Father Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on John 14:15-21

Joh 14:15  If you love me, keep my commandments.

If you love Me, &c. Christ here takes His farewell of His disciples, gives His last commands, which pertain to the exercise of the three chief theological virtues, faith, hope, and charity. Concerning faith He speaks in the 1st verse, You believe in God, &c. Concerning hope in the 3rd verse, Whatsoever ye shall ask, &c. Now He speaks of charity, If you love Me, keep My commandments. And these three are united together. For faith begets hope, and hope begets charity. The meaning then is, If ye wish to obtain these My promises, and to gain what ye ask in My name, then love Me in return who love you, and persevere and grow in My love. If ye wish to please Me, and through Me obtain all that ye ask, keep My commandments. And if they do this, He promises them a great reward, saying,

Joh 14:16  And I will ask the Father: and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you for ever:

And I will ask the Father, &c., i.e., If ye persevere in My love, and keep My commandments, I will obtain for you by My prayers the Holy Ghost, which the Father will pour upon you at Pentecost. And He will work through you even greater things than I have wrought.

And I will ask, as man. For Christ as man prays for us, says S. Augustine.

Another Paraclete, i.e., another than Myself. From hence it is plain that Christ also was the Paraclete of the Apostles and the faithful. That is, He is—1. an Advocate, an Intercessor, according to those words of Paul, ‘We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 2. An Exhorter, an Inciter. 3. A Comforter, as the Syriac translates. All these meanings are included in the Greek παζάκλητος. But when Christ went away, He sent another Paraclete, even the Holy Ghost, who in these three things took Christ’s place. For, 1. He is the Advocate of the faithful, “Who intercedes for us with groanings unutterable” (Rom_8:26). He likewise is our Exhorter and Consoler. To these two offices Christ here specially refers. As though He said, I, 0 ye disciples, have taught you until this present; I have called you, and comforted you, and you are very sad on account of My near departure. But lift up your minds and trust. For I will send you another Comforter in My place, who will teach, console, and protect you, not for a little while, but all through your life. The Holy Spirit then is this Paraclete, i.e., 1. An Exhorter, an Inciter, because He stirred up the Apostles to undertake noble works of virtue for the glory of God, that they should preach the Gospel throughout the whole world, not fearing tyrants or tortures, yea, being ambitious of the most dreadful deaths for Christ’s sake. 2. A Consoler, because He would comfort and support them in adversities, distresses, doubts and temptations. For the Holy Spirit is as it were a burning and shining fire, which drives all darkness, fear, and torpor from the mind. As S. Bernard says (Serm. 2, de. Pent.), “Those whom He fills, He makes to be fervent in spirit, and to have knowledge of the truth.” And again, “The Paraclete gives the pledge of salvation, the light of knowledge; and the strength of life,—that what is impossible by nature should be made possible, yea easy, by grace.”

He shall give you another, 0 ye Apostles, at the next Pentecost. From hence S. Jerome (Quæs. 9, ad Hedib.) refutes the heresy of Montanus, whom Tertullian followed, who said that long after the Apostles the Holy Ghost first came down upon the heresiarch Montanus, A.D. 220, and therefore that Montanus was the Paraclete promised by Christ.

That He may abide with you for ever. From this promise of Christ it is that the Holy Ghost always abides in the Church, and assists the faithful, so as to be a Comforter in afflictions, and a stirrer-up to heroic works of virtue.  S. Augustine proposes the objection, “How shall we keep the commandments, that we may receive Him, when, unless we do possess Him, we cannot keep them?” He answers, “He who loveth hath the Holy Spirit, and by having Him deserves to have more of Him, that by having more of Him, he may love more.”

The Spirit of Truth. Why is the Holy Ghost called the Spirit of Truth? First, S. Cyril answers, because He is the Spirit of the Son, proceeding by Spiration from the Son, whose special attributes are wisdom and truth, according to the words, I am the way, the truth, and the life.

2. Because the Holy Ghost has declared to the world that Jesus is God, and the Son of God, the Messiah and Saviour. For this was what Christ pressed home, saying, Philip, he that seeth Me, seeth the Father also. And I am in the Father, and the Father in Me. So S. Basil (lib. 2, de Spirit Sanc. c. i8).

3. Euthymius says, He is called the Spirit of Truth, i.e., most true and excellent, as opposed to an angel, the soul, or wind, which are spirits in a sense.

