Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 17:1-13

Ver 1. These words spoke Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify your Son, that your Son also may glorify you:2. As you have given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as you have given him.3. And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.4. I have glorified you on the earth: I have finished the work which you gave me to do.5. And now, O Father, glorify you me with your own self with the glory which I had with you before the world was.

CHRYS. After having said, In the world you shall have tribulation, our Lord turns from admonition to prayer; thus teaching us in our tribulations to abandon all other things, and flee to God.

BEDE. These things spoke Jesus, those things that He had said at the supper, partly sitting as far as the words, Arise, let us go hence; and thence standing, up to the end of the hymn which now commences, And lifted up His eyes and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify Your Son.

CHRYS. He lifted up His eyes to heaven to teach us intentness in our prayers: that we should stand with uplifted eyes, not of the body only, but of the mind.

AUG. Our Lord, in the form of a servant, could have prayed in silence had He pleased; but He remembered that He had not only to pray, but to teach. For not only His discourse, but His prayer also, was for His disciples’ edification, yes and for ours who read the same. Father, the hour is come, shows that all time, and every thing that He did or suffered to be done, was at His disposing, Who is not subject to time. Not that we must suppose that this hour came by any fatal necessity, but rather by God’s ordering. Away with the notion, that the stars could doom to death the Creator of the stars.

HILARY. He does not say that the day, or the time, but that the hour is come. An hour contains a portion of a day. What was this hour? He was now to be spit upon, scourged, crucified. But the Father glorifies the Son. The sun failed in his course, and with him all the other elements felt that death. The earth trembled under the weight of our Lord hanging on the Cross, and testified that it had not power to hold within it Him who was dying.

The Centurion proclaimed, Truly this was the Son of God. The event answered the prediction. Our Lord had said, Glorify Your Son, testifying that He was not the Son in name only, but properly the Son. Your Son, He said. Many of us are sons of God; but not such is the Son. For He is the proper, true Son by nature, not by adoption, in truth, not in name, by birth, not by creation. Therefore after His glorifying, to the manifestation of the truth there succeeded confession. The Centurion confesses Him to be the true Son of God, that so none of His believers might doubt what one of His persecutors could not deny.

AUG. But if He was glorified by His Passion, how much more by His Resurrection? For His Passion rather showed His humility than His glory. So we must understand, Father, the hour is come, glorify Your Son, to mean, the hour is come for sowing the seed, humility; defer not the fruit, glory.

HILARY. But perhaps this proves weakness in the Son; His waiting to be glorified by one superior to Himself. And who does not confess that the Father is superior, seeing that He Himself said, The Father is greater than I? But beware lest the honor of the Father impair the glory of the Son. It follows: That Your Son also may glorify You. So then the Son is not weak, inasmuch as He gives back in His turn glory for the glory which He receives. This petition for glory to be given and repaid, shows the same divinity to be in both.

AUG. But it is justly asked, how the Son can glorify the Father, when the eternal glory of the Father never experienced abasement in the form of man, and in respect of its own Divine perfection, does not admit of being added to. But among men this glory was less when God was only known in Judea; and therefore the Son glorified the Father, when the Gospel of Christ spread the knowledge of the Father among the Gentiles. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You; i.e. Raise Me from the dead, that by Me You may be known to the whole world.

Then He unfolds further the manner in which the Son glorifies the Father; As You have given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. All flesh signifies all mankind, the part being put for the whole. And this power which is given to Christ by the Father over all flesh, must be understood with reference to His human nature.

HILARY. For being made flesh Himself, He was about to restore eternal life to frail, corporeal, and mortal man.

HILARY. If Christ be God, not begotten, but unbegotten, then let this receiving be thought weakness. But not if His receiving of power signifies His begetting, in which He received what He is. This gift cannot be counted for weakness. For the Father is such in that He gives the Son remains God in that He has received the power of giving eternal life.

CHRYS. He said, You have given Him power over all flesh, to show that His preaching extended not to the Jews only, but to the whole world. But what is all flesh? For all did not believe? So far as lay with Him, all did. If they did not attend to His words, it was not His fault who spoke, but theirs who did not receive.

