Commentary on the Nicene Creed
144 min read
144 min read
What discourse is worthy of, and what mind is equal to, the greatness of the subjects placed before us? Or which is the tongue that is able to teach these mysteries? It is indeed difficult for our tongues to speak with accuracy even of the created natures, because they also are created with great wisdom by the Maker. As for those which are higher than our nature—because such are those of which we intend to speak—how much are they not higher than all the minds of men? They truly transcend our words! The blessed Paul bears witness concerning them in saying: “Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” (1 Cor. 2:9)
It is with these wonderful things that our discourse wishes to deal, and it is to the delight of these mysteries that we have been invited, because the time of the great festival of the holy Passover leads us to teach them. If God had wished those heavenly gifts not to be known to us, it is evident that we should not have been able to discourse on them, because how could a man have spoken of unknown things? Since, however, He wished from the first and before the foundations of the world to make manifest the wisdom that was in Him (Eph. 1:8-9; Col. 1:26; 4:3-4, etc.) through the Economy of our Lord Jesus Christ, He revealed to us these hidden mysteries and the greatness of these gifts, and He granted their knowledge to men through the Holy Spirit. It is indeed written that God revealed to us by His Spirit and showed us the sublime and ineffable mysteries which are performed by the power of the Holy Spirit so that through them we might proceed in a congruous way, by degrees and by faith, to these future gifts. (1 Cor. 2:11-13) This is the reason why we desired to discourse with confidence, according to the grace of God vouchsafed to us, on these unspeakable things which are higher than ourselves. It is this time of this festival that has led us to speak with those who wish [to participate in] these awe-inspiring mysteries.
Now is the time for me to say: “Sing unto the Lord a new song for He has done marvellous things.” (Ps. 98:1) Indeed a new song is required for new things, as we are dealing with the New Testament which God established for the human race through the Economy of our Lord Jesus Christ, when He abolished all old things and showed new things in their place. Every man who is in Christ is a new creature; old things are passed away and all things are become new. (2 Cor. 5:17) Death and corruption have ceased, passions and mutability have passed away, and the life of the new creature has been made manifest, a life which we hope to reach after our resurrection from the dead. At the resurrection from the dead He will make us new instead of old, and incorruptible and immortal instead of corruptible and mortal.
He gave us this new covenant which is fit for those who are renewed; and because of this covenant we receive the knowledge of these mysteries so that we should put off the old man and put on the new man who is renewed after the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, but Christ is all and in all. (Col. 3:10-11) This will take place in reality in the next world when we shall have become immortal and incorruptible, when we shall only contemplate Christ of whose Kingdom we shall partake, when the incident of being Jew or Greek, bond or free, shall be taken from us, and when all the ways of the image of this world shall have completely disappeared. Indeed what incidence of being Jew or Greek, bond or free, can remain with those who are in an immortal and incorruptible nature after the image of Christ, according to the testimony of the blessed Paul?
Because it was necessary that the faith in the truth of the future gifts should remain in us so that we should not throw doubts on them on account of their greatness—since we see them very much alien to our nature and above it—these awe-inspiring mysteries were confided to us in order that through them as through symbols we might gradually approach our future hope, and in order to obtain a faith without doubts in these gifts, while cultivating a conduct that is in harmony with the new world and arranging our work in this world as much as possible in conformity with the following sentences: “Our conversation is in heaven,” (Phil. 3:20) and: “our building is of God,” (2 Cor. 5:1) and “we have a house in heaven not made with hands.” (Heb. 9:11, 24)
While still on the earth we have been inscribed in that awe-inspiring glory of the future world through these mysteries, but we (ought to) live as much as possible a heavenly life in spurning visible things and aspiring after future things. Those who are about to partake now of these awe-inspiring mysteries are inspired to do so by the grace of God. They do not do this in order to partake of small and ordinary gifts, but to be transformed completely into new men and to possess different virtues which they will receive by the gift of the grace of God: being mortal they will become immortal, being corruptible they will become incorruptible, being passible they will become impassible, being changeable they will become unchangeable, being bond they will become free, being enemies they will become friends, being strangers they will become sons. They will no more be considered a part of Adam but of Christ; they will call as their head not Adam but Christ, who has renewed them; they will not cultivate a ground that will bring forth thorns and thistles to them, (Gen. 3:18) but they will dwell in a heaven which is remote and immune from all sorrow and sighing; (Is. 35:10) nor will death rule over them but they will become themselves rulers in a new life where they will be not slaves of sin but warriors of righteousness, not servants of Satan but intimate friends of Christ for all time.
Adam, the father of mankind, received the abode of Paradise from which he was driven out through his disobedience and sin, and we, who became the heirs of his nature and his punishment, ascend to heaven by faith in Christ through our participation in these mysteries, as He said: “Except a man he born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” (John 3:5) The man, however, who receives this spiritual birth is immediately inscribed in heaven and becomes the heir and partaker of those future gifts, as the blessed Paul said, (Rom. 8:17; Gal. 3:29; 4:7; Tit. 3:7) because those who believed in Christ are in expectation of making their abode in heaven after the resurrection from the dead. Indeed we hope to go to heaven where the first man, Christ, went on our behalf. Through these mysteries we are truly inscribed in that abode.
We are in need of great care and immense diligence in order not to fall away from this great promise and suffer the fate of Adam who was driven out of Paradise. This is the reason why we partake in a wonderful way of these awe-inspiring mysteries with a true faith which has no doubt, and we ought not to forget this faith but to keep what we have received with great care. When we have received these heavenly gifts in a perfect manner so that we may delight in them, and when we have become their heirs in our actions, it is impossible that we should fall away from them. As long as we are on the earth, however, because we only receive them by hope through our participation in these mysteries, it is possible to fall away from them, as we have a changeable nature. We ought, therefore, to have great care and anxiety concerning them and to endeavour truly to possess the hope of the future in our souls.
Now which is the faith and which are the promises through which we have our part in mysteries in the hope of these heavenly gifts in which we will delight? These are found in the profession of faith which we make before Christ our Lord at the time of our baptism. If it were possible to comprehend their power by hearing only, our words would have been useless, because their mere recitation would have made them understood by those who heard them. Since, however, there is much power hidden in them—as our holy Fathers confided to us from the gift of God an ineffable treasure condensed in words which are easy to learn and to remember—it is necessary to teach those who are about to receive these mysteries and to show them the sense and the meaning that are hidden in them. When they have learnt the greatness of the gift to which they wish to make their approach, and have understood the meaning of their religion and their promises for the sake of which they receive such a great gift, they will keep with diligence in their souls the faith which has been handed down to them.
The principle of your faith and promise which is to be carefully kept in these mysteries is: I believe in one God, Father Almighty, Creator of all things visible and invisible. By the grace of our Lord we will explain these words one after another, because it is good that you should know the power of all of them. Let us, therefore, rightly begin from where you also began in your profession of faith:
I believe in one God, Father Almighty. This is the foundation of the religion of the fear of God, “for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Rom. 10:10) This is the truth of the true teaching of the faith. Because the question of religion lies in the belief in things that are invisible and indescribable, it is in need of faith, which causes mind to see a thing that is invisible. The things that are visible we see them with our eyes, while the things that are invisible are only seen by faith, as “faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1)
This faith brings in substance to the mind the things that are not yet existent in reality. We accept by faith as true the resurrection from the dead to heaven and all the future existence, which is not yet in existence. Faith causes the soul to see and understand the things that are invisible and indescribable. We are enabled by faith to be worthy of seeing the nature of God “who is the sole invisible and incorruptible, who dwelleth in the bright light which has no equal, and whom no man hath seen nor can see.” (1 Tim. 6:16)
We are able to see the visible thing with material eyes, if these are sound and able to see, and if there is nothing to hinder them from seeing properly; but if they are affected by injury, all things that were visible become invisible, although in reality visible. In this same way we all see with accuracy the invisible and the indescribable things, which the question of religion has taught us, if our faith is sound, but they are not seen by those whose faith is not sound. The question of religion consists in two things: confession concerning God and concerning all the various and numerous things that were and will be made by Him, and both of these are in need of faith as is shown by the blessed Paul: “He that cometh to the religion of God must believe that He is” (Heb. 6:6) and that the “worlds were framed by His Word so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” (Heb. 11:3)
In these he shows first that even confession concerning God cannot consist in anything but the thought of religion through faith alone; secondly, that we are unable to understand and confess the things that were made by Him if we do not receive their knowledge by faith. Faith perfects those who accept it thoroughly in the truth of religion while those who become remote from it sink in error completely.
Paul called the Church of God “the pillar and ground of the truth,” (1 Tim. 3:15) because it is sound in faith and well established in the teaching of religion. As to those who are outside the faith: pagans, Jews, and heretics, because they are devoid of faith, they greatly stray from the truth. Indeed because the pagans had no faith they were unable to understand how God was able to create and to make everything from nothing and establish it in substance, and in their error they gave fancifully to God a consort to whom He had given a seat with Him from eternity; and they strayed from the truth into various other insipid stories. As to Jews they recoiled from the name of a son, and because of their lack of faith they did not understand the one who is a true Son.
In this way all the heretics who are outside the Church and who have ascribed the name of Christ with untruth to themselves, because they have no faith, have erred and strayed from the truth. In order not to mention to your hearing all the heresies, it will be sufficient to refer to Arius and Eunomius and all those who subscribe to their opinion, and note how they were affected with the disease of the Jews; and because of their lack of faith they did not understand nor did they accept that the Son is of Divine nature, and that everything that is said of the nature of the Father is said also of that of the Son, while the nature of the Father in no way suffers from the fact that it has a true Son who in His nature is a true mirror of itself.
These few things have been said out of many in order to rebuke those who have strayed from the truth, and to show that they have strayed because of their lack of faith. Indeed, the error of men who have gone astray because of their lack of faith is great and possesses many ramifications, and as error increases in proportion to its remoteness from faith, so also knowledge increases in proportion to its nearness to faith. It is by faith that we know that God is, that He is the creator of everything and that He created everything from nothing. It is by it that we understand that those who have passed away and perished will come back again to life and existence, when the Creator wishes. It is by faith that we have known that the Father has a Son born of His nature and God like Himself. It is by faith that we have accepted that the Holy Spirit is of the same nature as God the Father and that He is always with the Father and the Son. It is by faith that we have no doubt nor suspicion concerning the preaching of the Economy of Christ which took place in the world.
It is, therefore, with justice that our blessed Fathers placed faith like a foundation in the forefront of our teaching and of the mystery of our covenant, and it is with right that they intimated to us to begin from there and say: I believe in one God, Father Almighty. We must not be astonished that our blessed Fathers included and handed down to us all the teaching of religion in a few words. They thought that a long discourse would better fit other times and other persons. As to you who for a long time have been weaned from the world, and have come nigh unto religion with a good will, and have made yourselves ready to receive the Divine mysteries with a clean conscience at a time full of fear, condensed words are more useful, as their fewness renders them more easy to keep in your memory when you wish to remember the faith which you professed and the promises which you made on account of these mysteries It is right, however, that a detailed teaching of them should be added to you so that you should understand them more accurately, and beware in your souls of all the words of the enemies of religion when you stand fast by this Divine teaching which is confided to you. I believe in one God, Father Almighty. See how our blessed Fathers, with the first word of the true profession of faith in one God the Father, removed us with care from the error of polytheism and from the fallacy of Judaism which puts in practice to-day all the teaching of the Old Testament in its entirety.
The words of the New Testament concerning Christ were found in the prophets of the Old Testament; they were indeed found in the prophets as a symbol and a sign whereby the Jews expected Christ to appear to them as a man, but none of them was aware of the divinity of the Only Begotten Son—the Word-God. (Our blessed Fathers) gave us a perfect doctrine which separates from paganism those who become initiated to religion, and which removes completely from the error of polytheism those who obey its commandments, while teaching that the natures of the Godhead are not many and separate, but that God is in one, single and eternal nature which is the cause of everything; that such a one is God, and outside Him there is no other God; that God is a being who is eternal and the cause of everything; that a being who is not like this is not God by nature; that a being who is eternal is the cause of everything; that a being who is not eternal and the cause of everything, is not God but the work of God, who alone is capable of creating everything from nothing.
He said: “The Lord Thy God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4; Mark 12:29, etc) in order that we might learn that there is one nature in the Godhead to which is due the name of Lord and God. He also said: “the gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens ” (Jer. 10:11) in order that we might understand that he who is not the cause of everything is not God. The one who is the cause of everything is God alone. He said to Moses, “I am the cause of everything,” (Deut. 32:39) in order that we might learn that He is truly the one who was from eternity and is always, and that He is God. He who does not possess this attribute and is not eternal, is not truly existent by Himself, but is made and has actually been made when he was not existent, at the time at which the one who is from eternity, that is to say God, wished to make him.
He also said: “I am the first and the last God and there was no other god before me and there shall be no other god after me,” (Is. 44:6,) in order that we might understand that He is the God who was first and from eternity and that it is impossible that another God that is created should exist. Divine nature cannot indeed fall within the notion of creation.
All these words teach us the doctrine of religion and expel the error of paganism. Among pagans gods are many and of different kinds: some of them are young, and some others old; some of them can do this, and some others that; some of them perish, and some others will continue their existence; and they are of different natures. That we ought to reject all these the Old Testament taught us in the prophets, who spoke through the Holy Spirit to the effect that all the gods of the Gentiles are false and are not gods because God is one, who is from eternity and is the cause of everything, as He said: “There shall be no strange god in thee,” (Ps. 81:9) that is to say a new god, and, “neither shalt thou worship a strange god” (Ibid) because everything that is new is not God, and “they are new gods that came newly up.” (Deut. 32:17)
Divine nature is one and eternal. It was in no need to be made by another, because it is the cause of everything. This is the reason why He is God alone, and anything that is made cannot by nature be God, as it is made by another. All the created things rightly attribute their existence to their Creator who is God, to whom they owe their being, and for this they are under an obligation of gratitude to Him who by His own good will and power vouchsafed to them to be what they are.
