Holy Bible

THE INCARNATED WORD The soul watches in astonishment and deep awe as the Evangelist, St. John the Beloved, appears as an eagle in flight. He soars in the realm of divinity rather than in the tangible world. He invites us to cross over, and join him to go beyond time. He leads us to perceive the Word of God Who is never separated from the divine Mind. The Mind, too, is never separated from His Word: the only Son and consubstantial with His Father in one and the same essence. St. John invites us to perceive and acknowledge the Giver of life and the Source of light, the Creator of time and of every being in the heavens and on earth. Nothing preoccupies His Divinity other than His unique and beloved man! Being inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Evangelist leads us to divine truths that affect our being and our future eternity and glory. Thus he does not present us with a mere literary form, but he invites us to partake of the depth of God’s love and which cannot be fully explained in human words. Witnessing to the Lord Jesus Christ In this chapter, St. John speaks about the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ and presents his own testimony: [1-5; 10-14; 16-18]. He also presents the testimony of St. John the Baptist: [6-9; 15; 19- 37]. The Lord manifests Himself to Andrew [38-42], to Philip [43-51]. Their testimony is also indicated in these verses. 1- The Lord Jesus Christ is the everlasting Logos, one in essence with the Father [1- 2]. He is the Donor of life and light, and through Him, we are granted the privilege of adoption to the Father [3-13]. 2- St. John the Evangelist opens his Gospel by introducing the divine Word as the Source of all divine blessings, especially blessing the creation and our adoption to the Father, besides a wealth of other blessings ‘grace for grace’ [16-18] that he elaborates in the next chapters. 3- The official testimony of St. John the Baptist before Israel: ‘priests and Levites’ came to ask him three questions. His answers are extremely concise. It is a testimony that represents a public confrontation between them. Briefly, his answer is that he has no name, for he is only ‘the voice of one crying in the wilderness’ announcing the coming of the Lord, [19- 28]. 4- The testimony of St. John the Baptist before his disciples [29-37]: He initiates and elaborates about the Lord as he is speaking to the remnant about whom Isaiah prophesied: “…the remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob to the Mighty God” (Is 10:21). St. John the Baptist is speaking to the new Israel who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and Who will lead them into the New Testament. He affirms that the Messiah is coming, not in the person of a glorified king as the Jews thought, but as a suffering and rejected person: His glory is His love and His shouldering of the sins of the world [36]. 5-The submission of St. John the Baptist’s disciples to the Lord Jesus Christ: here a truly personal and sincere meeting occurs that leads to a full renewal of life, of name and of the whole existence. We watch the Lord Jesus Christ entering into the core of Simon’s being and occupying his depths thereby transforming him into Peter the apostle. Hence, his name, his mission, his life, and his whole existence are changed [42]. 6- The invitation of the Lord Jesus Christ to the rest of His disciples in Galilee since https://coptic-treasures.com/ the beginning. St. John announces the revelation of the eternal and hidden mystery as he affirms that man will see the heavens open and angels of God ascending and descending upon the person of Jesus Christ [50-51]. 1- The Word of God1-13 2- The Word became Flesh14-18 3- The Testimony of John19-34 4- The Testimony of the first disciples35-53 1-THE WORD OF GOD The Gospel of St. John begins with an introduction that is different than that of the other Synoptic Gospels. The introduction to the Gospel of St. Mark presents a description of St. John the Baptist and his work as an angel who prepares the way before the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the One whom the prophets and fathers yearned for and they waited the day of His coming. The introduction to the Gospel of St. Matthew presents the lineage of the Lord beginning from Abraham. He then proceeds with the story of His birth, and indicates that He is the unique King who has come to restore the fallen kingdom of David, and to convert believers in Him into a royal nation. St. Luke begins his Gospel by writing a public and literary introduction (1:1-4), followed by the story of the birth of St. John the Baptist, then by that of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. He indicates how the Lord’s sacrificial love and unique friendliness satisfies every soul, and fills every inner vacuum. In contrast, St. John begins by revealing the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ as the eternal Word long before He became incarnated. He does so to liberate us from the constraints of time and to soar into the embrace of the eternal Father. Consequently, we learn of God’s plan concerning us and His will to lead us to redemption and eternal glory. He acquaints us with the One with Whom we will have fellowship in glory and eternal life. The introduction [1-18] thus underlines what is written in the Gospel as a whole: God proclaims Himself through His Word [1-13] as well as through His deeds [2-5] and ultimately through the divine incarnation for the glory the Father [14-18]. The introduction is mostly written in a distinctively poetic style and uses particular words that mark it from other Gospels. This has led scholars to question if that was a liturgical hymn that the apostle has borrowed? Or is it an addendum that he affixed after he had written the rest of the Gospel and could serve as a summary that reveals the aim of the Gospel and interprets it? Or is it an introduction written to announce the subject of his Gospel before beginning the task? The truth of the matter is that the object of the introduction is to introduce the reader to the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the subject of the Book, as the eternal Word. He is the One who works with the Father in the Creation. As He is the Father Himself, He proclaims the Father, and presents Him to us as though He is presenting Himself. He is the Wisdom of God speaking to us. He presents Himself, the Word of God, so that we might possess Him as a mystery granting us eternal life. He is the Life of every being, the Light of every person. He is the Eternal Who became incarnated and lived as a man. His own, the Jews rejected Him in spite of the testimony of St. John the Baptist for Him. However, a sincere remnant was found and they accepted Him and became children of God and members of the Divine Family. We sing this introduction and the following verses each morning (Jn1:1-17) in order to comprehend that meeting the One Who alone can lift us up and carry us into His Father’s embrace is actually the reason for our daily renewal. This does not lead us to hold in contempt or belittle time but rather, it leads us to sanctify it as a means to go beyond it. In the morning prayers, we think of our Savior as the Alpha and Omega- the Beginning and the End- and so https://coptic-treasures.com/ enjoy a holy beginning and a glorious ending. St. Augustine1 tells us that his friend Simplicius informed him that a philosopher and follower of Plato commented on the sentences found at the beginning of the Gospel of St. John and said they deserve to be written in letters made of gold. Matthew Henry reports that Francis Junius, who was totally immoral in his youth, got converted and became upright by the grace of God and after accidentally coming across this Gospel and reading it. His father had told him about it. He experienced the power and influence of St. John’s Gospel over him, and it gripped his attention. For an entire day, he became oblivious of his surroundings and his movements, and physically shook with fear. This day marked the beginning of his spiritual life. The verses (1-13) present eight great truths about the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, these are: A- He was and continues to be the Eternal One: ‘In the beginning was the Word’ [1]. B- He was and still is the notable icon distinguished from the Father: ‘…and the Word was with God’, [1]. C- He was the Word while He was still God, [2]. D- He is the Partner with the Father in eternity, [2]. E- He is the Creator of the world, [3]. F- He is the Source of all life and light, [4, 5, 9]. G- He is God Who proclaims Himself to the fallen world, [10]. H- He came into man’s world and His own rejected Him [11]; as for those who received Him, they attained a new birth [12-13]. The Logos In the Chaldean manuscript, in an attempt to rewrite the Old Testament, the Messiah is called ‘Memra’ meaning ‘Jehovah’s word .’ It also says that many of the matters that are reported in the Old Testament and that were brought about by God were really done by the Word of God. Moreover, it teaches the Jews that ‘the Word of God’ was with God. The word ‘Logos’ is used to mean two things: * The Word that brings about creation or pregnancy or Logos endiathetas; that means the thought by which the mind gets impregnated. This enables the achievement of all activity as it works in unison with the soul. Hence it is appropriate that the Second Icon be considered the Word of God; born of God, He is the principal and eternal Wisdom. There is nothing more certain than the fact that we think, and there is nothing more mysterious than the discovery of our thought processes. *The articulated word Logos prophorika, that is speech itself, is the natural signal to what is in the mind. In the same way, Jesus is the Word used when the Father spoke ‘in these last days’ (Heb 1:2); and He guides us to listen to Him (Matt.17:5). He informs us about the thoughts of God as well as the thoughts of men. He is the Word speaking to us about things pertaining to the Father for He is the Truth and the Amen, as well as the true witness to the Divine Mind. In this aspect, He is different from St. John the Baptist who is ‘a voice crying in the wilderness’ and is not the divine Word. St. Augustine makes a comparison between the bread that fills the stomach and the Word that satisfies the mind. When He provides food to the people, He cannot offer the same bread to all those present; whereas He offers the Word to everyone and all the people receive it fully in 1 De Civitate Dei, Lib 10, ch.29. https://coptic-treasures.com/ their minds. Truly, the word of man is amazing as it is presented to all in its entirety: how much more efficient would the Word of God, the Creator, be? * If I wished to feed you, I could fill your stomach but not your minds. I would offer food to satisfy you, and do you not break it up to share together? Could my bread go to every single one of you? For if one of you gets it, then the rest would get nothing. However, note now that I am now speaking and you are all receiving my words. Not just that, but you all are receiving them in their entirety. How amazing are my words! So how much more amazing is the Word of God?! Hear this also: I speak with utterances so that speech is delivered to you without getting separated from me. It reaches you while it does not depart from me. Before I spoke, I possessed the words while you did not have them. Now I have spoken the words and you have started to receive without my losing any of them. How amazing are my words! And how much more would the Word of God be?! 1 St. Augustine * O you foolish men, you speak as though you do not distinguish between the uttered word and the divine Word that exists before the beginning of time and is born of the Father! I say born and not just uttered. In Him there are no syllabic words but there is the fullness of the infinite Divinity and life without end (Col. 19,2:9, 3:4;Jn 1:4,5:26; 11:25, 14:6; Rev 1:18)2. St. Ambrose ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,’[1]. Written in the Hebrew language, this statement is composed of three stanzas that are musically balanced, with the term ‘Word’ and the verb ’was’ repeated three times. The use of the verb in the past tense reflects that the ‘Word’ has been continuously present from the beginning and does not refer to time. Note these stanzas: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God: ‘In the beginning’: The Book of Genesis starts with these words: ‘In the beginning God created…’ The writer here is speaking about the beginning of Creation, or how time began with the Creation. As for the introduction of the Gospel of St. John, he starts with the state of things before the Creation and before time and history, when there was nothing but God Himself. He starts with the beginning of existence: ‘In the beginning was the Word,’ and so indicates the eternal Word Who began that which had no beginning. The Apostle repeats this idea when the Lord tells the Jews: “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning,”(Jn 8:25). In other words ‘I am the Being who originally spoke or spoke since time infinite. In his First Epistle, St. John says: ‘ That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes…’ (1 Jn 1:1). The Lord tells the crowds: “ Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad…before Abraham was, I AM” (8:56, 58). Origen presents a number of interpretations for the word ‘the beginning.’ He also distinguishes between the relationship of the beginning with the Creator, as well as that of the beginning with the Creation. Ultimately, He is the beginning as He is the Wisdom and power of God (1Cor 1:24). The Apostle confirms that the Word is ‘in the beginning’, and before all time and not just before the Lord’s incarnation. From the beginning, the world came into existence through 1 Sermon on N.T.Lessons, 70:3 2 On the Christian Faith, Book, 4:9:102. https://coptic-treasures.com/ His creation, thus He was there from the beginning- that is before time was. The Psalmist sings of the timeless of God Who is ‘…Before the mountains were brought forth…’ (Ps. 90:2; Prov. 8:23). He is with God, and no one is to imagine that believing in the Word would draw him away from God: for the Word is with God and can never be separated. They are of one essence (Heb 1:3), and He is the object of the Father’s joy (Jn 17:5), and His beloved Son (Prov 8:30). St. John Chrysostom3 wonders why the Evangelist does not begin by speaking about the Father and chooses to begin with the Son, who is one with Him in essence? Why did he begin by calling Him ‘the Word’ rather than the Son who is consubstantial with the Father? The Saint explains that the Evangelist begins by manifesting the person of the Lord Jesus Christ as being the incarnated ‘Word’ as this enables him to elaborate later on about His being the ‘Son of God.’ The title of ‘the Word’ confirms the oneness and the title of ‘the Son, one in essence’ confirms the distinction. Consequently, the two titles are complimentary to each other. St. John Chrysostom justifies that by explaining that one often separates between the Father and the Son, and thus thinks that a change - which was not there before - has occurred in God due to the birth of the Son. This is the result of one’s concept of a tangible birth as it actually occurs in the creation, and that it did not occur long before time ever was. If the Evangelist had started by speaking about ‘the Son of God’, some could have suspected that these were two separate gods. In order to avoid this, St. John begins by the title ‘the Word’ that no one would ever imagine is separated from God. Consequently He was the Father before which He was’nt such called * The Evangelist calls Him ‘the Word’ as he intends to begin teaching that this Word is the Only Son of God and so that no one would doubt that His birth is a tangible one. Thus, by giving Him the title of ‘the Word’ he voids and prevents, in advance, any wicked intrigues or concepts, which might trouble anyone. He underlines that the Son proceeds from the Father, and that He was born without pain (change) 1. * In order to prevent anyone from thinking that He was not a new born due to his use of the expression ‘in the beginning’, he immediately adds that He was ‘ with God’ before proclaiming that He was God. He also wishes to prevent anyone from thinking that the Word is just a simple thing and a mere utterance or a thought so he adds a specific preposition…he does not say ‘He was in God’ but says ‘He was with God.’ * He does not call Him ‘Word’ but adds the defining article ‘the Word’ to distinguish Him from the rest of (men’s utterances) 2. St. John Chrysostom * The expression ‘In the beginning’ proclaims that there was nothing but the Everlasting Being, and that He is an absolute Being3. * ‘He was the Logos’ since the term ‘being’ is used to refer to a person and when referring to present time. However, to refer to God we need to indicate infinity. Hence, when we use the verb ‘was’ we use it to indicate past events related to our nature; whereas when we use it to refer to God we are proclaiming His eternity4. *The Word is an actual divine essence standing out as an icon and apart from His Father but free of any conflicting split. In order to avoid thinking that the divinity of the Son is lesser than that of the Father, the Evangelist promptly presents the evidence of His divinity by saying: 3 Homilies on St. John, Hom. 2:7. 3 Comm. On John, hom. PG59: 13. 4 Ibid, hom. 3 PG 59:18,19. https://coptic-treasures.com/ ‘And the Word was God’5. St. John Chrysostom * Since He was a newborn, it is with good reason that St. John and others - be they an apostle or prophet- have not ascertained that He was a created being. While He is the One Who spoke of Himself humbly during His stay on earth, yet He did not wish to remain silent on this issue…. He uttered humble words (Jn 5:30; 12:49)…. If He had been a created being, He would have said: “Do not think I am born of the Father, but rather that I am created and not born, and I am not one in essence.” However, in face of His reality, He spoke words that oblige human beings to accept involuntarily the alternative thought, such as His words: “…I am in the Father and the Father in Me….” “ Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). The Lord also says: “…that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father…”(Jn 5:23); “ For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will (Jn 5:21). “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working (Jn5:17); “As the Father knows Me even so I know the Father (Jn10:15), “I and My Father are one,” (Jn 10:30)1. * Isaiah the prophet was astonished and said: “And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living…” (Is 53:8). Indeed, all traces of the birth of the Everlasting One have been eradicated from the earth for it is inconceivable to the human mind. And since it is beyond comprehension, then how can we say that He is created? We can clearly define the time creatures came into being and how they came about; but we are incompetent when it comes to defining the time when the Beginning came to be. * Concerning ‘the Beginning Archi’ Who is above all and over all ‘He was the Word.’ He is not one of the natural creatures that are found under the feet of the Beginning, but He is above all creation for He is ‘in the beginning.’ In other words, He is of the same character and is constantly present with the Father, having the same nature as the One Who gave Him birth…from Him and with Him; He has lordship ‘archi’ over all. St. Cyril, the Great * By stating ‘He was in the beginning’ and not ‘after the beginning’ the implication is that there was no beginning without the Logos. In proclaiming that ‘the Logos was with God’ the Evangelist intends to indicate the absence of any fault in the relationship between the Son and the Father, since the Logos completely invades His thoughts while God is all pervading 2. * Fearing the inadequacy of our minds, lack of training and inadequate hearing, St. John does not present the title of ’the Father’ lest we imagine the physical picture and associate that with the presence of a mother as well. Neither does he mention ’the Son’ so that no one would conceive the Divine as some human being. That is why St. John names Him the ‘Logos.’ Therefore, when you hear about ‘the Word’ you will not imagine something that resulted as a whim: it is, rather, like the word that proceeds from your mind without any external interference3. * Those who present to us good thoughts concerning such mysteries are actually unable to provide adequate expression concerning the nature of the Most Divine. 5 Use has been made of some extracts written by St. John Chrysostom, and taken from the series of treasured manuscripts of El Baramos: The Interpretation of the Gospel of St. John by St. John Chrysostom, prepared by Fr Augustinus of El Baramos, 2001. 1 Homily 3:3 2 On the Faith 3 Against Eunomius, book 4:1. https://coptic-treasures.com/ They speak mostly about the brightness of Good’s glory and attempt to describe His essence (Heb1:3), the image of God, and that ‘in the beginning was the Word and the Word was God’ (Jn 1:1). All these expressions appear to us like gold from a treasure trove, as we have not seen the Divine Person. But to those who are able to perceive the Truth, this is more like ‘gold with studs of silver’ (Sg of Sol1:11), than mere brilliant gold. For, according to the Holy Bible, ‘the tongue of the righteous is choice silver,’ (Prov.10:20). Thus we realize that the nature of the Most Divine is beyond any expression we use to attempt to comprehend Him. Our understanding is comparable to what we set as our goal; yet no one has seen or could see Him except it is through a mirror and in part (1Cor13:12). This reflects our thoughts or the reflection of what lies in the spirit in a specific manner. Every word representing these ideas seems to be like a point that needs to be extended since it falls short of adequately expressing what is in the mind…. Moreover, every word that is said in an attempt to explain God seems like a tiny drop that cannot be extended to measure up to its intended target; for it is directed to express the incomprehensible by using limited expressions. It is only through faith in these concepts that it can establish independently a nature that transcends all intelligence1. St. Gregory of Nyssa * He is proclaimed as the Word, the Son, the Power of God, and His Wisdom: The Word since He is without blemish; the Power since He is perfect; the Son as he is begotten of and proceeds from the Father; and the Wisdom for He is one with the Father since time everlasting and one with Him in Divinity. This does not mean that the Person of the Father is one with the Son; for there is a clear distinction between the Father and the Son who comes as a result of birth. Thus the Lord Jesus Christ is true God from true God, everlasting from Everlasting, and perfect from perfect2. St. Ambrose * There is One God Who has proclaimed Himself through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ: He is God’s Word (the Logos). He is not a mere utterance but an essence: He is not a mere vocal means of expression but a Person born by Divine Power3. St. Ignatius The word ‘Logos’ was a familiar word to both Jews and Gentiles: Heracllitius recognized it, in about 500 A.D. to mean the all-inclusive mind that rules and controls the universe. This was a popular concept adopted and propagated by Stoics. In Hellenic Judaism, the ‘Logos’ stood for an independent Person and this idea developed so that it was linked to wisdom (Sophism) (Ws 9:1,2; 18:15). Hence Philon of Alexandria incorporated philosophical expressions and Biblical concepts and said that the Logos has come into the world as an example and as an image of Divinity. * In the Greek language, ‘logos’ has numerous meanings: it means the word, the mind, esteem, and the reason of separate things that depend on all this to come to existence. By all this we proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ4. St. Jerome * We do know that the Lord Jesus Christ was not born in the same way that an uttered 1 The Song of Solomon, by St. Gregory of Nyssa: Transl. Into Arabic by Dr George Nawar, Sermon 3. 2 On the Christian Faith, Book 1:2:16 3 Ep.ad. Magn. 8:1 4 Letter 53 to Paulinus, 4. https://coptic-treasures.com/ word is born; for He is the ultimate essence and living Word. He is not uttered by lips and spread to vanish, but He is eternally born of the Father and cannot be described in essence. Therefore, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’: Sitting at the right hand of God, the Word understands the Father’s will, is eternal, and everything exists by His command. The Word descended and ascended, whereas the word - which we pronounce - just descends and does not ascend. He utters ‘the Word’ and says: “I speak what I have seen with My Father…” (Jn 8:38). The Word possesses authority, have dominion over everything, for the Father has delivered all to the Son (Matt11:27; Jn 5:22)1. St. Cyril of Jerusalem * If there had been a time when the Son did not exist, the Father would have been a subdued Light; for if He has no brilliance, how can He be anything other than subdued Light? The Father is constantly present, and so is the Son…for the brilliance is born of the Light. Consequently, Brilliance is as everlasting as the Light from which it is born: Light is eternal and so is Brilliance. Light begets Brilliance, but has He ever existed without His Brilliance?… May you acknowledge that God gives birth to His everlasting Son2. St. Augustine The use of ‘with’ here conveys the sense of ‘being with Him eternally’; that is the Word shares with the Father His eternal quality without any separation. * ‘The Word was with God’ therefore He is as eternal as the Father Himself for there was no Father without the Word. Rather, God (the Word) was with God (the Father), Each having His own Person. St. John Chrysostom St. Ambrose underlines the equality of the Word with the Father. He bases his belief on the fact that the Evangelist mentions the Word before the Father. If the Father were greater with respect to the nature of Divinity, he would not have dared to do so. St. Paul the apostle also follows the pattern when he mentions the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ before the love of the Father (2 Cor 13:4). The order of the words (pertaining to the Trinity) is often the same, hence it is appropriate not to question the order or the degrees. In God there is the Father and the Son united in the Divinity and inseparable3. St. John Chrysostom responded to the objection of the followers of Arius concerning the equality of the Word or the Son with the Father. They justified their claim by stating that the word ‘God’ is used here without a definite article: ‘And the Word was God.’ This is the same thought that the witnesses of Jehovah adopt currently. The Saint dismisses this claim as he clarifies that the Holy Bible sometimes speaks of the Father and the Holy Spirit without attaching to their names a defining article. Moreover, there are instances when the Son and the Word are referred to as the God and here a definite article is prefixed. Speaking on the same subject, the Holy Bible assigns to the Word the same characteristics of God Who is the Everlasting, the Creator, and the Giver of life and light. For had He been lesser than God, the Bible would have revealed that clearly to avoid any confusion. * The Evangelist has not used any expression to indicate limitations, for he does not say: ‘He has a beginning’ but rather ‘In the beginning.’ By using ‘was’ he leads us to the concept 1 Essay 11:10. 2 Sermon on N.T. Lessons, 68:1 3 On the Christian Faith, Book 5:9:117 https://coptic-treasures.com/ that the Son has no beginning. Someone may say: ‘Notice that a defining article precedes the Father (the God), whereas the Son has no article preceding it and therefore He is a god. How then can we explain the words of the apostle: ‘…our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,’ (Titus 2:13); and again: ‘…who is over all, the eternally blessed God,’ (Ro 9:5)? It is true that here the Apostle refers to the Son without using the definite article, but he does the same thing with the Father, at least in the Letter to the Philippians (2:6), where he says: ‘…who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God’; and again in the Letter to the Romans: ‘Grace to you and peace from God (with no article) our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,’ (Ro 1:7)…. And again when he speaks about the Father, he says: ‘God is a Spirit’ (John 4:24). Indeed, not having an article preceding the word ‘Spirit’ does not negate the spiritual nature of God. Similarly, in the instance where no article precedes the Son, the Son does not become lesser than God1. St. John Chrysostom ‘He was in the beginning with God’ [2] * By stating that ‘He was in the beginning with God’, St. John reveals to us that the Lord Jesus Christ shares with His Father the feature of eternity. Hence, upon hearing that the Only Begotten ‘was in the beginning’, you need to understand that He was before all reasoning creatures or before all ages. *The Father has never been without the Word. Indeed, God has always been with the Word, but Each in His appropriate Person2. St. John Chrysostom * ‘And the Word was with God’: The Father and the Son are not one in Person, for Each is a Person that can be perceived in the other due to their unity in essence: He is God from God, the Son from the Father. * ‘He was in the beginning with God’, that is the Son, Who is with the Father, and born from His essence, is the only begotten Son who is referred to by the word ‘He.’ St. Cyril the Great * The Logos can also be ‘the Son of God’ since He is trusted with the mysteries of His Father, Who is ‘the Mind.’ In contrast, the analogous Son is called ‘the Word.’ Just as the word exists within us and is the messenger to what the mind comprehends, so is the Word of God. For He knows the Father and proclaims that Whom He knows. No creature can enter into a relationship with Him unless He leads him. No one knows the Father except the Son and to whomsoever the Son reveals the Father (Matt. 11:27). As He is the Word, He is the great Counselor on Whose shoulders dominion rests (Is 9:6 LXX). He became King as He suffered and carried the Cross. The Book of the Revelation speaks of the Word, the Faithful and the True riding a white horse (Rev 19:11): I believe that He is coming to abide in us in order to clarify the Voice of Truth that He carries (mounts) 3. Origen Origen, reports that the prophets of the Old Testament enjoyed the Word of God that was revealed to them (Ho.1:1; Is.2:1; Jr 14:1). Hence, it is reported: ‘The word of the Lord that came to Hosea the son of Beeri…’ (Ho 1:1). The word Hosea means ‘the Savior’, and Beeri means the ‘wells’; hence everyone who has enjoyed redemption is a child of the wells that flow out of the depths of the wisdom of God. He is Wisdom’s child, and according to the Holy Bible: “…wisdom is justified by all her children,” (Lk.7:35; Matt.11:19). Concerning the Father, the 2 Homily 4:1 https://coptic-treasures.com/ Bible says: ‘And the Word was with God’: it does not say ‘The Word came to God’ for the Word is eternal with the Father4. * Nevertheless, the Word came to mankind who could not have previously accepted the journey of the Son of God, and Who is the Word. On the other hand, the Word did not come in order to be with God and as though it had not previously been with Him; for He has been always with the Father. In that context, the Bible says: ‘The Word was with God’ (Jn.1:1), since He did not come to be with God5. * The same verb ‘was’ refers to the Word when He was in the beginning and when He was with God. He was never separate from the beginning and never departed from the Father. To reiterate, He did not come to be in the beginning as someone who was not there in the beginning. Moreover, He has not changed from being non-existent with God to being existent with Him: He has been there, since time everlasting and before all ages: ‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God’1. * Additionally, by His coming to the prophets, He shone upon them with the light of Knowledge and granted them to perceive, as though with their own eyes, matters they could not comprehend before His coming. As for His being with God, the Word is God for He is with Him2. Origen ‘All things were made through Him And without Him nothing was made that was made’ [3]. The Evangelist presents the Word as the ‘Creator’ for by Him all was made, and without Him there was nothing that was made. St. John speaks about this only after clarifying the eternal relationship between the Father and the Word. Hence, the Father and the Son (the Word) and the Holy Spirit are intrinsically united: the absolute love and life. This Divine Nature that overflows with love does not need a heavenly or earthly creation to achieve love in a practical way. Love operates among the Divine Persons since eternity: the Creation is the result of overflowing divine love. It did not occur as a necessary instrument to achieve God’s love but, rather, it is the fruit of that love. What we say about the Creation is also true of Redemption since it is the New Creation. The eternal Word is the Creator and the Redeemer: He achieves the will of God that is at one with the will of the Son. In saying ‘All things were made through Him’, He is distinctly set apart from all heavenly, human, and material creations: He is the Creator of everyone and everything wherever it may be. “…through Him…’ underlines that through Him all came into being, or he Created all. The verb ‘was’ here, as used in the Greek text, has a different meaning from its use in the context of ‘the Word.’ Here it indicates creation while it refers to the Almighty Presence when used in conjunction with ‘the Word.’ The preposition ‘through’ is used to convey that He was the means, the path, and the sustainer. Indeed, He has created and continues to plan for His creation as He cares for it and guards it. This is how St. Paul the apostle expresses this thought: ‘For by Him all things were created… through Him and for Him…and in Him all things exist,’ (Col.1:16, 17; 4 Commentary on John, Book 2:4 -8. 5 Commentary on John, Book 2:8 1 Commentary on John, Book 2:9. 2 Commentary on John, Book 2:10. https://coptic-treasures.com/ ’…upholding all things by the word of His power,’ (Heb. 1:3); ‘…for in Him we live and move and have our being,’ (Acts 17:28). St. John Chrysostom finds that the Evangelist focuses on the unified work of the Word and the Father in the course of the Creation. He explains that St. John intends to reveal the divinity of the Word and His equality with the Father. Hence he says: ‘…and without Him nothing was made that was made,’ in order to affirm that the role of the Word in the Creation is fundamental. Without Him, it would have been impossible to achieve the Creation or sustain its continuity. When Moses the prophet speaks about the Creation, he says: ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,’ he was worried that someone would think the earth is eternal and so he ascertained it had a beginning and it is the masterful work of the Creator. If the Word had been a creature, the Evangelist would have affirmed his being created rather than speaking about Him as the Creator of all. * Who could commit such a mistake and proclaim that the One who creates and makes all things is at the same time a creature? I wonder: Has God created Himself? …who could think in this way? God in His wisdom has created all things (Ps104:24). If that is so, how can we assume that wisdom is created of itself? 1 St. Ambrose * If you assume that the expression ‘through Him’ indicates that He is lesser since it makes of the Lord Jesus Christ an instrument used for creation, then hear what (David) says: ‘Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands,’ (Ps 101(102):25). What he says about the Father as a creator also applies to the Son: he would not have said this if he had not believed Him to be the Creator and not just another’s helper. Hence the expression ‘through Him’ is used for the sole reason that the Psalmist has: no doubt that the Son was not born. Concerning His title of Creator, this underlines that He is no lesser than the Father in any way. Listen to how He speaks about Himself: ‘For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will,’ (Jn.5:21)2. * Do you not agree that by adding: ‘…and without Him nothing was made that was made’, St. John has ended all the difficult issues? The statement: ‘…and without Him nothing was made that was made’, is complemented by: ‘All things were made through Him…’ Hence, he embraces all things the mind can comprehend (things that exist in the intangible world) yet do not include the (the Holy) Spirit… Lest someone says: “If everything was made through Him, then the Spirit was born as well”; I answer: “I am convinced that what was born was born through Him: whether it is tangible or intangible or in the heavens. That is why he did not use an absolute expression such as ‘All things ’, but he said ‘All things.., made,’ referring to creatures. As for the Spirit, he is not a creature…do you not see the accuracy of his teachings… he has excluded the Holy Spirit from all other creation. As St. Paul had received the same grace, he writes in the same Spirit and says: ‘For by Him all things were created…’ (Col.1: 16). Notice here the same accuracy for the same Spirit (the Holy) has stirred this soul as well. None of the creatures are excepted from being the work of God…‘whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.’ The expression ‘whether’ is all-inclusive and underlines that there is nothing else to be understood other than this: ‘All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was 2 Hom 5.PG 59:37 https://coptic-treasures.com/ made’3. St. John Chrysostom * Could the Word be made by God? No, Because He too was with God since the beginning. Are the things that God has created different from the things that the Word has created? No, because all things were made through Him. By what means were they created by Him? Because in Him was life and before creating them life existed. What has been created was not done by life but by the Wisdom of God, and before creating them, life existed. That which is created moves on and transpires, whereas that which is found in Wisdom can never transpire4. * If you say: ‘All things’ then you will not be lying since this Word is called the Wisdom of God; and as it is written: ‘In wisdom You have made them all’ (Ps.104:24)5. St. Augustine * The bride regards attentively the hand of the bridegroom as it represents his power to work, saying, “My beloved put his hand by the latch of the door…” (Song of Sol 5:4). Yet it is impossible for human nature to embrace the infinity of divine nature, and the bride says: “And my heart yearned for him,” (Song of Sol 5:4)…every soul is astounded at her capacity to comprehend the dazzling works made by God for they transcend human capacity. This is due to the inexplicable and incomprehensible Divine Nature that makes these wonders. Every living creature is the product of this Hand that appeared by the latch. That explains why St. John cries out in his Gospel saying: ‘All things were made by Him, and without Him nothing was made that were made,’ (Jn. 1 :). Isaiah the prophet expresses the same thought and calls the hand the power of God to work: “For all those things my hand has made, and all those things exist,” says the Lord (Is.66: 2). The mind is unable to comprehend such achievement: the beauty of the heavens with the stars and the sun, and the rest of the wonders of nature. However, the human heart fears the power of God. If man is unable to understand all the works of God, then how can he comprehend God Who is above all that is in the creation?1 ===== * Let us go back to these verses and benefit from the above so that they echo the words of the friends of the bride: “What is your beloved more than another beloved, O fairest among women? What is your beloved more than another beloved that you so charge us?” Let us listen attentively as our veils have been lifted up: let us turn towards the Truth with our inner eyes. How does the bride describe to her bridesmaids the One she is seeking? How does she describe in words the stature of the One for whom she is yearning? How does she prepare the virgins for the One they do not know? On the one hand, Christ has not been created yet there is an aspect of Him as a creature: we know that the One not created is eternal and found before the world was established, and that He is the Creator of all. On the other hand, there is an aspect that is created as He was formed according to our lowly flesh (Phil 3:21). We might understand these words better by examining them in the light of the Holy Bible: We know that in the beginning was the Word, that He had always been with God, that the Word was not created, and that without Him nothing was made that was made’ (Jn 1:1-3). The Word was with God and the Word was God, and through Him all things were made. We also know that Jesus Christ was born, that is, He became flesh and dwelt among us. His incarnation clearly revealed his greatness: He is God, the only begotten Son of God who 3 Homilies on St. John, Hom. 5:2. 4 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 3:4 5 Sermon on N.T. Lessons, 67:3. 1 Song of Songs by St. Gregory,Bishop of Nyssa. Translated into Arabic by Dr George Nawar, Sermon 11. https://coptic-treasures.com/ abides in the Father‘s embrace. He appeared in the flesh, and according to St. John: ‘…the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth,’ (Jn.1: 14)2. St. Gregory of Nyssa * All things were made by Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made’: since we believe that everything was created through the Son, therefore we cannot consider Him to be one of the whole (of the creation). Indeed, He is totally different for He does share the nature of the created beings. We do confess that He alone is by nature the true God. * He did not receive power from someone else to create, but He is the power of God the Father. The only Son Who does everything with the Father and the Holy Spirit. For everything proceeds from the Father by the Son. If the Son were created separately from the Father, the Son would not have been able to say: “I am in the Father and the Father in Me,” (Jn 14:10). St. Cyril, the Great St. Augustine says that some - such as the followers of Manni - believe that Satan has created certain creatures, such as flies for example. He answers such believers, as the followers of Manni, that God is the sole Creator of all things. He has created eventhese creatures that appear to be insignificant or harmful, for the well being of men and to dismantle him of pride. [You need to know, my brethren, that these creatures have been created to restrain our pride by presenting hardships for us. Thus God diminished the pride of the people under Pharaoh by sending flies, and frogs; rather than tanks or lions: He humbled them as they submitted to the most insignificant of creatures1.] St. Augustine ‘In Him was life, and the life was the light of men’ [4]. The Evangelist draws a distinction between ‘life’ as a creative element and ‘life’ that is created and temporal. He speaks of the Word not just as a living Person but as ‘life’ as well. This is what the Lord Jesus indicated when He spoke of Himself as being born before all time: ‘…. to have life in Himself,’ (Jn 5:26). For He is the essence of the incomprehensible life. Hence the Evangelist says: ‘…the life was manifested’ (1Jn 1:2), and this is through incarnation. Creative life grants life to others, “ For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will,” (Jn5: 21). It is not that there is life in Him, but He is life itself. Hence ‘All things were made through Him.’ The Bible says: ‘…that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life…’ (Deut 30:20). The Psalmist also sings: “For with You is the fountain of life; in your light we see the light,’ (Ps 36: 9). ‘…and the life was the light of men,’ [4]. When we receive Him as our life, we become enlightened. Moreover, we realize that our temporal life on earth is a divine gift that motivates us to be attracted to ‘eternal life’ where the brightness of eternal glory shines. In heaven, we will be with the Lord Jesus Christ and know Him fully. We will enjoy seeing Him, become united to Him, and rest steadfastly in Him, and ultimately, we will have attained eternal life: ‘And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent,’(Jn 17:3). Just as the Word is the creative Life and Giver of created life, He is also the essential 2 Song of Songs by St. Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa. Translated into Arabic by Dr George Nawar, Sermon 13. 1 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 1:15 https://coptic-treasures.com/ Light inherent in the divine nature and the One that cannot be approached. He shines upon us with His grace so we consequently become a light that reflects the radiance of His light wherever we go. When the Lord declared Himself to Saul of Tarsus, Saul said: “…a great light from heaven shone around me, and I fell to the ground…” (Acts 22:7). * The Evangelist calls Him both ‘the Light’ and the ‘Life’; for he freely grants us light. It is light that proceeds from knowledge and the life that arises from it. The use of one name, or two, or three, or more is insufficient to teach us about God. We need to be ready to comprehend His mysterious features through numerous means2. St. John Chrysostom St. John Chrysostom believes that since the Lord Jesus Christ is Life or the source of life, He can only be eternal. Otherwise, who could have granted life if He Himself did not exist at some point in time? * He is life…that has no beginning and no end; and therefore is truly Life as should be. For if there had been a time when there was no Life, then how can other life be formed if Life itself did not exist?! 3 * St. John says about the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘In Him was life....’ so that just as the Father possessed life within Himself, He gave His Son the same innate possession of life. St. John did not say: ‘And the life was the light of the Jews’, but he put it in an allinclusive way, thus: ‘…and the life was the light of men.’ For the light was not for the Jews alone, but it was offered to all in general. They came to this same knowledge, as this light was set to shine on all. You may wonder: what is the reason that led him to omit the addition of ‘angels’ to men and rather chose to say ‘…and the life was the light of men’? We say: Because what he said at the present time is offered to all mankind: He came to them to carry the glad news of good gifts1. St. John Chrysostom * Nothing that has been created has been made without Him; for He is the life that made the creation possible2. St. Hilary, Bishop of Poitier * ‘In Him was life…’: He grants the creation the blessing of existence, and He also grants the blessing of continuity. Out of His goodness, He grants eternity to creatures who do not possess it innately. Hence He becomes the life to everything that came into being so that it continues to exist within the limits of its nature. * If the Son were not of the essence of the Father but rather from an external origin, then He would have been subordinate to the Father just like other creatures. But how then could He give life to all, while He is among all that has been created? … How can we interpret these words of the apostle, St. Paul, concerning the nature of God: “…who gives life to all things…” (1 Tim 6:13). How can the Son be a creature and at the same time be able to give life to all…then the creation would be able to give life to itself and would not need God at all. Moreover, there would be nothing to differentiate between the divine nature and other creatures. Indeed, the creation would be like God and have power to do the same work as God. * If the Son is not of the essence of God the Father…then how could the Psalmist 3 Homily 4:3 1 Homily 5:3 2 On the Trinity 2 (20) https://coptic-treasures.com/ conceive the amazing wonder of Him who is by nature God: “In Your light we see light,” (Ps.36: 9). If the Son, as a creature, shines on all things created, then the creation would be shinning on itself and would not need the light of God, her Creator. St. Cyril, the Great * If anyone wishes to possess the Word, and if anyone wishes to have the Word, he does not need to search outside himself for something to offer: he needs to offer himself. By doing so, he does not lose himself in the same way that someone would lose the price of something he has bought3. * He who possesses the Word, let him offer himself: that is the price of the Word. It is said that he who gives does not lose himself, but, rather, possesses the Word and is devoted to Him. Indeed, he wins his own soul too as he comes to the Word who is his own Creator4. * The Bible speaks about Wisdom and says: “She is the radiance of the everlasting light….” And in another passage: “She is a reflection of eternal light, a perfect mirror of God’s activity and goodness,” (Ws 7:26)…let us draw a parallel from this to find a common factor between two elements as this will enable us to comprehend the fellowship found in the Eternal. Light proceeds from fire, and light produces fire. Hence we may wonder which is the result of the other? Every time and as we light a candle, we will have to remember that there is something intangible and indescribable: we know that a candle needs to be lit in the darkness of this world…present to me a fire without radiance and I will believe that the Father existed been without the Son2. St. Augustine *Origen believes that the Messiah first came spiritually and then came physically. He came in the Old Testament to those who were perfect, and who had became mature and were no longer children. They were not in the custody of teachers and educators: they had matured in the fullness of their spiritual time (Gal.4: 4). Such is the case of the patriarch fathers and the prophets who contemplated the glory of the Messiah. Just as the Lord visited the perfect ones before the tangible journey He made in the flesh, He likewise does not visit those who remain children after He has come, and who do not wish to become mature2. * If we understand that ‘In Him was life’, the One who said: “I am…the life,” (Jn 11: 25), then we will say that no one who lacks faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is alive. Moreover all those who do not live for Him are dead. Their lives are spent in sin rather than for the Mind (Logos): in other words, it is a life of death3. * Let us study the expression: “He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living…” (Mk 12:27). This is equivalent to the statement: ‘He is not a God of sinners, but a God of saints’…. He is the God of the fathers and of all the saints. No one can find a record anywhere that mentions that He is a God of any wicked man. Therefore, and since He is the God of saints, and that He has been described as the God of the living, we may state that the saints are alive, and that those alive are saints. Indeed, no one can be considered alive unless he truly exists as a saint4. * If the life is equivalent to ‘the light of men’, then no one existing in darkness is alive; and no one alive exists in darkness. Indeed, everyone who is alive is also in the light and everyone in the light is alive. Consequently, only the one who is alive is the son of the light, and 3 Sermon on N.T. Lessons, 67:1. 2 Sermon on N.T. Lessons, 67:11. 2 Commentary on John, Book 1:37-38. 3 Commentary on John, Book 2.115 https://coptic-treasures.com/ the son of the light is the one whose deeds shine before men (Matt 5:16).5 * St. Paul says that there was ‘darkness and now there is the light of God,’ (1Cor 2:14- 15). Hence, it is possible for darkness to be transformed into light. This is not hard for someone who believes in the potential of man to change, and to become better. …Or get worse6. *It is possible for the One who possesses the light of men, and who gives its rays to fulfil works of light and is the the light of knowledge (Ho.10: 12 LXX). We also need to consider the opposite aspect, which suggests that, every wicked act, but still called knowledge, does not proceed according to the truth, and as such has darkness as its basis7. Origen * This kind of light affects the mind but not the senses: it enlightens the soul itself. The Lord Jesus Christ explains this: “No one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draws him,” (Jn 6:44). On this theme, the Lord proclaims that He (the Son) is the One who gives ‘light’ [9] and therefore, if we hear such a saying about the Father, we should not think it speaks of the Father alone for it applies to the Son as well. The Lord also says: “All things that the Father has are Mine,” (Jn 16:15)1. * ‘And the light shines in the darkness,’ [5]. He designates death and sin as darkness since the light of the senses does not shine within the darkness but rather shines on the outside of it. As for the preaching of the Lord, it shines in the midst of oppressing sin and dispels it. By undergoing death, He conquered death, and healed those who really believed in Him. That is how neither death nor sin can conquer the Word. It is radiant everywhere and shines with the power due to Him2. St. John Chrysostom * The Light of the mind is more sublime than the mind and surpasses all minds. This is the Life through Whom everything was made3. * Do not be in darkness, O mankind, and do not be unbelieving. Do not exist in darkness, in wickedness, in covetousness, in greed and lusting for the world: this is darkness. The Light is not absent, it is you who are absent from the light4. St. Augustine ‘And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it,’ [5]. The work of the ‘Sun of Righteousness’ is to shine with His light upon the world, yet He does not oblige those sitting in darkness to receive His light. A man who rejects the light, and holds on to darkness, becomes a darkness that cannot comprehend or tolerate the light. Whereas a man who accepts the light becomes a light to the world and cannot tolerate darkness. Since the Word incarnate is ‘the true light’; then Satan who has forsaken the source of light has become ‘darkness.’ He exerts himself to attract all mankind to his kingdom and consequently have dominion over them. That explains why the Lord called him ‘the power of darkness,’ (Lk.22: 53). The kingdom of darkness is established in the absence of the true light. That is when mankind is separated from the divine Word and therefore have no “life’, no ‘light’, no ‘truth’, and no ‘peace.’ This is where deeds of darkness occur, such as spiritual death, denial, lies, 5 Commentary on John, Book 2: 132. 6 Commentary on John, Book 2; 136 7 Commentary on John, Book 2:158 1 Homilies on St. John, Hom. 5:3. 2 Homily 5:3 3 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 3:5 4 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate3: 5. https://coptic-treasures.com/ hatred, dissentions, corruption, etc… Darkness can neither comprehend the light nor tolerate it. Hence it takes a hostile stand as an attempt to prevent the light from touching it. The darkness imagined it could eradicate the ‘Sun of Righteousness’ by crucifying Him. It did not realize that through the Cross it has destroyed itself, and that consequently the ‘Sun of Righteousness ’ shone on those who sat in the darkness: ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined,’ (Is 9:2). * ‘Darkness’ is the nature that needs to be enlightened- that is the created nature…he considers that the reasoning creation lacking the divine nature is darkness. Hence it is incapable to produce anything independently and with its own potentials. * The Word shines over all things that are able to receive His rays and His light. * The Word, that is the Son is unknown to darkness. This is because the reasoning creature living on earth, that is man, has worshipped the creature rather than the Creator (Rom 1:25). He did not comprehend the light for he did not know the Creator. St. Cyril the Great * Light shines in the darkness, and in this life, and in the body. At the same time, darkness pursues it, yet it will not defeat it. I mean that the opposing power continues its shameful attack against the actual Adam but it collides with God and gets defeated. Hence by tearing darkness away, we get close to the light, and consequently become fully light and the children of the perfect Light 1. St. Gregory, the Theologian * St. John says: “…the darkness did not comprehend it’: for it is impossible to have a defeated Messiah. Moreover, He cannot live in souls that do not want the light. However, do not be disturbed if the light does not embrace all, for He does not abide forcefully or by intimidation. Indeed, as a result of a person’s will and acceptance, God brings His light to him. Do not close your doors in the face of that Light for you will enjoy great happiness. However, this Light descends due to faith, and when it comes it richly enlightens the one receiving Him. Moreover, if you lead a pure life that is worthy of the Light, He will continue to dwell within you. The Lord promises that: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home wit him,” (Jn 14:23). A man who closes his eyes cannot enjoy the sun’s light. Similarly, no one can share and enjoy the Eternal Light unless he opens up his soul’s inner perception and strives to keep his focus steadfast in every possible manner. How can this be achieved? When the soul is cleaned from all desires: for all sin is darkness- a deep darkness. This is clear in the way people unconsciously and secretly commit sin: “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed,” (Jn 3:20). “For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret,” (Eph 5:12). Moreover, a man living in darkness knows neither friends nor foes: he is unable to make a distinction among the nature of things. That is typical of a man living in sin. Thus a the one who seeks to make huge profits does not distinguish between friend and foe; a covetous man carries hatred even to those closest to him; and a plotter is in constant conflict with everyone in common… Briefly, a sinner is no better than a drunkard or a madman. Just as wood, lead, silver, gold, and precious stones appear to be similar at night due to the absence of light and thus hindering the perception of any distinctions among them, so is the one who leads a corrupt life: 1 Oration 39, on the Holy Lights (Epiphany), 2. https://coptic-treasures.com/ he is unable to make a distinction and comprehend the grandness of self control or the beauty of philosophy (wisdom) 2. St. John Chrysostom * He who strays away from the true Light, that is moving away from God, becomes blind immediately. Yet, he does not realize the result and his judgment even though it has actually been delivered already1. St. Augustine * The Psalmist expresses our yearning: ‘Woe is me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! My soul has dwelt too long…’ (Ps 120:5; Vulgate 6). ‘Kedar’ means ‘darkness’, and darkness represents the actual world, for we are told: ‘And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it2 [5]. St. Jerome ‘There was a man sent by God, whose name was John’ [6]. The verb ‘was’ in Greek means ’became’ as opposed to ‘was’ that occurs in verse 1: ‘the Word was…’ where it conveys ‘being’ in the sense that He was and is timeless The Holy Bible does not say: ’God sent John the Baptist’ for the focus is on the mission itself: ‘…a man sent by God....’ The aim of that mission was to bear witness to the divine Word who is the Light shining upon those sitting in the darkness. * Since you are told that John has been sent by God, then do not think that he speaks of his own words. Rather, he speaks with the words of Him who has sent him; and therefore he is called an angel: “Behold, I send My messenger...” (Malachi 3:1). Note that the virtue of the angel is that he does not speak of his own words3. St. John Chrysostom ‘This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe,’ [7]. St. John the Evangelist is preoccupied by the proclamation of the person of the Messiah: that we may believe in Him, and consequently enjoy the everlasting Life as our Light in this world and glory in the life to come. For this purpose, he presents numerous witnesses and we note the repetition of the verb ‘to witness’: it occurs 33 times throughout this Gospel as well as the noun ‘a witness’ that is repeated 14 times. Concerning ‘the witness’ the reference is to: the witness of the Father for Him (5:31); the witness of the Lord Jesus for Himself (8:14); the witness of the Holy Spirit (15:26); the witness of the Lord’s deeds (5:36); the witness of the fathers and the prophets (5:39); the witness of John the Baptist (1:7); the witness of the disciples (15:27); as well as the witness of the Samaritan woman and the Samarians to Him (Ch 4); that of the blind man whose sight was restored (Ch 9); and after His resurrection, the testimony of Thomas. Origen says that the ‘voice in the wilderness’ witnessed for the Word. He presents six testimonies: 1- He witnessed to His greatness as He comes after Him even though He is the Eternal Who preceded Him. He is the Giver of all gifts and the Informant about the Father (Jn 1:15-18). All these expressions include in the testimony of St. John the Baptist who came before the Messiah, not, as some believe that part of it is the testimony of St. John the Evangelist. 1 Sermon on N.T. Lessons, 67:5 2 Letter 39:3 3 Homilies on St. John, Hom. 6:1 https://coptic-treasures.com/ 2- His witness before the messengers sent by the priests and the Levites coming from Jerusalem (Jn 19:1-27). 3- For a third time, he testifies to the greatness of the Lord Jesus Christ and indicates that he is unworthy to loosen the straps of his shoes (Jn1: 26-27), while He is there among them and they did not know Him. 4- On the next day, St. John the Baptist testifies that He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29). 5-His witness after he saw the Holy Spirit descending and resting upon Him (Jn 1:33-34). 6- For the sixth time, he witnesses before two of the disciples that He is the Lamb of God (Jn 1:35-36)1. * Someone might ask: What does all this mean? Is the testimony of a slave to his master valid?… I answer by telling the words that the Lord Jesus Christ gave to the Jews: “Yet I do not receive testimony from man…” (Jn 5:34). If you would ask: If Christ did not need this testimony, then why did God send John the Baptist?! I say response is: He did not send John because He needed His testimony for this is a serious blasphemy. Then why? The Evangelist tells us himself: ’…that all through Him might believe…,’ Do not think that John the Baptist bore witness in order to add some credibility or trust in the Lord. No, he did so in order to make those of his own nature (human beings) to believe2. St. John Chrysostom * The Evangelist did not assume the role of being the sole witness to the Lord Jesus Christ; for although it is a true testimony yet he did not want to disobey the Law (that requires two or three witnesses)…this is particularly important as he is proclaiming matters that are above the grasp of the human mind. For that reason, he brings in St. John the Baptist to join him and bear witness. * A veiled opinion spread among some people, that St. John the Baptist was not a real man, but one of the heavenly angels, vested by flesh, and sent by God to preach to people. This is a myth that resulted from misinterpreting the words of God, saying: “behold, I send My messenger, and He will prepare the way before Me,” (Mal 3:1 ;). Because these people had abandoned the truth, they had misunderstood the meaning of the word ’angel.’ It means a servant or a messenger while it does not specify the real essence of that servant. St. Cyril the Great “He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness to that Light,” [8]. * The Baptist chose to live in the wilderness and away from the pleasures of the city. He proclaimed his steadfast adherence to a life of virtue. Hence he progressed to the pinnacle of righteousness to which no man could attain. This led people to be amazed at his style of living and some even imagined him to be the Messiah…Some imagined him to be the Light Himself. * These words are reported about St. John the Baptist: “He was the burning and shinning lamp…” (Jn 5:35). Although saints are said to be lights…yet we do not deny the gift that they have received from ‘the Light.’ Note that the light is in the lantern and does not come from it. Similarly, the light of the saints does not emanate from them: it is the result of the Truth that hence they ‘shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life (Phil 2:15, 16). St. Cyril the Great * St. John the Evangelist does not say these words for no reason otherwise his words would be of no value. He does so to dismiss any doubt as commonly thought that the witness is 1 Commentary on John, Book 2:212-218. 2 Homilies on St. John, Hom.6: 1. https://coptic-treasures.com/ greater than the One for whom he testifies. Therefore the Evangelist immediately, and from the beginning, dismisses these assumptions and unearths them. He reveals the identity of that witness, the identity of Him for whom he witnessed, and the distinction between the two1. St. John Chrysostom * John was a light, yet he was not the true Light. If he had not been enlightened, he would have suffered from the darkness. However, he became a light by his being enlightened 2. St. Augustine “That was the true Light which gives light to every man who comes into the world,” [9]. This was a popular expression used among the Jewish teaches, every newborn child sees the light of which he was deprived while he was in his mother’s womb. Here the light means the new life since the newborn is blind and at his birth he sees the light. In other words, at his birth he is introduced to a new life that is different from the prenatal condition. Similarly, the Lord Jesus Christ shines with the light of His presence upon a new world that everyone, who is born spiritually, enjoys. St. Cyril the Great considers that faith is the lamp, and the incarnate Word of God is the light. He says: [God’s Word is the subject of our belief: He is the Light. The lamp is faith, while He is the true light that shines to every man who comes into the world (Jn 1:9)3. The word ‘true’ implies the sole Light that has the power to reveal the One Who is wholly Truth, and informs us of the divine mysteries. Indeed, He is a perfect and constant Light, that is never interrupted. This true Light is the sole One who can enter into the knowledge of the Father, the true God (Jn 3:17). He offers Himself to us the true and perfect divine Truth, the true Bread descending from heaven, the true Vine with Whom we can enjoy unity as branches of Him, who is the Vine. Through Him we can become true worshippers: worshipping Him in spirit and in truth. He is the Light ‘…which gives light to every man who comes into the world…’ [9]. He wishes to save everyone and to attract him or her to the Truth. He does not wish to conceal Himself from anyone, yet He does not obligate any to accept Him. St. John does not say ‘He gave light’ but, rather, that He ‘gives light’ as this is a constant situation: the door of His love is constantly open. Indeed, He descends to everyone to invite him to enjoy His light. Hence everyone is entitled to receive and enjoy Him. He is the Light that enriches everyone receiving Him by granting him divine enlightenment that surpasses the mind. As for those who reject Him, they are like those whom the sun has hit in their weak eyes and blinded “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts” (Jn 12:40) And as the Lord said: “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind,”(Jn 9:39). ‘…who comes into the world…’does not refer to ‘every man’ but to ’the true Light’, for the Word, the true Light, came to the world in the flesh. Human discernment didn’t occur, but in the same way as the sun shines on our earth from afar. This happened by His coming to our world and appearing among us. * Where are they who claim that the Lord Jesus Christ is not a true God? He is called here ‘the true Light’, the Truth itself, and Life itself. * If He gives light to every man who comes into the world, then how do we still find 1 Homilies on St. John, Hom. 6:1. 