Commentary on Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist, Homilies 1–47 (The Fathers of the Church, Volume 33)

Commentary on Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist, Homilies 1–47 (The Fathers of the Church, Volume 33)

Copyright Date: 1957
Pages: 504
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    Commentary on Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist, Homilies 1–47 (The Fathers of the Church, Volume 33)
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    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1133-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-2)

    John of Constantinople his contemporaries called the great Chrysostom and left it to a later day—though one not far removed from his own—to coin the epithet by which he is known to posterity.¹ Endowed with a gift of truly golden eloquence, St. John lived in a milieu peculiarly adapted to foster the development of such a talent, and he was not one to bury his. Like the Gospel prototype, he multiplied it many times over by prudent use. But as in the case of many a gifted man, the extent of his greatness was really appreciated only after...

    • Homily 1
      (pp. 3-12)

      Whenever devotees of the pagan games learn that an outstanding athlete and winner of laurels has come from some place or other, they all flock to watch his efforts, observing his skill and all his strength. And you may see the entire audience of many thousands, all those present, straining the eyes of both body and mind in order not to miss anything of what is taking place.

      So also, if some renowned musician should come for a visit, these same spectators again fill the theatre as before. Having put aside all immediate occupations, necessary and urgent though these often...

    • Homily 2 (John 1.1)
      (pp. 12-27)

      ‘In the beginning was the Word.’

      If John were about to address us and to tell us about his own affairs, it would be necessary to speak of his family, his native land, and his education. However, since not he, but God through his agency, is speaking to humanity, it seems to me to be superfluous and beside the point to inquire into these details.

      Yet it really is not superfluous, but very necessary, to do so. When you learn who he was, and whence, and his parentage, and what sort of man, and after this you listen to his...

    • Homily 3 (John 1.1)
      (pp. 27-43)

      At this point it is unnecessary to urge you to listen to me attentively, so quickly have you made my [previous] exhortation fruitful by your actions. Your coming here, your attentive posture, your crowding on one another—pushing together to secure a closer position where my voice may be more clearly heard—and your unwillingness to leave, though closely packed together, until this spiritual theatre is dismissed, your clamorous applause and all such things may be thought indicative of the fervor in your soul and of your earnest desire to listen. Therefore, it is actually unnecessary to urge you on...

    • Homily 4 (John 1.1-3)
      (pp. 43-57)

      ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.’

      Teachers do not impose many tasks at one time upon those children who are just entering upon their education, nor do they assign the work only once. They repeat the same short lessons to them many times, so that what is said is easily retained by their understanding; moreover, the children are not overwhelmed at the start because of the multiplicity of facts and the difficulty of remembering them. They are not retarded in accumulating the information imparted to them, as they would be if a certain lack...

    • Homily 5 (John 1.3-5)
      (pp. 57-70)

      ‘All things were made through Him and without Him was made nothing that has been made.’¹

      Moses, in beginning his narrative in the Old Testament, spoke to us of the things of sense and enumerated them with many details. ‘In the beginning,’ he said, ‘God created the heavens and the earth’;² then he added that light also was made, and then a second heaven,³ and the nature of the stars, and every kind of living creature and—not to be tedious by naming them off one by one—everything else.

      But this Evangelist, cutting all short, summed up in a...

    • Homily 6 (John 1.6-8)
      (pp. 70-74)

      ‘There was a man, one sent from God, whose name was John.’¹

      When in his preamble the Evangelist had told us the most important facts about the Word of God, he continued his narrative systematically and methodically, and came in due course also to the forerunner of the Word, named, like himself, John. And as you hear that the latter was ‘sent from God,’ remember in future that there is no merely human residue left in what he said. For he did not speak his own words, but every word he uttered was inspired by Him who sent him. That...

    • Homily 7 (John 1.9)
      (pp. 74-80)

      ‘It was the true light that enlightens every man who comes into the world.’

