1 Christ feedeth five thousand men with five loaves and two fishes. 15 Thereupon the people would have made him king. 16 But withdrawing himself, he walked on the sea to his disciples: 26 reproveth the people flocking after him, and all the fleshly hearers of his word: 32 declareth himself to be the bread of life to believers. 66 Many disciples depart from him. 68 Peter confesseth him. 70 Judas is a devil.
FTER these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.
Douay Rheims Version
Christ feeds five thousand with five loaves. He walks upon the sea and discourses of the bread of life.
FTER these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is that of Tiberias.
Ver. 1.—After this, &c. Tiberias is here named, because the desert in which Christ fed the five thousand was near to Tiberias.
After this, not immediately, but almost a year afterwards. For the healing of the paralytic, and the dispute of Jesus with the Jews consequent upon it, which John had related in the foregoing chapter, took place in the beginning of the second year of Christ’s ministry. But the things which he relates in this sixth chapter took place at the close of the same year. This is plain because Christ healed the paralytic at the Passover (v. 1). But He did the things now to be related shortly before the Passover of the year following, as appears from the 4th verse. John therefore omits all that Christ did in the second year of His ministry, viz., His creation of Twelve Apostles, His Sermon on the mount, His sending His Apostles forth, as well as many other things. John omits them because they had been fully narrated by the other Evangelists. But he here inserts the narrative of the multiplication of the loaves, because, though related by the other Evangelists, it was the occasion of Christ’s discourse concerning spiritual food, and the food of the Eucharist, which John here gives at length, and which was wholly passed over by them.
Ver. 3.—He saith unto Philip, &c. Observe, this was the order of what was done. Christ beholding from the mountain the crowd which followed Him, came down to them and received them kindly, taught them, and healed their sick until the eventide. The evening being at hand, His disciples asked Christ to dismiss the multitude, and refresh Himself with food. But Christ bade them first feed the hungry throngs. This, they said, was impossible, because 200 denarii worth of bread would not suffice for so many. By and by Christ proposed the same thing to Philip, probably because he had been most anxious in asking Christ to dismiss the multitude. Philip gave the same answer as the others with regard to the quantity of bread that would be required.
Ver. 11.—When He had given thanks to God the Father, looking up to heaven, He implored the help of God to multiply the loaves. Then He blessed them (as the other Evangelists relate), and the Syriac has here, He distributed to those who had sat down, miraculously multiplying the loaves during their distribution. S. Dominic and S. Francis imitated Christ in this matter. When in the General Chapter of the Friars Minor there was nothing to eat, they being full of faith, said, “Let us go and pray to Almighty God, who satisfied five thousand men besides women and children in the desert. His power and His mercy are no less now than they were then, that we should despair of His goodness.” They continued in prayer until they were assured concerning the Divine will. Then at the hour of dinner S. Francis bade the brethren sit down in the refectory. This done, they see enter twenty young men of noble appearance, girded, and prepared for service. These supplied bread, wine, and every kind of needful refreshment to the company, in number five hundred. When dinner was ended they bowed and saluted the brethren, and went out of the refectory two by two, to the admiration of the brethren, who praised God for His marvellous care and providence. (See Luke Wadding’s Annals of the Friars Minor, A.C. 1219, num. 11.) S. Dominic did the same thing at Rome at S. Sixtus’. When there was no food in the house he commanded the brethren to sit down to the table, and blessed it. Then lo, there came in two angels, having the appearance of beautiful youths, who placed before each one of the hundred brethren a very white loaf. Then they bowed their heads, and departed. (See the Life of Dominic, 3, c. 4.) I have visited and venerated the place at Rome where this was done, and seen a painting of it.
Ver. 15.—That they might take Him, &c., i.e., the king Messiah, who, the Jews thought, would give them abundance of corn, wine and oil, gold and silver. This was why they wished to make Him a king, not for His advantage, but their own. Such is the Messiah, whom the foolish Jews expect even now, one like Solomon, to give them riches and plenty.
Ver. 21.—They wished therefore, &c. They wished Him, now that they recognised Him, whom they had before taken for a spectre, and been affrighted at. And immediately, i.e., by the power and virtue of Christ’s presence, the ship was at the land. As Nonnus says, “By the Divine impulse the ship of her own accord touched at the distant port, as it were a soul with wings.” This land was Genesar, as S. Matthew calls it (xiv. 34), or Genesareth, as S. Mark (vi. 53). The ancient name was Cenereth, from the city so called, which was near Capharnaum. From this place the whole sea of Galilee was called the Lake of Cenereth, or Genesareth. Moreover the city of Capharnaum was situated in this land of Genesareth, to which, John says expressly, Jesus sailed with His disciples (vi. 17, 24, 25). Here was uttered His prolonged discourse concerning heavenly bread and the Eucharist. For the 6oth verse says expressly, These things He spake, teaching in the synagogue in Capharnaum.
Observe the expression, and immediately. From this it follows that Christ caused this ship to fly in a moment to the harbour of the city of Capharnaum. Thus it sped eight or nine miles in one moment. For this was the distance between Bethsaida and Capharnaum. For the disciples in sailing from the place where Christ fed the five thousand which was midway between Bethsaida and Tiberias, had gone twenty-five or thirty furlongs, or four or five miles (see ver. 19), and were about, or a little past Bethsaida, when Jesus, walking upon the sea came to them, and entering into the ship, caused it to fly from that spot, as it were, in a moment, and land at Capharnaum. Thus He caused the ship to traverse eight or nine miles, as it were, in a moment. Learn from this to accomplish all thine actions with Christ, having Christ for thy leader and guide. With Him thou wilt do great things, without Him nothing. Thus S. Peter, though he toiled all night, without Christ, caught no fish: but as soon as He came and bade him let down the nets, he caught an immense multitude of fishes. Therefore as Nazianzen says in his Poems, “Happy is the man who buys Christ with all that he has.”
Ver. 22.—The next day, &c., across the sea, understand, in respect of the disciples, who had sailed to the other side of the lake. The meaning is,—The day after that on which Christ had fed the five thousand, the multitude who had been thus fed continuing in that place across the sea, when they knew that there was only one boat there, in which the disciples had embarked alone, Jesus being left on the land—they sought Jesus, must be understood. For they did not know that He had walked on the sea by night, and joined the ship.
Ver. 23.—But there came, &c. We can see from this verse that the place where Christ multiplied the loaves was near Tiberias, and therefore that those who sailed from thence to Bethsaida and Capharnaum must have sailed past Tiberias. The meaning is, the report of the miracle being spread abroad, many both from other places as well as Tiberias, came to the place where the miracle was wrought, that they might see and hear Jesus who had done such great things.
Ver. 25.—And when they had found Him . . . across the sea, that is to say in the synagogue of Capharnaum, as is plain from verse 59. When, and how camest Thou hither? “For we know that yesterday Thy disciples went into the ship by themselves at the desert of Bethsaida, and that Thou remainedst there on the land.” They did not know that Jesus had walked upon the sea in the middle of the night.
Ver. 26.—Jesus answered, &c. Through modesty He did not answer their question directly, lest He should be forced to say that He had come walking upon the sea. He gave a reply therefore, which had more direct concern for His questioners, namely, that they were seeking food for their bodies rather than for their souls. “Ye ask Me, not because ye saw the miracles by means of which I labour to teach you faith and repentance, and the other evangelical virtues, by which ye may arrive at everlasting life. Ye seek Me, not that ye may receive of Me the food of the soul, but because ye did eat of the loaves, which I miraculously multiplied, and which I made pleasant to your taste, in order that ye may again have a like experience.” For many are the lovers of the loaves and fishes rather than of Christ and eternal salvation. For the carnal have a taste only for carnal things, because they do not receive spiritual things.
Ver. 27.—Labour not, &c. Labour: Greek, ε̉ζγάςεσθε, i.e., strive with zeal and labour and sedulous care to get food, not that of the body which perisheth, but of the soul which perisheth not. Wherefore the Arabic translates, labour not on account of the food which perisheth, but on account of the food which endureth unto eternal life. As Euthymius says, “Labour with the whole mind, with all your care continually. He does not command to labour for the food of the soul only, but He admonished them to care for the food of the body by the way, but for that of the soul with their whole heart.”
Christ rises and draws the multitude from that corporeal bread with which a little while before He had fed them in the desert, to the far better, and far more needful spiritual bread. As though He had said, “I have given you barley bread without any labour of yours, but work ye, and labour with all your might, that Ye may obtain spiritual bread, to nourish you, and bring you to everlasting life.” In like manner, from the water of the well He led the Samaritan woman to spiritual water, that He might teach His faithful followers, and especially Priests and Religious, to do the same, so that in their colloquies they may lead the people from corporeal to spiritual things. Wherefore from this saying of Christ Cyril rightly says, “We must have no care for the flesh, but we must watch for things that are needful for eternity. For he who follows after bodily pleasures differs in no respect from the beasts, but he who cleaves to nature, and leads his life according to the spiritual law, and is wholly given up to those things which are given us by God, and prepare our way for the things above, such a one seems to me to know himself, nor to be ignorant that he is a reasonable being, made in the image of his Creator.”
You will ask, what is that food enduring unto eternal life, which Christ bids us work for that we may gain it? The heretics called Massalians, or Euchites, i.e., Prayers, thought that it was prayer. As though Christ said, “Do not work with your hands, because work of the hands perisheth, but alway pray to God in your hearts because prayer is the food of the spirit, and remaineth for ever. These heretics said that we should not labour with our hands, but should pray always. See S. Chrysostom on this passage. But this is a heresy which S. Paul condemns (2 Thess. iii. 10), saying, “If any one will not work, neither let him eat.”
I say then that this food which abideth is faith, charity, grace, good works, even all things which lead us to life everlasting, and especially the Eucharist, as we shall see in verse 54. So Maldonatus, Bellarmine, and others. For gradually does Christ ascend from minor and common things to those which are greater and of the highest importance, such as the Eucharist. As S. Augustine saith, “To believe in Him is to eat the food which endureth unto life eternal. Why do you make ready your teeth and organs of digestion? Believe, and thou hast eaten.”
Secondly, more appositely, properly and precisely, this spiritual food is the Eucharist, as Christ fully explains (verse 54). For He first generally (in genere), in the way of a proposition, speaks of this food as heavenly, and enduring unto eternal life. By and by in verse 35, He particularizes, determining what this food is, and asserts that It is He Himself. I am the Bread of Life. At length, in the 54th and following verses, He clearly unfolds the whole matter, and says that His Flesh and Blood in the Eucharist is this Bread and this Food. Except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of man, and drink His Blood, ye have no life in you. And, My Flesh is meat indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed. For in the space of a year and a half, just before His death, He was about to constitute the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and in It to give us His own Flesh and Blood, as the spiritual meat and drink of the soul. But here in those intermediate verses He frequently exhorts to faith, because faith is a prime requisite in the Eucharist.
The meaning then is, Do the works of faith, believe in Me, give credit to My words, so shall ye seek, and shall indeed obtain the food of the Eucharist, which shall not only nourish your souls, but bring them to eternal life. For Christ distinguishes the work of faith from the food of the Eucharist, which was to be obtained by the work of faith; as the means is distinguished from the end to which it leads. Wherefore by and by, when the Jews ask about the work, that is, the way and the means by which they might gain this Bread, Christ answers (verse 29), This it the work of God, that ye should believe in Him whom He hath sent. So Theophylact says, “He calls the food which abideth the mystical reception of the Flesh of the Lord.” And Rupertus, “He that endureth unto life eternal, that is, He who is eaten in this mortal life, is profitable to this end, that He should give everlasting life to the world”
For Him hath God the Father sealed. God, Greek, ό Θεὸς, the Heavenly Father, who is the Most High God. Signed, (Vulg.), Greek, ε̉σφζάγισε, sealed. This signing, or sealing of Christ, is threefold, the first of which is the cause of the second, the second of the third. The first is of Christ’s Divinity, the second and third of His Humanity. In the first place then, Cyril thus expounds (lib. 3, c. 29), “To be signed is put for to be anointed (for He who was anointed was signed), and denoted by the word signing, that He was formed as to His nature after the form of the Father, so to speak, that He might appear to say, ‘It is not difficult for Me to bestow upon you the enduring Food, by which ye may be brought to the unspeakable delights of eternal life.’ For the Son is the character of the Hypostasis of God the Father: and the character by which He has been signed by the Father is nothing else but the very form and substance of the Godhead.” Thus Cyril: so too, S. Paul (Heb. i. 3), “Who being the splendour of His glory, and the character of His substance.” Whence S. Gregory Nazianzen speaks thus of the glory of the Son (Orat. 42), “He is the Fountain of life and immortality; He is the expression,” that is, the similitude, the seal, “of the Archetype: He is the immovable Seal,” that which is not altered, or changed to any other form: “He is the Image in all respects like: He is the Term and Reason (Greek, όζος κάὶ λόγος) of the Father.” These two last expressions Nicetas takes as similar in meaning, that the Son is the Word of God the Father, i.e., the definition, the demonstration. For as a definition demonstrates that which it defines, so does the Son demonstrate, and as it were define the Father. Thus Nicetas.
2. S. Hilary (lib. 8, de Trin.) more correctly and appositely; The Father, he saith, hath sealed the Son, not in the Divinity, by communicating to Him His own Godhead, but in the Humanity, since He hath united it to the Word, and hath communicated to it the Divinity of the Word. For a seal, he says, is wont to be impressed upon a different substance, which is called the impression. So the Humanity is sealed by the Divinity of the Son. So also Augustine: and from him Toletus saith, “Because the Son, who is the image and character of the Father is united to the Humanity, therefore the Humanity is said to have the seal and character of the Father.”
3. S. Chrysostom and many others say, The Father hath sealed the Son, i.e., by the voice from heaven at His baptism, This is My Beloved Son. He showed and demonstrated by His miracles, as seals, that He was His very Son. And He confirmed Him as the promised Messiah, who was able to impart convenient Food to all who desired eternal life. It comes to the same meaning if you interpret sealed to mean gave authority, because we are wont by impressing a seal to give credit and authenticity to letters.
This sense is easy and plain, but the second meaning is more solid and sublime. This third meaning flows from the second, and completes and perfects it. For the Father by His own voice and miracles, which are as it were His seals, has testified to man that He has sealed the Humanity of Jesus with the Divinity of the Word, and has impressed upon it the form of His own Divinity, that is, has testified that this Man Jesus is true God, and the Son of God, so that He may give and gain for Him among men, authority to teach, to enact laws, and to found a new Church. Wherefore the Gloss says, He hath sealed, i.e., He hath set Him apart from others by His own sign.”
Ver. 28.—They said, &c. Cyril thinks that the Jews asked this from arrogance, as being angry with Christ because He would have reproved them as being careless about their souls. As though they said, “Thou reprovest us for seeking after earthly bread and despising the Food of the soul. Tell us then what new work of God Thou affordest, by which we may please God and feed our souls, in addition to those works which Moses gave us to do, and wrote in the Pentateuch.”
