JOHN I. 1-5.
1. When I give heed to what we have just read from the apostolic lesson,
that "the natural man perceiveth not the things which are of the Spirit
of God,"1 and consider that in the present assembly, my beloved, there
must of necessity be among you many natural men, who know only according
to the flesh, and cannot yet raise themselves to spiritual understanding,
I am in great difficulty how, as the Lord shall grant, I may be able to
express, or in my small measure to explain, what has been read from the
Gospel, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and
the Word was God;" for this the natural man does not perceive. What then,
brethren? Shall we be silent for this cause? Why then is it read, if we
are to be silent regarding it? Or why is it heard, if it be not explained?
And why is it explained, if it be not understood? And so, on the other
hand, since I do not doubt that there are among your number some who can
not only receive it when explained, but even understand it before it is
explained, I shall not defraud those who are able to receive it, from fear
of my words being wasted on the ears of those who are not able to receive
it. Finally, there will be present with us the compassion of God, so that
perchance there may be enough for all, and each receive what he is able,
while he who speaks says what he is able. For to speak or the matter as
it is, who is able? I venture to say, my brethren, perhaps not John himself
spoke of the matter as it is, but even he only as he was able; for it was
man that spoke of God, inspired indeed by God, but still man. Because he
was inspired he said something; if he had not been inspired, he would have
said `nothing;' but because a man inspired, he spoke not the whole, but
what a man could he spoke.
2. For this John, dearly beloved brethren, was one of those mountains
concerning which it is written: "Let the mountains receive peace for thy
people, and the hills righteousness."2 The mountains are lofty souls, the
hills little souls. But for this reason do the mountains receive peace,
that the hills may be able to receive righteousness. What is the righteousness
which the hills receive? Faith, for" the just doth live by faith."3 The
smaller souls, however, would not receive faith unless the greater souls,
which are called mountains, were illuminated by Wisdom herself, that they
may be able to transmit to the little ones what the little ones can receive;
and the hills live by faith, because the mountains receive peace. By the
mountains themselves it was said to the Church, "Peace be with you;" and
the mountains themselves in proclaiming peace to the Church did not divide
themselves against Him from whom they received peace,4 that truly, not
feignedly, they might proclaim peace.
3. For there are other mountains which cause shipwreck, on which, if
any one drive his ship, she is dashed to pieces. For it is easy, when land
is seen by men in peril, to make a venture as it were to reach it; but
sometimes land is seen on a mountain, and rocks lie hid under the mountain;
and when any one makes for the mountain, he falls on the rocks, and finds
there not rest, but wrecking. So there have been certain mountains, and
great have they appeared among men, and they have created heresies and
schisms, and have divided the Church of God; but those who divided the
Church of God were not those mountains concerning which it is said, "Let
the mountains receive peace for thy people." For in what manner have they
received peace who have severed unity?
4. But those who received peace to proclaim it to the people have made
Wisdom herself an object of contemplation, so far as human hearts could
lay hold on that which "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither has ascended
into the heart of man."5 If it has not ascended into the heart of man,
how has it ascended into the heart of John? Was not John a man? Or perhaps
neither into John's heart did it ascend, but John's heart ascended into
it? For that which ascends into the heart of man is from beneath, to man;
but that to which the heart of man ascends is above, from man. Even so
brethren, can it be said that, if it ascended into the heart of John (if
in any way it can be said), it ascended into his heart in so far as he
was not man. What means "was not man"? In so far as he had begun to be
an angel. For all saints are angels, since they are messengers of God.
Therefore to carnal and natural men, who are not able to perceive the things
that are of God, what says the apostle? "For whereas ye say, I am of Paul,
I of Apollos, are ye not men?,6 What did he wish to make them whom, he
upbraided because they were men? Do you wish to know what he wished to
make them? Hear in the Psalms: "I have said, ye are gods; and all of you
are children of the Most High."7 To this, then, God calls us, that we be
not men. But then will it be for the better that we be not men, if first
we recognize the fact that we are men, that is, to the end that we may
rise to that height from humility; lest, when we think that we are something
when we are nothing, we not only do not receive what we are not, but even
lose what we are.