AUG. He said, As You have given Him power over all flesh, so the Son may glorify You, i.e. make You known to all flesh which You have given Him; for You have so given it to Him, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.

HILARY. And in what eternal life is, He then shows: And this is life eternal, that they might know You, the only true God. To know the only true God is life, but this alone does not constitute life. What else then is added? And Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

HILARY. The Arians hold, that as the Father is the only true, only just, only wise God, the Son has no communion of these attributes; for that which is proper to one, cannot be partaken of by another. And as these are as they think in the Father alone, and not in the Son, they necessarily consider the Son a false and vain God.

HILARY. But it must be clear to every one that the reality of any thing is evidenced by its power. For that is true wheat, which when rising with grain and fenced with ears, and shaken out by the winnowing machine, and ground into corn, and baked into bread, and taken for food, fulfills the nature and function of bread. I ask then wherein the truth of Divinity is wanting to the Son, Who has the nature and virtue of Divinity. For He so made use of the virtue of His nature, as to cause to be things which were not, and to do every thing which seemed good to Him.

HILARY. Because He says, You the only, does He separate Himself from communion and unity with God? He does separate Himself, but that He adds immediately, And Jesus Christ Whom You have sent. For the Catholic faith confesses Christ to be true God, in that it confesses the Father to be the only true God; for natural birth did not introduce any change of nature into the Only-Begotten God.

AUG. Dismissing then the Arians, let us see if we are forced to confess, that by the words, That they may know You to be the only true God, He means us to understand that the Father only is the true God, in such sense as that only the Three together, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are to be called God? Does our Lord’s testimony authorize us to say that the Father is the only true God, the Son the only true God, and the Holy Ghost the only true God, and at the same time, that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost together, i.e. the Trinity, are not three Gods, but one true God?

AUG. Or is not the order of the words, That they may know You and Jesus Christ, Whom You have sent, to be the only true God? the Holy Spirit being necessarily understood, because the Spirit is only the love of the Father and the Son, consubstantial with both. If then the Son so glorifies You as You have given Him power over all flesh, and You have given Him the power, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him, and, This is life eternal, to know You, it follows that He glorifies You by making You known to all whom You have given Him.

Moreover, if the knowledge of God is life eternal, the more advance we make in this knowledge, the more we make in life eternal. But in life eternal we shall never die. Where then there is no death, there will then be perfect knowledge of God; there will God be most glorified, because His glory will be greatest. Glory was defined among the ancients to be fame accompanied with praise.

But if man is praised in dependence on what is said of him, how will God be praised when He shall be seen? as in the Psalm, Blessed are they who dwell in Your house: they will be always praising You. There will be praise of God without end, where will be full knowledge of God. There then shall be heard the everlasting praise of God, for there will there be full knowledge of God, and therefore full glorifying of Him.

AUG. What He said to His servant Moses, I am that I am; this we shall contemplate in the life eternal.

AUG. For when sight has made our faith truth, then eternity shall take possession of and displace our mortality.

AUG. But God is first glorified here, when He is proclaimed, made known to, and believed in, by men: I have glorified You on the earth.

HILARY. This new glory with which our Lord had glorified the Father, does not imply any advancement in Godhead, but refers to the honor received from those who are converted from ignorance to knowledge.

CHRYS, He says, on the earth; for He had been glorified in heaven, both in respect of the glory of His own nature, and of the adoration of the Angels. The glory therefore here spoken of is not that which belongs to His substance, but that which pertains to the worship of man: wherefore it follows, I have finished the work which You gave Me to do.

AUG. Not You command Me, but, You gave Me, implying evidently grace. For what has human nature, even in the Only-Begotten, what it has not received? But how had He finished the work which had been given Him to do, when there yet remained His passion to undergo? He says He has finished it, i.e. He knows for certain that He will.

CHRYS. Or, I have finished, i.e. He had done all His own part, or had done the chief of it, that standing for the whole; (for the root of good was planted:) or He connects Himself with the future, as if it were already present.

