1 The consolation and mutual love between Christ and His members, under the parable of the vine. 18 A comfort in the hatred and persecution of the world. 26 The office of the Holy Ghost, and of the apostles.
AM the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
Douay Rheims Version
A continuation of Christ's discourse to his disciples.
AM the true vine: and my Father is the husbandman.
Ver. 1.—I am the true Vine. The Greek has a double art. ή άμπελος ή α̉ληθινὴ, the vine the true. The Syriac is, I am that vine of truth. Christ here sets forth the parable of the vine and the branches with this end and view, to teach the Apostles that they must abide in His faith and love, and not depart therefrom in consequence of His impending passion and death. That this is the great object of the parable is plain from the ninth verse more especially, Abide ye in My love.
Christ here compares Himself to a vine, not as He is God, as Arius maintained, trying to prove that the Son is inferior to the Father, as being the Husbandman, but as man. For so men are grafted into Him as branches. For they are of the same nature and kind as the Vine. Wherefore S. Hilary says (lib. 9, de Trin.), “Christ to this end assumed flesh, that we fleshly men might as branches be grafted into Him as the Vine.” But yet the flesh of Christ would not have had that power of producing vine-branches, i.e., faithful and holy people, unless the Godhead had been united to it. Wherefore Cyril says that Christ was the Vine by reason of His Godhead. And S. Augustine saith, “Although Christ would not have been the Vine except He had been man, yet He would not have bestowed His grace upon the branches unless He had been God.”
You will inquire why Christ compared Himself to a vine rather than to an apple, or nut, or some other tree? S. Athanasius (Dis. cont. Arian.) and others reply, On account of the many qualities of the vine in which it excels other trees, and which admirably fit it to be a type of Christ. These are—1st, Its most abundant fruit: for it is the most fruitful of all plants. To this David refers (Ps. cxxviii.): “Thy wife shall be as the fruitful vine.” 2d On account of the sweetness of its fruit. 3d On account of wine, which is made from its fruit, and which makes the heart glad, and which produces many effects which may be likened to the fruits of the coming of Christ. 4th Because of all plants in comparison with the size of its stem it most widely diffuses its branches. By which the extension of the Church is signified, as it is said in Ps. lxxx., “She spread out her branches unto the sea, and her boughs unto the river.” 5th The vine has sweet-smelling flowers, and very broad leaves, with which it gives shade to other plants. Now the leaves of Christ are the external graces of preaching, conversing, &c.
6th The wine from old vines is best, and the wine from those more recently planted is the most abundant. Some vines live for more than 200 years, and then have the flavour of wild honey.
7th No tree has more durable wood than the vine.
Lastly, vines need very assiduous culture. It is necessary to dig, to plant, to drain, manure, to prune. Thus, too, does the Church, or a holy soul which is grafted into Christ the Vine, require great and constant care.
Moreover, there were two peculiar and chief reasons why Christ here compares Himself to a vine, rather than to any other tree. The first was that Christ had just previously instituted the Eucharist, and under the species of wine had given the Apostles His Blood to drink, and had left It to be drank by the faithful throughout all ages, that they might glow with His love as with new wine, and overcome all temptations. Wherefore, since shortly before He had admonished the Apostles to persevere in His love, even when they saw Him betrayed by Judas, and crucified and slain, so now He inculcates the same by the parable of the vine, thus: As the branch always inheres in the vine, and cannot be torn from it by cold or tempest, so that it should not bear fruit; so likewise do ye, 0 My Apostles, abide in My love, neither do ye fall away from believing in and loving Me because of My passion and death, for so will ye bring forth great and abundant fruit.
The other reason was because Christ was now going to His passion and death upon the cross, which the vine with her grapes very excellently represents. For as the choice wine is expressed from the trodden grapes, so also from Christ trodden in the winepress of the cross was expressed the blood which redeemed the world. Christ here alludes to what Jacob foretold concerning Him (Gen. xlix. 11), “Binding His colt to the vine, and to the grape-tree, 0 my son, His she ass. He shall wash His robe in wine, and His cloke in the blood of the grape. His eyes are more beautiful than wine.”
Hence St. Hilary says, “Rising up to the consummation of the sacraments of the Passion, He sets forth the mysteries of corporeal assumption, by which, as though we were branches, we dwell in the Vine.”
See St. Bernard’s Treatise on the Passion (if indeed it is his work, for the style is different), on the words, I am the true Vine, when he says among other things, “The vine is wont to be propagated by slips, not sown; so Christ is the Vine begotten of the Vine, i.e., He is God begotten of God, the Son of the Father. But that He should bring forth more fruit, He was planted in the earth, i.e., was born of the Virgin Mary.” Thus he adapts all the circumstances of the vine to Christ. “How,” he says, “was the glory of Christ cut off? with the knife of ignominy. His power? with the knife of humiliation. His pleasure? with the knife of pain. His riches? with the knife of poverty.” In the 4th chapter he treats of the bonds of the vine, and applies them to the cords with which Christ was bound when He was taken, and when He was bound to the pillar and beaten: also to the crown of thorns with which the Jews bound His head, also to the iron nails with which He was bound to the cross. In the 5th chapter he treats of the culture of the vine; in the 6th of the leaves of the vine, which are very broad, and which he explains of the words of Christ, especially His seven last words which He uttered on the Cross. For they as it were by their shadow protect and comfort us in every time of temptation.
You will ask further, why Christ is called the true Vine? Euthymius answers, Because He brings forth the fruit of truth. The same Euthymius says, Because He is the excellent, incorruptible, and spiritual Vine.
I would say that Christ is called the true Vine, because He truly has the nature, properties, and qualities of the vine. For as a true vine produces true branches and true grapes, so does Christ bring forth true believers and true virtues by His grace, which He instils into them by His wine-bearing sap. Thus then He is called the true Vine not corporeally, but spiritually. The true Vine therefore is opposed to the false and deceitful vine—that which has the appearance but not the nature of a vine, which produces not grapes but wild grapes. Such are the vines of Sodom, which produce grapes fair in outward sight, but when you touch them, they crumble into dust and ashes, as Josephus testifies (lib. 2, de Bell. c. 5). Such like vines were the Jews, revolting from God to idols and sin. These are spoken of Deut. xxxii. 31, “Of the vine of Sodom is their vine, and of the suburbs of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, and of a most bitter cluster: their wine is the gall of dragons, and the deadly venom of asps.”
2d Christ is the true, special, and perfect Vine, compared with whom all others are not true vines, but only shadows. So Christ is called true Light, true Life, true Bread, because He shines, quickens, nourishes, more really than any corporeal light, life, or bread. Christ therefore is the elect Vine, Heb. Sorec, i.e., the singular and chiefest Vine, of which Isaias speaks chap. v. This hath propagated its branches of faith and the Church throughout the whole world, and every where produces grapes, i.e., troops of Martyrs, Virgins, Confessors, and all Saints, according as it is said (Zach. ix. 17), “For what is His goodness, and what is His beauty, unless the corn of the elect, and the wine that bringeth forth virgins? (Vulg.)
And My Father is the Husbandman, i.e., the Vinedresser. For it is He who has planted Me as it were a Vine in the earth, and who prunes My branches, i.e. the Apostles and the rest of the faithful, cutting off the worthless, purging the fruitful that they may bring forth more fruit. Listen to S. Augustine (de Verb. Dom. secund. Joan. Serm. 59), “We honour God by worship, not by ploughing: and God honours us by making us better. For He by His words extirpates the evil seeds from our hearts. He opens our hearts as it were by the plough of His word, He sows the seed of His precepts, He expects the fruit of godliness.”