5. Accordingly, brethren, of these mountains was John also, who said,
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word
was God." This mountain had received peace; he was contemplating the divinity
of the Word. Of what sort was this mountain? How lofty? He had risen above
all peaks of the earth, he had risen above all plains of the sky, he had
risen above all heights of the stars, he had risen above all choirs and
legions of the angels. For unless he rose above all those things which
were created, he would not arrive at Him by whom all things were made.
You cannot imagine what he rose above, unless you see at what he arrived.
Dost thou inquire concerning heaven and earth? They were made. Dost thou
inquire concerning the things that are in heaven and earth? Surely much
more were they made. Dost thou inquire concerning spiritual beings, concerning
angels, archangels, thrones, dominions, powers, principalities? These also
were made. For when the Psalm enumerated all these things, it finished
thus: "He spoke, and they were made; He commanded, and they were created."8
If "He spoke and they were made," it was by the Word that they were made;
but if it was by the Word they were made, the heart of John could not reach
to that which he says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was
with God, and the Word was God," unless he had risen above all things that
were made by the Word. What a mountain this! How holy! How high among those
mountains that received peace for the people of God, that the hills might
6. Consider, then, brethren, if perchance John is not one of those mountains
concerning whom we sang a little while ago, "I have lifted up mine eyes
to the mountains, from whence shall come my help." Therefore, my brethren,
if you would understand, lift up your eyes to this mountain, that is, raise
yourselves up to the evangelist, rise to his meaning. But, because though
these mountains receive peace he cannot be in peace who places his hope
in man, do not so raise your eyes to the mountain as to think that your
hope should be placed in man; and so say, "I have lifted up mine eyes to
the mountains, from whence shall come my help," that you immediately add,
"My help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth."9 Therefore let us
lift our eyes to the mountains, from whence shall come our help; and yet
it is not in the mountains themselves that our hope should be placed, for
the mountains receive what they may minister to us; therefore, from whence
the mountains also receive there should our hope be placed. When we lift
our eyes to the Scriptures, since it was through men the Scriptures were
ministered, we are lifting our eyes to the mountains, from whence shall
come our help; but still, since they were men who wrote the Scriptures,
they did not shine of themselves, but "He was the true light,10 who lighteth
every man that cometh into the world." A mountain also was that John the
Baptist, who said, "I am not the Christ,"11 lest any one, placing his hope
in the mountain, should fall from Him who illuminates the mountain. He
also confessed, saying, "Since of His fullness have all we received."12
So thou oughtest to say, "I have lifted up mine eyes to the mountains,
from whence shall come my help," so as not to ascribe to the mountains
the help that comes to thee; but continue and say, "My help is from the
Lord, who made heaven and earth."
7. Therefore, brethren, may this be the result of my admonition, that
you understand that in raising your hearts to the Scriptures (when the
gospel was sounding forth, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word
was with God, and the Word was God," and the rest that was read), you were
lifting your eyes to the mountains, For unless the mountains said these
things, you would not find out how to think of them at all. Therefore from
the mountains came your help, that you even heard of these things; but
you cannot yet understand what you have heard. Call for help from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth; for the mountains were enabled only so to speak
as not of themselves to illuminate, because they themselves are also illuminated
by hearing. Thence John, who said these things, received them-he who lay
on the Lord's breast, and from the Lord's breast drank in what he might
give us to drink. But he gave us words to drink. Thou oughtest then to
receive understanding from the source from which he drank who gave thee
to drink; so that thou mayest lift up thine eyes to the mountains from
whence shall come thine aid, so that from thence thou mayest receive, as
it were, the cup, that is, the word, given thee to drink; and yet, since
thy help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth, thou mayest fill
thy breast from the source from which he filled his; whence thou saidst,
"My help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth:" let him, then, fill
who can. Brethren, this is what I have said: Let each one lift up his heart
in the manner that seems. fitting, and receive what is spoken. But perhaps
you will say that I am more present to you than God, Far be such a thought
from you! He is much more present to you; for I appear to your eyes, He
presides over your consciences. Give me then your ears, Him your hearts,
that you may fill both. Behold, your eyes, and those your bodily senses,
you lift up to us; and yet not to us, for we are not of those mountains,
but to the gospel itself, to the evangelist himself: your hearts, however,
to the Lord to be filled. Moreover, let each one so lift up as to see what
he lifts up, and whither. What do I mean by saying, "what he lifts up,
and whither?" Let him see to it what sort of a heart he lifts up, because
it is to the Lord he lifts it up, lest, encumbered by a load of fleshly
pleasure, it fall ere ever it is raised. But does each one see that he
bears a burden of flesh? Let him strive by continence to purify that which
he may lift up to God. For "Blessed are the pure in heart, because they
shall see God."13
8. But let us see what advantage it is that these words have sounded,
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word
was God." We also uttered words when we spoke. Was it such a word that
was with God? Did not those words which we uttered sound and pass away?