HILARY. After which, that we may understand the reward of His obedience, and the mystery of the whole dispensation, He adds, And now glorify Me with the glory with Your own Self, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

AUG. He had said above, Father, the hour is come: glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You: the order of which words shows that the Son was first to be glorified by the Father, that the Father might be glorified by the Son. But now He says, I have glorified You; and now glorify Me, as if He had first glorified the Father, and then asked to be glorified by Him.

We must understand that the first is the order in which one was to succeed the other, but that He afterwards uses a past tense, to express a thing future; the meaning being, I will glorify You on the earth, by finishing the work you have given Me to do: and now, Father, glorify Me, which is quite the same sentence with the first one, except that He adds here the mode in which He is to be glorified; with the glory which I had before the world was, with You.

The order of the words is, The glory which I had with you before the world was. This has been taken by some to mean, that the human nature which was assumed by the Word, would be changed into the Word, that man would be changed into God, or, to speak more correctly, be lost in God. For no one would say that the Word of God would by that change be doubled, or even made at all greater. But we avoid this error, if we take the glory which He had with the Father before the world was, to be the glory which He predestined for Him on earth: (for if we believe Him to be the Son of man, we need not be afraid to say that He was predestined.)

This predestined time of His being glorified, He now saw was arrived, that He might now receive what had been aforetime predestined, He prayed accordingly: And now, Father, glorify Me, &c. i.e. that glory which I had with you by your predestination, it is now time that I should have at your right hand.

HILARY. Or He prayed that that which was mortal, might receive the glory immortal, that the corruption of the flesh might be transformed and absorbed into the incorruption of the Spirit.

Ver 6. I have manifested your name unto the men which you gave me out of the world: yours they were, and you gave them me; and they have kept your word.7. Now they have known that all things whatsoever you have given me are of you.8. For I have given unto them the words which you gave me: and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from You, and they have believed that you did send me.

CHRYS. Having said, I have finished My work, He shows what kind of work it was, viz. that He should make known the name of God: I have manifested your name unto the men which You gave Me out of the world.

AUG. If He speaks of the disciples only with whom He supped, this has nothing to do with that glorifying of which He spoke above, wherewith the Son glorified the Father; for what glory is it to be known to twelve or eleven men? But if by the men which were given to Him out of the world, He means all those who should believe in Him afterwards, this is without doubt the glory wherewith the Son glorifies the Father; and, I have manifested your name, is the same as what He said before, I have glorified You; the past being put for the future both there and here.

But what follows shows that He is speaking here of those who were already His disciples, not of all who should afterwards believe on Him. At the beginning of His prayer then our Lord is speaking of all believers, all to whom He should make known the Father, thereby glorifying Him: for after saying, that your Son also may glorify You, in strewing how that was to be done, He says, As You have given Him power over all flesh. Now let us hear what He says to the disciples: I have manifested your name to the men which You gave Me out of the world.

Had they not known the name of God then, when they were Jews? We read in the Psalms, In Jewry is God known; His name is great in Israel. I have manifested your name, then must be understood not of the name of God, but of the Father’s name, which name could not be manifested without the manifestation of the Son. For God’s name, as the God of the whole creation, could not have been entirely unknown to any nation. As the Maker then of the world, He was known among all nations even before the spread of the Gospel.

In Jewry He was known as a God, Who was not to be worshipped with the false gods: but as the Father of that Christ, by whom He took away the sins of the world, His name was unknown; which name Christ now manifests to those whom the Father had given Him out of the world. But how did He manifest it, when the hour had not come of which He said above, The hour comes, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs. We must understand the past to be put for the future.

CHRYS. That He was the Son of the Father, Christ had already manifested to them by words and deeds.

AUG. Which you have given Me out of the world: i.e. who were not of the world. But this they wore by regeneration, not by nature. What is meant by, Yours they were, and you gave them Me? Had ever the Father anything without the Son? God forbid. But the Son of God had that sometimes, which He had not as Son of man; for He had the universe with His Father, while He was still in His mother’s womb.

