Friday, April 6, 2012

Excerpt from the Commentary on the Raising of Lazarus by St. John Chrysostom

Excerpt from the Commentary on the Raising of Lazarus by St. John Chrysostom (John 11)
“Jesus lifted up His eyes, and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me; and I knew that Thou hearest Me always, but because of the people which stand by, I said it.” And what follows.
[1.] What I have often said, I will now say, that Christ looketh not so much to His own honor as to our salvation; not how He may utter some sublime saying, but how something able to draw us to Him. On which account His sublime and mighty sayings are few, and those also hidden, but the humble and lowly are many, and abound through His discourses. For since by these men were the rather brought over, in these He continueth; and He doth not on the one hand utter these universally, lest the men that should come after should receive damage, nor, on the other hand, doth He entirely withhold those, lest the men of that time should be offended. Since they who have passed from lowmindedness unto perfection, will be able from even a single sublime doctrine to discern the whole, but those who were ever lowminded, unless they had often heard these lowly sayings, would not have come to Him at all. In fact, even after so many such sayings they do not remain firm, but even stone and persecute Him, and try to kill Him, and call Him blasphemer. And when He maketh Himself equal with God, they say, “This man blasphemeth” ( Matt. ix. 3 ); and when He saith, “Thy sins be forgiven thee” ( c. x. 20 ), they moreover call Him a demoniac. So when He saith that the man who heareth His words is stronger than death, or, “I am in the Father and the Father in Me” ( c. viii. 51 ), they leave Him; and again, they are offended when He saith that He came down from heaven. ( c. vi. 33, 60.) If now they could not bear these sayings, though seldom uttered, scarcely, had His discourse been always sublime, had it been of this texture, would they have given heed to Him? When therefore He saith, “As the Father commanded Me, so I speak” ( c. xiv. 31 ); and, “I am not come of Myself” ( c. vii. 28 ), then they believe. That they did believe then is clear, from the Evangelist signifying this besides, and saying, “As He spake these words, many believed on Him.” ( c. v. 30.) If then lowly speaking drew men to faith, and high speaking scared them away, must it not be a mark of extreme folly not to see at a glance how to reckon the sole reason of those lowly sayings, namely, that they were uttered because of the hearers. Since in another place when He had desired to say some high thing, He withheld it, adding this reason, and saying, “Lest we should offend them, cast a hook into the sea.” ( Matt. xvii. 27.) Which also He doth here; for after saying, “I know that Thou hearest Me always,” He addeth, “but because of the multitude which standeth around I said it, that they might believe.” Are these words ours? Is this a human conjecture? When then a man will not endure to be persuaded by what is written, that they were offended at sublime things, how, when he heareth Christ saying that He spake in a lowly manner that they might not be offended, how, after that, shall he suspect that the mean sayings belonged to His nature, not to His condescension? So in another place, when a voice came down from heaven, He said, “This voice came not because of Me, but for your sakes.” ( c. xii. 30.) He who is exalted may be allowed to speak lowly things of himself, but it is not lawful for the humble to utter concerning himself anything grand or sublime. For the former ariseth from condescension, and has for its cause the weakness of the hearers; or rather (it has for its cause) the leading them to humblemindedness, and His being clothed in flesh, and the teaching the hearers to say nothing great concerning themselves, and His being deemed an enemy of God, and not being believed to have come from God, His being suspected of breaking the Law, and the fact that the hearers looked on Him with an evil eye, and were ill disposed towards Him, because He said that He was equal to God. But that a lowly man should say any great thing of Himself, hath no cause either reasonable or unreasonable; it can only be folly, impudence, and unpardonable boldness. Wherefore then doth Christ speak humbly, being of that ineffable and great Substance? For the reasons mentioned, and that He might not be deemed unbegotten; for Paul seems to have 235 feared some such thing as this; wherefore he saith, “Except Him who did put all things under Him.” ( 1 Cor. xv. 27.) This it is impious even to think of. Since if being less than Him who begat Him, and of a different Substance, He had been deemed equal, would He not have used every means that this might not be thought? But now He doth the contrary, saying, “If I do not the works of Him that sent Me, believe Me not.” ( c. x. 37.) Indeed His saying, that “I am in the Father and the Father in Me” ( c. xiv. 10 ), intimateth to us the equality. It would have behooved, if He had been inferior, to refute this opinion with much vehemence, and not at all to have said, “I am in the Father and the Father in me” ( c. x. 30 ), or that, “We are One,” or that, “He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father.” ( c. xiv. 9.) Thus also, when His discourse was concerning power, He said, “I and the Father are One”; and when His discourse was concerning authority, He said again, “For as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He wilt” ( c. v. 21 ); which it would be impossible that He should do were He of a different substance; or even allowing that it were possible, yet it would not have behooved to say this, lest they should suspect that the substance was one and the same. Since if in order that they may not suppose Him to be an enemy of God, He often even uttereth words unsuited to Him, much more should He then have done so; but now, His saying, “That they should honor the Son even as they honor the Father” ( c. v. 23 ); His saying, “The works which He doeth, I do also” ( c. v. 19 ); His saying that He is “the Resurrection, and the Life, and the Light of the world” ( c. xi. 25; c. viii. 12 ), are the expressions of One making Himself equal to Him who begat Him, and confirming the suspicion which they entertained. Seest thou how He maketh this speech and defense, to show that He broke not the Law, and that He not only doth not remove, but even confirmeth the opinion of His equality with the Father? So also when they said, “Thou blasphemest, because thou makest thyself God” ( c. x. 33 ), from equality of works He established this thing.