Did God's Word, then, sound and come to an end? If so, how were all things
made by it, and without it was nothing made? how is that which it created
ruled by it, if it sounded and passed away? What sort of a word, then,
is that which is both uttered and passes not away? Give ear, my beloved,
it is a great matter. By everyday talk, words here become despicable to
us, because through their sounding and passing away they are despised,
and seem nothing but words. But there is a word in the man himself which
remains within; for the sound proceeds from the mouth. There is a word
which is spoken in a truly spiritual manner, that which you understand
from the sound, not the sound itself. Mark, I speak a word when I say "God."
How short the word which I have spoken-four letters and two syllables!14
Is this all that God is, four letters and two syllables? Or is that which
is signified as costly as the word is paltry? What took place in thy heart
when thou heardest "God "? What took place in my heart when I said "God
"? A certain great and perfect substance was in our thoughts, transcending
every changeable creature of flesh or of soul. And if I say to thee, "Is
God changeable or unchangeable?" thou wilt answer immediately, "Far be
it from me either to believe or imagine that God is changeable: God is
unchangeable." Thy soul, though small, though perhaps still carnal, could
not answer me otherwise than that God is unchangeable: but every creature
is changeable; how then weft thou able to enter, by a glance of thy spirit,
into that which is above the creature, so as confidently to answer me,
"God is unchangeable"? What, then, is that in thy heart, when thou thinkest
of a certain substance, living, eternal, all-powerful, infinite, everywhere
present, everywhere whole, nowhere shut in? When thou thinkest of these
qualities, this is the word concerning God in thy heart. But is this that
sound which consists of four letters and two syllables? Therefore, whatever
things are spoken and pass away are sounds, are letters, are syllables.
His word which sounds passes away; but that which the sound signified,
and was in the speaker as he thought of it, and in the hearer as he understood
it, that remains while the sounds pass away.
9. Turn thy attention to that word. Thou canst have a word in thy heart,
as it were a design born in thy mind, so that thy mind brings forth the
design; and the design is, so to speak, the offspring of thy mind, the
child of thy heart. For first thy heart brings forth a design to construct
some fabric, to set up something great on the earth; already the design
is conceived, and the work is not yet finished: thou seest what thou wilt
make; but another does not admire, until thou hast made and constructed
the pile, and brought that. fabric into shape and to completion; then men
regard the admirable fabric, and admire the design of the architect; they
are astonished at what they see, and are pleased with what they do not
see: who is there who can see a design? If, then, on account of some great
building a human design receives praise, do you wish to see what a design
of God is the Lord Jesus Christ, that is, the Word of God? Mark this fabric
of the world. View what was made by the Word, and then thou wilt understand
what is the nature of the world. Mark these two bodies of the world, the
heavens and the earth. Who will unfold in words the beauty of the heavens?
Who will unfold in words the fruitfulness of the earth? Who will worthily
extol the changes of the seasons? Who will worthily extol the power of
seeds? You see what things I do not mention, lest in giving a long list
I should perhaps tell of less than you can call up to your own minds. From
this fabric, then, judge the nature of the Word by which it was made: and
not it alone; for all these things are seen, because they have to do with
the bodily sense. By that Word angels also were made; by that Word archangels
were made, powers, thrones, dominions, principalities; by that Word were
made all things. Hence, judge what a Word this is.
