Early Church Fathers
John xx. 10, 11.-"Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. But Mary stood without at the sepulcher, weeping."
[ 1.] Full of feeling somehow is the female sex, and more1 inclined to pity. I say this, lest thou shouldest wonder how it could be that Mary wept bitterly at the tomb, while Peter was in no way so affected. For, "The disciples," it saith, "went away unto their own home"; but she stood shedding tears. Because hers was a feeble nature, and she as yet knew not accurately the account of the Resurrection; whereas they having seen the linen clothes and believed, departed to their own homes in astonishment. And wherefore went they not straightway to Galilee, as had been commanded them before the Passion? They waited for the others, perhaps, and besides they were yet at the height of their amazement. These then went their way: but she stood at the place, for, as I have said, even the sight of the tomb tended greatly to comfort her. At any rate, thou seest her, the more to ease her grief, stooping down,2 and desiring to behold the place where the body lay. And therefore she received no small reward for this her great zeal. For what the disciples saw not, this saw the woman first, Angels3 sitting, the one at the feet, the other at the head, in white; even the dress4 was full of much radiance5 and joy. Since the mind of the woman was not sufficiently elevated to accept the Resurrection from the proof of the napkins, something more takes place, she beholdeth something more; Angels sitting in shining garments, so as to raise her thus awhile from her passionate sorrow, and to comfort her. But they said nothing to her concerning the Resurrection, yet is she gently led forward in this doctrine. She saw countenances bright and unusual; she saw shining garments, she heard a sympathizing voice. For what saith (the Angel)?
Ver. 13. "Woman, why weepest thou?"
By all these circumstances, as though a door was being opened for her, she was led by little and little to the knowledge of the Resurrection. And the manner of their sitting invited her to question them, for they showed that they knew what had taken place; on which account they did not sit together either, but apart from one another. For because it was not likely that she would dare at once to question them, both by questioning her, and by the manner of their sitting, they bring her to converse. What then saith she?She speaks very warmly and affectionately;
"They6 have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him."
"What sayest thou? Knowest thou not yet anything concerning the Resurrection, but dost thou still form fancies about His being laid7 ?" Seest thou how she had not yet received the sublime doctrine?
Ver. 14. "And when she had thus said, she turned herself back."8
And by what kind of consequence is it, that she having spoken to them, and not having yet heard anything from them, turned back? Me-thinks that while she was speaking, Christ suddenly appearing behind her, struck the Angels with awe; and that they having beheld their Ruler,9 showed immediately by their bearing, their look, their movements, that they saw the Lord;10 and this drew the woman's attention, and caused her to turn herself backwards. To them then He appeared on this wise, but not so to the woman, in order not at the first sight to terrify her, but in a meaner and ordinary form, as is clear from her supposing that He was the gardener. It was meet to lead one of so lowly a mind to high matters, not all at once, but gently. He therefore in turn asketh her,
Ver. 15. "Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?"
This showed that He knew what she wished to ask, and led her to make answer. And the woman, understanding this, doth not again mention the name of Jesus, but as though her questioner knew the subject of her enquiry replies,
"Sir,11 if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away."
Again she speaks of laying down, and taking away, and carrying, as though speaking of a corpse. But her meaning is this; "If ye have borne him hence for fear of the Jews, tell me, and I will take him." Great is the kindness and loving affection of the woman, but as yet there is nothing lofty with her.12 Wherefore He now setteth the matter before her, not by appearance, but by Voice. For as He was at one time known to the Jews, and at another time unperceived13 though present; so too in speaking, He, when He chose, then made Himself known; as also when He said to the Jews, "Whom seek ye?" they knew neither the Countenance nor the Voice until He chose. And this was the case here. And He named her name only,14 reproaching and blaming her that she entertained such fancies concerning One who lived. But how was it that,
Ver. 16. "She turned herself, and saith,"15 if so be that He was speaking to her? It seems to me, that after having said, "Where have ye laid him?" she turned to the Angels to ask why they were astonished, and that then Christ, by calling her by name, turned her to Himself from them, and revealed Himself by His Voice; for when He called her "Mary," then she knew Him; so that the recognition was not by His appearance, but by His Voice. And if any say, "Whence is it clear that the Angels were awestruck, and that on this account the woman turned herself," they will in this place say, "whence is it clear that she would have touched Him, and fallen at His feet?" Now as this is clear from His saying, "Touch Me not," so is the other clear from its saying, that she turnedherself. But wherefore, said He,
Ver. 17. "Touch Me not"?
