Saturday, 28 February 2015

John 10: 19-42

Today's section of Chapter 10 of St John's Gospel concludes the good shepherd narrative, with the declaration by Jesus that those rejecting his message are not his sheep - and their murderous response.


The New Advent page for John 10 can be found here; the Douay-Rheims translation here. You can hear the Latin read aloud here (from 2.15) and the Greek here.

The Latin:

19 Dissensio iterum facta est inter Judæos propter sermones hos. 20 Dicebant autem multi ex ipsis: Dæmonium habet, et insanit: quid eum auditis? 21 Alii dicebant: Hæc verba non sunt dæmonium habentis: numquid dæmonium potest cæcorum oculos aperire? 22 Facta sunt autem Encænia in Jerosolymis, et hiems erat. 23 Et ambulabat Jesus in templo, in porticu Salomonis. 24 Circumdederunt ergo eum Judæi, et dicebant ei: Quousque animam nostram tollis? si tu es Christus, dic nobis palam. 25 Respondit eis Jesus: Loquor vobis, et non creditis: opera quæ ego facio in nomine Patris mei, hæc testimonium perhibent de me: 26 sed vos non creditis, quia non estis ex ovibus meis. 27 Oves meæ vocem meam audiunt, et ego cognosco eas, et sequuntur me: 28 et ego vitam æternam do eis, et non peribunt in æternum, et non rapiet eas quisquam de manu mea. 29 Pater meus quod dedit mihi, majus omnibus est: et nemo potest rapere de manu Patris mei. 30 Ego et Pater unum sumus.31 Sustulerunt ergo lapides Judæi, ut lapidarent eum. 32 Respondit eis Jesus: Multa bona opera ostendi vobis ex Patre meo: propter quod eorum opus me lapidatis? 33 Responderunt ei Judæi: De bono opere non lapidamus te, sed de blasphemia; et quia tu homo cum sis, facis teipsum Deum. 34 Respondit eis Jesus: Nonne scriptum est in lege vestra, Quia ego dixi: Dii estis? 35 Si illos dixit deos, ad quos sermo Dei factus est, et non potest solvi Scriptura: 36 quem Pater sanctificavit, et misit in mundum vos dicitis: Quia blasphemas, quia dixi: Filius Dei sum? 37 Si non facio opera Patris mei, nolite credere mihi. 38 Si autem facio: etsi mihi non vultis credere, operibus credite, ut cognoscatis, et credatis quia Pater in me est, et ego in Patre. 39 Quærebant ergo eum apprehendere: et exivit de manibus eorum. 40 Et abiit iterum trans Jordanem, in eum locum ubi erat Joannes baptizans primum, et mansit illic; 41 et multi venerunt ad eum, et dicebant: Quia Joannes quidem signum fecit nullum. 42 Omnia autem quæcumque dixit Joannes de hoc, vera erant. Et multi crediderunt in eum.

The English:

[19] A dissension rose again among the Jews for these words. [20] And many of them said: He hath a devil, and is mad: why hear you him?[21] Others said: These are not the words of one that hath a devil: Can a devil open the eyes of the blind? [22] And it was the feast of the dedication at Jerusalem: and it was winter. [23] And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon' s porch. [24] The Jews therefore came round about him, and said to him: How long dost thou hold our souls in suspense? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. [25] Jesus answered them: I speak to you, and you believe not: the works that I do in the name of my Father, they give testimony of me.[26] But you do not believe, because you are not of my sheep. [27] My sheep hear my voice: and I know them, and they follow me. [28] And I give them life everlasting; and they shall not perish for ever, and no man shall pluck them out of my hand. [29] That which my Father hath given me, is greater than all: and no one can snatch them out of the hand of my Father. [30] I and the Father are one. [31] The Jews then took up stones to stone him. [32] Jesus answered them: Many good works I have shewed you from my Father; for which of these works do you stone me? [33] The Jews answered him: For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, maketh thyself God. [34] Jesus answered them: Is it not written in your law: I said you are gods? [35] If he called them gods, to whom the word of God was spoken, and the scripture cannot be broken; [36] Do you say of him whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world: Thou blasphemest, because I said, I am the Son of God? [37] If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. [38] But if I do, though you will not believe me, believe the works: that you may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in the Father. [39] They sought therefore to take him; and he escaped out of their hands. [40] And he went again beyond the Jordan, into that place where John was baptizing first; and there he abode. [41] And many resorted to him, and they said: John indeed did no sign. [42] But all things whatsoever John said of this man, were true. And many believed in him.


The setting:

AUG. And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication. Encænia is the feast of the dedication of the temple; from the Greek word signifying new. The dedication of any thing new was called encænia.

CHRYS. It was the feast of the dedication of the temple, after the return from the Babylonish captivity.

ALCUIN. Or, it was in memory of the dedication under Judas Maccabeus. The first dedication was that of Solomon in the autumn; the second that of Zorobabel, and the priest Jesus in the spring. This was in winter time.

BEDE. Judas Maccabeus instituted an annual commemoration of this dedication.

THEOPHYL. The Evangelist mentions the time of winter, to show that it was near His passion. He suffered in the following spring; for which reason He took up His abode at Jerusalem.

GREG. Or because the season of cold was in keeping with the cold malicious hearts of the Jews.

CHRYS. Christ was present with much zeal at this feast, and thenceforth stayed in Judea; His passion being now at hand. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch.

ALCUIN. It is called Solomon's porch, because Solomon went to pray there. The porches of a temple are usually named after the temple. If the Son of God walked in a temple where the flesh of brute animals was offered up, how much more will He delight to visit our house of prayer, in which His own flesh and blood are consecrated;

His listeners, with malicious intent,  demand that he declare himself:

AUG. They wanted our Lord to say, I am the Christ. Perhaps, as they had human notions of the Messiah, having failed to discern His divinity in the Prophets they wanted Christ to confess Himself the Messiah, of the seed of David; that they might accuse Him of aspiring to the regal power.

ALCUIN. And thus they intended to give Him into the hands of the Proconsul for punishment, as an usurper against the emperor. Our Lord so managed His reply as to stop the mouths of His calumniators, open those of the believers; and to those who inquired of Him as a man, reveal the mysteries of His divinity: Jesus answered them, I told you, and you believed not: the works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness of Me.

CHRYS. He reproves their malice, for pretending that a single word would convince them, whom so many words had not. If you do not believe My works, He says, how will you believe My words? And He adds why they do not believe: But you believe not, because you are not of My sheep.

Yet still Christ urges conversion:

THEOPHYL. After He had said, You are not of My sheep, He exhorts them to become such: My sheep hear My voice.

ALCUIN. i.e. Obey My precepts from the heart. And I know them, and they follow Me, here by walking in gentleness and innocence, hereafter by entering the joys of eternal life.

And I give to them eternal life.

AUG. This is the pasture of which He spoke before And shall find pasture. Eternal life is called a goodly pasture: the grass thereof wither not, all is spread with verdure. But these cavilers thought only of this present life. And they shall not perish eternally; as if to say, you shall perish eternally, because you are not of My sheep.

The response to truth is often rage:

AUG. At this speech, I and My Father are one, the Jews could not restrain their rage, but ran to take up stones, after their hardhearted way: Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.

HILARY. The heretics now, as unbelieving and rebellious against our Lord in heaven, show their impious hatred by the stones, i.e. the words they cast at Him; as if they would drag Him down again from His throne to the cross.

THEOPHYL. Our Lord remonstrates with them; Many good works have I showed you from My Father, strewing that they had no just reason for their anger.

ALCUIN. Healing of the sick, teaching, miracles. He showed them of the Father, because He sought His Father's glory in all of them. For which of these works do you stone Me? They confess, though reluctantly, the benefit they have received from Him, but charge Him at the same time with blasphemy, for asserting His equality with the Father;

For a good work we stone you not, but for blasphemy; and because that You, being a man, make Yourself God.

Still, some see the light:

Mystically, Christ departs from Jerusalem, i.e. from the Jewish people; and goes to a place where are springs of water, i.e. to the Gentile Church, that has the waters of baptism. And many resort to Him, passing over the Jordan, i.e. through baptism.

Friday, 27 February 2015

John 10: 1-18

Chapter ten of St John's Gospel gives us the image of Christ as the door of the sheep-fold and the good shepherd, and contrasts this with robbers who try and get into the sheepfold other than by the door, and wolves who prey on the sheep.  Such thieves and robbers are all too prevalent in our own time!


The New Advent page for John 10 can be found here; the Douay-Rheims translation here.  You can hear the Latin read aloud here and the Greek here.