10. Perhaps some one now answers me, "Who so conceives this Word?" Do
not then imagine, as it were, some paltry thing when thou hearest "the
Word," nor suppose it to be words such as thou hearest them every day-"he
spoke such words," "such words he uttered," "such words you tell me;" for
by constant repetition the term word has become, so to speak, worthless.
And when thou hearest, "In the beginning was the Word," lest thou shouldest
imagine something worthless, such as thou hast been accustomed to think
of when thou weft wont to listen to human words, hearken to what thou must
think of: "The Word was God."
11. Now some unbelieving Arian may come forth and say that "the Word
of God was made." How can it be that the Word of God was made, when God
by the Word made all things? If the Word of God was itself also made, by
what other Word was it made? But if thou sayest that there is a Word of
the Word, I say, that by which it was made is itself the only Son of God.
But if thou dost not say there is a Word of the Word, allow that that was
not made by which all things were made. For that by which all things were
made could not be made by itself. Believe the evangelist then. For he might
have said, "In the beginning God made the Word:" even as Moses said, "In
the beginning God made the heavens and the earth;" and enumerates all things
thus: "God said, Let it be made, and it was made."15 If "said," who said?
God. And what was made? Some creature. Between the speaking of God and
the making of the creature, what was there by which it was made but the
Word? For God said, "Let it be made, and it was made." This Word is unchangeable;
although changeable things are made by it, the Word itself is unchangeable.
12. Do not then believe that that was made by which were made all things,
lest thou be not new-made by the Word, which makes all things new. For
already hast thou been made by the Word, but it behoves thee to be new-made
by the Word. If, however, thy belief about the Word be wrong, thou wilt
not be able to be new-made by the Word. And although creation by the Word
has happened to thee, so that thou hast been made by Him, thou art unmade
by thyself: if by thyself thou art unmade, let Him who made thee make thee
new: if by thyself thou hast been made worse, let Him who created thee
re-create thee. But how can He re-create thee by the Word, if thou boldest
a wrong opinion about the Word? The evangelist says, "In the beginning
was the Word;" and thou sayest, "In the beginning the Word was made." He
says, "All things were made by Him;" and thou sayest that the Word Himself
was made. The evangelist might have said, "In the beginning the Word was
made:" but what does he say? "In the beginning was the Word." If He was,
He was not made; that all things might be made by it, and without Him nothing
be made. If, then, "in the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with
God, and the Word was God;" if thou canst not imagine what it is, wait
till thou art grown. That is strong meat: receive thou milk that thou mayest
be nourished, and be able to receive strong meat.
13. Give good heed to what follows, brethren, "All things were made
by Him, and without Him was nothing made," so as not to imagine that "nothing"
is something. For many, wrongly understanding "without Him was nothing
made," are wont to fancy that "nothing" is something. Sin, indeed, was
not made by Him; and it is plain that sin is nothing, and men become nothing
when they sin. An idol also was not made by the Word ;-it has indeed a
sort of human form, but man himself was made by the Word;-for the form
of man in an idol was not made by the Word, and it is written, "We know
that an idol is nothing."16 Therefore these things were not made by the
Word; but whatever was made in the natural manner, whatever belongs to
the creature, everything that is fixed in the sky, that shines from above,
that flies under the heavens, and that moves in universal nature, every
creature whatsoever: I will speak more plainly, brethren, that you may
understand me; I will say, from an angel even to a worm. What more excellent
than an angel among created things? what lower than a worm? He who made
the angel made the worm also; but the angel is fit for heaven, the worm
for earth. He who created also arranged. If He had placed the worm in heaven,
thou mightest have found fault; if He had willed that angels should spring
from decaying flesh, thou mightest have found fault: and yet God almost
does this, and He is not to be found fault with. For all men born of flesh,
what are they but worms? and of these worms God makes angels. For if the
Lord Himself says, "But I am a worm and no man,"17 who will hesitate to
say what is written also in Job, "How much more is man rottenness, and
the son of man a worm?"18 First he said, "Man is rottenness;" and afterwards,
"The son of man a worm:" because a worm springs from rottenness, therefore
"man is rottenness," and "the son of man a worm." Behold what for thy sake
He was willing to become, who "in the beginning was the Word, and the Word
was with God, and the Word was God!" Why did He for thy sake become this?
