Commentaries for the Sunday Masses of Year B (Dec 3, 2017-Dec 1, 2018)


First Sunday of Advent.
Second Sunday of Advent.
Third Sunday of Advent.
Fourth Sunday of Advent.

Note: Traditionally Epiphany is celebrated on January 6. In the USA it is celebrated on the Sunday following January 6.

Dec. 24. Vigil Mass for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord.
Dec. 24-25. Mass During the Night: The Nativity of the Lord (Midnight Mass).
Dec. 25. Mass at Dawn: The Nativity of the Lord.
Dec. 25. Mass During the Day: The Nativity of the Lord.

Sunday Within the Octave of Christmas (Feast of the Holy Family). If a Sunday does not fall between Dec. 26 and Dec 31 then the Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated on Dec. 30.

!!! The Epiphany of the Lord.

Note: Scroll down for the seasons that interrupt Ordinary Time.

!!! Baptism of the Lord. Celebrated in 2018 on Monday, Jan. 8.
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time. In 2018 the Lenten season begins during this week. See LENTEN SEASON below.


Ash Wednesday.
Thursday After Ash Wednesday.
Friday After Ash Wednesday.
Saturday After Ash Wednesday.
First Sunday of Lent.
Second Sunday of Lent.
Third Sunday of Lent.
Fourth Sunday of Lent.
Fifth Sunday of Lent.
!!! HOLY WEEK. Palm Sunday thru the Saturday Easter Vigil.


Easter Vigil (Holy Saturday).
Divine Mercy Sunday (Second Sunday of Easter).
Third Sunday of Easter.
Fourth Sunday of Easter.
Fifth Sunday of Easter.

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March 19~The Solemnity of St Joseph

Commentaries and Resources on Today’s Readings.


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Commentaries for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B



Mass Readings in the NABRE. Used in the USA.

Mass Readings in the NJB. Used in most English speaking countries.

Today’s Divine Office.


Father Callan’s Commentary on Acts 9:26-31.

Father MacEvily’s Commentary on Acts 9:26-31.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Acts 9:26-31.

Haydock Bible Commentary on Acts 9:26-31. Very basic.

COMMENTARIES ON THE RESPONSORIAL: Ps 22:26-27, 28, 30, 31-32~

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 22.

St Thomas Aquinas’ Commentary on Psalm 22. Psalm 21 in his translation. Latin and English text are side by side. Post is on entire Psalm.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 22. Post is on entire Psalm.

A Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 22. Pdf. One page near the end is blank but just scroll past it, the text itself in not interrupted.


Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on 1 John 3:18-24.

St Augustine’s Homily on 1 John 3:18-24.

Navarre Bible Commentary on 1 John 3:18-24.

Haydock Bible Commentary on 1 John 3:18-24. Very basic.

Homilist’s Catechism on 1 John 3:18-24.


St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on John 15:1-8.

St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on John 15:1-8.

St Augustine’s Tractate on John 15:1-8.

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on John 15:1-8.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 15:1-8.

St Thomas Aquinas’ Lecture on John 15:1-8.

Haydock Bible Commentary on John 15:1-8. very basic.

Father MacIntyre’s Commentary on John 15:1-8.

Navarre Bible Commentary on John 15:1-8.

Homilist’s Catechism on John 15:1-8.

NOTES, COMMENTARIES, BLOG POSTS ON THE READINGS IN GENERAL: Commentaries on particular readings listed further below.

Word Sunday. Brief notes on the readings.

Doctrinal Homily Outline. Theme of the readings, doctrinal message, pastoral application.

St Charles Borromeo Parish Bible Study Notes. Prepared for their own bible study classes, apparently.

The Sacred Page Blog. Catholic biblical Scholar Dr. John Bergsma looks at the readings and gighlights a specific theme: “Christians are called to remain: remain in Christ, remain in the Church, remain in love with each other.”


Proclaiming the Faith. Grade School Level.

(1) Faith First. Grades 1-3, I think.

(2) Faith First. Grades 4-6, I think.

(3) Faith First. Middle School.


St Martha’s Podcast. Looks at all the readings in some detail.

Franciscan Sister’s Bible Study Podcast. Looks at all the readings.

Dr. Scott Hahn’s Podcast. Very brief. Does good job highlighting major theme(s).

Father McBride’s Podcast on Acts 9. Listen to episode 5.

St Irenaeus Ministries Podcast Study of John 15. Click on the POD icon or the direct download link.


Update: Father Barron’s Podcast Homily. From a noted theologian and speaker.

Catholic Doors Ministry. Text.

Augustinian Friends. Text.

Father Robert Altier’s Homily. Text.

Fr. Tommy Lane on Bear Fruit. Text.

Fr. Tommy Lane: Guarding the Deposit of Faith and Bearing Fruit for the Kingdom. Text.

Today’s Good News. Text, very brief.

Pope John Paul II. 2000 homily.

Pope John Paul II. 2003 homily.

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Father MacIntyre’s Commentary on John 15:1-8

In that part of the discourse just finished our Lord had raised the thoughts of the Apostles to heaven, and had opened to their gaze a vision of Himself exalted in power, and using that power for their guidance and protection. In the next part of the discourse He reveals to the Apostles what He will be to them here below on earth. By the outpouring of His Spirit upon them He will ever maintain with them an effective union, truly vital and most tender. By persecution they will be called to imitate Him. But let them not fear. He now warns them of this lest their faith should waver, and promises that His strength shall be with them that strength which has already mastered the prince of this world and has overcome the world.

Joh 15:1  I am the true vine: and my Father is the husbandman.

I am the true vine. In a beautiful allegory our Lord declares that He gives life and nourishment to all His disciples, to His whole Church, as a vine gives life and nourishment to its branches. The allegory gives us some idea of the wonderful mystery of the Church’s internal unity within herself and union with Christ (see Rom 6:4-6, Rom 12:5; 1 Cor 12:12-14; Eph 1:19-23, Eph 4:15-16, Eph 5:29-32; Col 2:19). In the Old Testament the vine was the symbol of Israel
as the cherished congregation of God (Ps 80:8-12 ; Isa 5:1-4; Jer 2:21, &c.). Under the Maccabees it appeared on Jewish coins as the national emblem.

Christ calls Himself the true vine, because He is the reality of the idea figuratively set forth in the natural vine, just as He is the true light (Jn 1:9), and the true bread from heaven (Jn 6:32).

“This passage of the Gospel declares that the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, is the Head of the Church, and that we are His members. For as the vine and its branches are of one nature, therefore, His own nature as God being different from ours, He became man, that in Him human nature might be the vine, and we who also are men might become branches thereof. Christ is the vine in the way in which He said, The Father is greater than I; but in the way in which He said, I and the Father are one, He is also the husbandman. And yet not such a one as those whose whole service is confined to external labour ; but such, that He also supplies the increase from within. For neither he that planteth is anything, nor he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase (1 Cor 3:7) … He says, Now you are clean by reason of the word which I have spoken to you (verse 3). Here, you see, He is also the primer of the branches a work which belongs to the husbandman, and not to the vine” (St. Aug., Tract Ixxx. cc. I, 2).

Joh 15:2  Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he will take away: and every one that beareth fruit, he will purge it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

Every branch (κλημα = vine-branch specifically; not the generic κλάδος) in me, that beareth not fruit, he will take (present tense = He takes it) away. A mere outward profession of the faith cannot make a vine-branch in Christ. By the vine-branches that bear not fruit we must therefore understand those that have been baptized in Christ, but are fruitless in good works (see Jas 2:20; and cf. Luke 13:7, “Cut it down therefore; why cumbereth it the ground?”).

he will purge it ( He pruneth it). He said, Now you are clean (verse 3, cf. Jn 13:10), but yet still further to be cleansed. “For, had they not been clean, they could not have borne fruit ; and yet every one that beareth fruit is pruned, that he may bring forth more fruit. For who in this life is so clean as not to be in need of still further and further cleansing?” (St. Aug.).

Joh 15:3  Now you are clean, by reason of the word which I have spoken to you.

Now (already) you are clean by reason of (because of) the word. The word is the whole word, the entire doctrine delivered to them by our Lord. It is the power of God (Rom 1:16) to make sons of God (Jas 1:18). Already had our Lord said that “they that hear shall live” (verse 25); because His words “spirit and life” (Jn 6:64). (See note on 6:64.)

Joh 15:4  Abide in me: and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me.
Joh 15:5  I am the vine: you the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.

Without me you can do nothing. If the branch abide not in the vine, and draw its life from the root, it can of itself bear no fruit what ever, little or much. Without me is better rendered, because apart from Me.

Joh 15:6  If any one abide not in me, he shall be cast forth as a branch and shall wither: and they shall gather him up and cast him into the fire: and he burneth.

He shall be cast forth. According to the Greek the thought is more expressive. By the very fact of not abiding in Christ, a branch is already cast forth, and is withered (the verbs are in the past tense), and they (this is said indefinitely) gather them (αυτα, i.e., the withered branches) up and cast into the fire, and they (the branches) burn.

Joh 15:7  If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will: and it shall be done unto you.

If you abide . . . you shall ask. Better in the imperative, Ask whatever you will. This must be understood in the sense of Jn 14:14. (Cf. 1 John 5:14.)

Joh 15:8  In this is my Father glorified: that you bring forth very much fruit and become my disciples.

In this is my Father glorified; that (ινα) you bring forth very much fruit. The phrase in this looks forward to what follows; and ινα, as not infrequently in later Greek, has a weakened force, and is equivalent to namely. The sense then is, “In this is My Father glorified, namely, that you bring forth very much fruit, and become indeed My disciples.” Some, however, take in this retrospectively, and give to ινα its full force: “In this (i.e., in granting your request-see verse 7-is My Father glorified. (And He grants your request) in order that you may bring forth much fruit.” The first interpretation is obviously preferable.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 15:1-8

Ver 1. I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.2. Every branch in me that bears not fruit he takes away: and every branch that bears fruit, he purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit.3. Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken to you.

HILARY. He rises in haste to perform the sacrament of His final passion in the flesh (such is His desire to fulfill His Father’s commandment) and therefore takes occasion to unfold the mystery of His assumption of His flesh, whereby He supports us, as the vine does its branches: I am the true vine.

AUG. He says this as being the Head of the Church, of which we are the members, the Man Christ Jesus; for the vine and the branches are of the same nature. When He says, I am the true vine, He does not mean really a vine; for He is only called so metaphorically, not literally, even as He is called the Lamb, the Sheep, and the like; but He distinguishes Himself from that vine to whom it is said, How you are turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine to me (Jer_11:21). For how is that a true vine, which when grapes are expected from it, produces only thorns?

HILARY. But He wholly separates this humiliation in the flesh from the form of the Paternal Majesty, by setting forth the Father as the diligent husbandman of this vine: And My Father is the husbandman.

AUG. For we cultivate God, and God cultivates us. But our culture of God does not make Him better: our culture is that of adoration, not of plowing: His culture of us makes us better. His culture consists in extirpating all the seeds of wickedness from our hearts, in opening our heart to the plow, as it were, of His word, in sowing in us the seeds of His commandments, in waiting for the fruits of piety.

CHRYS. And forasmuch as Christ was sufficient for Himself, but His disciples needed the help of the Husbandman, of the vine He says nothing, but adds concerning the branches, Every branch in Me that bears not fruit, He takes away. By fruit is meant life, i.e. that no one can be in Him without good works.

HILARY. The useless and deceitful branches He cuts down for burning.

CHRYS. And inasmuch as even the best of men require the work of the husbandman, He adds, And every branch that bears fruit, He purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit. He alludes here to the tribulations and trials which were coming upon them, the effect of which would be to purge, and so to strengthen them. By pruning the branches we make the tree shoot out the more.

AUG. And who is there in this world so clean, that he cannot be more and more changed? Here, if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. He cleans then the clean, i.e. the fruitful, that the cleaner they be, the more fruitful they may be. Christ is the vine, in that He said, My Father is greater than I; but in that He said, I and My Father are one, He is the husbandman; not like those who carry on an external ministry only; for He gives increase within.

Thus He calls Himself immediately the cleanser of the branches: Now you are clean through the word, which I have spoken to you. He performs the part of the husbandman then, as well as of the vine. But why does He not say, you are clean by reason of the baptism wherewith you are washed? Because it is the word in the water which cleans. Take away the word, and what is the water, which but water.

Add the word to the element, and you have a sacrament. Whence has the water such virtue as that by touching the body, it cleans the heart, but by the power of the word, not spoken only, but believed? For in the word itself the passing sound is one thing, the abiding virtue another. This word of faith is of such avail in the Church of God that by Him who believes, presents, blesses, sprinkles the infant, it cleanses that infant, though itself is unable to believe.

CHRYS. You are clean through the word which I have spoken to you, i.e., you have been enlightened by My doctrine, and been delivered from Jewish error.

Ver  4. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in me.5. I am the vine, you are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.6. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.7. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done to you.

CHRYS. Having said that they were clean through the word which He had spoken to them, He now taught them that they must do their part.

AUG. Abide in Me, and I in you: not they in Him, as He in them; for both are for the profit not of Him, but them. The branches do not confer any advantage upon the vine, but receive their support from it: the vine supplies nourishment to the branches, takes none from them: so that the abiding in Christ, and the having Christ abiding in them, are both for the profit of the disciples, not of Christ; according to what follows, As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can you, except you abide in Me.

Great display of grace! He strengthens the hearts of the humble, stops the mouth of the proud. They who hold that God is not necessary for the doing of good works, the subverters, not the asserters, of free will, contradict this truth. For he who thinks that he bears fruit of himself, is not in the vine; he who is not in the vine, is not in Christ; he who is not in Christ, is not a Christian.

ALCUIN. All the fruit of good works proceeds from this root. He who has delivered us by His grace, also carries us onward by his help, so that we bring forth more fruit. Wherefore He repeats, and explains what He has said: I am the vine, you are the branches. He that abides in Me, by believing, obeying, persevering, and I in Him, by enlightening, assisting, giving perseverance, the same, and none other, brings forth much fruit.

AUG. But lest any should suppose that a branch could bring forth a little fruit of itself, He adds, For without Me you can do nothing. He does not say, you can do little. Unless the branch abides in the vine, and lives from the root, it can bear no fruit whatever. Christ, though He would not be the vine, except He were man, yet could not give this grace to the branches, except He were God.

CHRYS. The Son then contributes no less than the Father to the help of the disciples. The Father changes, but the Son keeps them in Him, which is that which makes the branches fruitful. And again, the cleansing is attributed to the Son also, and the abiding in the root to the Father who begot the root. It is a great loss to be able to do nothing, but He goes on to say more than this: If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, i.e. shall not benefit by the care of the husbandman, and withers, i.e., shall lose all that it desires from the root, all that supports its life, and shall die.

ALCUIN. And men gather them, i.e., the reapers, the Angels, and cast them into the fire, everlasting fire, and they are burned.

AUG. For the branches of the vine are as contemptible, if they abide not in the vine, as they are glorious, if they abide. One of the two the branch must be in, either the vine, or the fire: if it is not in the vine, it will be in the fire.

CHRYS. Then He shows what it is to abide in Him. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you shall ask what you will and it shall be done to you. It is to be shown by their works.

AUG. For then may His words be said to abide in us, when we do what He has commanded, and love what He has promised. But when His words abide in the memory and are not found in the life, the branch is not accounted to be in the vine, because it derives no life from its root. So far as we abide in the Savior we cannot will any thing that is foreign to our salvation.

We have one will, insofar as we are in Christ, another, insofar as we are in this world And by reason of our abode in this world, it sometimes happens that we ask for that which is not expedient, through ignorance. But never, if we abide in Christ, will He grant it us, Who does not grant except what is expedient for us. And here we are directed to the prayer, Our Father. Let us adhere to the words and the meaning of this prayer in our petitions, and whatever we ask will be done for us.

Ver 8. Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples.

CHRYS. Our Lord showed above, that those who plotted against them should be burned, inasmuch as they abode not in Christ: now He shows that they themselves would be invincible, bringing forth much fruit; Herein is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit: as if He said, If it appertains to My Father’s glory that you bring forth fruit, He will not despise His own glory. And he that brings forth fruit is Christ’s disciple: So shall you be My disciples.

THEOPHYL. The fruit of the Apostles are the Gentiles, who through their teaching were converted to the faith, and brought into subjection to the glory of God.

AUG. Made bright or glorified; the Greek word may be translated in either way. In Greek it signifies glory; not our own glory, we must remember, as if we had it of ourselves: it is of His grace that we have it; and therefore it is not our own but His glory. For from whom shall we derive our fruitfulness, but from His mercy preventing us.

Wherefore He adds (in verse 9), As My Father has loved Me, even so love I you. This then is the source of our good works. Our good works proceed from faith which works by love: but we could not love unless we were loved first: As My Father has loved Me, even so love I you. This does not prove that our nature is equal to His, as His is to the Father’s, but the grace, whereby He is the Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. The Father loves us, but in Him.

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Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on John 15:1-8

Joh 15:1  I am the true vine: and my Father is the husbandman.