      Dearly beloved children, the reason why we have fed you little by little with thoughts from the Scriptures, and have not poured them all out at once, is that we might make it easy for you to hold fast those already given to you.

      And I say this for, in constructing a building when the first stones are not yet firmly fastened together, if a man sets others upon them, he renders the wall altogether unsound and easy to throw down. But, if he waits for...

    • Homily 8 (John 1.9-10)
      (pp. 80-87)

      ‘It was the true light that enlightens every man who comes into the world.’

      Today there is nothing against resuming our study of the same words again, since last time we were prevented from reaching the whole text that was read, because we were explaining the doctrines involved. Well, where are they now who deny that He is true God? Here He is said to be ‘the true light,’ and elsewhere very ‘truth’ and very ‘life.’¹ We shall explain the latter text more clearly when we come to it; for the present we must speak for awhile to your charity...

    • Homily 9 (John 1.11)
      (pp. 88-95)

      ‘He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.’

      If you keep in mind the sermons we have delivered before this, we shall be more eager to continue the series, as though doing so in expectation of a great reward. If you remember what has already been said, you will in that way more readily understand the present talk. Thus, we shall not need to expend much effort, since you will be able to arrive at the meaning of the rest more swiftly because of your keen desire to add to your knowledge.

      In truth, he who always...

    • Homily 10 (John 1.11-13)
      (pp. 95-103)

      ‘He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.’¹

      Since God is merciful, beloved, and disposed to do good, He does and plans everything so that we may be bright with virtue. And since He wishes us to be virtuous, He tries to persuade us to this, but does not constrain or force anyone. Also, by bestowing benefits He draws all who are willing to be drawn and attracts them to Himself. That is why some received Him when He came, while others did not. He does not wish to have as servant anyone who is unwilling or...

    • Homily 11 (John 1.14)
      (pp. 103-110)

      ‘And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.’

      I wish to ask one favor of you all before I touch on the words of the Evangelist. Do not, I beg, refuse my request, for I am asking nothing weighty or troublesome. And if you grant it, it will not only be useful to me who receive the favor, but also to you who grant it— and perhaps much more so to you.

      What can it be, then, that I ask of you? Let each one of you, on some day of the week, even on the Sabbath itself,...

    • Homily 12 (John 1.14)
      (pp. 110-119)

      ‘And we saw his glory—glory as of the only-begotten of the Father—full of grace and of truth.’

      Perhaps it seemed to you last time that we were more bothersome and tiresome than was necessary, and that we were employing a somewhat sharp manner of speaking, and drawing out at too great length our indictment of the indifference of most of you. Now, if we had done this only through a desire to annoy you, each one of you would have reason to be indignant. But if, because we were thinking only of the help we could give you,...

    • Homily 13 (John 1.15)
      (pp. 119-130)

      ‘John bore witness concerning Him and cried: ‘This was He of whom I said, He who is to come after me has been set above me because He was before me.” ’

      Surely it is not in vain that we are hastening to our task? Surely we are not sowing on rocks? Surely the seeds which we cast do not lie hidden by the roadside and among thorns as they fall?¹ In truth, I am anxious for fear that our husbandry may be unprofitable for us, and this although I myself do not think I shall suffer loss as far...

    • Homily 14 (John 1.16,17)
      (pp. 130-140)

      ‘And of His fullness we have all received, grace for grace.’

      Last time we were saying that John explained away the doubt of those who would ask themselves how Christ, though coming later to preach, could have been set above [John the Baptist] and be more distinguished than he. This he did by adding the words: ‘because He was before me.’

      That was indeed one reason, but he added still another which he is now repeating. And what is it? ‘Of his fullness,’ he says, ‘we have all received, grace for grace.’ Moreover, along with these statements he made another...

    • Homily 15 (John 1.18)
      (pp. 141-150)

      ‘No one has at any time seen God. The only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has revealed Him.’