But S. Chrysostom thinks they said these words out of gluttony, because they were again hungering after the loaves of Christ, with which they had been fed. That they asked what were the works of God, with which Christ wished them to feed their souls, not because they intended to do them, but because they would gain His good-will, and so invite Him to renew the multiplication of the loaves.
More correctly, S. Augustine and others think that the Jews spoke with a serious desire of doing these works. For many among them being stirred up by the doctrine of Christ, and stimulated by this miracle of the loaves, were desirous of salvation. Therefore they ask Christ what works they ought to work, by which they may obtain of God that enduring Food, which would nourish their souls, and bring them to eternal life. And Jesus answers sincerely their sincere question, and teaches them what were the works of God. This He would not have done, if they had not been in earnest.
They called then the works of God, not only those which were pleasing to God, nor those which are the food of the soul, nourishing it to eternal life, as Leontius thinks. For they knew by the Law of Moses what works were pleasing to God. But by the works of God they mean those which He especially appointed and sanctioned by Jesus, whom He sealed, that by them they might obtain that spiritual Food of which Jesus preached, which nourishes us, and brings us to eternal life. For when they had heard that this was the Food of life eternal, and that God had sealed Christ that He might give this Food, they rightly call the works of God those which it was necessary to work in order to obtain this Food. And what they were they ask of Jesus, not doubting that He who had been so powerful and liberal in nourishing their bodies, could be equally, or rather, more powerful and liberal, in teaching them what it was, and supplying the Food of the Soul.
Ver. 29.—Jesus answered, &c. Believe, i.e., in Myself, Who by so many arguments and miracles have proved that I am the Messiah sent by God. For the sake of modesty He speaks in the third person. As though He said, “That work by which ye will obtain Food from God to nourish the soul unto everlasting life, is to believe in Me. For I bestow this Food upon those who believe in Me. For I Myself am this Food.” This He says (verse 35).
That ye may believe, and believing, may obey Me, and observe My law and doctrine, and fulfil it indeed. Under the term faith, as a root, Christ and Paul understand all the works of charity, penance, temperance, and all other virtues which faith-stirs up and generates. Wherefore Theophylact says, “Faith assuredly is a holy and perfect work, and satisfies those who possess it. For diligent faith leads to every good work, and good works preserve faith. For works are dead without faith, and faith is dead without works.”
Ver. 30.—They said, &c., i.e., those of the crowd who were bolder than the rest, who knew and thought less of Jesus. For they had seen the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves the day before, whereby Christ had fed five thousand men, but upon this they set small value, and ask for one still greater and more wonderful. As though they had said, “Thou, 0 Jesus, askest of us a great, nay a stupendous thing, namely that we should believe in Thee as the Messiah and the Son of God. But for this the miracle of the loaves which Thou wroughtest yesterday, does not suffice. For Moses did a similar, yea, a greater work. Show us therefore a heavenly and Divine and worthy sign, by which God may attest that Thou art His Son, and our Messiah.” Therefore they add by way of explanation,
Ver. 31.—Our fathers . . . as it is written (PS. lxxviii. 24). As though they said, “Moses fed our fathers in the desert, even more than six hundred thousand men, with heavenly and most sweet food, ever the manna, and that daily for forty years, which was a greater thing than Thy multiplication of the loaves yesterday: and yet Moses did no wish to be accounted, or believed to be Messiah, and the Son of God, Since then you, Jesus, desire to be so accounted of, it is necessary that you should work greater miracles than Moses.” So SS. Augustine and Cyril. The latter adds, “Such was the sign they asked of Christ, and thinking it a small matter that they had been miraculously fed for one day, they ask for food for a long period without labour. On such terms they seem to promise that they will assent to His doctrine.” As though they said, “Feed us all our lives, as Thou didst feed us yesterday, and as Moses fed our fathers for forty years. Then we will believe Thee when Thou declarest that Thou art Messiah, the Son of God.” So reasoned the Jews, as being animal and carnal, when they ought rather to have reasoned according to the spirit, thus, “This Jesus has multiplied bread, He heals whatsoever sick persons He pleases, He casts out devils, He raises the dead, and does many other miracles which Moses did not do. And He does them with this very end and object, that He may by them prove that He is the Messiah sent by God: therefore He must be truly the Messiah.” When Moses gave the manna, and showed other signs, he did not do them in order that he might prove that he was the Messiah, but only a leader of the people, and a lawgiver sent by God. Wherefore the people believed in him, and so accounted of him. “Do you therefore in like manner,” saith Jesus; “believe in Me, and account Me to be such a one as I prove by My miracles that I am, even the Messiah.”
Bread from heaven, i.e., heavenly, in heaven, or in the air, formed by angels, and raining down, or rather snowing and hailing from thence into the camp of the Hebrews. For the manna came down like small hailstones from the sky. The Hebrew of Ps. lxxviii. 24 is דנן שכױם, degan scamaim, corn or wheat of heaven.
Ver. 32.—Jesus said therefore, &c. Christ here refutes the cavilling of the Jews, and shows that He is greater than Moses, and gives better bread than Moses gave in giving manna. He opposes therefore, and prefers His own bread, i.e., Himself in His Body in the Eucharist, as He Himself unfolds (Vers. 35, 51, 54, &c.) to the Mosaic manna, and this in three ways. (1.) The first is, because Moses, who was a mere man, gave the manna, and that only to Israel, i.e., to the Jews in the desert: but it is God the Father who gives this bread, and that to the whole world.
(2.) Because the manna was not really bread from heaven, but only from the atmosphere, coming down like dew, or hail. For it is only the bread of heaven by a figure of speech, as we say the birds of heaven, because they fly in the heaven, that is, in the air. But His bread, He said, really came down from the highest heaven, even from the Bosom of God the Father. Therefore It alone was truly heavenly and Divine, of which, in truth, the manna was only a type and shadow. So S. Chrysostom, &c.
(3.) The third way is consequent upon this—that the manna only fed the body for a time: but the Bread of Christ feeds and quickens both body and soul for ever. So SS. Chrysostom and Cyril. For though it be that Christ and the Eucharist do not remove temporal death from Christians who communicate devoutly, yet it is the cause that they will rise again from death, and after that die no more for ever. For the Resurrection is an effect of the Eucharist, as will appear from verse 50.
(4.) Cyril (lib. 3, c. 33) adds a fourth way: that Moses neither formed, nor gave the manna, but God gave it by angels at Moses’ prayer: but Christ Himself forms, and verily gives this bread of the Eucharist. For He Himself by His own omnipotence, which, together with the Divine Essence, He has received from the Father, transubstantiates, transelements, and transforms bread and wine into His Body and Blood.
The true Bread from heaven: that is, truly heavenly and Divine, not only as regards locality, in that It descends from heaven, but also as regards Its nature and substance. For this Bread is Christ Himself, Who, because He is God, has a heavenly and Divine essence, yea, the same Deity as the Father. 2. The word “true” is said because of the manna, say Cyril, Chrysostom, and Augustine; for the manna was only a type of the Eucharist. In the Eucharist is reality (veritas), in the manna, the shadow of the reality. 3. True, in the sense of life-giving, because It gives life to the soul as well as the body, as Christ saith in the following verse. 4. True, i.e., perfect, excellent, in which there is all fulness, both of existence and nourishment. For all created existences, such as the manna, if they be compared with the uncreated Essence, or the Deity, such as Christ in the Eucharist, cannot be accounted of as realities, but only shadows. In God and Christ alone is there reality (veritas), i.e., solidity and plenitude of Being, and of feeding perfectly, like (true) Bread. This is what God spake to Moses, “I Am I who Am: thus shalt thou say to the sons of Israel, He who is hath sent me” (Ex. iii. 14).
Ver. 33.—For the Bread of God, &c. Christ proves that not the manna, but His own Bread, i.e., He Himself, is true Bread, i.e., truly heavenly and Divine, by two arguments. 1. Because He alone really came down from heaven. 2. Because He alone gives true life to the world, i.e., the blessed and eternal life, which only is true life. Observe: this Bread is called the Bread of God, because formed by God alone, and the property of God alone. Because God lives by Himself and His own Divinity: and because this Bread is truly the Son of God, and God Himself
Cometh down: not in the past, but the present tense. The Greek is καταβαίνων, the present participle. The expression therefore signifies the perpetual descent of Christ upon the Eucharistic altar even to the end of the world. For whensoever the priest consecrates the Eucharist, Christ, who after His death ascended into heaven, comes down from thence to the consecrated species of bread, and in them declares His presence (Se presentem sistit et exhibet).
Gives: verily Christ is the infinite gift, who is Life Itself, who quickens all the faithful who communicate rightly throughout the whole world, and who gives them the heavenly and Divine life of grace here, and hereafter the life of glory to all eternity.
Ver. 34.—They said therefore, &c. “Without labour, in pleasant ease let us eat joyfully this Bread, that It may prolong our life, like the tree of life in Paradise, that we may reach the years of Methuselah.” For the carnal Jews did not yet understand that the Bread of Christ was spiritual, and thought only of earthly things. “As yet,” says S. Chrysostom, “they were looking for something material, as yet they were expecting the satisfying of their appetite.” As S. Augustine says, “Give us bread which may refresh, and never fail.” For as Cyril says, “Although by many words the Saviour drew them away from the carnal sense, they profited nothing, nor at all drew back from carnality, for when they heard of the Bread which is given for the life of the world, they understood it of earthly bread. They were like that Samaritan woman, who, when she had heard a long discourse of Christ concerning the spiritual water, sank down to the remembrance of earthly streams, saying, Lord, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.”
Ver. 35.—Jesus saith . . . not thirst for ever. Syrian and Arabic, for eternity. Here Christ to the Jews who asked for bread to feed them unto life eternal, opens It out, and offers It, and declares that It is Himself. For He by His grace and Spirit, which He breathes into the faithful, so nourishes them that they may live always. But peculiarly He feeds them with the Eucharistic Bread, with which this whole discourse of Christ has to do. Hear Cyril: “In these words He sets forth the life and grace of His most Holy Body, whereby the essence (proprietas), i.e., the life of the Only-Begotten, enters and abides in us.” For Christ in the Eucharist is rightly called Bread: (1.) Because by consecrating bread, He transforms it into His Body, which under the species of bread, the substance being annihilated, alone remains. (2.) Because like bread, It takes away hunger, it feeds and sustains life, satisfies and cheers. Hear Cyril: “For that was not the true manna, nor that the true heavenly bread: but He Himself, the Only-Begotten Son, is the true Bread: for since He is of the Substance of the Father, He is by nature all-quickening Life. For as this earthly bread has the quality of sustaining and preserving our weak flesh, so does He by the Holy Spirit quicken our spirits, and deliver our bodies themselves from corruption.”
The Bread of life, i.e., living, vital, quickening, yea, life itself. There is allusion to the tree of life (Gen. ii. 9). For that wood, or tree of life, by its own fruit, would have given life to Adam in Paradise. And this life would have been (1.) a prolonged life, extending over some thousands of years, until God translated him without dying from Paradise to heaven. (2.) A healthy and strong life. (3.) One without disease, or old age. (4.) Joyful and glad, for it would have driven away all sadness and melancholy. So in all these respects does the Eucharist far excel. For It bestows upon communicants not only a prolonged, but an eternal life. Wherefore the tree of life was a type of the Eucharist, as S. Irenæus teaches (lib. 3, c. 2). Moreover the Eucharist not only feeds and sustains the soul, but the body also, as theologians teach. Indeed, S. John the abbot, S. Catharine of Sienna, S. Maria Digniacensis, S. Elrulphus, Abbot, and many others, lived for a long time upon the Eucharist alone, without any other food. Moreover the emperor, Louis the Pious, during his last sickness fasted forty whole days, in which he partook of no food but the daily Eucharist, as is testified by a writer who was present.
He that cometh unto Me, &c. Because I will give him such bread as will take away all hunger, and such drink as will quench all thirst. Christ having said that He was the Bread of Life, here tells us the way to obtain this Bread. This way is that a man should come to Him, which means to believe in Him, as He by and by explains. For we come to Christ not by bodily footsteps (for so the unbelieving Jews, and His crucifiers came to Him), but by the steps of the soul, such as faith, obedience, and charity. Shall not hunger, “for ever;” for this “for ever” must be understood from the “for ever” after thirst. The meaning is, when the manna was eaten it appeased hunger, but only for a time, but I, who am the Bread of life, bestow upon him who eateth only once in the Eucharist such satisfying fulness that he will require no other food, yea, that he will never feel hunger more, because I bestow upon him the blessed and immortal life of grace and glory, which fulfils and satisfies every desire of man.
He that believeth . . . never thirst, because I will give him in the Eucharist the drink of My Blood, by which refreshed and satisfied, he shall never thirst. Hear Cyril: “What then does Christ promise? Surely nothing corruptible, but a blessing which we obtain by the communication of the Body and Blood of Christ. By this we shall be brought back to such a perfect state of incorruption as not to need corporeal food and drink. For the Body of Christ quickens us and by Its participation brings us to incorruption.” For though it be that the faithful laity do not take or drink the Eucharist under the species of wine, as priests do, but eat of It under the species of bread only, still under that species of bread they not only eat the Body of Christ, but also drink His Blood, because the Blood cannot be separated from the Body of Christ, forasmuch as It is immortal and glorious. For in things spiritual to hunger and to thirst have the same meaning. And food and drink mean the same thing. “He that cometh to Me,” saith Augustine, “is the same thing as, he that believeth in Me. He shall not hunger means also he shall never thirst. By both expressions is signified that eternal satisfying where there is no want.” In fine, he shall never thirst is that which is said in Ps. xxxv. 9, “They shall be intoxicated from the fulness of Thy house, and from the torrent of Thy pleasure Thou shalt give them drink” (Vulg.).
Ver. 36.—But I said, &c. Said, elsewhere, even if it had been nowhere recorded by S. John. So S. Chrysostom and others. Again said, i.e., sufficiently, and more than sufficiently, I have shown and proved to you, because ye have seen, i.e., have known, i.e., by the many signs and miracles which I have wrought, ye could and ought to have known Me. And yet through the obstinacy of your minds ye do not believe in Me. For (c. v. v. 3, &c.) He at length confutes the Jews, because though they had seen so many signs they did not believe in Him. As Euthymius says, “Ye have seen Me, or ye have known who I am, both from the witness of John, and the miracles which I have wrought, and the witness of the Scriptures which I have unfolded to you; but voluntarily doing evil ye believe not.”