I am the true Vine. The Greek has a double art. ή άμπελος ή α̉ληθινὴ, “the vine the true.” The Syriac is, “I am that vine of truth.” Christ here sets forth the parable of the vine and the branches with this end and view, to teach the Apostles that they must abide in His faith and love, and not depart therefrom in consequence of His impending passion and death. That this is the great object of the parable is plain from the ninth verse more especially, Abide in My love.

Christ here compares Himself to a vine, not as He is God, as Arius maintained, trying to prove that the Son is inferior to the Father, as being the Husbandman, but as man. For so men are grafted into Him as branches. For they are of the same nature and kind as the Vine. Wherefore S. Hilary says (lib. 9, de Trin.), “Christ to this end assumed flesh, that we fleshly men might as branches be grafted into Him as the Vine.” But yet the flesh of Christ would not have had that power of producing vine-branches, i.e., faithful and holy people, unless the Godhead had been united to it. Wherefore Cyril says that Christ was the Vine by reason of His Godhead. And S. Augustine saith, “Although Christ would not have been the Vine except He had been man, yet He would not have bestowed His grace upon the branches unless He had been God.”

You will inquire why Christ compared Himself to a vine rather than to an apple, or nut, or some other tree? S. Athanasius (Dis. cont. Arian.) and others reply, On account of the many qualities of the vine in which it excels other trees, and which admirably fit it to be a type of Christ. These are—1st, Its most abundant fruit: for it is the most fruitful of all plants. To this David refers (Ps. 128.): “Thy wife shall be as the fruitful vine.” 2d On account of the sweetness of its fruit. 3d On account of wine, which is made from its fruit, and which makes the heart glad, and which produces many effects which may be likened to the fruits of the coming of Christ. 4th Because of all plants in comparison with the size of its stem it most widely diffuses its branches. By which the extension of the Church is signified, as it is said in Ps. 80, “She spread out her branches unto the sea, and her boughs unto the river.” 5th The vine has sweet-smelling flowers, and very broad leaves, with which it gives shade to other plants. Now the leaves of Christ are the external graces of preaching, conversing, &c.

6th The wine from old vines is best, and the wine from those more recently planted is the most abundant. Some vines live for more than 200 years, and then have the flavour of wild honey.

7th No tree has more durable wood than the vine.

Lastly, vines need very assiduous culture. It is necessary to dig, to plant, to drain, manure, to prune. Thus, too, does the Church, or a holy soul which is grafted into Christ the Vine, require great and constant care.

Moreover, there were two peculiar and chief reasons why Christ here compares Himself to a vine, rather than to any other tree. The first was that Christ had just previously instituted the Eucharist, and under the species of wine had given the Apostles His Blood to drink, and had left It to be drank by the faithful throughout all ages, that they might glow with His love as with new wine, and overcome all temptations. Wherefore, since shortly before He had admonished the Apostles to persevere in His love, even when they saw Him betrayed by Judas, and crucified and slain, so now He inculcates the same by the parable of the vine, thus: As the branch always inheres in the vine, and cannot be torn from it by cold or tempest, so that it should not bear fruit; so likewise do ye, 0 My Apostles, abide in My love, neither do ye fall away from believing in and loving Me because of My passion and death, for so will ye bring forth great and abundant fruit.

The other reason was because Christ was now going to His passion and death upon the cross, which the vine with her grapes very excellently represents. For as the choice wine is expressed from the trodden grapes, so also from Christ trodden in the winepress of the cross was expressed the blood which redeemed the world. Christ here alludes to what Jacob foretold concerning Him (Gen 49:11-12), “Tying his foal to the vineyard, and his ass, O my son, to the vine. He shall wash his robe in wine, and his garment in the blood of the grape. His eyes are more beautiful than wine.”

Hence St. Hilary says, “Rising up to the consummation of the sacraments of the Passion, He sets forth the mysteries of corporeal assumption, by which, as though we were branches, we dwell in the Vine.”

See St. Bernard’s Treatise on the Passion (if indeed it is his work, for the style is different), on the words, I am the true Vine, when he says among other things, “The vine is wont to be propagated by slips, not sown; so Christ is the Vine begotten of the Vine, i.e., He is God begotten of God, the Son of the Father. But that He should bring forth more fruit, He was planted in the earth, i.e., was born of the Virgin Mary.” Thus he adapts all the circumstances of the vine to Christ. “How,” he says, “was the glory of Christ cut off? with the knife of ignominy. His power? with the knife of humiliation. His pleasure? with the knife of pain. His riches? with the knife of poverty.” In the 4th chapter he treats of the bonds of the vine, and applies them to the cords with which Christ was bound when He was taken, and when He was bound to the pillar and beaten: also to the crown of thorns with which the Jews bound His head, also to the iron nails with which He was bound to the cross. In the 5th chapter he treats of the culture of the vine; in the 6th of the leaves of the vine, which are very broad, and which he explains of the words of Christ, especially His seven last words which He uttered on the Cross. For they as it were by their shadow protect and comfort us in every time of temptation.

You will ask further, why Christ is called the true Vine? Euthymius answers, Because He brings forth the fruit of truth. The same Euthymius says, Because He is the excellent, incorruptible, and spiritual Vine.

I would say that Christ is called the true Vine, because He truly has the nature, properties, and qualities of the vine. For as a true vine produces true branches and true grapes, so does Christ bring forth true believers and true virtues by His grace, which He instils into them by His wine-bearing sap. Thus then He is called the true Vine not corporeally, but spiritually. The true Vine therefore is opposed to the false and deceitful vine—that which has the appearance but not the nature of a vine, which produces not grapes but wild grapes. Such are the vines of Sodom, which produce grapes fair in outward sight, but when you touch them, they crumble into dust and ashes, as Josephus testifies (lib. 2, de Bell. c. 5). Such like vines were the Jews, revolting from God to idols and sin. These are spoken of Deut 32:32, “Their vines are of the vineyard of Sodom, and of the suburbs of Gomorrha: their grapes are grapes of gall, and their clusters most bitter.”

2d Christ is the true, special, and perfect Vine, compared with whom all others are not true vines, but only shadows. So Christ is called true Light, true Life, true Bread, because He shines, quickens, nourishes, more really than any corporeal light, life, or bread. Christ therefore is the elect Vine, Heb. Sorec, i.e., the singular and chiefest Vine, of which Isaias speaks chap. v. This hath propagated its branches of faith and the Church throughout the whole world, and every where produces grapes, i.e., troops of Martyrs, Virgins, Confessors, and all Saints, according as it is said (Zach 9:17), “For what is the good thing of him, and what is his beautiful thing, but the corn of the elect, and wine springing forth virgins?” (Vulg.)

And My Father is the Husbandman, i.e., the Vinedresser. For it is He who has planted Me as it were a Vine in the earth, and who prunes My branches, i.e. the Apostles and the rest of the faithful, cutting off the worthless, purging the fruitful that they may bring forth more fruit. Listen to S. Augustine (de Verb. Dom. secund. Joan. Serm. 59), “We honour God by worship, not by ploughing: and God honours us by making us better. For He by His words extirpates the evil seeds from our hearts. He opens our hearts as it were by the plough of His word, He sows the seed of His precepts, He expects the fruit of godliness.”

The Arians made the following objection: The vine and the husbandman have a different nature. Since therefore God the Father is a Husbandman and Christ a Vine, Christ cannot he God. Athanasius, Basil, and Ambrose answer them by saying that Christ is the Vine according to the human nature which He assumed, and so far is of a different nature from the Husbandman, i.e. God the Father. Again, although we grant Christ to be the Vine according to the Godhead, even so they gain nothing. For in the comparison of things that are like, not identity or similarity of nature is to be looked for, but that in which the likeness consists. For similitudes are commonly of a diverse and dissimilar nature, but they are compared in some quality in which they agree. There is a similitude between a vine and a husbandman, not in respect of their nature, but in respect of the branches and the fruit, that is to say, the grapes which they bring forth.

Joh 15:2  Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he will take away: and every one that beareth fruit, he will purge it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

Every branch: Christ says nothing about the Vine itself, but only speaks of the branches, because Christ the Vine is self-sufficing. But the disciples have need of much help and culture from God. So Chrysostom.

Every branch in Me, &c., i.e., every Christian who by faith and baptism has been as it were a vine-branch grafted into Me, if he bear not the fruit of good works, God the Father will take him away, i.e., will cut off from the Vine the unfruitful and worthless branch. This He does both by secretly severing him from the communication of the Spirit and grace of Christ, and also by publicly separating him from Christ by means of excommunication, or by permitting him to fall into heresy. And thus in death He separates him from the company of Christ and His saints. But He will purge him who is bearing fruit from too great luxuriance of leaves, from insects, and from every evil thing, i.e., from the love of the vanity and the filth of this world, that he may bring forth more fruit. Christ is speaking primarily of the apostles, then of all the faithful. For so God the Father had just before separated Judas the traitor from Christ and the other apostles, compelling him to depart out of their house and family. But He purged Peter and the other apostles from too great love of this life, and from the fear of the Jews, through which, when Christ was taken, they either denied Him, or fled. He did this when He sent down upon them the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. He cut off that sinful love and fear, and so filled them with the love of God that they did not fear the threats of the Jews.

And every one (i.e., every branch) that beareth fruit, he will purge it. Now the pruning-hook or knife by which God purges the vine-branches, i.e., the faithful, is, 1st The word of God, whence He adds, ver. 3,—You are clean by reason of the word, &c. For the word of God teaches us, and stirs us up to cleanse our minds from filth. 2d The pruning-hook is tribulation, affliction, persecution, poverty, hunger, and such like. For those things call us away from the love of the world, and constrain us to flee to the love of God. Listen to S. Gregory (lib. 7, epist. 32). “The fruitful branch is said to be purged, because it is pruned by discipline that it may be led to richer grace.”

3d Pruning-hooks are illuminations, terrors, rebukes, which God sends into the minds of the faithful, to purge out of them the hindrances of their faults. Thus was S. Jerome rebuked, yea scourged by God, because he applied himself more closely to the study of Cicero than to the Holy Scriptures. Hear what he says in his 22nd Epist. to Eustochium. “I was hurried in spirit before the tribunal of the judge, where there was such excess of light, and the lightnings so shot from those that stood around, that I fell to the ground, and durst not look upward. Being asked concerning my profession, I replied that I was a Christian. Then spake the judge, and said, Thou liest: thou art a Ciceronian, not a Christian. For where thy treasure is, there also is thine heart. Immediately I became dumb, and amidst the blows, for he commanded me to be beaten, I was yet more tormented with the fire of my own conscience, remembering the verse, Who will confess to Thee in hell? Thus I began to cry and to howl, saying, Have mercy upon me, 0 Lord, have mercy upon me. I declare to you that my shoulders were livid, and that I felt the blows after I awoke. And from that time forward I was more zealous in reading the Divine writings than I had been before in reading those of mortal men.”

From what Christ here says, the necessity together with the power and the integrity of good works, and that faith alone does not suffice for salvation, as the heretics say, is plainly manifest. For Christ here requires the fruit, and unless He find it, He threatens every vine branch, i.e., every professing Christian, with cutting off from the Vine, and everlasting damnation. Wherefore they were in error who said that perfect men were not under obligation to do good works. For Christ’s words in Me are strong against them. As though He said, It is a disgraceful thing that any one believing in Me should not bring forth the fruit of charity and other virtues, but should be lazy and slothful.

2d It is plain that Luther is in error when he says that all the works of the faithful are sin, because they emanate from innate concupiscence, and are not done in perfect charity. For if this were true, Christ would not require them, nor call them fruit, but rather condemn them as poison. (See Council of Trent, sess. 6, can. 25).

3d It is plain that Luther equally errs when he says that faith is lost by every mortal sin. This, too, the Council of Trent condemns. For Christ here speaks of a believer who abides in Him by faith, and yet has not the fruit of charity. Such a one therefore hath faith, but not charity.

Joh 15:3  Now you are clean, by reason of the word which I have spoken to you.

Now ye are clean, by reason of the word, &c. This is the pruning-hook with which God the Father καθαίζει, i.e., purges and cleanses His apostles, that they may be καθαζὸι, i.e., pure and clean, as the word of Christ. For as S. Paul says (Heb 4), “The word of God is living and effectual and more piercing than any two edged sword; and reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit, of the joints also and the marrow.” The meaning then is, My word, i.e., My doctrine which I have taught you, that ye may obey and believe it, is that pruning-hook which has purged you from error and sins, and has made you clean, holy, and pleasing to God.

Christ is speaking especially of His speech after the Last Supper, which had immediately preceded. For, as Toletus rightly perceived, this discourse inflamed the hearts of the disciples, who were already bearing fruit in Christ, and purged them by grace and love that they should bring forth more fruit.

For by this discourse of Christ the Apostles were purged from a certain ignorance. For Peter knew not whither Jesus was going. Thomas knew not the way. Judas asked to see the Father. The Lord pruned away this ignorance. They were also purged from vain confidence. For to Peter, their chief, it was said, Thou shalt deny Me thrice. They were purified from a sort of carnal affection. For they were too much addicted to reliance upon the sensible presence of Christ, desiring always to possess it. But now they hear that the Lord is going away to the Father, and that they must remain. They were purged from faint-heartedness, which made them almost despair of their own salvation when Christ should have departed. There were many other imperfections which the Lord pruned from His disciples on this night of the supper.

Joh 15:4  Abide in me: and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me.

Abide in Me, as branches in the Vine, not dry and fruitless by faith only, but as bearing fruit and living by love with zeal for good works. And I in you. This clause is partly a promise of Christ, meaning, “If ye abide in Me by faith formed by love, I promise you that I will for My part abide in you, as the Vine remains in the vine-branches by a constant influx so as to afford them vital sap and nourishment for the production of grapes. In like manner I will supply you with the Spirit of grace to produce good works of charity and all virtues.” So S. Augustine, Bede, and Euthymius. The clause is partly also a precept, meaning, “Take heed that ye abide in Me, and I then will abide in you, for without Me ye can do nothing. And this ye will take care to do if ye abide in My love. For so ye will bring about that I in like manner shall abide in you by My grace. And I will cause My Spirit continually to flow into you, by which ye shall grow and increase in spiritual life, and make advancement in spiritual works.” So Toletus and others. Hear S. Gregory, in his exposition of the 6th penitential Psalm, on those words, “My soul hath waited on His words:” “Where must we abide except in Christ? Houses will fail, palaces crumble into ruin, cities be destroyed to their foundations, castles fall, heaven and earth pass away, but the Word of the Lord remaineth for ever: let us then abide in Him who abideth eternally.”

This is Christ’s summing up by which He exhorts His disciples to abide in Him, and persevere in His love and doctrine. This He proceeds to maintain by giving seven reasons. Here is the first:—

As the branch cannot bear fruit, &c. That is, as a vine-branch draws life and sap from the vine for producing grapes, so also do ye draw life and the spirit of grace from Me to bring forth good works which may deserve eternal life. From this passage then it is plain that a man cannot of himself, nor by his own natural powers, not even externally from human teaching, or personally, draw the power of bringing forth good works. It must flow from the inward grace of Christ. This applies especially to good works beyond the power of nature, and the effect which such works have of meriting increase of grace and glory. For the vine-branch hath nothing of itself, but draws all its sap, efficiency, and power of producing grapes from the vine. Thus the Council of Trent defines, and explains this passage (sess. 6, cap. 16), and adds the reason: “For since Christ Jesus is Himself the Head to the members, and as the Vine to the branches, He causes virtue continually to flow into them that are justified, which virtue always precedes their good works, accompanies and follows them, and without it they are not able in any manner to be pleasing to God, and meritorious. It must be believed that nothing more is wanting to those who are justified whereby, in those works which are done in God, they may fully satisfy the Divine law according to their condition in this life; and they should be truly believed to have merited to attain eternal life in its own time, if indeed they have departed in a state of grace.”

Calvin objects: man has not free will, nor does he by it co-operate with grace, but grace alone does the whole work. For as the vine-branch draws all the juice of its grapes from the vine, and has no juice of itself, so does a man derive all his power of doing good works from grace. And by consequence, he hath nothing of himself wherewith to co-operate with grace, or which he can communicate to the work which is done by grace. I reply, 1st By denying the consequence. For indeed in similitudes all things are not similar, so that they might or can all be applied to the thing compared, but the similarity must be reserved for what is intended to be the likeness. Christ therefore in this place makes His simile to consist only in this, that as the vine-branch derives all its vigour and sap for producing grapes from the vine, so likewise must a believer draw from the grace of Christ all the nutriment and power needful for producing supernatural works. But there is this distinction to be drawn, that a man, inasmuch as he is a rational being, co-operates with grace, and that freely. This the branch in the vine does not do, because it is but a piece of wood devoid of reason. Now it is the result of man’s free co-operation that a good work is a free and human work, even as it is because of the influx of grace that such a work becomes supernatural, worthy of God, and pleasing to Him

2d I deny the antecedent: for that a vine-branch, in addition to the vigour and the sap which it derives from the vine, does of its own nature contribute something to the production of grapes is plain from this, that if some other non-fruitbearing branch, or one bearing a different kind of fruit, as apples or cherries, were grafted into the vine, it would either produce nothing, or else would produce apples or cherries, not grapes. That it produces grapes, therefore, comes from its being a vine-branch.