      God does not wish us merely to listen to the words and phrases contained in the Scriptures, but to do so with a great deal of prudent reflection. Therefore, blessed David frequently prefixed to his Psalms the expression ‘a meditation’ and also said: ‘Open thou my eyes and I will consider the wondrous things of thy law.’¹ And after him, his son also pointed out by way of instruction that one must seek for wisdom even as...

    • Homily 16 (John 1.19-27)
      (pp. 150-161)

      ‘And this is the witness of John, when the Jews sent to him from Jerusalem priests and Levites to ask him, “Who art thou?” ’¹

      A terrible thing is envy, beloved, terrible and ruinous to those who envy, but not to those who are envied. It harms and destroys them first, like some deep-seated and fatal poison within their souls. And if it should in some way do harm to those who are envied, the hurt is trifling and worth nothing, and brings greater gain than loss. Moreover, not only as regards envy, but also in all other vices, not...

    • Homily 17 (John 1.28-34)
      (pp. 161-173)

      ‘These things took place at Bethany, beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day John saw Jesus coming to him, and he said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” ’¹

      It is a very good thing to be sincere and open in speaking, and to make everything else secondary to the confession of Christ. So great and wonderful is it that the only-begotten Son of God confesses before His Father the man who does this, although the exchange of service is not equal. You confess upon earth, while He confesses in...

    • Homily 18 (John 1.35-41)
      (pp. 173-185)

      ‘Again the next day John was standing there, and two of his disciples. And looking upon Jesus as He walked by, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.’¹

      How sluggish is human nature and how liable to meet with a bad end, not by reason of nature’s constitution, but by reason of the sluggishness of its will. And on this account Paul, in writing to the Philippians, said: ‘To write you the same things indeed is not irksome to me, but it is necessary for you.’²

      Now, once the...

    • Homily 19 (John 1.41,42)
      (pp. 186-193)

      ‘He found first his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messias” (which interpreted is Christ). And he led him to Jesus.’

      In the beginning, when God had made man, He not only did not abandon him, but gave to him woman as a helpmate and caused her to dwell with him, knowing that they would gain much profit from this companionship. What matter that the woman did not make use of this advantage as she should have?

      In spite of this, if one examines closely into the nature of the matter, he will perceive that, for...

    • Homily 20 (John 1.43-49)
      (pp. 193-201)

      ‘The next day He was about to leave for Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter.’¹

      For the man who seeks diligently there is a reward in store, the proverb says.² Moreover, Christ gave us to understand something more than this when He said: ‘He who seeks, finds.’³ And in this connection it occurs to me to wonder how it was that Philip followed after Christ.

      Andrew, to be sure, was persuaded after he had heard of Him from John, and Peter from Andrew....

    • Homily 21 (John 1.49-2.4)
      (pp. 201-212)

      ‘Nathanael answered him and said, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art King of Israel.” Answering, Jesus said to him, “Because I said to thee that I saw thee under the fig tree, thou dost believe. Greater things than these shalt thou see.” ’¹ We need much care, dearly beloved, much vigilance, so as to be able to plumb the depths of sacred Scripture. It is not possible to discover its meaning merely incidentally, or while we are asleep, but we have need of careful scrutiny, and of earnest prayer as well, that we may be able to...

    • Homily 22 (John 2.4-10)
      (pp. 212-221)

      ‘What wouldst thou have me do, woman? My hour has not yet come.’¹

      Preaching really entails hard work, and this fact Paul made plain when he said: ‘Let the presbyters who rule well be held worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and in teaching,’² But you are responsible for making this toil light or heavy. If you despise my words or, though you do not despise them, do not embody them in your deeds, my toil will be heavy, because I am laboring fruitlessly and in vain.

      But if you pay attention and make my...