Our blessed Fathers succinctly included all this great teaching in the sentence: I believe in one God. Let us, therefore, accept the belief in one God according to the preaching of the prophets and the teaching of our Fathers. Divine nature is truly one, and it exists from eternity and is the cause of everything; this is not as the pagans erroneously state that there are many gods of different kinds.
It is necessary that we should offer you an oral teaching about everything, little by little, in order that you may be able to remember the things that are spoken to you, as these are indispensable to those who adhere to what has preceded. By the help of the grace of God we will keep our promise to you in other days, and now let the words that have been spoken suffice, and let us glorify the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now, always and for ever and ever.
Here ends the first chapter.
Yesterday we spoke to your love sufficiently, and in the measure granted to us by the grace of God, of faith which is the foundation of the principle of religion. We approached the words of our profession of faith and showed how through faith in one God all the error of the polytheism of the Gentiles vanishes completely. We learned from the holy Books of the prophets to shake off from us all the aberrations of pagans, whose gods are different and numerous, and to believe that Divine nature which ought to be called God and Lord is one, because He alone is from eternity and is the cause of everything.
All the created beings are very remote from this nature, as it is impossible to admit that a created being is from eternity, and the created beings themselves will not suffer to be called rightfully Lord and God by nature. A being who is created by another cannot by any means create another being from nothing, or be called God with justice, but the one who created him is God by necessity. This is the reason why we say that there is only one God as the blessed prophets taught us; and by the grace of the Holy Spirit they spoke and defined the kind of nature which belongs to God. Beyond this they did not teach us anything clearly.
The doctrine concerning the Father and the Son was kept (to be promulgated) by Christ our Lord, who taught His disciples that which was unknown before and was not revealed to men, and ordered them to teach it to others also in saying to them plainly: “Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Matt, 28:19) As the blessed Moses said when he promulgated his doctrine: “The Lord, Thy God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4)—a doctrine that was taught and handed down by all the prophets—so the Christ our Lord gave His teaching in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, but did not say what we had to learn and to teach others concerning the Lord and God, as this had been clearly done by the prophets. He ordered His disciples to teach all the nations that which was lacking to make the teaching of the prophets perfect, and for this He said: “Go ye and teach all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” not that we should think that one of these is not God nor that there is a God beside them, but that we should believe that they alone constitute Divine nature, which we had formerly learnt from the prophets to be one.
Because the Gentiles had previously taught the doctrine of the plurality of gods, who were numerous and different in youth and old age, in weakness and strength, so that some of them were able to do this and some others that—Christ ordered His disciples against this to teach all the nations to turn from all the error of paganism, and to believe in the unity of nature in the Godhead, as was the case with the doctrine first taught to mankind, from which the knowledge of religion was received; and also to learn that the one who is from eternity and is the cause of everything is one Divine nature known in the three persons of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
He would not have induced the Gentiles to turn away from names of false gods to the knowledge of the Father if He did not know that He (the Father) was truly Divine nature, nor would He have brought them to the knowledge of the Son if He did not know that He (the Son) was truly of the same Divine nature, nor would He have inculcated to them the knowledge of the Holy Spirit if He knew that He (the Holy Spirit) was alien to that nature, otherwise He would have caused them to turn from one falsehood to the knowledge of another falsehood. It is known that it is from false gods, who were wrongly called gods, that He ordered His disciples in His teaching to turn the Gentiles to the knowledge of the true God, which consists in the faith in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each one of these persons is a true God, but the Divine nature of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit which we believe to be eternal and the cause of everything, is one.
In this way the teaching of the Old Testament is in harmony with the teaching of the New Testament, and the words which the prophets uttered concerning God are not foreign nor contradictory to those which Christ our Lord delivered to the Gentiles through the Apostles, as His words are in full harmony with the true knowledge of religion according to the teaching of the prophets. Through the prophets we only understood God and the being to whom an uncreated nature belongs, but the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ gave us also with certainty the persons in whom is Divine nature. This is the reason why our blessed Fathers placed first the doctrine of the belief in one God as it was written in the Old Testament in order to destroy the error of polytheism, and then imparted to us the knowledge of the persons according to the teaching of Christ. They were in a position—and it was easy for them—to repeat the words of our Lord “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” but because they wrote this profession of faith against the teaching of the heretics, they taught it as succinctly as possible with more words than those uttered by our Lord, for the demolition of error and the construction of the doctrine of the Church, so that by their meaning they should reprove those who contradict the true faith. For this reason they added with justice the name of the Father after they had said, I believe in one God.
After the words concerning God they proceeded to the teaching of the persons, which is the true teaching of the Christian faith and the true knowledge for those who become disciples of Christ. Because the sentence denotes Divine nature, it refers to the three persons, but as the teaching concerning the persons could not be considered as referring to one of them only, they rightly spoke to us of what is due to each person separately. At the beginning of their sentence they placed the Father from whom are the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Father is truly the one who is a Father alone, but we hold each one of the three persons to be God, because Christ included this true doctrine in His teaching concerning these three persons.
When we hear the name “Father” we do not hear it to no purpose, but we understand that God is a Father, and a true Father, because He is Father alone; and we hold that God is Father in a way that belongs only to Divine nature. All the created beings obtain the power of being fathers after their creation, and there is no human being that has the attribute of fatherhood concomitantly with his existence. Even Adam, the first man, who was not born of another man, had not the attribute of fatherhood concomitantly with his existence. He came first into existence by the will of God the Creator and afterwards received the power of becoming a father, as it is said: “Adam knew his wife, and she conceived and bore a son.” (Gen. 4:1) He became and was called a father after his intercourse with Eve, after a long time of gestation, after pangs of travail, and after the birth of his child. It is iniquitous to attribute any of those functions to Divine nature. He who had no need of time to exist was in no need of time to become a Father. Because He was from eternity, He was also a Father from eternity.
God the Father is truly a father; and He did not receive this in time, because He did not have a Son after a time, but the latter was with Him from eternity and was from Him as a Son also from eternity. It is for this that when our Lord gave this wonderful teaching to His disciples He said, “Teach in the name of the Father,” and did not need to add another sentence in order to show whom He was calling “Father.” It was sufficient for Him to say, “Teach and baptize” to show whom He was calling Father. He called God the Father in whom they had to believe and in whose name they had to be baptized, the God who was from eternity according to the teaching of the prophets.
It is not possible that the one who is from eternity should become Father after a time. The very name Father shows this without further addition. If like us He became Father later, He would also be identical with us in attribute and in the meaning of the word. Now since this vocable “father” is one and the same with many men, we should rightly inquire as to whom He called Father. Because He is a true Father, He is Father alone. As He is eternal by nature so He is eternally a Father. Since He is alone called by this name and in the full meaning of the word, we do not feel any necessity to inquire who is the one who is called Father, as His very name indicates to us the true Father. When He says: “I am that I am,” this is my name for ever and this is my memorial unto generations,” (Exod. 3:14-15) we understand that God is called by this name, because He is truly “I am that I am” while all the created beings are not truly “I am that I am,” because they were created from nothing according to the will of their Maker. Because He is the true being, He is called I am that I am, and He is not made by another.
As He is not like us He is not a Father like us, because He did not receive the power of becoming a Father in time. So when we hear the word “father” we should rightly think of that true Father who did not acquire the power of becoming a Father in time, nor was He in need of an intercourse. He is a Father in truth and from eternity, a complete nature, with whom His child exists also from eternity.
The sentence: I believe in one God the Father taught us all these things. It is rightly followed by the phrase Creator of all things visible and invisible, so that we should understand that He is not only the Father of the Son but also the Creator of all the creatures, and think of the difference which exists between Father and Creator, and between Son and creatures. He is the Father of the Son and the Creator of the creatures. The creatures were created later while the Son was from the beginning with Him and from Him. This is the difference between Father and Creator. He is called the Father of the one who was born of Him, and the Creator of all the natures which are outside Him and which were created from nothing by His will. This is the reason why they added nothing to the doctrine concerning the Father; indeed the very word Father sufficed to indicate the Son, as there is no father without a son, and as wherever there is a father there is also a son. As to the Son they were going to teach us as much as possible concerning Him later.
Because He is Creator they added, Of all things visible and invisible in order to show in this also the difference between the Son and the creatures: that He is the Father of the Son only, while He is the Creator of everything visible and invisible, as everything was created from nothing. He would not have been called Father of the Son and Creator of the creatures if there was not a great difference between the two: the difference that should exist between a Son and creatures. He is called and He is the Father of the Son, because He is of the same nature as the one who is said to be His Son, but He is the Creator of everything because everything was created from nothing; and although the natures of the visible and invisible things differ among themselves yet all these created things, whether visible or invisible, came into existence by the will of their Maker. The fact that they were made from nothing is common to all of them, as all were created from nothing by the will of their Maker.
This is the reason why the blessed David said: “Praise ye the Lord from the heavens. Praise ye Him all His angels. Praise ye Him all His hosts. Praise ye Him sun and moon.” (Ps. 148:1-3) And he gradually enumerated all other creatures found in the heavens and on the earth, visible and invisible, mortal and immortal, rational and irrational, material and immaterial, those with life and those without life. When he invited them to the praise of God he gave one reason which holds good for all of them: “For He commanded, and they were created. He hath established them for ever and ever. He hath made a decree which shall not pass.” (Ps. 148:5-6) Because everything was created by Him and is sustained by His will, everything whether visible or not owes praise to the Creator.
Two things render it obligatory for us to praise God: because He is God and because He is Creator. We must, however, understand the difference between the two. It is not because He is Father that He is also Creator, and it is not because He is Creator that He is also Father. Indeed He is not the Creator of the One whose Father He is, nor is He the Father of those whose Creator He is. He is only the Father of the true and only Son who is in His Father’s bosom, because He was born of Him and is with Him from eternity, but He is the Creator of all the things which are created and made, which are very remote from His essence and which were created by His will when He pleased. He is called and He is the Father of the Son because the latter is from Him and consubstantial with Him, and He is the Maker and the Creator of the creatures because He brought them to existence from nothing.
If He is called Father of men, He is not called their Father because He created them, but because of their proximity to Him and relation with Him. This is the reason why He is not called Father of all men but only of those who have relation with Him, such as “I have nourished and brought up children.” (Is. 1:2) To these He granted by special favour to be called in this way. As such also is the sentence: “Israel is my son, even my first-born,” (Exod. 4:22) because the others were not sons.
Since we know the difference in our calling God: the Father of the Only Begotten Son who alone is the true Son because consubstantial with Him, and the Creator of everything which was created and came into being from nothing—we should retain this meaning in our faith. When, therefore, we say “Father,” “Maker” we ought not to conceive of God that which we conceive of men when we call them fathers and makers, but we ought to understand the difference between Father and Maker from the way they may be applied to us. Indeed, as with God so with us, a father is one thing and a maker another thing. We are called the fathers of those who are from us and are born of our nature, but the makers of those things which are not of our nature but which were made and came into existence outside us. A house, a ship and similar things are not of our nature, and are made by us.
Such being the case with us, we ought to think with a clear mind of the differences in God between the two terms of Father and Creator, and to understand that He is the Father of the Only Begotten Son who was born of His nature, and the Creator of all the creatures, which were created and came into existence from nothing. For this He did not need any matter but He created the natures through which they are seen and exist.
Since we were created in the image of God, (Gen. 1:24) we picture to ourselves the higher things that are said of God through an image taken from things that belong to us. In this way it is possible also to picture to ourselves what and how great is the difference in the belief in God as Father and as Creator from things belonging to us, although it is clear that there is a great difference between us and God; and this difference we ought not to overlook when thinking of Divine nature and the works done by it. Indeed when we speak of Divine nature we must remove completely from our mind all things that happen to us through weakness. When we do a work we are in need of labour, matter and time; but God is above all these, because the moment He wished it, His works were completed out of nothing. From the fact also that we are born in labour and through human agency, when we become fathers we need the nature of a female as matter, and a long period of time. Without these we cannot become fathers. As to God He is a Father without all these, because He did not experience labour nor did He make use of any material agency nor did He need intercourse, nor did He wait for any lapse of time, but He was at once Father from eternity.
We should, therefore, rightly remove from God all unbecoming thoughts of things which happen to us through weakness whether in the domain of offspring or of work. We do everything in labour, and our nature itself emanates and suffers from it. As to God, He is above all these. Even when we reign, when we become governors, when we judge, when we work, when we speak, when we look, and do any other thing, we do all with labour; and when fatigue is protracted, it is followed by sweat; and because our nature is mortal and corruptible, it will perish through labour. As to God He does all things ascribed to Him, such as governing, providing, judging, reigning and the like without fatigue, without material agency and without injury.
It is such an idea that we must have of God, and it is such a faith that we ought to possess concerning God the Father. When we call Him Father, we mean Father of the Son; and He is truly a Father by nature, as we are. It is impossible to understand how He is truly a Father if He were not a Father by nature. He is eternally a Father because His nature, in which He is a Father, is eternal. When we call Him Creator we mean that He created everything in wisdom as it is said: “In wisdom Thou hast made them all,” (Ps. 114:24) as we also do things in the wisdom of the skill that we possess. God is creator in the sense that when He wished, the creatures came fully into existence, and He was in no need of time or any other intervening thing between His wish and the coming into existence of His creatures. Immediately after He wishes to create a thing, it comes into existence from nothing.