The Arians made the following objection: The vine and the husbandman have a different nature. Since therefore God the Father is a Husbandman and Christ a Vine, Christ cannot he God. Athanasius, Basil, and Ambrose answer them by saying that Christ is the Vine according to the human nature which He assumed, and so far is of a different nature from the Husbandman, i.e. God the Father. Again, although we grant Christ to be the Vine according to the Godhead, even so they gain nothing. For in the comparison of things that are like, not identity or similarity of nature is to be looked for, but that in which the likeness consists. For similitudes are commonly of a diverse and dissimilar nature, but they are compared in some quality in which they agree. There is a similitude between a vine and a husbandman, not in respect of their nature, but in respect of the branches and the fruit, that is to say, the grapes which they bring forth.
Ver. 2.—Every branch: Christ says nothing about the Vine itself, but only speaks of the branches, because Christ the Vine is self-sufficing. But the disciples have need of much help and culture from God. So Chrysostom.
Every branch in Me, &c., i.e., every Christian who by faith and baptism has been as it were a vine-branch grafted into Me, if he bear not the fruit of good works, God the Father will take him away, i.e., will cut off from the Vine the unfruitful and worthless branch. This He does both by secretly severing him from the communication of the Spirit and grace of Christ, and also by publicly separating him from Christ by means of excommunication, or by permitting him to fall into heresy. And thus in death He separates him from the company of Christ and His saints. But He will purge him who is bearing fruit from too great luxuriance of leaves, from insects, and from every evil thing, i.e., from the love of the vanity and the filth of this world, that he may bring forth more fruit. Christ is speaking primarily of the apostles, then of all the faithful. For so God the Father had just before separated Judas the traitor from Christ and the other apostles, compelling him to depart out of their house and family. But He purged Peter and the other apostles from too great love of this life, and from the fear of the Jews, through which, when Christ was taken, they either denied Him, or fled. He did this when He sent down upon them the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. He cut off that sinful love and fear, and so filled them with the love of God that they did not fear the threats of the Jews.
Now the pruning-hook or knife by which God purges the vine-branches, i.e., the faithful, is, 1st The word of God, whence He adds, ver. 3,—Ye are clean through the word, &c. For the word of God teaches us, and stirs us up to cleanse our minds from filth. 2d The pruning-hook is tribulation, affliction, persecution, poverty, hunger, and such like. For those things call us away from the love of the world, and constrain us to flee to the love of God. Listen to S. Gregory (lib. 7, epist. 32). “The fruitful branch is said to be purged, because it is pruned by discipline that it may be led to richer grace.”
3d Pruning-hooks are illuminations, terrors, rebukes, which God sends into the minds of the faithful, to purge out of them the hindrances of their faults. Thus was S. Jerome rebuked, yea scourged by God, because he applied himself more closely to the study of Cicero than to the Holy Scriptures. Hear what he says in his 22nd Epist. to Eustochium. “I was hurried in spirit before the tribunal of the judge, where there was such excess of light, and the lightnings so shot from those that stood around, that I fell to the ground, and durst not look upward. Being asked concerning my profession, I replied that I was a Christian. Then spake the judge, and said, Thou liest: thou art a Ciceronian, not a Christian. For where thy treasure is, there also is thine heart. Immediately I became dumb, and amidst the blows, for he commanded me to be beaten, I was yet more tormented with the fire of my own conscience, remembering the verse, Who will confess to Thee in hell? Thus I began to cry and to howl, saying, Have mercy upon me, 0 Lord, have mercy upon me. I declare to you that my shoulders were livid, and that I felt the blows after I awoke. And from that time forward I was more zealous in reading the Divine writings than I had been before in reading those of mortal men.”
From what Christ here says, the necessity together with the power and the integrity of good works, and that faith alone does not suffice for salvation, as the heretics say, is plainly manifest. For Christ here requires the fruit, and unless He find it, He threatens every vine branch, i.e., every professing Christian, with cutting off from the Vine, and everlasting damnation. Wherefore they were in error who said that perfect men were not under obligation to do good works. For Christ’s words in Me are strong against them. As though He said, It is a disgraceful thing that any one believing in Me should not bring forth the fruit of charity and other virtues, but should be lazy and slothful.
2d It is plain that Luther is in error when he says that all the works of the faithful are sin, because they emanate from innate concupiscence, and are not done in perfect charity. For if this were true, Christ would not require them, nor call them fruit, but rather condemn them as poison. (See Council of Trent, sess. 6, can. 25).
3d It is plain that Luther equally errs when he says that faith is lost by every mortal sin. This, too, the Council of Trent condemns. For Christ here speaks of a believer who abides in Him by faith, and yet has not the fruit of charity. Such a one therefore hath faith, but not charity.
Ver. 3.—Now ye are clean through the word, &c. This is the pruning-hook with which God the Father καθαίζει, i.e., purges and cleanses His apostles, that they may be καθαζὸι, i.e., pure and clean, as the word of Christ. For as S. Paul says (Heb. iv.), “The Word of God is living and powerful, and more penetrating than any two-edged sword, and reaching, even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow.” The meaning then is, My word, i.e., My doctrine which I have taught you, that ye may obey and believe it, is that pruning-hook which has purged you from error and sins, and has made you clean, holy, and pleasing to God.
Christ is speaking especially of His speech after the Last Supper, which had immediately preceded. For, as Toletus rightly perceived, this discourse inflamed the hearts of the disciples, who were already bearing fruit in Christ, and purged them by grace and love that they should bring forth more fruit.
For by this discourse of Christ the Apostles were purged from a certain ignorance. For Peter knew not whither Jesus was going. Thomas knew not the way. Judas asked to see the Father. The Lord pruned away this ignorance. They were also purged from vain confidence. For to Peter, their chief, it was said, Thou shalt deny Me thrice. They were purified from a sort of carnal affection. For they were too much addicted to reliance upon the sensible presence of Christ, desiring always to possess it. But now they hear that the Lord is going away to the Father, and that they must remain. They were purged from faint-heartedness, which made them almost despair of their own salvation when Christ should have departed. There were many other imperfections which the Lord pruned from His disciples on this night of the supper.
Ver. 4.—Abide in Me, as branches in the Vine, not dry and fruitless by faith only, but as bearing fruit and living by love with zeal for good works. And I in you. This clause is partly a promise of Christ, meaning, “If ye abide in Me by faith formed by love, I promise you that I will for My part abide in you, as the Vine remains in the vine-branches by a constant influx so as to afford them vital sap and nourishment for the production of grapes. In like manner I will supply you with the Spirit of grace to produce good works of charity and all virtues.” So S. Augustine, Bede, and Euthymius. The clause is partly also a precept, meaning, “Take heed that ye abide in Me, and I then will abide in you, for without Me ye can do nothing. And this ye will take care to do if ye abide in My love. For so ye will bring about that I in like manner shall abide in you by My grace. And I will cause My Spirit continually to flow into you, by which ye shall grow and increase in spiritual life, and make advancement in spiritual works.” So Toletus and others. Hear S. Gregory, in his exposition of the 6th penitential Psalm, on those words, “My soul hath waited on His words:” “Where must we abide except in Christ? Houses will fail, palaces crumble into ruin, cities be destroyed to their foundations, castles fall, heaven and earth pass away, but the Word of the Lord remaineth for ever: let us then abide in Him who abideth eternally.”