I confess, however, that the co-operation itself of free-will is also of grace in this sense, that unless free-will were prevented, lifted up, strengthened and stirred up to co-operation by grace, and unless it had auxiliary and co-operating grace, it could not co-operate, or do anything. This is the same reason by which Christ stimulates His Apostles to abide in Him.

Joh 15:5  I am the vine: you the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.

I am the Vine, &c.—That is, him who abides in Me by faith formed by love I likewise will love, and imbue with My spirit. The same beareth much fruit, i.e., of good works, by which he continually merits an increase of grace and glory. Hence the Councils of Milevis and Orange condemn the Pelagians for saying that we have from God to be men, but from ourselves to be just. Such, S. Augustine (Tract. 21) says, are not the upholders but the destroyers of free-will. He thus sums up against them, “He who thinks that he bears fruit of himself is not in the Vine: he who is not in the Vine is not in Christ: he who is not in Christ is not a Christian.”

For without Me (not only by general and natural, but by special and supernatural prevenient and co-operating grace) you can do nothing, i.e., in the way of fruit, which is the fruit of the Vine, i.e. of Christ, or grace going before. That is, Ye can do nothing worthy of eternal life, or grace, or merits, as the Pelagians held, who supposed that good and meritorious works could be done absolutely by free-will, though more easily by grace. But Christ did not say, without Me ye will have more difficulty in doing good, but, ye can do nothing. Listen to the Council of Orange (cap. 7), “Whosoever shall say that we can think or choose any good thing pertaining to everlasting salvation by the force of nature, or can believe the preached Gospel without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Ghost, is deceived by the spirit of heresy, not understanding the voice of God, speaking in the Gospel, Without Me you can do nothing.” And how this should be understood the Council seems to explain, saying (ch. 9), “It is of the Divine gift both that we have right thoughts, and that we keep our feet from falsehood and unrighteousness. For as often as we do good, God is in us, and with us, since He works that we may work.

Moreover, Calvin foolishly thinks that by the expression nothing the co-operation of free-will is taken away. Rather it establishes free-will. For if we can do no good supernatural work without Christ and His grace, it follows that with His grace we can do good works. As the Apostle says, “I have laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I (not by my own power), but the grace of God which was with me.”

Lastly, some falsely infer from those words of Christ, Without Me, &c., that all the works of unbelievers who have not the faith and grace of Christ are sins. For the expression nothing refers to works of Christ’s grace, not to works of nature. Therefore unbelievers are able to do such natural works as honour parents, feed the hungry, do good to their neighbours, but not such as pertain to the grace of Christ, or those which are fruitful for meriting eternal life. For between grace and sin stands nature, or a natural good deed, which is not sin, nor yet a work of grace.

You are the branches. Cyril observes that we are joined to, and inhere in Christ as branches in the vine, as well spiritually, by faith, hope, and charity, as corporeally, in that the vine is Christ’s Humanity, of which we are branches on account of the identity of the human nature, especially in the Eucharist, in which we are joined and commingled with Christ, not only as branches to the vine, but also as melted wax commingled with other melted wax. Wherefore as Christ spoke of the Eucharist (ch. vi.), saying, “Unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of man, ye shall not have life in you,” so here He speaks concerning the vine and its branches, If any one abide not in Me, he shall be cast out as a branch, and shall wither, &c. And Jeremiah 2:21 says, “I planted thee a chosen vineyard, all true seed: how then art thou turned unto me into that which is good for nothing, O strange vineyard?” Christ therefore is called “the true (Hebrew neeman) Vine,” i.e. the faithful, sincere Vine, because He never forsakes His branches, nor leaves them without His inflowing, but continually instils into them the sap of wine, that they may produce true grapes, and the wine of charity, grace, and glory.

Joh 15:6  If any one abide not in me, he shall be cast forth as a branch and shall wither: and they shall gather him up and cast him into the fire: and he burneth.

If any one abide not in Me, &c.—That is, just as the unprofitable branch is cut off from the vine, and cast outside the vineyard, where it altogether dries up, and is gathered into bundles, and cast into the fire, and straightway burned, so in like manner the Christian who does not abide in Me by faith and charity, shall, after death, be cast out of doors, i.e. be separated from the Church of the faithful, who are the members of Christ. And then he shall wholly be withered, i.e. shall be deprived of all the good sap of grace, and shall be gathered by the devils with the rest of the reprobate, that he may be cast into the fire of hell, there to burn everlastingly. Now every word expresses a punishment. They must therefore be considered separately.

The first punishment is, he shall be cast forth, i.e. from Christ, from God, and heaven, from the company of the angels and the saints.

The second, he shall wither. For in this life sinners often retain faith and hope, often feel the illumination of grace and Divine impulses to repentance, are often warned by preachers and others to amend their lives; and they often do works morally good. For they remain in Christ as the Vine, and do drink from Him some of the sap of goodness. But after this life, being cut off from Christ, they cannot derive any sap of grace, but all God’s gifts will be taken away from them (Luke 19:26), so that they are fit for nothing but to become the fuel of hell.

The third is, they shall gather him. By this it is meant that the reprobate are to be gathered together into bundles, that they may be thrown into the fire, from which they will never be able to deliver themselves, according to the parable (Matt 13:41). At the same time it is signified that their reason will be bound, and their freedom of will taken away, so that henceforth they will not be able either to will or to do any good thing.

Fourthly, they shall cast him into the fire, namely into hell, burning with fire and brimstone, where the smoke of their torment goeth up for ever and ever.

Fifthly, he burneth, i.e. shall immediately begin to burn everlastingly. This ends the third reason of Christ by which He exhorts His disciples to abide in Him. The fourth derived from the reward comes next.

Joh 15:7  If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will: and it shall be done unto you.

If you abide in Me, i.e. if ye shall persevere in My love and grace, and My words abide in you, in your memory, that you constantly call them to mind, and in your will, that you love them, and in works, that ye always fulfil My commandments, You shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you; because ye will ask nothing except according to My will. In truth ye will ask nothing except what ye know is pleasing to God, and will be for the advancement of His glory and your own and your neighbours’ salvation. For abiding in Jesus, i.e. the Saviour, they can only wish for what pertains to salvation, as S. Augustine says. For the branch which exists in the vine, if it could ask for anything, would ask for nothing else but to be kept in the vine, and by the influx from it to produce grapes. Thus the righteous ask to be kept in the grace of Christ, and to do good works, and this they obtain. For if they should ask anything carnal, vicious, disgraceful, injurious, or unprofitable, they would ask what would be displeasing to Christ, and forbidden by Him. Therefore they would offend Him, and so could not abide in Him, nor obtain what they asked. Wherefore S. Augustine says, Christ’s words in this place have to do with the prayer which He taught us (Mat_6:9). Let us not depart from its spirit in our prayers, and whatsoever we ask shall be done unto us.

Joh 15:8  In this is my Father glorified: that you bring forth very much fruit and become my disciples.

In this is My Father glorified, &c.—That is, is about shortly to be glorified after My death and the coming of the Holy Ghost. This is the fifth reason by which Christ urges His disciples to abide in Him and His love, because, that is, it will conduce to the great glory of God. “Abide in Me and My love, because by so doing God the Father will be glorified, that ye may bring forth very much fruit,” that being used in the sense of if. Abiding in Me, ye will bring forth much fruit, even a mighty harvest of souls, and the conversion of the whole world. And that so ye may become My disciples, namely, perfect and exemplary disciples. For they were already Christ’s disciples, but novices, and imperfect. He means, Ye shall glorify God the Father if ye abide in Me, and preach My faith to the whole world. For by this means ye shall take away the idolatry of all nations, and bring in everywhere the worship of one God in true holiness. And this will be the greatest ignominy to Satan, and the greatest glory to God. For the conversion of the nations will not be your work, but God’s, who will bring it about by His grace. “For by whom shall we bring forth fruit, except by Him whose mercy preventeth us?” saith S. Augustine.

Again, and become My disciples  may mean my imitators in zeal and preaching the Gospel. A disciple is put for an imitator, because it is the part of a disciple to imitate his master. And so the disciples did imitate Christ, by giving themselves up even unto death to preach the Gospel.

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St Augustine’s Tractate 80: on John 15:1-8

Tractate 80 on John 15:1-3~This passage of the Gospel, brethren, where the Lord calls Himself the vine, and His disciples the branches, declares in so many words that the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,(1 Tim 2:5) is the head of the Church, and that we are His members. For as the vine and its branches are of one nature, therefore, His own nature as God being different from ours, He became man, that in Him human nature might be the vine, and we who also are men might become branches thereof. What mean, then, the words, “I am the true vine”? Was it to the literal vine, from which that metaphor was drawn, that He intended to point them by the addition of “true”? For it is by similitude, and not by any personal propriety, that He is thus called a vine; just as He is also termed a sheep, a lamb, a lion, a rock, a corner-stone, and other names of a like kind, which are themselves rather the true ones, from which these are drawn as similitudes, not as realities. But when He says, “I am the true vine,” it is to distinguish Himself, doubtless, from that to which the words are addressed: “How art thou turned into sourness, as a strange vine?”(Jer 2:21) For how could that be a true vine which was expected to bring forth grapes and brought forth thorns? (Isa 5:4).

“I am,” He says, “the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, He taketh away; and every one that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” Are, then, the husbandman and the vine one? Christ is the vine in the same sense as when He said, “The Father is greater than I”(Jn 14:28); but in that sense wherein He said, “I and my Father are one,” He is also the husbandman. And yet not such a one as those, whose whole service is confined to external labor; but such, that He also supplies the increase from within. “For neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” But Christ is certainly God, for the Word was God; and so He and the Father are one: and if the Word was made flesh,-that which He was not before,-He nevertheless still remains what He was. And still more, after saying of the Father, as of the husbandman, that He taketh away the fruitless branches, and pruneth the fruitful, that they may bring forth more fruit, He straightway points to Himself as also the purger of the branches, when He says, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” Here, you see, He is also the pruner of the branches-a work which belongs to the husbandman, and not to the vine; and more than that, He maketh the branches His workmen. For although they give not the increase, they afford some help; but not of themselves: “For without me,” He says, “ye can do nothing.”’ And listen, also, to their own confession: “What, then, is Apollos, and what is Paul but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man. I have planted, Apollos watered.” And this, too, “as the Lord gave to every man;” and so not of themselves. In that, however, which follows, “but God gave the increase” (1 Cor 3:5-7), He works not by them, but by Himself; for work like that exceeds the lowly capacity of man, transcends the lofty powers of angels, and rests solely and entirely in the hands of the Triune Husbandman. “Now ye are clean,” that is, clean, and yet still further to be cleansed. For, had they not been clean, they could not have borne fruit; and yet every one that beareth fruit is purged by the husbandman, that he may bring forth more fruit. He bears fruit because he is clean; and to bear more, he is cleansed still further. For who in this life is so clean as not to be in need of still further and further cleansing? seeing that, “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us; but if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness;” to cleanse in very deed the clean, that is, the fruitful, that they may be so much the more fruitful, as they have been made the cleaner.

“Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Why does He not say, Ye are clean through the baptism wherewith ye have been washed, but “through the word which I have spoken unto you,” save only that in the water also it is the word that cleanseth? Take away the word, and the water is neither more nor less than water. The word is added to the element, and there results the Sacrament, as if itself also a kind of visible word. For He had said also to the same effect, when washing the disciples’ feet, “He that is washed needeth not, save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit”(Jn 13:10).  And whence has water so great an efficacy, as in touching the body to cleanse the soul, save by the operation of the word; and that not because it is uttered, but because it is believed? For even in the word itself the passing sound is one thing, the abiding efficacy another. “This is the word of faith which we preach,” says the apostle, “that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth that Jesus is the Lord, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shall be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom 10:10).  Accordingly, we read in the Ac of the Apostles, “Purifying their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9); and, says the blessed Peter in his epistle, “Even as baptism doth also now save us, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience.” “This is the word of faith which we preach,” whereby baptism, doubtless, is also consecrated, in order to its possession of the power to cleanse. For Christ, who is the vine with us, and the husbandman with the Father, “loved the Church, and gave Himself for it.” And then read the apostle, and see what he adds: “That He might sanctify it, cleansing it with the washing of water by the word” (Eph 5:25-26). The cleansing, therefore, would on no account be attributed to the fleeting and perishable element, were it not for that which is added, “by the word.” This word of faith possesses such virtue in the Church of God, that through the medium of him who in faith presents, and blesses, and sprinkles it, He cleanseth even the tiny infant, although itself unable as yet with the heart to believe unto righteousness, and to make confession with the mouth unto salvation. All this is done by means of the word, whereof the Lord saith, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”

Tractate 81 on John 15:4-7~Jesus called Himself the vine, and His disciples the branches, and His Father the husbandman; whereon we have already discoursed as we were able. But in the present passage, while still speaking of Himself as the vine, and of His branches, or, in other words, of the disciples, He said, “Abide in me, and I in you.” They are not in Him in the same kind of way that He is in them. And yet both ways tend to their advantage, and not to His. For the relation of the branches to the vine is such that they contribute nothing to the vine, but from it derive their own means of life; while that of the vine to the branches is such that it supplies their vital nourishment, and receives nothing from them. And so their having Christ abiding in them, and abiding themselves in Christ, are in both respects advantageous, not to Christ, but to the disciples. For when the branch is cut off, another may spring up from the living root; but that which is cut off cannot live apart from the root.

And then He proceeds to say: “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” A great encomium on grace, my brethren,-one that will instruct the souls of the humble, and stop the mouths of the proud. Let those now answer it, if they dare, who, ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God (Rom 10:3). Let the self-complacent answer it, who think they have no need of God for the performance of good works. Fight they not against such a truth, those men of corrupt mind, reprobate concerning the faith (2 Tim 3:8), whose reply is only full of impious talk, when they say: It is of God that we have our existence as men, but it is of ourselves that we are righteous? What is it you say, you who deceive yourselves, and, instead of establishing freewill, cast it headlong down from the heights of its self-elevation through the empty regions of presumption into the depths of an ocean grave? Why, your assertion that man of himself worketh righteousness, that is the height of your self-elation. But the Truth contradicts you, and declares, “The branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine.” Away with you now over your giddy precipices, and, without a spot whereon to take your stand, vapor away at your windy talk. These are the empty regions of your presumption. Butlook well at what is tracking your steps, and, if you have any sense remaining, let your hair stand on end. For whoever imagines that he is bearing fruit of himself is not in the vine, and he that is not in the vine is not in Christ, and he that is not in Christ is not a Christian. Such are the ocean depths into which you have plunged.

3. Ponder again and again what the Truth has still further to say: “I am the vine,” He adds, “ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing.” For just to keep any from supposing that the branch can bear at least some little fruit of itself, after saying, “the same bringeth forth much fruit,” His next words are not, Without me ye can do but little, but “ye can do nothing.” Whether then it be little or much, without Him it is impracticable; for without Him nothing can be done. For although, when the branch beareth little fruit, the husbandman purgeth it that it may bring forth more; yet if it abide not in the vine, and draw its life from the root, it can bear no fruit whatever of itself. And although Christ would not have been the vine had He notbeen man, yet He could not have supplied such grace to the branches had He not also been God. And just because such grace is so essential to life, that even death itself ceases to be at the disposal of free-will, He adds, “If any one abide not in me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and wither; and they shall gather him, and cast him into the fire, and he is burned.” The wood of the vine, therefore, is in the same proportion the more contemptible if it abide not in the vine, as it is glorious while so abiding; in fine, as the Lord likewise says of them in the prophet Ezekiel, when cut off, they are of no use for any purpose of the husbandman, and can be applied to no labor of the mechanic (Ezek 15:5).  The branch is suitable only for one of two things, either the vine or the fire: if it is not in the vine, its place will be in the fire; and that it may escape the latter, may it have its place in the vine.

“If ye abide in me,” He says, “and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” For abiding thus in Christ, is there aught they can wish but what will be agreeable to Christ? So abiding in the Saviour, can they wish anything that is inconsistent with salvation? Some things, indeed, we wish because we are in Christ, and other things we desire because still in this world. For at times, in connection with this our present abode, we are inwardly prompted to ask what we know not it would be inexpedient for us to receive. But God forbid that such should be given us if we abide in Christ, who, when we ask, only does what will be for our advantage. Abiding, therefore, ourselves in Him, when His words abide in us we shall ask what we will, and it shall be done unto us. For if we ask, and the doing follows not, what we ask is not connected with our abiding in Him, nor with His words which abide in us, but with that craving and infirmity of the flesh which are not in Him, and have not His words abiding in them. For to His words, at all events, belongs that prayer which He taught, and in which we say, “Our Father, who art in heaven.”4 Let us only not fall away from the words and meaning of this prayer in our petitions, and whatever we ask, it shall be done unto us. For then only may His words be said to abide in us, when we do what He has commanded us, and love what He has promised. But when His words abide only in the memory, and have no place in the life, the branch is not to be accounted as in the vine, because it draws not its life from the root. It is to this distinction that the word of Scripture has respect, “and to those that remember His commandments to do them” (Ps 103:18).  For many retain them in their memory only to treat them with contempt, or even to mock at and assail them. It is not in such as have only some kind of contact, but no connection, that the words of Christ abide; and to them, therefore, they will not be a blessing, but a testimony against them; and because they are present in them without abiding in them, they are held fast by them for the very purpose of being judged according to them at last.