That thou mightest suck, who wert not able to chew. Wholly in this sense,
then, brethren, understand "All things were made by Him, and without Him
was nothing made." For every creature, great and small, was made by Him:
by Him were made things above and things beneath; spiritual and corporeal,
by Him were they made. For no form, no structure, no agreement of parts,
no substance whatever that can have weight, number, measure, exists but
by that Word, and by that Creator Word, to whom it is said, "Thou hast
ordered all things in measure, and in number, and in weight."19
14. Therefore, let no one deceive you, when perchance you suffer annoyance
from flies. For some have been mocked by the devil, and taken with flies.
As fowlers are accustomed to put flies in their traps to deceive hungry
birds, so these have been deceived with flies by the devil. Some one or
other was suffering annoyance from flies; a Manichaean found him in his
trouble, and when he said that he could not bear flies, and hated them
exceedingly, immediately the Manichaean said, "Who made them?" And since
he was suffering from annoyance, and hated them, he dared not say, "God
made them," though he was a Catholic. The other immediately added, "If
God did not make them, who made them?" "Truly," replied the Catholic, "I
believe the devil made them." And the other immediately said, "If the devil
made the fly, as I see you allow, because you understand the matter well,
who made the bee, which is a little larger than the fly?" The Catholic
dared not say that God made the bee and not the fly, for the case was much
the same. From the bee he led him to the locust; from the locust to the
lizard; from the lizard to the bird; from the bird to the sheep; from the
sheep to the cow; from that to the elephant, and at last to man; and persuaded
a man that man was not made by God. Thus the miserable man, being troubled
with the flies, became himself a fly, and the property of the devil. In
fact, Beelzebub, they say, means "Prince of flies;" and of these it is
written, "Dying flies deprive the ointment of its sweetness."20
15. What then, brethren? why have I said these things? Shut the ears
of your hearts against the wiles of the enemy. Understand that God made
all things, and arranged them in their orders. Why, then, do we suffer
many evils from a creature that God made? Because we have offended God?
Do angels suffer these things? Perhaps we, too, in that life of theirs,
would have no such thing to fear. For thy punishment, accuse thy sin, not
the Judge. For, on account of our pride, God appointed that tiny and contemptible
creature to torment us; so that, since man has become proud and has boasted
himself against God, and, though mortal, has oppressed mortals, and, though
man, has not acknowledged his fellowman,-since he has lifted himself up,
he may be brought low by gnats. Why art thou inflated with human pride?
Some one has censured thee, and thou art swollen with rage. Drive off the
gnats, that thou mayest sleep: understand who thou art. For, that you may
know, brethren, it was for the taming of our pride these things were created
to be troublesome to us, God could have humbled Pharaoh's proud people
by bears, by lions, by serpents; He sent flies and frogs upon them,21 that
their pride might be subdued by the meanest creatures.
16. "All things," then, brethren, "all things were made by Him, and
without Him was nothing made." But how were all things made by Him? "That,
which was made, in Him is life." It can also be read thus "That, which
was made in Him, is life;" and if we so read it, everything is life. For
what is there that was not made in Him? For He is the Wisdom of God, and
it is said in the Psalm,22 "In Wisdom hast Thou made all things." If, then,
Christ is the Wisdom of God, and the Psalm says, "In Wisdom hast Thou made
all things:" as all things were made by Him, so all things were made in
Him. If, then, all things were made in Him, dearly beloved brethren, and
that, which was made in Him, is life, both the earth is life and wood is
life. We do indeed say wood is life, but in the sense of the wood of the
cross, whence we have received life. A stone, then, is life. It is not
seemly so to understand the passage, as the same most vile sect of the
Manichaeans creep stealthily on us again, and say that a stone has life,
that a wall has a soul, and a cord has a soul, and wool, and clothing.
