Saturday, 14 February 2015

John 5: 31-47

The Transfiuration
Bellini, c. 1487-1495

Today's section of St John's Gospel continues Jesus' defense of his mission, now responding to the accusation that he was simply a self-proclaimed Messiah, a problem of discernment that is ever relevant!

His response points to three reasons why those he was preaching to should believe in him:

  • the witness of John the Baptist;
  • the witness of the signs and miracles associated with his coming (such as the theophany at his baptism and the Transfiguration), which attested to his divine power and status; and
  • the witness of Scripture, which foretold his coming and the signs thereof.


31 Si ego testimonium perhibeo de meipso, testimonium meum non est verum. 32 Alius est qui testimonium perhibet de me: et scio quia verum est testimonium, quod perhibet de me. 33 Vos misistis ad Joannem, et testimonium perhibuit veritati. 34 Ego autem non ab homine testimonium accipio: sed hæc dico ut vos salvi sitis. 35 Ille erat lucerna ardens et lucens: vos autem voluistis ad horam exsultare in luce ejus. 36 Ego autem habeo testimonium majus Joanne. Opera enim quæ dedit mihi Pater ut perficiam ea: ipsa opera, quæ ego facio, testimonium perhibent de me, quia Pater misit me: 37 et qui misit me Pater, ipse testimonium perhibuit de me: neque vocem ejus umquam audistis, neque speciem ejus vidistis: 38 et verbum ejus non habetis in vobis manens: quia quem misit ille, huic vos non creditis. 39 Scrutamini Scripturas, quia vos putatis in ipsis vitam æternam habere: et illæ sunt quæ testimonium perhibent de me: 40 et non vultis venire ad me ut vitam habeatis. 41 Claritatem ab hominibus non accipio. 42 Sed cognovi vos, quia dilectionem Dei non habetis in vobis.43 Ego veni in nomine Patris mei, et non accipitis me; si alius venerit in nomine suo, illum accipietis. 44 Quomodo vos potestis credere, qui gloriam ab invicem accipitis, et gloriam quæ a solo Deo est, non quæritis? 45 Nolite putare quia ego accusaturus sim vos apud Patrem: est qui accusat vos Moyses, in quo vos speratis. 46 Si enim crederetis Moysi, crederetis forsitan et mihi: de me enim ille scripsit. 47 Si autem illius litteris non creditis, quomodo verbis meis credetis?

The English:

[31] If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. [32] There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. [33] You sent to John, and he gave testimony to the truth. [34] But I receive not testimony from man: but I say these things, that you may be saved. [35] He was a burning and a shining light: and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light.[36] But I have a greater testimony than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to perfect; the works themselves, which I do, give testimony of me, that the Father hath sent me. [37] And the Father himself who hath sent me, hath given testimony of me: neither have you heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. [38] And you have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him you believe not. [39] Search the scriptures, for you think in them to have life everlasting; and the same are they that give testimony of me. [40] And you will not come to me that you may have life.[41] I receive glory not from men. [42] But I know you, that you have not the love of God in you. [43] I am come in the name of my Father, and you receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him you will receive. [44] How can you believe, who receive glory one from another: and the glory which is from God alone, you do not seek? [45] Think not that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one that accuseth you, Moses, in whom you trust. [46] For if you did believe Moses, you would perhaps believe me also; for he wrote of me. [47] But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?

You can find the Latin, Greek and English of John 5:1-18 here.  The video below provided in the first post on John 5 gives the English and Latin read verse by verse; alternatively, you can find the Latin read here (from 3.42) and the Greek here (3.59)


Modernists and rationalists seek to downplay the miraculous elements of the Gospels, and focus instead only on Christ's 'message'.  Yet these signs, so faithfully recorded and passed down to us by the cloud of witnesses down the centuries are absolutely critical to the acceptance of who Jesus is, a realization that is in turn necessary if we are truly to truly welcome him into our lives, as he instructs in this text.

Commentaries from the Catena Aurea include the following texts worth especially looking at

"ALCUIN. That He enlightens the blind, that He opens the deaf ear, looses the mouth of the dumb, casts out devils, raises the dead; these works hear witness of Christ. 

HILARY. The Only-begotten God shows Himself to be the Son, on the testimony not of man only, but of His own power. The works which He does, bear witness to His being sent from the Father. Therefore the obedience of the Son and the authority of the Father are set forth in Him who was sent. But the testimony of works not being sufficient evidence, it follows, And the Father Himself which has sent Me, has borne witness of Me. Open the Evangelic volumes, and examine their whole range: no testimony of the Father to the Son is given in any of the books, other than that He is the Son. So what a calumny is it in men now saying that this is only a name of adoption: thus making God a liar, and names unmeaning.

BEDE. By His mission we must understand His incarnation. Lastly, He shows that God is incorporeal, and cannot be seen by the bodily eye: You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His shape... 

CHRYS. How then says Moses, Ask - whether there has been any such thing as this great thing is: did ever people hear the voice of God, speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard and seen? Isaiah too, and many others, are said to have seen Him. So what does Christ mean here? He means to impress upon them the philosophical doctrine, that God has neither voice, or appearance, or shape; but is superior to such modes of speaking of Him. For as in saying, You have never heard His voice, He does not mean to say that He has a voice, only not an audible one to them; so when He says, Nor have even His shape, no tangible, sensible, or visible shape is implied to belong to God: but all such mode of speaking is pronounced inapplicable to God. 

ALCUIN. For it is not by the carnal ear, but by the spiritual understanding, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, that God is heard. And they did not hear the spiritual voice, because they did not love or obey Him, nor saw they His shape; inasmuch as that is not to be seen by the outward eye, but by faith and love. 

CHRYS. But it was impossible for them to declare that they had received, and obeyed God's commands: and therefore He adds, You have not His word abiding in you; i.e. the commandments, the law, and the prophets; though God instituted them, you have them not. For if the Scriptures every where tell you to believe in Me, and you believe not, it is manifest that His word is gone from you: For whom He has sent, Him you believe not. 

Why does it matter?  Because on this belief depends our salvation!  Consider the following:

BEDE. That coming is put for believing we know, Come to Him, and be lightened. He adds, That you might have life; For, if the soul which sin dies, they were dead in soul and mind. And therefore He promises the life of the soul, i.e. eternal happiness...

ALCUIN. Or, I receive not honor from men: i.e. I seek not human praise; for I came not to receive carnal honor from men, but to give spiritual honor to men. I do not bring forward this testimony then, because I seek my own glory; but because I compassionate your wandering, and wish to bring you back to the way of truth. Hence what follows, But I know you that you have not the love of God in you... 