The Latin:

1 Amen, amen dico vobis: qui non intrat per ostium in ovile ovium, sed ascendit aliunde, ille fur est et latro. 2 Qui autem intrat per ostium, pastor est ovium. 3 Huic ostiarius aperit, et oves vocem ejus audiunt, et proprias ovas vocat nominatim, et educit eas. 4 Et cum proprias oves emiserit, ante eas vadit: et oves illum sequuntur, quia sciunt vocem ejus. 5 Alienum autem non sequuntur, sed fugiunt ab eo: quia non noverunt vocem alienorum. 6 Hoc proverbium dixit eis Jesus: illi autem non cognoverunt quid loqueretur eis. 7 Dixit ergo eis iterum Jesus: Amen, amen dico vobis, quia ego sum ostium ovium. 8 Omnes quotquot venerunt, fures sunt, et latrones, et non audierunt eos oves. 9 Ego sum ostium. Per me si quis introierit, salvabitur: et ingredietur, et egredietur, et pascua inveniet. 10 Fur non venit nisi ut furetur, et mactet, et perdat. Ego veni ut vitam habeant, et abundantius habeant.11 Ego sum pastor bonus. Bonus pastor animam suam dat pro ovibus suis. 12 Mercenarius autem, et qui non est pastor, cujus non sunt oves propriæ, videt lupum venientem, et dimittit oves, et fugit: et lupus rapit, et dispergit oves; 13 mercenarius autem fugit, quia mercenarius est, et non pertinet ad eum de ovibus. 14 Ego sum pastor bonus: et cognosco meas, et cognoscunt me meæ. 15 Sicut novit me Pater, et ego agnosco Patrem: et animam meam pono pro ovibus meis. 16 Et alias oves habeo, quæ non sunt ex hoc ovili: et illas oportet me adducere, et vocem meam audient, et fiet unum ovile et unus pastor. 17 Propterea me diligit Pater: quia ego pono animam meam, ut iterum sumam eam. 18 Nemo tollit eam a me: sed ego pono eam a meipso, et potestatem habeo ponendi eam, et potestatem habeo iterum sumendi eam. Hoc mandatum accepi a Patre meo.

The English:

Amen, amen I say to you: He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up another way, the same is a thief and a robber. [2] But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. [3] To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. [4] And when he hath let out his own sheep, he goeth before them: and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice. [5] But a stranger they follow not, but fly from him, because they know not the voice of strangers.[6] This proverb Jesus spoke to them. But they understood not what he spoke to them. [7] Jesus therefore said to them again: Amen, amen I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. [8] All others, as many as have come, are thieves and robbers: and the sheep heard them not. [9] I am the door. By me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved: and he shall go in, and go out, and shall find pastures. [10] The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly.[11] I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep. [12] But the hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and flieth: and the wolf catcheth, and scattereth the sheep: [13] And the hireling flieth, because he is a hireling: and he hath no care for the sheep. [14] I am the good shepherd; and I know mine, and mine know me. [15] As the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father: and I lay down my life for my sheep.[16] And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd. [17] Therefore doth the Father love me: because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. [18] No man taketh it away from me: but I lay it down of myself, and I have power to lay it down: and I have power to take it up again. This commandment have I received of my Father. 


These days many advocate 'openness to the world' and laud the good works of atheists, non-Christians and non-Catholics. The anthology of readings provided by the Catena Aurea invite us to consider a more traditional view of the necessity of the protection afforded by the Church:

"CHRYS. Our Lord having reproached the Jews with blindness, they might have said, We are not blind, but we avoid you as a deceiver. Our Lord therefore gives the marks which distinguish a robber and deceiver from a true shepherd. First come those of the deceiver and robber: Verily, verily, I say to you, He that enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 

There is an allusion here to Antichrist, and to certain false Christs who had been, and were to be. The Scriptures He calls the door. They admit us to the knowledge of God, they protect the sheep, they shut out the wolves, they bar the entrance to heretics. He that uses not the Scriptures, but climbs up some other way, i.e. some self-chosen, some unlawful way, is a thief. Climbs up, He says, not, enters, as if it were a thief getting over a wall, and running all risks. 

Some other way, may refer too to the commandments and traditions of men which the Scribes taught, to the neglect of the Law. When our Lord further on calls Himself the Door, we need not be surprised. According to the office which He bears, He is in one place the Shepherd, in another the Sheep. In that He introduces us to the Father, He is the Door, in that He takes care of us, He is the Shepherd.

AUG. Or thus: Many go under the name of good men according to the standard of the world, and observe in some sort the commandments of the Law, who yet are not Christians. And these generally boast of themselves, as the Pharisees did; Are we blind also? But inasmuch as all that they do they do foolishly, without knowing to what end it tends, our Lord said of them, Verily, verily, I say to you, He that enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 

Let the Pagans then, the Jews, the Heretics, say, "We lead a good life;" if they enter not by the door, what avails it? A good life only profits, as leading to life eternal. Indeed those cannot be said to lead a good life, who are either blindly ignorant of, or willfully despise, the end of good living. No one can hope for eternal life, who knows not Christ, who is the life, and by that door enters into the fold. 

Whoso wishes to enter into the sheepfold, let him enter by the door; let him preach Christ; let him seek Christ's glory, not his own. Christ is a lowly door, and he who enters by this door must be lowly, if he would enter with his head whole. He that does not humble, but exalt himself, who wishes to climb up over the wall, is exalted that he may fall. Such men generally try to persuade others that they may live well, and not be Christians. Thus they climb up by some other way, that they may rob and kill. They are thieves, because they call that their own, which is not; robbers, because that which they have stolen, they kill. 

By contrast, entering by the door requires us to respond to the grace God offers us with humility and willingness to pick up our cross in imitation of Christ:

AUG. He enters by the door, who enters by Christ, who imitates the suffering of Christ, who is acquainted with the humility of Christ, so as to feel and know, that if God became man for us, man should not think himself God, but man. He who being man wishes to appear God, does not imitate Him, who being God, became man. You are bid to think less of yourself than you are, but to know what you are...

And He calls His own sheep by name. 

He knew the names of the predestinated; as He said to His disciples, Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

 Yet the sheep do not stay in the sheepfold all the time, only being guarded there at night.  During the day, the shepherd leads them out into the pastures:

CHRYS. He led out the sheep, when He sent them not out of the reach of, but into the midst of, the wolves. There seems to he a secret allusion to the blind man. He called him out of the midst of the Jews; and he heard His voice.

AUG. And who is He who leads them out, but the Same who loosens the chain of their sins, that they may follow Him with free unfettered step? 

GLOSS. And when He puts forth His own sheep, He goes before them, He leads them out from the darkness of ignorance into light, while He goes before in the pillar of cloud, and fire. 

CHRYS. Shepherds always go behind their sheep; but He, on the contrary, goes before, to show that He would lead all to the truth...

AUG. What is this, shall go in and out? To enter into the Church by Christ the Door, is a very good thing, but to go out of the Church is not. Going in must refer to inward cogitation; going out to outward action; as in the Psalm, Man goes forth to his work. 

THEOPHYL. Or, to go in is to watch over the inner man; to go out, to mortify the outward man, i.e. our members which are upon the earth. He that does this shall find pasture in the life to come. 

CHRYS. Or, He refers to the Apostles who went in and out boldly; for they became the masters of the world, none could turn them out of their kingdom, and they found pasture.

What should we do when confronted, as we so often are, by hirelings and even wolves posing as shepherds?

AUG. We must love the shepherd, beware of the wolf, tolerate the hireling. For the hireling is useful so long as he sees not the wolf, the thief, and the robber. When he sees them, he flees.

AUG. Indeed he would not be a hireling, did he not receive wages from the hirer. Sons wait patiently for the eternal inheritance of their father; the hireling looks eagerly for the temporal wages from his hirer; and yet the tongues of both speak abroad the glory of Christ. 

The hireling hurts, in that he does wrong, not in that he speaks right: the grape bunch hangs amid thorns; pluck the grape, avoid the thorn. Many that seek temporal advantages in the Church, preach Christ, and through them Christ's voice is heard; and the sheep follow not the hireling, but the voice of the Shepherd heard through the hireling.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

John 9:18-41

Annibale Carraci & Francesco Albani- Healing the Man Born Blind- MNAC

Today's section of St John's Gospel continues the story of Jesus healing a blind man.  A great miracle has occurred - but the man's parents are so scared to the Jewish authorities that they deflect inquiries about it to the man himself.  The man ends up being expelled from the synagogue for his witness to Jesus, but is instructed in the faith by Jesus.  The chapter ends highlighting a reversal of fortunes: the blind see; but the sighted have become blind to the truth.