Ver. 37.—Every thing, &c. There is an anticipation, thus, “Ye will object against Me, ‘If Thou knewest that we would not believe Thy preaching, why dost thou preach to us?’ I reply, ‘Because there are some of you who will believe in Me, namely those whom the Father hath chosen, and hath given Me to be My disciples and children.’” By this He tacitly intimates that most of the Jews on account of their incredulity had not been given to Him, nor elected to the Faith by God, but that in their stead God had elected many others, especially of the Gentiles. Wherefore He saith, every thing, in the neuter gender, which the Father giveth Me, not the masculine, the rather to express the universality of all nations. Every thing (omne), i.e., all of every nation, every race, every age and sex, on whom the Father breathes the spirit of faith, that they may of their own free will believe in Me, these by faith shall come to Me, and become Christians and my disciples. Wherefore I will not repel them from Me, nor banish them from My house, i.e., my Church: but you, 0 ye unbelieving and rebellious Jews, I do repel from Me and My Church, and will banish you to hell: but those I will lovingly embrace, and take with Me to the Church triumphant in heaven.
Observe: when Christ here smites backward and terrifies the unbelieving and captious Jews, He rises to the secret will and predestination of God. For He means to teach that the faith which they lacked was God’s gift. The Father therefore gives unto Christ the faithful from eternity by predestinating, and in time by calling them to the faith, after this manner and plan, that being called freely by God, they obey the call, and believe, and so come unto Christ. For this is the actual cause of faith, or why any one here and now in act believes in Christ. This cause, I say, is the grace of God stirring a man up to believe, when man of his own free will consents to the grace of God, and believes. Therefore the Father giveth us to Christ when by His prevenient and co-operating grace He causes us to be converted in act, and freely to believe in Christ. For as He here says Himself, every one who by the Father is given to Christ does in reality come to Christ. So SS. Augustine, Cyril and others.
Observe: Christ here speaks properly concerning predestination to faith and grace, not to glory, just as Paul does. There is an allusion to Ps. ii. 8. “Ask of Me, and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth for thy possession.” Wherefore Christ speaks in the future tense shall come to Me, to intimate that the Gentiles by the preaching of the apostles would come to Him. Hear Cyril: “He signifies that the Gentiles were already about to come; and He threatens the loss of grace which the Jews were about to experience.”
Moreover God the Father gives believers to Christ, because He merited this by His obedience and Passion. For the merits of Christ are the cause not only of the calling in time, but even of the eternal predestination of the faithful. For God on account of the foreseen merits of Christ predestined and chose the faithful, as Paul teaches (Eph. i. 4), saying, “He hath chosen us in Him (Christ), before the constitution of the world, that we should be holy.” And presently, “He hath predestinated us to the adoption of sons, through Jesus Christ, unto Himself”
I will not cast out of My house: I will not drive him from Me, from My Church, My heaven, but with great care I will cherish him. There is an allusion to a host, who receives to His hospitality well-disposed travellers and friends. As Euthymius says, “Here I will not cast him away from My friendship, nor there from the heavenly kingdom.” And Cyril says, “He shall not be disappointed, nor with shame cast out, neither shall he be deprived of my kindness, but he shall be stored in My garner, and shall rest in the heavenly mansions, and shall come whither the mind of man hath not even conceived.”
Observe: SS. Chrysostom and Cyril (lib. 3, c. 39) say that they who are given by the Father to the Son, are those who by a good use of their free-will have rendered themselves worthy of the vocation and grace of God. Pelagius afterwards crudely taking up this teaching, denied the necessity of grace, saying that free-will was sufficient for him to do good works. But this is an error which S. Augustine confutes. “To believe,” he says, “is of the grace of God; to be able to believe, of nature.” Wherefore Christ Himself here and elsewhere teaches that all indeed are able to believe, do good works, and be saved, because free-will in all is capable of receiving the grace of God, and often does receive from God grace sufficient for salvation: and yet that only those in act believe and are saved, to whom God gives efficacious or congruous grace, such indeed as He foresees will persuade free-will so that it will co-operate with Himself. On this more is said (ver. 44).
Ver. 38.—For I came down, &c Christ gives the reason why He will not cast out him whom the Father hath given Him, viz., because He Himself came in flesh, and into the world, for this end alone, that He might do the Father’s will, which is, that those whom the Father wills to give to Him, and to save, Christ should accept and save. This is why He adds in explanation, This is His will, &c. Listen to S. Cyril in the Council of Ephesus, profoundly handling these things. “When He adds that He was accomplishing not His own, but His Father’s will, He quells indirectly the madness of the Jews, who were always labouring to bring about their own will, and holding cheap the Divine laws, and making of no value what was pleasing to their Lord - whilst, I say, He here openly commends their prompt profession of obedience, He nevertheless darkly rebukes their rebellion.”
Ver. 39.—But this is His will, &c. Everything, i.e., all altogether, of every nation, rank, age, or sex, as 1 have said, verse 37. I will not lose (perdam), i.e., I will not suffer to perish. He explains what He had said, I will not cast out. This He expounds and completes by adding, but will raise it up at the last day, i.e., at the day of judgment, that I may admit (my servant) into heaven, and there bless him with immortality and glory both of body and soul for ever. Then indeed shall come to an end the motion of the heavens, and by consequence time, which is the measuring of their motion, shall cease. Wherefore then shall be the stay and the end of all days and months and years.
Ver. 40.—And this is the will, &c. He that seeth, Greek, θεωζω̃ν, i.e., who considers and contemplates the Son, seeing Him with the eyes not of the body, but of the mind, i.e., believing in Him, and obeying Him. Lactantius (lib. 7, c. 9) observes out of Trismegistus that the word θεωζω̃ν, especially applied to Divine things.
And I will raise him up: the Greek α̉ναστήσω, may be translated either by the future indicative, I will raise; or by the aorist conjunctive, that I may raise (as the Vulgate has it in ver. 39). Christ teaches the Resurrection because “the hope of Christians is the resurrection of the dead,” as Tertullian says. Hear S. Chrysostom (Hom. 46): “Everywhere He makes mention of life: for we are drawn by the desire of it, and there is nothing sweeter than not to die. In the Old Testament, indeed, long life and many days were promised: but now is promised not merely a long life, but endless life. At the same time also He wishes to show that He now revokes the punishment produced by sin, by remitting the sentence of death, and bringing in eternal life, contrary to the decree of the former times.”
Ver. 41, 42.—The Jews therefore murmured, &c. Murmuring at benefits, says Cyril, is a sort of ancestral inheritance with the Jews, coming down from their fathers under Moses to Christ. Theophylact gives the cause of the murmuring, “Up to this point they thought He was speaking of material bread, and listened to Him cheerfully, but now when He revealed to them that He was speaking to them of spiritual bread, they despised Him, and murmured.” They did not understand how Christ was Living Bread, and how He had descended from heaven, and how they might eat Him, for they craved for something for their throats.
Ver. 43.—Jesus therefore answered, &c. . . among themselves (Vulg. in invicem). It is intimated that some were for Him, and others against Him: and through some attacking Him, and others defending Him, they murmured among themselves.
Murmur not: for I give you no occasion of murmuring; I tell you the simple truth, and if on account of its sublimity you do not receive it, it is ye who are in fault, both because ye carp at and rebel against Me, and do not ask Me for an explanation of My words; and also because ye do not ask God for light to understand My words: wherefore He subjoins,
Ver. 44.—No man can come to Me, &c. Observe, (1.) Christ might, as S. Chrysostom observes, have answered and said, “It is not wonderful that you, 0 ye Jews, neither understand nor believe the things which I say, namely, that I am the Bread of Life who came down from heaven: it is because ye are hard and carnal. But He prefers to answer more sweetly and divinely, thus, that no one could believe in Him unless it were given them of His Father; that so, those who believed might not contend against the others who did not believe; and that the unbelievers might acknowledge that they were in want of Divine light, as needful plainly to believe; and that they should ask for this by humble prayer to God in Christ and not murmur, or certainly they would be without the light of God which was offered to them.
The meaning therefore is, “Do not, 0 ye who believe in Me, murmur against the unbelieving, because they do not believe My doctrine, which is confirmed by so many miracles; for faith is the supernatural gift of God; neither can any one believe in Me except the Father draw him to believe. But those are not yet drawn of the Father. Do not therefore be indignant with them, but ask the Father to draw them as He has drawn you. For so will they equally with you believe in Me. You too, 0 ye unbelieving, do not murmur against Me, and My words, and those who do believe in Me. For the Father has drawn them to believe in Me. Rather, therefore, ask the Father that He may draw you also. For so will ye, equally with them, believe in Me, and will be of one mind with them in My faith, and doctrine, and Church. Say ye therefore with the Spouse, “Draw me after Thee,” for those who are so drawn “will run in the odour of Thine ointment” (Cant. i. 3).
Observe, (2.) The word draw does not signify coercion, or necessity; nor is it opposed to free-will, as if it took it away from man, as the Lutherans and Calvinists suppose. Stones and wood are drawn in this way. But with men, it is a man’s own pleasure, i.e., his liberty, not necessity, by which he is drawn. You show sugar to a child, you draw him towards you: you show a green branch to a sheep, you draw her towards you. Both are drawn by the enticement of food. In like manner the will of man is drawn, as iron by a magnet. Thus was S. Agnes drawn to Christ by the secret power of His love. “We are drawn,” says Cyril, “by monition, doctrine, revelation, ineffably produced.” Listen to S. Augustine in this passage (Tract. 26). “Do not think that thou art drawn unwillingly: the mind is drawn also by love.” And by and by, “How do I believe of my own will, if I am drawn? I say, it is too small a thing to be drawn by the will, thou art drawn by pleasure also. What is it to be drawn by pleasure? ‘Delight thyself in the Lord, and He will give thee thy heart’s desire!’ There is a certain delight of the heart, to which that Bread of heaven is sweet. Now if the poet might say ‘his own pleasure draws everyone,’ it is not necessity, but pleasure which draws. It is not obligation, but delight. With how much greater force ought we to say that man is drawn to Christ who delights in the truth, who delights in blessedness, in justice, who delights in life everlasting, which is altogether Christ.” And shortly afterwards, “Show me a lover; he feels what I say. Show me one who desires, who is hungry, one who wanders in the wilderness, and is thirsty, who sighs for the fountains of the eternal country; show me such a one, he knows what I say. But if I speak to one whose heart is cold, he knows not what I say.” The same writes (Serm. de Verb. Apost.), “He said not, He will lead, but He will draw. That violence is done not to the flesh, but to the heart. Wherefore then dost thou marvel? Believe, and thou comest; love, and thou art drawn. Do not suppose that violence is rough and troublesome: it is sweet and pleasant, the very sweetness draws thee. Is not a hungry sheep drawn to the green grass? And I think it is not impelled by the body, but drawn by desire. So also do thou come to Christ; do not contemplate a long journey. Where thou believest, thither thou comest. For to Him who is everywhere, we come by loving, not by journeying.”
The drawing then of God signifies the force and efficacy of grace. This drawing is sweet and mild, not compelling the free-will, but alluring, soothing, leading it to believe. It also signifies man’s weakness, and vicious desires, which are repugnant to Christian faith and holiness, so that a man needs not so much to be led as dragged by the vehement impulse of God’s grace to Christian faith and virtue This is what Christ saith (Matt. xi. 12), “The kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent seize it.” For the drunkard ought to do violence to his gullet, the unclean to his lust, the avaricious to his avarice, the ambitious man to his ambition. Therefore the drawing of grace lifts to celestial things the will that is drawn down to the flesh. It allures the resisting, and strengthens the weak will. It makes cheerful the sorrowful, and animates the shrinking will to good. Wherefore the Latin Fathers with S. Augustine constantly use these words of Christ against the Pelagians to prove the necessity of grace. I do not say the same of the Greeks, as SS. Chrysostom and Cyril, and those who followed them, who wrote before Pelagius, and therefore speak sparingly concerning grace, that they may make much of man’s free-will against the Manichees. Whence Theophylact from S. Chrysostom says upon this passage, “As the magnet attracts only iron, so God draws only those who are fit, those who by using their free-will aright render themselves worthy the grace of God.” This is why S. Chrysostom upon this passage must be read with caution, when he says, that those who are drawn by God merit this by some foreseen good wish of free-will. For if you were to understand this of the first drawing of grace, and of simple free-will, it is Pelagianism. But if you understand it of a further drawing to greater faith and virtue, and concerning free-will already influenced and stirred up by previous grace, it is Catholic doctrine.
Observe, (3.) Some are drawn by God inchoately, or so far as God is concerned, and as far as is sufficient, that they may be converted. And yet these do not come to Christ, nor are they converted, because they are unwilling to follow God when He draws them. And without this drawing it is simply impossible to come to Christ, just as impossible as it is for a man to fly without wings. Concerning this drawing, says Maldonatus, if you ask why one man is drawn to Christ, another not, I answer, because the one was willing to follow Christ when He drew, the other was unwilling. Indeed some who were already believers in Christ taking offence at this eating of His Flesh drew back from Him, as John testifies, verse 67. And express mention is made of Judas the traitor, verse 71. Have I not chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? But others are fully drawn by God, i.e., they are drawn wholly to Christ. These follow God when He draws them: and of such Christ here also speaks, as appears in the 37th verse. Every thing which the Father giveth Me shall come to Me. Every one that hath heard and learned of the Father cometh unto Me. For to be drawn of the Father means here the same thing as to hear, be taught, to learn of the Father. “What is to be drawn of the Father but to learn of Him?” says S. Augustine. So those are wholly drawn to whom God gives grace, not only prevenient, effectual, and congruous (for those of whom we have before spoken, who are drawn inchoately, have sufficient grace only), but also co-operating grace. Congruous grace is so called, because it is conformable to the disposition, affections, and character of those who are drawn. Wherefore God foresees that such persons will in fact freely consent and co-operate, and so be converted, believe, and do good works. Concerning those S. Augustine says, “If thou art not drawn, pray that thou mayest be drawn.” And “why one man is drawn, another not, do not scrutinize, if thou wouldst not err.”
Moreover, this effectual and congruous grace is necessary to conversion, faith, and salvation, not simpliciter, but upon the hypothesis of the foreknowledge of God, by which He foresees that this grace will persuade free-will, so that it shall turn itself to God: but that that other grace which is merely sufficient will not persuade it. Wherefore God equally foresees that we will freely consent to effectual and congruous grace, but that to sufficient and incongruous we shall not consent, and this of simple liberty of will. This is what Christ saith, No one can come to Me, except the Father draw him. Wherefore the great gift of perseverance even unto the end of life is congruous grace, and this is the cause of our eternal salvation, and therefore has not to do with merit, but is the peculiar and chief blessing of God, which He confers upon His predestinated and elect, and divides and distinguishes them from the non-elect and reprobate, as S. Augustine teaches at large (de Predest. Sanct. c. 16), and S. Thomas and the Scholastics from him, and the Council of Trent (Sess. 6, c. 13). Wherefore this grace of congruity ought to be constantly and most humbly asked of God, for on it our eternal salvation hinges, and God has promised that He will give us whatsoever we ask in Christ’s name (John xv. i6).
And I will raise, &c. Christ shows in this the fruit of this drawing of God the Father: “I will indeed give him who, drawn of the Father, shall come to Me, and believe in and obey Me, this reward, that I will raise him up to eternal life and glory, that is to say, if he persevere in faith and obedience until death.”