[5.] Some assert, that she asked for spiritual grace, because she had heard Him when with the disciples say, "If I go to the Father, `I will ask Him, and He shall give you another Comforter.'" (c. xiv. 3, xiv. 16.) But how could she who was not present with the disciples have heard this? Besides, such an imagination is far from the meaning here. And how should she ask, when He had not yet gone to the Father? What then is the sense? Methinks that she wished still to converse with Him as before, and that in her joy she perceived nothing great in Him, although He had become far more excellent in the Flesh. To lead her therefore from this idea, and that she might speak to Him with much awe, (for neither with the disciples doth He henceforth appear so familiar as before,) He raiseth her thoughts, that she should give more reverent heed to Him. To have said, "Approach Me not as ye did before, for matters are not in the same state, nor shall I henceforth be with you in the same way," would have been harsh and high-sounding; but the saying,
"I am not yet ascended to the16 Father," though not painful to hear, was the saying of One declaring the same thing. For by saying, "I am not yet ascended," He showeth that He hasteth and presseth thither; and that it was not meet that One about to depart thither, and no longer to converse with men, should be looked on with the same feelings as before. And the sequel shows that this is the case.
"Go and say unto the brethren, that I go17 unto My Father, and your Father, unto My God and your God."
Yet He was not about to do so immediately, but after forty days. How then saith He this? With a desire to raise their minds, and to persuade them that He departeth into the heavens. But the, "To My Father and your Father, to My God, and your God," belongs to the Dispensation,18 since the "ascending" also belongs to His Flesh. For He speaketh these words to one who had no high thoughts. "Is then the Father His in one way, and ours in another?" Assuredly then He is. For if He is God of the righteous in a manner different from that in which He is God of other men, much more in the case of the Son and us. For because He had said, "Say to the brethren," in order that they might not imagine any equality from this, He showed the difference. He was about to sit on His Father's throne, but they to stand by.19 So that albeit in His Subsistence according to the Flesh He became our Brother, yet in Honor He greatly differed from20 us, it cannot even be told how much.
Ver. 18. "She therefore departeth, beating these tidings to the disciples."21
So great a good is perseverance and endurance. But how was it that they did not any more grieve when He was about to depart, nor speak as they had done before? At that time they were affected in such a way, as supposing that He was about to die; but now that He was risen again, what reason had they to grieve? Moreover, Mary reported His appearance and His words, which were enough to comfort them. Since then it was likely that the disciples on hearing these things would either not believe the woman, or, believing, would grieve that He had not deemed them worthy of the vision, though He promised to meet them in Galilee; in order that they might not by dwelling on this be unsettled,22 He let not a single day pass, but having brought them to a state of longing, by their knowledge that He was risen, and by what they heard from the woman, when they were thirsting to see Him, and were greatly afraid, (which thing itself especially made their yearning greater,) He then, when it was evening, presented23 Himself before them, and that very marvelously.24 And why did He appear in the "evening"? Because it was probable that they would then especially be very fearful. But the marvel was, why they did not suppose Him to be an apparition; for He entered, "when the doors were shut," and suddenly. The chief cause was, that the woman beforehand had wrought great faith in them; besides, He showed His countenance to them dear and mild. He came not by day, in order that all might be collected together. For great was the amazement; for neither did He knock at the door but all at once stood in the midst, and showed His side and His hands.25 At the same time also by His Voice He smoothed their tossing thought, by saying,
Ver. 19. "Peace be unto you."
That is, "Be not troubled"; at the same time reminding them of the word which He spake to them before the Crucifixion, "My peace I leave26 unto you" (c. xiv. 27); and again, "In me ye have27 peace, but" "in the world ye shall havetribulation." (c. xvi. 33.)
Ver. 20. "Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord."
Seest thou the words issuing in deeds? For what He said before the Crucifixion, that "I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you" (c. xvi. 22), this He now28 accomplished in deed; but all these things led them to a most exact faith. For since they had a truceless war with the Jews, He continually repeated the, "Peace be unto you,"29 giving them, to counterbalance the war, the consolation. And so this was the first word that He spake to them after the Resurrection, (wherefore also Paul continually saith, "Grace be unto you and peace,") and to women He giveth good tidings of joy,30 because that sex was in sorrow, and had received this as the first curse. Therefore He giveth good tidings suitable respectively, to men, peace, because of their war; joy to women, because of their sorrow. Then having put away all painful things, He telleth of the successes31 of the Cross, and these were the "peace." "Since then all hindrances have been removed," He saith, "and I have made My32 victory glorious, and all hath been achieved," (then He saith afterwards,)
Ver. 21. "As My Father hath sent Me, so send I you."
"Ye have no difficulty, owing to what hath already come to pass, and to the dignity of Me who send you." Here He lifteth up their souls, and showeth them their great cause of confidence, if so be that they were about to undertake His work. And no longer is an appeal made to the Father, but with authority He giveth to them the power. For,
Ver. 22, 23. "He breathed on them, and said,33 Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained."