The New Advent page with the Greek, Latin and Knox translation can be found here.The New Advent page with the Greek, Latin and Knox translation can be found here.  you can listen to the Latin here (from 2.00).

The Latin:

18 Non crediderunt ergo Judæi de illo, quia cæcus fuisset et vidisset, donec vocaverunt parentes ejus, qui viderat: 19 et interrogaverunt eos, dicentes: Hic est filius vester, quem vos dicitis quia cæcus natus est? quomodo ergo nunc videt? 20 Responderunt eis parentes ejus, et dixerunt: Scimus quia hic est filius noster, et quia cæcus natus est: 21 quomodo autem nunc videat, nescimus: aut quis ejus aperuit oculos, nos nescimus; ipsum interrogate: ætatem habet, ipse de se loquatur. 22 Hæc dixerunt parentes ejus, quoniam timebant Judæos: jam enim conspiraverunt Judæi, ut si quis eum confiteretur esse Christum, extra synagogam fieret. 23 Propterea parentes ejus dixerunt: Quia ætatem habet, ipsum interrogate.24 Vocaverunt ergo rursum hominem qui fuerat cæcus, et dixerunt ei: Da gloriam Deo: nos scimus quia hic homo peccator est. 25 Dixit ergo eis ille: Si peccator est, nescio; unum scio, quia cæcus cum essem, modo video. 26 Dixerunt ergo illi: Quid fecit tibi? quomodo aperuit tibi oculos? 27 Respondit eis: Dixi vobis jam, et audistis: quod iterum vultis audire? numquid et vos vultis discipuli ejus fieri? 28 Maledixerunt ergo ei, et dixerunt: Tu discipulus illius sis: nos autem Moysi discipuli sumus. 29 Nos scimus quia Moysi locutus est Deus; hunc autem nescimus unde sit. 30 Respondit ille homo, et dixit eis: In hoc enim mirabile est quia vos nescitis unde sit, et aperuit meos oculos: 31 scimus autem quia peccatores Deus non audit: sed si quis Dei cultor est, et voluntatem ejus facit, hunc exaudit. 32 A sæculo non est auditum quia quis aperuit oculos cæci nati. 33 Nisi esset hic a Deo, non poterat facere quidquam. 34 Responderunt, et dixerunt ei: In peccatis natus es totus, et tu doces nos? Et ejecerunt eum foras.35 Audivit Jesus quia ejecerunt eum foras: et cum invenisset eum, dixit ei: Tu credis in Filium Dei? 36 Respondit ille, et dixit: Quis est, Domine, ut credam in eum? 37 Et dixit ei Jesus: Et vidisti eum, et qui loquitur tecum, ipse est. 38 At ille ait: Credo, Domine. Et procidens adoravit eum. 39 Et dixit Jesus: In judicium ego in hunc mundum veni: ut qui non vident videant, et qui vident cæci fiant. 40 Et audierunt quidam ex pharisæis qui cum ipso erant, et dixerunt ei: Numquid et nos cæci sumus? 41 Dixit eis Jesus: Si cæci essetis, non haberetis peccatum. Nunc vero dicitis, Quia videmus: peccatum vestrum manet.

The English:

The Jews then did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and had received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight, [19] And asked them, saying: Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then doth he now see? [20] His parents answered them, and said: We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: [21] But how he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: ask himself: he is of age, let him speak for himself. [22] These things his parents said, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had already agreed among themselves, that if any man should confess him to be Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. [23] Therefore did his parents say: He is of age, ask himself. [24] They therefore called the man again that had been blind, and said to him: Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner. [25] He said therefore to them: If he be a sinner, I know not: one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see. [26] They said then to him: What did he to thee? How did he open thy eyes? [27] He answered them: I have told you already, and you have heard: why would you hear it again? will you also become his disciples? [28] They reviled him therefore, and said: Be thou his disciple; but we are the disciples of Moses. [29] We know that God spoke to Moses: but as to this man, we know not from whence he is. [30] The man answered, and said to them: Why, herein is a wonderful thing, that you know not from whence he is, and he hath opened my eyes. [31] Now we know that God doth not hear sinners: but if a man be a server of God, and doth his will, him he heareth. [32] From the beginning of the world it hath not been heard, that any man hath opened the eyes of one born blind. [33] Unless this man were of God, he could not do any thing. [34] They answered, and said to him: Thou wast wholly born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out. [35] Jesus heard that they had cast him out: and when he had found him, he said to him: Dost thou believe in the Son of God? [36] He answered, and said: Who is he, Lord, that I may believe in him? [37] And Jesus said to him: Thou hast both seen him; and it is he that talketh with thee. [38] And he said: I believe, Lord. And falling down, he adored him. [39] And Jesus said: For judgment I am come into this world; that they who see not, may see; and they who see, may become blind. [40] And some of the Pharisees, who were with him, heard: and they said unto him: Are we also blind? [41] Jesus said to them: If you were blind, you should not have sin: but now you say: We see. Your sin remaineth.


The authorities attempt to discredit the miracle, and intimidate those who would give witness to it.  How many of us are faint hearted like the parents when called to give witness to Christ?

CHRYS. The Pharisees being unable, by intimidation, to deter the blind man from publicly proclaiming his Benefactor, try to nullify the miracle through the parents. But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they had called the parents of him that had received his sight...

But it is the nature of truth, to be strengthened by the very snares that are laid against it. A lie is its own antagonist, and by its attempts to injure the truth, sets it off to greater advantage: as is the case now. For the argument which might otherwise have been urged, that the neighbors knew nothing for certain, but spoke from a mere resemblance, is cut off by introduction of the parents, who could of course testify to their own son.

Having brought these before the assembly, they interrogate them with great sharpness, saying, Is this your son, (they say not, who was born blind, but) who you say was born blind? Say. Why what father is there, that would say such things of a son, if they were not true? Why not say at once, Whom you made blind? They try two ways of making them deny the miracle: by saying, Who you say was born blind, and by adding, How then does he now see?

THEOPHYL. Either, say they, it is not true that he now sees, or it is untrue that he was blind before: but it is evident that he now sees; therefore it is not true that he was born blind.

CHRYS. What sort of gratitude is this in the parents; concealing what they knew, from fear of the Jews? as we are next told; These words spoke his parents, because they feared the Jews. And then the Evangelist mentions again what the intentions and dispositions of the Jews were: For the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that He was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.

AUG. It was no disadvantage to be put out of the synagogue: whom they cast out, Christ took in.

Therefore said, his parents, He is of age, ask him.

ALCUIN. The Evangelist shows that it was not from ignorance, but fear, that they gave this answer.

THEOPHYL. For they were fainthearted; not like their son, that intrepid witness to the truth, the eyes of whose understanding had been enlightened by God.

The newly sighted man though, now becomes bolder in his testimony:

CHRYS. Observe then, when he said above, Whether He be a sinner, I know not, it was not that he spoke in doubt; for here he not only acquits him of all sin, but holds him up as one well pleasing to God: But if any man be a worshiper of God, and does His will, him He hears. It is not enough to know God, we must do His will.

Then he extols His creed: Since the world began, was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind: as if to say, If you confess that God hears not sinners; and this Man has worked a miracle; such an one, as no other man has; it is manifest that the virtue whereby He has wrought it, is more than human:

If this Man were not of God, He could do nothing.

AUG. Freely, steadfastly, truly. For how could what our Lord did, be done by any other than God, or by disciples even, except when their Lord dwelt in them?

CHRYS. So then because speaking the truth he was in nothing confounded, when they should most have admired, they condemned him: You were altogether born in sins, and do you teach us?

AUG. What means altogether? That he was quite blind. Yet He who opened his eyes, also saves him altogether.

Yet the Pharisees reaction is not acknowledgment of the truth, but rejection of it - spiritual blindness:

CHRYS. Or, altogether, that is to say, from your birth you are in sins. They reproach his blindness, and pronounce his sins to be the cause of it; most unreasonably. So long as they expected him to deny the miracle, they were willing to believe him, but now they cast him out.

AUG. It was they themselves who had made him teacher; themselves, who had asked him so many questions; and now they ungratefully cast him out for teaching.

CHRYS. Those who suffer for the truth's sake, and confession of Christ, come to greatest honor; as we see in the instance of the blind man. For the Jews cast him out of the temple, and the Lord of the temple found him; and received him as the judge clothes the wrestler after his labors, and crowns him: Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, Do you believe in the Son of God? The Evangelist makes it plain that Jesus came in order to say this to him. He asks him, however, not in ignorance, but wishing to reveal Himself to him, and to show that He appreciated his faith; as if He said, The people have cast reproaches on Me, but I care not for them; one thing only I care for, that you may believe. Better is he that does the will of God, than ten thousand of the wicked.

