Early Church Fathers
John XVII. 24-26.
1. The Lord Jesus raises up His people to a great hope, than which there could not possibly be a greater. Listen and rejoice in hope, that, since the present is not a life to be loved, but to be tolerated, you may have the power of patient endurance amid all its tribulation.1 Listen, I say, and weigh well to what it is that our hopes are exalted. Christ Jesus saith, The Son of God, the Only-begotten, who is co-eternal and equal with the Father, saith: He, who for our sakes became man, but became not, like every man besides, a liar,2 saith: the Way, the Life, the Truth saith:3 He who overcame the world, saith of those for whom He overcame it: listen, believe, hope, desire what He saith: "Father," He says, "I will that they also whom Thou hast given me be with me where I am." Who are these who He says were given Him by the Father? Are they not those of whom He says in another place, "No man cometh unto me, unless the Father, who hath sent me, draw him"?4 We already know if we havemade any beneficial progress in this Gospel, how it is that the things which He says the Father doeth, He Himself doeth likewise along with the Father. They are those, therefore, whom He has received from the Father, whom He Himself has also chosen out of the world, and chosen that they may be no more of the world, even as He also is not of the world; and yet that they also may be a world that believeth and knoweth that Christ has been sent by God the Father that the world might be delivered from the world, and so, as a world that was to be reconciled unto God, might not be condemned with the world that lieth in enmity. For so He says in the beginning of this prayer: "Thou hast given Him power over all flesh," that is, over every man, "that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him." Here He makes it clear that He has indeed received power over all men, that, as the future Judge of quick and dead, He may deliver whom He pleases, and condemn whom He pleases; but that these were given Him that to all of them He should give eternal life. For so He says: "That He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him." Accordingly they were not given Him that from them He should withhold eternal life; although over them also the power has been given Him, inasmuch as He has received it over all flesh, in other words, over every man. In this way the world that has been reconciled will be delivered from the hostile world, when He putteth into exercise His power over it, to send it away into death eternal; but the other He maketh His own that He may give it everlasting life. Accordingly, to every one, without fail, of His own sheep the Good Shepherd, as to every one of His members the great Head, hath promised this reward, that where He is, there also we shall be with Him; nor can that be otherwise which the omnipotent Son declared to be His will to the omnipotent Father. For there also is the Holy Spirit, equally eternal, equally God, the one Spirit of the two, the substance of the will of both. For the words that we read of Him as uttering on the eve of His passion, "Yet not, Father, as I will, but as Thou wilt,"5 as if the Father has or had one will, and the Son another, are the echo of our infirmity, however faith-pervaded, which our Head transfigured in Hisown person, when He likewise bare our iniquities. But that the will of the Father and the Son is one, of both of whom also there is but one Spirit, by including whom we come to the knowledge of the Trinity, let piety believe, even though our infirmity meanwhile permitteth us not to understand.
2. But as we have already, in a way proportionate to the brevity of our discourse, spoken of the objects of the promise, and of its own stability; let us now look at this one point, as far as we are able, what it is that He was pleased to promise when He said, "I will that they also whom Thou hast given me be with me where I am." As far as pertains to the creaturehood wherein He was made of the seed of David according to the flesh,6 not even He Himself was yet where He would afterwards be: but He could say in this way, "where I am," to let us understand that He was soon to ascend into heaven, so that He spake of Himself as being already there, where He was presently to be. He could do so also in the same way as He had said on a former occasion, when speaking to Nicodemus, "No man ascendeth into heaven, save He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man who is in heaven."7 For there also He did not say, Will be, but "is," because of the oneness of person, wherein God is at once man, and man God. He promised, therefore, that we should be in heaven; for thither the servant-form, which He received of the Virgin, has been elevated, and set at the right hand of the Father. Because of the same blessed hope the apostle also says: "But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ; by whose grace we are saved; and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus."8 And so accordingly we may understand the Lord to have said, "That where I am, there they may be also." He, indeed, said of Himself that He was there already; but of us He merely declared that He wished us to be there with Him, without any indication that we were there already But what the Lord said that He wished to be done, the apostle spake of as already accomplished. For he said not, He will yet raise us up, and make us sit in heavenly places; but, "hath raised us up, and made us sit in heavenly places:" for it is not without good grounds, but in believing assurance, that he reckons as already done what he is certain will yet be done. But if it is in respect of the form of God, wherein He is equal to the Father, that we would be inclined to understand His words, "I will that they also be with me, where I am," let our mind get quit of every thought of material images: whateverthe soul has had presented to it, that is endowed with length, or breadth, or thickness, tinted by the light with any sort of bodily hue, or diffused through local space of any kind, whether finite or infinite, let it, as far as possible, turn away from all such notions the glance of its contemplation on the inward