Augustin on John 25
26 (Jn 6,41-59.
1. When our Lord Jesus Christ, as we have heard in the Gospel when it was read, had said that He was Himself the bread which came down from heaven, the Jews murmured and said, “Is not Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?” These Jews were far off from the bread of heaven, and knew not how to hunger after it. They had the jaws of their heart languid; with open ears they were deaf, they saw and stood blind. This bread, indeed, requires the hunger of the inner man: and hence He saith in another place, “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”1 But the Apostle Paul says that Christ is for us righteousness.2 And, consequently, he that hungers after this bread, hungers after righteousness,-that righteousness however which cometh down from heaven, the righteousness that God gives, not that which man works for himself. For if man were not making a righteousness for himself, the same apostle would not have said of the Jews: “For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and wishing to establish their own righteousness, they are not subject to the righteousness of God.”3 Of such were these who understood not the bread that cometh down from heaven; because being satisfied with their own righteousness, they hungered not after the righteousness of God. What is this, God’s righteousness and man’s righteousness? God’s righteousness here means, not that wherein God is righteous, but that which God bestows on man, that man may be righteous through God. But again, what was the righteousness of those Jews? A righteousness wrought of their own strength on which they presumed, and so declared themselves as if they were fulfillers of the law by their own virtue. But no man fulfills the law but he whom grace assists, that is, whom the bread that cometh down from heaven assists. “For the fulfilling of the law,” as the apostle says in brief, “is charity.”4 Charity, that is, love, not of money, but of God; love, not of earth nor of heaven, but of Him who made Heaven and earth. Whence can man have that love? Let us hear the same: “The love of God,” saith he, “is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us.”5 Wherefore, the Lord, about to give the Holy Spirit, said that Himself was the bread that came down from heaven, exhorting us to believe on Him. For to believe on Him is to eat the living bread. He that believes eats; he is sated invisibly, because invisibly is he born again. A babe within, a new man within. Where he is made new, there he is satisfied with food.
2. What then did the Lord answer to such murmurers? “Murmur not among yourselves.” As if He said, I know why ye are not hungry, and do not understand nor seek after this bread. “Murmur not among yourselves: no man can come unto me, except the Father that sent me draw him.” Noble excellence of grace! No man comes unless drawn. There is whom He draws, and there is whom He draws not; why He draws one and draws not another, do not desire to judge, if thou desirest not to err. Accept it at once and then understand; thou art not yet drawn? Pray that thou mayest be drawn. What do we say here, brethren? If we are “drawn” to Christ, it follows that we believe against our will; so then is force applied, not the will moved. A man can come to Church unwillingly, can approach the altar unwillingly, partake of the sacrament unwillingly: but he cannot believe unless he is willing. If we believed with the body, men might be made to believe against their will. But believing is not a thing done with the body. Hear the apostle: “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” And what follows? “And with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”6 That confession springs from the root of the heart. Sometimes thou hearest a man confessing, and knowest not whether he believes. But thou oughtest not to call him one confessing, if thou shouldest judge him to be one not believing. For to confess is this, to utter the thing that thou hast in thy heart: if thou hast one thing in thy heart, and another thing on thy tongue, thou art speaking, not confessing. Since, then, with the heart man believeth on Christ, which no man assuredly does against his will, and since he that is drawn seems to be as if forced against his will, how are we to solve this question, “No man cometh unto me, except the Father that sent me draw him”?.
3. If he is drawn, saith some one, he comes unwillingly. If he comes unwillingly, then he believes not; but if he believes not, neither does he come. For we do not run to Christ on foot, but by believing; nor is it by a motion of the body, but by the inclination of the heart that we draw nigh to Him. This is why that woman who touched the hem of His garment touched Him more than did the crowd that pressed Him. Therefore the Lord said, “Who touched me?” And the disciples wondering said, “The multitude throng Thee, and press Thee, and sayest Thou, Vho touched me?”7 And He repeated it, “Somebody hath touched me.” That woman touched, the multitude pressed. What is “touched,” except “believed”? Whence also He said to that woman that wished to throw herself at His feet after His resurrection: “’Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to the Father.”8 Thou thinkest me to be that alone which thou seest; “touch me not.” What is this? Thou supposest that I am that alone which I appear to thee: do not thus believe; that is, “touch me not for I am not yet ascended to the Father.” To thee I am not ascended, for thence I never departed. She touched Him not while He stood on the earth; how then could she touch Him while ascending to the Father? Thus, however, thus He willed Himself to be touched; thus He is touched by those by whom He is profitably touched, ascending to the Father, abiding with the Father, equa to the Father.
