of St Nicholas
7th Sunday of Pascha
The Holy Fathers of the first Ecumenical Council
Homily 82 - John 17:14-26
I have given them Thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."
[1.] When having become virtuous we are persecuted by the wicked, or when being desirous of virtue we are mocked at by them, let us not be distracted or angry. For this is the natural course of things, and everywhere virtue is wont to engender hatred from wicked men. For envying those who desire to live properly, and thinking to prepare an excuse for themselves if they can overthrow the credit of others, they hate them as having pursuits opposite to their own, and use every means to shame their way of life. But let not us grieve, for this is a mark of virtue. Wherefore Christ also saith, " If ye were of the world, the world would love its own." (c. 15:19.) And in another place again, "Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you." (Luke 6:26.) Wherefore also He saith here, "I have given them Thy word, and the world hath hated them." Again He telleth the reason for which they were worthy to obtain much care from the Father; "For Thy sake," He saith, "they have been hated, and for Thy word's sake"; so that they would be entitled to all providential care.
Ver. 15. "I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil."
Again He simplifieth(5) His language; again He rendereth it more clear; which is the act of one showing, by making entreaty for them with exactness, nothing else but this, that He hath a very tender care for them. Yet He Himself had told them, that the Father would do all things whatsoever they should ask. How then doth He here pray for them? As I said, for no other purpose than to show His love.
Ver. 16. "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."
How then saith He in another place, "Which Thou gavest Me out of the world; Thine they were"? (Ver. 6.) There He speaketh of their nature; here of wicked actions. And He putteth together a long encomium of them; first, that "they were not of the world"; then, that "'the Father Himself had given them"; and that "they had kept His word;" and that on this account "they were hated." And if He saith, "As I am not of the world," be not troubled; for the "as" is not here expressive of unvarying exactness. For as, when in the case of Him and the Father the "as" is used, a great Equality is signified, because of the Relationship in Nature; so when it is used of us and Him, the interval is great, because of the great and infinite interval between the respective natures. For if He "did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth" (1 Pet. 2:22), how could the Apostles be reckoned equal to Him? What is it then that He saith, "They are not of the world"? "They look to another world, they have nothing common with earth, but are become citizens of heaven." And by these words He showeth His love, when He commendeth them to the Father, and committeth them to Him who begat Him. When He saith, "Keep them," He doth not speak merely of delivering them from dangers, but also with regard to their continuance in the faith. Wherefore He addeth,
Ver. 17. "Sanctify them through Thy truth." "Make them holy by the gift of the Spirit, and of right doctrines." As when He saith, "Ye are clean through the word which I spake unto you" (c. 15:3), so now He saith the same thing, "Instruct them, teach them the truth." "And yet He saith that the Spirit doth this. How then doth He now ask it from the Father?" That thou mayest again learn their equality of Honor. For right doctrines asserted concerning God sanctify the soul. And if He saith that they are sanctified by the word, marvel not. And to show that He speaketh of doctrines, He addeth,
"Thy word is truth."
That is, "there is no falsehood in it, and all · that is said in it must needs come to pass"; and again, it signifieth nothing typical or bodily. As also Paul saith concerning the Church, that He hath sanctified it by the Word. For the Word of God is wont also to cleanse. (Eph. 5:26.) Moreover, the, "sanctify them," seems to me to signify something else, such as this, "Set them apart for the Word and for preaching." And this is made plain from what follows. For, He saith,
Ver. 17. "As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world."
As Paul also saith, "Having put in us the word of reconciliation." (2 Cor. 5:19.) For the same end for which Christ came, for the same did these take possession of the world. In this place again the "as" is not put to signify resemblance in the case of Himself and the Apostles; for how was it possible for men to be sent otherwise? But it was His custom to speak of the future as having come to pass.(1)
Ver. 19. "And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified in the truth."
What is, "I sanctify Myself"? "I offer to Thee a sacrifice." Now all sacrifices are called "holy," and those are specially called "holy things," which are laid up for God. For whereas of old in type the sanctification was by the sheep, but now it is not (2) in type, but by the truth itself, He therefore saith, "That they may be sanctified in Thy truth." "For I both dedicate them to Thee, and make them an offering"; this He saith, either because their Head was being made so,(3) or because they also were sacrificed; for, "Present," it saith, "your bodies a living sacrifice, holy" (Rom. 12:1); and, "We were counted as sheep for the slaughter." (Ps. 44:22.) And He maketh them; without death, a sacrifice and offering; for that He alluded to His own sacrifice, when He said, "I sanctify," is clear from what follows.
Ver. 20. "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also who shall believe."(4)
[2.] For since He was dying for them, and said, that "For their sakes I sanctify Myself," lest any one should think that He did this for the Apostles only, He added, "Neither pray I for these only, but for them also who believe on Me through their word." By this again He revived their souls, showing that the disciples should be many. For because He made common what they possessed peculiarly, He comforteth them by showing that they were being made the cause of the salvation of others.