It is in this kind of profession of faith and with this meaning that our blessed Fathers gave us the belief in one God, Father and Creator, whom we have tried to explain to your love in a long teaching, which you should keep without modification, so that you should flee from the iniquitous opinions of the heretics, while your faith is sound, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to whom, in conjunction with His Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory and honour for ever and ever. Amen.
Here ends the second chapter.
I believe that from what has been said you have learnt sufficiently which are the things that those whose solicitude is the fear of God have to understand and utter concerning God the Father. Let us now quote and examine also the words uttered by our blessed Fathers in the profession of faith concerning the Son: And in one Lord Jesus Christ the Only Begotten Son of God, the first-born of all the creatures.
It was right that after their doctrine concerning the Father they should teach concerning the Son according to the teaching of our Lord, while preserving the order and the sequence of their words. As when speaking of the Father they not only said “Father” according to the teaching of our Lord, but added, in one God the Father and the Creator of all things, and first placed the name of God in the profession of faith by saying that He is one in order to refute the error of polytheism, and then added, the Father and the Creator of all things—so also they acted concerning the Son: In one Lord Jesus Christ the Only Begotten Son of God, the first-born of all the creatures. In this they clearly followed the preaching of the blessed Paul, who when teaching against idols and erroneous creeds said in refutation of the error of polytheism: “There is but one God,” (1 Cor. 8:6) and because he knew that we hold the doctrine of the faith in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, he strove openly to show us that the question of the faith in these persons does not inflict any injury on us in our faith nor does it lead us to the error of polytheism.
Because we know that the Divine nature of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is one, when he desired to teach us this faith in a succinct manner he said: “To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things.” (1 Cor. 8:6) In saying “one God the Father” he confuted all the error of polytheism, and showed that to us one Divine nature is preached. By the addition of the person of the Father he showed us the Son also, as after this he said: “And one Lord Jesus Christ by whom are all things” (Ibid) in order to proclaim the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit together, while including also in his sentence the Incarnation of our Lord which took place for our salvation and in which Divine nature became our Saviour. When he says: “one Lord by whom are all things” he alludes to God the Word who is a true Son consubstantial with His Father. He called Him rightly Lord in order to make us understand that He is from the Divine nature of God the Father.
We do not say that the Father is one God in the sense that the Son is not God, nor that the Son is one Lord in the sense that the Father is not Lord, because it is known and evident that any one who is truly God is also truly Lord, and any one who is truly Lord is also truly God, and any one who is not truly God is not truly Lord: “The Lord thy God is one Lord,” (Deut. 6:4) as He alone is so in truth. He who possesses these true attributes is alone called Lord and God in truth, and there is no other thing outside this nature which may be called Lord and God in truth. He who says “one God” shows also that there is one Lord, and he who says “there is but one Lord” confesses also that there is but one God. He (Paul) first said: “There is but one God” and immediately after “there is but one Lord,” in order to separate the persons, because in repeating the word “one” about each one of them he showed that the two persons are to be known as of one Divine nature, which is truly both Lord and God.
In order to include in their sentence the human nature which was assumed for our salvation they said: In one Lord Jesus Christ. This name is that of the man whom God put on, as the angel said: “She shall bring forth a Son whose name shall be called ‘Jesus.'” (Matt. 1:21; Luke 1:31) They added also the word Christ in order to allude to the Holy Spirit, as it is written: “Jesus of Nazareth whom God anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power.” (Acts 10:38) And He is God because of the close union with that Divine nature which is truly God.
In this same way our blessed Fathers who assembled in that wonderful Council of the Catholic Church [of Nicea] first spoke, like Paul, of Divine nature while coupling with it a word which denotes the form of humanity which He took upon Him (Philip. 2:7) and said: And in one Lord Jesus Christ the Only Begotten Son of God, the first-born of all creatures. It is thus that they wished to teach mankind when they spoke of the Divine nature of the Son. His humanity, in which is Divine nature, is also made known and proclaimed in it, according to the saying of the blessed Paul: “God was manifest in the flesh,” (1 Tim. 3:16) and according to the saying of John the evangelist, “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
Our Fathers rightly thought not to overlook the humanity of our Lord which possesses such an ineffable union with Divine nature, but added: And in one Lord Jesus Christ, as if they had said, ‘We believe in one Lord who is of Divine nature, to which the name of Lord and God is truly due.’ In speaking of God the Word they said: By whom are all things,(1 Cor. 8:6) as the evangelist said: “All things were made by Him, and nothing was made without Him.” (John 1:3) It is as if they had said, ‘ This one we understand to be one Lord who is of the Divine nature of God the Father, who for our salvation put on a man in whom He dwelt and through whom He appeared and became known to mankind. It is this man who was said by the angel that he would be called Jesus, who was anointed with the Holy Ghost in whom He was perfected and justified, as the blessed Paul testifies.’ (Acts 10:38; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 2:9-10) After saying these and showing the Divine nature and the human nature which God put on, they added: The “Only Begotten Son,” the “first-born” of all creatures. With these two words they alluded to the two natures, and by the difference between the words they made us understand the difference between the natures. From the fact also that they referred both words to the one person of the Son they showed us the close union between the two natures. They did not make use of these words out of their own head but they took them from the teaching of Holy Writ. The blessed Paul said: “Of whom Christ in the flesh, who is God over all,” (Rom. 9:5) not that He is God by nature from the fact that He is of the House of David in the flesh, but he said “in the flesh” in order to indicate the human nature that was assumed. He said “God over all” in order to indicate the Divine nature which is higher than all, and which is the Lord. He used both words of one person in order to teach the close union of the two natures, and in order to make manifest the majesty and the honour that came to the man who was assumed by God who put Him on.
In this same way they said also: The Only Begotten Son, the first-born of all creatures. Because they were on the point of enlightening us concerning the two natures: how they are, which was the Divine nature which came down, and which was the human nature which was assumed—they used in advance these two expressions together in order to indicate the two natures through them. It is clear that they do not speak of one nature when they say: The Only Begotten Son, the first-born of all creatures, because the two expressions cannot be said of one nature, as there is a great difference between an only son and a first-born. It is not possible that an only son and a first-born should denote the same man. A first-born is the one who has many brothers while an only son is the one who has no brothers. So great is the difference between an only son and a firstborn that it may be compared with the difference that nature places between the one who is alone and the one who is in company of others.
We call an only son one who has no other brothers at all while we call a first-born one who clearly has other brothers. This the Sacred Book teaches us also without ambiguity. In wishing to speak of an only son it says: “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) It says also: “The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father,” (Ibid, 18) so that by His close proximity to His Father He might be known as an only Son. The sentence, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of an only begotten of the Father” shows that He alone is of the nature of the Father by birth, and He alone is a Son. In using the word “bosom” it conveys to us a union that never ceases, as it is unbecoming to understand this word to refer to a corporeal bosom of God. Inasmuch as they call eye “sight” and ear “hearing,” so also they call a union that never ceases “bosom,” as it is said: “Render unto our neighbours sevenfold into their bosom,” (Ps. 71:9, 12.) that is to say let them receive punishment continually and always. The expression “only Son” that has been used signifies, therefore, that He is alone born of the Father, that He is alone Son, that He is always with His Father and is known with Him, because He is truly a Son from His Father.
As to the expression “the first-born of all the creatures,” we understand it in the sense in which it is said: “For whom He did foreknow He also did predestinate, and He formed them to the image of His Son that He might be the first-born among many brethren.” (Rom. 8:29) (Paul) did not make use of this word in order to show us that He is Son alone, but in order to make us understand that He has many brethren and that He is known among many since they acquired with Him participation in the adoption of sons, (Ibid., 23; Galat. 4:5; Eph. 1:5) and because of them He is called first-born as they are His brothers. In another passage He is called “first-born of all the creatures.” (Col. 1:15) This is also said about the humanity of Christ, because (Paul) did not simply say “first-born” but “first-born of all the creatures.”
No one is called first-born if he has no other brothers because of whom he is called and is a first-born, so the expression “the first-born of all creatures” means that He was the first to be renewed by His resurrection from the dead; and He changed into a new and wonderful life, and He renewed also all the creatures and brought them to a new and a higher creation. It is indeed said: “Everything that is in Christ is a new creature. Old things are passed away, and all things are become new through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 5:17) He is the firstborn of all the creatures because all the creation was renewed and changed through the renewal which He granted to it by His grace from the renewal into which He Himself was renewed, and through which He moved to a new life and ascended high above all creatures.
He is rightly called the first-born of all the creatures, because He was first renewed, and then He renewed the creatures, while He is higher in honour than all of them. This is how we understand the difference between the two names. Our Fathers, who took their wisdom from Holy Writ, referred this difference to one person and said: In the Only Begotten Son, the first-born of all creatures, in order to show us, as I said previously, the close union of the two natures. It is with justice, therefore, that they first said, “an only Son” and then, “the first-born.” Indeed they had first to show us who was the one who was in the form of God, (Phil. 2:7) and who, because of His grace, took upon Him our nature, and afterwards to speak of that form of a servant which was assumed for our salvation. In this way and by the change in the terms that they used, they made manifest to us the two natures and differences, and also the unity of sonship arising out of the closeness of the union of the natures, which was effected by the will of God. In this they kept also the right order of things as they taught first concerning Divine nature which by its grace came down to us and put on humanity, and then concerning that humanity which was assumed through grace, and afterwards they gave the true doctrine for the refutation of the heretics who strove to twist the truth.
In their teaching they began later to speak of Divine nature about which they had already spoken at the beginning of the profession of faith: Who was bom before all the worlds, and not made. It is clear that they said these words concerning Divine nature, although the word “only Son” was sufficient to teach the true doctrine concerning the Son to all non-contentious. If He is an only Son, it is clear that He alone is born of God, and He alone is a Son con-substantial with His Father. The expression “only Son” denotes all these things, and even more, because those who are called sons of God are numerous, while this one is alone the only Son. It is, indeed written: “I have said, Ye are gods, and all of you children of the Most High,” (Ps. 82:6) and again, “I have nourished and brought up children.” (Is. 1:2) Since there are many who are called “sons” this one would not have been called “an only Son” if there was not a great difference between them. They were called sons by grace because they became near to God and members of the household, (Eph. 2:19) and because of this membership of the household they deserved by grace to be called by this name. This one, however, was called an only Son because He alone is a Son consubstantial with His Father. He was not called a Son, because He, like others, became by grace worthy of the adoption of sons, but because He was born of the very nature (of the Father) He was called and He is a Son. Although these things are clear and evident in the Sacred Books, and although it is patent to every one that no one can be called an only son except the one who is truly of the same nature as his father, the unholy and erroneous opinion of the heretics remained for some time without rectification.
Of all those who had received the knowledge of Christ, Arius was the first to dare and to say impiously that the Son was a creature and was made from nothing: a novel theory alien to public opinion and to the laws of nature, as any one who is created is not a Son, and any one who is a Son is not a creature, because it is impossible that a creature should be called a true Son or a true Son to be called a creature. This compelled our blessed Fathers to assemble from all regions and hold a holy Synod in the town of Nicea in the district of Bithynia, and to write this (profession of) faith in order to uphold the true faith, to confute the wickedness of Arius, to refute those who sprang up later and who are called by the name of their deceiver Eunomius, and to overthrow those heresies which arose out of erroneous opinions. Although the question was clear and evident to all from the law of nature, from common consent and from the teaching of the Sacred Books, they added and said: Born and not made.
They used words suitable to the belief in the Son, as if they had said: we call Him a Son, not a mere man and not like one who is figuratively called so—such as those who are by grace called children because of their adoption in the household—but alone a true Son. He is a true Son because He is an only Son; and He is truly born of His Father, is from Him and from His nature, and is eternally like Him. There is no created thing that is before the worlds, as the one who is before the worlds is the one who is alone from eternity. As the Father is from eternity so also the Son who is from Him is from eternity. He did not come into existence after a time nor was He born later, but He was born eternally before all the worlds from the one who is from eternity, and He is with Him from eternity as the evangelist said: “In the beginning was the Word.” (John 1:1)
He is from eternity, and did not come into existence later, but He was in the beginning before everything. He who comes into existence later is called “the last,” and the last is not the first; and he who is not the first was not in the beginning. If, therefore, He was in the beginning, He was also the first, as there is nothing that precedes the beginning. If He is the first He is not the last, and if He is not the last He did not come into existence later.
In the beginning He was, (Ibid) and He was in the beginning from God, that is to say He was from eternity and before all the worlds with God. And to show that He was with God, and not from outside, as something foreign and not from the very nature of Divinity, the blessed evangelist called Him “Word,” because a word belongs to a man and is from a man; and since it is possible that the being who was with Him was from another he made use of this illustration so that the hearers should not doubt that He was from eternity from the one who is eternally from eternity. Indeed, the word of the soul, the rational character of which is accomplished in itself, is with it and in it by nature, and it is through it that this same soul is known to be rational. And it comes out of the soul, and is seen from it and in it, and is always with it and known through it.
In this same way the Son is from the Father like the word is from the soul. He is eternally from Him, with Him and in Him, and He is known from eternity with Him. “He was in the beginning,” that is to say He was from eternity, from the beginning, and before everything; not that He came into existence later, but that He was in the beginning and always; that He was eternally from Him and eternally with Him, like the word is with the soul, from which and with which it always is.
The word, however, is seen as something different from the soul, and is the personality of the soul, because not having its own personality it is seen in the soul. In order that, by following this illustration, we may not believe that the Son has no personality or that He was alien to the nature of the Father he quickly added: “And the Word was God.” After saying that He “was” and that He “was with God” he added “And the Word was God” so that he should show clearly that He was not from a nature different from that of God, or that He was different from Him in the Godhead, but that He was identical with the one from whom He was and that He was God with the one who was God.