Ver. 45.—It is written, &c. He quotes Isa. liv. 13, “All thy children shall be taught of the Lord.” Jeremiah (xxxi. 33) has a similar prophecy, and Joel (ii. 28). Because what Christ said seemed strange to the Jews, No one can come to Me, except My Father draw him, Christ confirms it out of Isaiah and the Prophets, who assert that all the children or disciples of Christ would be taught of God. But to be taught by God is to be drawn by God, for this is the force of the Hebrew limmude.
Now, they will be taught by God in that He will at the external voice of Christ and His disciples teach their minds inwardly, illuminate and inspire them, to believe in and obey Him. Whereas previously in the ancient Law, God taught the people exteriorly rather than interiorly, by prophets, priests, and by the Holy Scriptures. Wherefore “where God is the Teacher,” says S. Leo, “there are the lessons quickly learned.” Hear S. Augustine (in Epist 1 S. Jo. Tract. 3) “The sound of our words strikes the ear, the Master is within. I have spoken to all, but to whomsoever that unction speaketh not inwardly, whom the Holy Ghost teacheth not within, such depart untaught. The outward instructions and admonitions are some sort of aid; but it is He who sitteth in heaven who teaches the heart. Wherefore He saith Himself in the Gospel, ‘Call no one your master upon earth, for one is your Master, Christ.’ He indeed speaks to you inwardly when no mortal man is by. Where His inspiration, His unction is not, outward words are an empty breath.”
Every one who hath heard . . . and learned, the Arabic adds, and knoweth. See how He explains the drawing of the Father. He is drawn by the Father who is inwardly taught by Him, i.e., whose understanding is illuminated by the Father, and his will inflamed, that he may believe in and follow Me. And he hath learned, or he does learn, that is, he receives My illumination in his intellect, and My impulse in his will: and he acquiesces, and freely consents. This man comes to Me, i.e., he believes in Me as the Messiah, and obeys Me. For the two feet, not of the body, but of the soul, by which she comes to Christ, are the understanding enlightened by God, and the will impelled and inflamed by Him. Hence S. Augustine (de Predest. Sanc. c. 8) says, “If every one who hath heard and learned of the Father cometh, assuredly every one who cometh not, hath not heard, nor learned of the Father. For if he had heard and learned, he would come.” He subjoins, “This school is far remote from fleshly sense, in which the Father is heard, and teaches us to come to the Son. There, too, is the Son Himself, because He is His Word, by whom He thus teaches us: and this He does not through the ears of the flesh, but of the heart. There also at the same time, is the Spirit of the Father and the Son. And He neither refrains from teaching, nor does He teach differently. For we have learned that the works of the Trinity are inseparable.” And after an interval, “Why therefore does He not teach all to come to Christ, unless because all whom He teaches, He teaches in mercy? But whom He teacheth not, in judgment He teacheth them not. For He hath mercy upon whom He will, and whom He wills He hardeneth. But He is merciful, and doeth good, and when He hardeneth He requiteth justly. This grace therefore which is secretly given to human hearts by the Divine bounty, is rejected by no hard heart. For this reason is it given that the hardness of the heart may be first taken away. When therefore the Father is heard and teaches inwardly that we should come to the Son, He takes away the heart of stone, and gives a heart of flesh, as He promised by His prophet. For so He makes the sons of promise vessels of mercy which He has prepared for glory.”
Ver. 46.—Not that any one, &c. “Lest the dense and ignorant Jews should imagine,” says Euthymius, “that any one could hear or see the Father in a sensible manner, He saith not that any one, &c.” We must understand, “But let a man hear God unseen, speaking in the soul, illuminating it, and persuading to the truth in Christ.” God is the invisible Master. God is the Teacher, not of eyes and ears, but of hearts and minds.
Save Him who is of God, viz. Myself, who am the Son of God, born of Him, and most intimate with Him, who continually see and behold Him as He is in His essence. And as man I was indeed formed by Him without man’s agency, and always enjoy the beatific vision of Himself. As Cyril says, “Being consubstantial with the Father, He will assuredly see Him from whom He is.” And as Euthymius says, “Being of the same nature, substance and knowledge, He is in the bosom of the Father.”
Ver. 47. Verily, verily, &c. Hath, by right and merit, or in certain hope, but not yet in fact. Christ goes back to verse 29, and again and again inculcates faith in Himself, because that is the beginning of all good: the root of salvation, and the necessary means for obtaining from Christ the Bread of Life, i.e., the Eucharist.
Eternal life: thus He impels those unwilling to faith by a firm hope of the reward. For what is better or sweeter than eternal life to those who fear death and corruption?
Ver. 48.—I am the Bread of life, nourishing those who eat Me unto life eternal. As though He said, “I give eternal life to those by whom I am eaten with true and living faith.” He often repeats and confirms the same, that He might not seem to have spoken rashly, because to the Jews this thing seemed plainly impossible.
Ver. 49, 50.—Your fathers, &c, in the desert, “signifying,” says S. Chrysostom, “that the manna did not long continue, nor come to the land of promise; for as soon as they reached it the manna ceased.” But this Bread of Christ endureth for ever. Listen to the words of Josue (v. 12): “And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.” For as God fails us not in things needful, so He gives not an abounding of superfluities.
And died: i.e., manna fed your fathers after the way of other food, and neither did, nor was able to protect them from death; but My Bread will save from death.
That whosoever shall eat of it, by true faith and living charity, shall never die. That is, the manna had not the virtue of preserving life from corporeal death, much less the souls of your fathers from death, but this My Bread has the power of freeing from death not only the body, but the soul, and that for ever. For although it will not prevent the temporal death of the body, it will cause nevertheless the faithful man to rise up from that death, and to die no more for ever.
I am the living Bread (bread is used by a hebraism for food), quickening those who eat Me in Myself who am Life, and communicating My life to them. Whilst the manna was in itself inanimate and dead, and therefore could not bestow life upon those who ate it. Who came down from heaven (by reason of a Divine supposition, says Suarez); “Since they sought food from heaven,” says Chrysostom, “therefore He frequently testifies that He came down from heaven.”
Ver. 52.—If any one shall eat, &c. For this Bread gives to the soul the life of grace, which endures even to the life of glory for all eternity. And It shall make the body to rise from death to live together with the soul gloriously for ever.
Calvin and the heretics contend that this Bread is not the Body of Christ in the Eucharist, but mystical food; for that we mystically eat the Body of Christ by faith when we believe in Him. Of Catholics the same opinion was held by Jansen on this passage, Cajetan, Gabriel, Ruardus Tapper, Nicolas Casanus and Hesselius, who are cited by Baronius (lib. 1, de Eucharist, c. 5). Against these authors Didacus Castillus has written a whole book, Nicholas Sanders another, and Toletus, Maldonatus and Bellarmine refute them at length.
I say then that Christ from this place onward speaks expressly of the Eucharist. This is so certain that Maldonatus says, to deny it is rash, and almost heretical (erroneum).
It is proved (1.) because Christ here most clearly asserts it, constantly bidding us eat His Flesh and drink His Blood, in such sort that the doctrine of the Eucharist could not be more clearly expressed. For this is what He reiterates over and over again, you hear nothing else but My Flesh is meat indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed. He that eateth My Flesh, and drinketh My Blood. Unless ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His Blood. Surely it is incredible that Christ should wish to obscure a thing in itself so clear, and by Him so often repeated; I mean that we must believe in Him, by so many words and metaphors about eating His Flesh and Blood, especially when He foresaw that many, even of His disciples, would for this cause depart from Him.
(2.) Because He distinguishes both kinds in the Eucharist. For His Flesh He calls the food which we may eat: but His Blood that which we may drink. Unless ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, ye shall not have life in you (ver. 54). Therefore He speaks concerning the Eucharist, in which we truly and properly eat the Flesh of Christ and drink His Blood. Now in that spiritual eating of Christ which takes place by faith, drink cannot be distinguished from food, nor blood from flesh. Nor indeed ought we especially and severally to believe in the Flesh, and then again in the Blood of Christ, but it suffices to believe generally and fully in the whole Humanity of Christ.
(3.) Because nowhere in Scripture are the efficacy and fruit of the Eucharist, as well as the universal obligation of receiving It, clearly expressed and inculcated except here. And this precept, since it is so important, and so binding upon all the faithful, ought clearly to be expressed.
(4.) If S. John does not here treat of the Eucharist, then he nowhere does so. But who could believe such a thing of Christ’s Benjamin, who at the Last Supper, when Christ instituted the Eucharist, lay upon His breast, who, I say, could believe that he should have passed over, and involved in silence this most august monument and mystery of the love of Christ?
(5.) Because in a similar way (cap. 3), he narrates the institution of Baptism, and Christ’s conversation about it with Nicodemus. So here he relates the mystery of the Eucharist, and Christ’s disputation with the Jews concerning It. And these two Sacraments are necessary to the faithful, and are, as it were, the two bases and pillars of the Christian Church.
Lastly, this is the common opinion of the Fathers, both Greek and Latin, also of the commentators and Scholastic Doctors, viz. S. Cyril, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius, S. Thomas, Rupert, Lyra, Maldonatus, Toletus, on this passage, and others in various places, who are quoted at large by Toletus, Ribera, Maldonatus, Sanders and Castillus, commenting upon this chapter, and by Bellarmine (lib. 1, de Euch. c. 5).
In like manner the Council of Ephesus understand this passage (Epist. ad Nestor.), so do the Second Council of Nice (Act 6), the Council of Cabillon (II c. 46), and the Council of Sens (cap. 10), and the Council of Trent (Sess. 13, c. 2). Nor does S. Augustine dissent, as is plain to those who read him carefully, although many think the contrary. For from this very passage he, in common with several others of the ancients, maintained that the Eucharist ought to be given even to infants. And this was actually the practice in various places for 600 years, until the Church laid down the contrary, namely that the Eucharist is not necessary for infants, and that it is not expedient to give it to them through fear of irreverence.
Here observe, that S. Augustine, besides the literal and genuine explanation of this passage, which is concerning the Eucharist, adds another which is symbolical and mystical. And he understands by this bread and food the society of the members and the body of Christ which is the Church: that to eat the flesh of Christ is the same thing as to be incorporated into the Church, to be aggregated and associated to it, and so to be brought in to Christ, and to drink and participate in His Spirit. S. Austin does this on account of the Donatists of his time in Africa, with whom he had a perpetual controversy. For they by schism rent the society and unity of the Church. It may be added the Eucharist is not only a symbol, but a cause of this union (societas) of the faithful in the Church. For as out of many grains of wheat ground together one loaf is made, and out of many clusters of grapes pressed together wine floweth, so of many faithful communicants is one society and Church. (2.) Because this union and society of the faithful is the end and fruit of the Eucharist, which without it profits not unto salvation. (3.) Because S. Augustine often just glances at and passes over the literal sense, as a thing easy and plain, and dwells upon the spiritual and mystical sense, as more obscure, subtle and sublime. Origen, SS. Gregory and Jerome, and other Fathers do the same. So S. Augustine is explained after his manner by his disciple S. Bernard (Serm. 3 in Ps. xc.) “What is it to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood but to participate in His sufferings, and to imitate His conversation in the flesh? Wherefore also that spotless Sacrament of the Altar sets this forth, when we receive the Lord’s Body. As that form of bread appears to enter into us, so we know by that conversation which He had upon earth He enters into us to dwell in our hearts by faith.”
You will say that S. Augustine asserts (lib. 3, de Doct. Christ. c. 16), that there is in these words of Christ a trope or figure, by which we are commanded to have communion in His sufferings. I answer, S. Augustine calls this a figure because the flesh of Christ is not here commanded to be cut, cooked and eaten (as is done with the flesh of bulls and sheep), as the Capharnaites imagined, and therefore were offended; but figuratively, i.e., sacramentally. For he thinks that it is here commanded that in the Eucharist, by means of the species of bread and wine, separated one from another, and as it were dead, we should represent the Passion and Death of Christ, which took place through the separation of the soul and blood of Christ from His body, and that we should both imitate this by mortification and shew it forth by holy living.
You will say secondly: Christ .(ver. 27, 29, 63) treats concerning the spiritual eating of Him by faith, therefore also He here proceeds to speak of the same, and not of sacramental and corporal eating, otherwise He would not speak consistently and logically (cohærenter). I answer (1.) by denying the consequence. For Christ wished by degrees to raise the ignorant Jews, and first to set before them easy things, and afterwards things more difficult and mysterious. Wherefore from the multiplication of the loaves with which He had fed the multitude He rises to the manna, and from that to the spiritual food of faith: (ver. 27, 29, 35, 36, 40, 47). Then in this verse and afterwards (He proceeds) to the real eating of Himself in the Eucharist, which is the end, the goal and aim of that miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. In a similar manner He led on the Samaritan woman from the drinking of material water to spiritual water. And Christ Himself sufficiently hints at, and indeed explains this leading onward, when (ver. 29, 35) He said that bread was already possessed by those who believed, but here He says that His Eucharistic bread was not yet possessed, and that He was not then giving it, but that He would give it in the future. The bread, He says, which I will give is My flesh for the life of the world. But the reason of this change is that Christ (ver. 27, &c.) wished to forewarn and prepare His hearers for the most august mystery of the Eucharist. For in It faith and spiritual manducation are required in the highest degree, for without them the real and corporeal profits nothing, as S. Augustine says.
I reply (2.) by denying the antecedent. For Christ did not say that we were to eat Him by (per) faith, but He required faith as a means for obtaining from Him the heavenly bread and food, which is nothing else than His flesh and blood in the Eucharist, as I have observed in verse 27, &c.
They object (3.) that Christ says (ver. 64), It is the Spirit which quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing. This I will explain in the proper place.
From what has been said it is clear that in the Eucharist the very flesh of Christ is truly and properly eaten, and His blood drank, and not bread, as the Calvinists suppose, which is only a type and figure of the flesh of Christ. For the figure of the Eucharist was rather the manna of the Jews, as being something celestial and sweet to the taste, than the common arid bread of Christians. And if the Eucharist is mere bread, and not the body of Christ, then Christ would have no ground for preferring the Eucharist to the manna, since the manna was sweeter and better than bread. And so the Capharnaites and His disciples understood Christ, namely, that He wished His Flesh to be truly and properly eaten, although they were ignorant of the manner of eating It sacramentally, under the species of bread and wine. And this they could not at this time have received, even though Christ had expounded it. And although they were so grievously offended, yet did not Christ correct them, when this their offence, and apostasy He could and should (debuisset) have done by a single word, saying that He was speaking figuratively (mysticè), namely, that to eat His Flesh was nothing else but to believe in Him as incarnate and suffering for the salvation of men. Since, therefore, it is certain that He did not do this, it is certain that He was speaking concerning the real and sacramental eating of His Flesh in the Eucharist. “Consider,” says Theophylact, “that the bread which is eaten by us in the Mysteries is not merely a certain figure of the Lord’s body, but is the very Flesh of the Lord. He said not, The Bread which I will give is a figure of My Flesh. For by the words secretly spoken (arcanis verbis) that bread is transformed through the mystic benediction and the accession of the Holy Spirit, into the Flesh of the Lord. And how is it that flesh does not appear to us, but bread? It is that we may not shrink from eating it. For if indeed It had appeared to be flesh, we should have been disaffected towards communion. But now through the Lord’s condescension to an infirmity, the mystic Food appears to us such as that to which we are accustomed at other times.”