After having thus spoken concerning their salvation, and their being sanctified by faith and the Sacrifice, He afterwards speaketh of concord, and finally closeth his discourse with this, having begun with it and ended(5) in it. For at the beginning He saith, "A new commandment I give unto you" (c. 13:34); and here,
Ver. 21. "That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee."
Here again the "as" doth not denote exact similarity in their case, (for it was not possible for them in so great a degree,) but only as far as was possible for men. Just as when He saith "Be ye merciful, as your Father." (Luke 6:36.)
But what is, "In Us"?(1) In the faith which is on Us. Because nothing so offends all men as divisions, He provideth that they should be one. "What then," saith some one, "did He effect this?" Certainly He effected it. For all who believe through the Apostles are one, though some from among them were torn away. Nor did this escape His knowledge, He even foretold it, and showed that it proceeded from men's slack-mindedness.
"That the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me."
As He said in the beginning, "By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye love one another," And how should they hence believe? "Because," He saith, "Thou art a God of peace." If therefore they observe the same as those of whom they have learnt, their hearers shall know the teacher by the disciples, but if they quarrel, men shall deny that they are the disciples of a God of peace, and will not allow that I, not being peaceable, have been sent from Thee. Seest thou how, unto the end, He proveth His unanimity with the Father?
Ver. 22. "And the glory which Thou gavest Me, I have given them."(2)
That by miracles, that by doctrines,(3) and, that they should be of one soul; for this is glory, that they should be one, and greater even than miracles. As men(4) admire God because there is no strife or discord in That Nature, and this is His greatest glory, "so too let these," He saith, "from this cause become glorious." "And how," saith some one, "doth He ask the Father to give this to them, when He sixth that He Himself giveth it?" Whether His discourse be concerning miracles, or unanimity, or peace, He is seen Himself to have given these things to them; whence it is clear that the petition is made for the sake of their comfort. Ver. 23. "I in them, and Thou in Me." "How gave He the glory?" By being in them, and having the Father with Him, so as to weld them(5) together. But in another place He speaketh not so; He saith not that the Father cometh by Him, but, "that He and the Father come, and take up their abode with him,"(6) "there" removing the suspicion of Sabellius, "here" that of Arius.(7)
"That they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me." (c. 14:23.)
He saith these latter words immediately after the other, to show that peace hath more power to attract men than a miracle; for as it is the nature of strife(8) to separate, so it is that of agreement to weld together.
"And I have(9) loved them as Thou hast loved Me."
Here again the "as" means, as far as it is possible for a man to be loved; and the sure proof of His love is His giving Himself for them. After having told them that they shall be in safety, that they shall not be overturned, that they shall be holy, that many shall believe through them, that they shall enjoy great glory, that not He alone loved them, but the Father also; He next telleth them of what shah be after their sojourning here,(10) concerning the prizes and crowns laid up for them.
Ver. 24. "Father," He saith, "I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am."
"Then dost Thou gain by prayer, and dost Thou not yet possess that concerning which they enquired continually, saying, 'Whither goest Thou?' What sayest Thou? How then didst Thou say to them, 'Ye shall sit upon twelve thrones'? (Matt. 19:28.) How didst Thou promise other things more and greater?" Seest thou that He saith all(11) in the way of condescension? since how would He have said, "Thou shalt follow afterwards"? (c. 13:36.) But He speaketh thus with a view to a fuller conviction and demonstration of His love.
"That they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me."
This again is a sign of His being of one mind with the Father, of a higher character than those former, for He saith, "Before(12) the foundation of the world," yet hath it also a certain condescension; for, "Thou hast given Me," He saith. Now if this be not the case, I would gladly ask the gainsayers a question. He that giveth, giveth to one subsisting;(13) did the Father then, having first begotten the Son, afterwards give Him glory, having before allowed Him to be without glory? And how could this be reasonable? Seest that the "He gave," is, "He begot"?
[3.] But why said He not, "That they may share My glory," instead of, "That they may behold My glory"? Here He implieth, that all that rest is, the looking on the Son of God. This certainly it is which causes them to be glorified; as Paul saith, "With open face mirroring the glory of the Lord." (2 Cor. 3:18.) For as they who look on the sunbeams, and enjoy a very clear atmosphere, draw their enjoyment from their sight, so then also, and in much greater degree, this will cause us pleasure.(1) At the same time also He showeth, that what they should behold was not the body then seen, but some awful Substance.
Ver. 25. "O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee." (2)
What meaneth this? What connection hath it? He here showeth that no man knoweth God, save those only who have come to know the Son. And what He saith is of this kind: "I wished all to be so,(3) yet they have not known Thee, although they had no complaint against Thee." For this is the meaning of, "O righteous Father." And here He seemeth to me to speak these words, as vexed that they would not know One so just and good. For since the Jews had said that they knew God, but that He knew Him not, at this He aimeth, saying, "For Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world"; thus putting together a defense against the accusations of the Jews. For how could He who had received glory, who was loved before the foundation of the world, who desired to have them as witnesses of that glory, how could He be opposed to the Father? "This then is not true which the Jews say, that they know Thee, and that I know Thee not; on the contrary, I know Thee, and they have not known Thee."
"And these have known that Thou hast sent Me."