This is Christ’s summing up by which He exhorts His disciples to abide in Him, and persevere in His love and doctrine. This He proceeds to maintain by giving seven reasons. Here is the first:—
As the branch cannot bear fruit, &c. That is, as a vine-branch draws life and sap from the vine for producing grapes, so also do ye draw life and the spirit of grace from Me to bring forth good works which may deserve eternal life. From this passage then it is plain that a man cannot of himself, nor by his own natural powers, not even externally from human teaching, or personally, draw the power of bringing forth good works. It must flow from the inward grace of Christ. This applies especially to good works beyond the power of nature, and the effect which such works have of meriting increase of grace and glory. For the vine-branch hath nothing of itself, but draws all its sap, efficiency, and power of producing grapes from the vine. Thus the Council of Trent defines, and explains this passage (sess. 6, cap. 16), and adds the reason: “For since Christ Jesus is Himself the Head to the members, and as the Vine to the branches, He causes virtue continually to flow into them that are justified, which virtue always precedes their good works, accompanies and follows them, and without it they are not able in any manner to be pleasing to God, and meritorious. It must be believed that nothing more is wanting to those who are justified whereby, in those works which are done in God, they may fully satisfy the Divine law according to their condition in this life; and they should be truly believed to have merited to attain eternal life in its own time, if indeed they have departed in a state of grace.”
Calvin objects: man has not free will, nor does he by it co-operate with grace, but grace alone does the whole work. For as the vine-branch draws all the juice of its grapes from the vine, and has no juice of itself, so does a man derive all his power of doing good works from grace. And by consequence, he hath nothing of himself wherewith to co-operate with grace, or which he can communicate to the work which is done by grace. I reply, 1st By denying the consequence. For indeed in similitudes all things are not similar, so that they might or can all be applied to the thing compared, but the similarity must be reserved for what is intended to be the likeness. Christ therefore in this place makes His simile to consist only in this, that as the vine-branch derives all its vigour and sap for producing grapes from the vine, so likewise must a believer draw from the grace of Christ all the nutriment and power needful for producing supernatural works. But there is this distinction to be drawn, that a man, inasmuch as he is a rational being, co-operates with grace, and that freely. This the branch in the vine does not do, because it is but a piece of wood devoid of reason. Now it is the result of man’s free co-operation that a good work is a free and human work, even as it is because of the influx of grace that such a work becomes supernatural, worthy of God, and pleasing to Him.*
2d I deny the antecedent: for that a vine-branch, in addition to the vigour and the sap which it derives from the vine, does of its own nature contribute something to the production of grapes is plain from this, that if some other non-fruitbearing branch, or one bearing a different kind of fruit, as apples or cherries, were grafted into the vine, it would either produce nothing, or else would produce apples or cherries, not grapes. That it produces grapes, therefore, comes from its being a vine-branch.
I confess, however, that the co-operation itself of free-will is also of grace in this sense, that unless free-will were prevented, lifted up, strengthened and stirred up to co-operation by grace, and unless it had auxiliary and co-operating grace, it could not co-operate, or do anything. This is the same reason by which Christ stimulates His Apostles to abide in Him.
Ver. 5.—I am the Vine, &c.—That is, him who abides in Me by faith formed by love I likewise will love, and imbue with My spirit. This man bears much fruit, i.e., of good works, by which he continually merits an increase of grace and glory. Hence the Councils of Milevis and Orange condemn the Pelagians for saying that we have from God to be men, but from ourselves to be just. Such, S. Augustine (Tract. 21) says, are not the upholders but the destroyers of free-will. He thus sums up against them, “He who thinks that he bears fruit of himself is not in the Vine: he who is not in the Vine is not in Christ: he who is not in Christ is not a Christian.”
For without Me (not only by general and natural, but by special and supernatural prevenient and co-operating grace) ye can do nothing, i.e., in the way of fruit, which is the fruit of the Vine, i.e. of Christ, or grace going before. That is, Ye can do nothing worthy of eternal life, or grace, or merits, as the Pelagians held, who supposed that good and meritorious works could be done absolutely by free-will, though more easily by grace. But Christ did not say, without Me ye will have more difficulty in doing good, but, ye can do nothing. Listen to the Council of Orange (cap. 7), “Whosoever shall say that we can think or choose any good thing pertaining to everlasting salvation by the force of nature, or can believe the preached Gospel without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Ghost, is deceived by the spirit of heresy, not understanding the voice of God, speaking in the Gospel, Without Me ye can do nothing.” And how this should be understood the Council seems to explain, saying (ch. 9), “It is of the Divine gift both that we have right thoughts, and that we keep our feet from falsehood and unrighteousness. For as often as we do good, God is in us, and with us, since He works that we may work.”
Moreover, Calvin foolishly thinks that by the expression nothing the co-operation of free-will is taken away. Rather it establishes free-will. For if we can do no good supernatural work without Christ and His grace, it follows that with His grace we can do good works. As the Apostle says, “I have laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I (not by my own power), but the grace of God which was with me.”
Lastly, some Catholics falsely infer from those words of Christ, Without Me, &c., that all the works of unbelievers who have not the faith and grace of Christ are sins. For the expression nothing refers to works of Christ’s grace, not to works of nature. Therefore unbelievers are able to do such natural works as honour parents, feed the hungry, do good to their neighbours, but not such as pertain to the grace of Christ, or those which are fruitful for meriting eternal life. For between grace and sin stands nature, or a natural good deed, which is not sin, nor yet a work of grace.
Ye are the branches. Cyril observes that we are joined to, and inhere in Christ as branches in the vine, as well spiritually, by faith, hope, and charity, as corporeally, in that the vine is Christ’s Humanity, of which we are branches on account of the identity of the human nature, especially in the Eucharist, in which we are joined and commingled with Christ, not only as branches to the vine, but also as melted wax commingled with other melted wax. Wherefore as Christ spoke of the Eucharist (ch. vi.), saying, “Except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of man, ye shall not have life in you,” so here He speaks concerning the vine and its branches, If any one abide not in Me, he shall be cast out as a branch, and be withered, &c. And Jeremiah says (ch. ii.), “I planted thee an elect vine, a wholly true seed, how then art thou turned for me into a perverse, strange vine?” Christ therefore is called “the true (Hebrew neeman) Vine,” i.e. the faithful, sincere Vine, because He never forsakes His branches, nor leaves them without His inflowing, but continually instils into them the sap of wine, that they may produce true grapes, and the wine of charity, grace, and glory.
6. If any one abide not in Me, &c.—That is, just as the unprofitable branch is cut off from the vine, and cast outside the vineyard, where it altogether dries up, and is gathered into bundles, and cast into the fire, and straightway burned, so in like manner the Christian who does not abide in Me by faith and charity, shall, after death, be cast out of doors, i.e. be separated from the Church of the faithful, who are the members of Christ. And then he shall wholly be withered, i.e. shall be deprived of all the good sap of grace, and shall be gathered by the devils with the rest of the reprobate, that he may be cast into the fire of hell, there to burn everlastingly. Now every word expresses a punishment. They must therefore be considered separately.
The first punishment is, he shall be cast out of doors, i.e. from Christ, from God, and heaven, from the company of the angels and the saints.
The second, he shall wither. For in this life sinners often retain faith and hope, often feel the illumination of grace and Divine impulses to repentance, are often warned by preachers and others to amend their lives; and they often do works morally good. For they remain in Christ as the Vine, and do drink from Him some of the sap of goodness. But after this life, being cut off from Christ, they cannot derive any sap of grace, but all God’s gifts will be taken away from them (Luke xix. 26), so that they are fit for nothing but to become the fuel of hell.