AUG. Hear John, As you have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now are there many Antichrists. But what do you dread in Antichrist, except that he will exalt his own name, and despise the name of the Lord? And what else does he do, who says, "I justify;" or those who say, Unless we are good, you must perish?" Wherefore my life shall depend on You, and my salvation shall be fastened to You. Shall I so forget my foundation? Is not my rock Christ? 

*Originally posted on Saints Will Arise blog

Friday, 13 February 2015

John 5: 19-30

The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things
Hieronymus Bosch, c1500 

Today's section of St John's Gospel is a speech Jesus gives in response to those who challenged his healing of the man at the healing pool because he did it on the sabbath.  And it takes us to the vital issues of death, judgment, heaven and hell.


Amen, amen dico vobis: non potest Filius a se facere quidquam, nisi quod viderit Patrem facientem: quæcumque enim ille fecerit, hæc et Filius similiter facit. 20 Pater enim diligit Filium, et omnia demonstrat ei quæ ipse facit: et majora his demonstrabit ei opera, ut vos miremini. 21 Sicut enim Pater suscitat mortuos, et vivificat, sic et Filius, quos vult, vivificat. 22 Neque enim Pater judicat quemquam: sed omne judicium dedit Filio, 23 ut omnes honorificent Filium, sicut honorificant Patrem; qui non honorificat Filium, non honorificat Patrem, qui misit illum.

24 Amen, amen dico vobis, quia qui verbum meum audit, et credit ei qui misit me, habet vitam æternam, et in judicium non venit, sed transiit a morte in vitam. 25Amen, amen dico vobis, quia venit hora, et nunc est, quando mortui audient vocem Filii Dei: et qui audierint, vivent. 26 Sicut enim Pater habet vitam in semetipso, sic dedit et Filio habere vitam in semetipso: 27 et potestatem dedit ei judicium facere, quia Filius hominis est. 28Nolite mirari hoc, quia venit hora in qua omnes qui in monumentis sunt audient vocem Filii Dei: 29 et procedent qui bona fecerunt, in resurrectionem vitæ; qui vero mala egerunt, in resurrectionem judicii. 30 Non possum ego a meipso facere quidquam. Sicut audio, judico: et judicium meum justum est, quia non quæro voluntatem meam, sed voluntatem ejus qui misit me.

And the English:

Then Jesus answered, and said to them: Amen, amen, I say unto you, the Son cannot do anything of himself, but what he seeth the Father doing: for what things soever he doth, these the Son also doth in like manner. [20] For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things which himself doth: and greater works than these will he shew him, that you may wonder.[21] For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and giveth life: so the Son also giveth life to whom he will. [22] For neither doth the Father judge any man, but hath given all judgment to the Son. [23] That all men may honour the Son, as they honour the Father. He who honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father, who hath sent him. [24] Amen, amen I say unto you, that he who heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath life everlasting; and cometh not into judgment, but is passed from death to life. [25] Amen, amen I say unto you, that the hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.[26] For as the Father hath life in himself, so he hath given the Son also to have life in himself: [27] And he hath given him power to do judgment, because he is the Son of man. [28] Wonder not at this; for the hour cometh, wherein all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God. [29] And they that have done good things, shall come forth unto the resurrection of life; but they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment. [30] I cannot of myself do any thing. As I hear, so I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not my own will, but the will of him that sent me.

You can find the Latin, Greek and English of John 5:1-18 here.  The video below provided in the previous post in this series gives the English and Latin read verse by verse; alternatively, you can find the Latin read here (from 2.08) and the Greek here (around 3.20).

Study and meditation

The first few verses respond to the charge that Jesus is calling himself God.  He is, he replies but it is more complex than that - and indeed, Trinitarian theology is no simple subject!  The Catena Aurea commentaries on this point include this one:

AUG. As if He said: Why are you offended that I called God My Father, and that I make Myself equal with God? I am equal, but equal in such a sense as is consistent with His having begotten Me; with My being from Him, not Him from Me. With the Son, being and power are one and the same thing. The Substance of the Son then being of the Father, the power of the Son is of tile Father also: and as the Son is not of Himself, so He can not of Himself. The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do. His seeing and His being born of the Father are the same. His vision is not distinct from His Substance, but the whole together is of the Father. 

They also include a response to the claim made by some today that Jesus wasn't fully aware of his own nature or mission:

HILARY. That the wholesome order of our confession, i.e. that we believe in the Father and the Son, might remain, He shows the nature of His birth; viz. that He derived the power of acting not from au accessible of strength supplied for each work, but by His own knowledge in the first instance. And this knowledge He derived not from any particular visible precedents, as if what the Father had done, the Son could do afterwards; but that the Son being born of the Father, and consequently conscious of the Father's virtue and nature within Him, could do nothing but what He saw the Father do: as he here testifies; God does not see by bodily organs, but by the virtue of His nature.

I want to focus in, though, on the issue of the General Resurrection and final judgment referred to in these passages, for many are reluctant to think about the Last Things, and perhaps for good reasons:

CHRYS. But why does He dwell so constantly on these subjects; judgment, resurrection, and life? Because these are the most powerful arguments for bringing men over to the faith, and the most likely ones to prevail with obstinate hearers. For one who is persuaded that he shall rise again, and be called by the Son to account for his misdeeds, will, though he know nothing more than this, be anxious to propitiate his Judge...In referring above to the resurrection of Lazarus and the rest, he said nothing about judgment, for Lazarus did not rise again for judgment; whereas now, that He is speaking of the general resurrection, He brings in the mention of the judgment: And (they) shall come forth, He says, they that have done good to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil to the resurrection of damnation. Having said above, He that hears My words, and believe in Him that sent Me, has everlasting life; that men might not suppose from this, that belief was sufficient for salvation, He proceeds to speak of works: And they that have done good, - and they that have done evil.

And an issue all too pertinent to our times, when 'futile medical treatment' - attempts to extend life when all hope of recovery is lost and often at the cost of a good death in the Catholic sense - is all too prevalent:

AUG. We see the lovers of this present transitory life so intent on its welfare, that when in danger of death, they will take any means to delay its approach, though they can not hope to drive it off altogether. If so much care and labor then is spent on gaining a little additional length of life, how ought we to strive after life eternal? And if they are thought wise, who endeavor in every way to put off death, though they can live but a few days longer; how foolish are they who so live, as to lose the eternal day?

What do we have to do to attain a favourable judgment?

AUG. If, in hearing and believing is eternal life, how much more in understanding? But the step to our piety is faith, the fruit of faith, understanding. It is not, Believes in Me, but in Him that sent Me. Why is one to hear His word, and believe another? Is it not that He means to say, His word is in Me? And what is, Hears My word, but hears Me? And it is, Believe in Him that sent Me; as to say, He that believes in Him, believes in His Word, i.e. in Me, because I am the Word of the Father...