Tractate 82 on John 15:8 (excerpt)~The Saviour, in thus speaking to the disciples, commends still more and more the grace whereby we are saved, when He says, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear very much fruit, and be made my disciples.” Whether we say glorified, or made bright, both are the rendering given us of one Greek verb, namely doxazein (doxazein). For what is doxa (doxa) in Greek, is in Latin glory. I have thought it worth while to mention this, because the apostle says, “If Abraham was justified by works, he hath glory. but not before God” (Rom 4:2).  For this is the glory before God, whereby God, and not man, is glorified, when he is justified, not by works, but by faith, so that even his doing well is imparted to him by God; just as the branch, as I have stated above, cannot bear fruit of itself (see Tractate 81 above). For if herein God the Father is glorified, that we bear much fruit, and be made the disciples of Christ, let us not credit our own glory therewith, as if we had it of ourselves. For of Him is such a grace, and accordingly therein the glory is not ours, but His. Hence also, in another passage, after saying, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works;” to keep them from the thought that such good works were of themselves, He immediately added, “and may glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:16). For herein is the Father glorified, that we bear much fruit, and be made the disciples of Christ. And by whom are we so made, but by Him whose mercy hath forestalled us? For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works (Eph 2:10).

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St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on John 15:1-8

15:1 I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Husbandman.

He wishes to show us that it behoves us to love, to hold fast to our love towards Him, and how great a gain we shall have from our union with Him, when He says that He is the Vine, by way of illustration; and that those who are united and fixed and rooted in a manner in Him, and who are already partakers in His nature through their participation in the Holy Spirit are branches; for it is His Holy Spirit Which has united us with the Saviour Christ, since connexion with the Vine produces a choice of those things which belong to It, and our connexion with It holds us fast. From a firm resolve in goodness we proceed onward by faith, and we become His people, obtaining from Him the dignity of Sonship. For according to the holy Paul, He that is joined unto the Lord is one Spirit. As then in other places He has been called the foundation and coping-stone by the voice of the prophets, for upon Him we are built up, ourselves being the stones, living and spiritual stones, into a holy priesthood for a habitation of God in the Spirit, and in no other way are we able to be built up into this, save only if Christ be the coping-stone, so here by a similar reflection He says that He is a Vine, as it were the mother and nourisher of its branches. For we are begotten of Him and in Him in the Spirit, to produce the fruits of life; not the old life |364 of former days, but that which consists in newness of faith and love towards Him. And we are preserved in our hold on this life by clinging as it were to Him, and holding fast to the holy commandment given to us, and by making haste to preserve the blessing of our high birth; that is, by our refusing to grieve in any way whatever the Holy Spirit That has taken up His abode in us, by Whom God is conceived to dwell in us. For in what manner we are in Christ and He in us the wise John will show us when He says: Hereby we know that we are in Him and He in us, by the Spirit Which He gave us; and again, Hereby know we that we are in Him; he that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also to walk even as He walked. And he makes this even clearer to his hearers by the words, He that keepeth His commandments abideth in Him, and He in him. For if the keeping of His commandments worketh love towards Him, and we are joined to Him by love, surely what has been said has been shown to be true by these quotations. For just as the root of the vine ministers and distributes to the branches the enjoyment of its own natural and inherent qualities, so the Only-begotten Word of God imparts to the Saints as it were an affinity to His own nature and the nature of God the Father, by giving them the Spirit, insomuch as they have been united with Him through faith and perfect holiness; and He nourishes them in piety, and worketh in them the knowledge of all virtue and good works.

And when He calls the Father Husbandman, why does He give Him this title, for the Father is not idle or inert in His dealings with us, and while the Son nourishes us and sustains us in a perfect state by the Holy Spirit, the rectification of our condition is as it were the function of the whole sacred and consubstantial Trinity, and the will and power to do all the actions done by It pervades the whole Divine Nature? Therefore it is glorified by us in its entirety, and in one single aspect. For we call God a Saviour, not gaining the graces which are |365 compassionately bestowed upon us partly from the Father, and partly from the Son Himself or the Holy Spirit, but calling our salvation the work of One Divinity. And if we must apportion the gifts which are bestowed upon us, or those activities which They display about creation, to each person of the Trinity separately, none the less do we believe that everything proceeds from the Father by the Son in the Spirit. You will think then quite rightly that the Father nourishes us in piety by the Son in the Spirit. He husbands us, that is He watches over us, and cares for us, and deems us worthy of His sustaining providence by the Son in the Spirit. For this view will be more correct than any other, in my opinion. For if we attribute to each a separate activity in His dealings with us, apart from the others, is it not beyond controversy that since the Son is called a Vine and the Father a Husbandman, we are nourished and sustained in well-being especially by the Son alone, while from the Father we receive merely His providential care. For it is the function of the vine to nourish the branches, and of the tiller of the soil to tend them. And if we think aright, we shall believe that neither the one function, if performed apart from the Father, nor the other apart from the Son or the Holy Ghost, could sustain the whole. For all proceeds from the Father by the Son in the Spirit, as we have said. Very appropriately now the Saviour called the Father a Husbandman, and it is not at all difficult to assign the cause. For it was to the intent that no one might think that the Only-begotten merely exercised care over us that He represents God the Father as co-operating with Him, calling Himself the Vine that quickens His own branches with life and productive power, and the Father a Husbandman, and for this reason teaching us that providential care over us is a sort of distinct activity of the Divine Substance. For we were bound to know that God did not only make us partakers of His nature, conceived of as belonging to the Holy and |366 consubstantial Trinity, but also He watches over us with, the most diligent care, which is illustrated to us very appropriately on this occasion by the figure of husbandry. For when He has before spoken of the vine and its branches, how is not the illustration of the husbandman most apt, introducing the One Who takes the care and charge of the whole, that is God. And if we are convinced that the Son is really and truly in His own Father, and He has Him that begat Him in His own nature, and all things are brought to perfection by Both in the Spirit as by One Divinity, neither will the Father be without His share in nourishing us, nor can the Son be thought not to partake in His husbandry. For where Their identity of nature is seen in unmistakeable language, there too there is no division of activity, though any one may think that they have manifold diversities of operations. And, as there is one Substance, that is the true and real Godhead conceived of in three Persons, that is in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, is it not extremly clear and incontrovertible that when we speak of an activity of one, it is a function of the One and entire Divinity, in the way of inherent power?

Moreover, our Lord Jesus Christ, accepting His Father as His Fellow-worker in all He did, once went amongst the impious Jews and said: Many good works have I showed you from My Father: for which of those works do ye stone Me? And again, about working on the Sabbath-day: My Father worketh even until now, and I work. And no one would think He said that the Father acts separately in His dealings with the world, and so also the Son. For since the Father does all things by the Son, and could not otherwise act, as He is His wisdom and power, for this reason He, on the other hand, called the Father the doer of His own works, when He said: I do nothing of Myself; but the Father abiding in Me doeth His works. I think, therefore, we ought to take this view and no other, that Christ takes |367 the place of the vine, and we are dependent on Him as branches, enriched as it were by His grace, and drinking in by the Spirit spiritual power to bear fruit.

And since we who have chosen the right path are assailed by the trenchant arguments of our adversaries, who try to persuade us to take a false view, we will make things clear to our hearers, compressing into short compass what one of them has set forth at length. “Well,” he says, “has the Only-begotten refuted and brought to shame those who think that He is of the same Substance with God the Father. For note how He clearly calls Himself the Vine and the Father the Husbandman: for as the vine is not the same in substance with the husbandman, for the one is wood and the other is man, and these things are altogether separate and alien in nature, so the Son is not of the same Essence with the Father, and the definition of Their Essence is widely different and distinguishes Them, if the One is a Husbandman and the Other a Vine. For there is no question that some people unjustifiably attempt to prove that this has only reference to the Incarnation. For He does not say that His Flesh is the Vine, but rather His Godhead. But will it not be clear to everyone,” he says, “that our body has no dependence on the Flesh of the Saviour as the branches on the vine, nor yet is the fruit of the Saints fleshly but spiritual? Therefore,” he says, “putting on one side for the present all reference to the flesh, we say that the meaning of the speech relates to the Divinity itself of the Son; and we maintain that that Divinity is the Vine on which we depend by faith.”

These idle ravings then suggested themselves to him, as he capriciously rejected according to his own private judgment the correct interpretation of the Divine doctrine, and distorted it, in his headstrong folly, into conformity with his own preconceived theory. But we who cling to the truth are quite of the opposite opinion, and following in the lines of the knowledge of the holy |368 fathers shall retain the correct doctrine. We may now pertinently inquire, according to our lights, how we ought to interpret the meaning of the text, and we must also see how and in what manner we may equip ourselves to encounter their arguments. For if we saw that no harm could steal therefrom unto the hearts of the simple-minded, we would pass them over in silence, and, rightly disdaining to intermeddle with their vain theories, have embarked on the investigation of the ensuing passage. But since such doctrines would be very calamitous if they gained acceptance, does it not follow that we ought, fired with religious zeal, to enter on the contest of words and arguments? For thus the wickedness of our adversaries can be very easily detected. Let us commence by saying that it is the height of folly unseasonably to reject what has been given by way of illustration and brought in as a similitude of the relations of the Trinity to display the manner of Their Nature or Essence. For I say that those who wish rightly to comprehend anything that is said, do well in looking at the purpose of the discussion, and ought attentively to consider what is the meaning of the Maker of the speech in His conversation. For consider, too, in the light of what lies before us, whether I do not seem to you to speak well. It was not the purpose of our Saviour Christ to teach the disciples that He was different in nature or separate from the Father; and it was not for this reason that He resolved to call Him That begat Him the Husbandman and Himself the Vine. For if this was His aim, why did He not end His speech here, without adding any qualification to it? For He would have illustrated what His purpose was, according to your idea, without chance of confusion, if He had merely given these names to Himself and the Father. But now, after premising that He was the Vine, and saying that we depend on Him as branches, and then investing the Father with the character of the Husbandman, He makes it quite clear and obvious to all, I think, that He |369 has no such meaning as you suppose, and wishes, by palpable illustrations visible to the bodily eye, to persuade His hearers that all power of producing the fruits of the Spirit proceeds from Him; as the branches which grow up from the root are pervaded by its inherent quality. For every good thing which we have is given; but it is not so with God. For He is in Himself the originator of His own peculiar attributes, glory and might, which appertain to Him alone. Therefore Christ, being as it were the root, is the Vine, and we are the branches. And if He called the Father the Husbandman, do not think that He spoke of Him as being different in substance. For He does not mean this, as we have said; but wishes to point out that the Divine Nature is the root and origin in us of the power of producing the fruits of the Spirit of life, besides the blessings we have spoken of, tending us like a husbandman, and extending over those who are called by faith to partake in it the providence of love. The unlikeness of the illustrations used then has no reference to the definition of the essence, for it is not the purpose of our Saviour Christ to speak on that subject, but His teaching has quite another object.

And since the deluded heretic chooses to propound his false views in his folly, and says that no argument will induce those who as it were distort the aim of the words which are before us from their right meaning, and attribute to them a reference to the Incarnation of Christ, for we were not united to Him in the body, nor yet did the Apostles as branches abide in the body of Christ, nor were they after this fashion connected with Him, but in temper of mind and faith unfeigned; let us briefly reply to this, and show him that he is altogether astray, and does not follow aright the holy writings. For that we are spiritually united with Christ in a disposition made conformable to perfect love, in true and uncorrupted faith, in virtue and purity of mind, the statement of our doctrine will no way deny. For we confess that he is |370 quite right in saying this; but in venturing to say that no reference is intended to our union with Him after the flesh, we will point out that he is wholly out of harmony with the inspired writings. For how could it be disputed, or what right-minded man could deny, that Christ is the Vine in this relation? And we, as being branches after a figure, receive into ourselves life out of and proceeding from Him, as Paul says: For we are all one body in Christ, seeing that we who are many are one bread: for we all partake of the one bread. And let any one account for this and give us an interpretation of it without reference to the power of the blessed mystery. Why do we receive it within us? Is it not that it may make Christ to dwell in us corporeally also by participation and communion of His Holy Flesh? Rightly would he answer, I deem. For Paul writes, that the Gentiles have become fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers, and fellow-heirs of Christ. How are they shown to be “embodied”? Because, being admitted to share the Holy Eucharist, they become one body with Him, just as each one of the holy Apostles. For why did he (S. Paul) call his own, yea, the members of all as well as his own, the members of Christ? For he writes thus: Know ye not that your members are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ, and make them members of a harlot? God forbid. And the Saviour Himself says: He that eateth My Flesh and drinketh My Blood, abideth in Me, and I in him. For here it is especially to be observed that Christ saith that He shall be in us, not by a certain relation only, as entertained through the affections, but also by a natural participation. For as, if one entwineth wax with other wax and melteth them by the fire there resulteth of both one, so through the participation of the Body of Christ and of His precious Blood, He in us, and we again in Him, are co-united. For in no other way could that which is by nature corruptible be made alive, unless it were bodily entwined with the Body of That Which is by nature |371 Life, the Only-begotten. And if any be not persuaded by my words, give credence to Christ Himself, crying aloud: Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, ye have not life in yourselves. He that eateth My Flesh and drinketh My Blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up in the last day. Thou nearest now Himself plainly declaring that, unless we “eat His Flesh, and drink His Blood,” we “have not in ourselves,” that is, in our flesh, “Eternal Life.” But Eternal Life may be conceived to be, and most justly, the Flesh of that which is Life, that is, the Only-begotten. And how or in what manner this raises us up on the last day hear now; and I will not scruple to tell you. For since the Life, that is the Word which shone forth from God the Father, took unto Himself flesh, the flesh became transformed into a living principle, and it is inconceivable that the life should be vanquished by death. Therefore, since the life is in us, it will not endure the bondage of death, but will wholly vanquish corruption, since it cannot endure its results. For corruption does not inherit incorruption, as Paul says. For if Christ uses the emphatic expression, I will raise him up, He not only invested His own Flesh with the power of raising those who are asleep, but the Divine and Incarnate Word, being one with His own Flesh, says, I will raise him up, and with good reason. For Christ is not severed into a duality of Sons, nor can any one think that His Body is alien from the Only-begotten, as no doubt no one could maintain that the body in which the soul dwells is alien from it.

When then by these disquisitions Christ has been shown to us to be the Vine in this sense, and we the branches, inasmuch as we partake in a fellowship with Him that is not merely spiritual but also corporeal, why does he talk so vainly, asserting that, since our dependence on our fellowship with Him is not corporeal, but consisting rather in faith and disposition to love according to the law, He did not call His own Flesh, he says, the vine, |372 but rather His Godhead? And yet, why, some one may say, does he reject the interpretation that is more fitting and appropriate to the passage, and hasten to adopt one widely divergent? For shall we not grant that Christ is the Vine in a more appropriate way also according to the fellowship of the flesh, and that we are branches through the similarity of our nature? For that which proceeds from the vine is of like nature with it. And this we say, not as attempting to deny the possibility of union with Christ by right faith and sincere love, but rather from a wish to point out that Christ is the Vine and we are the branches, both in a spiritual and corporeal sense.

Further, the statement of the truth is simple and obvious; but our adversary, in his wickedness, disdains the admission that Christ was the Vine in a corporeal sense also, as conferring His own Life on the branches, that is to say on us, just as the visible and earthly vine confers life on the branches that cling to it. He distorts and does violence to the meaning of the thought, making it have reference only to His Godhead. For he thought that he might thus bring a calumny against it, raising this ignorant contention: “If the Son is the Vine,” he says, “and the Father the Husbandman, and the Son differs in nature from Him, as in the figure of the vine, the Son will not be of the same Substance with the Father.”

And he thinks he has built up a profound, trenchant, and incontrovertible theory against the doctrines of the Church, but will no less here also be convicted of folly. For when he first asserts that the Son is alien in nature, and places Him outside the Substance of Him That begat Him, how then can he any longer call God a Father, and the Son a Son in any sense? For if he says that He was not begotten, that is, proceeded from the Substance of the Father, just as the offspring of men from men, how could He be in any true sense the Son? How then can he set aside the blessed John, when he says: He that denieth the Son, will deny the Father also: he that confesseth the |373 Son, confesseth the Father also? And the saying is true. For the denial or confession of the One altogether involves the denial or confession of the Other. For the Father could not exist if the Son did not; nor could the Son be conceived of if He That begat Him were not conceived of with Him. If then he denies the Son, for he says that He belongs to another class, he thereby denies the Father also. What answer then, my good Sir, have you to make? Whom has faith left? Where is the glory of the Holy Trinity? For the nature that rules over the universe is hereby wholly taken away; that nature which is shown to us in plain language in the Holy Scripture. For their temerity and falsehood force us into the midst of difficult discussions. But, perhaps shrinking from so prodigious a blasphemy, he says that the Son belongs to another class, but was begotten of God the Father. But we will ask him once more to tell us how then does he grant and confess that He is begotten? For if as one of created beings, according to a state of mind that is in love and according to will, for all things are said to be produced from God, this none the less involves the same blasphemy. And if he says that He is truly the Son, but asserts that He is alien, and asserts even after saying this that He is different in class, even after this admission he commits an impiety against the Father Himself. For that which the nature of created beings disdained to suffer, this he would show that God underwent. For surely is not that which is truly the offspring of anything by nature manifestly of the same substance with the father of it? Is it not quite obvious to every one? The world then proceeds according to a suitable principle, for no creature produces anything different in kind from itself. And only in God shall we find the reverse, since He has begotten the Son different in kind and not of His own Nature.