4. Thence also He says here, if thou turn thy attention to it, “No man cometh to me except he whom the Father shall draw.” Do not think that thou art drawn against thy will. The mind is drawn also by love. Nor ought we to be afraid, lest perchance we be censured in regard to this evangelic word of the Holy Scriptures by men who weigh words, but are far removed from things, most of all from divine things; and lest it be said to us, “How can I believe with the will if I am drawn?” I say it is not enough to be drawn by the will; thou art drawn even by delight. What is it to be drawn by delight? “Delight thyself in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thy heart.”9 There is a pleasure of the heart to which that bread of heaven is sweet. Moreover, if it was right in the poet to say, “Every man is drawn by his own pleasure,”10 -not necessity, but pleasure; not obligation, but delight,-how much more boldly ought we to say that a man is drawn to Christ when he delights in the truth, when he delights in blessedness, delights in righteousness, delights in everlasting life, all which Christ is? Or is it the case that, while the senses of the body have their pleasures, the mind is left without pleasures of its own? If the mind has no pleasures of its own, how is it said, “The sons of men shall trust under the cover of Thy wings: they shall be well satisfied with the fullness of Thy house; and Thou shalt give them drink from the river of Thy pleasure. For with Thee is the fountain of life; and in Thy light shall we see light”?11 Give me a man that loves, and he feels what I say. Give me one that longs, one that hungers, one that is travelling in this wilderness, and thirsting and panting after the fountain of his eternal home; give such, and he knows what I say. But if I speak to the cold and indifferent, he knows not what I say. Such were those who murmured among themselves. “He whom the Father shall draw,” saith He, “cometh unto me.”
5 But what is this, “Whom the Father shall draw,” when Christ Himself draws? Why did He say, “Whon the Father shall draw”? If we must be drawn, let us be drawn by Him to whom one who loves says, “We will run after the odor of Thine ointment.”12 But let us, brethren, turn our minds to, and, as far as we can, apprehend how He would have us understand it. The Father draws to the Son those who believe on the Son, because they consider that God is His Father. For God begat the Son equal to Himself, so that he who ponders, and in his faith feels and muses that He on whom he has believed is equal to the Father, this same is drawn of the Father to the Son. Arius believed the Son to be creature: the Father drew not him; for he that believes not the Son to be equal to the Father, considers not the Father. What sayest thou, Arius? What, O heretic, dost thou speak? What is Christ? Not very God, saith he, but one whom very God has made. The Father has not drawn thee, for thou hast not understood the Father, whose Son thou deniest: it is not the Son Himself but something else that thou art thinking of. Thou art neither drawn by the Father nor drawn to the Son; for the Son is very different from what thou sayest. Photius said, “Christ is only a man, he is not also God.” The Father hath not drawn him who thus believes. One whom the Father has drawn says: “Thou art Christ, Son of the living God.” Not as a prophet, not as John, not as some great and just man, but as the only, the equal, “Thou art Christ, Son of the living God.” See that he was drawn, and drawn by the Father. “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjonas: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven.”13 This revealing is itself the drawing. Thou holdest out a green twig to a sheep, and thou drawest it. Nuts are shown to a child, and he is attracted; he is drawn by what he runs to, drawn by loving it, drawn without hurt to the body, drawn by a cord of the heart. If, then, these things, which among earthly delights and pleasures are shown to them that love them, draw them, since it is true that “every man is drawn by his own pleasure,” does not Christ, revealed by the Father, draw? For what does the soul more strongly desire than the truth? For what ought it to have a greedy appetite, with which to wish that there may be within a healthy palate for judging the things that are true, unless it be to eat and drink wisdom, righteousness, truth, eternity?
6. But where will this be? There better, there more truly, there more fully. For here we can more easily hunger than be satisfied, especially if we have good hope: for “Blessed,” saith He, “are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness,” that is here; “for they shall be filled,” that is there. Therefore when He had said,” No man cometh unto me except the Father that sent me draw him,” what did He subjoin? “And I will raise him up in the last day.” I render unto him what he loves, what he hopes for: he will see what, not as yet by seeing, he has believed; he shall eat that which he hungers after; he shall be filled with that which he thirsts after. Where? In the resurrection of the dead; for “I will raise him up on the last day.”
7. For it is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught of God.” Why have I said this, O Jews? The Father has not taught you; how can ye know me? For all the men of that kingdom shall be taught of God, not learn from men. And though they do learn from men, yet what they understand is given them within, flashes within, is revealed within. What do men that proclaim tidings from without? What am I doing even now while I speak? I am pouring a clatter of words into your ears. What is that that I say or that I speak, unless He that is within reveal it? Without is the planter of the tree, within is the tree’s Creator. He that planteth and He that watereth work from without: this is what we do. But “neither he that planteth is anything, nor he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.”14 That is, “they shall be all taught of God.” All who? “Every one who has heard and learned of the Father cometh unto me.” See how the Father draws: He delights by teaching, not by imposing a necessity. Behold how He draws: “They shall be all taught of God.” This is God’s drawing. “Every man that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” This is God’s drawing.