    • Homily 23 (John 2.11-22)
      (pp. 221-231)

      ‘This first of his signs Jesus worked at Cana of Galilee.’¹

      Mighty and vigorous, the Devil presses to the attack, laying siege on all sides to our salvation. It is, therefore, necessary to be watchful and awake and to wall off his approach in all directions. If he discovers even a small opening, he thereupon prepares a broad entrance for himself and gradually introduces his whole power. Well, then, if we have regard for our salvation, let us refuse him entrance in small ways in order that thereby we may check great ones beforehand. I say this because it would...

    • Homily 24 (John 2.23-3.4)
      (pp. 232-241)

      ‘Now, when he was at Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, many believed in his name.’¹

      Some of the men of that day clung to error, while others adhered to the truth; even of these latter, some accepted it for a little while, but cast it aside again. And Christ spoke in parables and compared these to seeds, not lying deeply, but with their roots above the surface of the earth, and they, He declared, quickly perish.

      The Evangelist also was referring to these in this passage when he said: ‘When he was at Jerusalem for the feast of...

    • Homily 25 (John 3.5)
      (pp. 241-250)

      ‘Jesus answered: “Amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”’

      Small children who go to school every day both receive instruction and recite lessons, and do this without ceasing. Nay, at times they even add nights of study to days, a thing which you force them to do for the sake of passing and temporal ends.

      However, we do not require of you who have reached manhood as great effort as you impose upon your children. Not every day, but only on two a...

    • Homily 26 (John 3.6-11)
      (pp. 250-259)

      ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’¹ The only-begotten Son of God has deemed us worthy of great mysteries—great ones, and such as we do not deserve, but such as were fitting for Him to give. In the light of our merit, not only are we unworthy of the gift, but even deserving of punishment and torture.

      Since He did not look to this, not only did He set us free from punishment, but also endowed us with a life much more splendid, brought us to another...

    • Homily 27 (John 3.12-16)
      (pp. 259-267)

      ‘If I have spoken of earthly things to you, and you do not believe, how will you believe if I speak to you of heavenly things? And no one has ascended into heaven except him who has descended from heaven: the Son of Man who is in heaven.’¹

      I now declare and will keep repeating something that I have often said. And what is this? That when Jesus is at the point of arriving at teachings that are sublime He frequently restrains Himself in consideration of the weakness of His hearers, and does not dwell for long on subjects befitting...

    • Homily 28 (John 3.17-21)
      (pp. 267-277)

      ‘For God did not send his Son into the world in order to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.’¹

      Many of those men who are somewhat inclined to heap up sin upon sin, and, abusing the mercy of God, to indulge in excessive negligence, utter such words as these: ‘There is no hell; there is no judgment; God forgives all our sins.’ To silence them a certain wise man has said: ‘Say not: “The mercy of the Lord is great, he will have mercy on the multitude of my sins.” For mercy and wrath...

    • Homily 29 (John 3.22-30)
      (pp. 277-287)

      ‘Jesus and his disciples came into the land of Judea, and he stayed there with them and baptized.’¹

      Nothing could be clearer or stronger than truth; just as nothing could be weaker than lying, even if it is shrouded in wrappings without number. Even thus covered, it is easily detected and readily dissipated. Truth, on the contrary, stands forth without concealment to all who wish to look upon her beauty.

      Indeed, she does not desire to be hidden, nor does she fear danger, nor tremble at intrigues, nor desire the praise of men, nor is she subject to any human...

    • Homily 30 (John 3.31-34)
      (pp. 287-296)

      ‘He who comes from above is over all. He who is from the earth belongs to earth, and of the earth he speaks.’¹

      The love of glory is a terrible things, terrible and prolific of many evils. It is a kind of thorn, hard to remove; or a wild beast, impossible to tame; a many-headed monster, taking up arms against the very ones who feed it. Just as the worm gnaws through the wood by which it is generated, and the rust feeds on the iron whence it proceeds, and moths feed on wool, so also does vainglory destroy the...