AUG. Or, He means to guard against our thinking, that the being passed from death to life, refers to the future resurrection; its meaning being, that he who believes is passed: and therefore He says, Verily, verily, I say to you, The hour comes, (what hour?) and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. He said not, because they live, they hear; but in consequence of hearing, they come to life again. But what is hearing, but obeying? For they who believe and do according to the true faith, live, and are not dead; whereas those who believe not, or, believing, live a bad life, and have not love, are rather to be accounted dead. And yet that hour is still going on, and will go on, the same hour, to the end of the world: as John says, It is the last hour.

AUG. When the dead, i.e. unbelievers, shall hear the voice of the Son of God, i.e. the Gospel: and they that hear, i.e. who obey, shall live, i.e. be justified, and no longer remain in unbelief.


Meditation on the Last Things should help focus our minds.

It should remind us firstly to do our best to ensure we always stay in a state of grace, lest we fall to damnation.

Secondly, it should remind us that simply escaping hell is not enough: there are different degrees of reward to us, different capacities of the beatific vision which are dependent on the degree of sanctity we attain now.

Thirdly, it should  remind us to pray for the grace of a good death: one we know is coming, so we can prepare for it, and have the comfort of friends, family and the last rites to aid our journey.

Fourthly, it should impel us to mission, caring for the salvation of others.

Finally, it should direct our choices for ourselves and those around us, as well as our work in the public square on end of life issues, so that we work to ensure that the gift of life is treasured not rejected through evil directions such as euthanasia; that we understand and can promote the value of suffering offered for the redemption of others; and at the same time do not seek fruitlessly to prolong the fight when Our Lord calls us home.

*Originally posted on Saints Will Arise blog.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

John 5: 1-18

The Ruins of the Byzantine Church,
adjacent to the site of the Pool of Bethesda

Today's reading deals with the healing of a man who had waited for 38 years in the hope of being healed through the action of an angel stirring up the waters of the pool at Bethesda.

The existence of the pool had been discounted by rationalist theologians, who viewed the story as symbolic rather than historic, and claimed the Gospel of St John was written much later by someone not familiar with Jerusalem.   The discovery of archaeological remains that precisely fit the Gospel description have since undermined this claim.


You can find the Latin, Greek and English of John 5:1-18 here.  The video below provides the English and Latin read verse by verse; alternatively, you can find the Latin read here and the Greek here.

The Latin:

1 Post hæc erat dies festus Judæorum, et ascendit Jesus Jerosolymam. 2 Est autem Jerosolymis probatica piscina, quæ cognominatur hebraice Bethsaida, quinque porticus habens. 3 In his jacebat multitudo magna languentium, cæcorum, claudorum, aridorum, exspectantium aquæ motum. 4 Angelus autem Domini descendebat secundum tempus in piscinam, et movebatur aqua. Et qui prior descendisset in piscinam post motionem aquæ, sanus fiebat a quacumque detinebatur infirmitate. 5 Erat autem quidam homo ibi triginta et octo annos habens in infirmitate sua. 6 Hunc autem cum vidisset Jesus jacentem, et cognovisset quia jam multum tempus haberet, dicit ei: Vis sanus fieri? 7 Respondit ei languidus: Domine, hominem non habeo, ut, cum turbata fuerit aqua, mittat me in piscinam: dum venio enim ego, alius ante me descendit. 8 Dicit ei Jesus: Surge, tolle grabatum tuum et ambula. 9 Et statim sanus factus est homo ille: et sustulit grabatum suum, et ambulabat. Erat autem sabbatum in die illo. 10 Dicebant ergo Judæi illi qui sanatus fuerat: Sabbatum est, non licet tibi tollere grabatum tuum. 11 Respondit eis: Qui me sanum fecit, ille mihi dixit: Tolle grabatum tuum et ambula. 12 Interrogaverunt ergo eum: Quis est ille homo qui dixit tibi: Tolle grabatum tuum et ambula? 13 Is autem qui sanus fuerat effectus, nesciebat quis esset. Jesus enim declinavit a turba constituta in loco. 14 Postea invenit eum Jesus in templo, et dixit illi: Ecce sanus factus es; jam noli peccare, ne deterius tibi aliquid contingat. 15 Abiit ille homo, et nuntiavit Judæis quia Jesus esset, qui fecit eum sanum.16 Propterea persequebantur Judæi Jesum, quia hæc faciebat in sabbato. 17 Jesus autem respondit eis: Pater meus usque modo operatur, et ego operor. 18 Propterea ergo magis quærebant eum Judæi interficere: quia non solum solvebat sabbatum, sed et patrem suum dicebat Deum, æqualem se faciens Deo.

The English:

After these things was a festival day of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. [2] Now there is at Jerusalem a pond, called Probatica, which in Hebrew is named Bethsaida, having five porches. [3] In these lay a great multitude of sick, of blind, of lame, of withered; waiting for the moving of the water. [4] And an angel of the Lord descended at certain times into the pond; and the water was moved. And he that went down first into the pond after the motion of the water, was made whole, of whatsoever infirmity he lay under. [5] And there was a certain man there, that had been eight and thirty years under his infirmity.[6] Him when Jesus had seen lying, and knew that he had been now a long time, he saith to him: Wilt thou be made whole? [7] The infirm man answered him: Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pond. For whilst I am coming, another goeth down before me. [8] Jesus saith to him: Arise, take up thy bed, and walk. [9] And immediately the man was made whole: and he took up his bed, and walked. And it was the sabbath that day. [10] The Jews therefore said to him that was healed: It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for thee to take up thy bed.[11] He answered them: He that made me whole, he said to me, Take up thy bed, and walk. [12] They asked him therefore: Who is that man who said to thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? [13] But he who was healed, knew not who it was; for Jesus went aside from the multitude standing in the place. [14] Afterwards, Jesus findeth him in the temple, and saith to him: Behold thou art made whole: sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to thee. [15] The man went his way, and told the Jews, that it was Jesus who had made him whole. [16] Therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, because he did these things on the sabbath. [17] But Jesus answered them: My Father worketh until now; and I work. [18] Hereupon therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he did not only break the sabbath, but also said God was his Father, making himself equal to God.


I have to admit that this is one of my favourite sections of St John's Gospel, for, although it is only a subsidiary aspect of the story, it attests to the action of the angels in the world.  Tradition names the angel who stirs up the healing waters as St Raphael the Archangel, hero of the Old Testament book of Tobit.

St Augustine interprets the text for us, in a Sermon on John 5:2 as follows, providing meat for our meditation:

"Give heed then. Those five porches were significative of the Law, bearing the sick, not healing them; discovering, not curing them. 

But who did cure the sick? He that descended into the pool. And when did the sick man descend into the pool? When the Angel gave the sign by the moving of the water. For thus was that pool sanctified, for that the Angel came down and moved the water. Men saw the water; and from the motion of the troubled water they understood the presence of the Angel. If any one then went down, he was cured. 