It were likely then that our adversary should not like to make any reply; but if he persists in his folly, and thinks that the Son is different in kind from God the Father, we will not be slack in our advocacy of the |374 doctrines of the truth. For we shall show that he says that God the Father is the same in kind with created beings; and how, or in what way, you may now learn. He clearly contends and maintains that it is not so much the flesh as the Divinity Itself of the Only-begotten that is called the Vine. Suppose it is so then. For I will ask the question, and let him make the reply. “Does he think that the Son is truly God, or not; or does he maintain that He is spurious, or that His dignity only consists in empty titles?” And if he maintains that He is not God by nature, let him ponder over the testimony of the Only-begotten Himself, when He says, I am the Truth. For the truth has only one form, and does not admit of the spurious or mis-named. And let him accept the witness hereon of the most wise John, when he clearly exclaims, and says: And we are in the true God, Jesus Christ: this is the true God and eternal life. But if perhaps he is ashamed of this, and gives up his contention, and confesses that the Son is truly God, we will not shift our position, but will use his own words to overturn what he said. “Is not the Father, as the Husbandman, different in nature from the vine; for the one is man and the other wood?” Thus must not the vine be conceived of as really and truly of the same nature with its branches? And I suppose some would attain such a pitch of folly as to venture to deny what is so clear. When then, being truly God, He is of the same Substance with the true and living God, that is the Father, and He is the vine, and we are the branches, of the same nature plainly for this reason with the vine; shall not we ourselves also surely be Gods by nature, putting off as it were our own nature? But such an idea, only those wicked men, who shrink from no impiety, can entertain. For we have been created, and the Son is God by nature. Then how can this be? And how can that which was said of Him be true, if the branches are of the same nature with the vine? For it must be that either we ourselves are uplifted into the nature of the true Godhead, or that is brought down to |375 us. For the branches are of like nature with the vine. And since the Son clearly says: I and the Father are one, either we shall ascend with Him to perfect likeness with the Father, or the Father Himself will be drawn down with the Son, Who is like in nature to us, into our likeness. You see then what a mass of blasphemies we have arising from his statement. Therefore we will rather follow the true doctrine, believing that the Son says by way of illustration: “I am the Vine, ye are the branches, My Father is the Husbandman.”

2 Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit, He taketh it away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He cleanseth it, that it may bear more fruit.

Our connexion with Christ is of the mind, and implies a power of union affecting the tenor of our lives; perfecting us in love and faith. And the faith dwells in our hearts, making the manifestation of the Divine knowledge complete: while the manner of the love requires us to keep the commandment laid down for us by Him. For thus He also indicated him that loves Him, saying: “He that loveth Me will keep My commandments.” We must know then that being united with Him by faith, and giving effect to the manner of our union in mere barren confessions of faith, and not clenching the bond of our union by the good works that proceed from love, we will be branches indeed, but still dead and without fruit. For faith without works is dead, as the Saint says. If then after this manner the branch be seen to exist fruitlessly, depending, so to speak, from the trunk of the vine, know that such a man will encounter the pruning-knife of the husbandman. For He will wholly cut it off, and will give it to the fire to consume as worthless rubbish; for this is the judgment of the barren, as I think also in the case of the fig-tree, which was set before us by way of parable. The lord of the vineyard says to the tiller of the soil: Cut it down; why doth it also cumber the ground? So in this case too I think that the God |376 and Father of all mows down the thick and barren burden of branches that hangs down from the vine in the figure with no produce of fruit. And I think that the Overseer of our souls, that is God, wishes to show by the parable here employed what and how great is the injury which the soul that is cut off from fellowship with Him has to endure. For it will wholly wither away, and become barren of every good work, and will unquestionably be abandoned to punishment, and be the prey of all consuming flames. Moreover, by the mouth of the prophet Ezekiel, wishing to show this very clearly, He said: Son of man, what is the vine-tree more than any other tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest? Shall wood be taken thereof to do any work? Or will men take it to hang any vessel upon it? The yearly purging of it the fire performs; and at last it faileth. Is it meet for any work? Know then that that which has once been cut off and wholly severed is altogether useless, and cannot be taken to serve for any necessary purpose, but is soon only useful for firewood. Is it not clear that if we be a branch, and have been drawn away from the deceitfulness of a plurality of gods, and have confessed the faith of Christ, but are still barren, so far as the union which shows itself in works is concerned, we shall surely suffer the fate of the barren branches? And what then? For we are wholly cut off, and we shall be given to the flames, and shall have lost besides that life-giving sap, that is to say, the Spirit, Which we once had from the Vine. For that which Christ said of the man who buried his talent one may see accomplished in the case of those who have suffered complete severance. For just as the talent was taken away from him at once, so I think also is the Spirit taken from the branch, as in figure of sap or quality. And why is it taken away? That the Spirit of the Lord may not seem to share in the condemnation of those who are doomed to go to the perdition of fire by the sentence of the judge. For if earthly rulers will not |377 on a sudden determine the fate of those who have once been held in honour, and dignified by kingly favours, but if such an one be convicted of some crime for which he may justly pay the penalty, this fate could not overtake him before he has been robbed of his honours; is it not necessary then that the soul that has been sentenced by the verdict from above to the fate of punishment, should in a manner be divested of, and lay aside, the grace of the Spirit before experiencing the evils? We say further that the barren branch will suffer such a fate, wishing to confirm our minds as far as possible, to be prone to lay fast hold on love towards Him by the active principle of virtue within us and faith unshaken, while He says that the fruitful branch will not at all be left without experiencing the care of the tiller of the soil, but will be throughly cleansed, so as to be more able to bear fruit. For God works with those who have chosen to live the best and most perfect life, and to do good works so far as in them lies, and have elected to seek perfection as citizens of God. He, as it were, uses the working-power of the Spirit as a pruning-hook, and circumcising in them sometimes the pleasures which are always calling us to fleshly lusts and bodily passions, and sometimes all those temptations which are wont to assail the souls of men, defiling the mind by divers kinds of evils. For this we say is that circumcision which is not the work of hands, but is truly that of the Spirit, of which Paul in one place says: For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly: neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly: and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. And in another place, again: In Whom ye also believed and were circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands. And therefore they say to some, that if the branches of the vine in the figure suffer any purging, that cannot take place, I suppose, without suffering. |378 For it is painful so far as, and to the extent that, the wood can suffer pain. In the same way then we must think it affects the Saints: and, if we consider attentively, we shall give them our consent and approval. For our God, Who loves virtue, instructs us by pain and tribulation. Moreover the prophet Isaiah says thus: When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the sons and daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning. And the inspired Paul himself too says: If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as sons, for what son is there whom his father chasteneth not? Nay, more, the choir of the Saints themselves, who exceed all conception, do not reject the instruction given by the Holy Ones, but rather eagerly welcome it with the words: Instruct us, Lord, but in judgment, and not in wrath, that Thou make us not few. For in wrath will be accomplished the complete severance of the barren branches, for He sends them to punishment; but in judgment rather—-that is, consideration and in mercy—-will be accomplished the purging of those which bear fruit, which brings but small pain, to the quickening of their fertility, and occasioning a greater abundance of blossom springing up. Further, some accepting this exclaim: Lord, by brief tribulation dost Thou chasten us; for the tribulation of purification lasts but a short while, but, giving us instruction from above, makes us blessed. And we will receive the blessed David as a witness, who thus exclaims: Blessed is the man whom Thou, Lord, chastenest, and instructest in Thy law, to comfort him in evil days. For the days of the impartial judgment are truly days of evil omen, and dreadful to those who are wholly cut off and doomed to the perdition of punishment by fire; but to those who are chastened in that day the Lord robs them of their terrors. For such a man can no way be numbered among those who are doomed to judgment and punishment, as he is not a |379 barren branch. Let then the fervour that shows itself in works be combined with the confession of the faith, and let it unite action with the doctrines concerning God. For then shall we be with Christ, and experience the secure and safe power of fellowship with Him, escaping the peril that results from being cut off from Him.

We made these observations because we thought we ought to deal with the investigation of the passage after a spiritual manner, and it is likely that Christ wished to hint at some other meaning, by His clearly saying: Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit, He taketh it away; and every branch that beareth fruit, He cleanseth it, that it may bear more fruit. For by the branch that has been taken away from fellowship with Christ by the severance of the Father, He means, I think, the people of the Jews, who are not capable of bearing fruit; against whom the thrice-blessed John declares that the axe will be brought; saying that the wood which is cut off will be given over to the flames; while by those branches which do not need to be completely cut off, but which abide in the Vine, and which are to be purged by the providence of God, He means those among the Jews themselves who believed, and the converts to them from other nations, who have one and the same purification; for it is accomplished in the Holy Spirit, according to the Scriptures: but the manner of their purification is separate and distinct. For the children of Israel have cast off from them the wish to guide their life and conduct by the Mosaic Law, while the heart of the worshippers of idols is stripped of the past deceitfulness that held sway over their hearts, and also of the rubbish of impure and ignorant customs, in order that they may bring forth the fruit of the divine training of the Gospel, which may be meet for the table of God, and be acceptable to Him. And that what we have said is clearly true there is no difficulty in satisfying ourselves from the inspired writings themselves. For the inspired |380 Paul enjoins those of the Jews who believed, when making light of the doctrines of the Gospel, they were once more backsliders, honouring the shadows of the Law: Ye are alienated from Christ, ye who would he justified by the Law; ye are fallen away from grace. And again: I say unto you that if ye receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing. And if the wish to be justified according to the Law alienates them from Christ, is it not beyond question that it is the discarding of the Law as a guide of conduct that invites the power of union with Christ? In this way, then, the Israelites are circumcised, or rather purged, and so also he that once worshipped the creature more than the Creator, by getting rid of his past disease. And what does Paul say to them? For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God, through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life. And he charges them in another passage, and says: But now, after ye have come to know God, or rather to be known of God, how turn ye back again to the weak and beggarly rudiments of the world, whereunto ye desire to be in bondage over again? As therefore those who are willing to serve the beggarly elements become alienated from Christ, while those who do not endure to serve the creature rather than the Creator become one with Him, shall we not confess that the manner of the purification of the Gentiles shall be the most profitable cutting away by the Spirit of the old deceit, bringing in all manner of good things to us in divers ways in its stead? For in the putting off and casting aside of evil things, the beauty of virtue is conspicuous by contrast. For where vileness is driven out, there holiness is seen to arise.

We must show, too, that our circumcision is by the Spirit fulfilling the need of purification in us, and that the Son brings in the Spirit; for of His fulness we all received, as John saith; and He it is that says to us, Receive ye the Holy Spirit. The Father then worketh |381 our purification through the Son, by means of the circumcision that we conceive of through the Spirit. We have humbled then the rash and impious hardihood of our adversaries, who did not scruple to maintain that as Christ spoke of Himself as the Vine, and God the Father as the Husbandman, He could not be the same by nature with Him. “For no argument shall convince us,” he says, “that the husbandman and the vine are identical in essence.” When then the Son is found to be a Husbandman through the circumcision by the Spirit, they must be of this mind for the future, that since husbandmen are of the same class with each other, in so far as they are men, it is clear that the Son is not alien to God the Father, but like in substance with Him.

3 Already ye are clean, because of the word which I have spoken unto you.

He makes then His disciples a palpable and convincing demonstration of the art of the purifier of their souls; for already, He says, they are purged, not through a participation in anything else, but merely by the word spoken unto them, that is, the divine guidance of the Gospel. And this word proceeds from Christ. What man of sense, then, can any longer call in question that the Father has, as it were, a pruning-knife and hand, through whose instrumentality everything exists; that is, the Son, fulfilling the activity of that husbandry in us, which He attributes to the person of the Father, teaching us that all things proceed from the Father but by the instrumentality of the Son? For it is the Word of the Saviour that purgeth us, though the husbandry of our souls is attributed to God the Father. For this is His Living Word, sharp as a sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. For, reaching into the depths of each man’s inmost soul, and having every man’s |382 hidden purpose revealed before It as God, It brings Its keen edge to bear upon our vain pursuits by the working of the Spirit. For in this, I suppose, we shall deem our purification to consist. And all things that profit us in the attainment of virtue It increases and multiplies to bear the fruit which is conceived in righteousness.

When then the manner of His husbandry of our souls is shown in the excellence of its operation, the ingenious and impious attempt of our adversaries is surely brought to nought, when they say that the Son is distinct in nature from God the Father, as He is called the Vine, and the Father the Husbandman. Let us consider and reflect on the fact that He declares that His disciples are clean, not through the special and distinct working of God the Father in them, that is, apart from the Only-begotten, but because they were obedient to His Word. As then He is the Quickener of our souls by the Son, and in the Son, in the same way as He is also the Husbandman or Guardian, He may properly be thought to act not otherwise than by the Son. And if those who start the argument against us think they ought to abide by the false theory they once broached, and, as Christ said that He was the Vine, think they are therefore, as it were, perforce compelled to degrade Him into a separate and foreign nature, what is there now to hinder us too from going to the same height of shamelessness, and distorting the meaning of the illustration, and being converted against our will by a like folly, and choosing to revolt from this puerile and ridiculous conception? For if, since He is spoken of as the Vine, they think that for this reason He falls away from His natural relationship with God the Father, and is wholly different in Substance, since the vine and the husbandman are not identical in nature; why cannot we also, encountering them with an argument as ignorant and unscholarly as their own, say this—-Are only the branches profited by the care of the tiller of the soil; and will the branches |383 that depend from the stem alone reap the profit of His art, or will the nourisher or nurse too of the branches, that is, the vine, to which they cling and are fixed by nature, require some tending? I do not think this will be difficult to demonstrate. For our adversary himself will at once agree with us that if the trunk were not tended, the branches could not remain in good condition. Since then Christ has called Himself the Vine, and the trunk itself of the vine requires the fostering care of the tiller of the soil, or it will be wholly and entirely ruined, we shall draw the inference that the Son is on a level with ourselves, and requires, as we do, the Father’s providence, that He may not Himself be distorted from what He is into something else, and fall away from His native dignity or the position that He holds. For the ridiculous argument of the enemies of divine truth reduces itself to this.

But let us have done with these diseased and foolish ravings, and enter upon a discussion concerning the Holy Apostles. For He says: Already ye are clean, because of the word which I have spoken unto you: just as though He were to say, the manner of your spiritual purification, which is conceived of as by the Spirit and in the Spirit, has been wrought by the Father, through My Word on you first. Behold, casting off the burden of the vain customs and corruption of this world, be ready to bring forth fruits acceptable to God: rid yourselves of the vain and profitless law of the Jews, and pay heed to it no more. My Word has purified you: for no longer do you conduct your lives by the Mosaic Law, or according to the dispensation of the writings thereof. For you will not seek sanctification in what ye eat and drink, nor in doctrines of baptisms, nor yet in sacrificial atonements; but consider that ye are established in firm faith, and make haste to appease God by every kind of good work. For in them is seen the power of spiritual bondage. Those who are destined to be pure will be, He says, even as you are. For they, just escaping from the |384 net of the devil, and getting away from the snares of idol-worship, will be taught no longer to be governed by his decrees; but, shaking off the impurity of former customs as vain rubbish, and being thus for the future fitted to bear the fruits of the virtue that loves God, will be joined to Me in the manner of branches; and, being dependent on their love towards Me, will have their hearts enriched by the influences of the Spirit, and, imbibing the grace of My goodness, will continue stedfast to the end and be nurtured in righteousness. The Israelites, when they have been converted to faith in Me, and have been attached to Me in the manner of branches, then receiving into their mind purification through My Word, no longer devote themselves to the service of the letter; and not fixing their heart, as now, on shadows and types, bear the fruit of a true and spiritual service to God. For God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him, must worship in Spirit and truth. At the same time also He shows clearly, as in a figure, to His disciples the beauty that will belong to those who are about to be purified, and gives them the greatest encouragement to attain the still more ample excellence; showing them that their service and the training of their past teaching had not been vain —-that teaching of the Gospel, through which they were destined to benefit those who dwell in the whole world—-displaying themselves as an example to those that believe on Christ. For it has been written concerning the

Saints, that it behoves us to watch closely the issue of their life, and to imitate their faith. And Paul incites those who serve God to be imitators of himself.

4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; so neither can ye, except ye abide in Me.