Ver. 52.—And the bread which I will give is My Flesh for the life of the world (Vulg.) The Greek has, But the bread which I will give is My Flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. And so read the Syriac, S. Cyril, Theophylact and Theodoret. The Arabic reads Body instead of Flesh. The meaning is, “The bread, i.e., the food of the Eucharist, which I will give at the Last Supper, is My Flesh which I will give, i.e., will offer to God upon the cross, a price and a ransom, to redeem the world from death, so that I may indeed raise the world dead in sin to the life of grace and glory.” Or better, “The bread of the Eucharist, which I will give in the way of food for the life of the world, will be My Flesh which I will deliver to the death of the cross for the life of the world, but in such manner that upon the cross I will give It to restore to the world its lost life, but in the Eucharist I will give It for food, that the world being raised by My death to the life of grace, may be nourished, may grow, and be perfected by It.” He means, “I will give My true Flesh upon the cross, as it were corn in a mill, to be broken and ground, that from It might be produced the bread of the Eucharist, fruit-bearing and life-giving, feeding the faithful for the life of grace, and leading them to the life of glory.” S. Ignatius, when he was condemned to the lions, had regard to this when he heard them roaring, and said, “I am the corn of Christ; by the teeth of the beasts I shall be ground, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ.”
From the expression, I will give, in the future tense, all the ancients, and the moderns generally, understand this passage of the Eucharist, and some add that Christ not only on the cross, but in the Eucharist also gives, i.e., offers His flesh to God for the life of the world. For Christ not only offers Himself to God upon the cross, as it were a bloody victim for the life of the world, but also daily offers Himself for the same in the Eucharist, as it were an unbloody victim. For the Eucharist, or the Mass, is the perpetual, but unbloody sacrifice. As Euthymius says, “He said not, the bread which I give, but, which I will give; for He was about to give It in the Last Supper, when He gave thanks, and brake the bread which He had taken, and gave it to His disciples, and said, Take ye, and eat, This is My body.” After an interval, “I will give unto death. For He presignifies His crucifixion and voluntary passion.” Hear also Theophylact, “Although also He is said to be delivered up by the Father, yet He is also said to have given up Himself. And the one indeed was said that we might learn His accordance with the Father, the other that we might not be ignorant of the free volition of the Son.”
Ver. 53.—The Jews therefore . . . strove, Greek, ε̉μαχόντο, i.e., fought, contended in words, quarrelled among themselves, some accusing Christ, others defending Him.
How: when the question enters in, how a thing is done, unbelief enters in at the same time, says S. Chrysostom. “For when it behoved them,” says Cyril, “who by a miracle had perceived the Divine virtue of the Saviour, and the power of His miracles, readily to receive His words, and if any seemed too hard to seek for their solution, they did altogether the opposite. How can this man, &c. S. Chrysostom says, “if thou inquirest this, why didst thou not say the same in the miracle of the loaves, as to how He so greatly increased them? For from that it ought to have caused this more easily to be believed. The expression how, therefore, is a Judaic word, and the question of unbelievers.” Let the heretics hear this, who say, “How can so great a Christ be whole in so small a host?” Rather let them say, “How can an angel be wholly in a point?” “How is God everywhere?” “How is the soul whole in the whole body, and whole in all its parts?” And if they can neither understand, nor express these things, how can they understand the mystery of the Eucharist? Let them believe Almighty God giving assurance of the fact, although they do not understand the mode. God can do more than man can understand,” says S. Augustine. “It behoves us therefore,” says Theophylact, “when we hear, Unless ye eat the Flesh of the Son, ye shall not have life, to maintain undoubting faith in the reception of the Divine Mysteries, and not to ask, By what means?” In like manner Cyril, “But let us depart far away from the sins of others, having firm faith in the Mysteries. In such sublime things let us never either think, or say, ‘how?’ For this is a Judaic word, and a cause of extreme punishment.” Therefore he wisely concludes, “When God works, let us not ask ‘how?’ but let us ascribe to Him alone both the way and the knowledge of His own work.”
Ver. 54.—Jesus therefore said, &c. Hear S. Chrysostom, “They indeed judged this to be impossible, but He showed it to be altogether possible; and not only so, but necessary.” “The manner indeed in which it was possible,” says Cyril, “He did not unfold, but exhorted them to ask in faith: but they before they believed asked querulously.” Similarly Augustine, “How indeed It is given, and the manner of eating that Bread ye know not, but unless ye shall eat, &c.”
Unless ye shall eat: this is Christ’s precept concerning taking the Eucharist. Therefore from the very form of the words it is clear that it pertains only to adults: although indeed some of the ancients have extended it to little ones and infants, to whom they actually gave the Eucharist. This appears from S. Augustine (Epist. 23 ad Bonifac.) and S. Cyprian (Tract. de Laps). Indeed at Constantinople and elsewhere it was the custom to give the remains of the Eucharist to pure and innocent boys whom they called out of school into the church for the purpose. This appears from the case of the Jewish boy which I will speak of presently. But the Church subsequently defined that young children not yet come to the use of reason, are not the subject of the precept, and but little capable of fulfilling it reverently. Wherefore the Council of Trent says (Sess. 21, Can. 4), “If any one shall say that the communion of the Eucharist is necessary for young children before they come to years of discretion, anathema sit.” It is otherwise concerning the precept of baptism: Unless any one be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. For there it is plain from the form of words that Baptism is not only commanded, but also that it is ordained as a necessity for salvation, and therefore that infants cannot be saved without baptism as a means, although they are not bound by the precept of it, indeed cannot be bound. Others have extended this command of eating the Eucharist to little children in a non-literal but figurative sense, namely, that the little ones ought to eat the flesh of Christ, i.e., ought to be partakers of the mystical body of Christ which is the Church, that is, they ought to be baptized, that by the faith, hope and charity infused into them at their baptism, they may be incorporated with Christ and the Church. So think and explain S. Cyprian (lib. 3, ad Quirin. c. 53.), Pope Innocent 1. (Epist. 93, ad Patres Concil. Milev.), &c. But this meaning is far fetched and symbolical, not literal and natural.
You will say, infants ought to be united to Christ and the Church: and this union is the effect and fruit of the Eucharist, as the Council of Florence teaches: therefore they ought to receive It, that they may obtain this union. I reply, that infants are united and incorporated into Christ and the Church by baptism, but that the perfecting of the union takes place in the Eucharist, and is Its proper and peculiar effect. But this perfection is not required of infants, nor is it necessary for their salvation. So Suarez.
And drink His Blood. From hence the Hussites, Luther, Calvin and others contend that the Eucharistic chalice ought to be given to the laity also, that they may communicate in both kinds. But the practice and definition of the Church is otherwise, and this is the best interpreter of Holy Scripture.
I reply therefore (1.) that as regards the thing (rem) contained in the Sacrament, the laity do also drink the Blood of Christ when they receive His Body under the species of bread. Because under that species (sub ea) by virtue of consecration, there is there (ponitur) the Body of Christ, but by concomitance there is under the same the Blood of Christ, for the Body of Christ is not bloodless, nor can the Blood of Christ be separated from His glorified Body. As therefore he who takes the Eucharist under the species of wine by virtue of the words of consecration, takes directly and primarily the Blood of Christ, and yet by concomitance takes the Body of Christ, because the Blood of Christ cannot be without His Flesh; so in turn, he who takes the Flesh of Christ, under the species of bread, takes directly the Flesh of Christ, but by concomitance takes also his Blood. For in spiritual and sacramental and divine things food and drink are the same: consequently to eat and to drink means the same thing. Wherefore he who receives in one kind only receives as much profit and grace as he who takes in both kinds. Indeed as in material things, the same milk is both food and drink, the same bread dipped in wine both feeds and affords drink. It is at once eaten and drunk. It satisfies at once hunger and thirst. Still, as regards the sacramental species, he is properly said to eat the Flesh of Christ who eats It under the species of bread, and he is said to drink His Blood who drinks It under the species of wine.
You will say, then the laity ought to do both, for Christ Jesus commands it. I reply that the expression, and drink, both here and elsewhere is frequently put by a hebraism for or drink. For it suffices to receive one species, because under either is contained whole and perfect Christ. Thus it is said (Ex. xxi. 13), “Whoso striketh father and (i.e., or) mother, let him die the death.” For he who strikes either one or the other is guilty of death. The conjunction and here, although it disjoins the members of the subject, viz. father and mother, nevertheless conjoins them in the predicate, that is to say, the penalty of death. Thus also, “silver and (i.e., or) gold have I none” (Acts iii. 6). Similar constructions are found in Ex. xxii. 10; Ezek. xliv. 22, and elsewhere. So here too it may be taken thus, from what Christ says (Ver. 51, 58), concerning bread alone. And thus Paul explains Christ’s saying, “Whosoever shall eat this bread or drink the cup of the Lord unworthily shall be guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord” (1 Cor. xi. 27). See the Council of Trent (Sess. 21, Can. 1), Bellarmine, Suarez, Maldonatus and others.
We may add that also by a hebraism, the word unless ought to be repeated, thus, Unless ye eat, &c., and unless ye drink, &c. That means, If ye neither eat nor drink, &c. This clearly appears from the Greek, which for unless has ε̉ὰν μὴ, i.e., if ye do not eat, and if ye do not drink, that is, if ye do neither the one nor the other. The reason à priori is because Christ is here answering the Jews striving among themselves, and saying concerning the Flesh alone of Christ, How can this man give us His Flesh to eat? To whom He replies, Amen, Amen, i.e., most truly and certainly, except ye shall eat the Flesh of the Son of man, &c. But He adds, and drink His Blood, that He may strengthen the expression, unless ye shall eat His Flesh. For that is not true and living flesh which has no blood. He would also show His liberality, charity, and the greatness of the benefit, by which He affords to the faithful in the Eucharist, the complete sustenance which consists of food and drink. These words have respect therefore rather to the blessing than to the precept.
Lastly, there is a canon for the interpretation of Holy Scripture delivered by S. Augustine (de Doct. Christ. lib. 3, c. 17). There are many precepts in Scripture which are given to the whole Church, which yet are to be fulfilled by some, not by all. Such is, “Increase and multiply” (Gen. i.) This bids some to take wives, and propagate the human race, but not that all and each should do so. So here, Unless ye shall eat, &c., i.e., unless there are some, viz. priests, who take the Sacrament of the Eucharist under both species, ye shall not have life in you. For if there be none such, then there will be none to consecrate the Eucharist, none to administer it, and so the whole fruit of the most Blessed Sacrament would be lost, as Bellarmine observes. For it is the office of priests to consecrate and receive in both kinds, that there may be not only a perfect Sacrament, but also that they may offer the sacrifice. This requires both kinds, both to signify perfect nourishment (for the sacrifice is, as it were, the food of God): and this nourishment consists of food and drink: as also that there may be a perfect representation of the passion and death of Christ. In them the Blood was separated from the Body of Christ, as by the force of the words of consecration, the Body is consecrated separately under the species of bread, and the Blood under the species of wine. Formerly indeed the laity at times, not always, communicated in both kinds in the primitive Church. This is plain from S. Paul (1 Cor. xi. 28), and S. Dionysius (Celest. Hierarch. cap. 3, part 3), and S. Cyprian (Serm. de Laps). But as the number of believers increased, the Church rightly abrogated this custom, because of the peril of irreverence, and various abuses which had been often experienced.
Ye shall not have, &c. That it is possible to have spiritual life, by which the believing soul lives in the faith and love of God withoutthe Eucharist is plain from the case of the newly baptised. Here however it is said that there cannot be life without It, because life cannot be long retained, nourished and fed without this food, especially since the precept of communicating, both by the natural and Divine law, as well as human law (for the Church has ordained that every one shall communicate once a year, at Easter), urges and obliges us to take It. Whence Ruperti says, A man is not considered to have not eaten, unless he be unwilling to eat, or has been careless and neglectful. And we commonly say that a man cannot live without food, meaning for long. Hence S, Basil says (lib. 1, de. Bapt), “He who has been regenerated by Baptism, ought afterwards to be nourished by the participation of the Divine Mysteries.” Similarly Dionysius Carthusianus, “As the body cannot be sustained without corporeal food, nor continue in natural life, so without this life-giving food the soul cannot persist in the spiritual life of grace.” So too Lyra, “As in bodily life food is necessary to preserve life, so is this Sacrament necessary to the spiritual life, because it is preservative of the spiritual life: for as Baptism is a certain spiritual generation, so is the Eucharist spiritual nutriment.”
From what has been said it is clear that the fruit and effect of the Eucharist may be gathered from the analogy of the benefits of bread and food. What bread and food do for the body the Eucharist does for the soul, and occasionally even for the body, in that it nourishes and quickens the body, yea, sometimes heals diseases, and drives away peril of death. Wherefore formerly some persons when going on board ship were wont to carry the Eucharist with them, that they might take It in case of danger; yea, to ward off peril. Thus, Gregory, the father of S. Gregory Nazianzen, being worn out by a protracted burning fever, and being nigh unto death was delivered from it, and restored to life and health by means of the Eucharist, received on Easter Day. Nazianzen relates this in his discourse on the death of his father. The same saint relates that his mother was restored to health from a severe and dangerous sickness through receiving spiritual nourishment from bread which he himself had consecrated for the holy sacrifice. He also testifies in a sermon on the death of his sister Gorgonia that she was healed of paralysis of all her limbs, and excruciating pains, by partaking of the Eucharist. S. Ambrose in a discourse on the death of his brother Satyrus, relates that he being shipwrecked escaped certain peril of death and swam to shore, in consequence of the Eucharist being appended to his neck. S. Gregory relates a similar escape by means of the Eucharist of Maximianus, Bishop of Syracuse (lib. 3, Dial c. 36). In the time of the Emperor Justinian at Constantinople, the son of a certain Jew received after the custom of that age, together with several Christian children, the remains of the Eucharist. For this he was thrown by his father, a glass-blower, into a burning furnace of glass. There by the virtue of the Eucharist he was preserved alive and unhurt. This happened A.D. 552. (See Evargrias, lib. 4, c. 24, Gregory of Tours, lib. 1, Mirac. c. 10.) Finally listen to Cyril summing up the fruits and effects of the Eucharist: “It drives away not only death, but all diseases. For it calms down, while Christ abides in us, the raging law of our members: It strengthens godliness: It extinguishes the perturbations of the mind: nor does It make question of our sins: but It heals the sick, It restores the bruised, and like the good Shepherd, who laid down His life for the sheep, It raises us from every fall.”