For so they are accustomed to talk in their raving; and when they have
been driven back and refuted, they in some sort bring forward Scripture,
saying, "Why is it said, `That, which was made in Him, is life'?" For if
all things were made in Him, all things are life. Be not carried away by
them; read thus "That which was made;" here make a short pause, and then
go on, "in Him is life." What is the meaning of this? The earth was made,
but the very earth that was made is not life; but there exists spiritually
in the Wisdom itself a certain reason by which the earth was made: this
17. As far as I can, I shall explain my meaning to you, beloved. A carpenter
makes a box. First he has the box in design; for if he had it not in design,
how could he produce it by workmanship? But the box in theory is not the
very box as it appears to the eyes. It exists invisibly in design, it will
be visible in the work. Behold, it is made in the work; has it ceased to
exist in design? The one is made in the work, and the other remains which
exists in design; for that box may rot, and another be fashioned according
to that which exists in design. Give heed, then, to the box as it is in
design, and the box as it is in fact, The actual box is not life, the box
in design is life; because the soul of the artificer, where all these things
are before they are brought forth, is living. So, dearly beloved brethren,
because the Wisdom of God, by which all things have been made, contains
everything according to design before it is made, therefore those things
which are made through this design itself are not forthwith life, but whatever
has been made is life in Him. You see the earth, there is an earth in design;
you see the sky, there is a sky in design; you see the sun and the moon,
these also exist in design: but externally they are bodies, in design they
are life. Understand, if in any way you are able, for a great matter has
been spoken. If I am not great by whom it is spoken, or through whom it
is spoken, still it is from a great authority. For these things are not
spoken by me who am small; He is not small to whom I refer in saying these
things. Let each one take in what he can, and to what extent he can; and
he who is not able to take in any of it, let him nourish his heart, that
he may become able. How is he to nourish it? Let him nourish it with milk,
that he may come to strong meat. Let him not leave Christ born through
the flesh till he arrive at Christ born of the Father alone, the God-Word
with God, through whom all things were made; for that is life, which in
Him is the light of men.
18. For this follows: "and the life was the light of men;" and from
this very life are men illuminated. Cattle are not illuminated, because
cattle have not rational minds capable of seeing wisdom. But man was made
in the image of God, and has a rational mind, by which he can perceive
wisdom. That life, then, by which all things were made, is itself the light;
yet not the light of every animal, but of men. Wherefore a little after
he says, "That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh
into the world." By that light John the Baptist was illuminated; by the
same light also was John the Evangelist himself illuminated. He was filled
with that light who said, "I am not the Christ; but He cometh after me,
whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose."23 By that light he had
been illuminated who said, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word
was with God, and the Word was God." Therefore that life is the light of
19. But perhaps the slow hearts of some of you cannot receive their
sins, so that they cannot see. Let them not on that account think that
the light is in any way absent, because they are not able to see it; for
they themselves are darkness on account of their sins. "And the light shineth
in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not." Accordingly, brethren,
as in the case of a blind man placed in the sun, the sun is present to
him, but he is absent from the sun. So every foolish man, every unjust
man, every irreligious man, is blind in heart. Wisdom is present; but it
is present to a blind man, and is absent from his eyes; not because it
is absent from him, but because he is absent from it. What then is he to
do? Let him become pure, that he may be able to see God. Just as if a man
could not see because his eyes were dirty and sore with dust, rheum, or
smoke, the physician would say to him: "Cleanse from your eye whatever
bad thing is in it, so that you may be able to see the light of your eyes."
Dust, rheum, and smoke are sins and iniquities: remove then all these things,
and you will see the wisdom that is present; for God is that wisdom, and
it has been said, "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God."24
1 1 Cor. ii. 14.
2 Ps. lxxii. 3.
3 Hab. ii. 4; Rom. i. 17.
4 John xx. 19.
5 1 Cor. ii. 9.
6 1 Cor. iii. 4.
7 Ps. lxxxii. 6.
8 Ps. cxlviii. 5.
9 Ps. cxxi. 1, 2.
10 John i. 9.
11 John i. 30.
12 John i. 16.
13 Matt. v. 8.
15 Gen. i.
16 1 Cor. viii. 4.
17 Ps. xxii. 6.
18 Job xxv. 6.
19 Wisd. xi. 21.
20 Eccles. x. 1.
21 Ex. viii.
22 Ps. civ. 24.
23 John i. 26, 27.
24 Matt. v. 8.