We shall know then, by an accurate investigation of the words before us, that the being received of Christ through faith pure and true is the first work of that zeal which is requisite and dear to God. For this is the |385 meaning of being numbered among the branches, which cling to the true Vine, I mean Christ. But the fruit of our second meditation is by no means less in importance than our first, but it has, indeed, an even more pregnant meaning: the loving to be united to God, and to lay fast hold on Him, through a love exhibited in works, which has the fulfilment of the holy and Divine command. For this causes us inseparably to inhere in, and to be closely united to, Him, as the Psalmist expresses it: My soul has been joined unto Thee. The being received then as it were into the rank of branches will not be sufficient for complete joy of heart, or for the sanctification which, as it were, exhibits Christ sanctifying us. But I maintain that the following Him purely through love perfect and unfailing is also necessary. For by this means, the power of union or intimate conjunction with the Father may be best maintained and preserved. When therefore Christ said to His disciples, Already ye are clean because of the word which I have spoken unto you; lest any one of those who have once been purified should be considered incapable of falling away, even though he should bestow no care to remain in a state of grace, He adds this useful injunction—-that it is necessary to abide in Him. And what will this be? Nothing else, as I think, but quite obviously that which Paul well expresses: Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. For a thousand backslidings befall those who think that they are firmly fixed, and who do not take great precautions not to lose the place which they have obtained; and I think that we require the utmost modesty and sobriety, even though a man think himself firmly fixed by the progress he has already made towards establishing himself in righteousness. He then has shown the nature and extent of the punishment of him who has, as it were, been cut off from intimate union with God, through slipping back from negligence into what is wrong, in the statement, As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, so neither |386 can ye, except ye abide in Me. For unless the branch had supplied to it from its mother the vine the life-producing sap, how would it bear grapes, or what fruit will it bring forth, and from what source? You will perceive that the language of Christ has an application by analogy to ourselves. For no fruit of virtue will spring up anew in us, who have once fallen away from intimate union with Christ. To those, however, who are joined to Him Who is able to strengthen them, and Who nourishes in righteousness, the capacity of bearing fruit will readily be added by the provision and grace of the Spirit, as by life-producing water. And knowing this, the Only-begotten said in the Gospels: If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink. And to this, the Evangelist, inspired by the Spirit, has testified, when in his excellent explanation he says: But this spake He of the Spirit, Which they that believe on Him were to receive. And the blessed David, speaking as though to God the Father, thus addressed Him: With Thee is the fountain of life, and Thou shalt give them to drink of the river of blessedness. For by the fountain of Divine and spiritual life and of the fulness of blessedness, who else could be meant but the Son, Who fattens and waters our souls in the position of branches clinging to Him by faith and love, with the quickening and joy-giving grace of the Spirit.

5, 6 I am the Vine, ye are the brandies: he that abideth in Me and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for apart from Me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

Our Lord Jesus Christ openly says that He has been called the Vine for this reason, and this reason only, that we may clearly understand, and not merely perceive with the eyes of the body, as by a palpable, sensible, and most visible figure, that to those who are eager to be closely |387 joined to Him, and who choose to enjoy a close union with His nature, will be added the capacity and the conditions requisite for the production of virtue and spiritual fruit-bearing; since they are evidently provided, from its source, as from the vine their mother, with a potential and an actual force. In those however who have as it were been torn away or cut off from their hold on Him, by turning to what is wrong and to conduct displeasing to God, not merely will no capacity of a fitness for virtue, or of being able to show the fruits that spring from goodness be seen, but the doom of being consumed by all-devouring fire, as by an inevitable necessity, will await them. For that which is useless for righteousness seems fit to pay the penalty, just as the withered branches will be only useful for the fire.

You would find an indisputable and true proof of what we have said, not by perusing the chapters of the saints of old, but rather by applying your attention to the study of the holy Apostles themselves. For they, by neglecting in no way love towards Christ, but abiding in Him, and considering that nothing whatever should be set before righteousness towards Him, have become known throughout the world. And they exhibited through the world the fruit of their virtue, and showing themselves a pattern of a God-loving state, as a bright image to all under the sun, they wreathed for themselves the fadeless crown of glory with God. But he, who by a few pieces of silver was entrapped into the net of destruction, I mean the base and most mercenary Judas, was cut off from the true Vine, that is Christ, and withered away in a certain sense, and lost together his position of discipleship and the quickening quality of the Spirit. For he was cast outside, according to the saying of the Saviour. For he became alienated from Christ, and was given over like rubbish to him that chastises with fire. Pertinently then does our Lord Jesus Christ set forth to His hearers the joy of heart that springs from the desire of intimate union with Him, and on the other hand place before them the |388 punishment resulting from severance, thus conceiving a twofold method of salvation. For either by an aim which looks forward to glory and life, or our dread of the chastisement by fire, we shall lay hold more earnestly, with all the strength of our mind, on intimate union with Him.

But He calls the Father Husbandman, attributing to His Divine Nature the watchful care over us, as also we have previously shown at length. For He will be found doing the work of a hand to the Husbandman, Who uses no other hand, according to His Consubstantiality both from Him, and in Him; as is really the case, and as it is in our power to see in the following way. For as a proof that all things are done by the Son, as by the hand of the Father, listen to what the Father Himself says respecting His creatures: My hand made all these things; whereas all things were made by the Son, according to the holy writings.

We must observe that the divine Paul figures darkly to us the true cutting, even though it be not that of a vine, when he says: Behold then the goodness and severity of God: toward them that fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

7 If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

He says that the love of unbroken union with Him, and the keeping in mind as a Divine and spiritual treasure entrusted to them the pure treasure of the lessons of the Gospel, and the true instruction of the doctrines of the faith, established also by unerring interpretations, will be the root of the most perfect goodness. For the whole discourse of the Saviour would convey this meaning to us, if we consider the aim set forth in the Gospels. For in the promise of Christ that He will continually give what is good to those who ask Him, how shall we deny that a very clear pledge of this is given to us? I suppose |389 it is necessary to inquire what in addition is the accurate meaning of the words: If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you. For can any one say that to abide in Christ can be attained without keeping in oneself also His words? Now to this question men of sense will doubtless answer “No.” For our hearer must remember, that when inquiring into the kind of love towards Christ, and investigating what it was, and how it could exist in perfection, we said that there are two methods given; I mean that through faith which is wholly blameless, and that again which projects itself in actuality, which enters secretly by pure love. And if we trust our Saviour’s words that this is so with us, it follows that they adopt a dangerous and intolerable explanation of the relationship, in admitting the bare faith, which consists in words only, but not receiving the love which is moulded by right actions to perfection. They indeed abide in Christ in the sense of the relationship that results from belief, and so far as they do not adopt another religious worship; but when they no longer have His words in themselves they will be condemned. And we do not go so far as to say that, burying the preaching of the Gospels in oblivion, they are altogether unmindful of the words of the Saviour, submitting everything to their own pleasures, and directing their unbridled impulse to the consideration of earthly things alone, and, on account of this, carry themselves away from the true Vine, and, despising the favour of intimate relationship with Him, by their own passions, they deem the citizenship that is in Christ of no account. Now concerning every such person Christ Himself says: Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doeth the will of My Father Which is in heaven. And that faith which is alone, and by itself, and which does not obtain the assistance of the light that proceeds from works, will not suffice to secure an intimate relationship with God, the disciple of Christ |390 also proves, saying: Thou believest that God is one; the devils also believe and shudder. Shall one then say to those who think that a faith bare and alone will be sufficient to enable them to get possession of the fellowship that is from above,—-will even the band of demons rise to fellowship with God, since they acknowledge His Unity, and have believed in His Existence? How could this be? For the mere knowledge that the Creator and Producer of all things is One God is useless. But I think it necessary that the confession of piety towards Him should accompany faith. For such a man abideth in Christ, and will be seen to possess His words, according to the text in the Book of Psalms: I have kept Thy saying in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee. Just as if any one should place into a brazen vessel the element of fire, he will make the vessel entirely the sharer of the warmth arising from it, so also the mind which in soul and heart is wholly possessed by the Divine and heavenly doctrine, by striving up to every kind of virtue is always thereby inflamed towards it. For it is written: Thy word is very pure: therefore Thy servant loveth it.

” Let him therefore,” He says, “who establishes himself therein, and has attained to this high honour, so as to remain in Me, and to have My words in him, go boldly on, and with complete confidence ask for whatever tendeth to bliss, and without delay it shall be given him. For,” He says, “I will grant it.” “Well then,” says our opponent,” if any one should ask for what is wrong, will He take more fully of this, and will He that loves virtue allot him such a portion as this?” Get thee behind me, thou man of evil counsel! For God will provide nothing that is opposed to His own Nature, nor any of those things which are numbered among evil things. But my view seems more appropriate: does it not appear right and just? It is clear then that He who abides in Christ, and has His words in him, knows, by the very fact of his goodness and righteousness, how |391 to think only those things which are acceptable to God. For it is clear that He has permitted to those who have His Word in their hearts to ask whatsoever they may reasonably wish; well knowing that they only aim at a participation in blessings of a spiritual and Divine nature. As then our Saviour Christ has excellently defined, in these words, the character of the man who prays and asks to receive whatever he wills from God, let us mould our own condition into conformity with this ideal, if we desire to obtain the heavenly blessing. But if you know that you are yourself not such an one as Christ has just indicated to us, take it not ill if you stumble, but if the effort seems burdensome to you, uniting with your faith the glory which proceeds from good works, (for this is abiding in Christ), and, having in yourself His words, go forward in confidence, and yourself receive without delay whatever you request from God.

8 Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, and so shall ye be My disciples.

He says that God His Father has been glorified, being justly admired for His incomparable goodness and crowning as it were His exceeding kindness with actual proof. For He so loved the world according to the Scripture, that He gave His Only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have eternal life. The life of all, that of course which is fulfilled by Christ, is then the fruit of the kindness of God the Father. For this reason I suppose He Himself, conversing with God the Father, said: I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to fulfil it. For the Only-begotten, being entrusted as it were with the salvation of us all, has well accomplished it by the Father, and He a Being not comprehended under the condition of necessary obedience, but Himself the absolute wisdom and power of His Father, apart from Whom nothing whatever can |392 exist. For all things are by Him, according to the Holy Evangelist, and we in a special manner. And for this reason the blessed David declares that the ordering of all that concerns us, and the directing aright of the life of all is entrusted by the Father to the Son, as His power and wisdom, when he says: O God, order the working of Thy power: O God, confirm that which Thou hast prepared; and once more: O God, give Thy judgment to the King. For it was the work of Him Who alone reigns with God the Father to restore the earth that was entirely corrupted, and to be able to mould it anew into its former state. Therefore My Father was glorified by giving His Own Son as a ransom for the life of the world, being content to see among us Him Who is above every creature, not that He might bring any addition of perfection to His Own Nature. For He is all perfect and self-sufficing, having power over all things, but in order that you may bring forth more fruit and become My disciples. For if He had not become man, we should not, being deemed worthy of sharing His nature, and being united to Him like branches, and gaining for Him the power of bearing fruit by sharing in His Spirit, have produced the fruit of a state of life pleasing to God, which He even calls much, putting in the background that which sprang from service of the Law, and showing that it is of less importance. For the Law hath made nothing perfect, according to the saying of Paul. For this reason He said to His holy disciples, nay to all of us who have been united to Him by faith and perfect love: Verily, verily I say unto you, Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again: Every scribe who hath been made a disciple to the kingdom of heaven, is like unto a rich man which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old; casting, as it were, from the treasury of their hearts the Mosaic injunctions, and the memory of the ancient |393 writings. He therefore, who is a willing hearer, and ready to learn, and is full of the torchlight of the Gospel, has his wealth increased and multiplied; I mean, of course, spiritual wealth. For he brings forth things new and old, transforming the shadow of the Law and the power of servitude to the Law into the pattern of citizenship according to the Gospel. For what the Law figured by types, this Christ did openly in truth. Wherefore also He said: I came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil; and again: Verily, verily, I say unto you, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the Law, till all things be accomplished. The power then of the service of the Gospel is the much fruit, spiritual, and in truth; seeing that the Only-begotten became Man for the glory of God the Father. And on this account it has followed that those who are on the earth are His disciples. For He spoke to those of old time and formerly through the prophets as God; but has told us and said concerning us: And they shall all be taught of God. For to us who believe in Him, not merely has no other person intervened and conveyed the message from Him, or become a mediator of His Will towards us, as Moses doubtless was to the Israelites in Mount Sinai: or again, the prophets after Moses to those among them; but Christ Himself has taught us. And for this reason we are all taught of God. We should not then have at all become His disciples, we should not have brought forth the fruits of love towards God, and this in abundance, unless the Father had been glorified by His goodness, taking such pleasure in us, that the Word proceeding from His Essence should become Man. For we shall think thus when we hear the Holy Scripture declaring that He gave His own Son. For He also approved of His choosing to suffer this for us; and, on this account, is said to have given Him: and with justice. |394 (source)

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St John Chrysostom’ Homiletic Commentary on John 15:1-8

This post includes some brief comments on the end of chapter 14.

John 14:31-15:1-“Arise, let us go hence. I am the true Vine, (ye are the branches,1 ) and My Father is the Husbandman.

`Ignorance’ makes the soul timid and unmanly, just as instruction in heavenly doctrines makes it great and sublime. For when it has enjoyed no care, it is in a manner timid, not by nature but by will.2 For when I see the man who once was brave,3 now become a coward, I say that this latter feeling no longer belongs to nature, for what is natural is immutable. Again, when I see those who but now were cowards all at once become daring, I pass the same judgment, and refer all to will. Since even the disciples were very fearful, before they had learned what they ought, and had been deemed worthy of the gift of the Spirit; yet afterwards they became bolder than lions. So Peter, who could not bear the threat of a damsel, was hung with his head downwards, and was scourged, and though he endured ten thousand dangers, would not be silent, but enduring what he endured as though it were a dream, in such a situation spake boldly; but not so before the Crucifixion. Wherefore Christ said, “Arise, let us go hence.” “But why, tell me? Did he not know the hour at which Judas would come upon Him? Or perhaps He feared lest he should come and seize them, and lest the plotters should be upon him before he had furnished his most excellent teaching.” Away with the thought! these things are far from His dignity. “If then He did not fear, why did He remove them, and then after finishing His discourse lead them into a garden known to Judas? And even had Judas come, could He not have blinded their eyes, as He also did when the traitor was not present?4 Why did He remove them?” He alloweth the disciples a little breathing time. For it was likely that they, as being in a conspicuous place, would tremble and fear, both on the account of the time and the place, (for it was the depth of night,) and would not give5 heed to His words, but would be continually turning about, and imagining that they heard those who were to set upon them; and that more especially when their Master’s speech made them expect evil. For, “yet a little while,” He saith, “and I am not with you,” and, “the ruler of this world cometh.” Since now when they heard these and the like words they were troubled, as though they should certainly be taken immediately, He leadeth them to another place, in order that thinking themselves in safety, they might listen to Him without fear. For they were about to hear lofty doctrines. Therefore He saith, “Arise, let us go hence.” Then He addeth, and saith,6 “I am the Vine, ye are the branches.” What willeth He to imply by the comparison? That the man who gives no heed to His words can have no life, and that the miracles about to take place, would be wrought by the power of Christ.”My Father is the Husbandman.” “How then?Doth the Son need a power7 working within?” Away with the thought! this example does not signify this. Observe with what exactness He goeth through the comparison. He saith not that the “root” enjoys the care of the Husbandman, but, “the branches.” And the foot is brought in in this place for no other purpose, but that they may learn that they can work nothing without His power, and that they ought to be united with Him by faith as the branch with the vine.

Ver. 2. “Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit the Father taketh away.” Here He alludeth to the manner of life, showing that without works it is not possible to be in Him.

“And every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it.” That is, “causeth it to enjoy great care.” Yet the root requires care rather than the branches, in being dug about, and cleared, yet about this He saith nothing here, but all about the branches. Showing that He is sufficient to Himself, and that the disciples need much help from the Husbandman, although they be very excellent. Wherefore He saith, “that which beareth fruit, He purgeth it.” The one branch, because it is fruitless, cannot even remain in the Vine, but for the other, because it beareth fruit, He rendereth it more fruitful. This, some one might assert, was said with relation also to the persecutions then coming upon them. For the “purgeth it,” is “pruneth,” which makes the branch bear better. Whence it is shown, that persecutions rather make men stronger. Then, test they should ask concerning whom He said these things, and lest He should throw them back into anxiety, He saith,

Ver. 3. “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” Seest thou how He introduceth Himself as tending the branches? “I have cleansed you,” He saith; yet above He declareth that the Father doth this. But there is no separation10 between the Father and the Son. “And now your part also must be performed.” Then to show that He did not this as needing their ministry,11 but for their advancement, He addeth,

Ver. 4. “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine, so neither can he who abideth not in Me.”  For that they might not be separated from Him by timidity, He fasteneth and glueth to Himself their souls slackened through fear, and holdeth out to them good hopes for the future. For the root remains, but to be taken away, or to be left, belongs to the branches. Then having urged them on in both ways, by things pleasant and things painful, He requireth first what is to be done on our side.

Ver. 5. “He that abideth in Me, and I in him.” Seest thou that the Son contributeth not less than the Father towards the care of the disciples? The Father purgeth, but He keepeth them in Himself. The abiding in the root is that which maketh the branches to be fruit-bearing. For that which is not purged, if it remain on the root, bears fruit, though perhaps not so much as it ought; but that which remains not, hears none at all. But still the “purging” also hath been shown to belong to the Son, and the “abiding in the root,” to the Father, who also begat the Root. Seest thou how all is common,15 both the “purging,” and the enjoying the virtue which is from the root?

Now it were a great penalty, the being able to do nothing, but He stayeth not the punishment at this point, but carrieth on His discourse farther.