2 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 2:6. 3 In lus. 11:33-36. https://coptic-treasures.com/ large numbers who are not enlightened yet? Because not all have become acquainted with the dominion of the Lord. Then how does He give light to every man? He gives light to all and according to the person’s capacity to receive light within himself. As for those who reject or who shut off the eyes of their minds and refuse the rays of that Light, then their darkness is not due to the nature of the Light. It is due to their wickedness, which has turned them away from the Light1. St. John Chrysostom * We will become like the Light as we come close to the light of the true Christ. According to the Lord’s words, if we leave the dark atmosphere of the world and live in the heights, we become lights (Jn 9: 5; 1:9). The true Light that lights in the darkness descends to us. However, if the filth of sin covers our hearts, it darkens the brilliance of our light2. St. Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa * Anyone who originates from nothingness does not possess the power to progress. However, the rays of the Light that proceeds from men is granted to them when they become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). Thus, when they become the image of the divine nature they are called lights and each becomes a light. * Since the Son is the splendor (rays) of the glory of God the Father, He is consequently the true Light. * Since the mind of man is considered a lamp, and this is how the Psalm refers to it: “You will light my lamp’; then why is it said that we are light? Because a lamp receives its light from another source. Since the only Son is the sole One who shines in the darkness that is within us then He is the true Light; while we are definitely not the true light. * If the Son is not truly the sole Light, and that this is also a feature of all creatures as well, then how do we explain these words: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light,” (I Peter2: 90). So why is there darkness within us? And what is this darkness that we were living in, if we are truly the light? * The Holy Bible frequently speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ as the divine Light or the Light of the Father (Ps 4:6; 97:11; 89:15; 112:4; Is 60:1; 42:6; 2:5; Jn 12:35 -36; 1Jn 2:9-10). St. Cyril the Great * The light of the sun that is visible to us sheds its light upon everything - even upon the smallest and least significant animals. Similarly, righteousness and wisdom are the true Light, and the mind may be blocked and clouded from perceiving this Light and it gets confused as a result of some prevalent anger. Just like the sun that sets down upon man’s anger, so is the case with this ship when the Lord is absent from it. Everyone shakes as a result of his own storms, wickedness, and evil desires3. * The Lord Himself shone as gloriously as the sun. His clothes became white as snow, He Himself shone as the sun. Thus He indicated that He is the Light who gives light to every man who comes into the world. Just as the sun is important to the physical eye, so is the Lord vital to the eyes of the heart1. 1 Hom. 8 PG 59:48. 2 On Virginity, 11. 3 Sermon on N.T. Lessons, 25:5. 1 Sermon on N.T. Lessons, 28:2. https://coptic-treasures.com/ St. Augustine * A righteous and enlightened person enjoys constant daylight throughout his life. His light cannot be touched by darkness. He gives praise to God seven times a day for he has sublimated himself above this world that has been created in six days. When I attain the Lord’s Paradise, and contemplate on the reason for the creation and God’s wisdom, I acknowledge that His rulings are altogether justice. St. Didymium, the Blind ‘He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him’, [10]. This is so amazing! He has created the world through his power, and He has descended to it to be in our midst. He sends His Light to us and to be within us. However, the evil world has rejected Him and chosen to walk in the darkness of ignorance rather than in the light of knowing Him. If a person walks in darkness, he cannot justify himself. His darkness is not caused by His Creator. It arises out of his evil will and actions which have rejected the true Light. * St. John speaks of the Lord and says: ‘He was in the world, and the world was made through Him….’ By these words, the Evangelist carries us upwards too. He leads us beyond all time and into the presence of the only One. Anyone who hears that the world was made through Him is obliged to acknowledge, confess and worship Him. Even though a person could be extremely insensitive, or hostile, or waging war against the glory of God. St. John says: ‘…and the world did not know Him,’ for there are those who have deviated and cannot perceive distinctions. They have wrestled and become wild to the greatest extent; while there are others who have come to know Him. St. John Chrysostom * ‘…and the world did not know Him,’: not because He is unknown but because the world is weak. The Son shines, yet the creation disperses the blessing. The Word granted the creation the power of sight so that all may perceive, through nature, that He is Lord. However, the creation has abused that gift and has turned all living things into stumbling blocks that obstruct meditation on the Lord. Creatures have become egocentric and have buried the gift of insight through negligence. * Truly, the world is condemned for its ingratitude, and its inability to comprehend God…the Prophet expresses this reality as he quotes these verses in reference to the children of Israel: ‘So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes,’ (Is 5:4). St. Cyril the Great * The world that the Lord has created is not the same one that has not known Him. What is the world that He has created? The heavens and the earth. How is it that the heavens did not know Him whereas the sun grew dark as He suffered on the Cross? How is it that the earth did not know Him whereas it rumbled and shook as he hung on the Cross? ‘The world did not know Him,’ as we are told about its ruler the following: ‘…for the ruler of this world is coming and he has nothing in Me,’ (Jn 14:30). The evil ones and the unbelievers are called ‘the world’: they are named after the thing they have loved. By loving God, we become gods; and by loving the world, we become ‘the world.’ https://coptic-treasures.com/ However, ‘… God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself,’ (2 Cor 5: 19). * All things witness to Him in every way, yet who were those who did not acknowledge Him? They are those who became known as ‘the world’ on account of their love for it1. * The world was created by Him: the heavens, the earth, and all that is in them. Yet ‘the world did not know Him.’ Those who love the world, and hate the Lord: this is the world that did not know Him. For the world is evil since those who have preferred the world to God are truly evil2. * ‘…and the world did not know Him,’: this is not the world that we are told about: ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself,’ (2 Cor 5:19). There is an evil world, as well as a godly world. The evil world consists of the evil ones in it, and the godly world consists of the godly ones. This is what we often notice in a field as we say: ‘This field is full of good seeds,’ or ‘ This field is full of weeds.’ Similarly, we may say that a certain tree is full of fruit while another may say that it is full of leaves. In each case both sayings are true, for the fact that it is full of leaves does not negate that it is full of fruit; neither does its being full of fruit negate that it is full of leaves.3 * The world is evil because its inhabitants are evil; just as a house is evil not due to its walls but due to its inhabitants4. ‘He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him,” [11]. God has not created man to serve Him for He has no need for the services of mankind. His unique love for mankind, He wants each to be His very own and part of His household. According to Genesis 5:24: ‘…Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.’ Although we do not know how God took him, or where He took him, yet he was removed to be with God forever and to be welcomed as one of the members of the divine family. The Lord shows His supreme love for believers by relating Himself to them in these words: ‘ I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ The prophet Moses reveals this relationship as one where God considers a congregation as His own personal portion: …the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.’ (Gen 7:6). This thought has often been voiced by many prophets as they proclaim that God reserved a people to be His own. And the Word incarnated descended to live among His own; yet His own did not receive Him. The rejection was a joint one as it came from the high priests, the scribes, the Pharisees, and the leaders of the people. Even one of His disciples joined and rejected Him, and thus these words were fulfilled: ‘…and those who hated me wrongfully have multiplied ….who hate me without a cause,’ (Ps 39:19; Ps 69:4). * The Lord heard the prayers of the prophets and was concerned that mankind would be annihilated. Consequently, He sent His Son from heaven as a Healer. According to the prophet: ‘ And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come…,’(Mal3: 1)…where? ‘…to His temple’! Another prophet, on hearing that, says: ‘O Zion, you who bring good tidings, get up into the high mountain…say to the cities of Judah….’ Say what? ‘Behold your God! Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand,’ (Isaiah 40:9, 10). Moreover, the Lord Himself declares: “…behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” (Zech 2:10). Nevertheless, the Israelites rejected salvation and consequently He “will gather all nations and all tongues,” 1 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 2:11 2 Sermon on N.T. Lessons, 46:5 3 Sermon on N.T. Lessons 31:3 4 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate https://coptic-treasures.com/ (Isaiah 66:18). For’ He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” Lord, You will come, and what will you grant to the Gentiles? “…I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory. I will set a sign among them…” (Isaiah 66: 19). For when I have been crucified, I grant all my soldiers a seal on their foreheads1. St. Cyril of Jerusalem Reflect on the words of St. John: ‘He came to His own’: not because the Lord needed them since it is inconceivable that the Divine entity would be in need; but He came to extend goodwill to His own people. St. John emphasizes his admonition to those Jews more poignantly as he says: ‘ …and His own rejected Him.’ For although the Lord came for their well-being yet they rejected Him. And not only that, but they also threw Him out of the vineyard and killed Him St. John Chrysostom ‘ But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,..’[12]. He had come to His own yet His own rejected Him; yet in the midst of them a few faithful ones were found who received Him. These were driven out of the synagogue and were forbidden to worship in the temple. They were treated as though they were heathen and not as disciples of Moses nor as the children of Abraham, etc…The Jews did not realize that these few were the sacred yeast for the firstborn in the heavenly Church: this was the source of joy for Moses and the rejoicing of Abraham and Jacob. These would serve in the new Temple, and join the congregation of the saints and heavenly hosts. In the early days, the Lord had called His people ‘Israel…My Son. My firstborn’ (Ex 4:22). And now this yeast has occupied that ultimate rank through God’s adoption: they have become ‘partakers of the divine nature,’(2 Peter 1:4). * The Lord has adopted the slaves and made them brothers. He ransomed the exiled and granted them to be partners in His inheritance2. * If they are children of God; if they have been redeemed by the grace of the Savior; if they have been bought by His precious Blood; if they have been born from water and the Holy Spirit; and if they have been appointed to inherit the kingdom of heaven; then they are truly the children of God3. * “The heirs of God are heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ.” He has no fear of having others sharing in the inheritance; since His inheritance will not diminish if many others come into it. Indeed, these will become part of His inheritance; and He in turn will become their inheritance. Listen to the means by which they have become an inheritance for Him: ‘The Lord has said to Me, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give the nations for Your inheritance”, ’ (Ps 2:7,8). And listen to the means by which He becomes an inheritance for them: the Psalmist says: “ You O Lord are the portion of my cup and my inheritance (Ps 16:5). Let us attain Him, and may He possess us as our Lord. May we attain Him as our Salvation and Light. What does He grant to those who receive Him? ‘He gave them the right to be His children, even to those who believe in His name,’ so that they may cling to the Wood and cross the sea4. * Do not be astonished, O man, that you have become a son through grace, and have been 1 Essay 12:8. 2 Sermon on N.T. Lessons, 53:2 3 Sermon on N.T.Lessons31: 6 4 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate2: 13 https://coptic-treasures.com/ born of God according to His Word. For, initially, the Word first chose to be born of man in order that you could be born of God according to the plan of redemption. Hence, tell yourself: “It is not without reason that God wanted to be born of man, for He considered me so important and desired to make me immortal: for my sake, He was born as a man who is vulnerable to death1. St. Augustine * Just as the Lord Jesus Christ is a true Son, so we also become children of God when we receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Bible says: ‘For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the spirit of adoption,’(Romans 8:15). Since we have become children through the power of the Holy Spirit, it is clear that in our Lord Jesus Christ we are called the children of God: ‘…as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God,’ (Jn 1:12). St. Athanasius the Apostolic *However, adoption rests upon us, that is it is dependent on ‘our willingness.’ St. John elaborates by saying that many ‘received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believed in His name.’ That indicates that they were not the children of God before they believed. However, by choosing to believe they are qualified to become His children2. * He is not similar to you who have become enlightened and thereby have become children of God…thus you are children by adoption according to that which is written: ‘…as many as received Him, He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’ Truly, we have been born by the water and the Spirit, but Jesus Christ was not born from the Father in this way. At the time of His baptism, God spoke to Him, saying: “This is My Son,” (Matt 3:17). He did not say, “ He has become My Son” but rather: ‘This is My Son.’ Thus God proclaimed that He is the ‘Son’ even before baptism3. St. Cyril of Jerusalem * If you ask: what have those who accepted Him received? I will answer: It is in the words of the Evangelist: ‘…as many as received Him, He gave the right to become children of God.’ The Evangelist explains this good gift that God grants to those who receive the Lord and underlined them in a few words: ‘He gave the right to become children of God’: whether they were slaves or free men, heathen or wise or foolish, whether women or children, elderly, rich or poor, leaders or common people: all become qualified to receive the same blessing. Who could be similarly just and benevolent to mankind? In spite of that, not everyone is granted that grace: it is only granted to those who want to receive it, and to those who persevere to attain it. Those have the power because they have been offered to become children; and had they rejected the offer, grace would not purse them or work in them. Granting grace is a gift from God, but receiving faith is up to man. * Why did the Evangelist not say: ‘He made them children of God rather than ‘to them He gave the right to become the children of God’? To clarify that we need great zeal to maintain the image of adoption which has been impressed upon us at the time we were baptized. This occurs by keeping ourselves free of impurity and depravity. Besides, no one can seize that power from us unless we first deprive ourselves from it. He who has delivered this grace into our hands is greater and higher than all. At the same time, he wants to show that grace does not 1 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 2:15 2 Essay 7:13 3 Essay 11:9 https://coptic-treasures.com/ descend on man without his will, but rather fills those who have desire and toil for its sake. Consequently, it becomes in their power to become God’s children. Had they not chosen that for themselves, grace would neither have descended upon them, nor would it have acted within them 1. St. John Chrysostom ‘…who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God’ [13]. For a Gentile to be accepted as one of them, the Jews used to demand that he fulfill three requirements: circumcision, baptism, and presenting a sacrificial offering. By doing so, he would be considered as born again and a member of God’s people and worthy to enjoy the divine covenant. However, the Jews of Egypt neglected circumcision and could not be saved from bondage under Pharaoh. They could not enjoy being born again unless they would be circumcised and would offer the blood of the Passover. It appears to be necessary that their blood would mingle with the blood of the lamb in order to be sanctified, saved, and born again. However, when the only begotten Son of God came, He offered mankind to be sons of God, Who adopts them, by a spiritual birth blessed by the Water and the Spirit. St. John, the Evangelist, reveals the action of the Word in the life of man. He presents Him as the Creator by Whom all things were made. Then, he clarifies that He is the ‘Life’ Who grants life. This is the true Life that shines on man to make him enjoy the light whose source is the true Light. Through this insight God reveals Himself to man who consequently has faith in Him. This faith is accompanied by a new spiritual birth through the Water and the Spirit. It is a new birth granted by the Spirit of God, and through it we become the first born of the new creation and the living yeast for the Gentiles: ‘Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of His creatures,’(James 1; 18). It is a birth that is unique in its kind as it is not the fruit of natural elements. It neither proceeds from blood or from physical instincts. It is neither the result of a physical will nor achieved through a human plan. Indeed, it is a heavenly birth coming from God on high. It is a birth from God in which the natural element of blood has no share. It is free from all natural instincts, human ability or human planning. In the Greek version, the word ’blood’ occurs in the plural and not in the singular to indicate reference to the bloods of the father and mother. It does not refer to the Jewish ‘blood’; for they boasted that they descended from the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of the blood of the chosen people. This new birth is an issue of great value to St. John: ‘Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God!’ (1 Jn 3:1). ‘ If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him,’ (1 Jn 2: 29). ’ We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him,’ (1 Jn 5: 18). * They have been born of Adam as a necessary process (and they had no choice in that)…but they are born of the Lord Jesus Christ through their own will and through grace. Mankind is not obligated to be born from the Lord Jesus Christ. They have not been born of Adam as a result of their own wish. In any case, all those who have been born of Adam are sinners bound by sin; whereas those born of the Lord Jesus Christ have become righteous through Him and not through their own power... Death was the penalty of sin, and in the Lord was the gift of mercy and not a penalty of 1 Homilies on St. John, Hom. 10:2 https://coptic-treasures.com/ sin… There was no blemish in Him that deserved the decree of His death, yet in spite of that He died. In your case, you have faults, so do you reject death? … You have died through Adam; therefore arise through the Lord Jesus Christ: both are tasks to which you have to submit. You believe in the Lord now, therefore do not rebound to what is necessary through Adam. The bonds of sin will not pursue you forever because the temporary death of your Lord has slaughtered your eternal death. This applies to grace and to the truth, my brothers; for the Lord has promised both and has revealed them1. * As mankind is granted the power to become children of God they are born of Him. Note that they are born of Him and are ‘… born, not of blood,’ as in the case of their first birth. The first is a miserable birth arising from misery. As for those born of God, what were they before that? What were they born of the first time? Of blood and from the union of the blood of a male and female: from physical union between a male and female. That is what they were born of. What are they born of now? Of God. The first birth proceeds from a male and a female, and the second proceeds from God and the Church2. * They had been born, but they became born of God. The water of baptism is the uterus of their mother3. * Do not imagine that becoming children of God is such a tremendous issue. He Who is the Son of God became the Son of man on your behalf. If He has become of a lesser stature, He Who was much more; can He not transform that which is lower - that is ourselves - so that we may become of greater stature? He descended to us, can we not ascend to Him? For us He accepted our death, will He not give us His life? For your sakes, He carried your shortcomings; will He not grant you good blessings? 4 * He works in this way to allow us to contemplate on the condition of our first birth and its humiliation as it arises from the will of the flesh and blood. We then become aware of the high rank of our second birth through baptism and the honor associated with it since its source is the grace of God. Consequently, we will be greatly cautious to be worthy of the gift granted to us by Him Who gave us this birth. Moreover, we will show great jealousy in the future, as we will be terrified to stain our beautiful garment. This could happen due to negligence or sin and then we would be driven out of the inner circle of the wedding - just like the unwise virgins, or like the one who was not dressed wedding clothes (Matt 22:12). 2- THE WORD BECAME FLESH The mystery of all ages is that the divine eternal Word became incarnate. The divine united with the flesh and became one of us. Anyone who saw or touched Him saw the glory of the only begotten Son of His Father. This is according to the witness of St. John the Baptist [15] who enjoyed grace and truth [17]. 1 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate3: 13 2 Sermon on N.T., 70: 4 3 Sermon on N.T. Lessons, 69: 4 4 Sermon on N.T. Lessons, 69:5 https://coptic-treasures.com/ ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,’[14]. What a great way of presenting the Person of the Word as being in the Father and residing with Him even before all time. He is one in essence with the Father and the Creator of all things in heaven and on earth. He is the Giver of life, and the true Light that shines upon those sitting in the darkness. He lifts them up so that they may receive the blessing of by God the Father’s adoption. Now, and for the last time, the Evangelist will mention the name of the Word since He has become incarnate and has entered the world of mankind. The incarnation has not happened through a revelation, a dream, or the appearance of a strange guest. Rather, the Word came as a real and perfect person living among His younger brothers. He became incarnate to hide the magnificence of His divinity, which no human eye could gaze at. Yet, through that mystery, He opens the door of knowledge and perception. These allow the believer to enjoy God’s adoption and to get acquainted with His Divine mysteries. He does not wish to leave us hindered by the veil of the body and ignore His reality. That is why He says: “…blessed is he who is not offended because of Me,”(Matt 11:6). St. John Chrysostom likens fallen mankind to an adulterous woman. Then the heavenly bridegroom comes disguised in the flesh so that she is not scared and runs away from Him. Rather, she meets Him and enjoys reconciliation with the Father. She accepts union with her heavenly bridegroom as she gets acquainted with His mysteries, and soars with Him into His heavens. The Word became a person in order to encompass mankind within Him and consequently enable man to enjoy the divine proclamation and divine knowledge. This occurs as a result of union, closeness, and experience. For our sakes, He dismantled Himself from any visible divine glory. According to St. Paul: ‘…who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men,’ (Phil. 2: 7,8). This dismantling did not result in a change in His divine features since the divinity that united with his humanity did not mingle together. But through the incarnation, the Word became a full and real person while He is the Divine almighty God. In this manner, He opened before us the door to the Holy of Holies: ‘ Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated to us through the veil, that is, His flesh…,’ (Heb 10:19-20). ‘…and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth….’ With the above words, St. John the Evangelist carries us upwards into the sphere of divinity where we feel completely incapable of comprehending the mysteries of the divine Word. However, he does not leave us in this state as he does not wish us to despair. Hence, he recapitulates to proclaim that the Word became flesh. He became very close and accessible to us. We can see, touch, and hear Him. Moreover, we can enjoy fellowship and share in His life. As we contemplate on the Son of Man, we see Him, who is the Word of God, carrying the Cross. In this way, He condemned sin through the flesh as He offers it as a sacrificial offering for sin. It is done for the redemption of the world and for His glory. We see Him on the Cross at the hour of His invisible glory. Thus He carries us, through the Cross, to the embrace of His Father: we become the sanctified and glorified children of God. We have become partakers of the divine nature. This amazing, crucified Body that has risen from the dead is the mystery explaining our https://coptic-treasures.com/ steadfast adherence to Him Who is our glory, and our eternal life. He offers It to us constantly through the mystery of the Eucharist: for the remission of sins and eternal life to those who partake of It. * Let us listen to the words of the holy Gospels and to St. John the Evangelist: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ St. John goes on to say: ‘…And the Word became flesh….’ It is not right to worship an ordinary human being or to say that the Lord Jesus Christ is God only and thereby denying His incarnation. If He is God, then this is the truth; but if we say that He did not become incarnated, then redemption would be a foreign concept to us. Therefore let us worship Him as the God of those who believe in His incarnation. There is no gain from saying that He is a human being and not God; or what kind of redemption do we obtain if we reject admitting His humanity as well as His divinity? Let us confess His presence for He is King and Physician. The Lord Jesus Christ, the King, became our physician as He put on the garment of our flesh and healed what had become sick. The perfect Teacher of babes became a babe among them (Romans 2:20), so that He might give wisdom to the ignorant. The Bread of life descended to the earth so that He might feed the hungry!1 St. Cyril of Jerusalem * Having proclaimed that those who receive Him are born of God and become His children, the Evangelist explains the condition and the reason for this astonishing honor: ‘…the Word became flesh,’ [14], for the Lord took the image of a slave. He who is the Son of God became the Son of Man so that the children of men might become children of God. If the Almighty meets with that which is of lower rank, His honor is not degraded. Indeed, He lifts up the degraded from their utter humiliation. That is how things worked out with the Lord. His nature was in no way degraded by His humiliation. Indeed, he lifted us up into an amazing glory- we who were constantly residing in shame and in darkness. This is what happens when a king speaks to a poor person with concern and tenderness. This does not tarnish the king with any shame. Moreover, everyone would look upon him with concern and respect2. When you hear that ‘ …the word became flesh,’ do not be disturbed and do not fall. The Lord Jesus Christ was not transformed from His essence into a body. Such thoughts are blasphemous and atheist. He remained the same in essence and additionally took on the image of a slave. If you were to ask: Then why has the Evangelist used the word ‘ …became…’ My answer would be that it served to stop the mouths of the propagators of inventions. Since there are people who say that God’s plans were altogether figments of the imagination and an obsession, the Evangelist added these words ‘…and the Word became flesh.’ He does so in order to stop, from the early stage of writing, their blasphemous words; and to indicate that He took on a real body… St. John Chrysostom 1 Essay 12:1 2 Homilies on St. John, Hom.11: 1 https://coptic-treasures.com/ ‘He dwelt’, or ‘resided’ for ‘skeenoso’ in Greek, means constructing a temporary accommodation or tent for a shelter. This is relevant when speaking of the human aspect of the Lord. The Tabernacle or the Ark was symbol for that in the Old Testament. It is a lodge that could suffer death, yet it does not split away from His divinity. This term is also used in Greek to refer to a building that is used for events and celebrations. Hence, the incarnation of the Lord has transformed our lives into an everlasting celebration. Since man’s heart has become attached to the world, he has imagined that his residence in it is eternal. As a result, he is no longer able to soar, with his heart or thoughts or feelings, beyond the limitations of the earth and of time. However, God proclaimed His yearning to live among men since early times. He wanted them to have a taste of the Creator of heaven and earth and consequently desire to fly to Him and live with Him. In the days of Moses, ‘…the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting and the glory of God filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting…,’ (Ex 40 34-35). In the age of the prophets, the Lord proclaims: “ Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” says the Lord (Zech 2:10). In the land of captivity, where the people lost the promised land as a home, the Lord promised not only to bring them back to live in Canaan but also to make within them a holy dwelling place for Him. This would be better than an earthly place: “My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people,” (Ezekiel 37:27). 