The third is, they shall gather them. By this it is meant that the reprobate are to be gathered together into bundles, that they may be thrown into the fire, from which they will never be able to deliver themselves, according to the parable (Matt. xiii. 41). At the same time it is signified that their reason will be bound, and their freedom of will taken away, so that henceforth they will not be able either to will or to do any good thing.
Fourthly, they shall cast them into the fire, namely into hell, burning with fire and brimstone, where the smoke of their torment goeth up for ever and ever.
Fifthly, shall burn, i.e. shall immediately begin to burn everlastingly. This ends the third reason of Christ by which He exhorts His disciples to abide in Him. The fourth derived from the reward comes next.
Ver. 7.—If ye shall abide in Me, i.e. if ye shall persevere in My love and grace, and My words in you, in your memory, that you constantly call them to mind, and in your will, that you love them, and in works, that ye always fulfil My commandments, Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done for you; because ye will ask nothing except according to My will. In truth ye will ask nothing except what ye know is pleasing to God, and will be for the advancement of His glory and your own and your neighbours’ salvation. For abiding in Jesus, i.e. the Saviour, they can only wish for what pertains to salvation, as S. Augustine says. For the branch which exists in the vine, if it could ask for anything, would ask for nothing else but to be kept in the vine, and by the influx from it to produce grapes. Thus the righteous ask to be kept in the grace of Christ, and to do good works, and this they obtain. For if they should ask anything carnal, vicious, disgraceful, injurious, or unprofitable, they would ask what would be displeasing to Christ, and forbidden by Him. Therefore they would offend Him, and so could not abide in Him, nor obtain what they asked. Wherefore S. Augustine says, Christ’s words in this place have to do with the prayer which He taught us (Matt. vi. 9). Let us not depart from its spirit in our prayers, and whatsoever we ask shall be done unto us.
Ver. 8.—In this is My Father glorified, &c.—That is, is about shortly to be glorified after My death and the coming of the Holy Ghost. This is the fifth reason by which Christ urges His disciples to abide in Him and His love, because, that is, it will conduce to the great glory of God. “Abide in Me and My love, because by so doing God the Father will be glorified, that ye may bear much fruit,” that being used in the sense of if. Abiding in Me, ye will bring forth much fruit, even a mighty harvest of souls, and the conversion of the whole world. And that so ye may be made My disciples, namely, perfect and exemplary disciples. For they were already Christ’s disciples, but novices, and imperfect. He means, Ye shall glorify God the Father if ye abide in Me, and preach My faith to the whole world. For by this means ye shall take away the idolatry of all nations, and bring in everywhere the worship of one God in true holiness. And this will be the greatest ignominy to Satan, and the greatest glory to God. For the conversion of the nations will not be your work, but God’s, who will bring it about by His grace. “For by whom shall we bring forth fruit, except by Him whose mercy preventeth us?” saith S. Augustine.
Again, that ye may become My disciples, may mean my imitators in zeal and preaching the Gospel. A disciple is put for an imitator, because it is the part of a disciple to imitate his master. And so the disciples did imitate Christ, by giving themselves up even unto death to preach the Gospel.
Ver. 9.—As the Father hath loved Me, &c.—This is the sixth reason by which Christ stirs his disciples up to persevere in Him and in His love and faith. The word as does not imply equality, but similitude of love. For the Father loveth Christ far more than Christ loveth us. The meaning therefore is, As God the Father hath loved Me as man without any merits of mine freely before all others, and hath raised me to the Hypostasis of the Word, that I should be the Son of God, the Saviour and Redeemer of the world, and therefore not a natural vine but a Vine of salvation, so in like manner have I freely chosen you before other men, without any merits of your own, and raised you to the Apostolate, that ye should be made very near to Me as branches to the Vine, and that I through you should work out the salvation of all nations. Take heed therefore that ye abide in this My love. And this ye will do by loving Me and keeping my commandments. For so ye will deserve to be loved in return by Me, and be by Me constantly endowed with the benefits of which I have spoken. So S. Augustine.
Observe here, that Christ’s predestination, election, love, and grace are the means, the end, and exemplar of our predestination, election, love, and grace. See what I have said on Rom. i 4.
Abide ye in My love; take care that I always love you. For it is a great thing to be loved by Christ. It is the fount and the cause of all graces. This is the active sense of the word My. But Rupertus here takes the love of Christ in a passive sense, meaning, abide in My love, advance in My love. This is an apposite, but not the direct meaning. It is inferential, thus, Take care that I love you. And this ye will be careful about if ye proceed to love Me. For I love those that love Me. Wherefore as the Father greatly loves Me, and so works through Me so many miracles and the salvation of the world, so also do I exceedingly love you, and therefore heap upon you so many benefits, gifts, and apostolic graces. Take heed then that ye continue in this My love and My grace. For so shall ye receive a daily increase of gifts from Me. Perceive from this the excellence and Divine virtue of love and affection. As Climacus says (Gradu 30), “I contemplate faith as a ray of the sun, charity like its orb in its fulness. Charity from its own very nature is likeness to God, so far as mortals can attain unto it. As regards its efficacy it is a sort of intoxication of the soul. Lastly, as regards its properties, it is the fountain of faith, the abyss of a just and patient mind, a sea of humility.
10. If ye keep my commandments, &c. If ye advance in loving Me and keeping my commandments, ye shall abide in My grace, favour, and affection, so that I shall proceed to heap My love and favours upon you.
Ver. 11.—Even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, &c. That is, as I proceed to obey the Father’s commandments, and to preserve His grace and love towards Me. Hear St. Augustine. “Love precedes the keeping of commandments. For he who loveth not hath nothing from whence he may keep them. In what therefore He here saith He does not show from whence love is generated, but how it is shown, that no one may deceive himself by saying that he loves Him when he keeps not His commandments. This, however, must be referred to the love wherewith He loves us, thus: By this ye shall know that ye abide in the love with which I love you, if ye keep My precepts, not indeed that we first keep His commandments in order that He may love us, but that unless He loved us we could not keep His commandments. This is the grace which is plain to the humble, but hidden from the proud.”
Prior therefore is that love of God which is the cause of love in us, and of the keeping His commandments. And this in turn is the cause of God’s love towards us being maintained. So fire kindles and burns wood, and by its ignition is preserved and lasts.
Ver. 11.—These things have I spoken unto you, &c. This is the seventh and last reason of Christ, by which He persuades them to abide in His love and charity. Because in so doing they would give great joy both to Christ and to themselves.
You will ask, what is this joy? 1st. Jansen explains thus, These things I have said unto you that your joy may be always like unto mine. My joy is because I am loved of My Father. Do you so keep My commandments that ye may be always loved of My Father and rejoice, and that thus your joy may be full through My Resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit.
2d. S. Cyril explains, These things have I spoken unto you that ye may have joy in those things in which I have joy, namely, in labours and perils endured for the salvation of mankind.
3d. S. Augustine expounds of the joy which God had from eternity at our salvation, thus, “These things have I spoken unto you that what has been from eternity, a cause of joy to Me, namely, grace and salvation, may be in you. And that your joy which you have in My company may be fulfilled by your gradual advancement to everlasting felicity.” And he again says, “What is that joy of ours which He says is to he full, but to enjoy His company? He indeed had perfect joy over us when He rejoiced in His fore-knowledge and predestination of us. But that joy was not our joy, because we were not yet in being. This joy began to be in us when He called us. It begins to be in the faith of those who are born again: it shall be full in the faith of those who rise again.”