[2.] And why say I that the Son did this, when the Father also who took not the flesh doeth the same thing? For He also endured that many lowly things should be said concerning Him for the salvation of the hearers. For the, “Adam, where art thou?” ( Gen. iii. 9 ), and, “That I may know whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it” ( Gen. xviii. 21 ); and, “Now I know that thou fearest God” ( Gen. xxii. 12 ); and, “If they will hear” ( Ezek. iii. 11 ); and, “If they will understand” ( Deut. v. 29 ); and, “Who shall give the heart of this people to be so?” and the expression, “There is none like unto Thee among the gods, O Lord” ( Ps. lxxx. 29 ); these and many other like sentences in the Old Testament, if a man should pick them out, he will find to be unworthy of the dignity of God. In the case of Ahab it is said, “Who shall entice Ahab for Me?” ( 2 Chron. xviii. 19.) And the continually preferring Himself to the gods of the heathen in the way of comparison, all these things are unworthy of God. Yet in another way they are made worthy of Him, for He is so kind, that for our salvation He careth not for expressions which become His dignity. Indeed, the becoming man is unworthy of Him, and the taking the form of a servant, and the speaking humble words, and the being clothed in humble (garments), unworthy if one looks to His dignity, but worthy if one consider the unspeakable riches of His lovingkindness. And there is another cause of the humility of His words. What is that? It is that they knew and confessed the Father, but Him they knew not. Wherefore He continually betaketh Himself to the Father as being confessed by them, because He Himself was not as yet deemed worthy of credit; not on account of any inferiority of His own, but because of the folly and infirmity of the hearers. On this account He prayeth, and saith, “Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me.” For if He quickeneth whom He will, and quickeneth in like manner as doth the Father, wherefore doth He call upon Him?
But it is time now to go through the passage from the beginning. “Then they took up the stone where the dead man lay. And Jesus lifted up His eyes, and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me. And I knew that Thou hearest Me always, but because of the people that stand by I said it, that they might believe that Thou hast sent Me.” Let us then ask the heretic, Did He receive an impulse from the prayer, and so raise the dead man? How then did He work other miracles without prayer? saying, “Thou evil spirit, I charge thee, come out of him” ( Mark ix. 25 ); and, “I will, be thou clean” ( Mark i. 41 ); and, “Arise, take up thy bed” ( c. v. 8 ); and, “Thy sins be forgiven thee” ( Matt. ix. 2 ); and to the sea, “Peace, be still.” ( Mark iv. 39.) In short, what hath He more than the Apostles, if so be that He also worketh by prayer? Or rather I should say, that neither did they work all with prayer, but often they wrought without prayer, calling upon the Name of Jesus. Now, if His Name had such great power, how could He have needed prayer? Had He needed prayer, His Name would not have availed. When He wholly made man, what manner of prayer did He need? was there not then great equality of honor? “Let Us make,” It saith, “man.” ( Gen. i. 26 .) What could be greater sign of weakness, if He needed prayer? But let us see what the prayer was; “I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me.” Who now ever prayed in this manner? Before uttering any prayer, He saith, “I thank Thee,” showing that He needed not prayer. “And I knew that Thou hearest Me always.” This He said not as though He Himself were powerless, but to show that His will and the Father’s is one. But why did He assume the form of prayer? Hear, not me, but Himself, saying, “For the sake of the people which stand by, that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me.” He said not, "That they may believe that I am inferior, that I have need of an impulse from above, that without prayer I cannot do anything; but, “That Thou hast sent Me.” For all these things the prayer declareth, if we take it simply. He said not, “Thou hast sent me weak, acknowledging servitude, and doing nothing of Myself”; but dismissing all these things, that thou mayest have no such suspicions, He putteth the real cause of the prayer, “That they may not deem Me an enemy of God; that they may not say, He is not of God, that I may show them that the work hath been done according to Thy will.” All but saying, “Had I been an enemy of God, what is done would not have succeeded,” but the, “Thou heardest Me,” is said in the case of friends and equals. “And I knew that Thou hearest Me always,” that is, “in order that My will be done I need no prayer, except to persuade men that to Thee and Me belongeth one will.” “Why then prayest Thou?” For the sake of the weak and grosser sort.
