of forerunner. As his birth preceded our Lord's, so cloth his baptism precede our Lord's baptism. And he who was the forerunner of Christ in His preaching, is forerunner also in His baptism, which was the imitation of that Sacrament. And withal he announces the mystery of our redemption, saying that He, the Redeemer, is standing in the midst of men, and they know it not: There stands one among you, whom you know not: for our Lord, when He appeared in the flesh, was visible in body, but in majesty invisible.
CHRYS. One among you. It was fitting that Christ should mix with the people, and be one of the many, showing every where His humility. Whom you know not; i.e. not, in the most absolute and certain sense; not, who He is, and whence He is.
AUG. In His low estate He was not seen; and therefore the candle was; lighted.
THEOPHYL. Or it was, that our Lord was in the midst of the Pharisees; and they not knowing Him. For they thought that they knew the Scriptures, and therefore, inasmuch as our Lord was pointed out there, He was in the midst of them, i.e. in their hearts. But they knew Him not, inasmuch as they understood not the Scriptures. Or take another interpretation. He was in the midst of them, as mediator between God and man, wishing to bring them, the Pharisees, to God. But they knew Him not.
ORIGEN; Or thus; Having said, I indeed baptize with water,. in answer to the question, Why baptize you then? - to the next, If you be not Christ? he replies by declaring the preexistent substance of Christ; that it was of such virtue, that though His Godhead was invisible, He was present to every one, and pervaded the whole world; as is conveyed in the words; There stands one among you.
For He it is, Who has diffused Himself through the whole system of nature, insomuch that every thing which is created, is created by Him; All things were made by Him. Whence it is evident that even those who inquired of John, Why baptize you then? had Him among them. Or, the words, There stands one among you, are to be understood of mankind generally. For, from our character as rational beings, it follows that the word g exists in the center of us, because the heart, which is the spring of motion within us, is situated in the center of the body. Those then who carry the word within them, but are ignorant of its nature, and the source and beginning and the way in which it resides in them; these, hearing the word within them, know it not.
But John recognized Him, and reproached the Pharisees, saying, Whom you know now not. For, though expecting Christ's coming, the Pharisees had formed no lofty conception of Him, but supposed that He would only be a holy man: wherefore he briefly refutes their ignorance, and the false ideas that they had of His excellence. He said, stand; for as the Father stands, i.e. exists without variation or change, so stands the Word ever in the work of salvation, though It assume flesh, though It be in the midst of men, though It stand invisible.
Lest any one however should think that the invisible One Who comes to all men, and to the universal world, is different from Him Who was made man, and appeared on the earth, he adds, He that comes after me, i.e. Who will appear after me. The after however here has not the same meaning that it has, when Christ calls us after Him; for there we are told to follow after Him, that by treading in His steps, we may attain to the Father; but here the word is used to intimate what should follow upon John's teaching; for he came that all may believe, having by his ministry been fitted gradually by lesser things, for the reception of the perfect Word. Therefore he said, He it is Who comes after me.
CHRYS. As if he said, Do not think that every thing is contained in my baptism; for if my baptism were perfect, another would not come after me with another baptism. This baptism of mine is but an introduction to the other, and will soon pass away, like a shadow, or an image. There is One coming after me to establish the truth: and therefore this is not a perfect baptism; for, if it were, there would be no room for a second: and therefore he adds, Who is made before me: i.e. is more honorable, more lofty.
GREG. Made before me, i.e. preferred before me. He comes after me, that is, He is born after me; He is made before me, that is, He is preferred to me.
CHRYS. But lest you should think this to be the result of comparison, he immediately shows it to be a superiority beyond all comparison; Whose shoe latchet I am not worthy to unloose: as if He said, He is so much before me, that I am unworthy to be numbered among the lowest of His attendants: the unloosing of the sandal being the very lowest kind of service.
AUG. To have pronounced himself worthy even of unloosing His shoe's latchet, he would have been thinking too much of himself.
GREG. Or thus: It was a law of the old dispensation, that, if a man refused to take the woman, who of right came to him, to wife, he who by right of relationship came next to be the husband, should unloose his shoe. Now in what character did Christ appear in the world, but as Spouse of the Holy Church? John then very properly pronounced himself unworthy to unloose this shoe's latchet: as if he said, I cannot uncover the feet of the Redeemer, for I claim not the title of spouse, which I have no right to. Or the passage may be explained in another way. We know that shoes are made out of dead animals. Our Lord then, when He came in the flesh, put on, as it were, shoes; because in His Divinity He took the flesh of our corruption, wherein we had of ourselves perished. And the latchet of the shoe, is the seal upon the mystery. John is not able to unloose the shoe's latchet; i.e. even he cannot penetrate into the mystery of the Incarnation. So he seems to say: What wonder that He is preferred before me, Whom, being born after me, I contemplate, yet the mystery of Whose birth I comprehend not.