Even so, an acknowledgment that Jesus has effected a miracle is to thin a layer of faith for salvation, the man requires more instruction:

HILARY. If any mere confession whatsoever of Christ were the perfection of faith, it would have been said, Do you believe in Christ? But inasmuch as all heretics would have had this name in their mouths, confessing Christ, and yet denying the Son, that which is two of Christ alone, is required of our faith, viz. that we should believe in the Son of God. But what avails it to believe on the Son of God as being a creature, when we are required to have faith in Christ, not as a creature of God, but as the Son of God.

CHRYS. But the blind man did not yet know Christ, for before he went to Christ he was blind, and after his cure, he was taken hold of by the Jews: He answered and said, Who is He, Lord, that I might believe on Him? The speech this of a longing and inquiring mind. He knows not who He is for whom he had contended so much; a proof to you of his love of truth.

The Lord however says not to him, I am He who healed you; but uses a middle way of speaking, You have both seen Him.

THEOPHYL. This He says to remind him of his cure, which had given him the power to see. And observe, He that speaks is born of Mary, and the son is the Son of God, not two different Persons, according to the error of Nestorius: And it is He that talks with you.

AUG First, He washes the face of his heart. Then, his heart's face being washed, and his conscience cleansed, he acknowledges Him as not only the Son of man, which he believed before, but as the Son of God, Who had taken flesh upon Him: And he said, Lord, I believe. I believe, is a small thing. Would you see what he believes of Him? And falling down, he worshipped Him.

This instruction does have its effect on some of the authorities though, who start to question their certainties.  And Jesus reminds them that they cannot plead ignorance, for they have the gift of the prophets and the law:

AUG: And some of the Pharisees which were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, Are we blind also? What had moved them were the words, And that they which see might be made blind.

It follows, Jesus said to them, If you were blind, you should have no sin; i.e. If you called yourselves blind, and ran to the physician. But now you say, We see; therefore your sin remains: for in that saying, We see, you seek not a physician, you shall remain in your blindness. This then which He has just before said, I came, that they that see not might see; i.e. they who confess they cannot see, and seek a physician, in order that they may see: and that they which see not may be made blind; i.e. they which think they can see, and seek not a physician, may remain in their blindness. This act of division He calls judgment, saying, For judgment have I come into this world: not that judgment by which He will judge the living and dead at the end of the world...

THEOPHYL. As if to say, Lo, he that saw not from his birth, now sees both in body and soul; whereas they who seem to see, have had their understanding darkened.

CHRYS. For there is a twofold vision, and a twofold blindness; viz. that of sense, and that of the understanding. But they were intent only on sensible things, and were ashamed only of sensible blindness: wherefore He shows them that it would be better for them to be blind, than seeing so: If you were blind, you should have no sin; your punishment would be easier; But now you say, We see.

THEOPHYL. Overlooking the miracle wrought on the blind man, you deserve no pardon; since even visible miracles make no impression on you.

CHRYS. What then they thought their great praise, He shows would turn to their punishment; and at the same time consoles him who had been afflicted with bodily blindness from his birth. For it is not without reason that the Evangelist says, And some of the Pharisees which were with him, heard these words; but that he may remind us that those were the very persons who had first withstood Christ, and then wished to stone Him. For there were some who only followed in appearance, and were easily changed to the contrary side.

THEOPHYL. Or, if you were blind, i.e. ignorant of the Scriptures, your offense would be by no means so heavy a one, as erring out of ignorance: but now, seeing you call yourselves wise and understanding in the law, your own selves condemn you.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

John 9:1-17

Codex Egberti, Fol 50

Chapter 9 of St John tells the story of Jesus healing a blind man who has been blind from birth, and the various reactions to this act, from his neighbours, his family, the Pharisees, and the man himself.  Today's section looks at the initial reactions.


The New Advent page with the Greek, Latin and Knox translation can be found here.  you can listen to the Latin here and the Greek here.

The Latin:

1 Et præteriens Jesus vidit hominem cæcum a nativitate: 2 et interrogaverunt eum discipuli ejus: Rabbi, quis peccavit, hic, aut parentes ejus, ut cæcus nasceretur? 3 Respondit Jesus: Neque hic peccavit, neque parentes ejus: sed ut manifestentur opera Dei in illo. 4 Me oportet operari opera ejus qui misit me, donec dies est: venit nox, quando nemo potest operari: 5 quamdiu sum in mundo, lux sum mundi. 6 Hæc cum dixisset, exspuit in terram, et fecit lutum ex sputo, et linivit lutum super oculos ejus, 7 et dixit ei: Vade, lava in natatoria Siloë (quod interpretatur Missus). Abiit ergo, et lavit, et venit videns. 8 Itaque vicini, et qui viderant eum prius quia mendicus erat, dicebant: Nonne hic est qui sedebat, et mendicabat? Alii dicebant: Quia hic est. 9 Alii autem: Nequaquam, sed similis est ei. Ille vero dicebat: Quia ego sum. 10 Dicebant ergo ei: Quomodo aperti sunt tibi oculi? 11 Respondit: Ille homo qui dicitur Jesus, lutum fecit: et unxit oculos meos, et dixit mihi: Vade ad natatoria Siloë, et lava. Et abii, et lavi, et video. 12 Et dixerunt ei: Ubi est ille? Ait: Nescio.13 Adducunt eum ad pharisæos, qui cæcus fuerat. 14 Erat autem sabbatum quando lutum fecit Jesus, et aperuit oculos ejus. 15 Iterum ergo interrogabant eum pharisæi quomodo vidisset. Ille autem dixit eis: Lutum mihi posuit super oculos, et lavi, et video. 16 Dicebant ergo ex pharisæis quidam: Non est hic homo a Deo, qui sabbatum non custodit. Alii autem dicebant: Quomodo potest homo peccator hæc signa facere? Et schisma erat inter eos. 17 Dicunt ergo cæco iterum: Tu quid dicis de illo qui aperuit oculos tuos? Ille autem dixit: Quia propheta est.

The English:

And Jesus passing by, saw a man, who was blind from his birth: [2] And his disciples asked him: Rabbi, who hath sinned, this man, or his parents, that he should be born blind? [3] Jesus answered: Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. [4] I must work the works of him that sent me, whilst it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. [5] As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.[6] When he had said these things, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and spread the clay on his eyes, [7] And said to him: Go, wash in the pool of Siloe, which is interpreted, Sent. He went therefore, and washed, and he came seeing. [8] The neighbours therefore, and they who had seen him before that he was a beggar, said: Is not this he that sat and begged? Some said: This is he. [9] But others said: No, but he is like him. But he said: I am he. [10] They said therefore to him: How were thy eyes opened?[11] He answered: That man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me: Go to the pool of Siloe, and wash. And I went, I washed, and I see. [12] And they said to him: Where is he? He saith: I know not. [13] They bring him that had been blind to the Pharisees. [14] Now it was the sabbath, when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. [15] Again therefore the Pharisees asked him, how he had received his sight. But he said to them: He put clay upon my eyes, and I washed, and I see. [16] Some therefore of the Pharisees said: This man is not of God, who keepeth not the sabbath. But others said: How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them. [17] They say therefore to the blind man again: What sayest thou of him that hath opened thy eyes? And he said: He is a prophet.


The Catena Aurea commentaries on these verses focus firstly on the issue of why people are born with disabilities and illnesses: is it due to the sins of their parents?

There is, of course, a sense that we all bear the sins of our parents: we all inherit the consequences of Adam's sin; and the genetic legacy and physical health of our parents affects a child even in the womb.  But in this particular case, the man's blindness is part of God's providential plan to reveal Jesus' power, and act as a sign for his message:

AUG. For the blind man here is the human race. Blindness came upon the first man by reason of sin: and from him we all derive it: i.e. man is blind from his birth.

AUG. Was he then born without original sin, or had he never added to it by actual sin? Both this man and his parents had sinned, but that sin was not the reason why he was born blind. Our Lord gives the reason; viz. That the works of God should be made manifest in him.

GREG. One stroke falls on the sinner, for punishment only, not conversion; another for correction; another not for correction of past sins, but prevention of future; another neither for correcting past, nor preventing future sins, but by the unexpected deliverance following the blow, to excite more ardent love of the Savior's goodness.

The first reaction comes from the man himself witnessing to what had happened to his neighbours:

CHRYS. The suddenness of the miracle made men incredulous: The neighbors therefore, and they which had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? Wonderful clemency and condescension of God! Even the beggars He heals with so great considerateness: thus stopping the mouths of the Jews; in that He made not the great, illustrious, and noble, but the poorest and meanest, the objects of His providence. Indeed He had come for the salvation of all.