4th. And most plainly, Christ here brings His disciples a twofold joy as a reward. The first joy is His own, the second that of the disciples. The meaning is, These things have I spoken unto you that in doing them ye may give Me joy. For parents and masters rejoice when they see their children and scholars act aright in obedience to their commands. This is the meaning of, that My joy may be in you, namely, that I may rejoice at your conformity to My will. As S. Augustine says, “What is the joy of Christ in us save that wherein He deigns to rejoice concerning us?” The second joy is that of the disciples, concerning which He says, And that your joy may be full. This was the joy which the disciples had in Christ, that they were His disciples. Christ has reference to the explanation which He subjoins to the parable of the vine and its branches, Abide in Me, and I in you. The meaning is, Like as the vine, if it could rejoice, would rejoice because its branches abode in it, and bore fruit, and as the branches for their part would rejoice because they adhered to the vine, and derived sap from it to bring forth grapes, so likewise if ye, 0 ye disciples, abide in Me, the true Vine, by love, and I also abide in you by the continual influx of the Spirit of grace for the bringing forth of good works, then shall I have joy in you thus cleaving unto Me, and ye shall have joy in Me because ye derive from Me grace and the Holy Spirit for the conversion of all nations. And this joy shall gradually be fulfilled here, but shall have its perfect consummation in eternal glory.
Lastly, the words in you may be taken simply, just as they stand, thus, These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy with which I rejoice concerning the glory of God and the salvation of the whole world to be accomplished by Me, I may transfuse into you as My Apostles and fellow-workers; and that this joy may increase as your labours and your fruit increase; until it be fulfilled in this life, but yet more completely in the life to come. For My good is your good, as the good of the Vine is the good of its branches.
This meaning seems the simplest, and is therefore sound. The words, That my joy may be in you, are exactly as if He said, That My joy may flow into you, way be communicated to you, and so be made your own.
Admirably saith S. Bernard (Epist. 114) “Verily that is the true and only joy which comes not from a creature, but from. the Creator, and which no one shall take away from him who possesses it. Compared with this all other gladness is only sorrow; all other pleasantness is pain, all sweetness bitter, all beauty but as ugliness.” And elsewhere he says, “A sure sign of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in the soul is spiritual joy.” For the soul which exults in God exults because God inhabits it.
Ver. 13.—This is My commandment, &c. The Greek is emphatic with the double art., ή ε̉ντολὴ ή ε̉μὴ, i.e. My precept, even Mine. This is to be referred partly to the words, if ye keep My commandments, partly to, in My love, which is the scope of the whole parable from the beginning of the chapter to this place. The meaning therefore is, I have commanded you to keep My precepts, among which know ye that the chief is this, that ye love one another as I have loved you. Again, I have bidden you, Abide in My love, i.e. continue and persevere in loving Me. And this ye will do if ye love one another, and bestow your kindnesses and offices of charity upon your neighbours. For ye can bestow nothing upon Me, but whatsoever ye shall bestow upon them, I shall account as bestowed upon Myself as the Parent of all. Wherefore He calls this “My commandment.” There is an allusion to His words in xiii. 34, A new commandment I give unto you, &c. For what He here calls My commandment He there calls a new commandment. For He gives this precept to all Christians. For all were represented by the Apostles. For Christ willed by the Apostles and their successors to convert the whole world. He bids them therefore that out of love to Him they should love and seek the salvation of all nations, should expend all their faculties and labours upon that work, undergo all perils, sustain all persecutions, and lastly, should shed their blood for it. For so He loved them and all other men that He gave His life and endured the death of the Cross for them. Moreover, this precept in the first place concerned the Apostles, because Christ by them was about to accomplish His own work of preaching throughout the world. Wherefore it was the duty of every one to co-operate with and assist every other. For this union and mutual co-operation of many was most efficacious for overcoming all difficulties, and converting all nations however barbarous. And so we see the same thing at the present day in Religious Orders and in Religious and Apostolic men united among themselves. Thus it is said (Eccles. iv. 12.), “A threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
This example of Christ was followed by S. Elizius, who died in the year 665. This was his last admonition to his people, as Sigobert testifies in his Chronicle: “If ye would pay me back my love for you, keep the commandments of Almighty God. Always breathe after Jesus Christ. Fix firmly His precepts in your minds. Love His name even as I have done.”
Ver. 13.—Greater love hath no man, &c. Christ here sets forth the manner and terminus or extremity of His love wherewith He loves us, and of that wherewith He wills that we should love one another. As though He said, I have supremely loved you, therefore I require the same of you, and have a right to ask it, that ye should supremely love one another. For the highest and supreme love is that in which a man not only gives his substance, but his life, that is, freely offers and lays it down for his friends. This I do for you, i.e. I will presently lay down My life for you. Do you therefore in like manner give your lives for your friends and neighbours in such a manner that ye do not refuse, but welcome, all labours, perils, persecutions, and every kind of torment and death for their salvation.
You may say, it is greater charity if any one lay down his life for his enemies than that he lay it down for his friends. Some reply to this by saying that the meaning is, There cannot be among men a greater love than to die for a friend, but Mine is a greater love for you, because I die for My enemies. To say for enemies was unnecessary, for it is never done among men. Whereas the friendship of Pylades and Orestes in being willing to die for one another is the theme of every one’s praise, as something exceeding rare. And this is S. Paul’s argument (Rom. v.): “For scarcely for a just man doth anyone die: but perchance someone would dare to die for a good man. But God commends His love to us,” &c.
1st. And better Ribera and Toletus explain: The comparison here is not between friends and enemies, but between the acts of friendship, thus: Among all the acts and offices of friendship, none is greater than this, that any one should lay down his life for his friend. This I am about to do for you, who are My friends if ye keep My commandments.
2d. And most fully: friends are here called not those who love, but those who are loved, such as may even be enemies. It means, greater love there cannot be than his who dies for his friends, i.e. for those whom he loves and accounts his friends, even though they in fact be not his friends but his enemies. Thus Christ laid down His life upon the Cross for all men, who at the first were sinners and therefore his enemies. But many of them, through that death of His, and the grace which floweth from it, have been justified, and so become His friends and disciples. The Apostles and Apostolic men following Christ have done the same. And all Christians whatsoever ought to do the like, namely, when the salvation of a neighbour’s soul is in peril, to expose their lives to rescue it, even though the neighbour he an enemy.
You may urge, Why then does Christ call them friends rather than enemies? I reply, 1st, Because He was speaking to the Apostles, who by His vocation and grace were His friends, although they had before been sinners and enemies. 2d, Rupert answers, “that by the sweetness of His manner of speaking He might instil into His hearers the sweetness of the love which He commanded them.” 3d, To teach us that so far as Christ and we are concerned all men must be loved as friends, even though they on their part are hostile to us. For the love of Christ extends itself to all, enemies as well as friends. Wherefore He accounts His enemies friends and beloved, and by this means gains them to be friends instead of enemies to God and Himself. For love is the magnet of love. Nor can there be anything more mighty than love, for love forces enemies to win back love to him who loves them.