He said wonderfully: “And the Word was God” in order to show that He is what God is, and that He is what our blessed Fathers rightly described: Born of Him before all the worlds. In this they wished to convey that from eternity and before all the worlds He was in the beginning from Him and with Him. Their words did not stop here but to complete the doctrine of truth, to warn the children of faith and to overthrow the error of the heretics, they added the sentence: And not made.
We should be in need of many words if we intended to comment fully upon all things said by our blessed Fathers concerning the Divinity of the Only Begotten. In order, however, to lighten to you the burden of the many things that are said to you we shall utter them little by little so that you may better be able to hear and to learn them. With your permission, therefore, we shall put an end here to the things that were said to-day, and keep the things that follow (in the credo) to another day, and for all of them let us praise the Father, the Only Begotten Son and the Holy Spirit, now, always, and for ever and ever. Amen.
Here ends the third chapter.
Yesterday we endeavoured to interpret to your love, according to our ability and in a succinct manner, the things said by our blessed Fathers concerning the Divinity of the Only Begotten, while we kept the remainder of them for another day. In our commentary we reached, as you remember, the sentence in which it is said: Born of His Father before all the worlds, and not made, and there we ended our speech. If you wish, let us now begin by the grace of our Lord with this sentence. We were stating that in saying: Born of His Father before all the worlds they showed us that He is a Son truly and not figuratively only, as the heretics pretend that He is a Son only in a borrowed name like those who were called sons by grace. He is indeed alone the true Son of God the Father because He is the Only Begotten and is alone born of God His Father. This is the reason why they added: Born of His Father before all the worlds.
This was due to the Only Begotten Son of God, who is a true Son and not in name only. And He is from the nature of the Father and eternally from Him and with Him. It is not possible for us to imagine that there is anything between God the Father and God the Son, as God is high above everything. He who is above everything is also above the time and from eternity. If, therefore, God the Father is eternal, and if the Son is God, He is also eternal, God from God, and Eternal from Eternal, and there is nothing between God and God. As it is not possible to imagine that either times or worlds precede God, so there is nothing before the Son as He also is God, because He is born of His Father before everything, and is eternal, born of the One who is eternal.
For a perfect faith to those who have the good-will of religion this name of “Only Begotten” would have been sufficient, and they would have agreed to say that He was a true Son. (Our Fathers), however, added to it the sentence: Born of Him before all the worlds. Both phrases demonstrate how the Only Begotten is the Son of God, and it is with justice that they added for the refutation of the haters of truth: And not made. We confess that He is the Only Begotten, the Son of God, born of the Father before all the worlds, and that He is consubstantial with the Father; and we completely reject the opinion held by the ungodly people who said that the Son of God is created. He is indeed born of God and He is not made, and He is of the same nature as God and not a creature. A Son is very different from a creature.
If He is a Son He is not a creature, and if He is a creature He is not a Son. If He is a Son He is from Him and not from outside Him, and if He is a creature He is from outside Him. If He is a Son He is from Him and like Him, and if He is a creature He is from outside Him and not from Him and like Him. The natural law teaches us also these things, because we call sons those who are born of us; as to creatures they are made outside us while they were not. Likewise we understand that there are many creatures of God, but the Son is One whom we also call Only Begotten.
The Son is one alone, and He is eternally from Him; as to creatures they are many and exceed all numbering, and are composed of many natures which came into existence later according to the will of their Maker, both individually and collectively. He knew that diversity was useful to the creature because it is created, and some parts of it came into existence earlier, some later and some others later still; parts of it came into existence at the same time, and parts after many others. Since all the created things were to come into existence it was justifiable that some should come earlier and some later.
As there is a beginning to the existence of all created things, those which came into existence later are like those which came into existence earlier. As to the Son, because He did not come into existence to His Father later but was in the beginning from Him and was from eternity with Him, is alone Son. It was not possible that the one who was similar to the one who is from eternity should have come into existence later, nor was it possible that the one who has a beginning should have been similar to the one who is from eternity. Indeed there is a great difference between one who is from eternity and one who began his existence later; the difference is so great that the two cannot exist concomitantly. What possible relation can exist between one who is eternal and another who was at one time nonexistent and began his existence later?
It is well known that the one who is eternal and the one whose existence has a beginning are greatly separated from each other, and the gulf found between them is unbridgeable. The one who is eternal has no limits, while the one whose existence has a beginning, his very existence is limited, and the one the beginning of whose existence is limited, the time that elapsed before he came into existence is also limited. It is not possible to limit and define the chasm that exists between the one who is from eternity and the one who began to exist at a time when he was not. What possible resemblance and relation can exist between two beings so widely separated from each other? And because the Son is from eternity, and from a Father who is from eternity, no other son like Him came into existence later. He remained Son alone because He is from eternity from one who is from eternity. It was fitting that such a one should be alone the Son from the Father.
In this way our Fathers warned us concerning the knowledge of the Son, and wrote to us the true doctrine to the effect that when we believe in the Only Begotten Son we should understand that He is from the Father. They taught us also to flee from the impiety of the heretics and reject their contention that the Son is made, as this is very remote from the truth. The Son should not be thought of as a made being nor as a creature, but we ought to profess concerning Father and Son what is congruous to both of them, namely that the Son is from the nature of the Father and is not a being made by the Father and created outside Him from nothing.
Our blessed Fathers taught us these and added something that fits the sequence of the sentence: True God of true God. Indeed what else were we justified in thinking of the one who is from God and not from outside Him but from the very nature of the Father, except that He was what God is by nature, that is to say a true God?
In this they followed the teaching of the Gospel in which it is said: “And the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” (Ibid) as if the evangelist had said, “And God was with God, and He was what He was, as He was with Him and from Him.” In this way our Fathers said also: True God of true God. They added to the sentence, “God from God” that of, “True from true” because of the wickedness of those who wish to show contention and insolence even concerning heavenly 85 things.
The sentence which they used does not differ from that found in the Gospel, as it is clear that the one who says, “God with God” says also “A true one with a true one.” The (Gospel) does not say “And He is called God,” like those who are called gods by men, nor, “He was with the one who was called God by name only,” but, He was God with the one who was God, and God by nature with the one who was God by nature. Men are called gods, but are not assumed to be gods by nature: “I have said, Ye are gods, and all of you children of the Most High, but ye shall die like men, because I only called you so to bestow honour upon you, as you are not gods by nature; you are mortal men by nature, which is very different from Divine nature; this is evident from the nature of things, because if you had been gods by nature you would not have been entangled in sin for which you received death.”
God is not only called God by name, but He is in reality by nature that which is implied by His name; and God the Word who is with Him is not only called God figuratively, but is also God by nature; and he who is God by nature what else can he be except true God? What is there truer than nature, and how is it possible that the one who is (God) by nature should not be so in truth? If He is not God by nature, He is neither God in truth. Indeed this name “god” is either applied to demons, who falsely and insolently dare to call themselves by it in their arrogance, or to men who are called so by God’s gracious permission as an honour. As to the Son He is God by nature like the Father.
Although the heretics dare to call the Only Begotten, “Son of God” in a different sense, yet since He is God by nature it is evident that He is also God in truth, as there is nothing truer than the one who is what he is by nature. It is indeed evident that the one who is God by nature is also God in truth. And there is nothing truer than a true one—(and this contrary to) the new wisdom of the heretics— when each of them is a true (God) by nature. Indeed they say that God the Father is God by nature and that God the Son is also God by nature, but they refuse to admit that the Son is God in truth, in spite of the fact that they admit that He is God by nature, and in this they introduce a new law to us in their innovations to the effect that He is a true God but not like God His Father. If each one of them is God by nature, how is it possible for us to understand that one of them is higher and the other lower while both of them are assumed to have an identical nature? It is impossible to find an addition or a diminution in the one whom the Sacred Books and those who followed their doctrine teach us that He is God by nature.
Our blessed Fathers also followed the Books and warned us against the unholy opinion and the ineptitude of the heretics, in saying: True God of true God. The Books had already stated that He was “God,” and they (our Fathers) added prudently the word “true” so that we might believe that the Son is a true God like the Father, because like the Father He is a true God by nature. And as the Father was confessed as God for the confutation of the error of the multiplicity of gods—who were falsely called gods by the peoples of the earth—so also is the case with the Son of God, because we believe that God the Father and God the Son are one God, inasmuch as the Divine nature of the Father and of the Son is one.
To this our blessed Fathers added that the Son was “consubstantial” with His Father, a word that confirms (the faith of) the children of faith and rebukes the unbelievers. Although this is not explicitly written in Holy Writ yet its meaning is found therein. They explained here by means of a clear word the meaning of that which they had previously stated, because the sentence: Consubstantial with the Father is not different from that of: True God of true God. They did not wish to insinuate by this sentence “Consubstantial with the Father any other thing than that the being who, as previously stated by them, was God and born of His Father before all the worlds and not made—is God. Indeed, if He is born of Him before all the worlds and is not made, and if He is not a creature but a true Son of His Father, it is evident that He is from Him and not from outside Him, and that He is born of the nature of the Father and consubstantial with Him; and if He is true God of true God, it is evident that He is consubstantial with Him, because any one who is truly God in nature is consubstantial with one who is truly God in nature.
The meaning of the sentence “consubstantial with His Father” is clearly found in the Book. When it says: “In the beginning He was with God and He was God,” (Ibid) it shows by means of these two phrases that He is God in nature and that He is consubstantial with God. This is also the meaning of the sentence: “My Father and I are one.” (John 10:30) If the Son is one with His Father in power and in nature, He is consubstantial with Him. By His statement: “My sheep hear my voice and follow me, and I give unto them eternal life, and no man shall pluck them out of my hand,” (Ibid, 27-28) He bore witness to His omnipotence and to the fact that no man can prevail against Him; and because this sentence conveyed higher things than the simple man who was seen in Him, He added: “My Father who gave them me is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck (them) out of my Father’s hand.” (Ibid, 29) He lowered the significance of the sentence by the addition: “He gave me.” What He said of Himself to the effect that no man can prevail against Him, He said it of His person; and to show that He did make use of such words for the purpose of showing that the power of both (the Father and the Son) was identical and that no man was able to prevail against Him in the same way as no man was able to prevail against the Father who was believed to be higher than all, He said: “My Father and I are one.”
He made clear in this (sentence) that which He had implicitly insinuated in the meaning of the preceding words which He had uttered; it is as if He had said, “my power is identical with that of my Father and higher than all like His power, and no man can prevail against me even as no man can prevail against my Father, because my Father and I are one, and have one power and one dominion that is higher than all.” This is the reason why the Jews called Him a blasphemer. Indeed they did not know the Divine nature that was dwelling in Him, but knew only that which was visible in Him, and wished to stone Him like a man making use of blasphemous words.
To the same effect is the sentence: “He that hath seen me hath seen my Father,” (John 14:9) and: “I am in my Father and my Father in me.” (Ibid., 11) If the Father is seen in the Son it is evident that both have one nature, and each of them is seen and known in the other. In this way their mutual equality shows also the unity of their nature, and the consubstantiality of the Son with the Father. This is likewise the meaning of the sentence: “No man knoweth the Son but the Father, neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son.” (Matt. 11:27) If each of them is not known and seen except by the other, it is evident that they are invisible to all men because of their equality in nature, each of them only knowing the other. If this is so then the Son is consubstantial with the Father.
In spite of the fact that all these things are manifestly evident in the Sacred Books, those who incline towards evil, to the condemnation of their souls, and are not upright, dared to say that the nature of the Son is different from that of the Father, a saying which also implies that He is not a Son. It is known that he who is truly a son is of the same nature as his father. Our blessed Fathers were well advised, therefore, to make use of this expression the meaning of which was implicitly found in many words of the Sacred Books, in order to warn the faithful of their time and to rebuke the heretics; and they wished also to make it known in condensed words. If the blessed Paul did not hesitate to quote in his teaching sentences that were used by Greek philosophers, such as: “we are of the offspring of gods,” (Acts 17:28) and: “The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies,” (Tit. 1:12) and if he did not shrink from writing them for the reproval of his adversaries, it was all the more right for our blessed Fathers to make use in the profession of faith of the expression that the Son was Consubstantial with the Father, and although this word is not explicitly written in the Sacred Books, its meaning was implicitly found in many passages.
After this they said: By Whom the worlds were made and all things were created.
As in the section of the faith which deals with the Father, after the word “Father” they added “Creator of all things,” so also in the section which deals with the Son, after stating that He was born of the Father and was consubstantial with Him, they rightly added that He was the creator of all things, because a true Son who is consubstantial with His Father is also a true creator like Him. In this same way the blessed John the evangelist, after having said “in the beginning He was with God, and He was God” (John 1:1) added: “All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made,” (Ibid, 3) in order to show us that He was a creator like God His Father.
In this same way after our blessed Fathers had said that the Son was from the Father, that He was true God from true God and that He was consubstantial with His Father, they added: By whom the worlds were made and all things were created. They said this because as He is with His Father before all the worlds, He is the creator of all things like God His Father. And since the worlds were made by Him, He is the creator of all creatures, and He is before all the worlds, because He is from eternity and did not begin to exist later, but was in the beginning and is the creator of all the worlds, as the blessed Paul said: “By Him He made the worlds.” (Heb. 1:2)
Our blessed Fathers also after saying like him: “By Him the worlds were made,” added that He was the creator of all things. In this way they taught us the divinity of the Only Begotten while stating something which was in harmony with the Sacred Books; and gave also encouragement to those who are zealous in their religion, and confuted those who deny the divinity of the Only Begotten.
As to us we have explained to your love the meaning of the (profession of) faith in a succinct manner, according to our ability. If you wish it let the measure of the things which we said suffice for our teaching of to-day, and let us praise the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.
