John i. 14.-"And the Word was made Flesh, and dwelt among
[1.] I Desire to ask one favor of you all, beforeI touch on the words
of the Gospel; do not you refuse my request, for I ask nothing heavy or
burdensome, nor, if granted, will it be useful only to me who receive,
but also to you who grant it, and perhaps far more so to you. What then
is it that I require of you? That each of you take in hand that section
of the Gospels which is to be read among you on the first day of the week,
or even on the Sabbath, and before the day arrive, that he sit down at
home and read it through, and often carefully consider its contents, and
examine all its parts well, what1 is deal what obscure,2 what seems to
make for the adversaries,3 but does not really so; and when you have tried,4
in a word5 every point, so go to hear it read. For from zeal like this
will be no small gain both to you and to us. We shall not need much labor
to render dear the meaning of what is said, because your minds will be
already made familiar with the sense of the words, and you will become
keener and more clear-sighted not for hearing only, nor for learning, but
also for the teaching of others. Since, in the way that now most of those
who come hither hear, competed to take in the meaning of all at once, both
the words, and the remarks we make upon them, they will not, though we
should go on doing this for a whole year, reap any great gain. How can
they, when they have leisure for what is said as a by work,6 and only in
this place, and for this short time? If any lay the fault on business,
and cares, and constant occupation in public and private matters, in the
first place, this is no slight charge in itself, that they are surrounded
with such a multitude of business, are so continually nailed to the things
of this life, that they cannot find even a little leisure for what is more
needful than all Besides, that this is a mere pretext and excuse, their
meetings with friends would prove against them, their loitering in the
theaters, and the parties7 they make to see horse races, at which they
often spend whole days, yet never in that case does one of them complain
of the pressure of business. For trifles then you can without making any
excuses, always find abundant leisure; but when you ought to attend to
the things of God, do these seem to you so utterly superfluous and mean,
that you think you need not assign even a little leisure to them? How do
men of such disposition deserve to breathe or to look upon this sun?
There is another most foolish excuse of these sluggards; that they have
not the books in their possession. Now as to the rich, it is ludicrous
that we should take our aim at8 this excuse; but because I imagine that
many of the poorer sort continually use it, I would gladly ask, if every
one of them does not have all the instruments of the trade which he works
at, full and complete, though infinite9 poverty stand in his way? Is it
not then a strange thing, in that case to throw no blame on poverty, but
to use every means that there be no obstacle from any quarter, but, when
we might gain such great advantage, to lament our want of leisure and our
Besides, even if any should be so poor, it is in their power, by means
of the continual reading of the holy Scriptures which takes place here,
to be ignorant of nothing contained in them. Or if this seems to you impossible,
it seems so with reason; for many do not come with fervent zeal to hearken
to what is said, but having done this one thing10 for form's sake11 on
our account,12 immediately return home. Or if any should stay, they are
no better disposed than those who have retired, since they are only present
here with us in body. But that we may not overload you with accusations,
and spend all the time in finding fault, let us proceed to the words of
the Gospel, for it is time to direct the remainder of our discourse to
what is set before us. Rouse yourselves therefore, that nothing of what
is said escape you.
"And the Word was made Flesh," he saith, "and dwelt among
Having declared that they who received Him were "born of God," and had
become "sons of God," he adds the cause and reason of this unspeakable
honor. It is that "the Word became Flesh," that the Master took on Him
the form of a servant. For He became Son of man, who was God's own13 Son,
in order that He might make the sons of men to be children of God. For
the high when it associates with the low touches not at all its own honor,
while it raises up the other from its excessive lowness; and even thus
it was with the Lord. He in nothing diminished His own Nature by this condescension,14
but raised us, who had always sat in disgrace and darkness, to glory unspeakable.
Thus it may be, a king, conversing with interest and kindness with a poor
mean man, does not at all shame himself, yet makes the other observed by
all and illustrious. Now if in the case of the adventitious dignity of
men, intercourse with the humbler person in nothing injuries the more honorable,
much less can it do so in the case of that simple and blessed Essence which
has nothing adventitious, or subject to growth or decay, but has15 all
good things immovable, and fixed for ever. So that when you hear that "the
Word became Flesh," be not disturbed nor cast down, For that Essence did
not change16 to flesh, (it is impiety17 to imagine this,) but continuing
what it is, It so took upon It the form of a servant.