Why then was not that sick man cured? Let us consider his own words; “I have no man,” he says, “when the water is moved, to put me into the pool, but while I am coming, another steppeth down.”Couldest not thou then step down afterwards, if another step down before thee? Here it is shown us, that only one was cured at the moving of the water. Whosoever stepped down first, he alone was cured: but whoever stepped down afterwards, at that moving of the water was not cured, but waited till it was moved again. 

What then does this mystery mean? For it is not without a meaning. Attend, Beloved. Waters are put in the Apocalypse for a figure of peoples. For when in the Apocalypse John saw many waters, he asked what it meant, and it was told him that they were peoples. 

The water then of the pool signified the people of the Jews. For as that people was held in by the five books of Moses in the Law, so that water too was enclosed by five porches. 

When was the water troubled? When the people of the Jews was troubled. And when was the people of the Jews troubled, but when the Lord Jesus Christ came? The Lord’s Passion was the troubling of the water. For the Jews were troubled when the Lord suffered. See, what was just now read had relation to this troubling. “The Jews wished to kill Him, not only because He did these things on the sabbaths, but because He called Himself the Son of God, making Himself equal with God.” For Christ called Himself the Son after one manner, in another was it said to men, “I said, Ye are Gods, and ye are all children of the Most High.” For if He had made Himself the Son of God in such sort as any man whatever may be called the son of God (for by the grace of God men are called sons of God); the Jews would not have been enraged. But because they understand Him to call Himself the Son of God in another way, according to that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God;” and according to what the Apostle saith, “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God;” they saw a man, and they were enraged, because He made Himself equal with God. But He well knew that He was equal, but wherein they saw not. For that which they saw they wished to crucify; by That which they saw not, they were judged. 

What did the Jews see? What the Apostles also saw, when Philip said, “Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.” But what did the Jews not see? What not even the Apostles saw, when the Lord answered, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet have ye not known Me? He that seeth Me, seeth the Father also.”Because then the Jews were not able to see This in Him, they held Him for a proud and ungodly man, making Himself equal with God. 

Here was a troubling, the water was troubled, the Angel had come. For the Lord is called also the “Angel of the Great Counsel,” in that He is the messenger of the Father’s will. For Angel in Greek is in Latin “messenger”. So you have the Lord saying that He announces to us the kingdom of Heaven. He then bad come, the “Angel of the Great Counsel,” but the Lord of all the Angels. “Angel” on this account, because He took Flesh; the “Lord of Angels,” in that by “Him all things were made, and without Him was nothing made.” For if all things, Angels too. And therefore Himself was not made, because by Him all things were made. Now what was made, was not made without the operation of the Word. But the flesh which became the mother of Christ, could not have been born, if it had not been created by the Word, which was afterwards born of it.


St Augustine gives us the image of Christ as the disturber of waters, the messenger or 'angel' who brings both disruption and healing. It is an important reminder: the Gospel message is never a comfortable one.

That is easy to forget as our human institutions - our schools, hospitals and age care facilities for example - though established for holy purposes, ossify and become self-perpetuating rather than seeking to propagate the Gospel.

It is easy to forget when some would have us soft-soap Christ's hard teachings, in order to avoid offending the sensibilities of this post-modern age.

Yet Our Lord himself never did this.

*Originally posted on Saints Will Arise blog.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Notes on Jn 4:43-54**

Healing the royal official's son by Joseph-Marie Vien, 1752.

This section of St John's Gospel includes this Sunday's Gospel (for the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost), in the story of the nobleman or ruler, constituting St John's second 'sign' or miracle.

It is not clear whether the man concerned is a royal official (ie of Herod's regime) or a Roman - the story is similar but not identical to the story of the Centurion's son in the synoptic Gospels.

Omitted from that Sunday reading though, sandwiched between these two stories of the positive reception of the Gospel by those who were essentailly outsiders, is a brief reference to the less than friendly reception Jesus receives in his own country.

It is a timely reminder in these days when the unfriendly reception to tough teaching so often seems to come from those who claim to be within the Church as much as from those outside it.


You can find the Greek, Latin and English translations for the rest of John 4 over at New Advent here.  For the audio you can find the Latin (from 4.52) over at the excellent Greek Latin audio site, and similarly the Greek here (5.18).  Alternatively, listen to the video I included in a previous post in this series.

The Latin:

43 Post duos autem dies exiit inde, et abiit in Galilæam. 44 Ipse enim Jesus testimonium perhibuit, quia propheta in sua patria honorem non habet. 45 Cum ergo venisset in Galilæam, exceperunt eum Galilæi, cum omnia vidissent quæ fecerat Jerosolymis in die festo: et ipsi enim venerant ad diem festum. 46 Venit ergo iterum in Cana Galilææ, ubi fecit aquam vinum. Et erat quidam regulus, cujus filius infirmabatur Capharnaum. 47 Hic cum audisset quia Jesus adveniret a Judæa in Galilæam, abiit ad eum, et rogabat eum ut descenderet, et sanaret filium ejus: incipiebat enim mori. 48 Dixit ergo Jesus ad eum: Nisi signa et prodigia videritis, non creditis. 49 Dicit ad eum regulus: Domine, descende priusquam moriatur filius meus. 50 Dicit ei Jesus: Vade, filius tuus vivit. Credidit homo sermoni quem dixit ei Jesus, et ibat. 51 Jam autem eo descendente, servi occurrerunt ei, et nuntiaverunt dicentes, quia filius ejus viveret. 52 Interrogabat ergo horam ab eis in qua melius habuerit. Et dixerunt ei: Quia heri hora septima reliquit eum febris. 53 Cognovit ergo pater, quia illa hora erat in qua dixit ei Jesus: Filius tuus vivit; et credidit ipse et domus ejus tota. 54 Hoc iterum secundum signum fecit Jesus, cum venisset a Judæa in Galilæam.

The English:

[43] Now after two days, he departed thence, and went into Galilee. [44] For Jesus himself gave testimony that a prophet hath no honour in his own country. [45] And when he was come into Galilee, the Galileans received him, having seen all the things he had done at Jerusalem on the festival day; for they also went to the festival day.[46] He came again therefore into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain ruler, whose son was sick at Capharnaum. [47] He having heard that Jesus was come from Judea into Galilee, went to him, and prayed him to come down, and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. [48] Jesus therefore said to him: Unless you see signs and wonders, you believe not. [49] The ruler saith to him: Lord, come down before that my son die. [50] Jesus saith to him: Go thy way; thy son liveth. The man believed the word which Jesus said to him, and went his way.[51] And as he was going down, his servants met him; and they brought word, saying, that his son lived. [52] He asked therefore of them the hour wherein he grew better. And they said to him: Yesterday, at the seventh hour, the fever left him. [53] The father therefore knew, that it was at the same hour that Jesus said to him, Thy son liveth; and himself believed, and his whole house. [54] This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judea into Galilee.