4. Of truth, because He is worthy of credit, says S. Chrysostom.

5. Others say that the Spirit of Truth means that He is the Spirit of the New Testament. For to it was the Holy Ghost reserved, as the Spirit of liberty and love, whereas in the Old Testament He was the Spirit of bondage and fear.

6. And most plainly, the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Truth, because He is the Author of all truth, and the alone Teacher and Giver of pure and perfect truth. He teaches us all truths necessary for salvation, and delivers us from all errors. And so Christ explains this to us, saying in the 16th chapter, “When He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He shall teach you all truth.” So too in Isa 11:2, the same Spirit is called “the Spirit of wisdom and counsel,” &c., because He inspires us with those virtues.

Joh 14:17  The spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, nor knoweth him. But you shall know him; because he shall abide with you and shall be in you.

The Spirit of Truth therefore is opposed to the evil spirit of the world, which is false and deceitful. Wherefore Christ adds, whom the world cannot receive. Whence S. Augustine (lib. de grat. Nov. Test.) says that the Holy Ghost is the soul of the Church. “The Holy Spirit is the love and bond of union of the Father and the Son. To Him pertains the Society by which we are made one. A man’s body consists of many members, and one soul animates them all, causing the eye to see, and the ear to hear. So likewise the Holy Ghost contains and animates the members of the Body of Christ which is the Church.”

Whom the world cannot receive, i.e. worldly and carnal men, who gape after earthly desires and vain riches. Such persons cannot receive the Holy Ghost, because He is altogether heavenly, spiritual, and Divine, who teaches us to despise all earthly things as vanity, and to love and embrace heavenly things as true and solid. For as the Apostle says (Rom. viii.), “The prudence of the flesh is the enemy of God.” (Vulg.) Whence S. Basil says (lib. de Spir. Sc.), “As in an unpolished mirror the images of things cannot be received nor discerned, so cannot a man receive the illumination of the Holy Ghost, unless he cast away sin and fleshly lusts,”

Because it seeth Him not, &c. Because it bath the eyes of the mind earthly, and blinded by the lusts of the flesh. Wherefore neither doth it know Him, i.e. practically, so as to love and desire Him.

But you shall know Him, &c. Know, i.e., His power, efficiency, doctrine, holiness. For He by His presence in you shall exercise His Divine power and grace. By which it shall come to pass that ye shall know Him, love Him when known, and long that He may be known to others. It is as the taste of pepper when it is bruised, or as the hidden power of fire in wood, which bursts forth into a mighty conflagration.

Shall abide with you. The Vulg., with S. Augustine and Nonnus, reads μενεί in the future tense. The Greek with a different accent has μένει, abides. With this agree the Syriac and Theophylact. Listen to S. Bernard (Serm. 20, inter Parv.), “The Holy Ghost proceeds, breathes, inhabits, fills, glorifies. He is said to proceed in two ways, from whence, and whither. From whence? From the Father and the Son. Whither? To the creature. By proceeding He predestinates. By breathing He calls those whom He has predestinated. By inhabiting He justifies those whom He has called. By filling He heaps merits upon those whom He has justified. By glorifying He enriches with rewards those upon whom He has accumulated merits.”
Joh 14:18  I will not leave you orphans: I will come to you.

I will not leave you orphans, &c. Forasmuch as Christ called His disciples sons, He now says to them, I will not leave you orphans, i.e., without a Father. Because, although I am going away from you to the Father, I will send you another Comforter in My stead. It is not that going away I will desert you, but that going away I will return, and will come to you.

Christ did this—1. And especially, when after the resurrection He appeared to His apostles in bodily presence, and taught them, and made them glad. 2. He did it, when at Pentecost He visibly sent them the Holy Ghost in the appearance of tongues of fire. 3. He did it invisibly, by often spiritually visiting them from heaven, and communicating to them His heavenly gifts. 4. He will do it visibly in the day of judgment when He will make His Apostles assessors with Himself. All this Christ further explains in what follows.

Joh 14:19  Yet a little while and the world seeth me no more. But you see me: because I live, and you shall live.

Yet a little while, &c. But a short period of life remains to Me, only a few hours, after which I shall die upon the cross, and be withdrawn from this world; but ye shall see Me, because the third day I shall rise from the dead, and show Myself to you. This is the literal meaning.