bent of its thoughts. And let us not be making inquiries as to where the Son, the Father's co-equal, is, since no one has yet found out where He is not. But if any one would inquire, let him inquire rather how he may be with Him; not everywhere as He is, but wherever He may be. For when He said to the man that was expiating his crimes on the tree, and making confession unto salvation, "Today shall thou be with me in paradise,"9 in respect to His human nature His own soul was on that very day to be in hell,10 His flesh in the sepulchre; but as respected His Godhead He was certainly also in paradise. And therefore the soul of the thief, absolved from his by-gone crimes, and already in the blessed enjoyment of His grace, although it could not be everywhere as He was, yet could on that very day be also with Him in paradise, from which He, who is always everywhere, had not withdrawn. On this account, doubtless, it was not enough for Him to say, "I will that they also be where I am;" but He added, "with me." For to be with Him is the chief good. For even the miserable can be where He is, since wheresoever any are, there is He also; but the blessed only are with Him, because it is only of Him that they can be blessed. Was it not truly said to God, "If I ascend into heaven, Thou art there; and if I go down into hell, Thou art present?"11 or is not Christ after all that Wisdom of God which "penetrateth everywhere because of its purity"?12 But the light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.13 And similarly, to take a kind of illustration from what is visible, although greatly unlike, as the blind man, even though he be where the light is, is yet not himself with the light, but is really absent from that which is present; so the unbeliever and profane, or even the believer and pious, because not yet competent to gaze on the light of wisdom, although he cannot be anywhere that Christ is not there likewise, yet is not himself with Christ, I mean in actual sight. For we cannot doubt that the true believer is with Christ by faith; because in reference to this He saith, "He that is not with me is against me."14 But when He said to God the Father, "I will that they also whom Thou hast given me be with me where I am," He spake exclusively of that sight wherein we shall see Him as He is.15
3. Let no one disturb the clearness of the meaning by any cloudy contradiction; but let what follows furnish its testimony to the words that precede. For after saying, "I will that they also be with me where I am," He went on immediately to add, "That they may behold my glory, which Thou gavest me: for Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world." "That they may behold," He said; not, that they may believe. This is faith's wages,16 not faith itself. For if faith has been correctly defined in the Epistle to the Hebrews as "the assurance [conviction] of things that are not seen,"17 why may not the wages of faith be defined, the beholding of things which were hoped for in faith? For when we shall see the glory which the Father hath given the Son, even though we may understand what is spoken of in this passage, not as that [glory] which the Father gave His co-equal Son in begetting Him, but as that which He gave Him, when become the Son of man, after the death of the cross;-when, I say, we shall see that glory of the Son, then of a certainty shall take place the judgment of the quick and the dead, and then shall the wicked be taken away that he may not behold the glory of the Lord;18 and what [glory], save that of His Godhead? For blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God:19 and because the wicked are not pure in heart, therefore they shall not see Then shall they go away into everlasting punishment; for so shall the wicked be taken away, that he may not behold the glory of the Lord: but the righteous shall go into life eternal.20 And what is life eternal? "That they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent" (ver. 3): not, indeed, as those knew Him, who although impure in heart, yet were able to see Him as He sat in judgment in His glorified servant-form; but as He is yet to be known by the pure in heart, as the only true God, the Son along with the Father and Holy Spirit, because the Trinity itself is the only true God. If, then, it is in reference to His Godhead as the Son of God, equal and co-eternal with the Father, that we take the words, "I will that they also be with me where I am," we shall be with Christ in the Father; but He in His own way, we in ours, wherever we may be in body. For if localities are to be understood, and such as contain incorporeal beings, and everything has a place where it is, the eternal place of Christ where He always is, is the Father Himself, and the place of the Father is the Son; for "I," He said, "am in the Father, and the Father in me;"21 and in this prayer, "As Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee:" and they are our place, because there follows, "That they also may be one in us:" and we are God's place, inasmuch as we are His temple; even as He, who died for us and liveth for us, also prayeth for us, that we may be one in them; because "His [dwelling] place was made in peace,22 and His habitation in Zion,"23 which we are. But who is qualified to think on such places or what is in them, apart from the idea of space-defined capacities and material masses? Yet no little progress is made, if at least, when any such idea presents itself to the eye of the mind, it is denied, rejected, and reprobated: and a certain kind of light is, as far as possible, thought of, in which such things are perceived as deserving only to be denied, rejected, and reprobated; and the certainty of that light is known and loved, so that from thence an upward movement is begun in us, and an effort made to reach into places farther within: and when the mind through its own infirmity and still inferior purity has failed to penetrate them it is driven back again, not without the sighings of love and the tears of ardent longing, and continues to bear in patience until it is purified by faith, and prepared by the holiness of the inward life to be able to take up its abode therein.