Here ends the fourth chapter.
I know that you remember what we spoke to your love concerning the divinity of the Only Begotten, and how our blessed Fathers after their teaching about the Father came to the words written in the Sacred Books concerning the Son, and taught us both about the divinity of the Son and the form of man which He assumed for our salvation. (Rom. 8:3; Phil. 2:7, etc.) They thought not to keep silent on the human nature which He put on because it is through it that we received the knowledge of the Divine nature of the Only Begotten.
After saying: And in one Lord Jesus Christ, in order to make manifest the Divine nature and the human nature they added: The Only Begotten Son, the first-born of all creatures, and they further instructed us concerning Divine nature and the form of man which was put on for our salvation so that little by little they might teach us everything with accuracy.
They first taught us how to believe in the divinity of the Only Begotten by saying that the Only Begotten Son was consubstantial with the Father, and not a Son with only an assumed name like other men who are so by grace and not by nature, but that He was a true Son from the Father; that He was an only Son, because He alone was born of the nature of His Father; that He did not become Son or was called so later, but that He was in the beginning, before all the worlds and eternally from His Father, and was not made. The reason why the Son of God should not be called a creature of God, is that He did not come into existence from nothing according to the law of all created beings, but He is eternally from His Father, “a true God of true God, and consubstantial with His Father,” because He is a true Son and is by nature what the one who begat Him is.
Our fathers taught us these things with accuracy concerning the divinity of the Only Begotten, and fixed the profession of faith in our souls while removing from us the contention of the ungodly who dare to assert that the Son of God, who was born eternally from His Father before all the worlds, is made and created. After having shaken from our mind all the falsehood of the error of the heretics, they began to speak of the Incarnation of our Lord which took place for our salvation, in saying: Who for us children of men and for our salvation came down from heaven, was incarnate and became a man.
It is with justice that they first used the sentence “for us children of men and for our salvation.” Because they were on the point of speaking about the Economy of His humanity, they were bound to show the purpose of it, as they could not do this with the words which dealt with the divinity of the Only Begotten and in which they spoke to us how He was eternally from His Father. Since they took pains to teach us concerning His humanity, it is with justice that before everything they set forth the reason for which Divine nature humbled itself to the extent of taking upon itself the form of a servant for us (Phil. 2:7) and of its caring for our salvation. It is with justice, therefore, that our Fathers, in beginning their teaching concerning the Economy of His humanity, formed the starting-point of their discourse from this purpose: For us children of men and for our salvation. It was also fitting on their part to place the words “for our salvation” after the words “for us children of men,” in order that they might show the aim of His coming, which was not only for the “children of men” but also “for their salvation.” He came down from heaven to save and to deliver from evil, by an ineffable grace, those who were lost (Matt, xviii. 11) and given up to iniquities.
He came down not in the sense that He moved from place to place. We are not to think that Divine nature which is everywhere moves from place to place; because this Divine nature has no body, it cannot be circumscribed in a place.. He who is not circumscribed is everywhere, and He who is everywhere it is not possible for us to think of Him that He moves from place to place. To this the blessed John bears witness when he says: “He was in the world and the world was made by Him and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own and His own received Him not.” (John 1:10-11) He says here that “He was in the world” and that “He came unto the world”; but if He was in the world how did He come to it? Indeed, how can we say that a man came to a place where he was? He, therefore, said “He was in the world” in order to show that He is everywhere; and he added: “He came unto His own,” about the Economy of His humanity. Likewise the blessed David said: “He bowed the heavens and came down,” (Ps. 18:9) in order to make manifest to us the deliverance from their tribulations which God effected for them. He called the condescension of God the “coming down” of God, in the sense that He who was so much above all condescended to deliver them from their tribulations.
It is in this sense that God the Word, the only Son of God, is said to have come down for our salvation, because He is eternally from His Father, is always with Him, and is above all as He is the cause of everything. For our salvation He condescended to come down to such a humility as to take upon Him the form of a servant (Phil. 2:7) and be in it so that through it He might grant us the delight of His abundant gift. It is with justice, therefore, that our blessed Fathers said: Who for us children of men and for our salvation came down from heaven. They called the Economy of His humanity a “coming down from heaven,” at which the blessed David was awe-struck and said: “What is man that Thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that Thou visitest him?” (Ps. 8:4)
Who for us children of men and for our salvation came down from heaven: what is His coming down and what is its aim? And what did [man] do that He humbled Himself to such an extent for him as to become like him, and to take upon Him the form of a servant, and to be a man for our salvation, and to make Himself manifest to all, and to assume upon Himself all that which belonged to the nature of that man, and to be exercised in all (human) faculties? And He perfected him by His power, so that He did not remove from him the (bodily) death which he received according to the law of his nature,—but while He was with him He delivered him by act of grace from (real) death and from the corruption of the grave, (Ps. 16:10; Acts 2:27; 8:35) and raised him from the dead, and made him worthy of a high honour concerning which he said: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” (John 2:19) which he did; and He was not separated from him in his crucifixion nor did He leave him at death, but He remained with him until He helped him to loose the pains of death, (Acts 2:24) and He delivered his soul from bonds which were indissoluble; and He raised him from the dead and transferred him to immortal life, and made him immortal, incorruptible and immutable; and He caused him to go up to heaven where he is now sitting at the right hand of God; and he is “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Ephes. 1:21) as the blessed Paul testifies; and he constantly receives adoration from all creation because of his close union with God the Word.
It is with justice, therefore, that our blessed Fathers said that He was incarnate and became a man, so that for the sake of our salvation He might act according to all this Economy whereby He was believed to be a mere man by those who were unaware of the Godhead which was dwelling in Him and who only saw that which was visible. Indeed the Jews said to Him: “For good works we stone Thee not, but for blasphemy; and because that Thou, being a man, makest Thyself God.” (John 10:33) And Paul also said, “He was in the likeness of men, and was found in fashion as a man.” (Phil. 2:7-8) The (sentence) “He was in the likeness of men” does not mean any other thing than that He became a man. When the Book said: “God sent His own Son who became in the likeness of the sinful flesh,” (Rom. 8:3) the “likeness of the flesh” does not mean any other thing than flesh itself; and so also when in another passage it says: “He was manifest in the flesh.” (1 Tim. 3:16) In this passage it uses “flesh” and in the other “likeness of the flesh,” but by the two expressions “flesh” and “likeness of the flesh” it does not show us any other thing than that it teaches us that He was manifest in the flesh, in the same way as “in the likeness of man” does not mean any other thing than “man.”
It is with justice, therefore, that our blessed Fathers said: He was incarnate and became a man in order to show that He was a man, as the blessed Paul testifies, and that He fulfilled this Economy for the salvation of all. It is with justice then that our blessed Fathers made use of this word in the profession of faith for the refutation of the error of the heretics, while conforming with the true belief of the Church. And on account of the numerous schisms that had taken place among men concerning that ineffable Economy and concerning the man whom our Lord assumed, they rightly made use of the sentence: He was incarnate and became a man.
The Marcionites and the Manicheans together with the followers of Valentinus and the rest of the heretics who were affected with a like malady, say that our Lord did not assume any of our natures either of the body or the soul, but that He was a phantasm that struck the eyes of men like the form of the visions which the prophets saw and the apparition seen by Abraham of three men of whom none had a corporeal nature but who were only in appearance men who performed human acts, walked, talked, were washed, ate and drank. They say that in this same way our Lord did not assume any body but that He was only in appearance a man who performed and felt everything according to the requirements of men, while the one who was seen had no human nature but was only seen in appearance to be so, and that in reality He felt nothing but only the onlookers believed that He was feeling.
The partisans of Arius and Eunomius, however, say that He assumed a body but not a soul, and that the nature of the Godhead took the place of the soul. They lowered the Divine nature of the Only Begotten to the extent that from the greatness of its nature it moved and performed the acts of the soul and imprisoned itself in the body and did everything for its sustenance. Lo, if the Godhead had replaced the soul He would not have been hungry or thirsty, nor would He have tired or been in need of food. All these things befall the body because of its weakness, as the soul is not able to satisfy its wants, but does for it only those things that belong to itself according to the nature given to it by God. The soul is in need of a body which is perfect in everything that deals with its sustenance, and if something is missing in it, not only this same soul is unable to help it but will itself be overcome by the weakness of the body, and will be compelled to leave it against its own will.
If, therefore, the Godhead was performing the acts of the soul, it would also by necessity have performed the acts of the body. Only in this way could be right the opinion of the misleading heretics who deny that He assumed a body and was only seen in the same way as the angels (were seen in the Old Testament), and was a man in appearance only while He did not possess any qualities of human nature. Indeed the Godhead was able to accomplish everything so that the eyes which were seeing believed that they were seeing a real man, in the same way as the angels were, by the will of God, seen by Abraham.
If, however, Divine nature was sufficient for all these things, human nature which was in need of the grace of salvation from God should not have been assumed, as according to the opinion of the heretics this same Godhead would have satisfied the requirements of human nature, and in this case it would have been superfluous to assume a body at all as the Godhead was able to perform all its acts. This, however, was not the will of God, who indeed wished to put on and raise the fallen man who is composed of a body and of an immortal and rational soul, so that “as by one man sin entered the world, and death by sin, so also the free gift and the grace of God by the righteousness of one man might abound unto many.” (Rom. 5:12, 15, 17) As death was by man so also the resurrection from the dead (will be) by man, because “as we all die in Adam, even so in Christ shall all be made alive,” (1 Cor. 15:22) as the blessed Paul testifies. Therefore it was necessary that He should assume not only the body but also the immortal and rational soul; and not only the death of the body had to cease but also that of the soul, which is sin. Since according to the sentence of the blessed (Paul) sin entered the world through man, and death entered through sin, it was necessary that sin which was the cause of death should have first been abolished, and then the abolition of death would have followed by itself. If sin were not abolished we would have by necessity remained in mortality, and we would have sinned in our mutability; and when we sin, we are under punishment, and consequently the power of death will by necessity remain.
It was, therefore, necessary that sin should have first been abolished, as after its abolition there would be no entry for death. It is indeed clear that the strength of the sin (1 Cor. 15:56) has its origin in the will of the soul. In the case of Adam also it was his soul which first accepted the advice of error and not his body, because it was not his body that Satan persuaded to yield to him, to forsake God and to believe that his Helper was a deceiver, in his desire for higher things; and in following the advice of Satan he transgressed the commandment of God and chose for himself those things which were contrary to the commandment of God. It was not his body that had to know these things but his soul which, on the promise of higher things, yielded and accepted the advice of the deceiver and lost the good things that it possessed.
It was, therefore, necessary that Christ should assume not only the body but also the soul. The enemy of the soul had to be removed first and then for the sake of it that of the body, because if death is from sin and the same death is the corruption of the body, sin would have first to be abolished and the abolition of death would follow by itself.
It would be possible to save the body from death and corruption if we first made the soul immutable and delivered it from the passions of sin, so that by acquiring immutability we would also obtain deliverance from sin. The abolition of death would then be effected by the abolition of sin, and after the abolition of death it would be possible that our body should remain without dissolution and corruption. If the soul had only sinned in those things that befall it from the passions of the body, it would perhaps have been sufficient for our Lord to have assumed only the body in order to deliver (the soul) from sin. Many, however, and of different kinds are the iniquities and sins that are born of the soul. The first (sin) through which it shows its association with Satan is that of pride, about which the Apostle said: “Lest being lifted up in pride he should fall into the condemnation of the Devil.” (1 Tim. 3:6) In this sentence the Apostle has shown that any one who falls into pride becomes the associate of the Devil in condemnation. The one, therefore, who possesses the uncorporeal Devil in his evil thought, feels passion in his soul; and consequently it is clearly evident that the soul was greatly in need to be delivered from sins and be saved also from the passions of the body which overcome it by the power that the latter adequately possesses.
The blessed Paul bears witness to our words when he counts the evils to which men were drawn, to which they degraded themselves and from which Christ came into the world to deliver them; he says thus: “Wherefore God gave them over to a reprobate mind to do that thing which is not convenient, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, fornication, maliciousness, envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; and are disobedient to their parents, implacable and unmerciful.” (Rom. 1:28-31) These (evils) are clear and evident and in no need of a comment, and the majority of them are not born of the passions of the body but exclusively of the will of the soul. Indeed wickedness, maliciousness, envy, debate, deceit and malignity, together with pride, boasting, invention of evil things, disobedience to parents, non-understanding, covenant-breaking, and unmercifulness—all these are clearly from the soul.
It is with justice, therefore, that our Lord assumed the soul so that it should be first delivered from sin and be transferred to immutability by the grace of God through which it overcomes also the passions of the body. When sin is abolished from every place and has no more entry into the soul which has become immutable, every kind of condemnation will rightly be abolished and death also will perish. The body will thus remain immune from death because it has received participation in immortality. The blessed Paul confirms this in saying: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, for the law of life in Christ Jesus hath made thee free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom. 8:1-2)
He said that all the sentence of death, (2 Cor. 1:9) together with all condemnation, has been removed to those who believed in Christ, because they became alien to the way of mortality and received the Spirit and immortality, and with it they assumed immutability and became completely free from sin and mortality. It is, therefore, great madness not to believe that Christ assumed the soul; and he would even be madder who would say that He did not assume human mind, because such a one would imply that He either did not assume the soul or that He did assume the soul not of man but an irrational one akin to that of animals and beasts.