    • Homily 31 (John 3.35-4.12)
      (pp. 296-311)

      ‘The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; he who is unbelieving towards the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him.’¹

      The great advantage of moderation can be demonstrated in all affairs of life. Thus, in mastering the arts we have not learned everything at once from our teachers. Similarly, we have constructed our cities by degrees, setting them up slowly and gradually. By this means we keep order in our life.

      Moreover, do not be surprised if this quality...

    • Homily 32 (John 4.13-21)
      (pp. 311-321)

      ‘In answer Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again. He, however, who drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up unto life everlasting.” ’¹

      Scripture at one time calls the grace of the Spirit fire, at another, water, to show that these appellations are applicable not to His substance but to His work. The Spirit is not made up of different substances, since He is invisible and simple. John the Baptist referred...

    • Homily 33 (John 4.21-28)
      (pp. 322-331)

      ‘Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” ’¹

      In all circumstances, beloved, we need faith—faith, the mother of virtues, the medicine of salvation—without it we cannot grasp any teachings on sublime matters. But [those who are without faith] are like people trying to cross the sea without a ship. These are able to swim for a while by using hands and feet, but...

    • Homily 34 (John 4.28-40)
      (pp. 331-341)

      ‘The woman therefore left her water-jar and went away into the town, and said to the people, “Come and see a man who has told me all that I have ever done. Can he be the Christ?” ’¹

      We need much fervor and thoroughly awakened zeal, for without them it is not possible for us to attain to the blessedness promised to us. Now, to show this, Christ said at one time: ‘He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.’² And again: ‘I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and...

    • Homily 35 (John 4.40-53)
      (pp. 342-351)

      ‘When therefore the Samaritans had come to him, they besought him to stay there; and he stayed two days. And far more believed because of his word. And they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of what thou hast said, for we have heard for ourselves and we know that this is in truth the Saviour of the world, the Christ.” Now after two days he departed from that place and went into Galilee.’¹

      Nothing is worse than envy and malice, nothing more destructive than vainglory; it is wont to spoil good things without number. Because of...

    • Homily 36 (John 4.54-5.6)
      (pp. 351-359)

      ‘This was a second sign that Jesus worked when coming from Judea into Galilee. After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.’¹

      Just as in working gold mines an expert in metallurgy would not allow even the smallest vein to be passed by, since it could be productive of great wealth, so also in the sacred Scriptures we may not overlook one jot or flourish without loss, but must examine everything closely. For all are uttered by the Holy Spirit and there is nothing unimportant in them.

      Take note, for instance, of what...

    • Homily 37 (John 5.7-13)
      (pp. 359-367)

      ‘Jesus said to him, “Dost thou want to get well?” The sick man answered him, “Yes, Lord, but I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred.”¹

      Great is the profit to be derived from the sacred Scriptures and their assistance is sufficient for every need. Paul was pointing this out when he said: ‘Whatever things have been written have been written for our instruction, upon whom the final age of the world has come, that through the patience and the consolation afforded by the Scriptures we may have hope.’² The divine words, indeed,...

    • Homily 38 (John 5.14-21)
      (pp. 367-384)

      ‘Afterwards Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “Behold, thou art cured. Sin no more, lest something worse befall thee.” ’¹

      Sin is a terrible thing, terrible and destructive of the soul; frequently, this evil becomes so superabundant that it passes the bounds of the soul and seizes upon the body. Now, even though our soul be afflicted with many ills, we are untroubled, whereas, if our body receives even a small injury, we exert every effort to free it from its indisposition, because we can perceive this with our senses. For this reason God often punishes...

    • Homily 39 (John 5.22-30)
      (pp. 384-403)

      ‘For neither does the Father judge any man, but all judgment he has given to the Son, that all men may honor the Son even as they honor the Father.’¹

      We need to show great earnestness in all our affairs, beloved. And I say this because we shall give a reckoning, and we shall render a strict accounting both of our words and of our deeds. Our affairs are not restricted to the present life, but still another state of life will receive us on leaving here, and we shall stand before a fearful tribunal. ‘All of us,’ says Paul,...