ORIG. The place has been understood not amiss thus by a certain person; I am not of such importance, as that for my sake He should descend from this high abode, and take flesh upon Him, as it were a shoe.
CHRYS. John having preached the thing concerning Christ publicly and With becoming liberty, the Evangelist mentions the place of His preaching: These things were done in Bethany beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. For it was in no house or corner that John preached Christ, but beyond Jordan, in the midst of a multitude, and in the presence of all whom He had baptized. Some copies read more correctly Bethabara: for Bethany was not beyond Jordan, or in the desert, but near Jerusalem.
GLOSS; Or we must suppose two Bethanies; one over Jordan, the other on this side, not far from Jerusalem, the Bethany where Lazarus was raised from the dead.
CHRYS. He mentions this too for another reason, viz. that as He was relating events which had only recently happened, He might, by a reference to the place, appeal to the testimony of those who were present and saw them.
ALCUIN. The meaning of Bethany is, house of obedience; by which it is intimated to us, that all must approach to baptism, through the obedience of faith.
ORIG. Bethabara means house of preparation; which agrees with the baptism of Him, who was making ready a people prepared for the Lord. Jordan, again, means, "their crescent." Now what is this river but our Savior, through Whom coming into this earth all must be cleansed, in that He came down not for His own sake, but for theirs. This river it is which separates the lots given by Moses, from those given by Jesus; its streams make glad the city of God. As the serpent lies hid in the Egyptian river, so does God in this; for the Father is in the Son. Wherefore whosoever go thither to wash themselves, lay aside the reproach of Egypt, are made meet to receive the inheritance, are cleansed form leprosy, are made capable of a double portion of grace, and ready to receive the Holy Spirit; nor does the spiritual dove light upon any other river. John again baptizes beyond Jordan, as the precursor of Him Who came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
12129 Jn 1,29-31
ORIGEN; After this testimony, Jesus is seen coming to John, not only persevering in his confession, but also advanced in goodness: as is intimated by the second day. Wherefore it is said, The next day John sees Jesus coming to him. Long before this, the Mother of Jesus, as soon as she had conceived Him, went to see the mother of John then pregnant; and as soon as the sound of Mary's salutation reached the ears of Elisabeth, John leaped in the womb: but now the Baptist himself after his testimony sees Jesus coming. Men are first prepared by hearing from others, and then see with their own eyes. The example of Mary going to see Elisabeth her interior, and the Son of God going to see the Baptist, should teach us modesty and fervent charity to our inferiors. What place the Savior came from when He came to the Baptist we are not told here; but we find it in Matthew, Then comes Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John to be baptized of him.
CHRYS. Or; Matthew relates directly Christ's coming to His baptism, John His coming a second time subsequent to His baptism, as appears from what follows: I saw the Spirit descending, &c. The Evangelists have divided the periods of the history between them; Matthew passing over the part before John's imprisonment, and hastening to that event; John chiefly dwelling on what took place before the imprisonment. Thus he says, The next day John sees Jesus coming to him. But why did He come to him the next day after His baptism? Having been baptized with the multitude, He wished to prevent any from thinking that He came to John for the same reason that others did, viz. to confess His sins, and be washed in the river to repentance.
He comes therefore to give John an opportunity of correcting this mistake; which John accordingly did correct; viz. by those words, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world. For He Who was so pure, as to be able to absolve other men's sins, evidently could not have come thither for the sake of confessing His own; but only to give John an opportunity of speaking of Him. He came too the next day, that those who had heard the former testimonies of John, might hear them again more plainly; and other besides. For he said, Behold the Lamb of God, signifying that He was the one of old sought after, and reminding them of the prophecy of Isaiah, and of the shadows of the Mosaic law, in order that through the figure he might the easier lead them to the substance.
AUG. If the Lamb of God is innocent, and John is the lamb, must he not be innocent? But all men come of that stock of which David sings sorrowing, Behold, I was conceived in wickedness. He then alone was the Lamb, who was not thus conceived; for He was not conceived in wickedness, nor in sin did His mother bear Him in her womb, Whom a virgin conceived, a virgin brought forth, because that in faith she conceived, and in faith received.
ORIGEN; But whereas five kinds of animals are offered in the temple, three beasts of the field, a calf, a sheep, and a goat; and two fowls of the air, a turtle dove and a pigeon; and of the sheep kind three are introduced, the ram, the ewe, the lamb; of these three he mentions only the lamb; the lamb, as we know, being offered in the daily sacrifice, one in the morning, and one in the evening. But what other daily offering can there be, that can be meant to be offered by a reasonable nature, except the perfect Word, typically called the Lamb?