As a king sending forth governors, gives power to east34 into prison and to deliver from it, so in sending these forth, Christ investeth them with the same power. But how saith He, "If I go not away, He35 will not come" (c. xvi. 7), and yet giveth them the Spirit? Some say that He gave not the Spirit, but rendered them fit to receive It, by breathing on them. For if Daniel when he saw an Angel was afraid, what would not they have suffered when they received that unspeakable Gift, unless He had first made them learners? Wherefore He said not, "Ye have received the Holy Ghost," but, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost." Yet one will not be wrong in asserting that they then also received some spiritual power and grace; not so as to raise the dead, or to work miracles, but so as to remit sins. For the gifts of the Spirit are of different kinds; wherefore He added, "Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them," showing what kind of power He was giving. But in the other case,36 after forty37 days, they received the power of working miracles. Wherefore He saith, "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come38 upon you, and ye shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea." (Acts i. 8.) And witnesses they became by means of miracles, for unspeakable is the grace of the Spirit and multiform the gift. But this comes to pass, that thou mayest learn that the gift and the power of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, is One. For things which appear to be peculiar to the Father, these are seen also to belong to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. "How then," saith some one, "doth none come to the Son, `except the Father draw him'?" (c. vi. 44.) Why, this very thing is shown to belong to the Son also. "I," He saith, "am the Way: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me." (c. xiv. 6.) And observe that it belongeth to the Spirit also; for "No man can call Jesus Christ Lord,39 but by the Holy Ghost." (1 Cor. xii. 3.) Again, we see that the Apostles were given to the Church at one time by the Father, at another by the Son, at another by the Holy Ghost, and that the "diversities of gifts" (1 Cor. xii. 4) belong to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
[4.] Let us then do all we can to have the Holy Spirit with ourselves, and let us treat with much honor those into whose hands its operation hath been committed. For great is the dignity of the priests. "Whosesoever sins," it saith, "ye remit, they are remitted unto them"; wherefore also Paul saith, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves." (Heb. xiii. 17.) And hold them very exceedingly in honor; for thou indeed carest about thine own affairs, and if thou orderest them well, thou givest40 no account for others, but the priest even if he rightly order his own life, if he have not an anxious care for thine, yea and that of all those around him, will depart with the wicked into hell; and often when not betrayed by his own conduct, he perishes by yours, if he have not rightly performed all his part. Knowing therefore the greatness of the danger, give them a large share of your goodwill; which Paul also implied when he said, "For they watch for your souls," and not simply so, but, "as they that shall give account." (Heb. xiii. 17.) They ought therefore to receive great attention from you; but if you join with the rest in trampling upon them, then neither shall your affairs be in a good condition. For while the steersman continues in good courage, the crew also will be in safety; but if he be tired out by their reviling him and showing ill-will against him, he cannot watch equally well, or retain his skill, and without intending it, throws them into ten thousand mischiefs. And so too the priest, if he enjoy honor41 from you, will be able well to order your affairs; but if ye throw them into despondency, ye weaken their hands, and render them, as well as yourselves, an easy prey to the waves, although they be very courageous. Consider what Christ saith concerning the Jews. "The Scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; all therefore whatsoever they bid42 you to do, do ye." (Matt. xxiii. 2, Matt. xxiii. 3.) Now we have not to say, "the priests sit on Moses' seat," but "on that of Christ"; for they have successively received His doctrine. Wherefore also Paul saith, "We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us." (2 Cor. v. 20.) See ye not that in the case of Gentile rulers, all bow to them, and oftentimes even persons superior in family, in life, in intelligence, to those who judge them? yet still because of him who hath given them, they consider none of these things, but respect the decision of their governor, whosoever he be that receives the rule over them. Is there then such fear when man appoints, but when God appointeth do we despise him who is appointed, and abuse him, and besmirch him with ten thousand reproaches, and though forbidden to judge our brethren, do we sharpen our tongue against our priests? And how can this deserve excuse, when we see not the beam in our own eye, but are bitterly over-curious about the mote in another's? Knowest thou not that by so judging thou makest thine own judgment the harder? And this I say not as approving of those who exercise their priesthood unworthily, but as greatly pitying and weeping for them; yet do I not on this account allow that it is right that they should be judged by those over whom they are set.43 And although their life be very much spoken against, thou, if thou take heed to thyself, wilt not be harmed at all44 in respect of the things committed to them45 by God. For if He caused a voice to be uttered by an ass, and bestowed spiritual blessings by a diviner, working by the foolish mouth and impure tongue of Balsam, in behalf of the offending Jews, much more for the sake of you the right-minded46 will He, though the priests be exceedingly vile, work all the things that are His, and will send the Holy Ghost. For neither doth the pure draw down that Spirit by his own purity, but it is grace that worketh all. "For all," it saith, "is for your sake,47 whether it be Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas." (1 Cor. iii. 22, 1 Cor. iii. 23.) For the things which are placed in the hands of the priest it is with God alone to give; and however far human wisdom may reach, it will appear inferior to that grace. And this I say, not in order that we may order our own life carelessly, but that when some of those set over you are careless livers, you the ruled may not often heap up evil for yourselves. But why speak I of priests? Neither Angel nor Archangel can do anything with regard to what is given from God; but the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, dispenseth all, while the priest lends his tongue and affords his hand. For neither would it be just that through the wickedness of another, those who come in faith to the symbols of their salvation should be harmed. Knowing all these things, let us fear God, and hold His priests in honor, paying them all reverence; that both for our own good deeds, and the attention shown to them, we may receive a great return from God, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, dominion, and honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.