Ver. 55.—He that cometh &c. Eateth, i.e., says Ruperti, worthily, with due preparation and purification, with a previous act of contrition and sacramental confession, if a man have any mortal sin upon his conscience. For if, after examination, a man be not conscious of any mortal sin, even though he may really be in some mortal sin unknown to himself, the communion of the Eucharist will blot out that sin, and restore the communicant to the grace and love of God. This is the teaching of Suarez, and Theologians, passim. Moreover, the sixth General Council (Act 8) understands this verse of the Eucharist, and asserts that in it the Flesh of Christ is called life-giving, because It is the proper Flesh of the Word, and hypostatically united to the Word.
Hath eternal life: because by the Eucharist he receives grace to preserve him, and bring him unto life eternal. As Dion Carthusianus says, “He hath eternal life, because he hath Me: and he hath the life of grace which is continued by this Sacrament, until he arrive at the life of everlasting glory.” S. Cyril gives the reason—“Because the Flesh of Christ is the Flesh of God, which is united to the Word of God, who is, by His nature, Life, and thus is made life-giving. The Eucharist therefore quickens the soul, because It preserves, feeds, augments grace. Also It blots out venial sins, and even mortal sins, if a man has forgotten them. And It will raise up the body from death. Wherefore it follows, And I will raise him up. Moreover, S. Bernard thus explains these words of Christ tropologically (Tract. de Diligend Deo). He that eateth, &c., “That is, he who recalls to mind My death, and after My example mortifies his members which are upon the earth, hath eternal life.”
And I will raise him up at the last day, in which the passion of Christ and the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, will gain their ultimate and perfect fruit and reward in the saints. I, who am really contained and eaten in the Eucharist, will raise up him that eateth Me, that as I give its own glory to the soul, so I may bestow upon the body its glory. For the glorified soul requires a glorious body that the whole man may be beatified. Hearken to S. Cyril, “I, He said, that is, My Body which shall be eaten, will raise him up. For Christ is no other than His Flesh. I do not say so because It is not different by nature, but because since the Incarnation He can by no means be divided into two Sons. I, therefore, He says, who am made man, will raise up those who eat Me by means of My Flesh at the last day. Assuredly it is altogether impossible that death and destruction should not be overcome by Him who by nature is Life.”
I will raise up, to immortal glory. “Lest they should suppose,” says S. Augustine, “that by that food and drink life eternal was promised in such a manner, that those who receive it should not die in the body, He condescended to meet such a thought by immediately adding, and I will raise him up at the last day, that meanwhile he should live according to the spirit, in the rest which the spirits of the saints enjoy: and as concerns the body, not even his flesh should be defrauded of life eternal, but should possess it at the resurrection of the dead at the last day.”
Wherefore the Council of Nice calls the Eucharist “the symbol of the resurrection.” And S. Ignatius (Epist. ad Ephes.) calls It the “medicine of immortality.” S. Cyril in this verse calls It “food nourishing for immortality and eternal life.” Hence S. Chrysostom (lib. 6, de Sacerdot.) asserts that the souls of those who receive this Sacrament at the end of life are by reason of having received It carried direct by the angels into heaven; and that their bodies, the angels like attendants surrounding them, are guarded for eternal life. Nyssen indeed adds (Orat. Catechet. c. 37), “that our bodies cannot win immortality, unless they have been united to this immortal Body of Christ.” S. Cyprian has a similar remark (Serm. de Cæna Dom.), also Tertullian (de Resurrer. Carn.) Yea, S. Irenæus (lib. 4, c. 34), from the truth that we communicate of the Flesh and Blood of an immortal Christ proves the resurrection, that is to say, that we shall rise to life immortal. Understand all these sayings, not that by the Eucharist there is confined in the body any physical quality, as a cause of its resurrection, nor any supernatural gift, which in the way of grace and glory is not due to the holy soul, but because the resurrection due to grace is given also to the saints by another title, which peculiarly and specially belongs to the Eucharist, that is to say, on account of that special union with the glorified Body which takes place in the Eucharist because of the institution and promise of Christ. So Suarez. Let me add that the Eucharist preserves, nourishes, and augments grace, which is the seed of glory. The Eucharist therefore is the instrumental cause of the resurrection (a moral, that is, not a physical cause), because of which Christ will cause us to rise again. Wherefore He saith not, “the Eucharist shall raise him again,” but, “I will raise him again.”
Ver. 56.—For My Flesh, &c., truly, i.e., not parabolically nor figuratively, as Euthymius says from S. Chrysostom, but really and properly, according to the plain meaning of the words. Hence S. Chrysostom (Hom. 61. ad. Pop.) teaches that we in the Eucharist are united and commingled with the Flesh of Christ, not only by love and consent of will, but also really and substantially. “Wherefore,” saith he, “He hath commingled Himself with us, and united His Body to ours, that we should be made one whole, even as a body is connected with its head. This is the desire of ardent lovers. It is this which Job hinted at, saying to his servants, to whom he was beyond measure desirable, because they showed their desire, saying, ‘Who will give us to be filled with his flesh?’” (Job xxxi.) “Not only does Christ afford Himself to be seen by those who desire Him, but even to be handled and eaten, to have our teeth fastened in His Flesh, and to fulfil every desire. As lions therefore breathe out fire, so let us depart from that Table, made terrible to the devil, and contemplating our Head in our minds, and the charity which He has manifested towards us.”
Ver. 57.—He that eateth, &c. Observe (1.) S. John delights in the word abide. By it he sometimes signifies delay, and duration of time (as i. 33), upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and abiding. Sometimes, however, by the expression abides he expresses, moreover, indwelling and intimate union, as here and in his 1st Epistle (iii. 9), “His seed,” i.e., of the grace of God, “abides in him.” And iv. 16, “He that abideth in love abideth in God, and God in him.”
Observe (2.) the abiding and union of the soul with Christ in the Eucharist not only takes place by the Eucharist Itself, but by the Eucharist in such manner that Christ being therein hidden, really and corporeally enters into our body, and so Christ with us, and we with the flesh of Christ, and by consequence with His Person, Divinity and omnipotence are really united and commingled, even as food is really united and commingled with our flesh. So S. Chrysostom observes, “He saith, abideth in Me, that He may show we are commingled with Himself.” And Euthymius, “He abideth in Me; he is united to Me by the reception and communication of My Flesh and My Blood, and is made one body with Me.” Theophylact, “In this place we are taught the Sacrament of communion. For he who eats and drinks the Flesh and Blood of the Lord, abides in the Lord Himself, and the Lord in Him. For there is a new sort of commingling, and one beyond understanding, that God is in us, and we in God.” S. Cyril in this verse brings forward the apt similitude of wax. “It is as if when any one should pour wax into liquefied wax; it must be that the one should commingle with the other throughout. So if any one receive the Flesh and Blood of the Lord, he is so conjoined with Him, that Christ is found in him, and he in Christ.” And shortly afterwards, “As a little leaven, as Paul says, leaveneth the whole lump, so a little benediction draws the whole man into Himself (Christ), and fills him with His grace: and thus Christ abides in us, and we in Him. For truly the whole leaven passes into the whole lump. And this is the meaning of the passage.” The same Cyril also declares (lib. 10, c. 13) that Christ is in us, “not only through the indwelling, which is meant by love, but also by a participation of nature.”
S. Hilary teaches the same (lib. 8, de Trin.), and S. Irenæus (lib. 4, c. 34). Hence S. Cyril of Jerusalem (Cat. 4. Mystag.) declares, that in Holy Communion we become Christ-bearers, yea concorporate and united by consanguinity with Christ. Moreover Christ really abides with us so long as the sacramental species of bread and wine remain in us. But when they are digested and consumed by the stomach, Christ ceases indeed to live in us as Man substantially; but still through that previous union which He has contracted with us, the spiritual life of our souls is by His grace fed, strengthened and preserved for eternity. For (His Flesh) is grafted into our body as it were a seed of immortality. Which seed, as I have said, is not physical, but moral, like the merit of good works. For as a good work leaves after it merit, as it were a seed of glory, as it were a sort of title to eternal life, so does the communion of the Holy Eucharist leave a similar new title (jus), one peculiar to Itself, after It, unto the same life, as it were a seed of glory in us. For Christ grants this title to communicants through contact with, and partaking of His life-giving Body. For it is fitting and becoming that Christ should impart His own glorious life to those to whom He imparts Himself. “For it surely behoved,” says Cyril, “that not only the soul should rise to the blessed life by the Holy Ghost, but also that this worthless and earthly body should, by the taste of that which is akin to it, by contact and by food, be brought back to immortality.” The Flesh of Christ, therefore, in the Eucharist is the moral instrument of the Resurrection. Would you learn the physical cause of the same? It is this. The Deity of Christ in the Eucharist is the physical cause of the resurrection. To understand this from the foundation, observe that Christ as God, by the grace given and infused into a man by the reception of the Eucharist, even after the Eucharistic species have been consumed in the stomach, really dwells in the man, not only as in His temple by charity, but also as food in his stomach by way of nutriment. For as digested food nourishes and feeds the stomach, and through it all the limbs and members to which the stomach transmits the food, so in like manner the Divinity of Christ with His Flesh taken in the Eucharist, as it were the Food of soul and body, because it cannot be digested and consumed by man, abides continually in, as it were, the stomach of the soul, and nourishes and feeds it, and by it all the faculties and powers of the soul. And this is what Christ here saith, He that eateth My Flesh abideth in Me, and I in him. For the Deity of Christ as it were food abides always in the soul, feeding it; and the soul in her turn abides in the Deity of Christ, as an immortal and life-giving Food. For she abides as it were in Life itself, which feeds us continually with the influx of habitual grace, and at stated periods by the infusion of fresh actual grace, as by fresh holy illuminations, fresh inspirations, new pious affections and impulses sent into the soul, that we may become the same that Christ is, says S. Gregory Nyssen. And thus we are made spiritual, holy and divine, and that daily more and more, and have always in the stomach both of our body and our soul the very Divinity of Christ, as it were the tree of life, so that It in Its own time, in the day of judgment and the general resurrection, will communicate to us Its own immortal, blessed and Divine life. Thus sometimes medicine, a long time after it has been taken and digested, through the virtue which it leaves after it, works and heals, even though it at first makes those who take it more sick, because it attacks the depraved humours (of the body), and fights with them until it purges and expels them; and when they are expelled, it restores the body to its pristine purity and health.
The following is the order of things in the communion of the Eucharist. (1.) Through the receiving of the Eucharist, the Flesh and Blood of Christ, yea whole Christ, i.e., His Humanity and Divinity, as it were food, enters into us, and abides in us. (2.) The species of the Eucharist being digested by the stomach, and converted into our flesh (for the matter of the bread and wine which had been annihilated in consecration, comes back by the power of God), the Flesh and Humanity of Christ cease to be in us: but the Divinity of Christ, as it were immortal Food, remains in us. And This (3.) communicates Its own eternal life to the soul, nourishes and augments it by continually feeding in the way of which I have spoken. (4.) The Same will raise our bodies from death at the resurrection, and unite them to our souls, and so bestow the life of eternal glory upon the whole man, inasmuch as we have the Eucharist, at least as regards the Divinity of Christ which it contains, as it were the food and medicine of immortality always in our body and our soul. And by means of It Christ abides in us, as He Himself here asserts, inasmuch as He is very God. But God will be the physical cause of our resurrection as the Flesh of Christ will be the moral cause of the same. And although our flesh must first die, even as the Flesh of Christ died, yet this food of the Eucharist, that is, Christ as God always abiding in a man, will raise him up from death unto life eternal. This is what Christ saith, And I will raise him up at the last day. I am the living Bread who came down from heaven. If any man shall eat this Bread he shall live for ever. For Christ as God, not as man, came down from heaven. He that eateth, &c.—because as food It always sustains and nourishes him into eternal life. Nor indeed can these words be otherwise explained. As therefore food, after it has been digested, leaves its power to nourish in the chile which remains, so the species of the Eucharist after they have been digested, leave in a manner their power of nourishing unto eternal life in the Divinity of Christ which with grace remains, For His Humanity by His own ordinances has been tied to the species of bread and wine, that so long as they remain, It also should remain, and when they are consumed that It should cease to be present, as S. Thomas and the rest of the Theologians teach. In like manner after a good work there remains in us not only habitual grace, but also the Divinity Itself, and the Whole Most Holy Trinity, which makes us to be partakers of the Divine nature, and sons of God.
Here observe by the way a threefold distinction between the Eucharist and common food. (1.) The first is that common food does not remain in us, but is converted into chile, and then into blood, and then into the flesh and substance of our several members. But in the Eucharist the Flesh of Christ is not converted into the substance of him who eateth, but remains uncorrupt and unchanged in Itself, forasmuch as It is immortal and glorious. This is what Christ said to a certain Saint, “Thou shalt not change Me into thyself, but thou shalt be changed into Me.”
(2.) The second is, that common food is of itself without life, but is animated, and receives life from him that eateth it. But the Flesh of Christ in the Eucharist is both living and life-giving, giving life to him that eateth It.
(3.) Bread and food leave behind no part of themselves, because they are wholly converted into chile, and transfuse into it their power of nourishing. But the Flesh of Christ in the Eucharist, after the species being consumed, the bread has vanished, leaves after It, Its own hypostasis, that is to say, the Person of the Word, and His Divinity, on account of which Christ is here said to remain in him that eateth, and to raise him up, and he that eateth to remain in Christ. So Cyril and the Fathers cited above. Also S. Ambrose (lib. 6, de Sacrament, c. 1), whom hear. “How then did the Bread, even the Living Bread come down from heaven? Because the same our Lord Jesus Christ is a partaker both of Deity and of a body; and thou who receivest His Flesh, art partaker through that Food of His Divine Substance.” So too, S. Hilary (lib. 8, de Trin.) “He Himself is in us through His Flesh, whilst we are with Him in This which is in God.”
Ver. 58.—As the living Father, &c. . . . hath sent Me, in the Flesh into the world, through the Incarnation, for the salvation of men. The living Father, who is Himself Divine Life, uncreated Substance, and therefore in begetting Me hath communicated to Me the same Substance, that I might communicate the same to the Humanity, which He sent Me to assume, that I might communicate similar spiritual, holy, blessed and eternal life to the faithful who eat of Me.
And I live because of (propter) the Father, i.e., through the Father, of the Father. For the Father in begetting Me communicates to Me His own Divinity, which is the essence of life. For God hath begotten God, the Living One hath begotten the Living One. “The Son therefore,” saith Cyril, “is as Light of Light, and as Life of Life. And as the Father gives light through the Son to the things which need light, and through Him does wisely, so through the Son as through His life which proceeds from Him, He quickens those things which have need of life.” And again, “I live by (propter) the Father: for since My Father is Life by nature, and because I am by nature His Son, I naturally possess this property of His nature, that is life.”