Ver. 6. “He is cast forth,” He saith. No longer enjoying the benefit of the husbandman’s hand. “And is withered.” That is, if he had aught of the root, he loses it; if any grace, he is stripped of this, and is bereft of the help and life which proceed from it. And what the end? “He is cast into the fire.” Not such he who abideth with Him. Then He showeth what it is to “abide,” and saith,

Ver. 7. “If My words abide in you.” Seest thou that with reason I said above, that He seeketh the proof by works? For when He had said, “Whatsoever ye shall ask I will do it” (Jn 14:14, 15), He added, “If ye love Me, ye will keep My commandments.” And here, “If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you.”

“Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” This He said to show that they who plotted against Him should be burnt up, but that “they” should bear fruit. Then transferring the fear from them to the others, and showing that they should be invincible, He saith,

Ver. 8. “Herein is My Father glorified, that ye be My disciples, and bear much fruit.” Hence He maketh His discourse credible, for if the bearing fruit pertains to the glory of the Father, He will not neglect His own glory. “And ye shall be My disciples.” Seest thou how he that beareth fruit, he is the disciple? But what is, “In this is the Father glorified”? “He rejoiceth when ye abide in Me, when ye bear fruit.”

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St Augustine’s Homily on 1 John 3:18-24

The following is excerpted from two homilies by the saint and encompass what he had to say on verses 17-24. .

Whence beginneth charity, brethren? Attend a little: to what it is perfected, ye have heard; the very end of it, and the very measure of it is what the Lord hath put before us in the Gospel: “Greater love hath no man,” saith He, “than that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Its perfection, therefore, He hath put before us in the Gospel, and here also it is its perfection that is put before us: but ye ask yourselves, and say to yourselves, When shall it be possible for us to have “this” charity? Do not too soon despair of thyself. Haply, it is born and is not yet perfect; nourish it, that it be not choked. But thou wilt say to me, And by what am I to know it? For to what it is perfected, we have heard; whence it begins, let us hear. He goes on to say: “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have hunger,  and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how can the love of God dwell in him?” (1 John 3:17).  Lo, whence charity begins withal! If thou art not yet equal to the dying for thy brother, be thou even now equal to the giving of thy means to thy brother. Even now let charity smite thy bowels, that not of vainglory thou shouldest do it, but of the innermost marrow of mercy; that thou consider him, now in want. For if thy superfluities thou canst not give to thy brother, canst thou lay down thy life for thy brother? There lies thy money in thy bosom, which thieves may take from thee; and though thieves do not take it, by dying thou wilt leave it, even if it leave not thee while living: what wilt thou do with it? Thy brother hungers, he is in necessity: be-like he is in suspense, is distressed by his creditor: he is thy brother, alike ye are bought, one is the price paid for you, ye are both redeemed by the blood of Christ: see whether thou have mercy, if thou have this world’s means. Perchance thou sayest, “What concerns it me? Am I to give my may not suffer trouble?” If money, that he this be the answer thy heart makes to thee, the love of the Father abideth not in thee. If the love of the Father abide not in thee, thou art not born of God. How boastest thou to be a Christian? Thou hast the name, and hast not the deeds. But if the work shall follow the name, let any call thee pagan, show thou by deeds that thou art a Christian. For if by deeds thou dost not show thyself a Christian, all men may call thee a Christian yet; what doth the name profit thee where the thing is not forthcoming? “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how can the love of God dwell in him?” And then he goes on: “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

I suppose the thing is now made manifest to you my brethren: this great and most concerning secret and mystery (sacramentum). What is the force of charity, all Scripture doth set forth; but I know not whether any where it be more largely set forth than in this Epistle. We pray you and beseech you in the Lord, that both what ye have heard ye will keep in memory, and to that which is yet to be said, until the epistle be finished, will come with earnestness, and with earnestness hear the same. But open ye your heart for the good seed: root out the thorns, that that which we are sowing in you be not choked, but rather that the harvest may grow, and that the Husbandman may rejoice and make ready the barn for you as for grain, not the fire as for the chaff.

My brethren, this sentence does behoove to abide in your heart, seeing it was the last ye heard. “My little children, let us not love only in word and in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” Then he goes on: “And herein we know that we are of the truth, and assure our hearts before Him.” “For if our heart think ill of us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.” He had said,” Let us not love only in word and in tongue, but in work and in truth:” we are asked, In what work, or in what truth, is he known that loveth God, or loveth his brother? Above he had said up to what point charity is perfected: what the Lord saith in the Gospel, “Greater love than this hath no man, that one lay down his life for his friends,” Jn 15:13 this same had the apostle also said: “As He laid down His life for us, we ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren.” 1 Jn 3:16 This is the perfection of charity, and greater can not at all be found. But because it is not perfect in all, and that man ought not to despair in whom it is not perfect, if that be already born which may be perfected: and of course if born, it must be nourished, and by certain nourishments of its own must be brought unto its proper perfection: therefore, we have asked concerning the commencement of charity, where it begins, and there have straightway found: “But whoso hath this world’s goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of the Father in him?” 1 Jn 3:17 Here then hath this charity, my brethren, its beginning: to give of one’s superfluities to him that hath need to him that is in any distress; of one’s temporal abundance to deliver his brother from temporal tribulation. Here is the first rise of charity. This, being thus begun, if thou shalt nourish with the word of God and hope of the life to come, thou wilt come at last unto that perfection, that thou shalt be ready to lay down thy life for thy brethren.

But, because many such things are done by men who seek other objects, and who love not the brethren; let us come back to the testimony of conscience. How do we prove that many such things are done by men who love not the brethren? How many in heresies and schisms call themselves martyrs! They seem to themselves to lay down their lives for their brethren. If for the brethren they laid down their lives, they would not separate themselves from the whole brotherhood. Again, how many there are who for the sake of vainglory bestow much, give much, and seek therein but the praise of men and popular glory, which is full of windiness, and possesses no stability! Seeing, then, there are such, where shall be the proof of brotherly charity? Seeing he wished it to be proved, and hath said by way of admonition, “My little children, let us not love only in word and in tongue; but in deed and in truth;” we ask, in what work, in what truth? Can there be a more manifest work than to give to the poor? Many do this of vainglory, not of love. Can there be a greater work than to die for the brethren? This also, many would fain be thought to do, who do it of vainglory to get a name, not from bowels of love. It remains, that that man loves his brother, who before God, where God alone seeth, assures his own heart, and questions his. heart whether he does this indeed for love of the brethren; and his witness is that eye which penetrates the heart, where man cannot look. Therefore Paul the Apostle, because he was ready to die for the brethren, and said, “I will myself be spent for your souls” (2 Cor 12:15), yet, because God only saw this in his heart, not the mortal men to whom he spake, he saith to them, “But to me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you or at man’s bar” (1 Cor 4:3).  And the same apostle shows also in a certain place, that these things are oft done of empty vainglory, not upon the solid ground of love: for speaking of the praises of charity he saith, “If I distribute all my goods to the poor. and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” (1 Cor 13:3).  Is it possible for a man to do this without charity? It is. For they that have divided unity, are persons that have not charity. Seek there, and ye shall see many giving much to the poor; shallsee others prepared to welcome death, insomuch that where there is no persecutor they cast themselves headlong: these doubtless without charity do this. Let us come back then to conscience, of which the apostle saith: “For our glorying is this, the testimony of our conscience” (2 Cor 1:12).  Let us come back to conscience, of which the same saith, “But let each prove his own work, and then he shall have glorying in himself and not in another” (Gal 6:4).  Therefore, let each one of us “prove his own work,” whether it flow forth from the vein of charity, whether it be from charity as the root that his good works sprout forth as branches. “But let each prove his own work, and then he shall have glorying in himself and not in another,” not when another’s tongue bears witness to him, but when his own conscience bears it.

This it is then that he enforces here. “In this we know that we are of the truth, when in deed and in truth” we love, “not only in words and in tongue: and assure our heart before Him” (1 John 3:19).  What meaneth, “before Him?” Where He seeth. Whence the Lord Himself in the Gospel saith: “Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward with your Father which is in heaven” (Matt 6:1-3).  And what meaneth, “Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:” except that the right hand means a pure conscience, the left hand the lust of the world? Many through lust of the world do many wonderful things: the left hand worketh, not the right. The right hand ought to work, and without knowledge of the left hand, so that lust of the world may not even mix itself therewith when by love we work aught that is good. And where do we get to know this? Thou art before God: question thine heart, see what thou hast done, and what therein was thine aim; thy salvation, or the windy praise of men. Look within, for man cannot judge whom he cannot see. If “we assure our heart,” let it be “before Him.” Because “if our heart think ill of us,” i.e. accuse us within, that we do not the thing with that mind it ought to be done withal, “greater is God than our heart, and knoweth all things.” Thou hidest thine heart from man: hide it from God if thou canst! How shalt thou hide it from Him, to whom it is said by a sinner, fearing and confessing, “Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? and from Thy face whither shall I flee?” (Ps 139:7-8) He sought a way to flee, to escape the judgment of God, and found none. For where is God not? “If I shall ascend,” saith he, “into heaven, Thou art there: if I shalldescend into hell, Thou art there.” Whither wilt thou go? whither wilt thou flee? Wilt thou hear counsel? If thou wouldest flee from Him, flee to Him. Flee to Him by confessing, not from Him by hiding: hide thou canst not, but confess thou canst. Say unto Him, “Thou art my place to flee unto” (Ps 32:7); and let love be nourished in thee, which alone leadeth unto life. Let thy conscience bear thee witness that thy love is of God. If it be of God, do not wish to display it before men; because neither men’s praises lift thee unto heaven, nor their censures put thee down from thence. Let Him see, who crowneth thee: be He thy witness, by whom as judge thou art crowned. “Greater is God than our heart, and knoweth all things.”

“Beloved, if our heart think not ill of us, we have confidence towards God” (1 Jn 3:21) —What meaneth, “If our heart think not ill”? If it make true answer to us, that we love and that there is genuine love in us: not feigned but sincere; seeking a brother’s salvation, expecting no emolument from a brother, but only his salvation—“we have confidence toward God: and whatsoever we ask, we shall receive of Him, because we keep His commandments” (1 Jn 3:21-22)—Therefore, not in the sight of men, but where God Himself seeth, in the heart—“we have confidence,” then, “towards God: and whatsoever we ask, we shall receive of Him:” howbeit, because we keep His commandments. What are “His commandments”? Must we be always repeating? “A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another.” Jn 13:34 It is charity itself that he speaks of, it is this that he enforces. Whoso then shall have brotherly charity, and have it before God, where God seeth, and his heart being interrogated under righteous examination make him none other answer than that the genuine root of charity is there for good fruits to come from; that man hath confidence with God, and whatsoever he shall ask, he shall receive of Him, because he keepeth His commandments.

Here a question meets us: for it is not this or that man, or thou or I that come in question,—for if I have asked any thing of God and receive it not, any person may easily say of me, “He hath not charity: “and of any man soever of this present time, this may easily be said; and let any think what he will, a man of man:—not we, but those come more in question, those men of whom it is on all hands known that they were saints when they wrote, and that they are now with God. Where is the man that hath charity, if Paul and it not, who said, “Our mouth is open unto you, O ye Corinthians, our heart is enlarged; ye are not straitened in us:” 2 Cor 6:11-12; 2 Cor 12:15 who said,” I will myself be spent for your souls:” and so great grace was in him, that it was manifested that he had charity. And yet we find that he asked and did not receive. What say we, brethren? It is a question: look attentively to God: it is a great question, this also. Just as, where it was said of sin, “He that is born of God sinneth not:” we found this sin to be the violating of charity, and that this was the thing strictly intended in that place: so too we ask now what it is that he would say. For if thou look but to the words, it seems plain: if thou take the examples into the account, it is obscure. Than the words here nothing can be plainer. “And whatsoever we ask, we shall receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” “Whatsoever we ask,” saith he, “we shall receive of Him.” He hath put us sorely to straits. In the other place also he would put us to straits, if he meant all sin: but then we found room to expound it in this, that he meant it of a certain sin, not of all sin; howbeit o[ a sin which “whosoever is born of God committeth not:” and we found that this same sin is none other than the violation of charity. We have also a manifest example from the Gospel, when the Lord saith, “If I had not come, they had not had sin.” Jn 15:22 How? Were the Jews innocent when He came to them, because He so speaks? Then if He had not come, would they have had no sin? Then did the Physician’s presence make one sick, not take away the fever? What madman even would say this? He came not but to cure and heal the sick. Therefore when He said, “If I had not come, they had not had sin,” what would He have to be understood, but a certain sin in particular? For there was a sin which the Jews would not have had. What sin? That they believed not on Him, that when he had come they despised Him. As then He there said “sin,” and it does not follow that we are to understand all sin, but a certain sin: so here also not all sin, lest it be contrary to that place where he saith, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us:” 1 John 1:8 but a certain sin in particular, that is, the violation of charity. But in this place he hath bound us more tightly: “If we shall ask,” he hath said, “if our heart accuse us not, and tell us in answer, in the sight of God, that true love is in us;” “Whatsoever we ask, we shall receive of Him.”

Well now: I have already told you, my, beloved brethren, let no man turn toward us. For what are we? or what are ye? What, but the Church of God which is known to all? And, if it please Him, in that Church are we; and those of us who by love abide in it, there let us persevere, if we would show the love we have. But then the apostle Paul, what evil are we to think of him? He not love the brethren! He not have within himself the testimony of his conscience in the sight of God! Paul not have within him that root of charity whence all good fruits proceeded What madman would say this? Well then: where find we that the apostle asked and did not receive? He saith himself: “Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to buffet me. For which thing I besought the Lord thrice, that He would take it from me. And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:7-9).  Lo, he was not heard in his prayer that the “angel of Satan” should be taken from him. But wherefore? Because it was not good for him. He was heard, then, for salvation, when he was not heard according to his wish. Know, my beloved, a great mystery (sacramentum): which we urge upon your consideration on purpose that it may not slip from you in your temptations. The saints are in all things heard unto salvation: they are always heard in that which respects their eternal salvation; it is this that they desire: because in regard of this, their prayers are always heard.

But let us distinguish God’s different ways of hearing prayer. For we find some not heard for their wish, heard for salvation: and again some we find heard for their wish, not heard for salvation. Mark this difference, hold fast this example of a man not heard for his wish but heard for salvation. Hear the apostle Paul; for what is the hearing of prayer unto salvation, God Himself showed him: “Sufficient for thee,” saith He, “is my grace; for strength is perfected in weakness.” Thou hast besought, hast cried, hast thrice cried: the very cry thou didst raise once for all I heard, I turned not away mine ears from thee; I know what I should do: thou wouldest have it taken away, the healing thing by which thou art burned; I know the infirmity by which thou art burdened. Well then: here is a man who was heard for salvation, while as to his will he was not heard. Where find we persons heard for their will, not heard for salvation? Do we find, think we, some wicked, some impious man, heard of God for his will, not heard for salvation? If I put to you the instance of some man, perchance thou wilt say to me, “It is thou that callest him wicked, for he was righteous; had he not been righteous, his prayer would not have been heard by God.”The instance I am about to allege is of one, of whose iniquity and impiety none can doubt. The devil himself: he asked for Job, and received (Job 1:11-12). Have ye not here also heard concerning the devil, that “he that committeth sin is of the devil”? (1 Jn 3:3; 1 Jn 3:8).  Not that the devil created, but that the sinner imitates. Is it not said of him, “He stood not in the truth”? (John 8:44) Is not even he “that old serpent,” who, through the woman pledged the first man in the drink of poison? (Gen 3:1-6). Who even in the case of Job, kept for him his wife, that by her the husband might be, not comforted, but tempted? The devil asked for a holy man, to tempt him; and he received: the apostle asked that the thorn in the flesh might be taken from him, and he received not. But the apostle was more heard than the devil. For the apostle was heard for salvation, though not for his wish: the devil was heard for his wish, but for damnation. For that Jb was yielded up to him to be tempted, was in order that by his standing the proof the devil should be tormented. But this, my brethren, we find not only in the Old Testament books, but also in the Gospel. The demons besought the Lord, when He expelled them from the man, that they might be permitted to go into the swine. Should the Lord not have power to tell them not to approach even those creatures? For, had it not been His will to permit this, they were not about to rebel against the King of heaven and earth. But with a view to a certain mystery, with a certain ulterior meaning, He let the demons go into the swine: to show that the devil hath dominion in them that lead the life of swine (Luke 8:32).  Demons then were heard in their request; was the apostle not heard? Or rather (what is truer) shall we say, The apostle was heard, the demons not heard? Their will was effected; his weal was perfected.