Seest thou that He alludeth to those, who said that He was not from God, and all is finally summed up to meet this argument?
Ver. 26. "And I have declared unto them Thy Name, and will declare it."
"Yet thou sayest that perfect knowledge is from the Spirit." "But the things of the Spirit are Mine."
"That the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may remain(4) in them, and I in them."
"For if they learn who Thou art, then they shall know that I am not separated from Thee, but one of the greatly beloved, and a true Son, and closely knit to Thee. And those who are rightly persuaded of this, will keep both the faith which is on Me and perfect love; and while they love as they ought, I remain in them." Seest thou how He hath arrived(5) at a good end, finishing off the discourse with love, the mother of all blessings?
[4.] Let us then believe and love God, that it may not be said of us, "They profess that they know God, but in their works they deny Him." (Tit. 1:16.) And again, "He hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." (1 Tim. 5:8.) For when he(6) helps his domestics and kinsmen and strangers, while thou dost not even succor those who are related to thee by family, what will henceforth be thy excuse, when God is blasphemed and insulted by reason of thee? Consider what opportunities of doing good God hath given to us. "Have mercy on one," He saith, "as a kinsman, on another as a friend, on another as a neighbor, on another as a citizen, on another as a man." And if none of these things hold thee, but thou breakest through all bonds, hear from Paul, that thou art "worse than an infidel"; for he having heard nothing of almsgiving, or of heavenly things, hath overshot thee in love for man; but thou who art bidden to love thy very enemies, lookest upon thy friends as enemies, and art more careful of thy money than of their bodies. Yet the money by being spent will sustain no injury, but thy brother if neglected will perish. What madness then to be careful of money, and careless about one's kindred? Whence hath this craving for riches burst in upon us?(7) Whence this inhumanity and cruelty? For if any one could, as though seated on the highest bench of a theater, look down upon all the world,--or rather, if you will, let us for the present take in hand a single city,--if then a man seated on an elevated spot could take in at a glance all the doings of the men there, consider what folly he would condemn, what tears he would weep, what laughter he would laugh, with what hatred he would hate; for we commit such actions as deserve both laughter, and the charge of folly, and tears, and hatred. One man keeps dogs to catch s brute animals, himself sinking into brutality; another keeps oxen and asses to transport stones, but neglects men wasting with hunger; and spends gold without limit to make men of stone, but neglects real men, who are becoming like stones through their evil state. Another, collecting with great pains golden quarries,(9) puts them about his walls, but when he beholds the naked bellies of the poor, is not moved.(10) Some again contrive garments over their very garments, while their brother hath not even wherewithal to cover his naked body. Again, one hath swallowed up another in the law-courts; another hath spent his money on women and parasites, another on stage-players and theatrical bands,(1) another on splendid edifices, on purchases of fields and houses. Again, one man is counting interest, another interest of interest; another is putting together(2) bands full of many deaths, and doth not enjoy rest even at night, lying awake for others' harm. Then, when it is day, they run, one to his unjust gain, another to his wanton expense, others to public robbery.(3) And great is the earnestness about things superfluous and forbidden, but of things necessary no account is taken; and they who decide questions of law have indeed the name of jurymen, but are really(4) thieves and murderers. And if one should enquire into law suits and wills, he l would find there again ten thousand mischiefs, frauds, robberies, plots, and about these things is all time spent; but for spiritual things there is no care, and they all inconvenience the Church, for the sake of seeing only. But this is not what is required; we need works, and a pure mind.(3) But if thou spendest all the day in grasping after riches, and then coming in sayest a few words, thou hast not only not propitiated God, but hast even angered Him more. Wouldest thou conciliate thy Lord, exhibit works, make thyself acquainted with the mass of woes, look upon the naked, the hungry, the wronged; He hath cut out for thee ten thousand ways of showing love for men. Let us not then deceive ourselves by living aimlessly and to no purpose, nor presume, because we now are in health; but bearing in mind, that often when we have fallen into sickness, and have reached the extreme of debility, we have been dead with fear and the looking for things to come, let us expect to fall again into the same state, let us get again the same fear, and let us become better men; since what is done now deserves infinite condemnation. For those in the courts of justice are like lions and dogs; those in the public places like foxes; and those who lead a life of leisure, even they do not use their leisure as they ought, speeding all their time on theaters and the mischiefs arising from them. And there is no one to reprove what is being done; but there are many who envy, and are vexed that they are not in the like condition,(7) so that these in their turn are punished, though not actually doing wicked things. For they "not only do these things, but also have pleasure in them that do them." Because what belongs to their will is alike(8) corrupt; whence it is plain, that the intention also will be punished. These things I say each day, and I will not cease to say them. For if any listen, it is gain; but if none give heed, ye shall then hear these things, when it will avail you nothing, and ye shall blame yourselves, and we shall be flee from fault. But may it never come to pass that we should only have this excuse, but that you may be our boast before the judgment-seat of Christ, that together we may enjoy the blessings, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Russian Orthodox Church
of St Nicholas
Phone: 972 529-2754
Priest Seraphim Holland
Snail Mail: 2102 Summit, McKinney TX 75071, USA