4. How, then, shall we not be with Christ where He is, when we shall be with Him in the Father in whom He is? On this, also, the apostle is not without something to say to us, although we are not yet in possession of the reality, but only cherishing the hope. For he says, "If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God: set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye have died," he adds, "and your life is hid with Christ in God." Here, you see, our life is meanwhile in faith and hope with Christ, where He is; because it is with Christ in God. That, you see, is as if already accomplished for which He prayed, when He said, "I will that they also be with me where I am;" but now only by faith. And when will it be accomplished by actual sight? "When Christ," he says, "[who is] your life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory."24 Then shall we appear as that which we then shall be; for it shall then be apparent that it was not without good grounds that we believed and hoped we should become so, before it actually took place. He will do this, to whom the Son, after saying, "That they may behold my glory, which Thou gavest me," immediately added, "For Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world." For in Him He loved us also before the foundation of the world, and then foreordained what He was to do in the end of the world.
5. "O righteous Father," He saith, "the world hath not known Thee." Just because Thou art righteous it hath not known Thee. It is as that world which has been predestined to condemnation really deserved, that it hath not known Him; while the world which He hath reconciled unto Himself through Christ hath known Him not of merit, but by grace. For what else is the knowing of Him, but eternal life which, while He undoubtedly withheld it from the condemned world, He bestowed on the reconciled. On that very account, therefore, the world hath not known Thee, because Thou art righteous, and hast rendered unto it according to its deserts, that it should not know Thee: while on the same account the reconciled world hath known Thee, because Thou art merciful, and, not for any merit of its own, but by grace, hast supplied it with the needed help to know Thee. And then there follows, "But I have known Thee." He is the Fountain of grace, who is by nature God, and, by grace ineffable, man also of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin: and then on His own behalf, because the grace of God is through Jesus Christ our Lord, He adds, "And these have known that Thou hast sent me." Such is the reconciled world. But it is because Thou hast sent me that they have known: by grace, therefore, have they known.
6. "And I have made known to them," He says, "Thy name, and will make it known." I have made it known by faith, I will make it known by sight: I have made it known to those whose present sojourn in a strange land has its appointed end, I will make it known to those whose reign as kings shall be endless. "That the love," He adds, "wherewith [literally, which] Thou hast loved me,25 may be in them, and I in them. (The form of speech is unusual, "the love, which Thou hast loved me, may be in them, and I in them;" for the common way of speaking is, the love wherewith thou hast loved me. Here, of course, it is a translation from the Greek: but there are similar forms also in Latin; as we say. He served a faithful service, He served as a soldier a strenuous soldier-service; when apparently we ought to have said, He served with a faithful service, he served as a soldier with a strenuous soldier-service. But such as the form of expression is, "the love which Thou hast loved me;" one similar to it is also used by the apostle, "I have fought a good fight;"26 he does not say, in a good fight, which would be the more usual and perhaps correcter form of expression. ) But how else is the love wherewith the Father loved the Son in us also, but because we are His members and are loved in Him, since He is loved in the totality of His person, as both Head and members? Therefore He added, "and I in them;" as if saying, Since I am also in them. For in one sense He is in us as in His temple; but in another, because we are also Himself, seeing that, in accordance with His becoming man, that He might be our Head, we are His body. The Saviour's prayer is finished, His passion begins; let us, therefore, also finish the present discourse, that we may treat of His passion, as He granteth us grace, in others to follow.