Lastly, there are some who understand this saying of Christ not only concerning spiritual and eternal salvation, but also concerning what is corporeal and temporal. They say that it is an act of heroic charity if any one gives his temporal life for the temporal life of his neighbour. For this is permitted, indeed sometimes persuaded, in the order of charity. Wherefore S. Gregory (Dial 1. 3. c. 37) praises a certain presbyter named Sanctulus who offered to die instead of a certain deacon who had been condemned to death by the Lombards. But God held the hand of the executioner, so that he could not bring down his uplifted sword upon his neck. The Lombards were struck with amazement, and began to reverence him as a Saint. And at his request they set all their captives free. Such was the power of charity that a man by the offer of his own life redeemed the lives of many
Ye are My friends if ye do (Gr.), i.e. if ye shall do, &c. This sentence refers to what precedes, Thus, I lay down My life for you as My friends. Do you in return render love for love, loving Me as My friends who have loved you. And this ye will do if ye keep My commandments, amongst which the chief, and embracing all the rest, is, that ye love one another.
Ver. 14.—I will not henceforth call you servants: for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth, i.e. what he intends and proposes to do.
Ver. 15.—But I have called you friends. S. Augustine (Tract. 85) inquires in what way this is true: for the Apostles really continued to be servants of Christ, and in the day of judgment He will say to them, as well as others, Well done, good and faithful servants. He answers, that there is a twofold kind of servitude, the one that which slaves render to their lords through fear, the other free and filial, which children render to their parents. The Apostles were not the servants of Christ according to the former fashion, but the latter. For in this way servants become friends. To this may be added what Rupert says, I will not call you servants, i.e. sinners and enemies, because, by Baptism and My grace, I have made you righteous and My friends.
The true and genuine meaning then is this: Although by your nature and condition ye are My servants, yet I bestow upon you such honour that I will make you and call you My intimate and most trusted friends, insomuch that all things which I have heard of My Father that I as His ambassador should communicate to men, I will communicate; not to the multitudes nor to the Scribes, but to you alone.
He saith now, because already when He was going away He revealed to them many things about which He had previously been silent. Other things also, which He had before spoken obscurely in parables, He now clearly and plainly explained to them. Now therefore when He was going away, He manifested, by thus explaining things to them, greater trust in them and confidence towards them. Wherefore He raises them to a higher dignity, condition and title, even that of friends. This then is the reason which Christ Himself here gives. He does not therefore deny that they still continued to be servants, but He asserts that, servants though they were, He raised them up to be His intimate friends, and endowed them with this name and prerogative. So Maldonatus, Ribera, &c., but before all others S. Irenæus, lib. 4. c. 27.
The servant knoweth not, i.e. ordinarily and usually, for some masters have faithful and prudent servants to whom they entrust their counsels and their secrets. But Christ speaks of what is the ordinary course of things among men.
All things which I have heard of the Father, &c. You may say, This seems to compete with what Christ had said a little before in the 12th chapter, I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Leontius answers that Christ now revealed to the Apostles all things which the Father wished Him at that time to reveal to them, that is to say, all things which they were able to receive. 2d, And better, S. Augustine and Bede answer, that I have made known means I will presently make known, i.e. after fifty days, at Pentecost.
Somewhat differently Maldonatus, I have made known, i.e. I have determined to make known, namely, by the Holy Ghost, whom I am about to send.
Moraliter: learn from the saying of Christ that holy souls which are full of love to God, which, treading all earthly things under foot, dwell in heaven, and hold familiar converse with God in prayer, such talk frequently with God as His friends, such are illuminated by God, so that they hear and learn of Him His deepest mysteries and secret counsels. These men understand the Holy Scriptures. They learn of Him what He purposes to do in the time to come, as though they were admitted into the inner presence-chamber of God, and were there made members of His Privy Council. Such were Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and the rest of the Prophets. S. Bernard eloquently unfolds this teaching (Tract. de Interior. Dom. c. 69). “Wouldst thou know, 0 soul, whosoever thou art, that the sublimity of the Divine revelations is a manifest proof of the Divine love? Now I will not call you servants, He saith, but friends, because all things which I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you. Labour therefore to love Thy God closely and supremely. Pant every hour with thine utmost longing for the joy of Divine contemplation. Gather thyself into thyself, rest only in the desire for God.” S. Basil, S. Maximus, and others, have the same teaching. S. Francis, S. Catherine of Sienna, S. Francis Xavier, and very many others, by means of this loving friendship and converse with God, obtained the gifts of understanding and prophecy. So too in the olden time did Henoch, Noe, Abraham, Moses, and others, because they walked with God and conversed familiarly with Him, speaking to Him as a friend with his friend.
Ver. 16.—Ye have not chosen Me, &c. S. Augustine, both on this passage and elsewhere (lib. 1, c. 17, de Predest. Sanct.) understands by this choosing the predestination of God: I have predestinated you, and chosen you, without any merits of yours, to glory. But this does not agree rightly with the words, ye have not chosen Me. For neither could the Apostles choose Christ to heavenly glory, nor does Christ here seem to have wished to reveal His predestination to the Apostles. For this He Himself is wont to attribute to the Father. For to the Father providence is attributed, a part of which is predestination.
More literally the meaning is, Ye did not first choose Me for your Master and Lord, but I first chose and called you, and by My vocation and grace I made you My friends, disciples, and Apostles. So S. Cyril, Chrysostom, and others. Wherefore S. Chrysostom thinks that Christ is here still dwelling upon the parable of the vine and its branches. The meaning then will be, As the husbandman chooses the best vines and grafts to plant in his vineyard, so have I chosen you, 0 My Apostles, that I should plant you, being made the most excellent vines by My grace, in My vineyard, for the production of grapes, i.e. of very many and very excellent believers.
Moreover, Christ saith this, 1st, To show His exceeding love for His Apostles, because He first chose them alone, above all other men who were more noble, learned, and eloquent, to be Apostles, i.e. to be His chief friends, and the Apostles of His Church. Wherefore He tacitly admonishes them that they should love Him in return, and abide constant in His love and obedience.
2d. That considering the lofty height of their dignity and apostleship to which they had been called by Christ, they should labour to be true to it, and so should be beforehand with all nations, and by their preaching should bring them to Christ.
Some writers add that Christ here wished to give the Apostles an incentive to humility: thus, Be it that I have called you friends, and admitted you to share in My secrets, yet do not ye be proud because of this. For ye have not merited it, but it is I who have freely chosen and exalted you.
And I have placed you that ye should go (to preach the gospel throughout all nations) and bring forth fruit, &c. S. Chrysostom being of opinion that there is an allusion here to the parable of the Vine, explains the words I have placed, to mean, I have planted, as it were fruitful vines in the vineyard of My Church. Maldonatus explains more simply, I have declared. For when any one is made a magistrate, he is first chosen, that is, designated, and settled in his office.
Most simply, you may expound I have p1aced by I have constituted you, or that Christ by this word signifies the authority, the firmness, and the fruit of His Apostles, namely, that they were commissioned, and therefore made strong, by Christ, so that no one could deprive them of their dignity, nor hinder their bringing forth fruit, even a most abundant harvest of souls throughout the whole world.
And that Your fruit may remain: Cyril refers this to the Gospel which remains, whilst the old Law was not to abide, but to be abrogated by Christ. More plainly and fully, you may refer the word abide to the conversion of all nations brought about by the Apostles, which remained even after their death, and which will remain in due and continual succession unto the end of the world. And this as it were the heavenly fruit and reward of the Apostles does remain, and will remain eternally.
That whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name &c. The word that signifies not so much the end aimed at as the effect. The meaning is this, If ye bring forth the fruit for which I have chosen you, it will follow and come to pass that the Father will give you whatsoever ye shall ask in the same sense that I have shown (chap. xiv. 13). The Greek for I may give is δω̃, which may be rendered, with S. Chrysostom and Theophylact, in the first person, I may give. Wherefore Theophylact gathers from this passage against the Arians that the Son of God is of the same substance with the Father, so that He equally with the Father gives as God the things which are asked of Him. In My Name, i.e. by My merits. Moreover, S. Augustine says, “That which we ask in the Saviour’s name is what pertains to salvation.”
Ver. 17.—These things I command you, &c. He says these things in the plural to signify that there were indeed many particular precepts commanded by Him, but that all of them were included in the one common and easy precept of love, so that if one fulfils that, one fulfils all.
Secondly, You may explain more simply with S. Chrysostom if you take the conjunction that to signify the end. Then the meaning will be, These things which I have spoken concerning My love I have said with this only end in view, that ye should have mutual love among yourselves, and that thus ye should endure all things for the salvation of men. To this pertains the exposition of S. Augustine (Tract. 87), “Because He had said, I have placed you that ye should go and bear fruit, now He saith, These things I command you, wishing to teach that the fruit which we are to bear must be love of our neighbour.” And again, “The fruit of the Spirit, saith the apostle, is charity. Concerning this therefore He gives commandment. Deservedly indeed does He often speak of love, as if it were the only thing to be commanded, as being that without which all other good things cannot profit, and which we cannot have without having all other good things by which a man becomes good with it.”
Ver. 18.—If the world hate you, &c. . . . it first hated Me. The Greek is πζω̃τον ύμω̃ν, which is best rendered adverbially, meaning, the world hated Me before it hated you. I have trodden before you this path of hatred, and made it smooth for you, so that ye, following Me, may walk joyfully in the same way. For I give Myself to you not only as your companion in persecutions, but your standard-bearer, your leader and your guide. Worldly people He calls the world. By them He means 1st, The Jews. 2d, Gentiles addicted to the spirit of the world, and therefore enemies of the doctrine and spirit of Christ.
Christ forewarns His Apostles against the impending hatred and persecutions of the Jews and Gentiles. For the darts which are foreseen are less apt to strike. Thus they would nobly overcome, yea, despise them, and would glory in them as the tokens of Christ. It is, as Ribera remarks, as though He said, Do not wonder or be troubled when the world hates you. It hated Me before you. Rejoice because ye are partakers with Me. This hatred shall do you no harm, even as it has not hurt Me. The world persecutes you because ye are not of it, i.e. because ye do not favour its works, but oppose them, as I do. And when He saith this, He leaves it to be understood, But I nevertheless will love you, because ye belong to Me, and are My elect, chosen to condemn the works of the world. Far greater shall be to you the benefit of My love than the harm of the world’s hate.
Great then is this consolation which the members derive from their Head. Listen to S. Cyprian (lib. 4, Epist. 6), “The Son of God hath suffered that He might make us sons of God. And shall a son of man not be willing to suffer that he may persevere in being a son of God? If we labour under the world’s hate, Christ bore, this hatred before us. If we endure shame in this world, or banishment, or torture, the world’s Maker and its Master experienced yet more grievous trials. He it is who admonishes us, saying, If the world hate you, remember that it first hated Me.”
Lastly, hear S. Bernard (Hom. 47, in Cant.), “Thou art two things to Me, 0 Lord Jesus, a mirror of endurance, and a reward of suffering. Thou art the pattern of the warrior, and the glory of the victor. Thou teachest my hands to war by the example of Thine own valour. Thou crownest my head after the victory by the presence of Thy majesty.”
Ver. 19.—If ye were of the world, &c. Christ here adds another reason, says Chrysostom, showing that it is a proof of virtue to be hated by the world, and of wickedness to be loved by it. The meaning is, if ye loved riches, honours, pleasures, lusts, such as the world loves, it would love you as being like itself. But since it sees you loving the things which are contrary to its base desires, and teaching contempt for earthly pleasures, honours, and lusts, therefore it hateth you. For agreement in character and desires is a cause of love, dissimilarity a cause of aversion and hatred.
S. Augustine considers an objection which may be raised. The wicked persecute the wicked: unrighteous kings and judges punish murderers and adulterers. Then he gives this answer. The world indeed hates its own so far as this, that it injures the wicked. But still it loves them, in that it favours them. To me it seems another answer may be given: worldly men love their own, that is, those who help and share in their designs. If at any time they hate other worldly persons, it is because they oppose their designs, and so are counted their adversaries. And therefore they hated Christ because He reproved their deeds, and exposed them to men. For the same cause they hated the Apostles.
Ver. 20.—Remember My word, &c. For if I suffer the hatred of the Jews, yea even the death of the Cross, ye ought not to be unwilling to undergo the same. For as S. Peter saith, “Christ hath suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow His steps.”
If they have persecuted Me, &c. If they have kept My word, &c. My ward, i.e. My doctrine, law, and precepts.
But all these things will they do because of My name, i.e. on My account, because ye are called, and are, Mine.
Because they know not Him that sent Me: i.e., Because they know not that God the Father sent Me, they say that I pretend to be the Son of God, and sent by Him into the world as the Messias. For if they knew and believed this, they would not persecute Me, nor dare to fight against God. He means, This will be glorious for you, that not only for My sake, but for God the Father’s sake, who sent Me, ye will endure persecutions.
Ver. 22.—If I had not come and spoken, &c., they would not have sin, &c. Sin, viz. of unbelief and hatred, in that they calumniate, and are hostile to, My doctrine and life. Observe: the Scribes and Pharisees before Christ came had true faith, not only in God, but also in Christ as about to come. But when He did come they would not acknowledge Him, because they saw Him poor and lowly, and because He reproved their vices. Wherefore they then became unbelievers, and lost the faith by their own obstinacy. For Jesus abundantly proved to them that He was the Christ, wherefore they were without excuse because they believed Him not.
Ver. 23.—He that hateth Me hateth My Father also, because I am come as sent by the Father, and I have spoken the things which He wished Me to speak. Wherefore by despising and hating Me, they despise and hate God the Father. As he who despiseth an ambassador despises the king who sends him.
Ver. 25.—But that the word may be fulfilled which is written in their law (i.e., in the Old Test., viz. Ps. lix. 5, and xxv. 29), they hated Me gratis (Vulg.), i.e. without a cause, without My fault, and therefore wickedly and unjustly. For I have given them no other cause of hate, but supremest love. Observe the word that does not signify the end intended, but denotes that which happened as a matter of fact from the unbelief and obstinacy of the Jews. The meaning is, And thus there followed that which David and Isaias foretold would be, viz. that the Jews would without a cause pursue Christ with hate.
Vers. 26-27.—But when the Paraclete is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, &c. He means, although I have abundantly demonstrated My divinity to the Jews, so that they are without excuse, yet will I still more demonstrate it by the coming of the Holy Ghost, who shall testify concerning Me, coming from heaven to you alone who have believed in Me, and to those who shall believe through your preaching, so that His advent shall be made known to all when they see you speaking with tongues, and expounding the Scriptures, and working miracles. For ye by preaching the Gospel bear testimony unto all men concerning Me, My doctrine and My works, since ye have been with Me from the time that I began to teach and converse with men.