    • Homily 40 (John 5.31-38)
      (pp. 403-414)

      ‘If I bear witness concerning myself, my witness is not true. There is another who bears witness concerning me, and I know that his witness is true.’¹

      If a person, even though inexperienced in mining, should undertake to dig a mine, he would not produce gold, but by his confused and disorderly efforts he would engage in the work fruitlessly and even harmfully. So those who do not know the sequence of holy Scripture and do not examine into its distinctive forms and laws, but merely peruse all of it in the same way, mix gold with earth and will...

    • Homily 41 (John 5.39-47)
      (pp. 415-423)

      ‘Search the Scriptures, because in them you think that you have life everlasting. And it is they that bear witness to me, yet you are not willing to come to me that you may have life everlasting.’¹

      Let us take much thought, beloved, of spiritual things; let us not think that it is sufficient for our salvation just to skim over them superficially. If in worldly matters a man will be able to produce nothing worth while if He deals with them only perfunctorily and casually, much more will this be so in spiritual matters, because these require even more...

    • Homily 42 (John 6.1-15)
      (pp. 423-435)

      ‘After this Jesus went away to the other side of the sea of Galilee, which is that of Tiberias. And there followed him a great crowd because they were witnessing the signs he worked on those who were sick. Jesus therefore went up the mountain, and was sitting there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near.’¹

      Let us not take issue with wicked men, beloved, but let us learn to give way to their evil designs, when such conduct does not work any harm to our virtue. In this way their aggressiveness is altogether...

    • Homily 43 (John 6.16-25)
      (pp. 436-442)

      ‘Now when evening had come, his disciples went down to the sea. And getting into a boat, they went across the sea to Capharnaum. And it was already dark, but Jesus had not come to them. Now the sea was rising, because a strong wind was blowing.’¹

      It was not only when Christ was present bodily with His disciples, but also when He was away from them, that He took thought for their well-being. In fact, because He is both powerful and wise, He brings about one and the same effect by completely opposite means. Notice, for example, what He...

    • Homily 44 (John 6.26-27)
      (pp. 442-448)

      ‘Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, I say to you, you seek me, not because you have seen signs, but because you have eaten of the loaves and have been filled. Labor not for the food that perishes, but for that which endures unto life everlasting.” ’¹

      Kindness and gentleness are not helpful on all occasions, but there is a time when the teacher has need of greater severity. When the pupil is lazy and phlegmatic, it is necessary to use a goad to prod such great sluggishness. This even the Son of God has done time and again, and...

    • Homily 45 (John 6.28-40)
      (pp. 448-461)

      ‘They said therefore to him, “What are we to do in order that we may perform the works of God?” In answer Jesus said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent. They said therefore to him, what sign, then, dost thou, that we may see and believe thee? What work dost thou perform?” ’¹

      There is nothing worse than gluttony, nothing more degrading. It makes the mind dull; it renders the soul carnal; it blinds [its victims] and does not permit them to see. See how this actually happened in...

    • Homily 46 (John 6.41-53)
      (pp. 462-472)

      ‘The Jews therefore murmured about him because he had said: I am the bread that has come down from heaven. And they kept saying: “Is this not the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How, then, does he say: I have come down from heaven?” ’¹

      ‘Their god is the belly, their glory is in their shame,’² said Paul, writing to the Philippians about certain men. Now, it is clear from what had gone before that the Jews were just like these men, and this is likewise clear from the words they addressed to Christ as they...

    • Homily 47 (John 6.54-72)
      (pp. 472-485)

      ‘Jesus therefore said to them: Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life in himself.’¹

      When we discuss spiritual things, let there be nothing worldly in our souls, nothing of earth. On the contrary, let all such things depart from us, let them be banished, and let us become engrossed only in hearing the word of God. If every disturbing element is repressed upon a king’s visiting a city, much...