Wherefore by saying, They were Yours, the Son of God does not separate Himself from the Father; but only attributes all His power to Him, from whom he is, and has the same. And you gave them Me, then, means that He had received as man the power to have them; nay, that He Himself had given them to Himself, i.e. Christ as God with the Father, to Christ as man not with the Father. His purpose here is to show His unanimity with the Father, and how that it was the Father’s pleasure that they should believe in Him.

BEDE. And they have kept your word. He calls Himself the Word of the Father, because the Father by Him created all things, and because He contains in Himself all words: as if to say, They have committed Me to memory so well, that they never will forget Me.

Or, They have kept your word, i.e. in that they have believed in Me: as it follows, Now they have known that all things whatsoever You have given Me, are of You. Some read, Now I have known, &c. But this cannot be correct. For how could the Son be ignorant of what was the Father’s? It is the disciples He is speaking of; as if to say, They have learned that there is nothing in Me alien from You, and that whatever I teach comes from You.

AUG. The Father gave Him all things, when having all things He begat Him.

CHRYS. And whence have they learned? From My words, wherein I taught them that I came forth from You. For this was what He has been laboring to show throughout the whole of the Gospel: For I have given unto them the words which you gave me, and they have received them.

AUG. i.e. have understood and remembered them. For then is a word received, when the mind apprehends it; as it follows, And have known surely that I came out from You. And that none might imagine that that knowledge was one of sight, not of faith, He adds, And they have believed (surely, is understood) that you did send Me. What they believed surely, was what they knew surely; for I came out from You, is the same with, You did send Me.

They believed surely, i. e not as He said above they believed, but surely, i.e. as they were about to believe firmly, steadily, unwaveringly: never any more to be scattered to their own, and leave Christ The disciples as yet et were not such as He describes them to be in the past tense, meaning such as they were to be when the, had received the Holy Ghost.

The question how the Father gave those words to the Son, is easier to solve, if we suppose Him to have received them from the Father as Son of man. But if we understand it to be as the Begotten of the Father, let there be no time supposed previous to His having them, as if He once existed without them: for whatever God the Father gave God the Son, He gave in begetting.

Ver 9. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which you have given me; for they are yours.10. And all mine are yours, and yours are mine and I am glorified in them.11. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to you. Holy Father, keep through your own name those whom you have given me, that they may be one, as we are.12. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in your name: those that you gave me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.13. And now come I to you; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

CHRYS. As the disciples were still sad in spite of all our Lord’s consolations, henceforth He addresses Himself to the Father to show the love which He had for them; I pray for them; He not only gives them what He has of His own, but entreats another for them, as a still further proof of His love.

AUG. When He adds, I pray not for the world, by the world He means those who live according to the lust of the world, and have not the lot to be chosen by grace out of the world, as those had for whom He prayed: But for them which you have given Me. It was because the Father had given Him them, that they did not belong to the world. Nor yet had the Father, in giving them to the Son, lost what He had given: For they are Yours.

CHRYS. He often repeats, you have given Me, to impress on them that it was all according to the Father’s will, and that He did not come to rob another, but to take unto Him His own. Then to show them that this power had not been lately received from the Father, He adds, And all Yours, and Yours are Mine: as if to say, Let no one, hearing Me say, Them which You have given Me, suppose that they are separated from the Father; for Mine are His: nor because I said, They are Yours, suppose that they are separate from Me: for whatever is His is Mine.

AUG. It is sufficiently apparent from hence, that all things which the Father has, the Only-Begotten Son has; has in that He is God, born from the Father, and equal with the Father; not in the sense in which the elder son is told, All that I have is yours. For all there means all creatures below the holy rational creature, but here it means the very rational creature itself, which is only subjected to God. Since this is God the Father’s, it could not at the same time be God the Son’s, unless the Son were equal to the Father. For it is impossible that saints, of whom this is said, should be the property of any one, except Him who created and sanctified them. Who He says above in speaking of the Holy Spirit, All things that the Father has are Mine, He means all things which pertain to the divinity of the [Father; for He adds, He (the Holy Ghost) shall receive of Mine; and the Holy Ghost would not receive from a creature which was subject to the Father and the Son.