8. What then, brethren? If every man who has heard and learned of the Father, the same cometh unto Christ, has Christ taught nothing here? What shall we say to this, that men who have not seen the Father as their teacher have seen the Son? The Son spake, but the Father taught. I, being a man, whom do I teach? Whom, brethren, but him who has heard my word? If I, being a man, do teach him who hears my word, the Father also teacheth him who hears His word. And if the Father teacheth him that hears His word, ask what Christ is, and thou wilt find the word of the Father. “In the beginning was the Word.” Not in the beginning God made the Word, just as “in the beginning God made the heaven and the earth.”15 Behold how that He is not a creature. Learn to be drawn to the Son by the Father: that the Father may teach thee, hear His Word. What Word of Him, sayest thou, do I hear? “In the beginning was the Word” (it is not “was made,” but “was”), “and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” How can men abiding in the flesh hear such a Word? “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”
9. He Himself explains this also, and shows us His meaning when He said, “He that hath heard and learned of the Father cometh unto me.” He forthwith subjoined what we were able to conceive: “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he who is of God, he hath seen the Father.” What is that which He saith? I have seen the Father, you have not seen the Father; and yet ye come not unto me unless ye are drawn by the Father. And what is it for you to be drawn by the Father but to learn of the Father? What is to learn of the Father but to hear of the Father? What is to hear of the Father but to hear the Word of the Father-that is, to hear me? In case, therefore, when I say to you, “Every man that hath heard and learned of the Father,” you should say within yourselves, But we have never seen the Father, how could we learn of the Father hear from myself: “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save He who is of God, He hath seen the Father.” I know the Father, I am from Him; but in that manner in which the Word is from Him where the Word is, not that which sounds and passes away, but that which remains with the speaker and attracts the hearer.
10. Let what follows admonish us: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath eternal life.” He willed to reveal Himself, what He was: He might have said in brief, He that believeth on me hath me. For Christ is Himself true God and eternal life. Therefore, he that believeth on me, saith He, goeth into me; and he that goeth into me, hath me. But what is the meaning of “to have me”? To have eternal life. Eternal life took death upon itself; eternal life willed to die; but of thee, not of itself; of thee it received that whereby it may die in thy behalf. Of men, indeed, He took flesh, but yet not in the manner of men. For having His Father in heaven, He chose a mother on earth; both there begotten without mother, and here horn without father. Accordingly, life took upon itself death, that life might slay death. “For he that believeth on me,” saith He, “hath eternal life:” not what is open, but what is hid. For eternal life is the Word, that “in the beginning was with God, and the Word was God, and the life was the light of men.” The same eternal life gave eternal life also to the flesh which it assumed. He came to die; but on the third day He rose again. Between the Word taking flesh and the flesh rising again, death which came between was consumed.
11. “I am,” saith He, “the bread of life.” And what was the source of their pride? “Your fathers,” saith He, “did eat manha in the wilderness, and are dead.” What is it whereof ye are proud? “They ate manna, and are dead.” Why they ate and are dead? Because they believed that which they saw; what they saw not, they did not understand. Therefore were they “your” fathers, because you are like them. For so far, my brethren, as relates to this visible corporeal death, do not we too die who eat the bread that cometh down from heaven? They died just as we shall die, so far, as I said, as relates to the visible and carnal death of this body. But so far as relates to that death, concerning which the Lord warns us by fear, and in which their fathers died: Moses ate manna, Aaron ate manna, Phinehas ate manna, and many ate manna, who were pleasing to the Lord, and they are not dead. Why? Because they understood the visible food spiritually, hungered spiritually, tasted spiritually, that they might be filled spiritually. For even we at this day receive visible food: but the sacrament is one thing, the virtue of the sacrament another. How many do receive at the altar and die, and die indeed by receiving? Whence the apostle saith, “Eateth and drinketh judgment to himself.”16 For it was not the mouthful given by the Lord that was the poison to Judas. And yet he took it; and when he took it, the enemy entered into him: not because he received an evil thing, but because he being evil received a good thing in an evil way. See ye then, brethren, that ye eat the heavenly bread in a spiritual sense; bring innocence to the altar. Though your sins are daily, at least let them not be deadly. Before ye approach the altar, consider well what ye are to say: “Forgive us our debts, even as we forgive our debtors.”17 Thou forgivest, it shall be forgiven thee: approach in peace, it is bread, not poison. But see whether thou forgivest; for if thou dost not forgive, thou liest, and liest to Him whom thou canst not deceive. Thou canst lie to God, but thou canst not deceive God. He knows what thou doest. He sees thee within, examines thee within, inspects within, judges within, and within He either condemns or crowns. But the fathers of these Jews were evil fathers of evil sons, unbelieving fathers of unbelieving sons, murmuring fathers of murmurers. For in no other thing is that people said to have offended the Lord more than in murmuring against God. And for that reason, the Lord, willing to show those men to be the children of such murmurers, thus begins His address to them: “Why murmur ye among yourselves,” ye murmurers, children of murmurers? Your fathers did eat manna, and are dead; not because manna was an evil thing, but because they ate it in an evil manner.
12. “This is the bread which cometh down from heaven.” Manna signified this bread; God’s altar signified this bread. Those were sacraments. In the signs they were diverse; in the thing which was signified they were alike. Hear the apostle: “For I would not that ye should be ignorant, brethren,” saith he, “that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat.” Of course, the same spiritual meat; for corporally it was another: since they ate manna, we eat another thing; but the spiritual was the same as that which we eat. But “our” fathers, not the fathers of those Jews; those to whom we are like, not those to whom they were like. Moreover he adds: “And did all drink the same spiritual drink.” They one kind of drink, we another, but only in the visible form, which, however, signified the same thing in its spiritual virtue. For how was it that they drank the “same drink”? “They drank,” saith he “of the spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”18 Thence the bread, thence the drink. The rock was Christ in sign; the real Christ is in the Word and in flesh. And how did they drink? The rock was smitten twice with a rod; the double smiting signified the two wooden beams of the cross. “This, then, is the bread that cometh down from heaven, that if any man eat thereof, he shall not die.” But this is what belongs to the virtue of the sacrament, not to the visible sacrament; he that eateth within, not without; who eateth in his heart, not who presses with his teeth.