Some said, This is he. The blind man having been clearly recognized in the course of his long walk to the pool; the more so, as people's attention was drawn by the strangeness of the event; men could no longer say, This is not he; Others said, Nay, but he is like him.

AUG. His eyes being opened had altered his look. But he said, I am he. He spoke gratefully; a denial would have convicted Him of ingratitude.

CHRYS. He was not ashamed of his former blindness, nor afraid of the fury of the people, nor averse to show himself, and proclaim his Benefactor. Therefore said they to him, How were your eyes opened? How they were, neither he nor any one knew: he only knew the fact; he could not explain it...

AUG. Lo, he is become a proclaimer of grace, an evangelist, and testifies to the Jews. That blind man testified, and the ungodly were vexed at the heart, because they had not in their heart what appeared upon his countenance...

Some (though not all) of the Pharisees, however, reject the great gift because it had taken place on the sabbath!  Do we likewise reject graces offered because they come at inconvenient times?

AUG. Some, not all: for some were already anointed. But they, who neither saw, nor were anointed, said, This man is not of God, because he keeps not the sabbath day. Rather He kept it, in that He was without sin; for to observe the sabbath spiritually, is to have no sin. And this God admonishes us of, when He enjoins the sabbath, saying, In it you shall do no servile work. What servile work is, our Lord tells us above, Whosoever commits sin, is the servant of sin. They observed the sabbath carnally, transgressed it spiritually.

CHRYS. Passing over the miracle in silence, they give all the prominence they can to the supposed transgression; not charging Him with healing on the sabbath, but with not keeping the sabbath. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? They were impressed by His miracles, but only in a weak and unsettled way. For whereas such might have strewn them, that the sabbath was not broken; they had not yet any idea that He v as God, and therefore did not know that it was the Lord of the sabbath who had worked the miracle. Nor did any of them dare to say openly what his sentiments were, but spoke ambiguously; one, because he thought the fact itself improbable; another, from his love of station. It follows, And there was a division among them. That is, the people were divided first, and then the rulers.

THEOPHYL. See with what good intent they put the question. They do not say, What say you of Him that keeps not the sabbath, but mention the miracle, that He has opened your eyes; meaning, it would seem, to draw out the healed man himself; He has benefited them, they seem to say, and you ought to preach Him.

AUG. Or they sought how they could throw reproach upon the man, and cast him out of their synagogue. he declares however openly what he thinks: He said, He is a Prophet. Not being anointed yet in heart, he could not confess the Son of God; nevertheless, he is not wrong in what he says: for our Lord Himself says of Himself, A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

John 8:37-59

Holy Trinity Church, London
Photo: George P Landow

Today's concluding section of St John 8 continues Jesus' discussion on the recognition of the truth of who he is, provides a warning about the reality of the devil, and concludes with another attempt to stone him for blasphemy in claiming to be God.


The New Advent page with the Greek, Latin and English can be found here.  You can hear the Latin read here (from 4.06) and the Greek here.

The Latin:

37 Scio quia filii Abrahæ estis: sed quæritis me interficere, quia sermo meus non capit in vobis. 38 Ego quod vidi apud Patrem meum, loquor: et vos quæ vidistis apud patrem vestrum, facitis. 39 Responderunt, et dixerunt ei: Pater noster Abraham est. Dicit eis Jesus: Si filii Abrahæ estis, opera Abrahæ facite. 40 Nunc autem quæritis me interficere, hominem, qui veritatem vobis locutus sum, quam audivi a Deo: hoc Abraham non fecit. 41 Vos facitis opera patris vestri. Dixerunt itaque ei: Nos ex fornicatione non sumus nati: unum patrem habemus Deum. 42 Dixit ergo eis Jesus: Si Deus pater vester esset, diligeretis utique et me; ego enim ex Deo processi, et veni: neque enim a meipso veni, sed ille me misit. 43 Quare loquelam meam non cognoscitis? Quia non potestis audire sermonem meum. 44 Vos ex patre diabolo estis: et desideria patris vestri vultis facere. Ille homicida erat ab initio, et in veritate non stetit: quia non est veritas in eo: cum loquitur mendacium, ex propriis loquitur, quia mendax est, et pater ejus. 45 Ego autem si veritatem dico, non creditis mihi. 46 Quis ex vobis arguet me de peccato? si veritatem dico vobis, quare non creditis mihi? 47 Qui ex Deo est, verba Dei audit. Propterea vos non auditis, quia ex Deo non estis.48 Responderunt ergo Judæi, et dixerunt ei: Nonne bene dicimus nos quia Samaritanus es tu, et dæmonium habes? 49 Respondit Jesus: Ego dæmonium non habeo: sed honorifico Patrem meum, et vos inhonorastis me. 50 Ego autem non quæro gloriam meam: est qui quærat, et judicet.51 Amen, amen dico vobis: si quis sermonem meum servaverit, mortem non videbit in æternum. 52 Dixerunt ergo Judæi: Nunc cognovimus quia dæmonium habes. Abraham mortuus est, et prophetæ; et tu dicis: Si quis sermonem meum servaverit, non gustabit mortem in æternum. 53 Numquid tu major es patre nostro Abraham, qui mortuus est? et prophetæ mortui sunt. Quem teipsum facis? 54 Respondit Jesus: Si ego glorifico meipsum, gloria mea nihil est: est Pater meus, qui glorificat me, quem vos dicitis quia Deus vester est, 55 et non cognovistis eum: ego autem novi eum. Et si dixero quia non scio eum, ero similis vobis, mendax. Sed scio eum, et sermonem ejus servo. 56 Abraham pater vester exsultavit ut videret diem meum: vidit, et gavisus est. 57 Dixerunt ergo Judæi ad eum: Quinquaginta annos nondum habes, et Abraham vidisti? 58 Dixit eis Jesus: Amen, amen dico vobis, antequam Abraham fieret, ego sum. 59 Tulerunt ergo lapides, ut jacerent in eum: Jesus autem abscondit se, et exivit de templo.

The English:

[37] I know that you are the children of Abraham: but you seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. [38] I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and you do the things that you have seen with your father. [39] They answered, and said to him: Abraham is our father. Jesus saith to them: If you be the children of Abraham, do the works of Abraham. [40] But now you seek to kill me, a man who have spoken the truth to you, which I have heard of God. This Abraham did not. [41] You do the works of your father. They said therefore to him: We are not born of fornication: we have one Father, even God. [42] Jesus therefore said to them: If God were your Father, you would indeed love me. For from God I proceeded, and came; for I came not of myself, but he sent me: [43] Why do you not know my speech? Because you cannot hear my word. [44] You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and he stood not in the truth; because truth is not in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof. [45] But if I say the truth, you believe me not.[46] Which of you shall convince me of sin? If I say the truth to you, why do you not believe me? [47] He that is of God, heareth the words of God. Therefore you hear them not, because you are not of God. [48] The Jews therefore answered, and said to him: Do not we say well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? [49] Jesus answered: I have not a devil: but I honour my Father, and you have dishonoured me. [50] But I seek not my own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.[51] Amen, amen I say to you: If any man keep my word, he shall not see death for ever. [52] The Jews therefore said: Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest: If any man keep my word, he shall not taste death for ever. [53] Art thou greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? and the prophets are dead. Whom dost thou make thyself? [54] Jesus answered: If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father that glorifieth me, of whom you say that he is your God. [55] And you have not known him, but I know him. And if I shall say that I know him not, I shall be like to you, a liar. But I do know him, and do keep his word. [56] Abraham your father rejoiced that he might see my day: he saw it, and was glad. [57] The Jews therefore said to him: Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? [58] Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say to you, before Abraham was made, I am. [59] They took up stones therefore to cast at him. But Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.


This passage articulates a theme picked up in more depth by St Paul, namely that the Jews think they are free, but in fact they are enslaved by sin and the law:

AUG. The Jews had asserted they were free, because they were Abraham's seed. Our Lord replies, I know that you are Abraham's seed; as if to say, I know that you are the sons of Abraham, but according to the flesh, not spiritually and by faith. So He adds, But you seek to kill Me.

CHRYS. He says this, that they might not attempt to answer, that they had no sin. He reminds them of a present sin; a sin which they had been meditating for some time past, and which was actually at this moment in their thoughts: putting out of the question their general course of life. He thus removes them by degrees out of their relationship to Abraham, teaching them not to pride themselves so much upon it: for that, as bondage and freedom were the consequences of works, so was relationship. And that they might not say, We do so justly, He adds the reason why they did so; Because My word has no place in you.