125- صفحتان لم تترجما ص 124 The mother of any person, whoever he may be, becomes pregnant through a physical union. Everyone is born from two human parents: from a father and a mother. As for the Lord Jesus Christ, He was born of the Holy Spirit and St. Mary, the holy virgin. He came to us but He was not separated from His own Self (His divinity). Yes, His own Self being God will not be split but He took what belongs to our nature. He came to something that He was not like, and He did not lose what He was like. He became the Son of Man, and He did not cease to be the Son of God… He did not come to us as someone who leaves the Father. He also departed from us but He has not left us. And He will come back to us again but He will not leave the Father1. * So that we may get to see Him, if we still cannot see God the Word, let us listen ‘ …the Word became flesh…’ and remember that we are flesh. Therefore, let us listen to the incarnated Word who came to serve this end. Besides, it is for this reason that He bore our weaknesses: so that we might accept the powerful words of God, carrying our weakness. It has truly been called the ‘milk’, for He gives milk to the babes in order to offer the meal of wisdom (the flesh) to those who are mature. May you feed patiently now in order to refresh the desire of your heart that is filled with eagerness… Since babes lack sufficient power that would enable them to eat the meat placed upon the table, what does the mother do? She transforms the meat ‘ incarnate’ to the matter of her body and transforms it into milk. She transforms it into an element that we are able to take. In the same way, the Word became incarnated so that we, being truly like babes regarding food, can be refreshed by the milk. 1 Sermon on N.T. Lessons, 71:5. https://coptic-treasures.com/ However, there is a difference: the mother transforms the food by turning the meat into milk, and the food into milk. As for the Word that lived by Himself, He became flesh without undergoing any change so that He might appear as one texture made up of both 2. * Let us first comprehend the degree to which God has humbled Himself. Hence, let us degrade ourselves and become humble for our own benefit. Let us raise our eyes to the Lord Jesus Christ Who also humbly debased Himself for our sakes and not for His own benefit… Confess your weakness, and kneel before the Physician patiently. When you comprehend the degree to which He debased Himself you rise with Him, not raising Himself being the Word, but merely by us realizing Him more and more. He doesn’t increase, but you advance. Consequently, He seems to be elevated with you… Behold a tree: first, its roots shoot downwards so that it might grow upwards. It establishes its roots underground so that it might stretch its trunk to the sky. Can you strive to grow except by practicing humility? Then, may the Lord Jesus Christ ‘ dwell’ in your hearts; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be filled with all the fullness of God…’ (Eph. 3: 17-19)1. * Believe that in this flesh the Son of God partook fully of our nature. In other words, He possessed the same reasoning self and the mortal body like ours, except that He was without sin. He partook of our weaknesses but not of our wickedness. Thus, by sharing our weaknesses, He has power to release the bonds of our wickedness and lead us into His righteousness. He had to drink of the same cup of death as ours and so He filled it with the Life that He possessed2. * He existed before His body existed. He created and chose His mother out of whom He would be made. He created the one who would bring Him into the world (according to the flesh). So why are you astonished? For I am speaking to you about God: ‘…and the Word was God….’ I am speaking about the Word, that is our Lord; and he bears some resemblance to the word spoken by mankind. However, the similarity is far from being an equivalent one and there is no point of comparison. At the same time, there is something that may imply a certain degree of similarity. Indeed, the words that I pronounce were in my heart. They reached you yet they did not leave me. It begins to be with you while it was not in you. And it continues to be with me while it went out to you. Hence, just as my word came to you while it did not get separated from my heart, so the Word has touched our senses while it has not become separated from the Father. The word was with me and it took the form of a voice. The Word of God was with the Father and It took the form of a Body. But can I do with my voice what (GOD) can do with His Body? I am not master over my voice when it is emitted, whereas He is Master not only over His Body- to be born, live and act, - but also, when he died - to raise and glorify It in the Father. The Body is the vessel that carries Him and came to us in It 3. St. Augustine * The Word became flesh to allow us to cross over from the flesh into the living Word. The Word did not cease to remain in Its original state (The Word), just as human nature did not change when He put it on through birth4. St. Jerome 2 Sermon on the N.T. Lessons, 67:16 1 Sermon on N.T. Lessons, 67:18 2 Letters, 39. 3 Sermon on N.T. Lessons, 69:7 4 Against Jovinianus, 2:29 https://coptic-treasures.com/ ‘John bore witness of Him and cried out saying, “This is He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me,” [15]. As St. John begins to reveal the work of the incarnated Word of God, he presents the testimony of St. John the Baptist. Although He came after him, yet He existed before him. Accordingly, Jesus says “…before Abraham was, I AM,”(Jn 8: 58). This is because this testimony is fundamental and of great importance. Hence the Evangelist says: ‘John bore witness of Him and cried….’ The word ‘cried’ expresses the action of shouting aloud to attract attention to his proclamationfor, it has to do with the life of mankind, its redemption and glorification. Shouting and giving witness occurred earlier when his mother, Elizabeth, recognized the incarnated Word within the womb of the virgin St. Mary. St. John the Baptist was still in his mother’s womb, when the Virgin Mary went to visit Elizabeth, and St. Luke reports the event in these words: ‘…and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke with a loud voice and said: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Lk 1:41-42). The Lord Jesus Christ has been called ‘the Son of the Highest’ (Lk 1:32); while John was called ‘ the prophet of the Highest’ (Lk 1: 76). John was a servant of the ‘new covenant’, while Jesus is the Mediator of the ‘new covenant.’ John was a great person, and he had a great name and mission: it’s him who prepared the way for the Lord Jesus Christ. Like all the other prophets, he sits at the feet of God to learn and to receive revelations. As for the Lord Jesus Christ, He exists in the embrace of the Father (Eph 3:11). St. John the Baptist is the voice crying in the wilderness to prepare the way for the Lord Jesus Christ (Is 40:30). ‘…for He was before me,’ since He has created me and brought me to life. He is the First, and this is a title that belongs to God as He is the ‘beginning and the end’ (1 Cor 1:17;). He is the Everlasting One (Mi 5: 2). * St. John the Evangelist says the following about St. John the Baptist: ‘John bore witness of Him and cried out saying….’ In other words, John proclaimed boldly and loudly, as he was free of all despair. St. John the Baptist did not proclaim that Jesus Christ is the only Son of God or the true Son. Rather, he proclaimed that: “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’” This is analogous to mother birds who do not teach their young immediately or in one day the whole manner of flying. They would take their chicks out sometimes and at others just let them rest. Then on the following day, they would take them to fly for a much longer period than that of the previous day. In this manner the little ones are eventually led to fly to the desired heights. Similarly, John the Baptist led the Jews to fly and soar above the earth gradually, rather than leading them immediately to sublime concepts. St. John Chrysostom ‘And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.’[16] St. Cyril the Great, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Augustine all agree that these words are not intended to complement the testimony of St. John the Baptist. Rather, they are the words of St. John the Evangelist who wishes to proclaim that He who is filled with grace and truth [14] is the secret of fulfillment of the whole Church. He is the Source of grace that never dries up, the overflowing love that bursts forth constantly. Due to His eternal and perfect fullness, He grace overflows upon His Church so that each of her members may enjoy having and partaking of the Divine nature. https://coptic-treasures.com/ He is the Source of all blessings, and He fills our treasuries (Prov 8:12). We receive from Him all grace just as the riverbeds receive water from the sources. Divine blessings are the grace or grotius, that means free gifts (Rom.12: 6). That is because the Father is pleased with the Son, and consequently is pleased with us in Him (Eph 1:6). ‘…and grace for grace.’ Every gift is a talent that God gives us. We need to trade with it and gain another gift or talent (1Peter14: 10). ‘…and grace for grace.’ This indicates that the gift of God continues to flow on us constantly for God does not give the Spirit by measure’ (Jn 3:34). It ‘pleased the Father that in Him all fullness should dwell’ (Col 1:19) since the Lord Jesus Christ, is the incarnated Word. He is, therefore the sole One with unlimited fullness; and has power to fill each one according to his own measure. That is what Paul, the apostle, conveys in his words: “ For in Him dwells all fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power,”(Col 2:9-10). Also read: “ …the fullness of Him who fills all” (Eph 1:23); and “…that you may be filled with all the fullness of God,” (Eph 3: 19); and our terminal goal in Jesus Christ is .”..till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to the perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…”(Eph 4:13). * Since He is the true light that shines within each person, then He also enlightened and informed St. John who affirmed and confessed that truly ‘…of His fullness we have all received’ [16].1 * After stating that ‘of His fullness we have all received,’ St. John adds: “ …and grace for grace” (Jn 1: 16). The Jews were saved through grace and according to the Lord’s words: “ I have chosen you not because you are many in number but because of your fathers.” If God chose them but not because of their good works, then it is clear that they have received this dignity through grace. We too are redeemed through grace. Yet we are redeemed in a different manner and for a different purpose: we are redeemed in a manner that is far greater and more sublime. Consequently, the grace we have received is not the same as theirs. That is because He has granted us not only redemption from sin (for we are their partners and all have sinned), but we have been granted righteousness, sanctification, adoption, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. We have received these in a more generous and glorifying manner.2 St. Augustine * I believe that He has existed before me, and that He enjoys greater honor with the Father than I do. That is because the prophets who came before me and I have received a great and prophetic divine grace proceeding from His Fullness. Truly, the gift we have received from Him is that of free will.3. Origen * What is the implication of the words: “And of His fullness we have all received”?… He says that He does not own this grace because He is a partner; but He owns it since He is Himself the Source and the origin of all goodness. He is Life itself, Truth itself, bearing within Himself, the richness of His righteousness, rather He overflows on others. At the same time this fullness continues and does not diminish as it reaches out to others. Indeed, He constantly keeps overflowing and grants others fellowship of His blessings. He remains as perfect as ever. What I receive is granted through fellowship (that is I receive from someone else. I receive a small share 1 Sermon on N.T. Lessons, 17;9 2 In John hom. 14:2. 3 Commentar, on John, Book 6:35 https://coptic-treasures.com/ of the total. To me from others, It is as a pitiable drop of water when compared to an infinite downpour or sea. This example cannot really convey fully what we intend to explain…let us imagine a source of fire, and from that source we kindle hundreds of lanterns…doesn’t the fire remain the same in its power and fullness, even though it has offered what it possesses to all those lanterns? It becomes clear to everyone that this is true.4 St. John Chrysostom * He who grants us grace has also granted us the Law. However, He had delivered the Law through His servants, whereas He Himself descended to deliver grace. What are the means used to bring mankind under the Law? Their disobedience led them to be subject to the Law; for those who obey do not become subject to it since they agree with it. As for those subjugated by the Law, they remain sentenced by it and do not get relieved. If the Law subjugates all mankind, they become condemned by it. It hangs over their heads, and reveals their sins without showing any mercy. The Law issues commands, and the Giver of the Law understands concerning its implications. However, mankind fails when they attempt to depend on their own power to conform to the Law and its commandments. This is due to their bold stubbornness and rashness. They have become guilty as they are not in agreement with it and therefore have become sentenced by it. As a result, they plead and pray to the Giver of the Law for help. On account of guilt feelings experienced under the law, the proud become sick. Consequently, their sickness becomes a confession before the humble ones. Now, the sick confess their illness, so that the physician may come and heal them. Who is the physician? He is the Lord Jesus Christ.1 * What does “ …grace for grace,” mean? This involves faith; for God once more becomes our defender and seeks our benefit. As we are unworthy to be forgiven we received such a great gift and this is what is called grace. What is grace? That which is granted freely…for you receive a gift from God: a gift of life through faith; with the promise of eternity and life everlasting as a reward. That is grace!2 St. Augustine ‘For the Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ ’[17]. The Law in itself is a great blessing and it comes from God. It is intended to prepare the way for the gift of the Gospel. However, there is no point of comparison between the shadow and the Truth. The Truth offers a bounty of blessings: He enriches the poor with heavenly treasures, frees the slave from the power of Satan, carries believers on His Divine Hands in the midst of their sufferings, grants continuous knowledge concerning the divine mysteries, grants power to confront weaknesses, and pours His glory within us in times of humiliation. He has delivered the Law to us, with all its commandments, duties, and prophecies to function as shadows or semi-divine gifts. In contrast, the Lord Jesus Christ has brought us into the depth of the commandments in order to acquaint us with the Creator of heavens Himself hidden behind it. He has carried us so that, as we worship Him, we may experience, through the Holy Spirit, heavens itself. That is where He came from, and that is how we can live His heavenly life. Origen, wonders: ‘If the Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed that He is the Truth (Jn 14:6), then how has truth come through Him? This is his answer: All of God’s blessings in the Old 4 Homilies on St. John, Hom 14:1. 1 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate3:2-3 2 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. Jon, tractate 3:9 https://coptic-treasures.com/ Testament are symbols of the gift of the New Testament which is ‘Truth.’ That explains why the glory of the New Testament is greater than that of the Old Testament (2 Cor3: 10). Hence the discovery of grace has become easier, and its distribution has become more generous. It is in this way that we have obtained the grace of the New Testament as a substitute for the grace of the Old Testament. This is not to say that one opposes the other, but to indicate that the New Testament fulfills the Old and perfects and affirms it within our hearts. As we are changed into the image of God and move from glory to glory, and from one rank to a higher rank (1 Cor 3:18). The grace we receive is more like a brand that shapes and conforms us into icons of the Lord Jesus Christ. As such, we continue to grow in a pronounced manner (Romans 8:29). Hence we become heavenly icons (1Cor 15:49). As we enjoy the Lord Jesus Christ, we receive grace and truth. That is so because He is the Source of grace and the treasury of wisdom. Indeed, He who is truth and grace offers Himself to us so that we might enjoy Him In the Old Testament, we received the Law in an atmosphere of terror (Heb 12:18). In contrast, we receive the New Testament in an atmosphere of grace: the promises declared in the Old Testament become fulfilled in the New Testament. They are coupled with mercy and truth and according to God’s promises. Having tasted and enjoyed the grace of God, we become more thirsty and wish to receive more. This is because every grace within us calls for more and attracts it to our inner depths. Hence our depths become the target to an endless flow of coordinated divine blessings. * The Law was delivered through God’s servants, and it sentenced mankind as sinners. Now pardon came from the Emperor, and redeemed sinners1. St. Augustine * In any case, truth comes to mankind through the Lord Jesus Christ. It came in this way to St. Paul and to the apostles. It is not strange to state that although the sole Truth exists, yet from Him flows, as it were, many other truths. For instance, the prophet and king, David, knew many truths; and he says: ‘------------ (Ps 30: 24). For the Father of truth demands many truths of those who posses them and thereby are redeemed2. Origen * Note the great difference between ‘was given’ and ‘ came’… the first instance implies an object to be served such as when a person receives an object and delivers it to someone according to an order to do so. In the second instance ‘…grace and truth came…’ are appropriately used to convey that it is the King Himself Who has power to forgive sins and to grant grace3. At the time of the war with Amalek in Sinai, Moses’ hands were supported by Aaron and Hur, who stood beside him (Exod 17:12). But when Christ came, He stretched His hands on the cross by Himself. Don’t you notice how the Law was given, but Truth came. * ‘No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him’ [18]. We might be correct in saying that this statement is considered the conclusion of the introductory section to the Gospel of St. John. It introduces us to the Divine Word as the Divine Person Who is united and consubstantial with the Father in essence: He has become incarnated for our sakes. Therefore here the two truths are connected: He is the eternal Word and He 1 St. Augustine; On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 3:15. 2 Hom. 14 PG 59:83 3 Homilies on St. John, Hom.14:4 https://coptic-treasures.com/ became a true human being for the sake of mankind. Since He is the true Word and the only begotten Son, then He alone sees the Father for He has existed in the same essence with Him. No other being on earth or in heaven can occupy such a status. There is no pint of comparison between Him and Abraham- the father of fathers, or Moses who received the commandments, or any other prophet. There is also no point of comparison between Him and any of the heavenly ranks. Moses, who is great among the prophets saw ‘the form of the Lord…’(Numbers 12:8) yet he was unable to see His face (Ex 33:20). He is the only true Son Who resides within the embrace of the Father and is never separate from Him. He is the reason for His Father’s joy, and He has power to proclaim Him and reveal His divine mysteries and sublime plans. Consequently, it is the Lord Jesus Christ Who has clearly declared to us the Father, Who was never seen by anyone. This is a gift and grace and this is divine truth that we have come to possess through the Lord Jesus Christ: this is ’knowledge.’ God is a Spirit, and the body cannot perceive Him. That is why the Son became incarnate; in order to grant us the new spiritual birth that would enable us to perceive Him Who is invisible (Heb ...), and to live through Him. He alone will open the seals (Rev 5:9) and acquaint us with the mysteries of God. * ‘No one has seen God at any time.’ What about the proclamations in the Old Testament? What do we comment about the voice of Isaiah the great who proclaims: ‘…I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple’, [Isaiah 6:1]? How do we respond to Daniel who says: “ I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame. Its wheels a burning fire,”(Daniel 7:9)? And how do we respond to Jacob when he had the vision and was dubbed as Israel, which means ‘the one who has seen his God ’ (Gen 32:28)? Furthermore, how do we respond to Moses who spoke to God saying: “Please show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18)? Many others have seen God, so what does St. John intend by saying: ‘No one has seen God at any time’? This is what he wishes to convey: These visions fitted His descent and appearance but did not fit His essence. Had these persons seen the actual nature of the Divine God they could not have really seen Him. For the nature of God cannot ever have a form, it cannot sit, stand, or walk: these are all attributes of bodies. St. John states that all these were examples relevant to His descent and not a vision of the Essence Himself1. Some may object and say: If the essence of the Divine cannot become available to the senses, then why do we speak of these matters? Well, if I cannot drink the whole river, would that mean that I couldn’t drink of it in moderation and as much as it is convenient for me?! If my eyes are incapable of absorbing all the fullness of the sun’s rays, will I not partake as much as I need of it?! And upon entering a great garden, and I cannot eat all its fruit, do you desire me to leave feeling hungry?! Therefore, allow me to worship and glorify God, our Creator, as we have been granted the divine command that says: …… 1 St. John Chrysostom https://coptic-treasures.com/ I now seek to glorify Him without describing Him. Nevertheless, I am aware of my incompetence in fulfilling that task appropriately. Yet, just preserving to achieve that is considered a good exercise and the Lord encourages me in my weakness through St. John’s words that say: ‘No one has seen God at any time’2. * It is impossible for us to see God with our human eye since what is not physical cannot come within the sphere of the physical eye. The only Son has witnessed to this- the Son of God Himself says: ‘ No one has seen God at any time.’ Let us attempt to understand what Ezekiel writes about his vision of God (Ez 28:1)? What does the Holy Bible say? He saw ‘ the form of the Lord’, and not God Himself as He is but in the form of His glory. Now, if beholding the form of God’s glory filled the prophets with trembling; then surely a person would die if he attempts to see God Himself. According to the words of God: “…no man shall see me and live,” (Ex.33: 20). That is why in His tender mercy, He has spread the heavens as a veil so that we may not be destroyed. This is not my own interpretation, but it echoes the words of the prophet: “Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence,” (Is 64:1). Why are you astonished to see Daniel fall to the ground upon seeing ‘the form of glory’? Note that he fell upon seeing the angel Gabriel although he is only the messenger and servant of God. Yet he trembled, fell upon his face, and was unable to answer the angel although he had appeared to him in the form of a human being…read Daniel 10:9, 16, 18. If the appearance of angels frightened the prophets, then can a person see God as He is and not die?!3 St. Cyril of Jerusalem * St. John says: ‘The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father.’ This indicates that the authority of the Son is equal to that of the Father. Because the eternal Father never had in His embrace any other but His own essence, then this saying reveals to us that the Son has always been consubstantial and one with Him since eternity. St. John Chrysostom * The one who perceives is also the one who reports, yet his report does not convey all the grandness of what he perceives. Moreover, he is unable to report all what he knows, but as much as the receivers who are under the sentence of death (mankind), can handle 1. St. Jerome WITNESSES FOR THE INCARNATE WORD After this wonderful exposition about the Incarnate Word who is the Giver of grace, in the rest of Chapter One St. John the Evangelist presents the witnesses for the person of the Lord Jesus Christ: - On the first day [19-28] St. John the Baptist witnesses before the priests and Levites. - On the second day [29-34] he witnesses upon seeing the Lord Jesus Christ. - On the third day [35-39] St. John the Baptist witnesses before two of his disciples. - On the fourth day [40- 42] St. Andrew witnesses before Simon, his brother. - On the fifth day [43-51] St. Philip witnesses before Nathaniel. -On the sixth day: the practical testimony of the water turned into wine (Chapter Two). Note the following points related to the witnesses that occur during the first week, and which probably took place after the Lord’s temptation and return from the wilderness: 2 Hom 15 PG 59: 85 3Article 9:1. 1 Against the Pelagians: 3:12. https://coptic-treasures.com/ First: It is similar to what happened at the beginning of the creation- the world was created in six days, and God rested on the seventh day. In the same way, man’s nature is renewed and the week ends with the transformation of the water into wine as the Lord fills everyone with joy and renews his life. Second: The Book of Genesis begins with the words: ‘ In the beginning God created…’to indicate the starting point before the existence of time. A time when the sun, moon, and planets did not exist. A time when there were no ages, seasons, or days (24 hours). Rather, it was periodic batches of time, named as days however long that was. St. John’s Gospel begins with the same expression: ‘ In the beginning’, yet he refers to the Eternal Initiator Who has no beginning. Hence the reference is to eternity where the Logos is at one with the Father. 3- THE TESTIMONY OF ST JOHN THE BAPTIST St. John the Baptist has been called a messenger or the angel of God (Mal 3:1). The Bible does not mention that he has performed any miracle, or that he had any visions or divine revelations. Yet he witnessed to the truth, and he led many to repent through the way he adhered to a strict and serious life marked by purity, chastity, and a clear goal- oriented vision. He desired the world to be redeemed and the growth of God’s kingdom on earth; therefore he witnessed to the Redeemer, the true King. The Light did not need anyone to witness to Him, for He witnesses to Himself by His own light. However, if a person shuts his eyes and insists on corrupting his heart with cravings and rebellion he becomes blind. Hence, he becomes needy for someone to motivate him and witness to the true Light. The Baptist was like a night guard who proclaims that daylight has come; so that those sleeping may arise and open their eyes to perceive the light. St. John the Baptist came to proclaim that the Messiah has come indeed- the One believers have awaited for so long. He has come as the Redeemer of the whole world, and as the Giver of glory to the new Israel who are His people. The Lord Jesus Chris is the true Light, whereas John the Baptist was the lantern carrying the light of the Lord within it. He was neither a fake, deceptive light; nor the real bridegroom. Moreover, he did not overpower the bride but, being the bridegroom’s friend, he was joyful at his wedding and union with his bride. The Baptist got to know the Lord more deeply upon His baptism and the appearance of the Holy Trinity. Hence he proclaimed that the Lord Jesus Christ is the slain Lamb of God (Jn1: 29; Ex 12; Is 53:7; 1Peter 1:19). Now this is the witness of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “ Who are you?” [19]. This is the third time in this chapter that the Evangelist presents the Baptist as a witness (1:19, 15, 34- 37). The Evangelist does not focus on the personality of the Baptist but rather on his testimony. Therefore the apostolic tradition documents the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and His work from the moment He is baptized by St. John the Baptist to the day of His ascension (Acts 1:21-22; 10:37-38; 13:23-24). ‘…the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem…’[19]…Note that the term ‘Jews’ is mostly used in this Gospel to refer to the Council of the Sanhedrin that represents the top authority of the religious leadership. This Council had formed a committee to investigate the reality of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and to evaluate His actions and popularity. They believed that in doing so they fulfilled a central and intrinsic commandment in the law. Actually, they were not being honest or loyal in their actions; and the following saying can be correctly applied to them: ‘But a prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not https://coptic-treasures.com/ commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die’ (Deut 18:20). The priests and Levites mentioned in the above verses were probably members in the Council of the Sanhedrin. They enjoyed a high degree of learning and erudition, and possessed authority and power. Since St. John the Baptist Himself was a descendant of Aaron, and since his father was a priest, therefore it was appropriate to send to him priests and Levites who would investigate his case and (the latter were also descendents of Levi, but not particularly of the tribe of Aaron). They sent representatives to the Baptist not with the intention of verifying his message and co-operating with him; for they considered themselves to be the great leaders of their people. They were motivated to get acquainted with him out of curiosity; or out of a sense of responsibility- as people in authority- to reveal to the people the true character of a certain person if that was beneficial to them. It could be that they acted in this manner hoping to find fault with him: then they could muffle that voice that originated from a source other than the Sanhedrin that possessed the upper hand in religious matters. St. John the Baptist was asked by the Jewish religious authority: ‘Who are you?’ (19,22). He clearly indicated that he was neither the Messiah nor Elijah (2 Kings2: 11), nor the redeeming prophet (Ex 15:18). He proclaimed that he was merely a ‘voice’ (Is 40:3) predicting the coming of the Messiah [23]. The authorities then asked: “Why then do you baptize…” since you have no official rank in the religious order? He replied that the baptism he performed was not an end in itself; but it was to prepare for a greater spiritual act. It would be performed by Someone coming after him but Who existed before him; and Whose ‘sandal straps he was not worthy to loose.’ * They sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem, and these were more dignified than others… If you are wondering: ‘ Why did the Jews ask the Baptist this question: ‘Who are you?’, My answer is that they could not explain why the Baptist submitted to the Lord, whereas many things indicated to them that the Baptist was great and outstanding: First, they were impressed by his origin and his apparent honor and dignity since he was the son of their high priest. Second, by his food and his strict way of life especially his rejection of all mundane possessions. He was awesome in his clothes, in his food, and the living conditions which he had chosen throughout the past years and which he had spent in the desert. In contrast, what they could see in the Lord was the opposite of all that: they considered the Lord’s origin contemptible and they lost no chance to show it in their words as they attacked Him on many occasions and said: “ Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?” (Matt 13:55). The statement also implied the place where it was thought He had been born, and which was according to what Nathaniel had said: “ Can anything good come out of Nazareth? (Jn 1; 46). Moreover, the Lord was not dressed in camel’s hair and had no leather belt around His waist; neither did He eat honey and locusts. Indeed, the Lord led a life that was similar to that of those present; and He had shared meals with evil men and tax gatherers in order to draw them to Him. The Jews could not understand the Lord’s behavior and they consequently mocked Him on that account, but the Lord states: “ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a gluttonous man and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children” (Matt 11: 19). St. John Chrysostom *While the shepherds guarded their sheep, they found the ‘Lamb of God’ whose pure bright fleece was wet with dew from heaven while all the ground around it was dry (Judges https://coptic-treasures.com/ 6:37). He is the same whose blood would be sprinkled on the doorposts and would prevent the destroyer of Egypt from striking (Ex 12: 21-23), and would pluck out the sins of the world1. St. Jerome He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed: “I am not the Christ” [20]. From a negative perspective, St. John the Baptist confirmed that he was not that great for he was not the expected Messiah. He would not dismantle the Lord of His status or honor. The Baptist was so awesome that some believed him to be the Messiah. ‘ Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not…’(Lk3: 15), therefore the Baptist was quick to indicate the falseness of the rumors by announcing that he was not the Messiah. * St. John the Baptist was so transcendent that people thought he was the Messiah; and in that respect he gave proof of humility as he denied that he was not that One2. *Although they were expecting His coming, yet when He came they opposed Him and tripped as they would over a slightly elevated stone. Truly, He was still a small stone that had been truly cut without hands from the mountain. This resonates with the vision of Daniel, the prophet, who saw a stone cut out without hands (Daniel 2:34-35)…the blinded Jew did not see the lower stone, and their blindness was so great they could not see the mountain3. St. Augustine And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said: “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered: “No” [21]. He confessed that he was not Elijah the prophet even though he possessed his fiery spirit that would prepare the way of the Messiah (Lk 1:17). That explains why the Lord Jesus Christ said that Elijah had come and they had not recognized him (Matt 17:12). Hence he was not Elijah according to the Jews who expected him to descend in the fiery chariot in which he had ascended to heaven; and who would bring to them certain material and earthly privileges. Moreover, he was neither the prophet that Moses had foretold (Deut 18: 15, 18) nor as any of the prophets of the Old Testament who had been preoccupied with the concerns of Israel and the adjustment of their political status. * Had he claimed “ I am Elijah” that would have implied that the Lord will actually come in the second time for judgment, and not for the first time to be judged…he had come as a symbol (Lk 1:17). Elijah would come later on and in the appropriate guise for him; as for now; John had come in his likeness4. * They did not ask John: ’ Are you a prophet?’ In other words, if he was one of the prophets; but they asked “ Are you the Prophet?” By using a definite article, they meant the prophet that Moses had foretold and proclaimed (Deut 18:15). And John denied that implication yet he did not deny that he is a prophet. Rather, he denied that he is that Prophet. St. John Chrysostom “Then they said to him: “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? 1 Letter 108: 10 2 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 4:13. 3 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 4:4. 4 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 4:6 https://coptic-treasures.com/ What do you say about yourself?” [22]. They asked him for an answer not in order to believe in him or to get baptized, but rather to provide an answer to those who sent them. They expected him to give them a clear answer based on his serious character and lucidity. And they got it. * Note how they pressured him to give an answer. They pursued him by their repeated questions; while he tactfully removed all their erroneous concepts regarding his identity in order to present them with the truth1. St. John Chrysostom He said: “ I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Make straight the way of the Lord” [23]. He was clear in his answer and he pronounced the truth. He explained that he had come to fulfill what is written in the Holy Book, and that he possesses the authority of the forerunner of the Lord Jesus Christ, preparing the way for Him. St. John the Baptist spoke about himself as the voice crying out in the wilderness (Is 40: 3-4); and when he saw the Lord, he cried out [15]. What was his intention in crying out? It does not refer to a loud external sound or screaming. But it refers to the manner of speaking spiritually to God so that He would hear even when the tongue is silent; and by which the word would pierce the hearts of men. The Lord Himself confirmed that the testimony of the Baptist is true as He says: “ There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which he witnesses of Me is true. You have sent to John, and he has bore witness to the truth” (Jn 5; 32- 33). * Although the rational voice of those who pray does not need to be too loud, yet it should not be weak. It is not appropriate for them to scream or shout, for God does hear all prayer. He tells Moses: “Why do you cry to Me?” (Ex 14:14) although Moses had not cried out loudly (since this is not mentioned in Exodus). However, in prayer, he cried out loud in that voice that God alone does hear. That is also why David says: ‘ I cried out to God with my voice- and He gave ear to me” (Ps 77:1)2. Origen Origen finds that the desert mentioned here refers to the souls who reject God and virtue. St. John the Baptist knew how to speak to their hearts as though by a spiritual outcry. * This verse occurs in Proverbs 4: 27: ‘Do not turn to the right or the left’ since in doing so, a person loses uprightness. Hence he becomes unworthy of God’s protection as he has deviated from the straight way. God is just and He loves justice. He beholds the upright (Ps 11:7) and He enlightens those he beholds3. Origen * When St. John the Baptist needed to describe the might and sublimity of the Lord Jesus Christ, he turned immediately to Isaiah the prophet. In doing so, he validated his own words and gave them credibility. St. John Chrysostom * Just as the sound is a different element from words we speak, so a sound may be issued and have no meaning if it comes without words. Besides, it is possible for the mind to receive 1 Homilies on St. John, Hom. 16.2 2 Commentary on John, Book 6:101 3 Commentary on John, Book 6:103 https://coptic-treasures.com/ words without there being a sound. This happens when we have inner contemplations. From a certain perspective, John the Baptist’s voice carries the same relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ who is the Word- He is distinct from the Savior Who is the Word1. Origen * The announcer called the people to stand behind the judge, and John called the Judge to come. Yes, he truly called on mankind to come and meet that humble One so that they might be spared facing Him as the glorified Judge2. St. Augustine * The bride compliments the bridegroom: ‘His mouth is most sweet/ Yes, he is altogether lovely’ (Sg of Sol5: 16). In other words: the mouth is located below the chin, and out of it the sound comes through the air tract where the vocal cords are moved by the air. As the words of the groom are as sweet as honey, so his voice is the member of the word. And the sound that comes from his mouth may be called the shepherd or interpreter of the Word that Jesus Christ speaks. This will enable us to understand the implication of the bridegroom’s mouth. When they asked John the Baptist: ‘Who are you?’ He answered: ‘ I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness’ (Jn 1:23). St. Paul presents evidence that the Lord Jesus Christ speaks within him and through Him his voice has become sweet (2 Cor 13:10). All the prophets have presented themselves as members of the voice of the Holy Spirit, and their voices have become sweet as the holy sweetness rested on their vocal cords. Kings and common men eat honey for its many health benefits. Yet having enjoyed it has not diminished a desire for more. That is why the bride says of her groom: ‘He is all desirable always.’ This expresses her reason for seeking him. How greatly blessed are the feet of the groom which make him so desirable. His feet are perfect in every good sense while all his other members are just as perfect and desirable. He is desired not only for his eyes, hands, and locks; but also for his feet, legs and voice. Each of the members have a specific importance and this is not diminished when one member has increased importance over the others3. St. Gregory of Nyssa ‘Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees [24]. And they asked him, saying: “ Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” [25]. Baptism was popular among the Jews for they baptized all who became believers in their faith so that they could enjoy all the Jewish privileges. Hence the cunning implication of the question by which they sought to trap him. If he were baptizing the Jews coming to him for repentance, then he would be dealing with them as though they came from pagan nations. Hence baptizing them would be a denial of their being one of God’s chosen people. It would moreover be an insult to the honor of the whole of the Jewish nation who would seem to be unable to achieve the sanctity of the people. On the other hand, they feared that his baptism was a Messianic one and related to the expected Messiah. Then, it is being done by someone who is not a member of the priesthood or the Pharisees. As such he has withdrawn authority and separated himself from them. * Do you not agree that this is what they were aiming at (so that he would stop baptizing or that he would claim to be the Messiah)? The reason they did not state their aim from the 1 Commentary on St. John, Book 2:193. 2 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 4;7. 3 Song of Solomon: Fr Gregory of Nyssa,. Translated into Arabic by Dr George Nawar, Sermon 14. https://coptic-treasures.com/ beginning is that they feared their intentions would be revealed before everyone1. John answered them, saying: “I baptize with water, But there stands One among you whom you do not know” [26]. Armed with divine wisdom and a testimony of truth, St. John the Baptist asked them: “ Why are you concerned about the baptism I carry out? It almost has no value if compared with the baptism about to take place. My baptism is a preparation for something greater: the baptism of the expected Messiah. The time has come and He is here among you, yet you do not know Him and that is how you sin. I wish you stopped being concerned with me and my baptism, and be concerned rather with the One I witness to and His baptism!” Just as Elijah was armed with a fiery spirit- he did not fear Ahab the king and the wicked Isabel: but he filled them with terrorso the new John boldly and fearlessly makes his statements before the committee that the Sanhedrin sent to him. He did not speak haughtily but with humility and truthfully at the same time. Up to this very moment, the Lord Jesus Christ is closer to man more than we can imagine, yet we are unable to comprehend that. According to St. Augustine, the Lord lived within him in his innermost depths and above him in the highest of heights; yet he stupidly went out to search for Him while He was within him. * St. John the Baptist said about the Lord Jesus Christ: “ …there stands One among you whom you do not know” for it was appropriate that the Lord mix with the people as one of them. In this way He acquaints us, on every occasion, with his humble nature that is unblemished with pride. St. John Chrysostom * May you be worthy of having the Lord Jesus Christ within your midst. For wherever there is peace the Lord is found; for He is peace. Wherever there is righteousness the Lord is found for He is righteousness. May He be in your midst so you can see Him and so that you might not be told that there “ stands One among you whom you do not know” [26]. The Jews who could not see Him were those who did not believe in Him. We look up to Him in love and seek Him with faith. May He therefore stand among you so that the heavens that reveal the glory of God open up to you (Ps 19:1). Then you will learn His will and do His works. He who sees the Lord Jesus Christ finds the heavens opened up as they were opened for St. Stephen (Acts 7:56)2. St. Ambrose “It is He, coming after me, is preferred before me, Whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose [27]. It is as though St. John the Baptist is stating that the Lord Jesus Christ has a more honorable authority and a more glorious status. * Although John was not performing a spiritual baptism yet he was spiritually inspired to preach and proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ… since they were not baptized in the name of the Lord neither through their belief in the Holy Spirit they could not receive the mystery of baptism3. St. Ambrose * It is as though St. John the Baptist is saying: ‘ Do not begin to think that you will find 1 Homilies on St. John, Hom. 16:2 2 Letters 63:4-5. 3 Of the Holy Spirit, Book1:3:41. https://coptic-treasures.com/ everything in my baptism. If it were complete, another One would not have come after me to offer a different baptism. I offer a baptism that is just a shadow or image; but One will come and add reality to it. Even the fact that He comes after me merely underlines His honor. If the first baptism were sufficient, there would have been no place for another one. He who comes after me possesses more honor and glory.’ To indicate how impossible it is to make a comparison, he says: “ …whose sandal straps I am not worthy to loose”1. St. John Chrysostom * To carry the shoes of the Lord Jesus Christ is a great matter, yet what is more important is to bow down to all the physical matters related to Him here below (on earth). As we do so, we are enabled to contemplate on His image and resolve all the difficulties related to the mystery of the incarnation… these difficulties are like the strings of His shoes. For one thing, He is the mysterious link and the One Key to knowledge (Lk 11: 52). Even the greatest among those born of a woman (Lk 7: 28) could not consider himself worthy to solve or reveal these difficulties; since only the One Who has tied and closed can grant, to whom He wishes, the power to solve and open up His shoe lace and all hidden matters2. * The statement about the pair of shoes has a hidden meaning and we should not pass over it. I believe that the Incarnation is one of the shoes as the Son took on flesh and bones; then the trip that the Lord took, in the spirit, to Hades and the prison is the other shoe. Referring to the descent to Hell, Psalm 16:10 says: ’ For You will not leave my soul in Sheol…’ (Ps 15:10)3. Origen * There is no bridegroom other than the Lord Jesus Christ and according to St. John: “He who has the bride is the bridegroom” (Jn 3:29). That is the reason why Moses, Joshua, and others removed their shoes. As for His shoes, no one can loosen their straps for according to St. John: “I am not worthy to loose (His) sandal strap” [27]4. St. Ambrose Pope Gregory (the Great) borrows from Origen his concept of the shoes. He indicates that it points to the body that is subject to death since the shoe is made of animal skin after the animal has been killed. It is as though the Word, by His incarnation has put on the flesh- subject to death- and so has hidden His divinity. It was impossible for the Baptist to loosen His straps: in other words, until this time it was impossible for him to be acquainted with His mysteries through the spirit of prophecy5. How humble he became! On that account he became so uplifted! For “… he who humbles himself will be exalted,”(Lk 14:11)…‘He said: Not me, but Him’; whereas they said: ‘ We.’ The Baptist is not worthy to loose His sandal straps. How humble would he have been had he claimed his worthiness. However, he revealed his great humility through his words: “ …He, who coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.” When he said that he is not worthy to do this, the Holy Spirit filled him and so he knew just as a servant knows his Master. Thus he became qualified to be a friend rather than a servant6. St. Augustine ‘These things were done in Bethabbara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing’ [28]. 1 Hom.16. PG 59:94. 2 Commentary on John, Book 6:172 -173. 3 Commentary on John, Book 6:174 -175. 4 Of the Christian Faith:3:10:71. 5 Hom. 4:7, Forty Gospel Homilies PL 76: 1099- 1103 6 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 4:9 https://coptic-treasures.com/ ‘Bethabara’ or the house of crossing, for he had crossed the Jordan. Some believe that this is the same point where Israel crossed the Jordan on their way to the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua. * The Evangelist mentions the place to clarify the power of the Baptist’s proclamation as he announced his amazing confession. He did not witness to the Lord inside a house, or on a corner, but he directed to the Jordan and notified of Him among all those who were present that he had baptized and he announced this extraordinary confession. * More correct manuscripts mention ‘Bethabara’ rather than ‘Bethany’ since Bethany does not lie beyond the Jordan. Moreover, it does not lie in the desert but close to Jerusalem1. St. John Chrysostom * The meaning of ‘ Bethabara’ could be interpreted as the ‘ House of Preparation’ and this is appropriate for a baptism that is intended to prepare a people for God. ‘ Bethany’ means the ‘ House of Obedience.’ Which one is more appropriate for the one who has been sent as an angel before the coming of the Lord to prepare the way for Him, and to baptize than to consider him to be the ‘ House of Preparation’2. Origen The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, And said: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” [29]. In this testimony by St. John the Baptist we note the following: * The Lord Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God. Mankind was in the habit of offering sacrifices to God to appease Him. In this instance, however, God the Father Himself is offering His only Son to be the sacrifice. * He is an offering for redemption or a guilt offering that has power indeed to remove sins: He is not a shadow or a symbol like animal offerings. * The effect of the offering extends to cover all mankind. This is what is foreign to Jewish thought and the following words by Yalcut Rubeni is an example: ‘The Messiah will carry the sins of the Israelites.’ That redemption extends to the whole world is a concept that is rejected by the Jews. This is the second time that the Lord Jesus Christ meets with his forerunner John the Baptist. The first meeting is recorded by St. Luke the Evangelist (Lk 1:39- 41) when Jesus was still in St. Mary’s womb and John was in St. Elizabeth’s womb. Origen draws a kind of comparison between the two meetings: First: In the first meeting, the babe Jesus, while still in His mother’s womb, spilled a kind of His glory on the babe John who also was still in Elizabeth’s womb. Moreover, this made such an impression on John’s features that many could not distinguish between the origin and the image. Hence some thought that the Baptist is the Messiah (Jn 1:20), while others thought that the Lord Jesus Christ was John risen from the dead (Lk 9:7:15; Matt 14:2; Mk 6:14). Second: Since the Lord Jesus Christ is the Word and the Baptist is the voice, then that voice was loud within Elizabeth’s womb. Hence she was filled with the Holy Spirit upon hearing St. Mary’s salutation. That led her to cry out and proclaim her testimony (Lk 1:42). Origen says that [this is why the babe John leaped and his mother became like the mouthpiece and a prophetess for the Son (the Word) declaring out loud and saying: “ Blessed are you among 1 Hom.17, PG 59:96 2 Commentary on John, Book 6;206. https://coptic-treasures.com/ women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Lk 1:42)]1. Origen wonders why the Savior is called a Lamb although the sacrifices in the Old Testament could be of any three types of animals and two types of fowls: a bull, a sheep, a goat, two turtledoves, two pigeons (Lev 5:6-7, 18). He answers by saying that two young sheep were always offered daily: one for the morning offering, and the other for the evening. [What kind of daily offering can be spiritual and offered to a spiritual Being could be better than the Word that is in the beginning: the Word that is symbolically called ‘the Lamb’…He has been sent to enlighten the soul (for this is the morning offering). It is also offered at the end (in the evening) when the mind is preoccupied with heavenly matters?2]. That is how we are to start from the very beginning of our lives: by the offering of the Lamb so that we might spend our entire days meditating on His redemption. Consequently, when we near the end of our lives, we will enjoy the same offering, which will carry us into the new day, the uninterrupted eternity. Then we will see Him with St. John the beloved: “…a Lamb as though it had been slain” (Rev 5: 6). * What we need to understand is the greatness of the Lamb of God Who was slain to remove the sins of the whole world and not of just a few [29]. He suffered for the whole world: ‘ And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world (1 Jn 2:1-2). For He is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe (1 Thess.4: 10). By His Blood He has wiped the judgment pronounced on us, and He has lifted it from our medist so that there is no trace of sins: they have been erased. They have been nailed to the Cross by Him Who ‘has disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it’ (Col 2:14-15). This is how we learn to be joyful when we undergo suffering in this world. We learn that the reason for our joy is that the world has been overcome (Jn 16:33). Certainly, the world has submitted to her conqueror. Hence all nations are freed from those who rule over them and have turned to serve Him; for He saves the poor from the oppressor through the power of His Blood and rescues the needy who have no helper (Ps 72:4-5)3. *The Lamb of God became a young and innocent lamb taken to be slaughtered in order to take away the sins of the world (Is 53:7; Jn 1:29). The One Who grants speech (The Word) to everyone became like a silent lamb standing before its shearers (Is 53:7) so that we might all be purified through His death: this is distributed to those who desire to receive the Truth as a medicine that dispels the influence of the devil and sin. For the death of the Lord Jesus Christ has erased the powers that oppose mankind, and has vanquished with such indescribable authority all sinful living from the existence of every believer4. Origen * Although St. John the Baptist baptized the Lord like many others who came to him, yet no one should think that He came to the Baptist for the same purpose, that is to confess sins and wash in the river to repent. To present the correct proclamation once more, God granted the Baptist the time to state: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” All doubt would therefore be removed. It is quite clear that He who is so pure that He has power to remove the sins of others would not come with the intention of confessing sins. Rather, He came to give the opportunity to this marvelous announcer to confirm what he had proclaimed earlier, but in a more specific 1 Commentary on John, Book 6:255. 2 Commentary on John, Book 6:270. 3 Commentary on John, Book 6:285-286. 4 Commentary on John, Book 1: 233 https://coptic-treasures.com/ manner to those who have already heard Him as well as to the many others who would hear him. St. John the Baptist used the expression “ Behold” because many had been looking for Him for a long time and, for the reason he states: and that is to carry their sins. Therefore, when the Lord came toward him, the Baptist pointed out to Him and said: “‘Behold’ here is the One you have been awaiting for so long, and He is ‘the Lamb.’” The Baptist called Him the Lamb in order to remind the Jews of Isaiah’s prophecy that says: ‘He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth’ (Is 53:7) He reminded them of the shadow under the Law of Moses in order to lead them to that which is better, and from the symbol to the reality. The sacrifice offered by Moses did not remove the sins at once; whereas this One removes the sins of the whole world. The world was in danger of being destroyed so He descended quickly and saved it from the anger of God1. St. John Chrysostom * Be proud of the Lord’s Cross rather than be ashamed of It. While the Cross ‘ to the Jews is a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness’, it is salvation to us (1 Cor 1:23) ‘…the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’ (1Cor 1:18, 23). As we have stated earlier, the One who died for us was not absolutely a man: He is the Son of God and God incarnate. Moreover, if the lamb in the days of Moses was able to make the destroyer pass over, will not He who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world be able to remove our sins?! The blood of dumb sheep granted salvation, so how much more powerful is the Blood of God’s only Son to save us?! If anyone denies the power of the One crucified, let him ask the devils! If anyone is unable to believe words, let him believe what is tangible. Many have been crucified in this world yet the devils were not fearful. But when they just see the sign of the Cross of the Lord who was crucified for us they tremble. The other men were crucified for their sins, but the Lord was crucified for the sins of others… ‘Because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth’ (Isaiah 53:9; 1 Pet 2:22). Had the Baptist been the only one to make this statement we would have thought that he was taking his Master’s side; but Isaiah has made the same declaration. Although he was not present in the flesh yet he prophesied through the Spirit of the Lord’s coming in the flesh. Why are we quoting only the prophet here? We also have Pilate himself who judged the Lord and said: “…I have found no fault in this Man…”(Lk 23:14). When he delivered Him, he washed his hands and said: “ I am innocent of the blood of this Person…” (Matt 27:24). There is also another testimony to the pure Lord Jesus Christ who is without sin, and this is the one given by the thief who was the first to enter Paradise. He rebuked the other criminal and said: “ …we receive the due reward of our deeds, but this Man has done nothing wrong” (Lk 23:41), and we are all under His authority2. St. Cyril of Jerusalem 1 Homilies on St. John, Hom.17:1. 2 Article 13:3. https://coptic-treasures.com/ * ‘The flowers appear on the earth The time of singing has come And the voice of the turtledove Is heard in our land.’ (Song of Sol 2:12). The bridegroom says: behold the fields are budding with the flowers of virtue. Do you see purity in the beauty and smell of the iris? Do you see the flowers of humility and purple that represent the good smell of the Lord Jesus Christ? Then why do you not make a crown of these flowers? For now is the season for that. Use a branch to make a crown and adorn yourself. Now is the season for pruning. It is the voice of the turtledove that resembles ‘ the voice crying in the wilderness’ (Matt 3:3). St. John the Baptist is the turtledove. He is the one offering us the bright spring that has brought to mankind the marvelous flowers ready to be gathered. He offers them to all who wish to reap them. It is he who has revealed to us the flower coming from the line of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1): “ The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (Jn 1:29). The Baptist is the one who clarifies to us the need to repent for our sins, and to live a life of virtue. The text says: “ …the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land’; and is heard calling: .”. O land.” The call is for those who have been judged for their sins: the ones that the Bible calls ‘ tax collectors and adulterers.’ These have heard the voice of the Baptist while the rest did not accept his teachings1. * “I will go my way to the mountain of myrrh And to the hill of frankincense”(Song of Sol 4:6)…2 Human nature has been saved from the brand of sin since the Lamb of God has taken away the sins of the world and has destroyed evil (Jn 1:29). Therefore the Song says: ‘ You are all fair, my love/ And there is no spot in you.’ Besides, the mystery of this emotion is indicated by the significance of myrrh (Song of Sol 4:6). Then there is the mention of the mixture of fragrant herbs and incense that indicate the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. A person who has fellowship with the Lord and partakes of the myrrh, will receive the sweet smelling fragrance of the herbs and frankincense. For the person who suffers with Him will receive glory with Him (Rom 8:17). Being granted divine glory, he will attain perfect beauty. He will be far removed from all ugly faults and will be separated from sin through and by the Lord Jesus Christ. He has died and has risen from the dead for our sakes and He has glory and power now and forever, Amen. St. Gregory of Nyssa *‘Behold! The Lamb of God’: He is not a branch extending from Adam; and though He has put on Adam’s flesh, He did not take on his sins. Thus, He is the One who washes our sins away as He has not taken the sin inherent in the dough out of which we are made3. St. Augustine * Ripping (the sin) away is enacted in everyone in the world so that sin is removed from the whole world, and so that the Savior may offer a kingdom fit for the Father (1 Cor 15:24). A place where there is no sin and where all submit to the Father’s reign in total submission. Hence the following saying about His Kingdom is fulfilled: ‘…that God may be all in all’ (1Cor 15:28)4. * We believe that the Lamb is slain in the evening (Ex 12:6), just as the real Lamb, our 1 The Song of Solomon: Fr Gregory of Nyssa. Translated into Arabic: Dr George Nawar: Sermon 5. 2 The Song of Solomon: Fr Gregory of Nyssa. Translated into Arabic: Dr George Nawar: Sermon 7. 3 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 4:10. 4 Commentary on John, Book 1:235. https://coptic-treasures.com/ Savior, came into the world (Jn 1:29) at the last hour (1 Jn 2:18)5. * Each Gospel and message brings joy due to a righteous cause1. * The Lord Jesus Christ is the righteousness that the nation had been expecting2. Origen * Let us meditate on the benefits of the upright faith. It is useful for me to know that for my sake the Lord bore my weakness and submitted to my carnal emotions. I should say that it was for the sake of each one He became a sin and a curse (2 Cor 5:21;Gal 3:13). For my sake He came in humbleness and submission, and for my sake He is the Lamb, the Vine, and the Rock (Jn 1:36, 15:1; 1Cor 10:4). Besides, He is the Slave and Servant (Mk 10:45; Jn 1:38,13:4-5; Ps 86; 16,116:14). He did not know the Day of Judgment, and for my sake He did not know the day and the hour (Matt 24:26)3. St. Ambrose What does the Evangelist mean by his use of ‘ the world’? Origen, who believes in the salvation of all mankind, considers that the whole world will be redeemed. He bases his conviction upon the words of St. Paul: “…because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe” (1 Tim 4:10). However, the prevalent idea in the Church at his time was that the indication of the ‘world’ was to point to the world that had already accepted the Savior’s light and had become a consecrated Church through His Blood. Origen expresses his concept by saying: [Some consider that the ‘world’ indicates the Church only since it is the ornament of the world. She has also been described as the light of the world and according to the Holy Book: “You are the light of the world” (Matt 5:14). The Church is the ornament of the world in which the Lord Jesus Christ is the primary Light of the world and her adornment…yet let us correctly say that the Church is the world that has been enlightened through the Savior 4]. In the praise offered by the angels in the Prime/ morning Prayers we sing: “ O lord God, Lamb of God, son of the Father, who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.” Some believe that this is the oldest song of praise offered in the East and West. In the West, believers say before communion: “ O Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world have mercy on us.” “This is He of whom I said: ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me For He was before me’ ”[30]. St. John the Baptist repeats the testimony that although he came before the advent of the Incarnate Word yet the main reason for that was to prepare the way. However, from the perspective of existence, the Word preceded him and existed before all time and hence greater honor is due to Him. * St. John the Baptist states ‘the basic purpose of my coming is to proclaim the General Benefactor of the whole world and to baptize with water. His coming, in contrast, is planned to purify all mankind and to grant the power of the Holy Spirit. The One who comes after me will appear more gloriously for ‘ He was before me’5. St. John Chrysostom 5 Peri Pascha 25 (Translated by Robert J Daly- ACW) 1 Commentary on St. John, Book 1:28. 2 Commentary on St. John, Book 1:29. 3 On the Christian Faith, 2:11:93. 4 Commentary on St. John, Book 6:301, 304 5 Hom.17. https://coptic-treasures.com/ ‘I did not know Him But that He should be revealed to Israel Therefore I came baptizing with water’ [31]. The ultimate aim of St. John’s Gospel is to present the Lord Jesus Christ to the people of Israel. St. John the Baptist had not yet seen or known Him until then. Therefore he could describe Him only as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. * Both were related according to the flesh…and in order to dispel the idea that the Baptist honors the Lord because of their kinship he states “ I did not know Him…”1. * O John, how could you qualify to be a witness worthy to be trusted and believed? How do you preach a person that you do not know yourself? However, note that John did not say ‘ I was not acquainted with Him’…he said ‘ I did not know Him.’ By saying these words he became more trustworthy. And when we ask the Baptist: ‘ Then how did you know Him?’ His response will be: I knew Him when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him… Could The Baptist have proclaimed the Messiah and led the people easily to Him without the need to baptize? My answer to this is that this could never have happened. Had he cried out and proclaimed His coming without baptism, people would not have come out of the towns in the way these multitudes came. Moreover, they would not have realized by the comparison made between both how the stature of One of them was so sublime. The crowds had come to be baptized and to repent for their sins and not on account of what they had heard about him or about his words. But when they came, he taught them and witnessed to the Lord and explained the difference between his baptism and that which the Lord performed. St. John Chrysostom * Although the Baptist had recognized the Lord while He was still in is mother’s womb (Lk 1:41-42), he certainly did not know everything about Him. Probably, he did not know that this is ‘ He who baptizes by fire and the Holy Spirit’ until he saw the Spirit descending and remaining on Him [33]2. Origen * And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him” [32]. * Do not imagine that this is an incarnation, but it is an appearance. The appearance came before him so that through it would believe the one who hasn’t seen the Spirit. This appearance was accompanied by the proclamation that the Holy Spirit is at one with the Father and the Son: They share the honor of authority, unite and act mysteriously, and constitute one gift that is granted in baptism3. * The Baptist appropriately says: “ …He remained on Him”, because the Spirit inspires the words or actions of the prophets at His will, whereas He is constantly residing in the Lord Jesus Christ4. * Do not doubt due to the words: ‘ on Him’ as they are used to indicate ‘ the Son of Man’ 1 Hom.17. PG59:99. 