13. “I am the living bread, which came down from heaven.” For that reason “living,” because I came down from heaven. The manna also came down from heaven; but the manna was only a shadow, this is the truth. “If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” When did flesh comprehend this flesh which He called bread? That is called flesh which flesh does not comprehend, and for that reason all the more flesh does not comprehend it, that it is called flesh. For they were terrified at this: they said it was too much for them; they thought it impossible. “Is my flesh,” saith He, “for the life of the world.” Believers know the body of Christ, if they neglect not to be the body of Christ. Let them become the body of Christ, if they wish to live by the Spirit of Christ. None lives by the Spirit of Christ but the body of Christ. Understand, my brethren, what I mean to say. Thou art a man; thou hast both a spirit and a body. I call that a spirit which is called the soul; that whereby it consists that thou art a man, for thou consistest of soul and body. And so thou hast an invisible spirit and a visible body. Tell me which lives of the other: does thy spirit live of thy body, or thy body of thy spirit? Every man that lives can answer; and he that cannot answer this, I know not whether he lives: what cloth everyman that lives answer? My body, of course, lives by my spirit. Wouldst thou then also live by the Spirit of Christ. Be in the body of Christ. For surely my body does not live by thy spirit. My body lives by my spirit, and thy body by thy spirit. The body of Christ cannnot live but by the Spirit of Christ. It is for this that the Apostle Paul, expounding this bread, says: “One bread,” saith he, “we being many are one body.”19 O mysteryof piety! O sign of unity! O bond of charity! He that would live has where to live, has whence to live. Let him draw near, let him believe; let him be embodied, that he may be made to live. Let him not shrinkfrom the compact of members; let him not be a rotten member that deserves to be cut off; let him not be a deformed member whereof to be ashamed; let him be a fair, fit, and sound member; let him cleave to the body, live for God by God: now let him labor on earth, that hereafter he may reign in heaven.
14. The Jews, therefore, strove among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” They strove, and that among themselves, since they understood not, neither wished to take the bread of concord: “for they who eat such bread do not strive with one another; for we being many are one bread, one body.” And by this bread, “God makes people of one sort to dwell in a house.”20
15. But that which they ask, while striving among themselves, namely, how the Lord can give His flesh to be eaten, they do not immediately hear: but further it is said to them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye will have no life in you.” How, indeed, it may be eaten, and what may be the mode of eating this bread, ye are ignorant of; nevertheless, “except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye will not have life in you.” He spoke these words, not certainly to corpses, but to living men. Whereupon, lest they, understanding it to mean this life, should strive about this thing also, He going on added, “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life.” Wherefore, he that eateth not this bread, nor drinketh this blood, hath not this life; for men can have temporal life without that, but they can noways have eternal life. He then that eateth not His flesh, nor drinketh His blood, hath no life in him; and he that eateth His flesh, and drinketh His blood, hath life. This epithet, eternal, which He used, answers to both. It is not so in the case of that food which we take for the purpose of sustaining this temporal life. For he who will not take it shall not live, nor yet shall he who will take it live. For very many, even who have taken it, die; it may be by old age, or by disease, or by some other casualty. But in this food and drink, that is, in the body and blood of the Lord, it is not so. For both he that doth not take it hath no life, and he that doth take it hath life, and that indeed eternal life. And thus He would have this meat and drink to be understood as meaning the fellowship of His own body and members, which is the holy Church in his predestinated, and called, and justified, and glorified saints and believers. Of these, the first is already effected, namely, predestination; the second and third, that is, the vocation and justification, have taken place, are taking place, and will take place; but the fourth, namely, the glorifying, is at present in hope; but a thing future in realization. The sacrament of this thing, namely, of the unity of the body and blood of Christ, is prepared on the Lord’s table in some places daily, in some places at certain intervals of days, and from the Lord’s table it is taken, by some to life, by some to destruction: but the thing itself, of which it is the sacrament, is for every man to life, for no man to destruction, whosoever shall have been a partaker thereof.
16. But lest they should suppose that eternal life was promised in this meat and drink in such manner that they who should take it should not even now die in the body, He condescended to meet this thought; for when He had said, “He that eateth my flesh, anti drinketh my blood, hath eternal life,” He forthwith subjoined, “and I will raise him up on the last day.” That meanwhile, according to the Spirit, he may have eternal life in that rest into which the spirits of the saints are received; but as to the body, he shall not be defrauded of its eternal life, but, on the contrary, he shall have it in the resurrection of the dead at the last day.