CHRYS. Then He gives proof of this, I am glorified in them. If they glorify Me, believing in Me and You, it is certain that I have power over them: for no one is glorified by those amongst whom he has no power.

AUG. He speaks of this as already done, meaning that it was as predestined, and sure to be. But is this the glorifying of which He speaks above, And now, O Father, glorify you Me with Your own Self? If then with Yourself, what means here, In them? Perhaps that this very thing, i.e. His glory with the Father, was made known to them, and through them to all that believe.

CHRYS. And now I am no more in the world: i.e. though I no longer appear in the flesh, I am glorified by those who die for Me, as for the Father, and preach Me as the Father.

AUG. At the time at which He was speaking, both were still in the world. Yet we must not understand, I am no more in the world, metaphorically of the heart and life; for could there ever have been a time when hen He loved the things of the world? It remains then that He means that He was not in the world, as He had been before; i.e. that He was soon going away. Do we not say every day, when any one is going to leave us, or going to die, such an one is gone? This is shown to be the sense by what follows; for He adds, And now I come to You. And then He commends to His Father those whom He was about to leave: Holy Father, keep through Your own name those whom you have given Me. As man He prays God for His disciples, whom He received from God. But mark what follows: That they may be one, as We are: He does not say, That they may be one with us, We are one: but, that they may be one: that they may b one in their nature, as We are one in Ours. For, in that He was God and man in one person as man He prayed, as God He was one with Him to Whom He prayed.

AUG. He does not say, That I and they maybe one, though He might have said so in the sense, that He was the head of the Church, and the Church His body; not one thing, but one person: the head and the body being one Christ. But strewing something else, viz. that His divinity is consubstantial With the Father, He prays that His people may in like manner be one; but one in Christ, not only by the same nature, in which mortal man is made equal to the Angels, but also by the same will, agreeing most entirely in the same mind, and melted into one Spirit by the fire of love. This is the meaning of, That they may be one as We are: viz. that as the Father and the Son are one not only by equality of substance, but also in will, so they, between whom and God the Son is Mediator, may be one not only by the union of nature, but by the union of love.

CHRYS. Again He speaks as man: While I was with them in the world, I kept them in your name; i.e. by your help. He speaks in condescension to the minds of His disciples, who thought they were more safe in His presence.

AUG. The Son as man kept His disciples in the Father’s name, being placed among them in human form: the Father again kept them in the Son’s name, in that He heard those who asked in the Son’s name. But we must not take this carnally, as if the Father and Son kept us in turns, for the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost guard us at the same time: but Scripture do does not raise us, except it stoop to us. Let us understand then that when our Lord says this, He is distinguishing the persons, not dividing, the nature, so that when the Son was keeping His disciples by His bodily presence, the Father was waiting to succeed Him on His departure; but both kept them by spiritual power, and when the Son withdrew His bodily presence, he still held with the Father the spiritual keeping . For when the Son as man received them into His keeping , He did not take them from n the Father’s keeping, and when the Father gave them into the Son’s keeping , it was to the Son as man, who at the, same time was God. Those that you gave Me I have kept, and none of them is lost but the Son of perdition: i.e. the betrayer of Christ, predestined to perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled, especially the prophecy, in Psalm 108.

CHRYS. He was the only one indeed who perished then, but there were many after. None of them is lost, i.e. as far as I am concerned; as He says above more clearly; I will in no wise cast out. But when they cast themselves out, I will not draw them to Myself by dint of compulsion. It follows: And now I come to you. But some one might ask, Can you not keep them? I can. Then why say you this? That they may have my joy fulfilled in them, i.e. that they may not be alarmed in their as yet imperfect state.

AUG. Or thus: That they might have the joy spoken of above: That they may be one, We are one. This spoken i.e. bestowed by Him, He says, is to be fulfilled in them on which account He spoke thus in the world. This joy is the peace and happiness of the life to come. He says He spoke in the world, though He had just now said, I am no more in the world. For, inasmuch as He had not yet departed, He was still here; and inasmuch as He was going to depart, He was in a certain sense not here.

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One Response to Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 17:1-13

  1. Pingback: Commentaries and Resources for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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