Tropologically, as the world shall not see Me with the eye of sense, so neither shall it see Me with the eye of the mind, because it will not believe in Me, nor recognise Me as the Messiah.

Anagogically. The world shall not see Me after the day of judgment gloriously reigning in heaven.

Because I live, and you shall live. Ye shall see Me, because I shall rise from the dead, and live again. Ye also shall live that ye may behold Me living again, that ye may be able to preach My death and resurrection to the whole world. As Theophylact says, When ye shall see Me living again ye shall rejoice, and as though ye had been dead, ye shall live again at My appearing. As Jacob, when he heard that Joseph whom he supposed to be dead was alive, he awoke, as it were out of a deep sleep, and lived again. Christ speaks in the present tense, I live, because He would signify that He would immediately rise again from the dead. As S. Augustine says, “He spoke of Himself as living, in the present, of them as about to live in the future. For His Resurrection was presently to take place, but theirs was to be deferred to the end of the world.”

Joh 14:20  In that day you shall know that I am in my Father: and you in me, and I in you.

In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, &c. After I have risen again, and ascended into heaven, and sent you the Holy Ghost, ye shall by His illumination know these three things more clearly and certainly, viz., that I am in the Father, by the unity of the Divine Essence, that is to say, that I am true God. 2. That ye may be in Me through Love, through the special guardianship which I have over you. Cyril adds a deeper meaning, “That ye may be in Me through union of substance. For since I have assumed human flesh, I have united the whole nature of man, and as it were all men to Myself. 3. That I may be in you as inhabiting, illuminating, and directing you to all good, and to everlasting life in heaven by My grace. Wherefore, says the Interlinear, you shall know that I am in the Father, as a ray of light in the sun, one with Him, and you in Me as branches in the vine, and I in you, as the vine in a branch, causing (heavenly) sap, and the life of grace to flow into you. S. Hilary adds that Christ is in us in the way of food by Participation of the Eucharist.

Joh 14:21  He that hath my commandments and keepeth them; he it is that loveth me. And he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father: and I will love him and will manifest myself to him.

He that hath My commandments, &c. As the Gloss says, not only you, 0 ye Apostles, but every one who loveth Me, and keepeth My commandments, shall live and know. Toletus understands this of the ordinary believers, who besides the Apostles in the time of Christ believed on Him, that these were here exhorted to persevere in His faith, love, and obedience. That in so doing they would in return be loved by Him and the Father, and that He would show Himself to them, when He rose again gloriously from the dead. This meaning is true, but too restricted. For Christ is speaking to all the faithful of every age. The meaning is, he that hath My commandments, i.e., he who keeps in his memory and affection the precepts which he has heard of Me, and keepeth them, i.e., fulfils them in deed; he who, as S. Augustine says, keeps them in his life and in his works, and perseveres in so doing, he it is who loveth Me, because he does what is pleasing to Me, what I love and desire to be done by him. A similar phrase occurs in chap. v. 38, You have not My word abiding in you. For as S. Gregory says, “The proof of love is the exhibition of work. The love of God is never lazy. If it exists, it worketh great things. But if there be refusal to work, love is not there.”

And he that loveth Me, &c. Because My commandments are the commandments of the Father. Wherefore he who keepeth them, reverences and loves the Father, and does what is most pleasing to Him. Hence he draws His love upon him in return. Loving God the Father, he is beloved by Him. Love is the magnet of love. But here observe, we do not first love God, but God us, and so He inspires us with grace, by which we love Him in return. And if we accept this His love, and begin to love Him, He the more loves us, and pours greater grace and charity upon us.

And I will love him, not only as God, for so I will love him with the same love as the Father: but even as man I will proceed to love him, and to accumulate gifts and graces upon him. As S. Augustine says, “To this end I will love that I may manifest (Myself). Not indeed that He did not love then. He loved us to this end, that we should believe, then that we should see. Now we love by believing in what we shall see, then we shall love by seeing that which we have believed.

And will manifest Myself to him, by a deeper knowledge from day to day of My mysteries and gifts, not only speculative but practical and experimental knowledge, by which the saints taste and have experience of Christ how sweet He, the Lord, is: and therefore they burst forth in pious affections of gratitude, love, and praise, as S. Paul does in 1Cor 11, and elsewhere. But, above all, this shall take place in heaven.

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One Response to Father Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on John 14:15-21

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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