17. “For my flesh,” saith He, “is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.” For whilst by meat and drink men seek to attain to this, neither to hunger nor thirst, there is nothing that truly affords this, except this meat and drink, which doth render them by whom it is taken immortal and incorruptible; that is, the very fellowship of the saints, where will be peace and unity, full and perfect. Therefore, indeed, it is, even as men of God understood this before us, that our Lord Jesus Christ has pointed our minds to His body and blood in those things, which from being many are reduced to some one thing. For a unity is formed by many grains forming together; and another unity is effected by the clustering together of many berries.
18. In a word, He now explains how that which He speaks of comes to pass, and what it is to eat His body and to drink His blood.“He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.” This it is, therefore, for a man to eat that meat and to drink that drink, to dwell in Christ, and to have Christ dwelling in him. Consequently, he that dwelleth not in Christ, and in whom Christ dwelleth not, doubtless neither eateth His flesh [spiritually] nor drinketh His blood [although he may press the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ carnally and visibly with his teeth], but rather doth he eat and drink the sacrament of so great a thing to his own judgment, because he, being unclean, has presumed to come to the sacraments of Christ, which no man taketh worthily except he that is pure: of such it is said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”21
19. “As the living Father hath sent me,” saith He, “and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.” He says not: As I eat the Father, and live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same shall live by me. For the Son, who was begotten equal, does not become better by participation of the Father; just as we are made better by participation of the Son, through the unity of His body and blood, which thing that eating and drinking signifies. We live then by Him, by eating Him; that is, by receiving Himself as the eternal life, which we did not have from ourselves. Himself, however, lives by the Father, being sent by Him, because “He emptied Himself, being made obedient even unto the death of the cross.”22 For if we take this declaration, “I live by the Father,”23 according to that which He says in another place, “The Father is greater than I;” just as we, too, live by Him who is greater than we; this results from His being sent. The sending is in fact the emptying of Himself, and His taking upon Him the form of a servant: and this is rightly understood, while also the Son’s equality of nature with the Father is preserved. For the Father is greater than the Sun as man, but He has the Son as God equal,-whilst the same is both God and man, Son of God and Son of man, one Christ Jesus. To this effect, if these words are rightly understood, He spoke thus: “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me:” just as if He were to say, My emptying of myself (in that He sent me) effected that I should live by the Father; that is, should refer my life to Him as the greater; but that any should live by me is effected by that participation in which he eats me. Therefore, I being humbled, do live by the Father, man being raised up, liveth by me. But if it was said, “I live by the Father,” so as to mean, that He is of theFather, not the Father of Him, it was said without detriment to His equality. And yet further, by saying, “And he that eateth me, even he shall live by me,” He did not signify that His own equality was the same as our equality, but He thereby showed the grace of the Mediator.
20. “This is the bread that cometh down from heaven;” that by eating it we may live, since we cannot have eternal life from ourselves. Not,” saith He, “as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth this bread shall live forever.” That those fathers are dead, He would have to be understood as meaning, that they do not live forever. For even they who eat Christ shall certainly die temporally; but they live forever, because Christ is eternal life.
1 (Mt 5,6,
2 (1Co 1,30,
3 (Rm 10,3,
4 (Rm 13,10,
5 (Rm 5,5,
6 (Rm 10,10).
7 (Lc 8,45,
8 (Jn 20,17,
9 (Ps 37,4,
10 Trahit sua quemque voluptas.-Virg. Ec. 2.
11 (Ps 36,8,
12 (Ct 1,3).
13 (Mt 16,16-17.
14 (1Co 3,7).
15 (Gn 1,1).
16 (1Co 11,29,
17 (Mt 6,12).
18 (1Co 10,1-4.
19 (1Co 10,17,
20 (Ps 68,6).
21 (Mt 5,8,
22 (Ph 2,8,
23 Propter Patrem.
27 (Jn 6,60-72.
1. We have just heard out of the Gospel the words of the Lord which follow the former discourse. From these a discourse is due to your ears and minds, and it is not unseasonable to-day; for it is concerning the body of the Lord which He said that He gave to be eaten for eternal life. And He explained the mode of this bestowal and gift of His, in what manner He gave His flesh to eat, saying, “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.” The proof that a man has eaten and drank is this, if he abides and is abode in, if he dwells and is dwelt in, if he adheres so as not to be deserted. This, then, He has taught us, and admonished us in mystical words that we may be in His body, in His members under Himself as head, eating His flesh, not abandoning our unity with Him. But most of those who were present, by not understanding Him, were offended; for in hearing these things, they thought only of flesh, that which themselves were. But the apostle says, and says what is true, “To be carnally-minded is death.”1 The Lord gives us His flesh to eat, and yet to understand it according to the flesh is death; while yet He says of His flesh, that therein is eternal life. Therefore we ought not to understand the flesh carnally. As in these words that follow:
2. “Many therefore,” not of His enemies, but “of His disciples, when they had heard this, said. This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” If His disciples accounted this saying hard, what must His enemies have thought? And yet so it behoved that to be said which should not be understood by all. The secret of God ought to make men eagerly attentive, not hostile. But these men quickly departed from Him, while the Lord said such things: they did not believe Him to be saying something great, and covering some grace by these words; they understood just according to their wishes, and in the manner of men, that Jesus was able, or was determined upon this, namely, to distribute the flesh with which the Word was clothed, piecemeal, as it were, to those that believe on Him. “This,” say they, “is a hard saying; who can hear it?”