The reality of evil:

CHRYS. Our Lord, having already cut off the Jews from relationship to Abraham, overthrows now this far greater claim, to call God their Father, You are of your father the devil.

AUG. The Jews then were children of the devil by imitation, not by birth: And the lusts of your father you will do, our Lord says. You are his children then, because you have such lusts, not because you are born of him: for you seek to kill Me, a man that has told you the truth: and he envied man, and killed him: he was a murderer from the beginning; i.e. of the first man on whom a murder could be committed: man could not he slain, before man was created. The devil did not go, girt with a sword, against man: he sowed an evil word, and slew him. Do not suppose therefore that you are not guilty of murder, when you suggest evil thoughts to your brother. The very reason why you rage against the flesh, is that you cannot assault the soul.

ORIGEN. Consider too, it was not one man only that he killed, but the whole human race, inasmuch as in Adam all die; so that he is truly called a murderer from the beginning.

CHRYS. He does not say, his works, but his lusts you will do, meaning that both the devil and the Jews were bent on murder, to satisfy their envy. And stood not in the truth. He shows whence sprang their continual objection to Him, that He was not from God.

AUG. But it will be objected perhaps, that if from the beginning of his existence, the devil stood not in the truth, he was never in a state of blessedness with the holy angels, refusing, as he did, to be subject to his Creator, and therefore false and deceitful; unwilling at the cost of pious subjection to hold that which by nature he was; and attempting in his pride and loftiness to simulate that which he was not. This opinion is not the same with that of the Manichaeans, that the devil has his own peculiar nature, derived as it were from the opposite principle of evil. This foolish sect does not see that our Lord says not, Was alien from the truth, but Stood not in the truth, meaning, fell from the truth. And thus they interpret John, The devil sins from the beginning, not seeing that if sin is natural, it is no sin. But what do the testimonies of the prophets reply? Isaiah, setting forth the devil under the figure of the prince of Babylon, says, How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! Ezekiel says, You have been in Eden, the garden of God. Which passages, as they cannot be interpreted in any other way, show that we must take the word, He stood not in the truth, to mean, that he was in truth, but did not remain in it; and the other, that the devil sins from the beginning, to mean, that he was a sinner not from the beginning of his creation, but from the beginning of sin. For sin began in him, and he was the beginning of sin.

Our Lord's divinity:

GREG. The carnal minds of the Jews are intent on the flesh only; they think only of His age in the flesh: Then said the Jews to Him, you are not fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham? that is to say, Many ages have passed since Abraham died; and how then could he see your day? For they took His words in a carnal sense.

THEOPHYL. Christ was then thirty-three years old. Why then do they not say, You are not yet forty years old, instead of fifty? A needless question this: they simply spoke as chance led them at the time. Some however say that they mentioned the fiftieth year on account of its sacred character, as being the year of jubilee, in which they redeemed their captives, and gave up the possessions they had bought.

GREG. Our Savior mildly draws them away from their carnal view, to the contemplation of His Divinity; Jesus said to them, Verily, verily, I say to you, Before Abraham was, I am. Before is a particle of past time, am, of present. Divinity has no past or future, but always the present; and therefore He does not say, Before Abraham was, I was: but, Before Abraham was, I am: as it is in Exodus, I am that I am. Before and after might be said of Abraham with reference to different periods of his life; to be, in the present, is said of the truth only.

ALCUIN. He fled, because His hour was not yet come; and because He had not chosen this kind of death.

The consequences of rejecting Christ:

AUG. So then, as a man, He flies from the stones; but woe to them, from whose stony hearts God flies.

BEDE. Mystically, a man throws a stone at Jesus, as often as he harbors an evil thought, and if he follows it up, so far as lies in him, he kills Jesus.

GREG. What does our Lord mean by hiding Himself, but that the truth is hidden to them, who despise His words. The truth flies the company of an unhumbled soul. His example shows us, that we should in all humility rather retreat from the wrath of the proud, when it rises, than resist it, even though we might be able.

Monday, 23 February 2015

John 8:12-36

Today's section of St John's Gospel returns to the question of how we can know that what Jesus is saying is true.  It returns to the image of Christ as the light of the world, and contains that famous line, 'The truth will set you free'...

Freedom is one of those concepts that has become utterly corrupted in our culture: instead of being the freedom to act rightly through the power of grace, it has become synonymous with the idea that we should all be permitted to indulge our basest desires at will.  A freedom grounded in truth though, stands as a corrective to this.


The New Advent page with Greek, Latin and English can be found here. You can hear the Latin read here (from 1.20) and the Greek here.

The Latin:

12 Iterum ergo locutus est eis Jesus, dicens: Ego sum lux mundi: qui sequitur me, non ambulat in tenebris, sed habebit lumen vitæ. 13 Dixerunt ergo ei pharisæi: Tu de teipso testimonium perhibes; testimonium tuum non est verum. 14 Respondit Jesus, et dixit eis: Et si ego testimonium perhibeo de meipso, verum est testimonium meum: quia scio unde veni et quo vado; vos autem nescitis unde venio aut quo vado. 15 Vos secundum carnem judicatis: ego non judico quemquam; 16 et si judico ego, judicium meum verum est, quia solus non sum: sed ego et qui misit me, Pater. 17 Et in lege vestra scriptum est, quia duorum hominum testimonium verum est. 18 Ego sum qui testimonium perhibeo de meipso, et testimonium perhibet de me qui misit me, Pater. 19 Dicebant ergo ei: Ubi est Pater tuus? Respondit Jesus: Neque me scitis, neque Patrem meum: si me sciretis, forsitan et Patrem meum sciretis. 20 Hæc verba locutus est Jesus in gazophylacio, docens in templo: et nemo apprehendit eum, quia necdum venerat hora ejus.21 Dixit ergo iterum eis Jesus: Ego vado, et quæretis me, et in peccato vestro moriemini. Quo ego vado, vos non potestis venire. 22 Dicebant ergo Judæi: Numquid interficiet semetipsum, quia dixit: Quo ego vado, vos non potestis venire? 23 Et dicebat eis: Vos de deorsum estis, ego de supernis sum. Vos de mundo hoc estis, ego non sum de hoc mundo. 24 Dixi ergo vobis quia moriemini in peccatis vestris: si enim non credideritis quia ego sum, moriemini in peccato vestro. 25 Dicebant ergo ei: Tu quis es? Dixit eis Jesus: Principium, qui et loquor vobis. 26 Multa habeo de vobis loqui, et judicare; sed qui me misit, verax est; et ego quæ audivi ab eo, hæc loquor in mundo. 27 Et non cognoverunt quia Patrem ejus dicebat Deum. 28 Dixit ergo eis Jesus: Cum exaltaveritis Filium hominis, tunc cognoscetis quia ego sum, et a meipso facio nihil, sed sicut docuit me Pater, hæc loquor: 29 et qui me misit, mecum est, et non reliquit me solum: quia ego quæ placita sunt ei, facio semper. 30 Hæc illo loquente, multi crediderunt in eum.31 Dicebat ergo Jesus ad eos, qui crediderunt ei, Judæos: Si vos manseritis in sermone meo, vere discipuli mei eritis, 32 et cognoscetis veritatem, et veritas liberabit vos. 33 Responderunt ei: Semen Abrahæ sumus, et nemini servivimus umquam: quomodo tu dicis: Liberi eritis? 34 Respondit eis Jesus: Amen, amen dico vobis: quia omnis qui facit peccatum, servus est peccati. 35 Servus autem non manet in domo in æternum: filius autem manet in æternum. 36 Si ergo vos filius liberaverit, vere liberi eritis.