Here Christ gives the reason by which He is living and quickening Bread in the Eucharist, who will raise us from death at the judgment-day. And He opens out the very origin and fountain of life and resurrection. For God the Father is that Fount of life, according to the words, “With Thee is the Fountain of life” (Ps. xxxv. 10). And He communicates together with His Essence this life to His Son, whereby it comes to pass that the Son Himself is a Fountain of Life. Wherefore as the Father always abides in the Son, always imparts this source of life to the Son, so also the Son, being sent by the Father in the flesh, and abiding in it, continually infuses this Divine life into the flesh and the Humanity which He has assumed, and continually abiding in us, inspires the like life into us who receive His Flesh in the Eucharist. He therefore shall live by Me, that as the Father communicates His own life to the Son, so Christ communicates His life to the Christian who rightly receives Him. Wherefore S. Dionysius the Areopagite (de Eccles. Hierarch. c. 1) teaches that the Priest passes into fellowship with the Godhead, and (c. 2) that communion deifies, and (c. 3) that those who worthily communicate are by the similitude of a pure and divine life grafted into Christ. Moreover, the Eucharist does the same thing for the pure and the penitent. Whence S. Augustine (Serm. 1, de Temp.) says, “Let him change his life, who wishes to receive Life. For if he change not his life, he will receive Life unto condemnation, and will rather be destroyed than healed by It: rather slain than quickened.” For the impure and the impenitent receive not life, but death of body and soul, both now and eternally, from the Eucharist. Thus S. Cyprian (Serm. 5, de Laps.), speaking of a woman who communicated unworthily, says, “She received not bread, but a sword, and as it were taking some deadly poison she was shaken, trembled, and fell. She who had deceived man, felt the vengeance of God.” He relates several cases of a similar kind. Durandus also (Ration. Divin. 0ff. lib. 6, c. 10) relates that the pestilence which ravaged Rome, from the time of Pope Pelagius until Gregory the Great, and caused many thousand deaths, was sent by God in punishment of those, who, after the Lenten fast and the Easter communion, returned to their former wickedness. For they were to be visited with death who profaned the Eucharist, which is true life.
The meaning then is, “As the Father, who liveth by Himself, and is the Essence itself of life, hath sent Me into this world, and I have life from Him who begat Me, life, I say, both human, from a human soul, and of greater importance, Divine life, through partaking of the Godhead, with which My humanity is hypostatically united, and will be united for ever, so in like manner he who eateth the living Me, also from Me, ever abiding in Him as regards My Godhead, shall receive a perpetual life of grace and glory; and as regards his body, I will in due time raise it up into a blessed and eternal life.” Christ here signifies that the life which is originally in the Father is communicated to us through the Son and the Eucharist, as by an organic means. So Leontius, Jansen, and others. But above the rest, S. Cyril, whom hear, “As I am made man by the will of the Father, who came forth from essential life, and as being man I live, and have filled My body with Life, no otherwise shall he who eateth My flesh live by Me. For I assumed mortal flesh; but because I exist as life essentially, dwelling in the flesh, I have made it wholly like unto My own life. For I indeed am not conquered by the death of the flesh, but as God I have overcome all death and destruction.” And shortly afterwards, “As the Father hath sent Me, so that I am become man, yet I live by the Father, that is, I perfectly preserve the Father’s nature: so he who shall receive Me by eating My flesh shall surely live, being made wholly like unto Me, who am able to give him life, because I am of the living Father.” He adds a simile taken from red-hot iron. For as the fire communicates its heat to the red-hot iron, so does the living Christ impart His life unto us in the Eucharist. In admiration of this S. Augustine exclaims (lib. 7, Confess. c. 10), “0 eternal Truth, and true Charity, and sweet Eternity, I tremble with love and dread, as though I heard Thy voice from on high saying, ‘I am the Bread of the strong: grow as thou shalt eat Me.’”
Observe here the gradation, by which life gradually descends to us from God as it were by stairs. The first step is, the Father communicating His own Divine Essence to the Son. The second, when the Son communicates the same life to the Humanity which He assumed by the participation of attributes. Third, when He inspires the life of grace and glory which He shares with It. The fourth, when He infuses not equal but like life into us in the Eucharist.
Lastly, Christ here signifies what I have spoken of in the preceding verse, that His Godhead which always abides in us, after the reception of the Eucharist, even after the species have been consumed, continually causes the life of grace to flow into us, and will after death raise us up again unto immortal life. This is what He means when He saith, I live by the Father, &c. He means, Because I receive Godhead, which is pure life from the Father, therefore he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me. For My Godhead abiding in him, will continually breathe into his soul the breath of life. And his body shall after death be raised up by It to the beatific life. It is as the seminal virtue which lies hid in the heart of a grain of wheat, that seems dead through the winter, but in spring by the heat of the sun opening out its force, it, as it were, raises the grain of wheat itself from death, and causes it to germinate, and produce thirty and sixty fold.
Ver. 59.—This is the bread, &c. He intimates the same thing which I have said at the end of the foregoing verse. For Christ came down from heaven not as man, but as God. Wherefore he who eateth Him in the Eucharist shall live for ever, because in truth he eateth God and the Godhead, which being ever present with him who eateth, continually breathes into him His own life. Hear S. Ambrose (Serm. 18 in Ps. cxviii.), “How shall he die whose food is Life?” And presently, describing its wonderful effects, “Draw nigh unto Him, and be filled, for He is Bread. Draw nigh unto Him, and drink, for He is a Fountain. Draw nigh unto Him, and be enlightened, for He is Light. Draw nigh unto Him, and be free, for where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. Draw nigh unto Him, and be absolved; for He is remission of sins.” And S. Bernard (Serm. de Cæna. Dom.) says, “Two things that Sacrament worketh in you: it diminishes the sense (of sin) in the least matters, and in graver sins it wholly takes away consent.” And again he says, “If any of you feel neither so frequently nor so severely the motions of anger, envy, lust, and such like passions, give thanks to the Body and Blood of the Lord, forasmuch as the virtue of the Sacrament worketh in you.” And S. Chrysostom on Ps. xxii. 5 (Vulg.), saith upon the words, “Thou hast prepared a table before me, against them that trouble me,” “Let those who have trouble of the flesh come to the table of the Mighty One, and tribulation shall be turned into consolation.” Lastly, S. Cyril says, “The body of Christ quickens, and by our participation of it restores us to incorruption. For it is the body of none other than of the Life itself. It retains the virtue of the Word Incarnate, and is full of the power of Him by whom all things live and have their being.”
Ver. 60.—This spake He, &c. Christ taught these things, not in secret, not in a corner, but publicly in the synagogue in the presence of the Scribes, the Priests, and the whole people who had flocked together. For the synagogue was a sort of church.
In Capharnaum, “where,” says S. Chrysostom, “He had done so many miracles, and where He had the best right to be heard. Because the things which Christ spake concerning eating His flesh, and His being about to raise us up from death unto life eternal, seemed paradoxical and incredible to the Jews, He wished to proclaim them from that place, where by His many miracles He had gained faith and authority for Himself and His doctrine.”
Ver. 61.—Many therefore went back. Hard, i.e., austere, rigid, oppressive, unmerciful. The Arabic has difficult. Euthymius, can scarcely be admitted. And who can hear it. “Who can,” we do not say, ‘do such a thing, but even bear to bear it?” What Jesus said concerning His Flesh, and especially the command to eat It (ver. 54), except ye eat, &c., seems too difficult to be believed, and too horrible to be done. For what butcher will slay Christ? Who can bear to eat human flesh, or drink human blood? These are the feasts of cannibals, such as the heathen who did not understand the mystery of the Flesh of Christ in the Eucharist in after times reproached Christians with, and so were imitators of those Capharnaites, as Tertullian and other Fathers testify.
This saying was not hard in itself, but hard to the stupid Jews, who imagined that the Flesh of Christ was to be cut by a butcher, and mangled by the teeth like the flesh of an ox. But they greatly erred, for Christ neither said this, nor meant it. But He wished us to eat His Flesh sacramentally, i.e., hidden in the Sacrament under the species of bread and wine, a thing which is not dreadful, but which we who daily offer and communicate find by experience to be most easy and sweet. The Jews ought therefore humbly to have asked Christ to unfold to them the manner of doing this. If they would have done this, they would have heard it, and might have received it, and not thought the saying hard. As Cyril says, “They thought that they were called to the savage manners of wild beasts, and were urged to eat raw human flesh, and drink blood, things too horrible to hear of. Such were their thoughts as to how the flesh of this man would bestow eternal life, and bring them to immortality.”
Ver. 62.—Jesus knowing in Himself, Greek, ε̉ν έαυτω̃, Syriac, in His soul, i.e., through His omniscience, without any one to tell, or reveal it. “For this was a proof of His Divinity, that He revealed secrets,” says Chrysostom. That His disciples murmured at this, He saith unto them, Doth this scandalize you? As though he said, “I do so many and wonderful things because I am sent by the Father for this purpose, as I have proved to you by My miracles; ye ought not therefore to be scandalized and offended at My words and deeds, but ye ought rather to ask God who sent Me for light and grace, that ye may be able to receive them.”
Ver. 63.—If therefore ye shall see, &c. “He is speaking,” says Euthymius, “concerning His future assumption into heaven.” For some of them, such as the Apostles, beheld this. And others, who did not believe, although they saw it not, might have heard, and certainly learnt from those who did see.
Where He was before, as regards His Divinity, says Euthymius. For He ascended into heaven, as regards His humanity. What will ye say, must be understood, as Euthymius observes. “Will ye be still scandalized? I trust not. Certainly I know ye will not rightly be so. For by My ascension into heaven by My own power ye will be able to know that I came down from heaven, and that I return whither I was before, and therefore that I am not only true and a prophet, but that I am also God, and the Son of God, to whom all things are possible, yea easy, and therefore that I am able to give My Flesh for food, and by It to raise the dead. From the miracle of His ascension into heaven Christ rightly proves His Divinity and omnipotence, and from them the mystery of the Eucharist. For to the Deity nothing is impossible, nothing strange, nothing paradoxical. Yea, it is becoming to Deity to do things strange (nova) and paradoxical, which are above nature and human reason. As S. Cyril says, “By another wonderful thing He urges them to faith,” and that appositely. For the ascension of Christ into heaven signified that He came down from heaven (for He went back from whence He came), and therefore that He was the Living Bread which came down from heaven, which was what He here wished to persuade the Capharnaites.
Maldonatus explains otherwise, thus, “When ye shall hear that I have ascended into heaven, what will ye say? Surely ye will be still more scandalized; ye will still less believe Me; ye will say that I am a sorcerer, who by the aid of the devils have pretended to fly into heaven.”
Ver. 64.—It is the spirit which quickeneth: the flesh, Arabic, the body, &c. The Calvinists bring forward against us these words of Christ to show that in the Eucharist there is not the Flesh of Christ really and corporeally, but only spiritually and figuratively by representation and faith, because, say they, the flesh profiteth nothing. But if this be true, then in vain was the Word made Flesh, then in vain did the Flesh of Christ suffer and was crucified, and died. God forbid. And who does not see that the Flesh of Christ is more profitable than the mere bread of Calvin, even though it were seasoned with sugar and honey out of Calvin’s throat? For in his bread there is no spirit, except the spirit of error and satanic madness.
First then SS. Cyril and Austin learnedly expound these words, thus: they are as if Christ said, “My Flesh alone profits not to preserve him who eats It unto life eternal, because it is not My mere Flesh which confers life and resurrection, but it is the Spirit, i.e., My Divinity united to the Flesh which quickens first the soul, and then the body at the Resurrection. And thus My Flesh profiteth very exceedingly, forasmuch as being united to the Spirit of the Word, it derives from It its quickening power.” By a similar form of speech we are wont to say, The eye doth not see, the ear doth not hear, nor the body feel, but it is the spirit i.e., the soul, which sees through the eye, and hears through the ear. Consequently, the words, i.e., the reality and the mystery of My Flesh to be eaten in the Eucharist, which I speak unto you are spirit and life. That is, My Deity, which is a pure Spirit, is a living and quickening Spirit. For It will give you life in the- Eucharist, not My bare Flesh. So S. Augustine says, “This Flesh alone profiteth not, but let the Spirit be joined to the Flesh, and It profiteth greatly. For if the Flesh profiteth nothing, the Word would not have become Flesh.” The same (lib. 10, de. Civit. Dei) says, “The Flesh of itself cleanseth not, but through the Word by which it hath been assumed.” And S. Cyril, “If the Flesh be understood alone, it is by no means able to quicken, forasmuch as it needs a Quickener, but because it is conjoined with the life-giving Word, the whole is made life-giving. For the Word of God being joined to the corruptible nature does not lose Its virtue, but the Flesh itself is lifted up to the power of the higher nature. Therefore, although the nature of flesh as flesh cannot quicken; still it doth this because it hath received the whole operation of the Word.”
For Christ is here making answer to the Capharnaites murmuring as to how Christ’s Flesh being eaten could give eternal life. But He gave this answer because they had murmured still more concerning the eating the flesh of Christ, and the method of doing so, which they thought of as something carnal and barbarous, as is seen by verses 52 and 60, and 61. For it seems something savage and inhuman to tear like wolves, and devour the human flesh of Christ. Hence secondly,
More aptly and naturally, the flesh, i.e., the carnal understanding, by which in sooth ye suppose that My Flesh is to be visibly cut and eaten like the flesh of sheep, profits nothing for the bestowal of everlasting life: but the spirit and the spiritual intelligence, by which we believe that the Flesh of Christ united to His spiritual Divinity, i.e., in a sacramental manner, veiled and hidden in the Eucharist under the species of bread and wine, is to be eaten - this gives life to soul and body. So S. Chrysostom, &c. No otherwise is S. Augustine’s meaning on the 98th Ps. (Vulg.), if he be carefully read: He says, “It is not this body which ye see nor the blood which those who crucify Me will shed, that ye are about to eat and drink. I commend unto you a sacrament which spiritually understood will quicken you. And although it be necessary that it be visibly celebrated, yet it ought to be understood in an invisible sense.” These words the Calvinists understood thus, that in the Eucharist we eat the Flesh of Christ not really, but figuratively and mystically by faith. But they are in error. For the meaning of S. Augustine is, In the Eucharist we do not eat the Flesh of Christ by visibly cutting and masticating it as the Capharnaites supposed, but under a sacrament, i.e., sacramentally and invisibly, lying hid under the species of bread and wine. For if understood otherwise, S. Augustine would conflict with himself (Serm. 1. in Ps. xxxiii. and Lib. 22, Civit. c. 8, and elsewhere), where he manifestly upholds the truth of Christ’s Body in the Eucharist.