I want to focus in on those verses about the devaluing and outright rejection of Jesus by those who should have been most receptive to him, for in our own times, those who have never heard the Gospel most often welcome it; those who think they know it however, are most likely to reject it.

The Catena Aurea's commentaries on these verses are as follows:

"ORIGEN After this conversation with the disciples, Scripture returns to those who had believed on the testimony of the woman, and were come to see Jesus. 

CHRYS. It is now, as it were, harvest time, when the corn is gathered, and a whole floor soon covered with sheaves; And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on Him, for the saying of the woman which testified, He told me all that ever I did. They considered that the woman would never of her own accord have conceived such admiration for one Who had reproved her offenses, unless He were really some great and wonderful person. And thus relying solely on the testimony of the woman, without any other evidence, they went out to beseech Christ to stay with them: So when the Samaritans were come to Him, they besought Him that He would tarry with them. The Jews when they saw His miracles, so far from begging Him to stay, tried in every way to get rid of His presence. Such is the power of malice, and envy, and vainglory, that obstinate vice which poisons even goodness itself. Though the Samaritans however wished to keep Him with them, He would not consent, but only tarried there two days. 

ORIGEN. It is natural to ask, why our Savior stays with the Samaritans, when He had given a command to His disciples not to enter into any city of the Samaritans. But we must explain this mystically. To go the way of the Gentiles, is to be imbued with Gentile doctrine; to go into a city of the Samaritans, is to admit the doctrines of those who believe the Scriptures, but interpret them heretically. But when men have given up their own doctrines, and come to Jesus, it is lawful to stay with them. 

CHRYS. The Jews disbelieved in spite of miracles, while these exhibited great faith, be fore even a miracle was wrought, and when they had only heard our Lord's words. And many more believed because of His own word. Why then do not the Evangelists give these words? To show that they omit many important things, and because the result shows what they were; the result being that the whole city was convinced. On the other hand, when the hearers are not convinced, the Evangelists are obliged to give our Lord's words, that the failure may be seen to be owing to the indifference of the hearers, not to any defect in the preacher. And now, having become Christ's disciples, they dismiss their first instructor; And they said to the woman, Now we believe not because of your saying: for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world. How soon they understand that He was come for the deliverance of the whole world, and could not therefore confine His purposes to the Jews, but must sow the Word every where. Their saying too, The Savior of the world, implies that they looked on this world as miserable and lost; and that, whereas Prophets and Angels had come to save it, this was the only real Savior, the Author not only of temporal but eternal salvation. And, observe, whereas the woman had spoken doubtfully, Is not this the Christ? they do not say, we suspect, but we know, know, that this is indeed the Savior of the world, not one Christ out of many. Though they had only heard His words, they said as much as they could have done, had they seen ever so many and great miracles. 

ORIGEN. With the aid of our former observations on Jacob's well, and the water, it wills not be difficult to see, why, when they find the true word, they leave other doctrines, i.e. the city, for a sound faith. Observe, they did not ask our Savior only to enter Samaria, St. John particularly remarks, or enter that city, but to tarry there. Jesus tarries with those who ask Him, and especially with those who go out of the city to Him. 

ORIGEN. They were not ready yet for the third day; having no anxiety to see a miracle, as those had who supped with Jesus in Cana of Galilee. (This supper was after He had been in Cana three days.) The woman's report was the ground of their belief. The enlightening power of the Word itself was not yet visible to them.

AUG. So then they knew Christ first by report of another, afterwards by His own presence; which is still the case of those that are without the fold, and not yet Christians. Christ is announced to them by some charitable Christians, by the report of the woman, i.e. the Church; they come to Christ, they believe on Him, through the instrumentality of that woman; He stays with them two days, i.e. gives them two precepts of charity. And thenceforth their belief is stronger. They believe that He is indeed the Savior of the world. 

ORIGEN. For it is impossible that the same impression should be produced by hearing from one who has seen, and seeing one's self; walking by sight is different from walking by faith. The Samaritans now do not believe only from testimony, but from really seeing the truth."


Christ's unfriendly reception by his own people is something repeated over and over in history, and not least in our own time.

The old saying familiarity breeds contempt is all too common in our churches, where all too many bishops fail to teach; where all too many priests fail to to lead their people in proper reverence and worship; and where all too many people receive the Eucharist sacrilegiously due to sin.

We need to be willing, as the woman at the well was, to act as apostles, whether to the schismatics and heretics of our time, as well as to those to whom the message no longer seems fresh.

**Cross-posted from Saints Will Arise blog.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Notes on John 4: 27-42**

John 4: 27-42 continues the story of Jesus' encounter with the Samaritans.  In this section of the Gospel, the disciples, who have been off in the town buying food arrive back, and are bemused (to say the least) to find Jesus talking to a non-Jewish woman.  Nonetheless, as in so many other Gospel scenes (most vividly described in St Mark), they are unwilling to question him, but instead simply offer him food.  But instead of accepting, he reinforces the lesson of his previous preaching by talking about the spiritual food and drink that sustains him instead.


You can find the Greek, Latin and English translations of John 4: 27-42 over at New Advent here.  For the audio you can find the Latin (from 3.05) over at the excellent Greek Latin audio site, and similarly the Greek here (3.22).  Alternatively, listen to the video I included in the previous post in this series.

Here is the Latin:

27 Et continuo venerunt discipuli ejus, et mirabantur quia cum muliere loquebatur. Nemo tamen dixit: Quid quæris? aut, Quid loqueris cum ea? 28 Reliquit ergo hydriam suam mulier, et abiit in civitatem, et dicit illis hominibus: 29 Venite, et videte hominem qui dixit mihi omnia quæcumque feci: numquid ipse est Christus? 30 Exierunt ergo de civitate et veniebant ad eum. 31 Interea rogabant eum discipuli, dicentes: Rabbi, manduca. 32 Ille autem dicit eis: Ego cibum habeo manducare, quem vos nescitis. 33 Dicebant ergo discipuli ad invicem: Numquid aliquis attulit ei manducare? 34 Dicit eis Jesus: Meus cibus est ut faciam voluntatem ejus qui misit me, ut perficiam opus ejus. 35 Nonne vos dicitis quod adhuc quatuor menses sunt, et messis venit? Ecce dico vobis: levate oculos vestros, et videte regiones, quia albæ sunt jam ad messem. 36 Et qui metit, mercedem accipit, et congregat fructum in vitam æternam: ut et qui seminat, simul gaudeat, et qui metit. 37 In hoc enim est verbum verum: quia alius est qui seminat, et alius est qui metit. 38 Ego misi vos metere quod vos non laborastis: alii laboraverunt, et vos in labores eorum introistis. 39 Ex civitate autem illa multi crediderunt in eum Samaritanorum, propter verbum mulieris testimonium perhibentis: Quia dixit mihi omnia quæcumque feci. 40 Cum venissent ergo ad illum Samaritani, rogaverunt eum ut ibi maneret. Et mansit ibi duos dies. 41 Et multo plures crediderunt in eum propter sermonem ejus. 42 Et mulieri dicebant: Quia jam non propter tuam loquelam credimus: ipsi enim audivimus, et scimus quia hic est vere Salvator mundi.