2 Commentary on John, Book 1:239 3 On the Holy Spirit, Book 3:1:4. 4 On the Holy Spirit, Book 3:1:5. https://coptic-treasures.com/ and this was the nature of the Lord at the time of His baptism. According to His divinity, the Spirit does not rest ‘ on’ Him but rather ‘ in Him’ just as the Father is in the Son and the Son in the Father1. St. Ambrose Pope Athanasius the Apostolic says that when the Holy Spirit rested on the Lord Jesus Christ [the purpose is to sanctify us so that we may have fellowship with the Spirit as well 2]. * Unless they received the Spirit of the One who, by nature, is the true Son of God, they could not have become His children since by nature, they had been created. To achieve that, ‘ the Word became flesh’ so that man could receive the Divine3. * The Father carries out all His work through the Word and the Holy Spirit. In this way the unity of the Holy Trinity is preserved 4. St. Athanasius the Apostolic * I am not speaking about the Lord Jesus Christ in whom the Spirit resides and as though He was granted energy or energoun ouchos. Rather, I am speaking about Him as a companion to the One who possesses the same honor5. St. Gregory of Nyssa St. John Chrysostom does not hesitate to proclaim that the Lord Jesus Christ was filled with the Holy Spirit. Since He is a Spirit then his very soul is in the same image (considering His incarnation): He is the Word of God as well as the soul’s energy.6 St. Gregory of Nyssa opposes the statement that the Spirit worked within the Lord Jesus Christ and says: ‘I wish to add to the indication that the Spirit abides in the Lord, that He dwells as a companion equal to Him in honor rather than as someone ‘ giving Him power’6. It gave St. Gregory of Nyssa pleasure to speak about the Holy Spirit as a companion of the Incarnate Word and an informant Who revealed His works7. St. Cyril the Great devotes the Anathema 9 to the teachings concerning the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Lord Jesus Christ. God the Word does not need to be filled through the Spirit for He is Holy by nature. In contrast, the body of the Incarnate Word received the Spirit as it contains the Divinity. * He is the second Adam who looks like one of us; and He received the Spirit from the Father in order to preserve our nature… the Spirit had departed from us due to sin. Now the One Who knew no sin became like one of us so that the Spirit might remain constantly with us8. * Due to sin, the Holy Spirit could not be pleased to rest in human beings. But when the Word of God became incarnated He became the new first-born for mankind. In Him alone could the Spirit rest and so rested upon us all 9. * Having become man, He could receive the Holy Spirit. Yet being incarnate and having no sin, the Spirit desired to dwell and remain in Him as He became the first-born of mankind and 1 On the Holy Spirit, Book 3:1:6. 2 Oratio Contra Arianos 1:47 PG 26:108c. 3 Oratio Contra Arianos 2:59 PG 26:273 A. 4 Epistola ad Serapionem 1:28-29 PG 26:596 A. 5 Oratio 41, In Pentacosten, 11 PG 36: 444 B. 6 In Epistolarm ad Hebroeos Homilia 15:2. PG 63:119 6 Oratio 41. In Pentecosten. PG 36:444 B 7 Cf. Oratio Catechetica Magna, 2. PG 45:17 B. 8 In Joannis Evangelium 2:1, 32. PG 73:265D. - 267 A. 9 In Isaiam 2:11 PG 70:313D. https://coptic-treasures.com/ possessed a different nature1. * As His entire body is filled with the invigorating living Spirit, He therefore indicated that His body is a spirit. However, He did not deny that it is a flesh 2. St. Cyril the Great * The Messiah arrives, and the Spirit prepares the way for Him. He comes in the flesh and the Spirit is never separated from Him. He does amazing acts and grants healing through the Holy Spirit. Devils are cast out by gift of the Spirit and His presence demolishes them. The forgiveness of sins is granted by the Spirit, for according to 1 Cor 6:11: ‘you were washed, but you were sanctified…in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God3. St. Basil the Great * ‘His eyes are like doves by the rivers of waters…’ (Song of Sol 5:12). This text expresses the pure spiritual life through the imagery doves. St. John the Baptist saw something similar when the Holy Spirit descended from heaven and covered the waters (Jn 1:32). For this reason, a person who is appointed through God is like the eyes of the church’s body and it is essential that he wash away any obstacle that impedes his sight. Consequently, he would be enabled to fulfill efficiently the task of supervision and watchfulness. The Lord tells us that there is many ways to wash our eyes and not just one; for there are many virtues that represent sources of purification. We should use these to clean and purify our eyes. Examples of these pure sources of water are: perseverance, constant labor, humility, truthfulness, righteousness, discipline and courage, the desire to do good, and being far removed from wickedness. These and other kinds of waters flow from one Source that gathers all their riverbeds into one bed. Through that one bed all the sources are purified of all the secreted reactions4. ‘ I did not know Him, But He who sent me to baptize with water said to me: “ Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him This is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit” ’ [33] * The Lord Jesus is the Son of God and (although the Gospel’s core preaches our adoption as God’s children through Jesus Christ) yet the Lord did not preach the Gospel before His baptism. Since the Lord Himself has waited for the right and appropriate time, do we have the right- as His servants - to contradict this procedure?! (From that time Jesus began to preach) when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the physical form of a dove (Matt 4:17; Lk 3:22). This did not happen so that the Lord Jesus Christ would see and recognize Him, for He knew Him before descending upon Him in that way. Rather, the Spirit descended with a physical aspect in order that John who baptized Him would see and accordingly say: “…but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me: Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit” (Jn1: 33). If you too are wearing a strong shield, then the Holy Spirit will descend and rest in you; and the Father will speak to you from the high. He will not say: ’This is My Son’ but rather “ You have now become My Son.” The simple present used in the statement “This is My Son” is applicable only to the Son who from‘… the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (Jn 1: 1). Hence He is the only One of whom God would say: “He 1 Dialogus 6. PG 75:1008 C. 2 In Joannis Evangelium 4 PG 73: 604. 3 Liber de Spirito Sancto 19:49 PG 32:157 A 4 The Song of Songs by Fr Gregory of Nyssa. Translated into Arabic by Dr George Nawar, Sermon 13 https://coptic-treasures.com/ is My Son” since He is God’s Son eternally. As for you, it will be told you that “ Now you have become…” because you are not a son by natural law but, rather, you receive that designation through God’s adoption. He is a Son since time everlasting, whereas you have been granted that grace just recently1. St. Cyril of Jerusalem * What is it that St. John the Baptist did not know? It is the power of the baptism granted by the Lord. It is a power that does not get conveyed from God to any other person, but it is clearly achieved in this way. Power does not pass from God to anyone whether the person serving is good or evil. The dove does not retreat from service if the servant is evil but she looks up to God’s power. Since God is righteous, what harm then what can an evil servant do to you?2 * St. John the Baptist knew that Jesus Christ is the Lord, and he confessed that He is the Truth. He also knew that he himself is a truthful person sent by the Truth. This is what John knew. So what did he not know about the Lord Jesus Christ? That the time had come for the Lord to retain for Himself the power of His baptism and not convey it to any other servant…so what did he not know? That the great authority of baptism belongs to God and that He reserves it to Himself whether He is present here on earth or when He is in heaven in His glory and absent in the flesh. Thus St. Paul and St. Peter cannot say: ‘ …my baptism.’ Give attention and listen to the words of the apostles: none of them says: ‘…my baptism’; yet although there is one Message you will find that they refer to’…my gospel’ …so they do not utter the words ‘…my baptism.’ This is what the Baptist got to know, my brethren. Let us learn what he learned from the dove too. For the dove taught the Baptist as well as the Church for she is the one to whom these words refer: ‘My dove, my perfect one, is the only one…(Song of Sol 6:9). May the Dove (the Holy Spirit) teach the dove (the Church)3. * You tell me that this or that person has baptized you, yet it is through the Dove (the Holy Spirit) we are both told: ‘It is the (Lord) who baptizes you. Who do I believe: the Dove or the kite?4 * This mystery is most sacred and even if it is performed by a murderous servant it cannot be corrupted or damaged5. * What was the benefit when you accept baptizm by a certain servant and you be unwilling to accept baptism by the Lord? Since you have come to a servant, would you be unwilling to come to the Lord? If you have accepted to be baptized by a servant, will you be unwilling to receive baptism from the Lord?6 * If the Baptist did not know Him at all, he would not have told the Lord - when He came to the River to be baptized: “ I need you to baptize me, so how is it that You come to me?”…He recognized the Lord through the Dove: it did not concern what he did not know but it concerned what his Informer revealed to him by some manner, and concerning the aspect of the Lord that he did not know. This was done for our sake so that we might discover the Baptist’s position, what he did not know, and what he learned from the Dove7. St. Augustine 1 Article 3:14. 2 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 5:11. 3 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 5: 8-10 4 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 5:13. 5 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 5:19 6 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 4:13 7 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 5:2 https://coptic-treasures.com/ * I believe that we cannot stop seeing that fire when we read that the Lord Jesus Christ baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire [33] according to the words of St. John in his Gospel…That is why Jeremiah, having received the Spirit, says: “…His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back…” (Jer 20:9). What does this mean- I mean that this fire becomes water, and the water requires fire- is this the gift of the Holy Spirit that burns our sins and washes them with water? For sin is washed and gets burned1. St. Ambrose * He accepted to be baptized by John with this intention: because He accepted what is of lesser value from someone who is of lesser stature, then He encourages us who are lesser to accept what is more sublime2. * If the Lord Jesus Christ had been the only one who accepted to be baptized by the Baptist, then people would have believed that the Baptist’s baptism is greater than that of the Lord. They would have said: ‘ This baptism is greater for only the Lord qualified for it.’ However, the Lord came to be baptized to serve as a model of humility and to call us to receive redemption through baptism. The Lord accepted to go through something which was not necessary for Him; yet it was necessary on our account. Just to underline that what the Lord received through the Baptist is not to be preferred over baptism through the Lord, others were allowed to be baptized by the Baptist. However, their baptism was not sufficient since they had to go through the baptism offered by the Lord Jesus3. * The baptism offered by the Lord Jesus Christ is fitting to His nature: it is the baptism of God, a divine one because the Lord is God4. St. Augustine ‘And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God’ [34]. * Note that John had baptized and Jesus had baptized too. The words that were pronounced at the time of Christ’s baptism could have been intended for the Baptist. However, and in order to avoid any confusion in the minds of those who were present, the Spirit descended and rested on the Lord Jesus Christ. St. John Chrysostom 4- THE TESTIMONY OF HIS FIRST DISCIPLES - The testimony of the Baptist that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Messiah [35 -37] won Andrew over. - Consequently, Andrew’s testimony won Simon over and the Lord named him Cephas [42]. - The Lord called Phillip from Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee, and he won over Nathaniel [45-51] an Israelite ‘ in who is no guile.’ Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples [35] And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said: “Behold the Lamb of God” [36]. ‘…looking at Jesus…’ We are in great need to look and see Jesus. We need to look to Him in order to see Him looking at us and concerned with our redemption. 1 Duties of the Clergy, Book 3:18:102-103. 2 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 5:5 3 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 5:5 4 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 5:6 https://coptic-treasures.com/ John the Baptist has testified that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Son pf God [34]. No one listened to his words nor questioned him as to why or to whom he was saying them. He says it again here: “ This is the Lamb of God!” Yet their mortal senses did not respond, and he found their nature as that of hard ground that would be softened by his care. He would improve their muddied discernment by his words for he toiled with one purpose in mind: to bring them to the Lord. He strove to make them adhere to Him as he knew that if they accepted his words they would no longer need someone to witness to Him. St. John Chrysostom * When the time came for God to show mercy, the Lamb came. What kind of Lamb is it that wolves do fear? Of what kind is that Lamb that when it is slain, a lion is slain too? Since the devil is called a lion ‘ that walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour’ (1 Peter 5:8). By the Blood of the Lamb the lion has been defeated… This is a great matter to behold: throughout the whole world the lion has been vanquished by the blood of the Lamb, and members of the Lord are saved from the lion’s mouth and united with the Lord’s Body1. * The Lord wishes to own what He has bought alone. He does not wish anyone to share His possession with Him for: He has paid a great price in order to be a sole owner. You make Him a partner with Satan to whom you have sold yourself. ‘ Woe be to those who try to have it both ways’ (Sirach 2:12). Those who give part of their heart to God and the other to Satan. This angers God as Satan gets a share of the heart. Hence He quits and Satan takes over the whole heart and possesses it. Therefore it is not in vain that the apostle says: ‘…nor give place to the devil’ (Eph 4:27). Let us therefore, my brethren, know the Lamb and understand the price paid for us2. St. Augustine ‘The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus’ [37]. When they heard about redemption they adhered to the Savior promptly and without any discussion. Each moment of postponement constitutes an exposure of the soul to danger. Hence it is appropriate for you to go and seek Him without delay. The two disciples who followed Him were eager to receive and accept the words of grace from His mouth rather than from the mouth of the forerunner. The number 2 stands for love and the two disciples refer to all those who accepted to be completely His followers, and to consecrate their lives to love God and their neighbors. These are the two disciples who urge and motivate us to sincerely follow the Lord Jesus Christ. St. John the Evangelist recounts the invitation to two of the Baptist’s disciples to follow the Lord. These are Andrew and (most probably) John the Evangelist himself. The first went to call his brother Simon Peter. These are the first three who became the Lord’s disciples. In this way, the Church started on a very small scale that included three members who enjoyed looking to the Lord and be part of His kingdom. Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “ What do you seek?” They said to Him: Rabbi”(which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “ where are you staying?” [37]. 1 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 7:6. 2 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 7:7. https://coptic-treasures.com/ We always need to give an answer to the Lord’s question “ what do you seek” in every act, word or thought we are engaged in. Do we seek the Lord in every act? Are we preoccupied to be enlightened by His Holy Spirit? Do we yearn to be in the Father’s embrace? Do we seek to develop and strengthen true knowledge, and constantly sanctify ourselves and our inner glory? Do we seek that which glorifies God and the well being of the Church? This is the constant question that the Lord Jesus Christ puts to every person: What do you seek? Are you seeking worldly possessions, pleasures, men’s praise and fake honor? Or are you seeking to be with the Lord wherever He may be? The Lord had no place where He could rest for He lived as a stranger. It is the same for those who seek him for they will live with Him as strangers on earth. Hence it is insufficient to seek the Lord and follow Him from time to time but we need to stay and remain with Him. As we get closer to Him, we will enjoy the brilliance of His glory and the wealth of His love; and we will not desire to be ever separated from Him. We are in need to meet Him and stay with Him. We need to sit at His feet and be refreshed from the springs of His love. We will be enlightened by His Holy Spirit and get acquainted with His hidden and unspeakable mysteries. St. John Chrysostom expresses this thought in these words: ‘ They did not say teach us about opinions and beliefs or other important matters, but they said: Where are you staying?” When they asked to stay with Him, His immediate was to invite them to come and see so that they could come promptly and without delay: ‘… now is the accepted time’ (2 Cor 6:2). The Lord knew exactly what was in their hearts when they asked to follow Him, so why did He ask? First: To grant them confidence so that they would state their desire, to reveal His pleasure at their zeal for redemption and desire to lead a sanctified life, and in order to give them support. Second: To state that He is ready to begin with us on the journey of our souls towards the Truth and eternal glory. Yet He will not begin without our will for He cherishes the freedom that He has granted to us. * By granting us His gifts, we learn that He does not withhold our freedom. However, if we begin to seek Him, He will grant us real strength of will (inflame our own desire for Him) and will offer us many means for redemption1. * “What do you seek?”…By this question, the Lord makes them relate to Him more. Besides, He grants them greater boldness, and demonstrates to them that they are worthy to hear Him. They were probably shy and afraid since they were unknown to Him even though they had heard their teacher’s testimony concerning Him. To help them get over that He puts this question to them rather than invite them silently to the house…He asked in order to grant them serenity and confidence and to remove their anxiety and timidity2. St. John Chrysostom Third: St. John Chrysostom explains: [He gave them great attention and indicated that they were ready and qualified to listen to Him. It is understandable that they felt embarrassed and fearsome, as they did not know Him. He removed all their illusions and fears by asking His question rather than taking them silently to the house]. Origen says that after St. John the Baptist had pronounced his six testimonies to the Lord Jesus Christ, it now was the turn of the Word Himself to witness to Himself before the Baptist’s 1 Cf. Homilies on St. John, Hom. 18:3 2 Homilies on St. John, Hom. 18:23. https://coptic-treasures.com/ two disciples1. He said to them: “Come and see.” They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour) [39]. St. John Chrysostom believes that the Lord Jesus Christ loved the two disciples as they followed Him after hearing their teacher’s testimony. Consequently, He engaged in conversation with them on the way and this made them feel they were no longer strangers to Him. Moreover, He sought to grant them the joy of hearing the divine voice. Oh how much we need to walk with Him along the path of our lives, and to hear His divine Voice. Let us give Him the chance to talk with us. This is similar to what happened to the two disciples after the Resurrection and who were on their way to Emmaus (Lk 24: 13). St. John Chrysostom comments as follows on the conversation that took place with two of the Baptist’s disciples: [May we therefore learn to consider that all matters are secondary to hearing God’s word. We need to stop thinking that it is sometimes not convenient to do so…food, washing, and all matters related to this life may have a specific timetable; but learning the Heavenly teachings do not occur at an appointed time for it is adequate to receive them at all times. St. Paul Says: “ Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Tim 4:2). And the prophet says: “…in His law he meditates day and night (Ps 1:3) 2]. The two disciples came to Him at ten o’clock to stay with Him wherever He stays. Those who obey His commandments (the Ten Commandments) proclaim a desire to obey and reside with their Savior each day of their lives. They do not get separated from Him until the day comes for them to meet Him face to face in the life to come. * They did not follow Him in a haphazard way, but they adhered to Him3. St. Augustine St. Augustine considers that the number 10 indicates the Law as there are Ten Commandments. They went to the Lord Jesus Christ as He is the One who has given the Law and fulfilled it (Matt. 5:17). They wanted to learn the Law from Him who issued it for mercy rests on His lips (Prov. 31:26). St. Augustine goes on to say: [If you are unable to fulfill the Law, then flee to mercy. If you are unable to obey the law then use the promises, the links, and the prayers that the heavenly One has set and organized for He has gone the way of the Law and experienced it]4. Origen finds that the Lord invited the two disciples to experience the pleasure of being and living with Him by leading a life of service and meditation. By calling them to “ Come” He invited them to an active life; and by saying “See” He invited them in order to set up the link between work and meditation on Him at the same time1. ‘One of the two who heard John speak, And followed Him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother’ [40]. In the Greek language the word ‘Andrew’ means ‘ manliness.’ This is an apt naming for a person who follows the Lord Jesus Christ. You need to be eager to enjoy Him and live with Him. According to the Psalmist: “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage …” (Ps 27:14). 1 Commentary on John, Book 2:219. 2 Homilies on St. John, Hom. 18:4. 3 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 7:9. 4 St. Augustine: On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 7:10. 1 Commentary on John, Book 2:219 https://coptic-treasures.com/ The Evangelist does not report the name of the other disciple, since he is the write of the words in this Gospel. ‘He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him: “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated ‘the Christ’) [41]. By saying ‘ He Found’, the Evangelist indicates how Andrew cared for his brother and looked for him so that he would share the new experience he enjoyed after meeting with the Lord. He said humbly: “ We have found the Messiah.” He did not take the entire honor to himself for he had someone else with him. Yet he speaks proudly and victoriously of the One they have found: they found a pearl of great value and a true treasure. He did not repeat the words of his teacher, St. John the Baptist, who said ‘ the Lamb of God’; but he used the words recorded in the holy Bible ‘the Messiah.’ To meet with Him constituted the desire of every Jew. St. John Chrysostom considers that the invitation of Andrew to his brother Simon, and the invitation that people extend to each other represents a clear image of friendship in the Lord and of co-operation within God’s kingdom. He says that when God created Adam He did not leave him alone, but gave him a wife to be his companion and helper. Although Eve harmed this fellowship, a wise person can enjoy many benefits of fellowship. These are not limited to relations with the wife and children, but with our brothers. Therefore the prophet says: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps 133:1). St. Paul the apostle also urges us not to abandon our meeting together (Heb 10:25)2. * The expression ‘ we have found Him’ indicates someone striving in order to be with the Lord. Someone who is seeking His advent from above, rejoices for achieving the search and finding Him, and hurries away to give the joyful news to others. This is the role of brotherly love as through a natural friendship and the Lord’s planning, we are able to extend a hand to others and offer spiritual riches3. St. John Chrysostom THE INVITATION OF PHILIP TO NATHANIEL And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “ You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A rock) [42]. Philip received his call directly and not through the Baptist as in the case of Andrew and John. Neither was he called through Andrew in the way Simon Peter was called. Clearly, the Lord uses every possible manner to invite and call His children. The Lord found Philip just like someone who would be looking for him and wanting to find Him. In Andrew’s case, he did not only witness for the Lord Jesus Christ but went and brought his brother to Him. He wanted his brother to come to the Source, to hear His Voice, and see His work. The Lord called Simon by his name and then changed it to indicate his mission as a witness to the belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. His parents had named him ‘Simon’ which means’ a hearer’ or ‘ obedient.’ Actually, he met the Lord in a spirit of obedience and so the Lord called him ‘Cephas’ or ‘Peter’ since he enjoyed the Rock of faith: the Rock designates the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 10:4) whom Simon 2 Cf. Homilies on St. John, Hom. 19:1 3 Homilies on St. John, Hom. 19:1 https://coptic-treasures.com/ Peter loved. * You might wonder: But why did the Lord Jesus Christ do that? My answer is: In order to reveal that He is the One who has given us the old Law, and the One who assigned the names and rectified them. He is the One who called Abram as Abraham, and Sarai as Sarah, and Jacob as Israel. He has designated the names of many others from their birth, such as Isaac and Samson. Moreover, He has set names for those mentioned in the prophecies of Isaiah and Hosea; besides adding names to those who had already been named by their parents. Everyone of those has received a different name. Yet now we all have received one surname and that is the greatest of all names and that is Christians and children of our God: His friend and His body. This surname is better than all others for in Him we have sufficiency as He uplifts and quickens us. Thus we become the fastest in doing virtuous acts. St. John Chrysostom ‘The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, And He found Philip and said to him: “Follow Me”’ [43]. The Lord went to Galilee to invite Phillip. The word ‘ Galilee’ means ‘ migrating’ or ‘ proclaiming’ or ’a circle.’ The Lord wanted to reveal the obligation for disciples to migrate from the sufferings of the present world in order to enjoy the delight of eternal glory. This occurs when the heart moves away from the confusion of temporal matters of this world and experiences sublime heavenly peace or the heavenly circle. According to St. Clement of Alexandria, it was said that this disciple is the same one who asked the Lord permission to go and bury his father when the Lord asked him to follow Him (Matt.: 21-22). In Acts 6:5 his work as a deacon is recorded. Fr Theodorus, Bishop of Koresh believes that he preached in Phrygia (these two areas have the same name); and according to Eusebius, Philip is buried in Phrygia Pacatiana. ‘Now Philip was from Bethsaida, The city of Andrew and Peter’ [44]. ‘Bethsaida’ or ‘the house of fishing’ was so called because most of its inhabitants were fishermen. It was an area known for its wickedness (Matt 11:21). Yet there were in it a few who remained consecrated to the Lord, and chosen according to His grace. The Evangelist does not mention this city haphazardly but to communicate a symbolic meaning: ‘Bethsaida’ or the ‘ house of fishermen’ actually indicates that those who accept the Lord’s invitation to follow Him become fishers of men (Matt. 4:19). Indeed and Philip’s first catch was Nathaniel whom he brought to the Lord. * According to the Gospel (Jn. 1:44) Philip the apostle came from the same city as that of Andrew and Peter. He was blessed because he was the friend of the two brothers as these were the first to be honored by the Gospel. Andrew perceived the mystery of the Lord Jesus Christ and followed Him after hearing St. John the Baptist saying: “ Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Andrew learned where the Lord lived and carried the joyful news written in the prophecies a long time ago and told his brother Simon Peter. Note that a person has to have faith before he can hear. Now the person whose heart is wholly attached to the Lamb becomes sanctified through a name change: hence instead of calling him Simon, the Lord called him Peter, and his name became Peter. A name change applies also to Abraham and Sarah who went through many spiritual stages and then received the promise of God’s blessings: they became the grandparents of many https://coptic-treasures.com/ nations through a name change. This is similar to what happened to Jacob whose name became Israel after wrestling for long during the night with an angel. St. Peter the great disciple developed through the same blessing. Having learned of the faith of his brother in the Lamb of God, he continued through faith and became the Stone. Due to his faith, Philip too deserved to become a friend of Andrew and Peter after the Lord found him. The Gospel says the Lord found Philip who became a follower of the Word of God: “ Follow Me” (Jn 1: 43). Having being enlightened by the light of faith, Philip invited Nathaniel to come to the Lord, get acquainted with the mystery of faith, and be filled with His light. Therefore Philip said to him: “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote - Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (Jn. 1:45). Nathaniel received the good news attentively and the mysterious prophecy concerning the Lord Jesus Christ sounded good to his ears. He knew that Bethlehem would be the first place where God would appear in the flesh, and that after that He would live in Nazareth and therefore He was called the Nazarene. By searching the scriptures, Nathaniel learned that the Lord was to be born in the flesh from the line of David and in Bethlehem. Moreover, His mysterious birth had to occur in a stable that had swaddling cloths in which the baby would be wrapped and that there would be a man to look after them. According to the Holy Bible, many Gentiles lived in the region of Galilee (Isa. 9:1). Consequently, Nathaniel was enlightened and said: “ Can anything good come out of Nazareth? ” (Jn.1:46). At this point, Nathaniel came out from under the fig tree that had hidden the Light and he adhered to the One who had cursed the unfruitful fig tree and its leaves dried up. The Word of God testified that Nathaniel was a true Israelite in whom was no guile for he proved to be as pure as our father Abraham (Gen 25:27). The Lord Jesus Christ says accordingly: “ Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile” 1. St. Gregory of Nyssa ‘Philip found Nathaniel and said to him: “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets wrote - Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” ‘ [45]. Nathaniel and Bartholomew are considered the names for one and the same person due to the following: A- The writers of the gospels who have mentioned Bartholomew did not mention Nathaniel, and the opposite is also true. B- The word ‘ Bartholomew’ is not the name of a certain person for it means ‘ the son of Ptolemy’, hence his real name is Nathaniel. C- St. John the Evangelist speaks of Nathaniel as one of the apostles who went with the others to fish when the Lord appeared to them after His resurrection (Jn. 21:2-4). Philip’s words reveal his zeal to search the Holy Bible especially the books of the law and the prophets. This inflamed his heart with eagerness to see ‘ Jesus ’ or ‘the Messiah’ who would come from the line of David…and finally he found the One who reveals Himself to those who seek Him. Philip says that he is ‘ Jesus’ or in other words ‘the redeeming Jehovah’ in order to announce to Nathaniel that He is the Savior that the law and the prophets have spoken about for so long. As to calling Him ‘the son of Joseph’ it is not to convey that he had implanted Him, but 1 Song of Solomon: Fr Gregory of Nyssa. Translated in Arabic by Dr Georgr Nawar: Sermon 15 https://coptic-treasures.com/ to confirm that his lineage is the house of David from which Joseph is descended. ‘And Nathaniel said to Him: Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” And Philip said: “Come and see” [46]. * These words do not come from an unbeliever, nor from someone who deserves to be blamed. He is to be praised…why? And in what manner? Because Nathaniel was interested in the writings of the prophets even more than Philip. He had learned from the Holy Scripture that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem; from the city of David…the character of Nathaniel makes him a person that cannot be deceived easily. Yet he did not dismiss the Person who came to him and he came to the Lord with that great desire that he felt towards Him. Inwardly, he felt that Philip might have been mistaken about the place (and not about the Person)1. St. John Chrysostom Fr. Bede believes that the word ‘Nazareth’ is appropriately used to refer to the mysteries of the Lord for it could be translated as ‘about purity’ or ‘his flowering’ or ‘separate.’ For the Lord is the holy Savior of the world who is wholly pure and He is apart or separate from any sin. In the Song of Solomon are these words: ‘ I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys ’ (Sg of Sol. 2:1); and Isaiah the prophet speaks about Him and says: ‘There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse and a branch shall grow out of his roots’ (Isa.11: 1). Jesus saw Nathaniel coming toward Him and said of him: “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” [47]. The Lord praised him for being an honest Israelite that conveys that he is a real descendent of Jacob who struggled for the sake of the Lord and therefore deserved to be named ‘ Israel’ (Genesis 32: 28). By saying: “ An Israelite indeed…” the Lord conveyed that he deserved to be a descendent of Jacob as he not only believes in his God, but also worships Him and struggles to be loyal and sincere. By saying: “ …in whom there is no guile” the Lord indicates that in spite of the corruption that characterized the nation at that time yet Nathaniel loyally held on to his faith and way of life, walking righteously and in godliness. * It is as though the Lord is telling him: “ Although you are under the shadow of sin, yet I have chosen you.” As Nathaniel realized that he was there under the fig tree and no one else was there, he knew His divinity and answered: “ You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” These words were spoken by the one sitting under the fig tree yet he had not become a dry one for he knew the Lord2. St. Augustine ‘Nathaniel said to Him: How do you know me? Jesus answered and said to him: Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you “ [48]. What does the fig tree stand for? First: Fr. Bede sees that the fig tree sometimes refers to the sweetness of divine love. However, since our first parents made for themselves clothes from the fig leaves, it has come to indicate the tendency to sin and to cover up rather than seek divine sweetness. Hence ’ Nathaniel’ refers to ’God’s gift’; while this gift has become corrupted due to its tendency to sin 1 Hom. 20. PG 59: 116-117. 2 Sermon on N.T. Lessons, 39:5. https://coptic-treasures.com/ and to cover it up. Second: St. John Chrysostom believes the dialogue between Philip and Nathaniel occurred under the fig tree1. * In this instance the fig tree stands for sin…as you know , the first human being covered himself with fig leaves when he sinned. With these leaves they covered up their nakedness as they blushed on account of their sins (Genesis 3:7). What the Lord had created for them as members of their body, they turned into an object of shame. Had wickedness not been involved, nakedness would not have resulted in shame. St. Augustine * May Jesus look at me while I am still under the fruitless fig tree, and may my fig tree give forth fruit after three years (Lk 13:6). St. Ambrose ‘Nathaniel answered and said to Him: “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” [49]. When Nathaniel came in touch with the Lord Jesus Christ, he called Him ‘ Rabbi’, ‘Son of God’, and ‘King of Israel.’ The Lord had praised him for being an Israelite in whom there was no guile, and now Nathaniel bows down to accept Him to be King over himself and over all Israel. According to St. John Chrysostom, this recognition is incomplete. Nathaniel said: “ You are the King of Israel”; and he did not comprehend that He is King and Savior of the whole world. Although he had uttered the same words of Simon Peter: “ You are the Son of God” yet the Lord did not bless him as He did Simon Peter. Nathaniel did comprehend neither the divinity of the Lord nor His reality, for he believed He was just a sublime teacher. ‘Jesus answered and said to him: “ Because I said to you ‘ I saw you under the fig tree’ do you believe? You will see greater than these” [50]. Some believe that Nathaniel was in the habit of sitting under a fig tree, and do what some Jewish teachers did: sit and read the Holy book, meditate calmly, speak with God, pray for the redemption of his soul and of all Israel. The eyes of God are upon His children especially as they sit quietly to enjoy their meditation on God and on His redeeming acts. ‘And He said to him: “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open And the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” [51]. Some find that this imagery is taken from the procedures followed when a prince would visit a certain country: ambassadors would travel back and forth carrying messages from and to him. Similarly, the heavenly angels who are messengers will be sent to serve their King who has accepted to become incarnated and to walk on the earth as the Son of Man. While Nathaniel testifies: “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel” [49], the Lord humbly calls Himself “the Son of Man.” He may be speaking here about His second coming to judge the world. * Do you observe how the Lord lifts Nathaniel gradually upwards and away from the earth; leading him to discover that He is not just a mere person?! For how can He be a person when angels wait on Him and ascend and descend to serve Him. That is why the Lord tells him: “ You will see greater things than these” [50]. To confirm that meaning, He presented the service 1 Hom. 20. PG 59: 117 -118. https://coptic-treasures.com/ of the angels to Him. What the Lord intended to convey is this: ’Do you think that it is a great issue that you, Nathaniel, confess that I am the King of Israel? So what would you say about Me if you saw the angels ascending and descending for Me? By these sayings the Lord confirmed to Nathaniel that He is Lord over the angels for they descend and ascend as the servants of the Son of their true God. The angels descended and ascended at the time of the Lord’s crucifixion, at His resurrection, His ascension, and earlier when they came and served Him {Matt 4:11). At His birth, they came to deliver the message: “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men (Lk 2:11). They also appeared to Mary, and they came to Joseph1. St. John Chrysostom * If they descend and ascend to Him then he is there above and here below at the same time. They would not ascend and descend to Him if He were not in the place to which they ascended or here in the place to which they descended … Let us perceive the presence of the Lord above and below through Saul. The voice of the Lord Himself came to him from heaven saying: “ Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4) What?… From where is he speaking? From heaven, therefore He is there. But He asking “Why are you persecuting Me?” Then He is also down below (since Paul did not ascend to heaven in order to persecute Him)2. St. Augustine St. Augustine3 finds that our perception of the Lord Jesus Christ and of the angels ascending and descending to Him is far more important than our presence under the fig tree or under the shadow of death. Concerning the angels, they are messengers from the Lord and His disciples. For example, Paul ascended when he was taken up into the third heaven while he was in the body or out of it, he does not know, but he heard of matters, which cannot be uttered (2 Cor 12:2-4). He himself descended when he spoke to the people of Corinth who were not spiritual but physical and as children in the Lord who had to be fed with milk rather than with meat (1 Cor 3:1-20). The one who ascended to the third heaven for the sake of the Lord had to descend for His sake to the people. He had to speak to them in the language of immature children in the same way as mothers would speak to their young children. He ascended and descended and as he says: “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you” (2 Cor 5:13). St. Augustine says: [If the Lord Himself ascended and descended, then those who preach about Him ascend through coping Him and descend through preaching4.] ADDENDUM TO CHAPTER ONE DIVINE GRACE (GRACE for GRACE) 1 Homilies on St. John, Hom. 21. 2 Sermon on N.T. Lessons 72:6. 3 St. Augustine, On the Gospel of St. John, tractate 4 St. Augustine, On the Gospel of St. John, tractate https://coptic-treasures.com/ Throughout the whole of his Gospel, St. John the Evangelist presents to us the person of the incarnate divine Word as the Source flowing with infinite divine grace. That Source constantly continues to provide grace, especially the gift of creation and God’s adoption of mankind plus an endless list of other blessings. The Evangelist says: “ And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn 1:16- 17). Previously we have published a book in English about Divine Grace in the School of Alexandria. May the Lord enable us to translate and publish it soon. We would like to present here a simplified explanation of Divine Grace1. What does Grace mean? The fathers of the Eastern Church do not offer any definitions for any theological termssuch as grace or other terms. However, they write extensively about the action of grace and its role in the life of the believer from birth to the day he meets the Lord in the clouds. What occupies the mind of the Church, especially the Church of Alexandria, is the living experience and union with the Lord. This is the pledge for the enjoyment of eternal life. Therefore we are not surprised to find that Origen uses the name of ‘ Christ’ to refer to His gifts or His grace2. In other instances, he calls the Lord Jesus Christ ‘ the Kingdom in one Person.’ This is because anyone who enjoys the kingdom of God is actually enjoying the Divine Word Himself: He is the Giver of grace and the Provider of all needs. Benjamin Drewery has attempted to present a definition of divine grace by studying the many writings of Origen. He states that we could presume that had we asked Origen to provide a definition for grace he would have responded as follows:‘ Grace is the power God grants freely; yet it is not granted unconditionally. It is offered to mankind so that through that power redemption leads us to a new life achieving sublime heights. This new life is proclaimed and mapped in the Holy Bible and through the incarnate Lord Jesus Christ: for through Him His kingdom is set up in the world’ 3. Grace and the Word of God When we are covered by divine grace we are embraced by the sublime love of God that we cannot measure in terms of height, breadth, depth, or height. We just have to read the Holy Bible in order to absorb God’s wonderful promises. God has indeed created mankind to communicate with Him face to face. Our first parents enjoyed hearing God’s voice as they walked in Paradise (Gen. 3:8). However, when man turned his back to the Source of Grace, God did not abandon him but gave him the Law in order to raise him to attain the wealth of His grace. The Holy Bible is not merely some paper with printed words but behind these there exists a live meeting with the incarnate Word. Whoever enjoys the grace of comprehending the mysteries of the Holy Bible enjoys * It is impossible to receive any good thing when we are away from God. An above all benefit is the understanding of the Holy Book that is written by inspiration1. * Not all are able to comprehend the spiritual content granted by the Law. Only those who have been granted the grace of the Holy Spirit can attain the Word of wisdom and knowledge2. * Let us pray God to open up our minds to the Lord Jesus Christ so that the Word grows within us and enable us to comprehend His holy words. 1 Fr Tadros Y Malaty: Divine Grace, 1992 2 Benjamin Drewery, p. 109. 3 Drewery: Origen and the Doctrine of Grace, London1960, p. 48. 1 Sel. Ps. 1:2. 2 De Pricipiis, perf.8. https://coptic-treasures.com/ * Many strive to interpret the Holy Bible… but not all succeed because God has granted this grace to only a few3. Origen * ‘My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag Behold he stands behind a wall He is looking through the windows, Gazing through the lattice’ (Song of Sol. 2:9)… This verse could be interpreted as follows: From now on, do not speak to me using the symbols of the prophets and the law. So that I can see you, appear to me so that I may come and enter into the Rock, the Holy Bible, and leave behind me the wall of the Law. So that I may hear you, let your Voice ring in my ears. If Your voice sounds so very sweet as it flows from the windows of the prophets, seeing Your beautiful face will bring so much more love and joy!! The bride comprehended the mystery of the Rock in the Bible for the Word led her there by various ways and means (Heb 1:11) while He was standing by the window. Now, she wants Him, the Bridegroom, to appear in the flesh so as to see God incarnated and to hear His divine promises of eternal joy for all the deserving ones. Note how the words of Simon conform to the desire of the bride: “ Lord now you are letting Your servant depart in peace according to Your word, for my eyes have seen Your salvation” (Lk 2: 29,30). Simon saw what the bride wanted to see. Similarly, all those who have accepted the sweet Voice of the Lord have acknowledged the grace offered in the Bible and have cried: “ Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…” (Jn. 6: 28)4. St. Gregory of Nyssa The Grace of the Creation In our interpretation of the expression ‘grace for grace’ we have seen how God the Father of all mankind spreads His hands to grant everyone grace out of His generosity. It is true that there are blessings that are shared by all mankind, but there is also the special blessing or grace that the people of God have enjoyed in the past through faith and through the Law of Moses. However, what the Incarnate Word of God offers through the Cross exceeds all thought: it is the treasure of blessings available to each one who accepts and responds to Him. Probably, the first blessing that mankind has enjoyed is the ‘creation.’ St. Athanasius the Apostolic speaks extensively about the grace of the creation. God has not only created mankind into being out of nothing, but He created and blessed him by the grace of being in His image and likeness. Hence men should feel indebted to Him for all their lives. In this way men can experience a heavenly ‘paradise like’ life, and comprehend the mystery of knowing God and communicating with Him. Consequently, a person emulates Him and sees and lives eternally with Him. St. Athanasius explains the work of the Word (the Logos) the Creator who grants the grace of making us in the image and likeness of God. He has redeemed this nature by renewing it after it was corrupted. * As long as we preserve this divine feature ‘Tautotis’ we will never lose the feeling of God’s presence; or stop leading a life of fellowship with the saints. As we regain the grace that God grants us we come to possess the special power coming from the Word of God the Logos. We find joy as we speak with God and lead a truly blessed and eternal life where there is no pain and no death. Since no obstacle will prevent us from divine knowledge we will constantly 3 In Jer. hom.6:3. 4 Sg of Sol. Fr Gregory of Nyssa, translated by Dr George Nawar, Sermon 5. https://coptic-treasures.com/ perceive, through our being pure1, the Image of God- that is God the Logos- who has created us in His image and likeness. We will be astonished constantly as we comprehend God’s plan for the creation through the Logos. Consequently, we ascend sublimely above all that is physically tangible and we get engaged in the divine truths that are real2 in the heavens through the power of the mind. Only when our minds are not preoccupied by any external or other physical matters that arise out of the desires of our bodies is this possible. Indeed, our minds will have become perfectly sublimated and perfected in the same way as they had been created in the beginning. As we put aside all tangible and human matters, we ascend to the highest heavens; and as we behold the Logos we see in Him the Father, the Father of the Logos, and experience the overwhelming joy of this revelation and our yearning for him is renewed. This is similar to the condition of the first man created and named Adam (according to the Hebrew language). The Holy Bible tells us that at the beginning Adam’s mind was focused on God and he was never turned down. He lived in fellowship with the saints as he contemplated on the real facts that he learned in that place which holy Moses named symbolically as ‘Paradise.’ At that time, the soul was truly pure and able to perceive God Himself and consequently see itself as in a mirror. This is according to the Lord’s words as He says: “ Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God”3. Fr Athanasius the Apostolic The Grace of Freedom God has granted our reasoning nature the freedom of will. He has blessed mankind with the power to define his needs in order to implement goodness in our lives. There is no forcing or involuntary action but all is the result of our own free choice. The enjoyment of free will leads us to the discovery of great truths. Naturally, if we abuse this free will we become, according to the words of the apostle, like the one who has invented evil things (Romans 1: 30). Everyone who proceeds from the Father is our brother, but as for those who refuse to join in doing good deeds then he has come to that of his own free will4. St. Gregory of Nyssa The Grace of the Law The law, whether we are speaking about natural law or the Law of Moses, is in itself a great grace. It is offered by God to prepare the way for the grace of Holy Bible. Yet there is no point of comparison between the shadow and the reality. * The grace we have is not like the one given to them (the Jews). For we have received not just forgiveness for sins; but also righteousness, sanctification, adoption, and the Holy Spirit that overflows with brightness as well as joy and wealth. By such grace we yearn for God as we are privileged to be His children and friends and not as slaves. St. John describes this condition as having ‘grace for grace.’ Even the things that pertain to the law are considered to be a grace…since mankind have accepted the law as an expression of kindness, forgiveness, love and grace1. * There was sanctification, and now there is the sanctification There was baptism, and now there is the baptism 1 This refers to the purity of man’s first condition. (refer to Dr Wahib Kozman: Grace according to St. Athanasius- Center for Studies of the Fathers, Cairo, 1993 2 That can be comprehended by the sublime mind, free from physical sensations, as that enjoyed by the heavenly ones. 3 The Gospel to the Atheists: Fr Morcos Daoud, Ch.2: 2-4. 4 Sg of Sol. By Fr Gregory of Nyssa; translated by Dr George Nawar, Sermon 2. 1 Hom. 14 PG 59:81. https://coptic-treasures.com/ There was sacrifice and now there is the Sacrifice There was an altar, and now there is the altar In the same way, there was grace but now there is the grace. In the first instance the words had symbolic value while in the second instance they indicate truths carried by the same Voice but not bearing the same meaning2. St. John Chrysostom The Grace of Recovering What We Had Lost When man lost his likeness to God his life became an unbearable hell. Paradise became a prison and the earth grew thorns and thistles. However, the grace of God would not remain as a helpless onlooker whatever the cost would be. Even if that meant that the Word had to become incarnate and proclaim His love by accepting death and the crucifixion. In this manner, He would grant us the joy of the resurrection, the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, and His Holy Spirit gives back God’s likeness in us. * Therefore, how can this materialize? Who can be called upon to retrieve such grace other than the Word of God who, at the beginning, has created all things out of nothing? The truth is that He alone is involved in transforming that which is corrupted into incorruption and above all in achieving God’s will. Besides, He is the Word of God the Father who is above all; He alone has power to retrieve what has been lost and to restore it to everyone; He alone can suffer for everyone’s sake, and He alone can be everyone’s Intercessor before God3. St. Athanasius the Apostolic The Grace of Resurrection and Victory over Death The Lord Jesus Christ tells Martha: “ I am the Resurrection.” The body of Lazarus had suffered corruption as he had been dead for four days. In the same manner, corruption is present in every soul and body for man reeks from corruption due to death under sin. Therefore the “Resurrection’ has come to grant us Himself and thus can enjoy fellowship with Him. He can liberate us from the power of death and no corruption can befall us. Through the power and victory He grants us we sing with Paul the Apostle: “ O death where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin…but thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15: 55-57). This is the grace of Resurrection. * For the incarnate Logos to restore the state of incorruption to those who fell into corruption, and in order to raise them from the state of death, the Lord Jesus Christ had to put on their body. In this manner he could vanquish death and remove it through the grace of His resurrection, like fire that devours grass1. * Death has truly died…it is no longer disturbing. On the contrary, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ tread on death as they have no issue with it. Indeed, they would rather die than deny their faith in the Lord. This is all because they know that they will not expire through death and that they will live through the resurrection and become incorruptible2. St. Athanasius the Apostolic. The Grace of God the Father’s Adoption The divine Word is the Son by nature, born of the Father and Light from Light. Through 2 Hom. 14 PG 59:79. 3 The Incarnation of the Word 7: 4,5. 1 The Incarnation of the Word 8: 4. 2 The Incarnation of the Word 27:2 https://coptic-treasures.com/ Him we receive the grace of God the Father’s Adoption: * God commanded us to be baptized ‘ in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit‘ (Matt 28:19). He did not command us to be baptized in the name of the ‘ Creator and the created.’ Although we are one of the creatures, yet we become perfected (through baptism) and consequently become His Children3. St. Athanasius the Apostle * If someone among you is enslaved to sin, let him be totally prepared, through faith, for the new birth in freedom and adoption. By discarding slavery to corrupt sin and resolving to be slaves to the redeeming God, we become worthy of inheriting the kingdom of heaven… “Put off …the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts…”(Eph 4:22) by confession, in order “ to put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created Him,” (Col 3: 10). Through faith you will receive “ …the Spirit …as a pledge,” (2 Cor 1:22) and you will consequently be received into the everlasting habitations (refer to Lk 16:22). Come so that you may receive the mysterious seal whereby the Lord will clearly recognize you; and be counted as one of Christ’s spiritually sanctified flock. You will be assigned to sit on His right and inherit the life He has prepared for you. As for those who are dressed in the defiled clothes of sin, they will stay on His left for they have not come through Christ to receive God’s grace by being born anew through baptism. By being born again I mean a new spiritual birth of the soul. Our tangible parents give us a physical birth but our spirits are born anew through faith. Since‘ the Spirit blows where it wishes…’, and if your conscience is no longer smeared by the sin of deceit4, you will be found worthy to hear the Voice saying: “Well done, good and faithful servant…” (Matt 25:21). St. Cyril of Jerusalem The Grace of the Holy Spirit The event of the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ has often occupied the heart of St. Cyril the Great. He considers that the whole Church is the Body and Christ is the Head. Although the Holy Spirit belongs to the Lord and is inseparable from Him as they are of one essence, yet He descended upon the Lord at His baptism to allow the Church to enjoy the Spirit too. Hence the grace of the Holy Spirit is a gift to His Church and to each of her members from the Giver of all blessings and gifts. He has granted us the grace of the Holy Spirit that reproofs us for sin, condemns the enemy of goodness who seeks our destruction, and grants us Christ’s righteousness. He offers us the Truth - i.e. Christ the Lord-, renews our nature, leads us in the Way - that is Jesus Christ, and unites us with God according to the rights we have received through Christ’s Blood. Indeed, the Holy Spirit grants us fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ and the heavenly ones as well as with one another. * In the same way, the words of the Psalmist can be interpreted (Ps 44: 7-8) to indicate that had the Logos not anointed Himself with the Spirt, we could not have become partners with the Holy Spirit, nor could we be sanctified. For the incarnated Word who grants the Holy Spirit anointed Himself with the Spirit for our sakes. Therefore it is we who have received the Holy Spirit when it was reported that he had been anointed in the flesh. His Body was first sanctified when He was conceived to be man and then His Body received the Spirit. As a result, we receive 3 The Letter Opposing Followers of Arius 1:1:42 4 Essay 2:1. https://coptic-treasures.com/ the grace of the Holy Spirit as we take from Him the ‘ fullness of the Lord’1. St. Athanasius the Apostle * The Spirit is poured upon us; whereas in the case of the Lord Jesus Christ, who was in the image of man, the Spirit settled upon Him…in our case, the generosity of the Giver provides fullness, whereas the fullness of the Holy Spirit lives in a perfect state within the Lord Jesus Christ forever. He pours within us according to our needs and what He grants is neither separated nor divided. In contrast, the Lord possesses the whole and perfect unity with the Spirit that enlightens the vision of our hearts and shines according to our ability of endurance. Ultimately, we receive as much as our progressive minds demand in order to achieve the fullness of the intangible Holy Spirit. Yet He contributes by working within us and according to the potentials of our nature2. St. Ambrose The Grace of Fellowship in the Divine Nature The Word of God put aside His own Self and put on the image of a slave in order to grant us the power of attaining sublime inner glory. In this manner we become the object of God’s joy as He finds His kingdom set up within us. The heavenly ones also rejoice for us as they glorify God for the richness of this sublime grace. As we experience daily this inner glory in spite of the bitter storms of this world, we get to perceive the wondrous heights of glory that will be attained when we meet our heavenly Bridegroom upon the clouds. We will then carry His image and be received as a heavenly bride and as a queen seated at the right hand of the King of kings. This is the grace of fellowship in the divine nature and that works within our inner depths. * What a wondrous mystery! The Lord yeilds to descend, and man ascended! * The Apostle says: ‘ Know ye not that ye are the temple of God…’ (1 Cor 3:16). The Gnostic (the believer who possesses true spiritual knowledge) is, accordingly, divine since he becomes actually sanctified, and carring God while also being carried by Him. * The Holy Spirit is God’s farmer as He grants us to be heirs of the great and divine Father. This task cannot be transferred to any other as He deifies us by granting us heavenly knowledge and setting His laws in our minds and inscribes them within our hearts1. St. Clement of Alexandria * The Word of God became Man, in order to teach man how to become a god2. * The Lord Jesus Christ shared our humanity with us in order to grant us a wealth of His riches3. Pope Cyril the Great * It is said that the Lord Jesus Christ as a man received what he always possessed as a God. We too could receive this grace that was granted to Him. Indeed, the Logos did not diminish by taking on the flesh and by seeking to receive grace. He not only deified that flesh that He put on but further granted that grace of the Holy Spirit to mankind4. St. Athanasius the Apostle * David, as a renewed person, rightly screamed to God “ Then will I go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy…” (Ps 43:4). He also said that he had grown old among his 1 The Letter Opposing Followers of Arius 1:1:50 2 Of the Holy Spirit 1:8:93. 1 Protr. 11:3; Stromata 7:13; Protr.11. 2 Pret. 1. 3 In Luc. (Conc. The Temptation of Jesus Christ. 4 The Letter Opposing Followers of Arius 1:1:34. https://coptic-treasures.com/ enemies…and here he says that his youth has been renewed after experiencing old age and man’s fallen state. For we have received renewal through baptism and through the Holy Spirit poured within us; and we shall also be renewed through the resurrection. As David says in another passage: “ So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s…” (Ps 103:5). Therefore know the way in which we are renewed: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow…” (Ps 50: 7). And in Isaiah: “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Is. 1:18). Anyone who gets changed and moves away from darkness- the darkness of sin- to the light of virtue and to grace, has been renewed truly. That is how a person who was previously smeared with foolish corruption now brightly shines whiter than snow5. St. Ambrose * The Lord Jesus Christ says: “ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets, and those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her children under her wings, and you were not willing! (Matt 23:37). These words are consistent with our assumption that the Divine Nature has wings, and this is what the holy inspired passage states for a mysterious and unknown purpose. Since we know that the first man was created in the image of God and in His Likeness in every thing (Gen 1:26), then we may deduce that the first man was created with wings in order to be like the Divine Nature. It also becomes clear that the word ‘ wings’ could refer to God, and they represent His power, grace, incorruption and everything divine. Man possesses all these qualities as long as he is like God in every way. However, our tendency to be evil has deprived us of our wings (We were not under the protection of God’s wings, and our own wings were torn away from us). Therefore the grace and blessings of God appeared to us and enlightened our minds. Hence we could grow wings by being pure and righteous and after despising worldly desires and turning to God wholeheartedly1. St. Gregory of Nyssa The Grace of Acquiring the Life of the Lord Jesus Christ * Through the generosity of Him who grants us the greatest of all gifts: His own life2. St. Clement of Alexandria * (When He became man) we have become enabled to acquire Him, in that way and in grandeur and with the same nature which belongs to Him, if we prepare a worthy place for Him within our souls. * The Lord Jesus Christ, who is all virtuous, and speaks on the principle that the kingdom of God is within His disciples and is neither here nor there3. Origen The Grace of the Fragrant Smell of the Lord Jesus Christ * This is how St. Paul likened the bride who shares the virtues of the bridegroom. He likened His fragrance to the beauty that cannot be approached. Of the fruits of the Spirit is love, joy, peace and all the like. He made his fragrance and became worthy to be ‘ a sweet savor of Christ’ (2 Cor 2:15). St. Paul inhaled this incomprehensible grace that surpassed all blessings, and offered himself to others as a sweet fragrance out of which they could draw according to their capacity. It depends upon each person’s determination. St. Paul the apostle 5 Prayer of David, Book 4:9:35. 1 Sg of Sg of Sol by St. Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa. Translated into Arabic by Dr George Nawar, Sermon 15. 2 Paedageogus 1:9. 