Human soul differs only from that of animals in the fact that the latter has no distinct person of the soul except in the (material) composition of the animal, and so it has no separate existence, and is not believed to survive after the death of the animal. This is the reason why what is called the soul of the animal, which is said to reside in its blood, perishes when the blood is shed; and it is the soul that was believed to reside in the person and in the movements of the animal before its death. The soul of men, however, is not like this, but it resides in its own person and is much higher than the body, as the body is mortal and acquires its life from the soul and dies and perishes whenever the soul happens to leave it. As to the soul, when it goes out it remains and does not perish but lasts forever in its own person because it is immortal and is incapable of receiving any injury in its nature from men. When (Christ) said: “Fear not them which kill the body but are not able to kill the soul,” (Matt. 10:28) He clearly showed that the body is capable of death because it is mortal, but that the soul will remain immortal because it cannot be injured by men in its nature.
The difference between the soul of men and the soul of animals is such that the latter is irrational and has no person, while the former is immortal and is rightly believed to be also rational. Who is, therefore, so mad and devoid of human understanding as to assert that human soul is without knowledge and without reason, unless he wishes to be a teacher of a novel theory not found previously in the world to the effect that there exists an immortal nature which lives in an imperishable life but which is itself irrational? Such a thing is indeed impossible, because anything that is immortal in its nature and dwells in an imperishable life is also truly rational and endowed with reason.
Because of all this our blessed Fathers warned us and said: He was incarnate and became a man, so that we should believe that the one who was assumed and in whom God the Word dwelt was a complete man, perfect in everything that belongs to human nature, and composed of a mortal body and a rational soul, because it is for man and for his salvation that He came down from heaven.
They rightly said that He assumed a man who resembles those from whom He was assumed, because the man whom He assumed resembles Adam who introduced sin into the world, so that He might abolish sin by one who was of the same nature. Indeed, He put on a man resembling Adam who after having sinned received the punishment of death, so that He might eradicate sin from us and abolish death by similar means. When He said: “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me,” (John 14:30) He showed that such was the reason for His resurrection from the dead, because Satan was holding the reins of the power of death on account of the sin that was cleaving to us, as Paul said, (Rom. 5:21) and was always working for death.
And because when we were subjected to sin (Rom. 6:17) we had no hope of deliverance, the grace of God kept that man whom God put on for us free from sin, but Satan came with his deceitfulness and brought death upon Him as upon (any other) man, when he roused all the Jews against Him; and since He was not touched by sin which would subject Him to death, Christ our Lord received also upon Himself the death which with wickedness the tyrannical Satan brought upon Him. He showed to God that there was no sin in Him and that it was through injustice that He was enduring the trial of death. And He effected the abolition of condemnation with ease, and He rose from the dead by the power of God and became worthy of a new and ineffable life which He generalised to all the human kind.
This is the reason why our Lord said here: “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.” In another passage He said: “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be condemned and cast out, and I when I am lifted up from the earth will draw all (men) unto me.” (John 12:31 -32) In the first passage He shows that Satan had not one just cause for bringing death upon Him, and in the second that He had summoned the Rebel to a kind of judgment where he had condemned him and cast him out of his iniquitous power, and that after obtaining these good things He would make all men partakers of His glory.
Our blessed Fathers said that He became incarnate so that you might understand that He assumed a complete man, who was a man not only in appearance but a man in a true human nature, and that you might believe that He assumed not only the body but the whole man who is composed of a body and of an immortal and rational soul. It is such a man that He assumed for our salvation and it is through Him that He effected salvation for our life, because He was justified and became blameless by the power of the Holy Spirit, as the blessed Paul said: “He was justified in the Spirit,” (1 Tim. 3:16) and again: “Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God.” (Heb. 9:14) If He suffered death according to the law of men, because He had no sin He rose from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit and became worthy of a new life in which the wishes of the soul are immutable, and He made the body immortal and incorruptible. In this He made us all participants in His promises, and as an earnest of His promises He gave us the first-fruits of the Spirit (Rom. 8:23) so that we might possess a faith without doubts concerning future things; and “He established us with you in Christ and sealed us and gave the earnest of His spirit in our hearts.” (2 Cor. 1:21-22)
We also expect to be immortal and incorruptible at the resurrection from the dead when there will be no entry for sin into us. The blessed Paul bears witness to this in saying: “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal immortality; and when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal immortality, there shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, ‘ Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.” (1 Cor. 15:53-56) He means that when we have risen from the dead immortal and incorruptible and our nature has received immutability, we shall be unable to sin, and when we have been freed from sin we shall not need the law. Indeed what is the need of the law for a nature which is freed from sin and which has no inclination towards evil.
Well did the blessed Paul say after these: “Who gave us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ibid, 57) This shows that it is God who was for us the source of all good things, and it is He who gave us the victory over all adversaries, either death or sin or any other evil born of them: He who for us put on the man our Lord Jesus and transferred Him through His resurrection from the dead to a new life, and placed Him at His right hand, and gave us by His grace communion with Him, when, in truth, as the blessed Paul said: “our vile body shall be changed and be fashioned like unto His glory.” (Phil. 3:21)
Because the things said by our blessed Fathers concerning the humanity of our Lord are many let us put an end here to our teaching of to-day, and let us praise the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit now, always, and for ever and ever.
Here ends the fifth chapter.
In what we have already said we have explained to your love that which was said by our blessed Fathers concerning the humanity of our Lord in the profession of faith, which they wrote and handed down to us according to the teaching of the Books. We were obliged to use many words so that you might thoroughly understand all the meaning of their sentences, and if it were possible we would have said more in order to confirm the truth and to refute the deceitful words of the heretics, but the measure of what we said was considered by us to be sufficient to all those who possess goodwill in religion, because to those who have an unwilling mind, even a long discourse will be of no avail, while to those who possess a good will a short discourse will suffice for the demonstration of the truth, when (this discourse) is drawn from the testimony of Holy Writ. Let us then embark to-day, by the assistance of the grace of God, on the continuation of that which we said previously.
After having said: Who for us children of men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate and became a man (our blessed Fathers) added: And was bom of the Virgin Mary and crucified in the days of Pontius Pilate. They might have said many things that happened in the meantime such as He was wrapped in swaddling clothes, was laid in a manger, was under the law, (Gal. 4:4) was baptised and made manifest the works of the Gospel and many more things. If they had wished it they would have narrated all that the Sacred Books have taught us about Him and that which was accomplished by Him for our salvation, as He fulfilled thoroughly the law of nature for us, because He was going to reform our nature, and He further observed the law of Moses so that He might pay our debt to the Lawgiver; and He was baptised so that He might give an emblem to the grace of our baptism; and He showed effectively in Himself the Economy of the Gospel to all men. After all these He went to crucifixion and death so that He might destroy the last enemy, which is death, and make manifest the new and immortal life.
Our Fathers, however, took trouble to say all these things in short terms so that the hearers might learn them with ease, and so that we might also learn thoroughly every one of them from the Sacred Books. They wrote and arranged the Creed in short terms, and this is the reason why they said: Who was born of the Virgin Mary and was crucified in the days of Pontius Pilate. They only said the beginning and the end of the Economy that took place on our behalf, as the beginning of all grace is His birth of Mary, and its end is crucifixion. They called crucifixion the Passion, and all those things which took place in it. They included all of them in one word because from the Cross arose death and from death immortal life, as the blessed Paul said also (1 Cor. 1:18): “The preaching of the Cross is to them that do not believe foolishness, but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” He also said: “Though He was crucified through weakness yet He liveth by the power of God.” (2 Cor. 8:4) He showed here that the word of the Cross is the power of God to those who are saved because it is with His hand that He destroyed death and made new life manifest.
In their profession of faith our blessed Fathers wrote, therefore, in short terms, at the beginning and at the end, all those things that were done in the interval, in order to extend their knowledge to all those willing to learn the truth. It is obvious that they do not teach that the Divine nature of the Only Begotten was born of a woman, as if it had its beginning in her, because they did not say that the one who was born of His Father before all the worlds and who is eternally from Him and with Him had His beginning from Mary, but they followed the Sacred Books which speak differently of natures while referring (them) to one prosopon on account of the close union that took place between them, so that they might not be believed that they were separating the perfect union between the one who was assumed and the one who assumed. If this union were destroyed the one who was assumed would not be seen more than a mere man like ourselves. The Sacred Books refer the two words as if to one Son, so that they might show in the same faith both the glory of the Only Begotten and the honour of the man whom He assumed.
Indeed, after the blessed Paul had said: “Of whom Christ (came),” he added: “according to the flesh,” (Rom. 9:5) in order to separate the natures and to show that he is speaking of Christ who is from the Jews according to the flesh and that he is naming neither the nature of the Godhead of the Only Begotten, nor God the Word who was from the beginning with God and who is eternally in the bosom of His Father, but the form of the man which He assumed. And so that by this word and this addition to the effect that the human nature of Christ was taken “from the Jews” the glory of Christ might not be brought low, or that He might be believed that since He is man by nature and is born of children of men, He has nothing more, he added the sentence which follows: “He is God over all” in order to show the glory of Christ, which is from God the Word who assumed Him and united Him to Himself, as He is the cause of all and Lord over all. And because of the close union that this man has with God the Son, He is honoured and worshipped by all the creation.
While the blessed Paul might have said: “In whom is God over all” he did not do so, but said: “He is God over all,” because of the close union between the two natures. He did not believe that He who was born of the Jews according to the flesh is God over all by nature, nor did he profess that the human nature is the cause of all and is Lord of all by nature, but he professed that the form of man which He assumed was Christ in the flesh, and Him who assumed that form he called God over all; he, however, mentioned these two things together in order to show the distinction found between the natures. Nobody believes that He who is from the Jews according to the flesh is God by nature, nor that God who is above all is from the Jews by nature; he said the two things together in order to show the close union that took place between the one who was assumed and the one who assumed, and in order that together with the difference in natures the honour and the glory that came to the man who was assumed from his union with God who assumed him, might be known to all.
He wrote something similar to this to the Philippians in saying: “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation and took upon Him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men and was found in the fashion of a man.” (Phil. 2:6-7) Here also he clearly made a distinction between the natures and between Him who is in the form of God and Him who is in the form of a servant, between Him who assumed and Him who was assumed, and (he showed) also that He who assumed became in the fashion of a man in Him who was assumed. He who was assumed was truly in the fashion of a man, in whom was found the one who assumed Him; and He who assumed, while not a man, became in His incorporeal and immaterial nature in the form of a servant, which by nature was corporeal and material; and He was a man according to the law of human body. He thus hid Himself at the time in which. He was in the world and conducted Himself with the children of men in such a way that all those who beheld Him in a human way and did not understand anything more, believed Him to be a mere man.
In saying this he made a clear distinction between the natures of the one who is in the form of God and the one who is in the form of a servant, of the one who assumed and the one who was assumed. And he taught us also about the human nature in which our Lord was, as he said congruous things concerning the form of the servant which He assumed: “He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow of things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God His Father.” (Phil. 2:8-11)
It is not Divine nature that received death, but it is clear that it was that man who was assumed as a temple to God the Word, (a temple) which was dissolved and then raised by the one who had assumed it. And after the Crucifixion it was not Divine nature that was raised but the temple which was assumed, which rose from the dead, ascended to heaven and sat at the right hand of God; (Col. 3:1, etc.) nor is it to Divine nature—the cause of everything—that it was given that every one should worship it and every knee should bow, but worship was granted to the form of a servant which did not in its nature possess (the right to be worshipped). While all these things are clearly and obviously said of human nature he referred them successively to Divine nature so that his sentence might be strengthened and be acceptable to hearers. Indeed, since it is above human nature that it should be worshipped by all, it is with justice that all this has been said as of one, so that the belief in a close union between the natures might be strengthened, because he clearly showed that the one who was assumed did not receive all this great honour except from the Divine nature which assumed Him and dwelt in Him.
Our blessed Fathers wrote in the Creed something that is in harmony with this. They first taught us about the nature of the Godhead of the Only Begotten, that He is from the Father before all the worlds, that He is born of the nature of the Father and not made, and that He is a true God and consubstantial with God because He is born of His Father. After having taught us these things concerning the divinity of the Only Begotten they proceeded to teach us concerning the Economy of His humanity and said: Who for us children of men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate and became a man like us in order to effect salvation for all the human race. And they taught all those things that happened to the human nature: things through which God wished His Economy to be accomplished on our behalf. And He who was assumed for our salvation bore upon Himself all things affecting mankind, and became worthy of perfection and a source of benefits for us through our communion with Him.
They said the above things as of one in conformity with the teaching of the Books; not that human acts were affecting God in His nature, but they referred these human acts to Him because of the close union, so that the high things that happened to Him after the Passion—things that transcend human nature—might be believed, and so that all might accept them when learning that it was Divine nature which put on man and that by its union with Him He received all this honour and glory.
Many things, as we have said, happened to Him according to human law; things which we may learn from the Gospel. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes after He was born and laid in a manger; (Luke 2:7) He was circumcised after the custom of the law and was brought to the temple according to the order of Moses; He was shown before the Lord and endured all things dealing with His increase in stature, wisdom and favour, while He was subject unto His parents; (Luke 2:51-52) He practised in a right way all (things dealing with) the justification of the law, and then received baptism, from which He gave the New Testament as in a symbol; He endured the temptation of Satan and bore upon Himself the toil of journeys and the offering of prayers with great devotion; and, to shorten my speech, He performed all the work of the Gospel with much labour and sweating, showed much patience with His enemies, and finally drew nigh unto death by crucifixion, through which He abolished death by His resurrection from the dead.
Our blessed Fathers omitted all these and said: And was born of Mary and crucified in the days of Pontius Pilate, because the beginning of His Economy for us is one thing and its end is another, and they included between both headings, one after another, all those things that the Book of the Gospel taught us. He was born of the Virgin Mary as a man, according to the law of human nature, and was made of a woman. (Gal. 4:4) Indeed the Apostle said thus: “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Gal. 4:4-5) In saying that He was made of a woman He showed that He entered into the world from a woman according to the law of the children of men, and the fact that “He was under the law to redeem them that were under the law that we might receive the adoption of sons,” happened so that He might pay our debt to the Lawgiver and procure life for us.