And the English:

[27] And immediately his disciples came; and they wondered that he talked with the woman. Yet no man said: What seekest thou? or, why talkest thou with her? [28] The woman therefore left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men there: [29] Come, and see a man who has told me all things whatsoever I have done. Is not he the Christ? [30] They went therefore out of the city, and came unto him.[31] In the mean time the disciples prayed him, saying: Rabbi, eat. [32] But he said to them: I have meat to eat, which you know not. [33] The disciples therefore said one to another: Hath any man brought him to eat? [34] Jesus saith to them: My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, that I may perfect his work. [35] Do you not say, There are yet four months, and then the harvest cometh? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and see the countries; for they are white already to harvest.[36] And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life everlasting: that both he that soweth, and he that reapeth, may rejoice together. [37] For in this is the saying true: That it is one man that soweth, and it is another that reapeth. [38] I have sent you to reap that in which you did not labour: others have laboured, and you have entered into their labours. [39] Now of that city many of the Samaritans believed in him, for the word of the woman giving testimony: He told me all things whatsoever I have done. [40] So when the Samaritans were come to him, they desired that he would tarry there. And he abode there two days.[41] And many more believed in him because of his own word. [42] And they said to the woman: We now believe, not for thy saying: for we ourselves have heard him, and know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world.


These days Jesus is often portrayed as 'gentle, meek and mild'.  In the proper sense of those words, sense he was, but what perhaps need to be recovered in that image is the sense of his divinity that was evidently always apparent both to the disciples and those he met, as the Catena Aurea makes clear:

"CHRYS. The disciples arrive opportunely, and when the teaching is finished: And upon this came His disciples, and marveled that He talked with the woman. They marveled at the exceeding kindness and humility of Christ, in condescending to converse with a poor woman, and a Samaritan.

AUG. He who came to seek that which was lost, sought the lost one. This was what they marveled at: they marveled at His goodness; they did not suspect evil. 

CHRYS. But notwithstanding their wonder, they asked Him no questions, No man said, What seek You? or, Why talk you with her? So careful were they to observe the rank of disciples, so great was their awe and veneration for Him. On subjects indeed which concerned themselves, they did not hesitate to ask Him questions. But this was not one. 

ORIGEN. The woman is almost turned into an Apostle. So forcible are His words, that she leaves her waterpot to go to the city, and tell her townsmen of them. The woman then left her waterpot, i.e. gave up low bodily cares, for the sake of benefiting others. Let us do the same. Let us leave off caring for things of the body, and impart to others of our own."

On the spiritual meat here, Origen says:

"The matter of spiritual drink and living water being explained, the subject of meat follows. Jesus had asked the woman of Samaria, and she could give Him none good enough. Then came the disciples, having procured some humble food among the people of the country, and offered it Him, beseeching Him to eat. They fear perhaps lest the Word of God, deprived of His own proper nourishment, fail within them; and therefore with such as they have found, immediately propose to feed Him, that being confirmed and strengthened, He may abide with His nourishers. Souls require food as well as bodies. And as bodies require different kinds of it, and in different quantities, so is it in things which are above the body. Souls differ in capacity, and one needs more nourishment, another less. So too in point of quality, the same nourishment of words and thoughts does not suit all. Infants just born need the milk of the word; the grown up, solid meat. Our Lord says, I have meat to eat. For one who is over the weak who cannot behold the same things with the stronger, may always speak thus."

The final section of the text deals with the labour of spreading the Gospel:

"THEOPHYL. Now you are expecting a material harvest. But I say to you, that a spiritual harvest is at hand: lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. He alludes to the Samaritans who are approaching. 

CHRYS. He leads them, as his custom is, from low things to high. Fields and harvest here express the great number of souls, which are ready to receive the word. The eyes are both spiritual, and bodily ones, for they saw a great multitude of Samaritans now approaching. This expectant crowd he calls very suitably white fields. For as the corn, when it grows white, is reader for the harvest; so were these ready for salvation. But why does He not say this in direct language? Because by making use in this way of the objects around them, he gave greater vividness and power to His words, and brought the truth home to them; and also that His discourse might be more pleasant, and might sink deeper into their memories.

AUG. He was intent now on beginning the work, and hastened to send laborers: And he that reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit to life eternal, that both he that sows and he that reaps may rejoice together. 

CHRYS. Again He distinguishes earthly from heavenly things, for as above He said of the water, that he who drank of it should never thirst, so here He says, He that reaps gathers fruit to life eternal; adding, that both he that sows and he that reaps may rejoice together. The Prophets sowed, the Apostles reaped, yet are not the former deprived of their reward. For here a new thing is promised; viz. that both sowers and reapers shall rejoice together. How different this from what we see here. Now he that sows grieves because he sows for others, and he only that reaps rejoices. But in the Dew state, the sower and reaper share the same wages.

AUG. The Apostles and Prophets had different labors, corresponding to the difference of times; but both will attain to like joy, and receive together their wages, even eternal life. 

CHRYS. He confirms what He says by a proverb, And herein is that saying true, one sows and another reaps, i.e. one party has the labor, and another reaps the fruit. The saying is especially applicable here, for the Prophets had labored, and the disciples reaped the fruits of their labors: I sent you to reap that whereon you bestowed no labor.

AUG. So then He sent reapers, no sowers. The reapers went where the Prophets had preached. Read the account of their labors: they all contain prophecy of Christ. And the harvest was gathered on that occasion when so many thousands brought the prices of their possessions, and laid them at the Apostles' feet; relieving their shoulders from earthly burdens, that they might follow Christ. Yes verily, and from that harvest were a few grains scattered, which filled the whole world. And now arises another harvest, which will be reaped at the end of the world, not by Apostles, but by Angels. The reapers, He says, are the Angels. 

CHRYS. I sent you to reap that whereon you bestowed no labor, i.e. I have reserved you for a favorable time, in which the labor is less, the enjoyment greater. The more laborious part of the work was laid on the Prophets, viz. the sowing of the seed: Other men labored, and you are entered into their labors. Christ here throws light on the meaning of the old prophecies. He shows that both the Law and the Prophets, if rightly interpreted, led men to Him; and that the Prophets w ere sent in fact by Himself. Thus the intimate connection is established between the Old Testament and the New..." 