3. “But Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples murmured at it,”-for they so said these things with themselves that they might not be heard by Him: but He who knew them in themselves, hearing within Himself,-answered and said, “This offends you;” because I said, I give you my flesh to eat, and my blood to drink, this forsooth offends you. “Then what if ye shall see the Son of man ascending where He was before?” What is this? Did He hereby solve the question that perplexed them? Did He hereby uncover the source of their offense? He did clearly, if only they understood. For they supposed that He was going to deal out His body to them; but He said that He was to ascend into heaven, of course, whole: “When ye shall see the Son of man ascending where He was before;” certainly then. at least, you will see that not in the manner you suppose does He dispense His body; certainly then, at least, you will understand that His grace is not consumed by tooth-biting).
4. And He said, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing.” Before we expound this, as the Lord grants us, that other must not be negligently passed over, where He says, “Then what if ye shall see the Son of man ascending where He was before?” For Christ is the Son of man, of the Virgin Mary. Therefore Son of man He began to be here on earth, where He took flesh from the earth. For which cause it was said prophetically, “Truth is sprung from the earth.”2 Then what does He mean when He says, “When ye shall see the Son of man ascending where He was before”? For there had been no question if He had spoken thus: “If ye shall see the Son of God ascending where He was before,” But since He said, “The Son of man ascending where He was before,” surely the Son of man was not in heaven before the time when He began to have a being on earth? Here, indeed, He said, “where He was before,” just as if He were not there at this time when He spoke these words. But in another place He says, “No man has ascended into heaven but He that came down from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven.”3 He said not “was,” but, saith He, “the Son of man who is in heaven.” He was speaking on earth, and He declared Himself to be in heaven. And yet He did not speak thus: “No man hath ascended into heaven but He that came down from heaven,” the Son of God, “who is in heaven.” Whither tends it, but to make us understand that which even in the former discourse I commended to your minds, my beloved, that Christ, both God and man, is one person, not two persons, lest our faith be not a trinity, but a quaternity? Christ, therefore, is one; the Word, soul and flesh, one Christ; the Son of God and Son of man, one Christ; Son of God always, Son of man in time, yet one Christ in regard to unity of person. In heaven He was when He spoke on earth. He was Son of man in heaven in that manner in which He was Son of God on earth; Son of God on earth in the flesh which He took, Son of man in heaven in the unity of person.
5. What is it, then, that He adds? “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing.” Let us say to Him (for He permits us, not contradicting Him, but desiring to know), O Lord, good Master, in what way does the flesh profit nothing, whilst Thou hast said, “Except a man eat my flesh, and drink my blood, he shall not have life in him?” Or does life profit nothing? And why are we what we are, but that we may have eternal life, which Thou dost promise by Thy flesh? Then what means “the flesh profiteth nothing”? It profiteth nothing, but only in the manner in which they understood it. They indeed understood the flesh, just as when cut to pieces in a carcass, or sold in the shambles; not as when it is quickened by the Spirit. Wherefore it is said that “the flesh profiteth nothing,” in the same manner as it is said that “knowledge puffeth up.” Then, ought we at once to hate knowledge? Far from it! And what means “Knowledge puffeth up”? Knowledge alone, without charity. Therefore he added, “but charity edifieth.”4 Therefore add thou to knowledge charity, and knowledge will be profitable, not by itself, but through charity. So also here, “the flesh profiteth nothing,” only when alone. Let the Spirit be added to the flesh, as charity is added to knowledge, and it profiteth very much. For if the flesh profiled nothing, the Word would not be made flesh to dwell among us. If through the flesh Christ has greatly profiled us, does the flesh profit nothing? But it is by the flesh that the Spirit has done somewhat for our salvation. Flesh was a vessel; consider what it held, not what it was. The apostles were sent forth; did their flesh profit us nothing? If the apostles’ flesh profited us, could it be that the Lord’s flesh should have profiled us nothing? For how should the sound of the Word come to us except by the voice of the flesh? Whence should writing come to us? All these are operations of the flesh, but only when the spirit moves it, as if it were its organ. Therefore “it is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing,” as they understood the flesh, but not so do I give my flesh to be eaten.
6. Hence “the words,” saith He, “which I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.” For we have said, brethren, that this is what the Lord had taught us by the eating of His flesh and drinking of His blood, that we should abide in Him and He in us. But we abide in Him when we are His members, and He abides in us when we are His temple. But that we may be His members, unity joins us together. And what but love can effect that unity should join us together? And the love of God, whence is it? Ask the apostle: “The love of God,” saith he, “is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us.”5 Therefore “it is the Spirit that quickeneth,” for it is the Spirit that makes living members. Nor does the Spirit make any members to be living except such as it finds in the body, which also the Spirit itself quickens. For the Spirit which is in thee, O man, by which it consists that thou art a man, does it quicken a member which it finds separated from thy flesh? I call thy soul thy spirit. Thy soul quickeneth only the members which are in thy flesh; if thou takest one away, it is no longer quickened by thy soul, because it is not joined to the unity of thy body. These things are said to make us love unity and fear separation. For there is nothing that a Christian ought to dread so much as to be separated from Christ’s body. For if he is separated from Christ’s body, he is not a member of Christ; if he is not a member of Christ, he is not quickened by the Spirit of Christ. “But if any man,” saith the apostle, “have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.”6 “It is the Spirit,” then, “that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” What means “are spirit and life”? They are to be understood spiritually. Hast thou understood spiritually? “They are spirit and life.” Hast thou understood carnally? So also “are they spirit and life,” but are not so to thee.