Since He became one of us in nature it is with justice that He paid the debt of His human kinship; on account of His nature which was identical with ours He was bound to do this, and He did it. We were delivered from the yoke of bondage (Gal. 5:1) because of the freedom which He gave us in His grace. The fact that He was not born of a man but was only fashioned by the Holy Spirit in the womb of His mother, is beyond the nature of the children of men, and the (Apostle said) that He was made of a woman in order to show us that He was fashioned from the nature of a woman and was born according to the law of nature; and this does not cause any injury to nature, because Eve also was made of Adam, and her birth is different from that of all men since she received her existence from a rib only, without marital intercourse. She had an identical nature with Adam because she received the beginning of her existence from him.
In this way we should also think about Christ our Lord. It was a novel thing to have been fashioned from a woman without marital intercourse, by the power of the Holy Spirit, but He is associated with the human nature by the fact that He is from the nature of Mary, and it is for this that He is said also to be the seed of David (2 Tim. 2:8, etc) and Abraham, as in His Nature He is related to them. This is the reason why the blessed Paul said: “For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come whereof we speak, but unto the one concerning whom the Book testifies, saying, ‘What is man that thou art mindful of him, or the Son of Man that thou visitest him’?” (Heb. 2:5-6) And again: “He took not from the nature of angels but from the seed of Abraham.” (Ibid. 16) His words show that our Lord did not take a body from the angels, nor did He make the angels the head and renovator of the future creation which we are expecting, but the man whom He assumed from the seed of Abraham and through whom He performed all this ineffable Economy and whom He first raised from the dead and transferred to immortal and unchangeable life, Him He made the head and renovator of all the creation, so that He was with justice set over the government of the new creation.
As a man He was born of a woman according to the law of nature, and although this happened to Him in a novel way, in the sense that He alone, to the exclusion of the rest of mankind, was fashioned in the womb by the Holy Spirit without any marital intercourse, yet all that which He did for us He did according to the law of our nature, so that He grew little by little, reached full age and performed also carefully the requirements of the law. And because He paid our debt to the law and received victory from the Giver of the law on account of His having put into practice all the requirements of the law, He drew, with His own hand, to all His human race that blessing which the law had promised to all those who keep it.
He was also baptised so that He might perform the Economy of the Gospel according to order, and in this (Economy) He died and abolished death. It was easy and not difficult for God to have made Him at once immortal, incorruptible and immutable as He became after His resurrection, but because it was not He alone whom He wished to make immortal and immutable, but us also who are partakers of His nature, He rightly, and on account of this association, did not so make the firstfruits of us all (I.e. Christ; cf. 1 Cor. 15:23) in order that, as the blessed Paul said, “He might have the pre-eminence in all things.” (Col. 1:18) In this way, because of the communion that we have with Him in this world, we will, with justice, be partakers with Him of the future good things. And as after He was born of a woman He increased little by little according to the law of humanity, and grew up fully, and was under the law and acted according to it, so also in the life of the Gospel He became an example as man to man.
Because it was necessary that we who were born later should receive faith concerning the above future good things and that we should believe that our Saviour, our head and the cause of all of them for us, was Christ our Lord, it was imperative that He should also arrange as much as possible our mode of life in this world according to the hope of the future. It is with justice, therefore, that in this also He became our model. He was baptised so that He might give a symbol to our own baptism. In it He was freed from all the obligations of the law. He performed also all the Economy of the Gospel: He chose disciples to Himself, established the teaching of a new law and a new doctrine, promulgated ways of acting congruous to His teaching and different from the teaching of the (old) law, and taught that the ways of acting of us who believe should be in harmony with His new teaching.
We also when we are baptised show (in ourselves) the symbol of the world to come; we die with Him in baptism, and we rise symbolically with Him, and we endeavour to live according to His law in the hope of the future good things which we expect to share with Him at the resurrection from the dead. If Christ our Lord had immediately after His rising from the dead, raised also all men who had previously died, and had bestowed upon them new life fully and immediately, we should have been in no need of doing anything; as, however, He actually performed only on Himself the renewal which is to come and through which He rose from the dead and His body became immortal and His soul immutable, it became necessary that this decrepit and mortal world should last further in order that mankind might believe in Him and receive the hope of communion (with Him) and future life.
It is with justice, therefore, that He paid the debt of the law, received baptism, and showed the new Economy of the Gospel, which is the symbol of the world to come, so that we also, who believed in Christ and became worthy of baptism, through which we received the symbol of the world to come, should live according to His commandments. This is the reason why the blessed Paul said: “God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.” (Rom. 6:17) In this he shows that through baptism we have received the teaching of the new Economy which is the symbol of the world to come, and as much as possible we strive to live according to it, while remote from all sin, and so not according to law. Indeed we are baptised as men who die with Him and will rise symbolically with Him, because “so many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ were baptised into His death and were buried with Him by baptism into death; that like as Jesus Christ was raised up from the dead in the glory of His Father, even so we should walk in newness of life.” (Ibid. 3-4)
After having received the grace of baptism we become strangers to all the observances of the law and we are as in another life: “You are become dead to the law by the body of Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 7:4, where no “Jesus.”) He (Paul) said this because you have attained new life in the baptismal birth and have become part of the body of Christ our Lord; and we hope to have communion with Him now that we are freed from the life of this world and dead to the world and to the law, because the law has power in this world and we become strangers to all this world according to the symbol of baptism.
When Christ our Lord performed all these things for us He drew nigh unto death, which He received by crucifixion, not a secret death, but a death that was conspicuous and witnessed by all because our Lord’s resurrection was going to be proclaimed by the blessed Apostles, while the miracles wrought wonderfully by the Holy Spirit were sufficient for the corroboration of their testimony. His death had to be seen by all, as His resurrection meant the abolition of death. Indeed, He loosed the pains of death (Acts. 2:24) completely by his resurrection from the dead, ascended unto heaven and sat at the right hand (Col. 3:1, etc) of God, and is for us a true surety (Heb. 7:22) by our participation in His resurrection. “You were saved by the grace of Him who raised us with Him (2 Tim. 1:9, etc) and placed us at the right hand in heaven in order that He might show to the future worlds the greatness of the wealth and the sweetness of His mercy which was shed on us abundantly through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Tit. 3:6)
And in order that we may believe in the good things which He promised to us, in spite of their greatness and in spite of the fact that they transcend us, He gave us the earnest of the future things, the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit, (2 Cor. 5:5; Eph. 1:14) as the blessed Peter said: “He was exalted by the right hand of God, and He confirmed the promise of the Holy Ghost which He had received, and shed forth this upon us abundantly, as you now see and hear.” (Acts 2:33) He calls “the promise of the Holy Ghost” the grace which was given for the confirmation of the future good things by the Holy Ghost. Indeed, these future things are confirmed in us by the power of the Holy Ghost. As the blessed Paul said: “It is sown a natural body and it will rise a spiritual body.” (1 Cor. 15:44) And in order that we may possess these future good things in a firm faith without doubt, He gave us even in this world the firstfruits of the Spirit which we received as the earnest, of which the blessed Paul said: “In whom ye believed, and ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit (of promise) which is the earnest of our inheritance.” (Eph. 1:13) And the Economy of the grace of Christ our Lord, for which we receive baptism, is like unto this.
Our blessed Fathers did well, therefore, to hand to us our faith by going to the firstfruits of the faith, and including in them all the necessary things in saying: And was born of the Virgin Mary and crucified in the days of Pontius Pilate. I believe, however, that my speech has exceeded the limits as the words (which express) the Economy of the grace of Christ have only been delivered to us (in short terms) as given above. In order, therefore, that you may not receive a teaching which is not perfect and that we may not trouble you with many words, let us, by the permission of God, leave off here the things which will follow what has been said, and be satisfied with what has already been spoken to-day, and let us praise the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit now, always, and for ever and ever.—Amen.
Here ends the sixth chapter.
Let us proceed now to deal with the grace of the Economy of the humanity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and see what our blessed Fathers have handed down to us about it in the creed. This is the third day I am discoursing on this subject to your love, as I am anxious that you should learn it little by little and keep my words in your memory. Let us, therefore, begin to-day also to speak to you concerning things that fit the sequence of those already said.
Immediately they began the words which deal with the Economy (of our Lord) our blessed Fathers first showed for whom was all this Economy accomplished, and said: Who for us children of men, to which they added: And for our salvation in order that the purpose of the Economy might be known. To this they added also: Came down from heaven, in order that they might make us understand the boundless humility that was involved in His coming down to us, as if they were repeating the sentence of the blessed Paul: “Though He was rich yet for your sakes He became poor,” (2 Cor. 8:9) and humbled Himself to our wretchedness from the height of His glory and from His mighty greatness. And in order to show us how He came down they said: And became a man. He did not humble Himself here by an ordinary act of Providence nor by the gift of the assistance of (Divine) power that He had in the same way as He performed many other things, but He assumed and put on our nature in which He was, and in which He dwelt so that He might perfect it with sufferings and unite it to Him. In this they (our blessed Fathers) showed us the gift of His grace which they saw in the human race, and through which He assumed a man from us, was in Him and dwelt in Him, and they taught us that He endured and bore all according to human nature so that we might understand that He was not a man in appearance only, but that He was a real man who suffered all the human [passions] according to human nature.
And in order not to lengthen their speech they omitted all the things which He gradually performed and which we may learn with accuracy from the reading of the Gospel, and they rightly made use of condensed words and said: And was born of the Virgin Mary and was crucified in the days of Pontius Pilate, and in this way they included all the Economy in its beginning and its end. We remember that we told your love that it is the habit of the Books to include all the Economy of Christ in the mention of the crucifixion, because death came to Him by crucifixion, and He abolished death by death and made manifest the new, immortal and immutable life.
In this way our blessed Fathers included also all the Economy in these words, but were aware that especial attention had to be paid to the words said of the Passion or of the things that happened in the Passion, as they transcend all human intellect. In order that no doubt concerning the reality of the Passion might enter the mind of the hearers on account of the sublimity of this same Passion, and in order that they might not think that it took place in appearance only, they stressed their words so that they should be believed in the sense that He died in reality and so as to show that human death and all passions were abolished by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Indeed, if Christ endured death by crucifixion in order to make manifest His death to all and with His death His resurrection also by which death was abolished, it is with justice that our blessed Fathers warned us first on the subject of His death and then taught us concerning His resurrection.
This is the reason why, after having said, And was crucified in the days of Pontius Pilate, they added: And was buried, in order to teach us that He did not die only in appearance and in an unreal way but that He actually died a natural death so that after His death His body was also buried according to the law of human nature. In this they followed also the teaching of the blessed Paul, who, when speaking to the Corinthians of the resurrection of the dead because of which he made mention of the resurrection of Christ our Lord—so that he might confirm the general resurrection from the resurrection of Christ— first taught about His death in saying that Christ died a real death, since His death once established the words concerning the preaching of His resurrection will be readily accepted. He said in effect: “I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried.” (1 Cor. 15:3-4) He did not make use of the additional sentence “and was buried” to no purpose, but he made use of it to show that He truly died according to the law of human nature and that He duly endured death according to a mortal nature.
In this same way, after our blessed Fathers had said, And was crucified in the days of Pontius Pilate, in order to show that He had died they added the sentence: And was buried, so as to demonstrate, according to the preaching of the Apostle, that He had truly died.
Further, as the blessed Paul, after having said that He was buried and that He had truly died, added: “He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (Ibid. 4) —and it was in this way that he was able to teach concerning the resurrection of Christ after His death and to fix the true belief in His death in the souls of the hearers—so also our blessed Fathers, after having said, And was buried, added: And rose the third day according to the Scriptures. They made an accurate use of the words of the Scriptures in delivering to us the belief in the resurrection. The question involved in the resurrection is not an unimportant one because to those who do not believe it implies the danger of death and of falling away from all benefits, but on those who believe this same resurrection bestows confidence, and puts the seal on all the wonderful things accomplished in the Economy of Christ. Indeed this resurrection is the end of all the Economy of Christ and the principal object of all the reforms wrought by Him, as it is through it that death was abolished, corruption destroyed, passions extinguished, mutability removed, the inordinate emotions of sin consumed, the power of Satan overthrown, the urge of demons brought to nought and the affliction resulting from the law wiped out. An immortal and immutable life reigns by which all the above evils are abolished and destroyed, and it was through them that the demons entered to fight against us.
This is the reason why the blessed Paul said: “If the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised, and if Christ be not raised then our preaching is vain and your faith is also vain.” (1 Cor. 15:14, 16-17) If it is not possible that the dead should rise it is evident that Christ also did not rise, because in His body He was of the same nature and received death according to the law of nature. If we believe that Christ rose it is clear and obvious that resurrection is a true fact, as that which is impossible would not have happened, even to Him, but since it happened to Him it is clear and evident that it is possible.
We ought not, therefore, to deny resurrection as an impossible thing, but it is imperative for us to believe in it, because it did happen once and had its beginning in Christ our Lord. He who denies the general resurrection denies also the resurrection of Christ, because in His flesh He was part of human nature, and he who denies this shows that “our preaching is vain and your faith is also vain.” Because resurrection is the principal benefit of all the Economy of Christ in the flesh—since by it all evil things vanish and an entry is effected for all good things—He who denies this same resurrection makes our preaching and your faith vain. If death is not abolished the dominion of evil things is still standing and we do not look yet for good things. It is indeed plain that if the resurrection did not take place death would still be holding dominion, from which it could not have been overthrown, and because of this same death sin would also be in the ascendant and all evil things would be surrounding us, because he (Paul) said: “If the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised, and if Christ be not raised then your faith is vain and you are yet in your sins.” (1 Cor. 15:17) In this he shows that death was abolished through resurrection, and sin through death, as after the resurrection we become immortal and immutable, and if the resurrection does not take place faith is vain and death holds sway together with sin, and you also are still in your sins and have no hope of good things which we announced as coming to you through the resurrection.