Ver. 43. “And when He had thus spoken, He cried with a loud voice.”
Why said He not, “In the name of My Father come forth”? Or why said He not, “Father, raise him up”? Why did he omit all these expressions, and after assuming the attitude of one praying, show by His actions His independent authority? Because this also was a part of His wisdom, to show condescension by words, but by His deeds, power. For since they had nothing else to charge Him with except that He was not of God, and since in this way they deceived many, He on this account most abundantly proveth this very point by what He saith, and in the way that their infirmity required. For it was in His power by other means to show at once His agreement with the Father and His own dignity, but the multitude could not ascend so far. And He saith,
“Lazarus, come forth.”
[3.] This is that of which He spake, “The hour is coming, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” ( c. v. 28.) For, that thou mightest not think that He received the power of working from another, He taught thee this before, and gave proof by deeds, and said not, Arise, but, “Come forth,” conversing with the dead man as though living. What can be equal to this authority? And if He doth it not by His own strength, what shall He have more than the Apostles, who say, “Why look ye so earnestly on us as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?” ( Acts iii. 12.) For if, not working by His own power, He did not add what the Apostles said concerning themselves, they will in a manner be more truly wise than He, because they refused the glory. And in another place, “Why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions as you.” ( Acts xiv. 15.) The Apostles since they did nothing of themselves, spoke in this way to persuade men of this; but He when the like opinion was formed concerning Him, would He not have removed the suspicion, if at least He did not act by His own authority? Who would assert this? But in truth Christ doeth the contrary, when He saith, “Because of the people which stand by I said it, that they might believe”; so that had they believed, there would have been no need of prayer. Now if prayer were not beneath His dignity, why should He account them the cause of His praying? Why said He not, “I do it in order that they may believe that I am not equal to Thee”; for He ought on account of the suspicion to have come to this point. When He was suspected of breaking the Law, He used the very expression, even when they had not said anything, “Think not that I am come to destroy the Law” ( Matt. v. 17 ); but in this place He establisheth their suspicion. In fact, what need was there at all of going such a round, and of using such dark sayings? It had been enough to say, “I am not equal,” and to be rid of the matter. “But what,” saith some one, “did He not say that, I do not My own will?” Even this He did in a covert way, and one suited to their infirmity, and from the same cause through which the prayer was made. But what meaneth “That Thou hast heard Me”? It meaneth, “That there is nothing on My part opposed to Thee.” As then the, “That Thou hast heard Me,” is not the saying of one declaring, that of Himself He had not the power, (for were this the case, it would be not only impotence but ignorance, if before praying He did not know that God would grant the prayer; and if He knew not, how was it that He said, “I go that I may awake him,” instead of, “I go to pray My Father to awake him?”) As then this expression is a sign, not of weakness, but of identity of will, so also is the, “Thou hearest Me always.” We must then either say this, or else that it was addressed to their suspicions. If now He was neither ignorant nor weak, it is clear that He uttereth these lowly words, that thou mayest be persuaded by their very excess, and mayest be compelled to confess, that they suit not His dignity, but are from condescension. What then say the enemies of truth? “He spake not those words, Thou hast heard me,” saith some one, “to the infirmity of the hearers, but in order to show a superiority.” Yet this was not to show a superiority, but to humble Himself greatly, and to show Himself as having nothing more than man. For to pray is not proper to God, nor to the sharer of the Throne. Seest thou then that He came to this from no other cause than their unbelief? Observe at least that the action beareth witness to His authority.
“He called, and the dead man came forth wrapped.” Then that the matter might not seem to be an appearance, (for his coming forth bound did not seem to be less marvelous than his resurrection,) Jesus commanded to loose him, in order that having touched and having been near him, they might see that it was really he. And He saith,
“Let him go.”
Seest thou His freedom from boastfulness? He doth not lead him on, nor bid him go about1814 with Him, lest He should seem to any to be showing him; so well knew He how to observe moderation.
When the sign had been wrought, some wondered, others went and told it to the Pharisees.1815 What then did they? When they ought to have been astonished and to have admired Him, they took counsel to kill Him who had raised the dead. What folly! They thought to give up to death Him who had overcome death in the bodies of others.
Ver. 47. “And they said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.”
They still call Him “man,” these who had received such proof of His divinity. “What do we?” They ought to have believed, and served, and bowed down to Him, and no longer to have deemed Him a man...
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Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

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