** Cross-posted from Saints Will Arise

Monday, 9 February 2015

Notes on John 4:1-26**

Jacob's well
Chapter 4 of St John's Gospel takes us to Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman.  Verses 5-42 of this chapter are used as the Gospel on the Friday after Third Sunday of Lent, while

It is an important story for a number of reasons, most notably because it is one of the relatively few recorded cases of Jesus seeking to convert an essentially non-Jewish, or at least schismatic, group - and Acts records the follow-up mission of St Philip and others to Samaria.

The Samaritan religion claims to be a purer form of Judaism that rejected the (claimed) syncretism introduced by the Babylonian exile.  The Samaritan version of the Torah differs in certain respects to the (medieval) Hebrew Masoretic Text and the Septuagint, and is at least as ancient as the latter.  The Gospel passage, though, records the woman's assertion of their common ancestry through the appeal to Jacobg and his well.

The initial Samaritan split from Judaism occurred somewhere between the eighth and fourth century BC, and by the time of Our Lord their 'traditionalist' schism of a million or so souls had long since hardened into an outright rejection of mainstream Judaism: they had their own temple and priesthood.  Similarly the Jews no longer regarded them as Jewish despite their Jewish descent, and relations between the two groups were tense.


You can find the Greek, Latin and English translations over at New Advent here.  For the audio you can find the Latin over at the excellent Greek Latin audio site, and similarly the Greek here.  Alternatively, try out the video below.

Ut ergo cognovit Jesus quia audierunt pharisæi quod Jesus plures discipulos facit, et baptizat, quam Joannes 2 (quamquam Jesus non baptizaret, sed discipuli ejus), 3 reliquit Judæam, et abiit iterum in Galilæam. 4 Oportebat autem eum transire per Samariam. 5 Venit ergo in civitatem Samariæ, quæ dicitur Sichar, juxta prædium quod dedit Jacob Joseph filio suo. 6 Erat autem ibi fons Jacob. Jesus ergo fatigatus ex itinere, sedebat sic supra fontem. Hora erat quasi sexta. 7 Venit mulier de Samaria haurire aquam. Dicit ei Jesus: Da mihi bibere. 8 (Discipuli enim ejus abierant in civitatem ut cibos emerent.) 9 Dicit ergo ei mulier illa Samaritana: Quomodo tu, Judæus cum sis, bibere a me poscis, quæ sum mulier Samaritana? non enim coutuntur Judæi Samaritanis. 10 Respondit Jesus, et dixit ei: Si scires donum Dei, et quis est qui dicit tibi: Da mihi bibere, tu forsitan petisses ab eo, et dedisset tibi aquam vivam. 11 Dicit ei mulier: Domine, neque in quo haurias habes, et puteus altus est: unde ergo habes aquam vivam? 12 Numquid tu major es patre nostro Jacob, qui dedit nobis puteum, et ipse ex eo bibit, et filii ejus, et pecora ejus? 13 Respondit Jesus, et dixit ei: Omnis qui bibit ex aqua hac, sitiet iterum; qui autem biberit ex aqua quam ego dabo ei, non sitiet in æternum: 14 sed aqua quam ego dabo ei, fiet in eo fons aquæ salientis in vitam æternam. 15 Dicit ad eum mulier: Domine, da mihi hanc aquam, ut non sitiam, neque veniam huc haurire.16 Dicit ei Jesus: Vade, voca virum tuum, et veni huc. 17 Respondit mulier, et dixit: Non habeo virum. Dicit ei Jesus: Bene dixisti, quia non habeo virum; 18 quinque enim viros habuisti, et nunc, quem habes, non est tuus vir: hoc vere dixisti. 19 Dicit ei mulier: Domine, video quia propheta es tu. 20 Patres nostri in monte hoc adoraverunt, et vos dicitis, quia Jerosolymis est locus ubi adorare oportet. 21 Dicit ei Jesus: Mulier, crede mihi, quia venit hora, quando neque in monte hoc, neque in Jerosolymis adorabitis Patrem. 22 Vos adoratis quod nescitis: nos adoramus quod scimus, quia salus ex Judæis est. 23 Sed venit hora, et nunc est, quando veri adoratores adorabunt Patrem in spiritu et veritate. Nam et Pater tales quærit, qui adorent eum. 24 Spiritus est Deus: et eos qui adorant eum, in spiritu et veritate oportet adorare. 25 Dicit ei mulier: Scio quia Messias venit (qui dicitur Christus): cum ergo venerit ille, nobis annuntiabit omnia. 26 Dicit ei Jesus: Ego sum, qui loquor tecum.

And the English:

When Jesus therefore understood that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus maketh more disciples, and baptizeth more than John, [2] (Though Jesus himself did not baptize, but his disciples,) [3] He left Judea, and went again into Galilee. [4] And he was of necessity to pass through Samaria. [5] He cometh therefore to a city of Samaria, which is called Sichar, near the land which Jacob gave to his son Joseph.[6] Now Jacob' s well was there. Jesus therefore being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well. It was about the sixth hour. [7] There cometh a woman of Samaria, to draw water. Jesus saith to her: Give me to drink. [8] For his disciples were gone into the city to buy meats. [9] Then that Samaritan woman saith to him: How dost thou, being a Jew, ask of me to drink, who am a Samaritan woman? For the Jews do not communicate with the Samaritans. [10] Jesus answered, and said to her: If thou didst know the gift of God, and who he is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou perhaps wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. [11] The woman saith to him: Sir, thou hast nothing wherein to draw, and the well is deep; from whence then hast thou living water? [12] Art thou greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? [13] Jesus answered, and said to her: Whosoever drinketh of this water, shall thirst again; but he that shall drink of the water that I will give him, shall not thirst for ever: [14] But the water that I will give him, shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into life everlasting. [15] The woman saith to him: Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come hither to draw.[16] Jesus saith to her: Go, call thy husband, and come hither. [17] The woman answered, and said: I have no husband. Jesus said to her: Thou hast said well, I have no husband: [18] For thou hast had five husbands: and he whom thou now hast, is not thy husband. This thou hast said truly. [19] The woman saith to him: Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. [20] Our fathers adored on this mountain, and you say, that at Jerusalem is the place where men must adore.[21] Jesus saith to her: Woman, believe me, that the hour cometh, when you shall neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, adore the Father. [22] You adore that which you know not: we adore that which we know; for salvation is of the Jews. [23] But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father also seeketh such to adore him. [24] God is a spirit; and they that adore him, must adore him in spirit and in truth. [25] The woman saith to him: I know that the Messias cometh (who is called Christ). Therefore, when he is come, he will tell us all things.[26] Jesus saith to her: I am he, who am speaking with thee. 


