Please help support the mission of New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download. Includes the Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Fathers, Summa, Bible and more all for only $19.99...
1. We have now the opportunity, dearly, beloved, as far as we can, of understanding the earlier words of the Lord from the later, and His previous statements by those that follow, in what you have heard was His answer to the question of the Apostle Thomas. For when the Lord was speaking above of the mansions, of which He both said that they already were in His Father's house, and that He was going to prepare them; where we understood that those mansions already existed in predestination, and are also being prepared through the purifying by faith of the hearts of those who are hereafter to inhabit them, seeing that they themselves are the very house of God; and what else is it to dwell in God's house than to be in the number of His people, since His people are at the same time in God, and God in them? To make this preparation the Lord departed, that by believing in Him, though no longer visible, the mansion, whose outward form is always hid in the future, may now by faith be prepared: for this reason, therefore, He had said,
And if I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. In reply to this, knew; both of them this other declares that he does not know, to wit, the place to which, and the way whereby, He is going. But he does not know that he is speaking falsely; they knew, therefore, and did not know that they knew. He will convince them that they already know what they imagine themselves still to be ignorant of.
Jesus says unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. What, brethren, does He mean? See, we have just heard the disciple asking, and the Master instructing, and we do not yet, even after His voice has sounded in our ears, apprehend the thought that lies hid in His words. But what is it we cannot apprehend? Could His apostles, with whom He was talking, have said to Him, We do not know You? Accordingly, if they knew Him, and He Himself is the way, they knew the way; if they knew Him who is Himself the truth, they knew the truth; if they knew Him who is also the life, they knew the life. Thus, you see, they were convinced that they knew what they knew not that they knew.
2. What is it, then, that we also have not apprehended in this discourse? What else, think you, brethren, but just that He said, knew the way, because they knew Him who is the way: the way is that by which we go; but is the way the place also to which we go? And yet each of these He said that they knew, both whither He was going, and the way. There was need, therefore, for His saying,
I am the way, in order to show those who knew Him that they knew the way, which they thought themselves ignorant of; but what need was there for His saying,
I am the way, and the truth, and the life, when, after knowing the way by which He went, they had still to learn whither He was going, but just because it was to the truth and to the life He was going? By Himself, therefore, He was going to Himself. And whither go we, but to Him, and by what way go we, but by Him? He, therefore, went to Himself by Himself, and we by Him to Him; yea, likewise both He and we go thus to the Father. For He says also in another place of Himself,
I go to the Father; and here on our account He says,
No man comes unto the Father but by me. And in this way, He goes by Himself both to Himself and to the Father, and we by Him both to Him and to the Father. Who can apprehend such things save he who has spiritual discernment? And how much is it that even he can apprehend, although thus spiritually discerning? Brethren, how can you desire me to explain such things to you? Only reflect how lofty they are. You see what I am, I see what you are; in all of us the body, which is corrupted, burdens the soul, and the earthly tabernacle weighs down the mind that muses upon many things. Wisdom 9:15 Do we think we can say,
To You have I lifted up my soul, O Thou that dwellest in the heavens? But burdened as we are with so great a weight, under which we groan, how shall I lift up my soul unless He lift it with me who laid His own down for me? I shall speak then as I can, and let each of you who is able receive it. As He gives, I speak; as He gives, the receiver receives; and as He gives, there is faith for him who cannot yet receive with understanding. For, says the prophet,
If you will not believe, you shall not understand.
3. Tell me, O my Lord, what to say to Your servants, my fellow-servants. The Apostle Thomas had You before him in order to ask You questions, and yet could not understand You unless he had You within him; I ask You because I know that You are over me; and I ask, seeking, as far as I can, to let my soul diffuse itself in that same region over me where I may listen to You, who usest no external sound to convey Your teaching. Tell me, I pray, how it is that You go to Yourself. Did Thou formerly leave Yourself to come to us, especially as You came not of Yourself, but the Father sent You? I know, indeed, that You emptied Yourself; but in taking the form of a servant, Philippians 2:7 it was neither that Thou laid down the form of God as something to return to, or that You lost it as something to be recovered; and yet You came, and placed Yourself not only before the carnal eyes, but even in the very hands of men. And how otherwise save in Your flesh? By means of this You came, yet abiding where You were; by this means You returned, without leaving the place to which You had come. If, then, by such means You came and return, by such means doubtless You are not only the way for us to come unto You, but wast the way also for Yourself to come and to return. For when You returned to the life, which You are Yourself, then of a truth that same flesh of Yours You brought from death unto life. The Word of God, indeed, is one thing, and man another; but the Word was made flesh, or became man. And so the person of the Word is not different from that of the man, seeing that Christ is both in one person; and in this way, just as when His flesh died. Christ died, and when His flesh was buried, Christ was buried (for thus with the heart we believe unto righteousness, and thus with the mouth do we make confession unto salvation Romans 10:10); so when the flesh came from death unto life, Christ came to life. And because Christ is the Word of God, He is also the life. And thus in a wonderful and ineffable manner He, who never laid down or lost Himself, came to Himself. But God, as was said, had come through the flesh to men, the truth to liars; for God is true, and every man a liar. Romans 3:4 When, therefore, He withdrew His flesh from among men, and carried it up there where no liar is found, He also Himself — for the Word was made flesh— returned by Himself, that is, by His flesh, to the truth, which is none other but Himself. And this truth, we cannot doubt, although found among liars, He preserved even in death; for Christ was once dead, but never false.
4. Take an example, very different in character and wholly inadequate, yet in some lit tle measure helpful to the understanding of God, from things that are in peculiarly intimate subjection to God. See here in my own case, while as far as pertains to my mind I am just the same as yourselves, if I keep silence I am so to myself; but if I speak to you something suited to your understanding, in a certain sense I go forth to you without leaving myself, but at the same time approach you and yet quit not the place from which I proceed. But when I cease speaking, I return in a kind of way to myself, and in a kind of way I remain with you, if you retain what you have heard in the discourse I am delivering. And if the mere image that God made is capable of this, what may not God, the very image of God, not made by, but born of God; whose body, wherein He came forth to us and returned from us, has not ceased to be, like the sound of my voice, but abides there, where it shall die no more, and death shall have no more dominion over it? Romans 6:9 Much more, perhaps, might and ought to have been said on these words of the Gospel; but your souls ought not to be burdened with spiritual food, however pleasant, especially as the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Matthew 26:41
Source. Translated by John Gibb. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 7. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1701069.htm>.
Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is feedback732 at newadvent.org. (To help fight spam, this address might change occasionally.) Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.