3 Comm. On John, Book 10:4. Com. On Matt. Book 12:14. https://coptic-treasures.com/ became a fragrance, whether in his life or death. If we were to place the same fragrance before a beetle and a pigeon, the effect will not be the same on both: whereas the pigeon may become stronger upon inhaling it, the beetle may die on the spot. The same applies in the case of the holy fragrance and with the great apostle St. Paul who responded like the pigeon4. St. Gregory of Nyssa The Grace of Virtue * We truly can describe the soul of St. Paul as a spiritual paradise as it bears the seeds of virtue for grace flourished deeply within him. Moreover, he constantly prepared his depths to enable his growth and development in grace. And when he became a chosen vessel he worked hard to purify himself. Consequently, he became worthy to have the Holy Spirit richly poured into him. In this manner, we are provided with multiple and wonderful rivers. It is not only the four rivers that sprang in Paradise, but there are many other rivers that flow every day. It is for everyone of us to drink from them- it is not only for the earth - but for the human souls too making them fertile for the growth of virtue1. St. John Chrysostom * May the Lord God grant us the grace of humility that saves man from many diseases and shields him from many trials2. Fr, Dortheous of Gaza * By the grace of God, and since I have left the world, I have not yet uttered one word that I am sorry to have said3. Fr. Bamboo * None of God’s gifts to mankind have been offered as a payment of a debt, but it has been all offered through grace4. Origen The Grace of the Father and the Son Granting Divine grace is one Divine act: it is the work of the Holy Trinity who loves mankind. The Father grants His grace generously through the divine Word that is the power and wisdom of God. He offers grace to us through the Holy Spirit who is the spirit of power and wisdom. For Divine grace is grace of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit doing the one work of the Holy Trinity. * It is impossible for the Father to offer grace and not to grant grace through the Son; for the Son exists in the Father. This is just like finding the rays in the sunlight. Yet this doesn’t reflect a need or a weakness in God but it does indicate the Father who ‘ has established the earth through His wisdom’ (Prov. 3: 19). He made all things through the Word that was born from Him and He brands the holy washing (by the baptism) in Jesus Christ. He has created all things through His Word- the Logos Himself – and fulfilled the holy wash in the Son. The Son is found wherever the Father is. This is just as true as finding the rays wherever the light is found. This explains why Jesus promised the holy disciples saying: “…We will come to Him and make our home with him…” (Jn 14:23); and “ that they also may be one in Us…just as We are one…” (Jn 17:21, 22). This indicates that grace is one and granted by the Father through the Son. St. Paul explains this in all his letters: “ Grace to you and peace from God our Father and 4 Sg of Sg of Sol by St. Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa. Translated into Arabic by Dr George Nawar, Sermon 2. 1 Praises of St. Paul, Hom 1. 2 Translated into Arabic from St. Kiriakos the Archmandrite: St Dortheous: Spiritual Teachings, Essay 2. 3 Benedicta Ward, p. 197. 4 Comm. Rom. 22 on 4: 4 f. https://coptic-treasures.com/ the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom.1: 7; 1Cor 1:3; Eph. 1:2)5. * For there is one grace proceeding from the Father through the Son just as there is one light proceeding from the sun and its rays. Moreover, just as the sun shines through its rays, so does St. Paul send- in the same manner- his wishes to the people of Thessalonica and says: “ Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you…” (1 Thes.3: 11). Consequently, the unity of the Father and the Son is maintained. St. Paul does not say: (God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ) “both grant” which would make it appear that the nature of grace proceeds from a dual source and granted by two entities- i.e. granted by each separately. Note that he uses the word ‘ grants Katavtheinai’ in order to underline that the Father grants grace through the Son. Therefore this ‘one grace’ reveals the unity of the Father and the Son; and that all that is granted comes through the Son. There is nothing that the Father does without the Son and the grace that is granted in this manner is assured to those who accept it1. St. Athanasius the Apostolic The Grace of the Inheritance of the Kingdom of God God created us so that we may enjoy immortality with Him who is our Father, and that we may have a place in His divine embrace. This is what preoccupied the heart and thoughts of the Lord Jesus Christ as He carried the shame of the Cross on our behalf: so that we may be granted the gift of His kingdom forever. Indeed, our Lord continues today to prepare for each of us a place for He is concerned about our eternal inheritance. * How have we received grace ‘ before time infinite’ and while we were not even born? Yet we have been born at a time that, had grace not been deposited in the Lord, it would not have come to us. Consequently, on the Day of Judgment, when each one will receive according to his work, the Lord will say: “ Come you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world (Matt 25; 34). Then how and through whom has this kingdom been prepared before the time of our creation? It can only be through the Lord: through Him and for this purpose the kingdom has been created before all time. By establishing us on that kingdom as an integral stone we are enabled to participate in the life and grace that He grants us2. St. Athanasius the Apostolic When St. John Chrysostom speaks to us about the grace of the Inheritance of the Kingdom he underlines that in this eternal kingdom we will enjoy the grace of being incorruptible. This does not mean that we will be deprived of our body that has shared in the strife with the soul and that has been sanctified through the action of the Holy Spirit. Rather, it means that the body will be cleaned from all traces of corruption and will bear the nature of being incorruptible and so be appropriately ready for eternal life. * He wishes to say: I take off that which is foreign to me, and the flesh is not foreign, but it is corruption that is foreign. Consequently, he says: We do not wish to take it off (i.e. the tent of the body) but we wish to put over it - that is to wear it- that which is incorruptible. Therefore, we take off the corruptible and put on the incorruptible; for we wish to despise what came as a result of sin. At the same time, we attain all that which the divine grace has granted to us. In order to understand that what we put away does not refer to the body but rather refers to corruption and to death, listen to what it latter on says immediately after that: “ For we do not 5 The Letter Opposing Followers of Arius 1:2:41-42. 1 The Letter Opposing Followers of Arius 1:3:11-12. 2 The Letter Opposing Followers of Arius 1:2:67. https://coptic-treasures.com/ want to take it off but we want to put on over it.” He did not say: ‘ So that that which is not carnal may devour that which is carnal.’ So what did he say? “ So that that which is dead may be devoured by life.” Therefore he is actually speaking about dismantling death and corruption rather than dismantling the body or the flesh…For life which comes to the body through (the resurrection) will not destroy it. Indeed, corruption and death that are found in the body are the destructive forces. Therefore we groan due to the corruption that exists in the body and not due to the body in itself. The body is a heavy burden. This is not the result of its inherent nature but because of the corruption that entered into it later on. Moreover, the body in itself was not created to become corrupt but rather to be incorruptible. Besides the body still retains this feature even though it has become susceptible to corruption. This explains why the shadow of the apostles pursued the ethereal spirits. Even the clothes they wore healed the sick and restored their health. Do not tell me about the diseases of the body and other matters claimed by the opponents of the body; for all these things were not part of the nature of the body: they resulted from the corruption that entered into it later on. If you desire to know the reality and worth of the body, study carefully how each member has been created, shaped, the intricacy of their functions and how they are coordinated and work harmoniously. Then you will be assured that such a performance is more ideal than the performance of any city that respects its laws and all its citizens are wise1. St. John Chrysostom The Grace of Being Immortal in Him * For now the Word has become Man and has taken on all that pertains to the body, yet these aspects no longer affect the body since the Logos has resided within them and they have been destroyed through Him. Therefore mankind is no longer sinful and dead according to their own inclinations for they have risen according to the power of the Logos. Thus they remained incorruptible and unvanquished by death forever. When the Lord Jesus Christ took on a body from St. Mary the mother of God, it was said that He was born although He is the One who grants the origin of life to others. Now He Himself has come to represent our origin so that we might not return to earth as being mere dust of the earth. For once we have become united with the Logos He has transferred all the other weaknesses of the body to Himself and thus granting us to participate in eternal life not as human beings but as someone who belongs to the Logos. We no longer die on account of Adam and according to our first creation. For our origin and the weakness of our flesh has been transferred to the Logos. We now rise from the dust since He has washed the curse of sin away who lives within us and Who has become a curse for our sakes. For we all who are of dust die on account of Adam. However, we have been renewed from above and the origin of our nature has been restored to us through the water and the Spirit. We have been revived through the Lord Jesus Christ and our bodies are no longer earthly. Indeed, it has become deified (as it has received the feature of the Logos). This is the result of the wisdom of God who for us became flesh2. * For if you oppose the issue of my liberation from the corruption in my nature, then be careful not to oppose the Word of God Who has lifted up from me the image of slavery. It is He who became incarnate and became man and accordingly we have become deified by the Logos. 1 A Translation by Dr Said Hakim (The Orthodox Center for the Study of the Fathers- Cairo): PG 50:417-432. 2 The Letter Opposing Followers of Arius 1:3:33. https://coptic-treasures.com/ Therefore He has carried us in Him through the flesh and as a result we have become heirs to eternal life from now on3. St. Athanasius the Apostolic The Grace of Knowing and Enjoying the Divine Truth God Almighty has created man with a yearning to become acquainted with the eternal and unchanging truth. The Lord Jesus Christ presented Himself as ‘The Truth’ and the person who receives Him consequently enjoys knowing the truth which is a free and divine grace. * ‘We know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life (1Jn 5:20). And God adopted us that we became His children through the Lord Jesus Christ and through grace for we share His Spirit since ‘…as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name’ (Jn 1: 12). Thus, the Son is the Truth and He says accordingly: “ I am the Truth”; and when He speaks to the Father He says: “ Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (Jn 14:6; 17:17). By speaking with Him, we become righteous and we become His children1. * It is evident that mankind is truly ignorant. The Logos, however, being Himself God the Word knows all things even before they occur. For when He became man He did not cease to be God, and He did not stay away from the concerns of man due to His being God. On the contrary, being God He became incarnate and in this way He deified that flesh. To answer all questions He resurrected the dead revealing that He who restores life and spirit to the dead ultimately possesses the secrets of everyone. He actually knows where Lazarus lay, for He is the Logos and the totally holy God who for our sake bore all things; but He still asks so that by partaking of our ignorance He grants us the grace of Knowledge. It is the grace of knowing His Father, the only true one, and of knowing that He is the Son who has been sent to redeem us all: what grace can be greater than this? 2 St. Athanasius the Apostolic * ‘Thus my heart was grieved, and I was vexed in my mind. I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before you. Nevertheless I am continually with You’ (Ps.73: 21- 22)…That is how man appears: he is like a stray beast compared to - not Christ - but even to the angels. However, even if this is the case, we need not despair for the Lord ‘preserves both man and beast’ (Ps36: 6). Therefore, since I have learned through You and not through my own resources, I adhere to You constantly in order to stop being a beast. At this point You will tell me: “But as for you, stand here by Me…!”(Deut. 5:31). When man, due to his ignorance becomes arrogant and assuming - and that is comparable to bestiality; he has to start anew and become a man. This occurs when he is embraced by the grace of God. He will be enabled through reason and grace to prove that he is a human being by that very act. Consequently, he will rejoice for he has become separated from the stray beasts, and will have become one with those that God supports and protects. For what is man but he of whom the Lord is ‘ mindful’ (Ps 8:4) 3. St. Ambrose * The strings of ignorance can quickly be removed through human faith and divine grace. 3 The Letter Opposing Followers of Arius 1:3:34 1 The Letter Opposing Followers of Arius 1:3:19. 2 The Letter Opposing Followers of Arius 1:3:38 3 Prayer of David, Book 3. https://coptic-treasures.com/ Our sins too are erased through the medicine of God’s Word. Hence all our sins are washed away and we are no longer attracted or confused when faced by sinful ways. We do not go back to the old nature we had before being washed since knowledge comes hand in hand with enlightenment: in one moment we, who are ignorant, hear that we have become the disciples of the Lord. All instruction leads to faith, and we learn faith as we get baptized by the Holy Spirit. That faith is the one and ultimate salvation for all mankind. St. Clement of Alexandria The Grace of Being Steadfast in the Father and the Son * ‘By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit’ (1 Jn.4: 13). Due to the grace of the Holy Spirit that has been granted to us we abide in God and He abides in us. The indication here is that through the coming of the Spirit of God to abide within us, we too are counted to be in God and He in us for we have the Spirit. However, we do not abide in the Father in the same manner as the Son who exists in the Father. The Son is not a partaker of the Spirit in order to abide in the Father as a result. Moreover, He does not receive the Holy Spirit in the same manner that we do. Rather, it is the Son who grants the Holy Spirit to everyone. The Holy Spirit does not tie the entity of the Logos to the Father but, to be more precise, it is the Holy Spirit that receives from the Logos. Note that the Son abides in the Father as He is the Father’s own Word and the rays issuing from Him; whereas we are strangers to God if we lack the Holy Spirit or are estranged from Him. When we partake of the Holy Spirit we become united to God. As a result, we abide in the Father, not by our own merit but through the Holy Spirit that is within us. We have to strive to keep Him through confession and St. John says accordingly: ’Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of Go, God abides in him, and he in God’ (1 Jn. 4:15) 1. St. Athanasius the Apostolic The Grace of Contentment and Joy * ‘My tears have been my food day and night while they continually say to me “ Where is your God? ” (Ps 42:3). Tears are appropriately called bread/food here for there is a hunger for righteousness. “ Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled (Matt 5:6). On that account the tears become as bread since they strengthen and support a person’s heart (see Ps 104:15). See also the words written in the Septuagint that are relevant to this subject: ‘ Cast your bread upon the waters’ (Eccl 11: 1: LXX) for this is where the bread of heaven is found: where there is the water of grace. Truly, it is out of the hearts of those who believe in Him that living water flows (see Jn 7: 38; 10:4). They will receive help and encouragement from the divine Word as well as food of a mystical (internal) nature. Besides, this living bread (Jn 6:51) is found where tears and crying are the result of repentance: it is written: “ They shall come with weeping and with supplications I will lead them (Jer 31:9 LXX). Consequently, blessed are those whose tears are their bread for they deserve to laugh and according to His word “ blessed are you who weep!” (Lk 6:21) 2. * ‘I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast ’ (Ps 42:4). Truly, He cried because he lived on this earth while the heavenly places were waiting for him He would enter into the sanctuary of the Almighty at the right time (Ps 84:2,3,10). He has truly preferred and pursued this course above all the wealth of his kingdom. He testifies to that in another place where he says: One thing I 1 The Letter Opposing Followers of Arius 1:3:24 2 Prayer of David, Book 4:2:7. https://coptic-treasures.com/ have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to behold the beauty of the Lord (Ps 27: 4). The beauty of the Lord is found in His Church. The Church is the icon of heaven: after the shadow passes away the icon truly appears clearly (refer to Heb 10:1; Col 2:17)…and the shadow is the Jewish Council that includes the Law; whereas the truth resides in the Gospels. That is why the icon of truth shines in the light of the Gospels. This explains why the Psalmist wept as the blessings were withheld although they were abundant and perfectly available with grace and joy3. St. Ambrose The Grace of Light * The soul crosses over from falsehood to the truth, and replaces the image of her dark life by one of ultimate grace. St. Paul the apostle and bride of out Lord Jesus Christ crossed over from such darkness and into the light. He tells his disciple Timothy, just as a bride would tell her bridesmaids, that he has become worthy to be beautiful even though he was previously a ’blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man’ (1 Tim. 1:13). He also says that the Lord came into the world to give light to those sitting in darkness. The Lord did not call the righteous but sinners to repentance; and thus they shone ‘ as lights in the world’ (Phil 2:15). This occurs through the second birth that washes away the earlier dark image1. * The queen of Ethiopia visited King Solomon after hearing about his wisdom. She offered him presents of gold, precious stones, and perfumes (1 Kgs. 10:1-3). The secret behind this visit is revealed through studying the wonders of the Holy Bible. It is important to know that the Church arose from a dark community and from among nations that worshipped idols. These lived without any knowledge of God and were separated from Him by an enormous gulf of ignorance. However, when the light of the grace of God and His wisdom shone, He sent the rays of the True Light to those sitting in darkness and the shadow of death. However, Israel shut its eyes to the Light and rejected any fellowship with goodness. In contrast, the Ethiopians, from among the heathen, hurried into the faith. Those who were far away drew close after they had washed themselves of the darkness by the holy water. The Holy Spirit led them to God and they presented gifts to the King: incense for asceticism and worship, gold for recognition of God the King, and precious stones for the commandments and acts of virtue2. St. Gregory of Nyssa The Grace of Preaching and Witnessing * Why were the angels not sent to preach the Gospel? So that man would not have an excuse for his laziness and carelessness. He would have justified himself by claiming that human nature is different than that of angels for that is a great difference. It is truly strange that the word pronounced by an earthly tongue has the power to uproot death, forgive sins, restore sight to the blind, and transform the earth into a heaven. This leads me to wonder about God’s power. Besides, my wonder and respect increase for Paul’s zeal to attain this grace and to orient and prepare himself in order to be worthy to receive it. I encourage you to follow this high example of virtue rather than simply be amazed. In this manner you will also become worthy to share with him his crown. Do not be surprised to know that it is possible for anyone to become a servant like St. Paul if he follows his example and leadership. Then that person will repeat in his heart St. Paul’s words: “ I have fought the 3 Prayer of David, Book 4:2:9. 1 Sg of Sol by St. Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa. Translated into Arabic by Dr George Nawar, Sermon 2. 2 Sg of Sol by St. Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa. Translated into Arabic by Dr George Nawar, Sermon 7. https://coptic-treasures.com/ good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing (2 Tim 4:7,8). Notice how he invites everyone to join him in his achievements and consequently in the reward that is also offered and extended to all. Let us all strive so as to prove ourselves worthy of receiving the blessings promised to us. Let us look at the greatness and glory of a virtuous life as well as meditate upon the fixed goal through which this grace will be attained. Let us be aware that Paul did not possess a nature that is different from ours in any way, for he was like us. This illustrates that what seems to be hard and impossible to us has become easy and light. For after a short time of struggle and work we too will wear the eternal crown of incorruption by the grace and goodness of the Lord Jesus Christ to whom is the glory and the power now and forever and to the end of all ages. Amen1. St. John Chrysostom * We now find him revealing an ecclesiastical role as he says that those who have been led by grace and have become witnesses for the Word do not conceal the truth or keep it to themselves. Rather, they preach it to those who have followed them. That is why the virgins tell the bride, who has met the truth face to face at first and enjoyed goodness and who has now deserved to become acquainted with the hidden mysteries: “ We will be glad and rejoice in you, we will remember your love more than wine” (Song of Sol 1:4)2. St. Gregory of Nyssa A Dynamic Grace For our benefit, the following is said of the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘ And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him’ (Lk 2:40). Also this verse: ‘And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men’ (Lk. 2:40). Origen comments: [He made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant (Phil. 2: 7)…by the same power used to empty Himself He also grew]. In this manner He brings us to the path of constant growth in grace. For the grace within us is the result of God’s constant and uninterrupted dynamic work. *The use of growth here refers to the growth of the body for through the growth of the body of the Lord Jesus Christ God is proclaimed all the more (through the humanity of the Savior) to those who see Him. And as His divinity becomes more apparent, the grace of His humanity increases as He stands as a person before all peoples. Thus as a child He was carried to the Temple, then as a young boy He remained there and discussed the Law with the priests so that ‘they were astonished at His understanding and answers’ (Lk 2:47)3. St. Athanasius the Apostolic * The Child Jesus grows in various ways within the hearts of those who receive and want Him to live in them: in wisdom, in stature, and in grace (Lk 2:52). The Lord lives within every pure heart yet in a different way and according to the stature of the person in whom He Lives. He reveals Himself according to the capacity of each one. He therefore appears as a Child or a youth or a mature person just as fruit appears on a branch. The Lord does not appear in the same way on the Vine for He changes His aspect as time goes by: first as a bud, then taking root, then maturing, blossoming, and finally turning into wine. 1 Praises of St. Paul, Hom. 2. 2 Sg of Sol by St. Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa. Translated into Arabic by Dr George Nawar, Sermon 1 3 The Letter Opposing Followers of Arius 1:3:52. https://coptic-treasures.com/ When the vine bears fruit it brings with it the promise: it is true that it is not yet ripe enough to give wine but He waits until it reaches the stage of ripeness. At the same time we are not deprived of joy for we are gladdened the sense of smell as an alternative to taste giving hints of what will be. Through the perfume of hope He grants sweetness to the senses of the soul. Steadfast faith in the hope for grace becomes a source of joy to us who are waiting patiently. Similarly, our energy and struggle bears the promise of wine. There is no wine but the seed of hope will take root and awaits grace which has not been granted as yet1. * Although the stage a person has reached now is really higher than where he was before yet this stage does not limit his progress: it becomes the beginning of discovering a higher grace. A person who ascends never stops for he constantly moves from one new point to the following one; and the starting points for higher grace are infinite. Therefore the desire of the ascending soul to find knowledge and to go to higher levels keeps increasing and continues to develop. This promotes progress towards the Infinite2. St. Gregory of Nyssa An All- Embracing Grace * “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some”(1 Cor 9:22). Divine grace is poured on both the righteous and the wicked (Matt.5: 45). Is He the God of the Jews only or is He also the God of the Gentiles? Indeed, He is the God of the Gentiles as well, and He is truly the One and only God (Rom. 3:29-30). This is what the sublime apostle proclaims3. St. Clement of Alexandria * Thanks be to God for although the grace of adoption had been limited to Israel it has now become a greater grace than all what was allocated for them. Now it has been poured over the Gentiles through the Lord Jesus Christ4. Origen * Here is another point to contemplate on: ‘Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart’ (Ps 73:1). Does this mean that God is not good to everyone else? He is truly good to all for He is the Savior of all mankind and particularly of believers. That is why the Lord Jesus Christ came: in order to save those who were lost (Lk 19:10). He has truly come to carry the sins of the world (Jn 1:29), and to heal our wounds, yet not all wish to be healed! Many avoid Him! Lest the leprosy be injected with medicine and so lose its power? He therefore heals those who wish to be healed and who do not reject Him. Those who wish to be treated regain their health. As for those who resist the Doctor and do not call Him, they will not enjoy His goodness since they have not tried Him! A person who has been healed regains health and the Doctor is good to those to whom health has been restored. Accordingly, God is good to those whose sins have been forgiven. Nevertheless, if a person has an incurable sin in his soul, how can he/she evaluate that the Doctor is good while at the same time he is avoiding Him? To reiterate what we have said earlier, the apostle explains, therefore, that God ‘ desires all men to be saved …’ (1 Tim 2:4), and that He is good to all men. Concerning the grace of 1 Sg of Sol by St. Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa. Translated into Arabic by Dr George Nawar, Sermon 1 2 Sg of Sol by St. Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa. Translated into Arabic by Dr George Nawar, Sermon 8 3 Stromata 5:3. 4 Comm. Matt. 10:22. https://coptic-treasures.com/ the goodness of God Himself, it is guaranteed to all believers. These receive assistance by His goodwill and grace. However, when the psalmist says: ‘ Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart…’ he is expressing the feelings of those who do not know how to enjoy what belongs to God specifically other than that He is good to all and abides in all1. St. Ambrose The Giver of Grace Prays for on our Account * When the Savior says “All authority has been given to Me…”(Matt 28: 18); and “ …glorify Your Son…”(Jn 17:1); and when Peter says: “…angels and authorities and subjects having been made subject to Him” (1 Peter 3:22), we need to understand all these passages in the same light. By that I mean that the Savior utters all these as a human being due to the flesh He has put on. Although He has no need for anything yet He has received everything as a human being and the words are reported as ones spoken by the Lord as one of mankind. Consequently, as much as the Lord has received, and as much as grace has rested on Him, it is preserved for us. When someone takes for himself alone there is the chance of his losing that which he has received. This occurred in the case of Adam for he lost what he had received. In order to make grace final - and never confiscated- and preserved for mankind, the Savior received it for Himself and stated that He received authority as a human being. This is the same authority He has always owned as a God. Hence He who grants glory to others prays: “ Glorify Me…” to indicate that He has a body that needs authority and glory. We conclude from this that when He put on the flesh it became the flesh of the Savior who became man in particular. That is why it is reported that it is the Savior who received what was granted to Him2. St. Athanasius the Apostolic * The Logos appeared among us to redeem mankind. He became incarnate in order to sanctify and deify us (that is why He became flesh). It therefore becomes clear to everyone that when he became flesh He received the gifts of the Holy Spirit for our sake and not for His own. For the gifts of the Holy Spirit that are granted by the Father through the Son are given for the benefit of that body that He put on all the while He spoke and dwelled among men. Let us meditate on the instructions that God demanded; and on what were these gifts that we are told He had been granted. Hopefully the heretics would regain their reason through such an exercise. We wonder that He prayed to be glorified (Jn 17: 1), yet He said: “All things have been delivered Me by My Father…” (Lk 10:22). After the Resurrection, the Lord says that He has received all authority on earth and in heaven (see Matt 28:18). Even before that He actually said: “All things were given to Me” for He is Lord of all for all things were made through Him” (Jn I: 3). We also find in! Cor 8:6 that there is ‘ one Lord Jesus Christ through whom are all things, and through whom we live.” When He prayed for glory, He was the Lord of glory as He always has been. St. Paul comments: “For had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory,”(1 Cor 2: 8). Also when He prays for glory, He says: “ …glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was”; He refers to the glory that He originally had before1. St. Athanasius the Apostolic 1 Prayer of David, Book 3. 2 The Letter Opposing Followers of Arius 1:3:38. 1 The Letter Opposing Followers of Arius 1 :3:39 https://coptic-treasures.com/ Inspirations drawn from The Gospel of John Chapter One My Heart Thirsts For You, O Giver of all Grace *How do I see You coming to our world While it is impossible for me to ascend to your heavens! It is Your love that made You come to Me, You who are the Word and Creator. You descended to earth to accompany me on my journey! *Your incarnation proclaimed your amazing love for me, My heart is moved and I thirst for You O giver of grace. You are my life and without You I do not exist. You are my light and without You I remain in the darkness of my corruption. You have counted me as one of yours, and have descended so that I may adhere to You! *By your sublime grace You have lifted me up Every grace from You draws me to enjoy a new flow of graces. You have created me into being from nothingness, You have granted me to be in Your image and likeness, You have offered me the law to assist me and it leads me to realize that I need You. And finally You have offered Yourself to me, O giver of all grace! You opened my eyes to behold the grandeur of Your glory! Your brilliance proclaims that You are the only Son of God! *My ears have been opened to hear the call, the voice crying in the wilderness! That voice that echoes as though in a vast wild desert, Yet it is a sweet voice that is a forerunner to You O divine Word. His voice proclaims the Truth, For You are eternal and One with Your Father. His voice proclaims his unworthiness to loosen Your sandal straps, For the mystery of Your incarnation remained until You completed the task of redemption on the Cross. Allow me to come and loosen the stings of Your shoes, So that Your Holy Spirit may reveal to me the mystery of Your salvation! * The unborn child John recognized You and shouted joyfully. Elizabeth heard his voice within her and her tongue sang in praise! Yet he did not consider this recognition of any value when he experienced Your baptism! He introduced You as the One who baptizes with the Fiery Holy Spirit. You alone are the One who washes the soul with a unique water, And inflames the heart with the fire of the Holy Spirit. *Your counterpart draw the eyes of all to You as he cried: Behold! The Lamb of God of whom the prophets wrote and yearned to see! This is the Lamb of God and the source of the Father’s joy! https://coptic-treasures.com/ *John was happy when his disciples were drawn to You to live with You. His soul rejoiced to see each one witness to You. Their hearts were moved to call one another to come to You. As with Nathaniel, they all left the shade of the dying fig tree, And came to see the angels ascending and descending around You! They saw the heavens opened and the heavenly hosts yearning to serve You! Indeed, my heart thirsts for You, I will not be satisfied by any other but You, O Source of all grace!

< Introduction CH 2 >

X