The English:

Again therefore, Jesus spoke to them, saying: I am the light of the world: he that followeth me, walketh not in darkness, but shall have the light of life. [13] The Pharisees therefore said to him: Thou givest testimony of thyself: thy testimony is not true. [14] Jesus answered, and said to them: Although I give testimony of myself, my testimony is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go: but you know not whence I come, or whither I go. [15] You judge according to the flesh: I judge not any man. [16] And if I do judge, my judgment is true: because I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. [17] And in your law it is written, that the testimony of two men is true. [18] I am one that give testimony of myself: and the Father that sent me giveth testimony of me. [19] They said therefore to him: Where is thy Father? Jesus answered: Neither me do you know, nor my Father: if you did know me, perhaps you would know my Father also. [20] These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, teaching in the temple: and no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.[21] Again therefore Jesus said to them: I go, and you shall seek me, and you shall die in your sin. Whither I go, you cannot come. [22] The Jews therefore said: Will he kill himself, because he said: Whither I go, you cannot come? [23] And he said to them: You are from beneath, I am from above. You are of this world, I am not of this world. [24] Therefore I said to you, that you shall die in your sins. For if you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sin. [25] They said therefore to him: Who art thou? Jesus said to them: The beginning, who also speak unto you.[26] Many things I have to speak and to judge of you. But he that sent me, is true: and the things I have heard of him, these same I speak in the world. [27] And they understood not, that he called God his Father. [28] Jesus therefore said to them: When you shall have lifted up the Son of man, then shall you know, that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself, but as the Father hath taught me, these things I speak: [29] And he that sent me, is with me, and he hath not left me alone: for I do always the things that please him. [30] When he spoke these things, many believed in him.[31] Then Jesus said to those Jews, who believed him: If you continue in my word, you shall be my disciples indeed. [32] And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. [33] They answered him: We are the seed of Abraham, and we have never been slaves to any man: how sayest thou: you shall be free? [34] Jesus answered them: Amen, amen I say unto you: that whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin. [35] Now the servant abideth not in the house for ever; but the son abideth for ever. [36] If therefore the son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.


The Catena Aurea looks first at this fresh assertion of the divinity of Jesus, and 'the light of the world' image:

BEDE Where it is to be observed, He does not say, I am the light of Angels, or of heaven, but the Light of the world, i.e. of mankind who live in darkness, as we read, To give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

CHRYS. As they had brought Galilee as an objection against Him, and doubted His being one of the Prophets, as if that was all He claimed to be, Me wished to show that He was not one of the Prophets, but the Lord of the whole earth: Then spoke Jesus again to them, saying, I am the Light of the world: not of Galilee, or of Palestine, or of Judea...

AUG. He withdraws you however from the eyes of the flesh, to those of the heart, in that He adds, He that follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. He thinks it not enough to say shall have light, but adds, of life. These words of our Lord agree with those of the Psalm, In Your light shall we see light; for with you is the well of life. For bodily uses, light is one thing, and a well another; and a well ministers to the mouth, light to the eyes. With God the light and the well are the same. He who shines upon you, that you may see Him, the Same flows to you, that you may drink Him. What He promises is put in the future tense; what we ought to do in the present. He that follows Me, He says, shall have; i.e. by faith now, in sight hereafter. The visible sun accompanies you, only if you go westward, whither it go also; and even if you follow it, it will forsake you, at its setting. Your God is every where wholly; He will not fall from you, if you fall not from Him. Darkness is to be feared, not that of the eyes, but that of the mind; and if of the eyes, of the inner not the outer eyes; not those by which white and black, but those by which just and unjust, are discerned.

The Catena also includes some insights on the discussion of witness, and the Trinitiarian theology expounded here:

CHRYS. It is written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. If this is to be taken literally, in what respect does our Lord differ from men? The rule has been laid down for men, on the ground that one man alone is not to be relied on: but how can this be applicable to God? These words are quoted then with another meaning. When two men bear witness, both to an indifferent matter, their witness is true: this constitutes the testimony of two men. But if one of them bear witness to himself, then they are no longer two witnesses. Thus our Lord means to show that He is consubstantial with the Father, and does not need another witness, i.e. besides the Father's. I and the Father that sent Me. Again, on human principles, when a man bears witness, his honesty is supposed, he is not home witness to; and a man is admitted as a fair and competent witness in an indifferent matter, but not in one relating to himself, unless he is supported by other testimony. But here it is quite otherwise. Our Lord, though giving testimony in His own case, and though saying that He is borne witness to by another, pronounces Himself worthy of belief; thus showing His all-sufficiency. He says He deserves to be believed.

ALCUIN. Or it is as if He said, If your law admits the testimony of two men who may be deceived, and testify to more than is true; on what grounds can you reject Mine and My Father's testimony, the highest and most sure of all?

For us today, though, living in a culture that espouses the completely false idea that freedom means doing whatever you feel like doing, the discussion of the liberating nature of truth is perhaps the most important section of this text.

Apprehension of the truth, the Fathers point out, requires us to shake off the miasma of our culture that obscures our capacity to reason:

AUG. As if to say: Whereas you have now belief, by continuing, you shall have sight. For it was not their knowledge which made them believe, but rather their belief which gave them knowledge. Faith is to believe that which you see not: truth to see that which you believe? By continuing then to believe a thing, you come at last to see the thing; i.e. to the contemplation of the very truth as it is; not conveyed in words, but revealed by light. The truth is unchangeable; it is the bread of the soul, refreshing others, without diminution to itself; changing him who eats into itself; itself not changed. This truth is the Word of God, which put on flesh for our sakes, and lay hid, not meaning to bury itself, but only to defer its manifestation, till its suffering in the body, for the ransoming of the body of sin, had taken place.

CHRYS. Or, You shall know the truth, i.e. Me: for I am the truth. The Jewish was a typical dispensation; the reality you can only know from Me.

Why does it matter?  It matters because our apprehension of eternity frees us to act with our eternal destiny in mind:

AUG. Some one might say perhaps, And what does it profit me to know the truth? So our Lord adds, And the truth shall free you; as if to say, If the truth does not delight you, liberty, will. To be freed is to be made free, as to be healed is to be made whole. This is plainer in the Greek; in the Latin we use the word free chiefly in the sense of escape of danger, relief from care, and the like.

AUG. From what shall the truth free us, but from death, corruption, mutability, itself being immortal, uncorrupt, immutable? Absolute immutability is in itself eternity.

Jesus' listeners are aggrieved at this, for they prided themselves on being the race that God had already led out of slavery.  They did not understand that their earlier freedom but prefigured the true freedom that comes from grace, not the law alone:

CHRYS. Men who really believed could have borne to he rebuked. But these men began immediately to show anger. Indeed if they had been disturbed at His former saying, they had much more reason to be so now. For they might argue; If He says we shall know the truth, He must mean that we do not know it now: so then the law is a lie, our knowledge a delusion. But their thoughts took no such direction: their grief is wholly worldly; they know of no other servitude, but that of this world: They answered Him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man. How say you then, we shall be made free? As if to say, They of Abraham's stock are free, and ought not to be called slaves: we have never been in bondage to any one.

AUG. Or it was not those who believed, but the unbelieving multitude that made this answer. But how could they say with truth, taking only secular bondage into account, that we have never been in bondage to any man? Was not Joseph sold? were not the holy prophets carried into captivity? Ungrateful people! Why does God remind you so continually of His having taken you out of the house of bondage if you never were in bondage? Why do you who are now talking, pay tribute to the Romans, if you never were in bondage?

The slavery Christ is talking about though, is the slavery of sin:

CHRYS. Christ then, who speaks for their good, not to gratify their vainglory, explains His meaning to have been that they were the servants not of men, but of sin, the hardest kind of servitude, from which God only can rescue: Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say to you, Whosoever commits sin is the servant of sin.

GREG. Because whoever yields to wrong desires, puts his hitherto free soul under the yoke of the evil one, and takes him for his master. But we oppose this master, when we struggle against the wickedness which has laid hold upon us, when we strongly resist habit, when we pierce sin with repentance, and wash away the spots of filth With tears.

GREG. And the more freely men follow their perverse desires, the more closely are they in bondage to them.

AUG. O miserable bondage! The slave of a human master when wearied with the hardness of his tasks, sometimes takes refuge in flight. But whither does the slave of sin flee? He takes it along with him, wherever he goes; for his sin is within him. The pleasure passes away, but the sin does not pass away: its delight goes, its sting remains behind. He alone can free from sin, who came without sin, and was made a sacrifice for sin. And thus it follows: The servant abides not in the house for ever. The Church is the house: the servant is the sinner; and many sinners enter into the Church. So He does not say, The servant is, not in the house; but, The servant abides not in the house for ever. If a time then is to come, when there shall be no servant in the house; who will there be there? Who will boast that he is pure from sin? Christ's are fearful words. But He adds, The Son abides for ever. So then Christ will live alone in His house. Or does not the word Son, imply both the body and the head? Christ purposely alarms us first, and then gives us hope. He alarms us, that we may not love sin; He gives us hope, that we may not despair of the absolution of our sin. Our hope then is this, that we shall be freed by Him who is free. He has paid the price for us, not in money, but in His own blood: If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.

AUG. Not from the barbarians, but from the devil; not from the captivity of the body, but from the wickedness of the soul.