7. “But,” saith He, “there are some among you that believe not.” He said not There are some among you that understand not; but He told the cause why they understand not “There are some among you that believe not,” and therefore they understand not, because they believe not. For the prophet has said, “If ye believe not, ye shall not understand.”7 We are united by faith, quickened by understanding. Let us first adhere to Him through faith, that there may be that which may be quickened by understanding. For he who adheres not resists; he that resists believes not. And how can he that resists be quickened? He is an adversary to the ray of light by which he should be penetrated: he turns not away his eye, but shuts his mind. “There are,” then, “some who believe not.” Let them believe and open, let them open and be illumined. “For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed, and who should betray Him.” For Judas also was there. Some indeed, were offended; but he remained to watch his opportunity, not to understand. And because he remained for that purpose, the Lord kept not silence concerning him. He described him not by name, but neither was He silent about him; that all might fear though only one should perish. But after He spoke, and distinguished those that believe from those that believe not, He clearly showed the cause why they believed not. “Therefore I said unto you,” saith He, “that no man can come unto me except it were given to him of my Father.” Hence to believe is also given to us; for certainly to believe is something. And if it is something great, rejoice that thou hast believed, yet be not lifted up; for “What hast thou that thou didst not receive?”8
8. “From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.” Went back, but after Satan, not after Christ. For our Lord Christ once addressed Peter as Satan, rather because he wished to precede his Lord, and to give counsel that He should not die, He who had come to die, that we might not die for ever; and He says to him, “Get thee behind me, Satan; for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.”9 He did not drive him back to go after Satan, and so called him Satan; but He made him go behind Himself, that by walking after his Lord he should not be a Satan. But these went back in the same manner as the apostle says of certain women: “For some are turned back after Satan.”10 They walked not further with Him. Behold, cut off from the body, for perhaps they were not in the body, they have lost life. They must be reckoned among the unbelieving, notwithstanding they were called disciples. Not a few, but “many went back.” This happened, it may be, for our consolation. For sometimes it happens that a man may declare the truth, and that what he says may not be understood, and so they that hear it are offended and go away. Now the man regrets that he had spoken that truth, and he says to himself, “I ought not to have spoken so, I ought not to have said this.” Behold; it happened to the Lord: He spoke, and lost many; He remained with few. But yet He was not troubled, because He knew from the beginning who they were that believed and that believed not. If it happen to us, we are sorely perplexed. Let us find comfort in the Lord, and yet let us speak words with prudence.
9. And now addressing the few that remained: “Then said Jesus to the twelve” (namely, those twelve who remained), “Will ye also,” said He, “go away?” Not even Judas departed. But it was already manifest to the Lord why he remained: to us he was made manifest afterwards. Peter answered in behalf of all, one for many, unity for the collective whole: “Then Simon Peter answered Him, Lord, to whom shall we go?” Thou drivest us from Thee; give us Thy other self. “To whom shall we go?” If we abandon Thee, to whom shall we go? “Thou hast the words of eternal life.” See how Peter, by the gift of God and the renewal of the Holy Spirit, understood Him. How other than because he believed? “Thou hast the words of eternal life.” For Thou hast eternal life in the ministration of Thy body and blood. “And we have believed and have known.” Not have known and believed, but “believed and known.” For we believed in order to know; for if we wanted to know first, and then to believe, we should not be able either to know or to believe What have we believed and known? “That Thou art Christ, the Son of God;” that is, that Thou art that very eternal life, and that Thou givest in Thy flesh and blood only that which Thou art.