Agreeably with this, we ought to understand that God, though He give not to our will, doth give for our salvation. For suppose the thing thou have asked be to thine hurt, and the Physician knows that it is to thine hurt; what then? It is not to be said that the physician does not give ear to thee, when, perhaps, thou askest for cold water, and if it is good for thee, he gives it immediately, if not good, he gives it not. Had he no ears for thy request, or rather, did he give ear for thy weal, even when he gainsaid thy will? Then let there be in you charity, my brethren; let it be in you, and then set, your minds at rest: even when the thing ye ask for is not given you, your prayer is, granted, only, ye know it not. Many have been given into their own hands, to their own hurt: of whom the apostle saith, “God gave them up to their own hearts’ lusts” (Rom 1:24). Some man hath asked for a great sum of money; he hath received, to his hurt. When he had it not, he had little to fear; no sooner did he come to have it, than he became a prey to the more powerful. Was not that man’s request granted to his own hurt, who would needs have that for which he should be sought after by the robber, whereas, being poor, none sought after him? Learn to beseech God that ye may commit it to the Physician to do what He knows best. Do thou confess the disease, let Him apply the means of healing. Do thou only hold fast charity. For He will needs cut, will needs burn; what if thou criest out, and art not spared for thy crying under the cutting, under the burning and the tribulation, yet He knows how far the rottenness reaches. Thou wouldest have Him even now take off His hands, and He considers only the deepness of the sore; He knows how far to go. He does not attend to thee for thy will, but he does attend to thee for thy healing. Be ye sure, then, my brethren, that what the apostle saith is true: “For we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered: for He maketh intercession for the saints” (Rom 8:26-27). How is it said, “The Spirit itself intercedeth for the saints,” but as meaning the charity which is wrought in thee by the Spirit? For therefore saith the same apostle: “The charity of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us” (Rom 5:5). It is charity that groans, it is charity that prays: against it He who gave it cannot shut His ears. Set your minds at rest: let charity; ask, and the ears of God are there. Not thatwhich thou wishest is done, but that is done which is advantageous. Therefore, “whatever we ask,” saith he, “we shall receive of Him,” I have already said, If thou understand it to mean, “for salvation,” there is no question: if not for salvation, there is a question, and a great one, a question that makes thee an accuser of the apostle Paul. “Whatever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do these things that are pleasing in His sight:” within, where He seeth.

And what are those commandments? “This,” saith he, “is His commandment, That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another (1 John 3:23).  Ye see that this is the commandment: ye see that whoso doeth aught against this commandment, doeth the sin from which “every one that is born of God” is free. “As He gave us commandment:” that we love one another. “And he that keepeth His commandment” (1 John 3:24) —ye see that none other thing is bidden us than that we love one another—“And he that keepeth His commandment shall abide in Him, and He in him. “And in this we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us. Is it not manifest that this is what the Holy Ghost works in man, that there should be in him love and charity? Is it not manifest, as the Apostle Paul saith, that “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given us”? (Rom 5:5).  For [our apostle] was speaking of charity, and was saying that we ought in the sight of God to interrogate our own heart. “But if our heart think not ill of us:” i.e. if it confess that from the love of our brother is done in us whatever is done in any good work. And then besides, in speaking of the commandment, he says this: “This is His commandment, That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” “And he that doeth His commandment abideth41  in Him, and He in him. In this we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us.” If in truth thou find that thou hast charity, thou hast the Spirit of God in order to understand: for a very necessary thing it is.

A full online edition of St Augustine’s homilies on 1 John can be found at New Advent.

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Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on 1 John 3:18-24

1Jn 3:18  My little children, may we not love in word nor in tongue, but in word and in truth!

He condemns here all false charity, which exhibits itself in words only, as S. James (James 2:15) does also.  S. Gregory (Moral. xxi. 14) says that our charity must ever be exhibited in reverent words, &c., and in ministering bountifully. And S. Bernard (in Song 2:4) explaining the words, “He ordered charity in me” (see. Vulg.) says, “He requires not the craft of the lying tongue, nor the taste of affected wisdom. Let us love in deed and in truth, being moved to good deeds by the impulse of living charity rather than by any affected love. Give me a man who loves God with all his heart, himself and his neighbours, and everything else relating to God with well-ordered love, and I boldly pronounce him to be a wise man, to whose taste all things seem to be just as they really are, and who can in truth safely say, Because He hath ordered love in me. But who is he?”

But observe here, that if any one cannot succour in deed and act (as, e g., being too poor), yet he can do so in words and kind feelings. And again, he who gives relief should not give it grudgingly, or with words of reproof, but cheerfully and kindly. See Rom 12:8; Sirach 18:15.

S. Gregory (Hom. iii. in Evang.) says well, “Let not any one credit himself with anything which his mind suggests, unless his acts bear witness to it. For in loving God, our tongue, our thoughts, and our life are all required. Love towards Him is never idle. It worketh great things if it really exist, but if it refuses to do so, it is not love.” And S. Chrysostom (Hom. liii. et lxviii. ad pop.) says, “The more thou givest to God, the more does He love thee, and to those He loves more, He gives more grace; when He sees any one to whom He owes nothing, He flies from him, and avoids him; but when He sees any one to whom He owes something, He runs up to him at once. Thou shouldest therefore do everything to make God thy debtor.” And then he explains how this can be done, viz., by showing mercy to the poor. “Give largely, that thou mayest be rich, scatter abroad, that thou mayest gather in, imitate a sower. Sow in blessings, that thou mayest reap in blessings.” And S. Leo (Serm. vi. de Jejun. x. Mensis) says, “Persevere, 0 Christian, in thy bounty, give that which thou wilt receive back again, sow what thou wilt reap, scatter that which thou wilt gather up. Fear not the cost, be not anxious or doubtful about the result. Thy substance, when well laid out, is increased, and to wish for rightful profit for thy piety, is to traffic for the gain of an eternal reward. He who rewardeth thee wishes thee to be munificent, and He who gives that thou hast, orders thee to give it away, saying, ‘Give, and it shall be given,’ and so on.” S. Chrysostom accordingly said rightly, “that almsgiving was of all things the most gainful.”

1Jn 3:19  and in this we know that of the truth we are, and before Him we shall assure our hearts,

In this we know that of the truth we are, that we have true love, that we are the sons of truth, of true and genuine charity.

Secondly, we are of God, who is the chief and highest truth, and true charity. See John 14:6, John 18:37. And accordingly S. Augustine rightly concludes (de Moribus Eccl. cap. xxxiii.), “Let our meals, our words, our dress, our appearance be blended with charity, and be united and joined together in one charity; to violate this is counted as sinning against God . . . if only this be wanting, everything else is vain and empty; where it exists is perfect fulness.”

Before him we shall assure out hearts. (1.) Hugo, Lyranus, and Dionysius explain, We shall induce our hearts to please God daily more and more. (2.) Ferus explains it, We shall gain confidence to ask anything of God. (3.) We shall have our hearts at peace, for we shall persuade them that we are striving after true charity, when we love, not in word, but in deed and in truth. (4.) The sense most clearly is this, We, shall approve our hearts to God in manifesting the fruits of love. We can lie to men by pretending love in our hearts, but we cannot lie to God, who sees the heart. They then who love their neighbour in deed and in truth fear not the eye and judgment of God, but would boldly appear in His sight, lay their hearts before Him, and show that they were resting on real charity. So Œcumenius; and see Gal 1:10, “Do I wish to persuade men or God?” That is, I strive to prove my cause to God. So S. Chrysostom.  S. Augustine reads in this passage, “I wish to make myself approved to God, and not to men.” As S. Augustine (contra Secundi, num. i. 1) says, “Think as you please about Augustine, provided only my conscience accuses me not in the sight of God.”

Morally:  S. John here teaches us to examine all our deeds by the rule of God’s judgment. For frequently we are deceived into thinking that we are acting purely from the love of God, when in fact we are acting from the impure motive of self-love. Before beginning anything conform thyself to this rule, act as in the sight of God, who sees, and will call thee to account. Do it as though it were thy very last act. And in any doubt, adopt that course which thou wouldest wish thou hadst adopted when thou comest to die. So did the Psalmist (Ps 16:8); Elisha ( 2 Kings 3:14); and S. Paul (2 Cor 1:12).

And S. Francis Xavier, “Wherever I am, I would remember that I am on the stage of the world.” And Campion, when about to suffer martyrdom, said, “We are made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men” (1 Cor 4:9). Let us imitate these, and thus “shall we persuade our hearts in His sight.”

1Jn 3:20  because if our heart may condemn–because greater is God than our heart, and He doth know all things.

If we cannot conceal our hypocrisy from our own hearts, much less can we conceal it from God, who is greater and deeper even than our own heart, who is more intimately acquainted with it, and is nearer to it than we are ourselves. If thy conscience condemns thee, how much more will God, who rules over and judges thy conscience? “If we cannot hide anything from our conscience,” says Œcumenius, “how can we hide it from God who is ever present?” “Thou hidest thy conscience from man,” says S. Augustine, “hide it from God if thou canst. Let thy conscience bear thee witness, for it is of God. And if it is of God, do not boast of it before men, because the praises of men exalt thee not, nor do their reproofs bring thee down. Let Him see thee who crowneth thee: let Him, by whose judgment thou wilt be crowned.” Diadochus says (de perf. Spirit. cap. c.), “The judgment of God is far above that of our conscience.” See 1 Cor 4:1 and Ps 43 (Vulg. 7). “Man will go down to his deep heart, and God will be exalted,” that is, man will think many evils in the depth of his heart, but God will be deeper than it. But Lyra, Aquila, and Theodotion read iorem, “will shoot at it.” See A. V.

Thomas Anglicus merely applies the passage thus, If the sin of the heart is great, greater is God’s compassion in forgiving. And God too is greater than our heart, because He alone satisfies the desires of our heart, and even overflows and surpasses them.

1Jn 3:21  Beloved, if our heart may not condemn us, we have boldness toward God,

If our heart may not condemn us, we have boldness toward God, viz., that we shall obtain from Him all that we ask. See Ps 119:6. The contrary is the case with the wicked. See Prov 28:9, as S. Gregory says (Mor. x. 15, or 17), “He who remembers that he still refuses to listen to the command of God, doubts whether he will obtain what he wishes for. And our heart blames us when we pray, when it calls to mind that he opposes the will of Him whom he is addressing. ‘As oil makes the light to shine, so do good deeds give confidence to the soul.’

1Jn 3:22  And whatsoever we shall ask, we shall receive of him: because we keep his commandments and do those things which are pleasing in his sight.

And whatsoever we shall ask, we shall receive of him. Whatever, that is, that is good, and tends to the glory of God (see John 5:14).  Because we keep his commandments and do those things which are pleasing in his sight. For it is only a fitting thing that if man do the will of God, He on His side should do the will of man. (See Matt 7:7; Mark 11:24; James 1:5-6; John 14:12-14).  He alludes to Chris’s promise (John 15:7).  For deeds ought to be supported by prayer, and prayer by deeds. As St Gregory says, “Prayer is void, when our deeds are wicked, for they outweigh the force of our prayers” (Epistle 9, 45).  See Lam 3:41.  On which Rabanus remarks, “He lifts up his hands, and not his heart,” &c.  The Laconians had a proverb, that we must first put our hand to work, ad then pray to fortune. St John here teaches that our prayer is strengthened by confidence, and that confidence springs from obedience. See Isaiah 1:15; Matt 2:2; Prov 28:9; Ps 50:16; 41:13; 34:16; 33:20; 37:4.  He hears not only our prayers, but out thoughts and desires.  St Dominic said that he never asked anything from God which he did not obtain.  So also St Thomas Aquinas, St Scholastica, St Catherine of Siena, and others.

And do those things which are pleasing in his sight.  That is to say His commands, and also evangelical counsels (of perfection). For he who strives perfectly to please God, includes not merely His commands and precepts, but also His smallest hints and counsels.  And this, as it is a hared matter, so is it most pleasing to God.  And hence St Bernard calls a monk a standing miracle.  All our holiness consists in our ever studying and endeavoring to please God.  For this is an act of most pure and constant love.

Observe that love is of two kinds, desire and friendship.  The first is that with which we study to please God, that we may obtain from Him the reward of eternal glory.  But this is rather an act of hope than of love.  (See Ps 119:112; see Vulgate, propter retributionem).  But the love of friendship is that which makes us strive to please Him merely out of love, and by doing those things in which He takes delight and pleasure.

Our Lord has this love from the very moment of His conception, and all His earthly life through.  See John 8:29; Ps 40:9; Rom 12:2; Col 1:9.  And accordingly wise men teach that it is an excellent practice to think every day, What does God wish me to do at this moment?  Just as the servants of a king watch his every movement, and fly rather that go to do his bidding.  Much more should we obey God in all things, for He is the Supreme Majesty, Justice, and holiness, the highest wisdom, goodness, and power, the Supreme Lord, Lawgiver, Judge, and Punisher of all men.  And moreover, He who created us, preserves, redeems, and sanctifies us, and pours down on us, every instant, innumerable blessings.  See St Gregory (Moralia, 6, 12).  And the Abbot Ammon says, “Desire to fulfill the will of God at all times, as being indeed the kingdom of heaven, and the crown of a perfect life, and as believing with all thy heart, that if far surpasses all human wisdom” (apd, S. Ephr. in paræn).  The Abbot John Cassian said that “he had never done his own will.”  And Aloysius Gonzaga said that he had no scruple even about his excessive austerity, because he had done nothing except by the will of God, of which his superior was the interpreter.  This is what God praises, “My delight is in her (Heph-zibah), and St Bernard, Sermon 38, in Cant.

1Jn 3:23  And this is his commandment: That we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as he hath given commandment unto us.

And this is his commandment: That we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ. That is, in the Person thus named.  See Philippians 2:9.  And love one another.  On these two commandments all the rest depend.  For to believe in Christ includes loving, worshipping, and obeying Him, believing Him also to be the Son of God, and thus believing in God the Father also.  And the command to love our neighbor presupposes the love of God.  See Matt 12:40.  St Augustine says, “He loves Thee, O God, but little, who loves anything together with Thee, which He loves not for Thy sake.  O thou love that burnest, and art never extinguished! O my love, my God, enkindle me.  Thou commandest continence: give what Thou commandest, and command what Thou wilt” (Confess 10, 29).

As he hath given commandment unto us.  This signifies that Christ specially and frequently enjoined the duty of mutual love on His apostles, and required them to inculcate it on the faithful.

1Jn 3:24  And he that keepeth his commandments abideth in him, and he in him. And in this we know that he abideth in us by the Spirit which he hath given us.

And he that keepeth his commandments abideth in him, and he in him. The word ‘abideth’ signifies indwelling, intimate union and intercourse.  God then dwells in the person who obeys Him.

1.  By virtue of the command.  For the law and the maker of the law abide in those who are under it, just as the doctrine of the teacher abides in him who takes it in, and he who is subject to the law, abides therein by discipline and obedience.

2.  By love, for he who keeps the commands of God loves Him, and is loved by Him, just as he who loves abides in the object he loves, for the soul abides more in the object it loves, than in him whom it animates, and God abides in a soul, both as loving it, and as loved by it.  For “he who cleaveth to the Lord is one spirit” (1 Cor 6:17); and see St Bernard, Serm 31, in Catn.

3.  He who loves and obeys God abides in Him as being under His protection, and God abides in him by the protections He gives. Ps 91:1; Zech 2:8.  “He who toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eye,” naming the dearest and tenderest part of the body; see also Gen 15:1, Ps 31:3.  Whence Bede says, “Let God be thy house, and be thou the house of God.  Abide in God, and let God abide in thee.  God abideth in thee, to keep thee; thou abidest in God, lest thou shouldest fall.  Observe His commandments, hold fast charity, tear not thyself from His faith, that thou mayest glory in His presence, now by faith, and hereafter by sight.  And He will abide in thee for ever, as the Psalmist says” (see Ps 5:12).  And St Chrysostom, on Romans 8:14 says, “To obtain the inheritance of children, it is not sufficient to be once imbued with the Spirit, unless we are ever led by His guidance, for He is the steersman and the guide of our soul, leading us into battle against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

4.  God abides in him who loves Him, as locally placed in Him.  For a holy soul is the throne, the temple, and the abode of God.  See 1 Cor 3:17; 66:1-2.

5.  And lastly, God abides in a righteous man substantially, because He communicates His essence and substance to him, making him partaker of the divine nature, 2 Pet 1:4.

And in this we know that he abideth in us by the Spirit which he hath given us.  See Rom 5:5, also, below, 1 John 4:16.  St St Augustine, Bede, Œcumenius, and others.  St Augustine says, “This connection clearly shows that brotherly love, which we see so authoritatively preached, is not merely from God, but is God Himself.  When therefore we love our brother with the highest love (dilectione), we love our brother for the sake of God.”

We know.  Not by special and divine faith, not even with absolute certainty, but with moral and conjectural certainty, from outward signs and tokens; and the more a man experiences them, the more certain is he that he is in a state of grace, and the more he grows in virtue the more certain does he become.  And therefore, Andreas Vega teaches that holy men can have such certainty as to exclude all doubt.  But this is the lot of very few and of pre-eminent saints; and yet even those, if they look at their own infirmity, might perchance be afraid of being deceived in this matter, though in fact they may have no fear.  As St Jerome says, “We ought at no time to be secure, but always to look forward to the day of judgment” (On Micah).  As St Gregory, “Thou shouldest not feel secure, but till the very end of thy life shouldest ever suspect thyself, and fear committing sin” (Epist. lib. 6, 22).  And St Bernard, “I know neither my own, or my neighbor’s conscience (though I ought to watch over them).  Both are an inscrutable abyss, both are dark as night” (Serm. 3, de Adv.).  See also Conc. Trid. sess. 6, cap 16).  The confidence and certainty of holy men should ever be blended with fear, as St Paul says, Philippians 1:11.  For God wishes that this fear should be a bridle to keep us low, and also a spur to stimulate our virtue.

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