Through Christ, we are empowered to turn away from sin.  In this life though, the struggle to act in true freedom will always be there; it is only in the next that we will have true freedom:

AUG. The first stage of freedom' is, the abstaining from sin. But that is only incipient, it is not perfect freedom: for the flesh still lusts against the spirit, so that you do not do the things that you would. Full and perfect freedom will only be, when the contest is over, and the last enemy, death, is destroyed.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Saturday, 21 February 2015

John 8:1-11

Pieter Bruegel, Oil on panel, 24cm x 34cm. Courtauld Institute Galleries, London

Today's text is the important - and rather mysterious (what was Jesus writing on the ground?) - story of the woman taken in adultery, an incident that is often misused today by liberals in order to (falsely) claim that continuing to sin is acceptable.

Some, from the sixteenth century onwards, have argued that this passage was a later addition to the text, and not by St John, because it was not included in some early manuscripts.  However, newly discovered early patristic manuscripts have vindicated the Vulgate version of the text.


The New Advent page with the Greek, Latin and English can be found here.  You can hear the Latin read here and the Greek here.

The Latin:

Jesus autem perrexit in montem Oliveti: 2 et diluculo iterum venit in templum, et omnis populus venit ad eum, et sedens docebat eos. 3 Adducunt autem scribæ et pharisæi mulierem in adulterio deprehensam: et statuerunt eam in medio, 4 et dixerunt ei: Magister, hæc mulier modo deprehensa est in adulterio. 5 In lege autem Moyses mandavit nobis hujusmodi lapidare. Tu ergo quid dicis? 6 Hoc autem dicebant tentantes eum, ut possent accusare eum. Jesus autem inclinans se deorsum, digito scribebat in terra. 7 Cum ergo perseverarent interrogantes eum, erexit se, et dixit eis: Qui sine peccato est vestrum, primus in illam lapidem mittat. 8 Et iterum se inclinans, scribebat in terra. 9 Audientes autem unus post unum exibant, incipientes a senioribus: et remansit solus Jesus, et mulier in medio stans. 10 Erigens autem se Jesus, dixit ei: Mulier, ubi sunt qui te accusabant? nemo te condemnavit? 11 Quæ dixit: Nemo, Domine. Dixit autem Jesus: Nec ego te condemnabo: vade, et jam amplius noli peccare.

The English:

And Jesus went unto mount Olivet. [2] And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came to him, and sitting down he taught them. [3] And the scribes and the Pharisees bring unto him a woman taken in adultery: and they set her in the midst, [4] And said to him: Master, this woman was even now taken in adultery. [5] Now Moses in the law commanded us to stone such a one. But what sayest thou? [6] And this they said tempting him, that they might accuse him. But Jesus bowing himself down, wrote with his finger on the ground. [7] When therefore they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said to them: He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. [8] And again stooping down, he wrote on the ground. [9] But they hearing this, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest. And Jesus alone remained, and the woman standing in the midst. [10] Then Jesus lifting up himself, said to her: Woman, where are they that accused thee? Hath no man condemned thee? [11] Who said: No man, Lord. And Jesus said: Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more.


There are a number of important details to this story.  First the location, the mount of Olives:

ALCUIN. Our Lord at the time of His passion used to spend the day in Jerusalem, preaching in the temple, and performing miracles, and return in the evening to Bethany, where He lodged with the sisters of Lazarus. Thus on the last day of the feast, having, according to His wont, preached the whole day in the temple, in the evening He went to the mount of Olives.

AUG. And where ought Christ to teach, except on the mount of Olives; on the mount of ointment, on the mount of chrism. For the name Christ is from chrism, chrism being the Greek word for unction. He has anointed us, for wrestling with the devil.  

 ALCUIN. The anointing with oil is a relief to the limbs, when wearied and in pain. The mount of Olives also denotes the height of our Lord's pity, olive in the Greek signifying pity. The qualities of oil are such as to fit in to this mystical meaning. For it floats above all other liquids: and the Psalmist says, Your mercy is over all Your works. And early in the morning, He came again into the temple: i.e. to denote the giving and unfolding of His mercy, i.e. the now dawning light of the New Testament in the faithful, that is, in His temple. His returning early in the morning, signifies the new rise of grace.  

Secondly, Jesus is sitting on the ground, teaching.  But as usual, the Pharisees were setting out to trap him:

BEDE. And next it is signified, that after He began to dwell by grace in His temple, i.e. in the Church, men from all nations would believe in Him: And all the people came to Him, and He sat down and taught them. 

ALCUIN. The sitting down, represents the humility of His incarnation. And the people came to Him, when He sat down, i.e. after taking up human nature, and thereby becoming visible, many began to hear and believe on Him, only knowing Him as their friend and neighbor. But while these kind and simple persons are full of admiration at our Lord's discourse, the Scribes and Pharisees put questions to Him, not for the sake of instruction, but only to entangle the truth in their nets: And the Scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, they say to Him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, if the very act. 

AUG. They had remarked upon, Him already, as being over lenient. Of Him indeed it had I been prophesied, Ride on because of the word of truth, of meekness, and of righteousness. So as a teacher He exhibited truth, as a deliverer meekness, as a judge righteousness. When He spoke, His truth was acknowledged; when against His enemies He used no violence, His meekness was praised. So they raised the scandal on the score of justice For they said among themselves, If He decide to let her go He will not do justice; for the law cannot command what is unjust: Now Moses in the law commanded as, that such should be stoned: but to maintain His meekness, which has made Him already so acceptable to the people, He must decide to let her go. Wherefore they demand His opinion: And what say You? hoping to find an occasion to accuse Him, as a transgressor of the law: And this they said tempting Him, that they might have to accuse Him. 

What is the significance of Jesus writing on the ground?  The Fathers suggest it is a reminder that he himself is the divine legislator:

AUG. As if to signify that such persons were to be written in earth, not in heaven, where He told His disciples they should rejoice they were written. Or His bowing His head (to write on the ground), is an expression of humility; the writing on the ground signifying that His law was written on the earth which bore fruit, not on the barren stone, as before. 

ALCUIN. The ground denotes the human heart, which yields the fruit either of good or of bad actions: the finger jointed and flexible, discretion. He instructs us then, when we see any faults in our neighbors, not immediately and rashly to condemn them, but after searching our own hearts to begin with, to examine them attentively with the finger of discretion. 

BEDE. His writing with His finger on the ground perhaps showed, that it was He who had written the law on stone.

The key to the story is, perhaps, that in seeking to save the soul of the woman, and show her mercy, Jesus doesn't seek to contradict the law, but rather he pierces men's hearts, bringing all to consider the justice we must ultimately face:

AUG. He did not say, Stone her not, lest He should seem to speak contrary to the law. But God forbid that He should say, Stone her; for He came not to destroy that which He found, but to seek that which was lost. What then did He answer? He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. This is the voice of justice. Let the sinner be punished, but not by sinners; the law carried into effect, but not by transgressors of the law. 

GREG. For he who judges not himself first, cannot know how to judge correctly in the case of another. For though He know what the offense is, from being told, yet He cannot judge of another's deserts, who supposing himself innocent, will not apply the rule of justice to himself.

AUG. Having with the weapon of justice smitten them, He deigned not even to look on the fallen, but averted His eyes: And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground. 

ALCUIN. This is like our Lord; while His eyes are fixed, and He seems attending to something else, He gives the bystanders an opportunity of retiring: a tacit admonition to us to consider always both before we condemn a brother for a sin, and after we have punished him, whether we are not guilty ourselves of the same fault, or others as bad.

AUG. Thus smitten then with the voice of justice, as with a weapon, they examine themselves, find themselves guilty, and one by one retire: And they which heard it, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest. 

GLOSS. The more guilty of them, perhaps, or those who were more conscious of their faults.

The crucial words though, omitted from so many modern analyses, is the instruction to sin no more:

AUG. ...We heard above the voice of justice; let us hear now that of mercy: Jesus said to her, Neither do I condemn you; I, who you feared would condemn you, because You found no fault in me. What then Lord? Do You favor sin? No, surely. Listen to what follows, Go, and sin no more. So then our Lord condemned sin, but not the sinner. For did He favor sin, He would have said, Go, and live as you will: depend on my deliverance: howsoever great your sins be, it matters not: I will deliver you from hell, and its tormentors. But He did not say this. Let those attend, who love the Lord's mercy, and fear His truth. Truly, Gracious and righteous is the Lord.


Does this passage instruct us 'not to judge', or to abandon the administration of justice?  Surely not.

But it is a reminder that right motives are important for an action to be morally right - the woman's accusers were out not for justice, but to entrap Jesus.

They were thwarted because Jesus' mission for his first coming was not judgment - though his mission for his second coming will be - but to seek the salvation of souls.

And two sets of souls were potentially saved here - the woman of course, but also the accusers who realise their own guilt.

The passage is, then a call to repentance for all of us, a call to sin no more.