10. Then said the Lord Jesus: “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” Therefore, should He have said, “I have chosen eleven:” or is a devil also chosen, and among the elect? Persons are wont to be called “elect” by way of praise: or was man elected because some great good was done by him, without his will and knowledge? This belongs peculiarly to God; the contrary is characteristic of the wicked. For as wicked men make a bad use of the good works of God; so, on the contrary, God makes a good use of the evil works of wicked men. How good it is that the members of the body are, as they can be disposed only by God, their author and framer! Nevertheless what evil use doth wantonness make of the eyes? What ill use doth falsehood make of the tongue? Does not the false witness first both slay his own soul with his tongue, and then, after he has destroyed himself, endeavor to injure another? He makes an ill use of the tongue, but the tongue is not therefore an evil thing; the tongue is God’s work, but iniquity makes an ill use of that good work of God. How do they use their feet who run into crimes? How do murderers employ their hands? And what ill use do wicked men make of those good creatures of God that lie outside of them? With gold they corrupt judgment and oppress the innocent. Bad men make a bad use of the very light; for by evil living they employ even the very light with which they see into the service of their villanies. A bad man, when going to do a bad deed, wishes the light to shine for him, lest he stumble; he who has already stumbled and fallen within; that which he is afraid of in his body has already befallen him in his heart. Hence, to avoid the tediousness of running through them separately, a bad man makes a bad use of all the good creatures of God: a good man, on the contrary, makes a good use of the evil deeds of wicked men. And what is so good as the one God? Since, indeed, the Lord Himself said, “There is none good, but the one God.”11 By how much He is better, then, by so much the better use He makes of our evil deeds. What worse than Judas? Among all that adhered to the Master, among the twelve, to him was committed the common purse; to him was allotted the dispensing for the poor. Unthankful for so great a favor, so great an honor, he took the money, and lost righteousness: being dead, he betrayed life: Him whom he followed as a disciple, he persecuted as an enemy. All this evil was Judas’s; but the Lord employed his evil for good. He endured to be betrayed, to redeem us. Behold, Judas’s evil was turned to good. How many martyrs has Satan persecuted! If Satan left off persecuting, we should not to-day be celebrating the very glorious crown of Saint Laurence. If then God employs the evil works of the devil himself for good, what the bad man effects, by making a bad use, is to hurt himself, not to contradict the goodness of God. The Master makes use of that man. And if He knew not how to make use of him, the Master contriver would not have permitted him to be. Therefore, He saith, “One of you is a devil,” whilst I have chosen you twelve. This saying, “I have chosen you twelve,” may be understood in this way, that twelve is a sacred number. For the honor of that number was not taken away because one was lost, for another was chosen into the place of the one that perished.12 The number remained a sacred number, a number containing twelve: because they were to make known the Trinity throughout the whole world, that is, throughout the four quarters of the world. That is the reason of the three times four. Judas, then only cut himself off, not profaned the number twelve: he abandoned his Teacher, for God appointed a successor to take his place.
11. All this that the Lord spoke concerning His flesh and blood;-and in the grace of that distribution He promised us eternal life, and that He meant those that eat His flesh and drink His blood to be understood, from the fact of their abiding in Him and He in them; and that they understood not who believed not; and that they were offended through their understanding spiritual things in a carnal sense; and that, while these were offended and perished, the Lord was present for the consolation of the disciples who remained, for proving whom He asked, “Will ye also go away?” that the reply of their steadfastness might be known to us, for He knew that they remained with Him;-let all this, then, avail us to this end, most beloved, that we eat not the flesh and blood of Christ merely in the sacrament, as many evil men do, but that we eat and drink to the participation of the Spirit, that we abide as members in the Lord’s body, to be quickened by His Spirit, and that we be not offended, even if many do now with us eat and drink the sacraments in a temporal manner, who shall in the end have eternal torments. For at present Christ’s body is as it were mixed on the threshing-floor: “But the Lord knoweth them that are His.”13 If thou knowest what thou threshest, that the substance is there hidden, that the threshing has not consumed what the winnowing has purged; certain are we, brethren, that all of us who are in the Lord’s body, and abide in Him, that He also may abide in us, have of necessity to live among evil men in this world even unto the end. I do not say among those evil men who blaspheme Christ; for there are now few found who blaspheme with the tongue, but many who do so by their life. Among those, then, we must necessarily live even unto the end.
12. But what is this that He saith: “He that abideth in me, and I in him”? What, but that which the martyrs heard: “He that persevereth unto the end, the same shall be saved”?14 How did Saint Laurence, whose feast we celebrate to-day, abide in Him? He abode even to temptation, abode even to tyrannical questioning, abode even to bitterest threatening, abode even to destruction;-that were a trifle, abode even to savage torture. For he was not put to death quickly, but tormented in the fire: he was allowed to live a long time; nay, not allowed to live a long time, but forced to die a slow, lingering death. Then, in that lingering death, in those torments, because he had well eaten and well drunk, as one who had feasted on that meat, as one intoxicated with that cup, he felt not the torments. For He was there who said, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth.” For the flesh indeed was burning, but the Spirit was quickening the soul. He shrunk not back, and he mounted into the kingdom. But the holy martyr Xystus, whose day we celebrated five days ago, had said to him, “Mourn not, my son;” for Xystus was a bishop, he was a deacon. “Mourn not,” said he; “thou shall follow me after three days.” He said three days, meaning the interval between the day of Saint Xystus’s suffering and that of Saint Laurence’s suffering, which falls on to-day. Three days is the interval. What comfort! He says not, “Mourn not, my son; the persecution will cease, and thou wilt be safe;” but, “do not mourn: whither I precede thou shall follow; nor shall thy pursuit be deferred: three days will be the interval, and thou shall be with me.” He accepted the oracle, vanquished the devil, and attained to the triumph.
1 (Rm 7,6).
2 (Ps 85,12.
3 (Jn 3,13,
4 (1Co 8,1,
5 (Rm 5,5).
6 (Rm 8,9,
7 (Is 7,9, LXX.
8 (1Co 4,7,
9 (Mt 16,23,
10 (1Tm 5,15).
11 (Mc 10,10,
12 (Ac 1,26).
13 (2Tm 2,19,
14 (Mt 24,13,
Augustin on John 25