The verses open with a continuing reference to the essential nature of baptism, a theme from the previous chapter continued through the discussion of living waters.

Which raises the question of why Jesus had the disciples continue to baptise, seemingly as John did, and what kind of baptism was it?

John the Baptist's baptism was not, of course, sacramental: it did not remit sins in and of itself for it was not baptism in the Spirit.

It is a de fide teaching that Christ instituted baptism as a true sacrament.  But when did he do so?  Many takes these verses in chapters 3&4 of St John's Gospel as the institution narrative, even though the solemn promulgation of it did not occur until after the Resurrection.  Here is the Catena Aurea's take on the subject:

CHRYS. Christ Himself did not baptize, but those who reported the fact, in order to raise the envy of their hearers, so represented it as to appear that Christ Himself baptized. The reason why He baptized not Himself, had been already declared by John, He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire. Now He had not yet given the Holy Spirit: it was therefore fitting that He should not baptize. But His disciples baptized, as an efficacious mode of instruction; better than gathering up believers here and there, as had been done in the case of Simon and his brother. Their baptism, however, had no more virtue than the baptism of John; both being without the grace of the Spirit, and both having one object, viz. that of bringing men to Christ.

AUG. Or, both are true; for Jesus both baptized, and baptized not. He baptized, in that He cleansed: He baptized not, in that He dipped not. The disciples supplied the ministry of the body, He the aid of that Majesty of which it was said, The Same is, He which baptize. 

ALCUIN. The question is often asked, whether the Holy Ghost was given by the baptism of the disciples; when below it is said, The Holy Ghost was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. We reply, that the Spirit was given, though not in so manifest a way as he was after the Ascension, in the shape of fiery tongues. For, as Christ Himself in His human nature ever possessed the Spirit, and yet afterwards at His baptism the Spirit descended visibly upon Him in the form of a dove; so before the manifest and visible coming of the Holy Spirit, all saints might possess the Spirit secretly.

AUG. But we must believe that the disciples of Christ were already baptized themselves, either with John's baptism, or, as is more probable, with Christ's. For He who had stooped to the humble service of washing His disciples' feet, had not failed to administer baptism to His servants, who would thus be enabled in their turn to baptize others. 

The Fathers see this passage as deeply symbolic, so it is worth considering some of the spiritual interpretations of the key verses:

"AUG. He lets her know that it was not the water, which she meant, that He asked for; but that knowing her faith, He wished to satisfy her thirst, by giving her the Holy Spirit. For so must we interpret the living water, which is the gift of God; as He says, If you knew the gift of God.

AUG. Living water is that which comes out of a spring, in distinction to what is collected in ponds and cisterns from the rain. If spring water too becomes stagnant, i.e. collects into some spot, where it is quite separated from its fountain head, it ceases to be living water. 

CHRYS. In Scripture the grace of the Holy Spirit is sometimes called fire, sometimes water, which shows that these words are expressive not of its substance but of its action. The metaphor of fire conveys the lively and sin-consuming property of grace; that of water the cleansing of the Spirit, and the refreshing of the souls who receive Him. 

THEOPHYL. The grace of the Holy Spirit then He calls living water; i.e. life-giving, refreshing, stirring. For the grace of the Holy Spirit is ever stirring him who does good works, directing the risings of his heart... 

ORIGEN. In the mystical sense, Jacob's well is the Scriptures. The learned then drink like Jacob and his sons; the simple and uneducated, like Jacob's cattle...

AUG. Which is true indeed both of material water, and of that of which it is the type. For the water in the well is the pleasure of the world, that abode of darkness. Men draw it with the waterpot of their lusts; pleasure is not relished, except it be preceded by lust. And when a man has enjoyed this pleasure, i.e. drunk of the water, he thirsts again; but if he have received water from Me, he shall never thirst. For how shall they thirst, who are drunken with the abundance of the house of God? But He promised this fullness of the Holy Spirit. 

CHRYS. The excellence of this water; viz. that he that drinks of it never thirsts, He explains in what follows, But the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. As a man who had a spring within him, would never feel thirst, so will not he who has this water which I shall give him.

THEOPHYL. For the water which I give him is ever multiplying. The saints receive through grace the seed and principle of good; but they themselves make it grow by their own cultivation...

ORIGEN. May not Jacob's well signify mystically the letter of Scripture; the water of Jesus, that which is above the letter, which all are not allowed to penetrate into? That which is written was dictated by men, whereas the things which the eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, cannot be reduced to writing, but are from the fountain of water, that springs up unto everlasting life, i.e. the Holy Ghost. These truths are unfolded to such as carrying no longer a human heart within them, are able to say with the Apostle, We have the mind of Christ. Human wisdom indeed discovers truths, which are handed down to posterity; but the teaching of the Spirit is a well of water which springs up into everlasting life. The woman wished to attain, like the angels, to angelic and super-human truth without the use of Jacob's water. For the angels have a well of water within them, springing from the Word of God Himself. She says therefore, Sir, give me this water. But it is impossible here to have the water which is given by the Word, without that which is drawn from Jacob's well; and therefore Jesus seems to tell the woman that He cannot supply her with it from any other source than Jacob's well; If we are thirsty, we must first drink from Jacob's well. Jesus says to her, Go, call your husband, and come hither. According to the Apostle, the Law is the husband of the soul.

AUG. The five husbands some interpret to be the five books which were given by Moses. And the words, He whom thou now have is not your husband, they understand as spoken by our Lord of Himself; as if He said, You have served the five books of Moses, as five husbands; but now he whom you have, i.e. whom you hear, is not your husband; for you do not yet believe in him. But if she did not believe in Christ, she was still united to those five husbands, i.e. five books, and therefore why is it said, you have had five husbands, as if she no longer had them? And how do we understand that a man must have these five books, in order to pass over to Christ, when he who believes in Christ, so far from forsaking these books, embraces them in this spiritual meaning the more strongly?..."


Each Monday in the Benedictine Office the theme of baptism is particularly stressed at Vespers, with the psalm In Exitu Israel (Psalm 113).  The psalms of Monday also point to the importance of living up to our vows and promises to God (Psalm 115), and take us to a weekly renewal of our oblation or profession promises in the Suscipe verse of Psalm 118 (at Terce).

Are we, then, living up to our own baptismal promises, opening ourselves to the grace it imparted, and doing our best to cultivate the virtues it infuses?

Given the importance Our Lord puts, in his teaching, on the necessity and importance of baptism, have we done our best to stress its necessity to others, and ensure all who should receive it?

And do we manifest that living water to those around us, offering to others water from well?

**Cross-posted from Saints Will Arise

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Sexagesima Sunday

The third Nocturn Matins readings on the Gospel for Sexagesima Sunday can be found here.