Whom I will send unto you from the Father. From this verse the later Greeks maintain that the Holy Ghost proceeds from, and is breathed by the Father only, not the Son: and therefore they made an open schism from the Latin Church, A.D. 1054, when Michael the patriarch of Constantinople dared for this cause to excommunicate the Roman Pontiff and the Latins. And for this reason, in A.D. 1453, on the very Feast of the Holy Ghost, or during the octave of Whitsunday, Constantinople was taken by the Turks, the Emperor slain, and the empire of the Greeks brought to an end. This therefore is the error of the Greeks; for, as S. Hilary rightly observes, (lib. 8, de Trin.,) and S. Augustine (lib. 4, de Trin. c. 20), this passage rather signifies the contrary, namely, that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son. For this is the meaning of whom I will send. For in the Holy Trinity no Person is sent by any other unless He proceeds from Him who sends Him. Wherefore the Father is never said to be sent because He proceedeth from none. The Son is said to be sent by the Father, but not by the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is said to be sent by the Father and the Son, because He proceedeth from Both as from one Principle of Spiration. So the ancient Greek, as well as the Latin, Fathers understood this passage. They are cited by the Council of Florence (sess. 18 and 25), where a union was effected between the Latins and the Greeks, and the Greeks admitted that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son. (See Cardinal-Bessarion’s speech on behalf of union, c. 7.) Wherefore when it is only said in the creed of the Council of Nice, “I believe in the Holy Ghost,” the Council of Constantinople added, Who proceedeth from the Father. And when a contention arose about the Son, the Church added, and from the Son, as the Council of Florence teaches (sess. 7). The same thing is clearly apparent from the words of Christ (chap. xvi.), All things whatsoever the Father hath are Mine: wherefore I said, He shall take of Mine, and shall show it unto you. For if all things which the Father hath are the Son’s, then He also breathes the Holy Ghost. In this manner all the Fathers of the same Council understood the passage. Therefore in the Letters of Union the whole Synod declared, “And since all things which the Father hath, the Father Himself has given to His Only Begotten Son except to be the Father, this very thing that the Holy Ghost proceedeth from the Son, the Son Himself hath eternally from the Father, of Whom also He is eternally begotten.” (See Bellarm. lib. 2, de Christo, c. 20 et seq.)
Moreover one Divine Person is said to be sent by another, when by the will of Him from whom He proceeds He begins to be anywhere in a fresh manner from that in which He was there before. Thus the Son was sent by the Father in the flesh that He might become man. The Holy Ghost was sent by the Father and the Son to the Apostles, interiorly by the abundant grace with which He illuminated their minds, and inflamed their will that they should constantly bear witness to Christ and His doctrine: but He did the same exteriorly by means of the fiery tongues, by which He gave efficacy to their words, and also by means of the miracles which He wrought by them.
I will send from the Father. Christ said this—1st. Plainly: as it were thus, When I shall have ascended to the Father in heaven, then I with the Father will send unto you the Holy Ghost. 2d. Theophylact says from the Father means, the Father approving and together sending. 3d. From the Father may mean that the Son Hath from the Father the Divine Essence, and consequently the power of breathing and sending the Holy Ghost, so that verily with the Father, by the same action and breathing He breathes, and by the same Mission sends, the Holy Spirit. So S. Hilary (lib. de Synod., and the Council of Sirmium.
4th. From the Father, i.e. I will send you the Holy Ghost, who is with the Father, forasmuch as He is coeternal and consubstantial with Him.
5th. The words from the Father crush the heresy of Eunomius, who taught that the Holy Ghost proceeds not from the Father, but from the Son, so that the Holy Ghost is, as it were, the Son of the Son, and the Grandchild of God the Father. This heresy S. Basil refutes (lib. 2, contr. eund.), showing that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son. So also S. Cyril (lib. 10, c. 33) teaches that the Holy Spirit is of the Father and the Son, and proceedeth from the Father, but through the Son. Which means nothing else but that which we say, that the Son produces the Holy Spirit from the Father, i.e. He hath from the Father to produce the Holy Ghost, as God by the Word created all things. For all things were made by Him.
S. Thomas (1 par. q. 36. art. 2), Suarez, and others give the reason à priori. Because if the Holy Ghost did not proceed from the Son, He would not be distinguished from the Son. For in the Godhead there is no distinction save in the procession of One from Another, and the distinction of relationship.
Who proceedeth from the Father. Thus Christ speaks, and is silent concerning Himself: 1st. Because the Father is the First Principle of the Spiration of the Holy Ghost, as I have said. 2d. Because Christ, for the sake of humility and reverence, to give us an example, is wont to refer all things concerning His authority to the Father. 3d. Because if He had said, Who proceedeih from Me, He could not appositely have subjoined, He shall testify of Me. For the witness who proceeds from any one, if he gives testimony concerning him among men, is apt to be suspected.
Moreover, Jansen says that these words are to be understood, not concerning the Divine and eternal procession, but concerning that temporal and human procession by which the Holy Ghost is sent to the Apostles and other believers. But that the Divine procession is here spoken of is clear—1st. Because such is the evident meaning of the words when He saith, Who proceedeth from the Father. For when Christ speaks of temporal missions, something is added to show what is meant, as when He saith (chap. xvi.), I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world. 2d. Because He had just before spoken of the temporal mission, saying, Whom I will send unto you from the Father. 3d. Because the Fathers in the Council of Florence so understood it (sess. 13 and 23). 4th. Because the temporal mission or procession presupposes the eternal. For as I have previously said, in the Godhead One Person is not said to be sent by Another, except the Person who proceeds from Another.
He shall testify of Me, that I am the Son of God, the Messias, the Saviour of the world. And this He shall do both by interior illumination and inspiration, and by external miracles. Now in a witness three things are needful. 1st. Wisdom that he should know the truth. 2d. Honesty, that he should relate it sincerely, and neither deceive, nor be deceived. 3d. Power and authority, that he should be allowed by all to be a true witness, and above all suspicion. These three qualifications most perfectly unite in the Holy Spirit. He therefore is the most perfect witness of Christ.
And ye shall bear witness, &c. The Greek is μαζτυζείτε, which is both of the indicative mood, meaning ye bear witness, and the imperative, bear ye witness. St. Cyril reads the indicative, as does the Syriac version. The Vulgate, ye shall bear witness has the same meaning as bear witness (imperative). He bids them testify by their preaching that Christ is the Son of God. For the future is often put for the imperative.
From this passage learn who, what, and how great is the Holy Ghost. 1st. That He is the Third Person in the Holy Trinity, distinct from the Father and the Son. For in that He proceedeth from, and is sent by Both, He that proccedeth and is sent is distinct from Those who send. 2d, That the Holy Ghost is true God, of one substance with God the Father, because He proceedeth from Him as God from God. 3d. That He proccedeth—not from the Father alone, not from the Son alone, but—unitedly from Both as from one Principle of Spiration. 4th. That He proceedeth not from the Father by Generation, as doth the Son, but by Spiration, so that He is the Holy Spirit. Wherefore SS. Athanasius, Basil, Nazianzen, Chrysostom, Augustine, and others throughout their writings refute the heretic Macedonius, who said, that since the Holy Ghost proceedeth not from the Father by the way of Generation, as the Son doth, He is therefore not Consubstantial with the Father, neither is He God. 5th. That He is the Paraclete, i.e. the Comforter and the Exhorter to all goodness. 6th. That He is the very Spirit of Truth, because He teaches all truth, and the true faith, doctrine, and prudence. 7th. That He is the witness of Christ and of His doctrine; the witness, I say, infinitely above all other witnesses, because He is Himself very God.*I cannot help appending a word of admiration for the clear, beautiful, lucid manner in which à Lapide shows how man’s free will co-operates with grace in the performance of good works. (Trans.) Back to the place.