[2.] Wherefore then does he use the expression, "was made"? To stop
the mouths of the heretics. For since there are some18 who say that all
the circumstances of the Dispensation were an appearance, a piece of acting,
an allegory, at once to remove beforehand their blasphemy, he has put "was
made"; desiring to show thereby not a change of substance, (away with the
thought,) but the assumption of very flesh. For as when (Paul) says, "Christ
hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us,"
he does not mean that His essence removing from Its proper glory took upon
It the being19 of an accused thing, (this not even devils could imagine,
nor even the very foolish, nor those deprived of their natural understanding,
such impiety as well as madness does it contain,) as (St. Paul) does not
say this, but that He, taking upon Himself the curse pronounced against
us, leaves us no more under the curse; so also here he (St. John) says
that He "was made Flesh," not by changing His Essence to flesh, but by
taking flesh to Himself, His Essence remained untouched.
If they say that being God, He is Omnipotent, so that He could lower
Himself20 to the substance of flesh, we will reply to them, that He is
Omnipotent as long as He continues to be God. But if He admit of change,
change for the worse, how could He be God? for change is far from that
simple Nature. Wherefore the Prophet saith, "They all shall wax old as
doth a garment, and as a vesture shalt Thou roll them up, and they shall
be changed; but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail." (Ps.
cii. 27, Ps. cii. 27 LXX.) For that Essence is superior to all change.
There is nothing better than He, to which He might advance and reach. Better
do I say? No, nor equal to, nor the least approaching Him. It remains,
therefore, that if He change, He must admit a change for the worse; and
this would not be God. But let the blasphemy return upon the heads of those
who utter it. Nay, to show that he uses the expression,'" was made" only
that you should not suppose a mere appearance, hear from what follows how
he clears the argument, and overthrows that wicked suggestion. For what
does he add? "And dwelt among us." All but saying, "Imagine nothing improper
from the word `was made'; I spoke not of any change of that unchangeable
Nature, but of Its dwelling21 and in habiting. But that which dwells22
cannot be thesame with that in which it dwells, but different; one thing
dwells in a different thing, otherwise it would not be dwelling; for nothing
can inhabit itself. I mean, different as to essence; for by an Union.23
and Conjoining24 God the Word and the Flesh are One, not by any confusion
or obliteration of substances, but by a certain union ineffable, and past25
understand. Ask not how26 for It Was Made, so as He knoweth."
What then was the tabernacle in which He dwelt? Hear the Prophet say;
"I will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen." (Amos ix. 11.)
It was fallen indeed, our nature had fallen an incurable fall, and needed
only that mighty Hand. There was no possibility of raising it again, had
not He who fashioned it at first stretched forth to it His Hand, and stamped
it mew with His Image, by the regeneration of water and the Spirit. And
observe I pray you, the awful and ineffable nature27 of the mystery. He
inhabits this tabernacle for ever, for He clothed Himself with our flesh,
not as again to leave it, but always to have it with Him. Had not this
been the case, He would not have deemed it worthy of the royal throne,
nor would He while wearing it have been worshiped by all the host of heaven,
angels archangel, thrones, principalities, dominions, powers. What word,
what though can represent such great honor done to our race, so truly marvelous
and awful? What angel what archangel? Not one in any place, whether in
heaven, or upon earth. For such are the mighty works28 of God, so great
and marvelous are His benefits, that a right description of them exceeds
not only the tongue of men, but even the power of angels.
Wherefore we will29 for a while dose our discourse, and be silent; only
delivering to you this charge,30 that you repay this our so great Benefactor
by a return which again shall bring round to us all profit. The return
is, that we look with all carefulness to the state of our souls. For this
too is the work of His lovingkindness, that He who stands in no need of
anything of ours says that He is repaid when we take care of our own souls.
It is therefore an act of extremist folly, and one deserving ten thousand
chastisements, if we, when such honor has been lavished upon us, will not
even contribute what we can, and that too when profit comes round to us
again by these means, and ten thousand blessings are laid before us on
these conditions. For all these things let us returns glory to our merciful
God, not by words only, but much more by works that we may obtain the good
things hereafter, which may it be that we all attain to, through the grace
and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to
the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
1 al. "let him mark what is clear, &c."
2 al. "very plain."
3 al. "to be contradictory."
4 diakwdwni/santej, "having tried by ringing."
6 e0k pare/rgou.
10 i.e. having come to the assembly.
12 al. "for the day."
14 al. "descent."
15 al. "possesses."
16 mete/pesen, "fall from what It was into."
17 al. "truly impious."
18 The Docetae, who maintained that our Lord appeared
only to act and suffer in the Flesh, and that His Body was a phantom. Perhaps
they are the heretics specially alluded to by St. John, 1 Ep. iv. 2, and
2 Ep. 7.
21 Lit, "tabernacling."
22 Lit. "which tabernacles."
26 al. "seek not accurately."
27 al. "ineffable mystery."
29 al. "let us."