Wherefore Christ subjoins, the words which I speak, &c.: Spirit, i.e., are spiritual, and must be understood spiritually, i.e., Sacramentally, in the manner in which I have now explained, and not carnally, as ye Capharnaites, like butchers, understand them. So they are life, i.e., vital, and bestow life on him who heareth and eateth Me. There is a hebraism, by which the abstract is put for the concrete. Thus frequently elsewhere the flesh and spirit are put for the carnal and spiritual understanding and sense. Thus 2 Cor. iii. 6, “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” Matt. xvi. 17, “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee.” Moreover it is common in Scripture to play upon the meanings of words. Wherefore it is not surprising that flesh is to be understood differently from what it is in verse 56, &c. My Flesh is truly Food. For there real, but here figurative flesh is meant. So Christ plays upon the meaning of water (c. iv.), rising from the corporeal to the spiritual sense. So the Apostle plays upon the word sin (2. Cor. v. 21), “He who knew no sin, was made sin,” i.e., a Victim for sin, “for us.”
Thirdly, the fullest sense will be if we join both meanings previously given, and with Bede unite them into one, thus - The virtue of giving life which My Flesh eaten in the Eucharist possesses, is not derived so much from the flesh as from the Spirit of the Word which is living and life-giving. And consequently this eating of My Flesh is not to be taken in the carnal manner of butchers, but in a spiritual manner, and accommodated to the spirit, that is to say in a hidden and sacramental manner. For from the words of Christ ignorantly understood the Capharnaites alleged the contrary of both, and turned away, as is plain from the words. And so this spiritual, i.e., sacramental, manner of eating the Flesh of Christ by taking the species of bread and wine, under which in reality lie hid the Body and Blood of Christ and His Divinity Itself, occasions no horror to the eater, and causes no wounding or harm to the Flesh of Christ which is eaten. For here Christ lies hid, and is invisible and indivisible like an angel. So Euthymius says, “They are things spiritual and life-giving. For we ought not simply to look at them (for that is carnally to understand them), but we ought to suppose something else, and to look upon them as mysteries with our inward eyes.”
Ver. 65.—But there are some, &c. The reason why some of you do not receive, but oppose, My words concerning the Eucharist, is not because My saying is hard, as ye say, but because ye are faithless, and will not believe My many miracles and signs. For here there is need of humble faith, which ought by lowly prayer to be asked and waited for from God the Father. But ye lack humility both of prayer and faith, and therefore ye neither pray to God, nor believe in Me. So S. Augustine, Bede and Rupert.
For Jesus knew, &c. It means that Christ as God knew from eternity what would happen, and this foreknowledge He communicated to His Humanity from the beginning of His conception. And who should betray Him. By this John intimates that Judas the traitor was one of those who did not believe; indeed, that he was offended at Christ’s sayings concerning the eating His flesh: that he conceived and cherished a dislike to Christ which at last broke out into treachery against Him. The connection makes this conclusion necessary. Otherwise this mention of the traitor would be inopportune, unless from this discourse of Christ Judas had taken the first initiative of his unbelief and subsequent treachery. So S. Augustine, Bede, &c
Christ added this that the Jews might not think that He had, unaware of his future treachery, admitted Judas to the Apostolate. He had done it consciously and advisedly, that so His Passion and man’s redemption might be fulfilled as God had decreed.
Ver. 66.—And said, &c., except it be given him, &c, i.e., except My Father draw him, as He said in verse 44. Graciously does Christ not attribute the unbelief of the Jews to their fault, but excuses them on the ground that it was not given them of the-Father: at the same time He consoles Himself, as it were, thus—“I do not distress Myself because many do not believe in Me, but I console Myself because the Father will cause to believe in Me those whom He hath chosen, and will cause them to come to Me. With these I am content. I am not ambitious of others. For whom the Father willeth (to come), those I also will; and those whom He willeth not (to come), those likewise I do not will.” Yet those who would not come, i.e., would not believe in Christ, sinned, both because they had sufficient grace, by which they might have believed if they had wished (although they had not efficacious grace, by which they would really and actually believe), as also because they did not humbly ask of God efficacious grace, also because by their pride, and other sins, they had rendered themselves unworthy of that grace. Yea, by their obstinacy they repelled the grace and faith of God, as S. Cyprian learnedly explains (lib. 1, epist. 3, ad. Cornel.)
Ver. 67.—From this time, say Euthymius and others: otherwise the Syriac, on account of this discourse: Arabic, because of this, left Jesus, &c. These disciples were not the Apostles, for Christ excepts them in the following verse. Neither were they the seventy-two disciples. For those had not yet been designated and chosen by Christ. But they were His more constant hearers and followers, “who,” as Theophylact says, “followed Him in the rank of His disciples, and remained with Him longer than the multitudes, and so, compared with the rest of the crowd, were called His disciples. These persons therefore up to this time being allured by the sweet doctrine of Christ, fed by the loaves miraculously multiplied, and hoping to be fed in future by similar food, when they heard Christ substituting His own Flesh in the place of bread, and willing that they should eat It, thought either that He was mad, or else was contriving some horrible and savage scheme, or perchance a conspiracy against the Romans, and would inaugurate it by their tasting His flesh and blood, as Cataline had done before at Rome. Thus, to provide for their own safety, they fell away from Christ.
S. Epiphanius declares expressly that one of these was S. Mark, who was afterwards brought back by S. Peter, and became an Evangelist (Hæres. 51): but others deny this, and assert that S. Mark neither saw nor heard Christ (in the flesh), but was converted by S. Peter after His death. So S. Jerome on Ecclesiastical Writers, and others.
Ver. 68.—Jesus said therefore, &c. For when the others were scandalized and went away from Christ “the Twelve remained,” says S. Augustine, “for not even did Judas go away:” partly for shame’s sake, not to be the only Apostle to go away, and be called an apostate; partly that he might be fed by Christ without labour on his part, as he had been hitherto; and that as he bore the bag and was a sort of purveyor for Christ’s family, he might steal and enrich himself. For he was a thief.
Christ asks the question of the Apostles for five reasons. The first was that He might leave them their liberty. As though He said, “I give you your choice: if ye wish to go away, depart: if ye wish to remain with Me, remain. I will not retain you either by force, or shame.” Listen to S. Chrysostom. “Jesus neither flattered, nor drove away: but He asked the question, not because He despised them, but that they might not seem to be retained by compulsion.” For if they had remained unwillingly, He would have been in exactly the same condition as if they had gone away.
(2.) To show His greatness of soul; and that He did not need the work of Apostles, forasmuch as He by Himself could do all things: and when they were sent away, He could substitute others who were better in their place.
(3.) That the Apostles might understand that by remaining, they did not commend, or show favour to Jesus, but to themselves. “That they received rather than conferred a benefit,” says Theophylact.
(4.) That by this freedom of choice He might the more bind them to Himself, and invite them to remain. For it often occurs, as a natural consequence, that when we are asked, we decline; when we are not asked, we desire; when we are invited, we flee; when we are not invited, we draw near.
(5.) That by this interrogation He might prove their affection, and try their constancy, and draw a confession of their true faith concerning Himself. So S. Cyril. And that such a confession was drawn forth is plain from the next verse.
Ver. 69.—Simon Peter therefore answered, &c. Peter, as greater in rank (ordine major), says S. Cyril, firmer in faith, more loving to Jesus, more fervent in spirit, answered in the name of the rest of the Apostles, thinking that this was the mind and feeling of all. For that which he himself thought of Jesus he believed his colleagues thought likewise.
To whom shall we go? Meaning, says S. Augustine, “Do you send us from thee? Give us another such as Thou art. To whom shall we go, if we leave Thee?” Wherefore S. Chrysostom says, “This is an answer of great affection. For Christ was preferable to both father and mother.”
Thou hast the words of eternal life. First, as it were said, “Thy words, 0 Jesus, are sweet and life-giving, because they promise the very eternal life. Who therefore, save a fool, would leave them, and go elsewhere?” S. Cyril saith, “Not hard are the words, as those Capharnaites say, but Thou hast the words of eternal life, which are able to lead those who believe to the incorruptible life.” Wherefore what Thou hast said concerning Thy flesh to be eaten, that by It we may obtain eternal life, although I do not as yet well understand it, yet am I not scandalized, nor offended by Thy words, but I firmly believe them to be true, not doubting that in due time I shall understand them better, and silently asking and beseeching Thee to cause me to do this.
(2.) By Thy words, 0 Jesus, Thou dost promise us eternal life, if we eat Thy Flesh. These words draw us and unite us to Thee, rather than drive us away. For who would not wish for eternal life, and such a means of obtaining it? Wherefore the Arabic renders, To whom shall we go, since the words of eternal life are with Thee? “Hence we learn,” says Cyril, “that one only Christ who is able to bring us to everlasting life, must be followed as our Master.”
(3.) Thou hast the words, &c. Because Thou art Life eternal. Therefore in Thy Flesh and Blood Thou only givest what Thou art, says S. Augustine. Thou art the Word of the Father: and therefore Thou hast in Thee eternal life, because Thou art Life eternal Itself. What wonder then if Thou bestowest on those who eat Thee, life eternal? For Thou dost bestow that very self-same thing which Thou art.
Ver. 70.—And we believe, &c. The Greek has the article to both Christ and Son: ό Χζιστὸς, the Christ promised by God, and expected for so many ages: ό υίὸς, i.e., the Son of God by nature and substance, not adopted by grace. “Diligently consider this,” says Cyril, “that everywhere, especially with the prefix of the article, they say, Thou art the very Christ, the very Son of the Living God, truly and naturally separating (this) Son from other sons of God, who being called, are adopted by grace. And we being conjoined by likeness to Him, are called sons.”
We know, from the testimony of John the Baptist, our prophet and master, from the many and great miracles which Thou hast wrought, from Thy heavenly doctrine, and the holiness of Thy life, which we who are in constant intercourse with Thee, know to be heavenly and Divine.
Son of God: the Greek adds, του̃ ξωντος, the living, so also the Syriac and Arabic read. The meaning is, We believe that Thou art the Son of God. Wherefore, we also believe that all Thy sayings are Divine and most true, even when we do not understand them, and therefore that they are life-giving, and confer salvation and eternal life. For Thou art the Son of the Living God, who in His Essence is Life, which He communicates to Thee: therefore nothing can proceed from Thee but what is vital and life-giving: neither do we expect anything else from Thee.
Ver. 71.—Jesus answered, Thou, 0 Peter, answerest in the name of all the Apostles, as if all believed in Me, and were My faithful friends. But know that thou art deceived, for one of them is a devil, unbelieving, and faithless to Me, who also will betray Me.
Have chosen Twelve, as to the Apostleship according to their present state apt and meet Whence it seems that Judas the traitor, even when he was first chosen by Christ, was good and honest. For prudence and charity forbid the choice of one who is dishonest. So S. Cyril, Maldonatus and others. Also S. Jerome (lib. 3, cont. Polag.), Tertullian (lib. de præscrip. hæret. c. 3). Some, however, think that Judas, when he was bad, as Christ knew, was yet chosen by Him to be an Apostle, with this object, that it might be one of His own who should betray Him, and so afford the occasion and the way for His passion and death, and from them the redemption of men. This opinion is attributed to SS. Bede and Augustine, yet neither says so expressly. Indeed, both rather intimate that Judas was chosen by Christ when he was good, even though he was known to be about to become bad by his own fault. Hear S. Augustine: “Their number of Twelve was consecrated, who through the four quarters of the world were to proclaim the Trinity. And because one of them perished, not on that account was the honour of that number taken away from them. For in the room of him who perished another was chosen.” And after a while he says, “He was chosen, from whom, albeit unwilling, and knowing it not, a great good was to proceed. For as wicked men wickedly use the good works of God, so, on the contrary, God for good uses the wicked works of men. The Lord used for good the wicked Judas, and delivered Himself to be betrayed that He might redeem us.” Hear also Bede: “To one end He chose eleven, to another end one. These He chose that they should persevere in the dignity of the apostolate, him, that by the office of his treachery He might work out the salvation of the human race.”
A devil: Syriac, Satan: Nonnus, he who is called by posterity another new devil. Christ would not name Judas that He might spare his reputation. “He neither openly pointed him out,” says S. Chrysostom, “nor wished him to lie concealed. The former was that he might not contend too impudently; the latter, lest supposing he was concealed, he should act too unguardedly.” He did it also that he might impress the Apostles with fear, that they like Judas might not apostatize, nor presume proudly upon their own constancy. Listen to Cyril: “He confirms them by sharper words, and makes them diligent by the peril before their eyes. For it is thus He seems to speak, Ye have need, 0 ye disciples, of great watchfulness, and great care for your safety: for the way of perdition is very slippery.” After a while, “He makes all more watchful, because He does not say openly who would betray Him, but affirming that the charge of such heinous impiety hung over one, He makes them all anxious, and by the dread of such a thing He arouses them to greater vigilance.”
You will ask why Judas is called a devil. I answer (1.) because he was διάβολος (diabolus), i.e., a false accuser. For he spoke evil of the works and miracles of Christ to the Scribes and chief priests.
(2.) He was a diabolus, Hebrew and Syriac, a Satan, i.e., an adversary, because he opposed himself to Christ.
(3.) He was a diabolus because he did not believe in Christ because he was a thief and a liar. For the devil is “a liar and the father of a lie” (cap. viii.) Wherefore Christ saith, he is a devil, in the present tense, not will be in the future.
(4.) He was a devil, that is a minister of the devil, an instrument and organ of the devil. For at the instigation of the devil he betrayed Christ his Lord and his God, as though he had been possessed of a devil. Whence John says (xiii. 2), that “Satan entered into him.” So S. Chrysostom and others. So in common speech a very wicked man is called a devil.
(5.) He was a diabolus, i.e., betrayer of Christ. For in this sense diabolus is used for a traitor in Ecclus. xxvi. 6, in the Greek, though the Vulgate has betrayal. So the devil is the traitor angel, because by his malice he betrayed and ruined the angelic state. For from the angelic choirs and from, heaven Lucifer, the traitor, by his perfidy dragged down with himself to hell the third part of the stars (Apoc. xii. 4). He betrayed therefore heaven and its inhabitants to hell and destruction.
Christ is alluding to the fall of Lucifer, who being chosen by God prince of the angels, by his pride made himself a devil and the prince of the demons. In like manner Judas chosen by Christ to the angelic office of the Apostolate, by his own fault fell from it, and made himself a companion of the devil, and a diabolus, that we may learn to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, and to fear a fall, although we stand in the most holy places. For the higher the place the greater is the fall, and the ruin the more profound.
Ver. 72.—But he spake, &c. Christ forewarns the Apostles, so that when they should afterwards behold the treachery of Judas, they might know that He had foreseen and foretold it, and therefore that it was not against His will, but by the permission of His certain counsel that this was done to bring about His death, by which he might redeem the human race.
Here John finishes the acts of the second year of Christ’s preaching, up to the third year, or from the second Passover to the third. He proceeds with the acts of the third year in the following chapter. He passes over therefore many acts of Christ’s second year, because they had been given at length by the other three Evangelists. He concludes Christ’s second year with the multiplication of the loaves, which He wrought about the time of the Passover, and which furnished the occasion of Christ’s long argument with the Jews concerning the spiritual bread and His Flesh to be partaken in the Eucharist.