This sacrifice, which is offered up as soon as the soul begins to be enlightened, shall be accounted as a morning sacrifice, referring to the frequent exercise of the mind in divine things; for the soul cannot continually apply to the highest objects because of its union with an earthly and gross body. By this Word too, Which is Christ the Lamb, we shall be able to reason on many things, and shall in a manner attain to Him in the evening, while engaged with things of the body. But He Who offered the lamb for a sacrifice, was God hid in human form, the great Priest, He who said below, No man takes it (My life) from Me, but I lay it down of Myself: whence this name, the Lamb of God: for He carrying our sorrows, and taking away the sins of the whole world, has undergone death, as it were baptism. For God suffers no fault to pass uncorrected; but punishes it by the sharpest discipline.
THEOPHYL. He is called the Lamb of God, because God the Father accepted His death for our salvation, or, in other words, because He delivered Him up to death for our sakes. For just as we say, This is the offering of such a man, meaning the offering made by him; in the same sense Christ is called the Lamb of God Who gave His Son to die for our salvation. And whereas that typical lamb did not take away any man's sin, this one has taken away the sin of the whole world, rescuing it from the danger it was in from the wrath of God.
Behold Him Who takes away the sin of the world: he said not, who will take, but, Who takes away the sin of the world; as if He were always doing this. For He did not then only take it away when He suffered, but from that time to the present, He takes it away; not by being always crucified, for He made one sacrifice for sins, but by ever washing it by means of that sacrifice.
GREG. But then only will sin be entirely taken away from the human race, when our corruption has been turned to a glorious incorruption. We cannot be free from sin, so long as we are held in the death of the body.
THEOPHYL. Why does he say the sin of the world, not sins? Because he wished to express sin universally: just as we say commonly, that man was cast out of paradise; meaning the whole human race.
GLOSS; Or by the sin of the world is meant original sin, which is common to the whole world: which original sin, as well as the sins of every one individually, Christ by His grace remits.
AUG. For He Who took not sin from our nature, He it is Who takes away our sin. Some say, We take away the sins of men, because we are holy; for if he, who baptizes, is not holy, how can he take away the other's sin, seeing he himself is full of sin? Against these reasoners let us point to the text; Behold Him Who takes away the sin of the world; in order to do away with such presumption in man towards man.
ORIGEN; As there was a connection between the other sacrifices of the law, and the daily sacrifice of the lamb, in the same way the sacrifice of this Lamb has its reflection in the pouring out of the blood of the Martyrs, by whose patience, confession, and zeal for goodness, the machinations of the ungodly are frustrated.
THEOPHYL. John having said above to those who came from the Pharisees, that there stood one among them whom they knew not, he here points Him out to the persons thus ignorant: This is He of whom I said, After me comes a man which is preferred before me. Our Lord is called a man, in reference to His mature age, being thirty years old when He was baptized: or in a spiritual sense, as the Spouse of the Church; in which sense St. Paul speaks, I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
AUG. He comes after me, because he was born after me: He is made before me, because He is preferred to me.
GREG. He explains the reason of this superiority, in what follows: For He was before me; as if his meaning was; And this is the reason of His being superior to me, though born after me, viz. that He is not circumscribed by the time of His nativity. He Who was born of His mother in time, was begotten of His Father out of time.
THEOPHYL. Attend, O Arius. He said not, He was created before me, but He was before me. Let the false sect of Paul of Samosata attend. They will see that He did not derive His original existence from Mary; for if He derived the beginning of His being from the Virgin, how could He have been before His precursor? it being evident that the precursor preceded Christ by six months, according to the human birth.
CHRYS. That He might not seem however to give His testimony from any motive of friendship or kindred, in consequence of his being related to our Lord according to the flesh, he says, I knew Him not. John could not of course know Him, having lived in the desert. And the miraculous events of Christ's childhood, the journey of the Magi, and such like, were now a long time past; John having been quite an infant, when they happened. And throughout the whole of the interval, He had been absolutely unknown: insomuch that John proceeds, But that He should, be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. (And hence it is clear that the miracles said to have been performed by Christ in His childhood, are false and fictitious.
For if Jesus had performed miracles at this early age, he would not have been unknown to John, nor would the multitude have wanted a teacher to point Him out.) Christ Himself then did not want baptism; nor was that washing for any other reason, than to give a sign beforehand of faith in Christ. For John said not, in order to change men, and deliver from sin, but, that he should be made manifest in Israel, have I come baptizing. But would it not have been lawful for him to preach, and bring crowds together, without baptizing? Yes: but this was the easier way, for he would not have collected such numbers, had he preached without baptizing.
AUG. Now when our Lord became known, it was unnecessary to prepare a way for Him; for to those who knew Him, He became His own way. And therefore John's baptism did not last long, but only so long as to show our Lord's humility. Our Lord received baptism from a servant, in order to give us such a lesson of humility as might prepare us for receiving the grace of baptism, And that the servant's baptism might not be set before the Lord's, others were baptized with it; who after receiving it, had to receive our Lord's baptism: whereas those who first received our Lord's baptism, did not receive the servant's after.
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