It is with justice, therefore, that in accordance with the words of the Apostle our blessed Fathers first mentioned the principal benefit of the Economy of Christ in saying: And rose from the dead, and then added the sentence: And ascended into heaven. It was necessary that after having known that He rose from the dead we should also know where He is after His resurrection. As the Sacred Book, after saying that God made Adam, added how, from what, and also in which locality He placed him to lead his earthly life, so also in the case of Christ our Lord who was assumed from us and was according to our nature, because after (our blessed Fathers) said that He rose from the dead they rightly added that He ascended into heaven so that we should learn that He moved into an immortal nature and ascended into heaven, as it was necessary for Him to be high above all. All the evangelists narrated to us His resurrection from the dead and with it they ended their respective Gospels, because they knew that it was sufficient for us to learn that He rose from the dead, moved to an immortal and immutable life and gave us the hope of participating with Him in the future good things. The blessed Luke, however, who is also the writer of a Gospel, added that He ascended into heaven (Luke 24:51) so that we should know where He is after His resurrection. It is also known that he taught us this at the beginning of his teaching when he wrote the Acts of the Apostles, (Acts 1:9-10) where he further added the rest of the facts, one after another, as it fitted the sequence of the narration.
As it is not only in His resurrection that Christ became our firstfruits (1 Cor. 15:23) but also in His ascension into heaven—in both of which He made us partakers of His grace—it is right that we should be instructed in both of them, because we do not expect only to rise from the dead but also to ascend into heaven, where we will be with Christ our Lord. In this same way the blessed Paul said also that “our Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout and with the voice of the Archangel and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet our Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with our Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:16-17) In another passage he said also: “For our conversation is in heaven from whence we look for the Saviour our Lord Jesus Christ who shall change our vile body that it may resemble His glorious body,” (Phil. 3:20-21) in order to show us that we shall be transferred to heaven from whence Christ our Lord will come and change us at the resurrection from the dead and make us like the form of His body and take us up to heaven so that we may ever be with Him. And again he said: “For we know if this our earthly house were dissolved, we have a building of God and an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” (2 Cor. 5:1) in order to teach us that at the resurrection we will become immortal and dwell in heaven. And a little further on he said: “While we are in the body, we are absent from our Lord, for we walk by faith and not by sight; we are confident and willing to be absent from the body and to be present with Christ,” (Ibid. 6-8, where “with the Lord” for” with Christ.”) and showed that as long as we are in this mortal body we are as it were absent and remote from our Lord, as we are not actually enjoying yet the future good things since we have only received them by faith, but in spite of their being so we have great confidence in possessing them, and we are looking with great eagerness to the time when we will divest ourselves of this mortal body and cast it away from us and become immortal and immutable at the resurrection from the dead, and then we will be with our Lord like men who for a long time and for the duration of this world were absent and expecting to be present with Him.
This is the reason why he said: “Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.” (Gal. 4:26) He called “Jerusalem which is above” the abode which is in heaven and in which we, reborn at the resurrection, shall become immortal and immutable, when we shall truly enjoy perfect freedom and happiness, and when nothing will constrain us and no pain will affect us, but we will be in ineffable pleasures and in a happiness that will have no end; and we are expecting to enjoy these pleasures in which Christ our Lord became our firstfruits, (1 Cor. 15:23) (Christ) whom God the Word put on, and who through the close union that He had with Him became worthy of all this glory and gave to us also the hope of communion with Him.
It is with justice, therefore, that the Sacred Book taught us that not only He rose from the dead but ascended also into heaven, so that we too should preach that which is implied by our blessed Fathers who, after having said, He rose the third day, added: And ascended into heaven. And they further added to their words: And sat at the right hand of God, in order to show first the great honour that came to the man who was assumed, from His union with God the Word who had put Him on, and secondly in order that we might understand the nature of the good things in which we shall dwell if we have truly communion with Him. Indeed, after the blessed Paul had said, “You were dead in your trespasses and your sins and He quickened you with Christ,” (Eph. 2:1) he added: “Ye are saved. (Ibid. 5) And He hath raised you up and made you sit together in heaven in Jesus Christ” (Ibid. 7) in order to show us the sublimity of the communion that we shall have with Him.
After our Fathers wrote down this they added with justice: And He shall come again to judge the living and the dead, in order to inform us concerning His second coming in which we shall receive communion with Him while truly looking for Him coming from heaven to fashion us, according to the saying of the Apostle, like unto His glorious body. (Phil. 3:21) They added after His coming the sentence: To judge the dead and the living, so that with the mention of the good things done to us they should also implant fear into us and make us ready for the gift of the glory of all this Economy. They said, “of the dead and the living,” not that the dead shall be judged—what kind of judgment can there be to the dead who do not feel?—but that at the time of His coming He will raise all of us born of Adam, that is all the children of men who had died, and will transform them into an immortal nature.
Those men who will be overtaken by the general resurrection while still alive He will only transform, and from being mortal He will make immortal. This is the reason why they said, “the living and the dead.” Those who will be alive at that time they called “the living,” and those who had already died and passed away they called “the dead,” in order to show us that all the children of men shall be judged and none shall escape scrutiny, and that when they have been judged they shall receive a judgment commensurate with the nature of their actions in a way that some of them will be rewarded and some others punished.
The blessed Paul said also in the Epistle to the Corinthians: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment and in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump, the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Cor. 15:51-52) By these words he shows that all of us shall not die but that all of us shall be changed; the dead shall rise incorruptible and immortal, and the living shall be changed into an immortal nature. Both acts will be accomplished in the twinkling of an eye. He said the sentence, “we shall be changed” of those who shall then be alive because when he wrote it he himself was alive, and thus he personified the living.
He wrote something similar to this to the Thessalonians: “We which are alive and remain shall not prevent them which are asleep, for the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout and with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first, and then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with our Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:15-17) He says that all these things will happen with the swiftness of the twinkling of an eye and that those who are alive will not prevent those who are dead when these go out to meet our Lord, and he shows that the latter will rise and the former will be changed, and both will be caught up together to meet our Lord.
Our blessed Fathers said these things to warn us, to inspire us with fear and to induce us to prepare for the future account (that we shall give of ourselves). They rightly ascribed the sentence: To judge the living and the dead to the prosopon of the man who was assumed on our behalf so that they should show us the honour that came to the temple (John 2:21) of God the Word, that is to say to the man who was assumed for our salvation, and so that they should implant fear into us when teaching us by their words concerning the future judgment, which will be all the harder for us if we have a bad and inordinate will. It would be against our duty to minimise that man who was assumed on our behalf; who possesses such a great honour; who will judge the living and the dead because He was freed from all sin and was, on account of the honour that came to Him, in a position to be immune from death—as He said: “I have power to lay my life down, and I have power to take it up again,” (John 10:18) in order to show that He was the Lord and had power to die and not to die—who received the death that came His way, and in the confidence that He had (with God) was able to conquer it; who granted immunity from death to all the human race; who was from us and from our human nature and was immune from death because of the greatness of His excellence and was always without stain by the power of the Holy Spirit, but nevertheless received upon Himself death and passion—an ignominious death by crucifixion—so that He should grant us to delight in the future pleasures, (it would indeed, I say, be against our duty to minimise that man) who endured all these things for us and not to remain steadfast in His love and not follow His commandments and value His love and affection more highly than anything else. We ought to show forth such feelings because of the ineffable benefits that through Him will accrue to us.
Examine the strength of their statement from the fact that in speaking of His humanity, His Passion and His resurrection they affirmed that the very same prosopon to whom all this happened shall sit in judgment. In order, however, that no one might be led to believe that a mere man will be the judge of all the creation they added the word Again, so that they should refer (the act of judging) as by a sign to the Godhead of the Only Begotten who was in Him and from whom He received all that honour. If they did not wish to imply this it would have been sufficient to say: He shall come to judge the living and the dead, but with the addition of again they referred to His Godhead. He who shall come openly is in truth the man who has been assumed from us, and it is He who shall come from heaven, and He of whom it may rightly be said that He moves from place to place, as it is written: “This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts. 1:11) This was to demonstrate to them that it would be the very man who was seen by them, and was with them, and was now being separated from them, who would be coming and be seen by all men. To this man the word again is not fitting. Indeed, it is not He who came but it is the Godhead that came down from heaven, not that it moved from place to place, but by its condescension and its Providence for us which it manifested in the man who was assumed on our behalf. The word again will refer in the next world to the man whom (the Godhead) assumed on our behalf. The man who was assumed on our behalf went now first into heaven and will come again first from heaven, but because they (our blessed Fathers) were referring in their words to the Divine nature they counted His coming twice, first when He came down through that man, and secondly when He will come again through the same man who has been assumed, because of the ineffable union that that man had with God.
This is the reason why the blessed Paul, after saying, “We look for the glorious appearing of the great God,” added: “and the Saviour Jesus Christ.” (Tit. 2:13) He shows that we are looking for the Divine nature, which is higher than everything, to come and appear to all men, and because this Divine nature cannot be seen with material eyes, it will make its appearance to men according to the power of the onlookers. And he showed us the way in which we expect the Divine nature to appear by adding: “and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” He refers here to that corporeal man and shows clearly that it is in the coming and the vision of that man that the Divine nature will make its appearance. It is in this man by whom it had formerly saved us that it will make its appearance in order to grant these ineffable benefits.
It is with justice, therefore, that our blessed Fathers added the word again in order to show us the Divine nature from which the great honour of judging was given to that visible (man). It is that (Divine nature) that will judge all the world according to the sentence of the Apostle who said that it will judge all the earth through the man Jesus. (2 Tim. 4:1) It is clear that the blessed Paul shows us that it is God who will judge all the earth through that man who was assumed on our behalf and who rose again from the dead for the confirmation of our faith.
Let what has been spoken suffice for the teaching of to-day, and let us praise God the Father, and the Only Begotten Son and the Holy Spirit, now, always and for ever and ever.
Here ends the seventh chapter.
In the last days we spoke gradually and sufficiently to your love of the doctrine concerning Christ, according to the teaching of our blessed Fathers. It behoves you now to remember the things spoken to you with so much care. They gave us a two-fold teaching concerning Christ our Lord according to the meaning of the Books, that He is not God alone nor man alone, but He is truly both by nature, that is to say God and man: God the Word who assumed, and man who was assumed. It is the one who was in the form of God that took upon Him the form of a servant, (Phil. 2:6-7) and it is not the form of a servant that took upon it the form of God. The one who is in the form of God is God by nature, who assumed the form of a servant, while the one who is in the form of a servant is the one who is man by nature and who was assumed for our salvation.
The one who assumed is not the same as the one who was assumed nor is the one who was assumed the same as the one who assumed, but the one who assumed is God while the one who was assumed is a man. The one who assumed is by nature that which God the Father is by nature, as He is God with God, and He is that which the one with whom He was, is, while the one who was assumed is by nature that which David and Abraham, whose son and from whose seed He is, are by nature. This is the reason why He is both Lord and Son of David: Son of David because of His nature, and Lord because of the honour that came to Him. And He is high above David His father because of the nature that assumed Him.
This is the reason why when our Lord asked the Pharisees: “Whose son was the Christ?” and they answered: “The son of David,” (Matt. 22:42) He did not disapprove of the answer given. It is the same evangelist Matthew, in whose account is the fact that the Pharisees were asked this question by our Lord, who wrote also at the beginning of his Gospel: “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham.” (Matt. 1:1) He would not have taught this at the beginning of his Gospel had he known that our Lord did not approve of it; indeed he who took so much trouble to write faithfully his Gospel according to the orders of Christ would not have dared to put down in writing a statement that was detrimental to Christ. It is indeed evident that our Lord did not disapprove of that which was said to the effect that Christ was the son of David, in the sense that it was not well and rightly said, the reason being that all the Pharisees and the Jews were expecting Christ to come as a simple man from the seed of David. In this they were in harmony with the words of the prophets, and were not aware that the one who assumed the other who is from the seed of David, was the Only Begotton of God, who dwelt in Him and through Him performed all the Economy of our salvation, and united Him to Himself and made Him higher than all the creation.
It is because the Pharisees were not aware of all this that our Lord asked them: “Whose son was the Christ?”; and after they answered what they knew to the effect that He was the son of David, He said to them: “How then doth David in spirit call Him Lord, saying: ‘The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on my right hand till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool?’ If David then call Him Lord, how is He his son?” (Matt. 22:43-45) In these words He gave them, by a hint only and not openly, the doctrine concerning the Godhead. At that time they transcended the intelligence of the Jews so much so that even the blessed Disciples were not aware of their meaning before the crucifixion. “If ye had known me ye should have known my Father also.” (John 8:19) And again: “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?” (John 14:9) And again: “These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs, but the time cometh when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father.” (John 16:25) And again: “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name.” (Ibid. 24) And again: “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now; howbeit when the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth.” (Ibid. 12-13)
One finds in the Book of the Gospel many passages which demonstrate that the Apostles were not aware of the Divinity of the Only Begotten before the Crucifixion, nor were they aware that God the Word was the Son of the Father and a true Son of God, whom we understand to be consubstantial with His Father. He knew that it was not yet time to promulgate openly this doctrine of His Godhead, but in His question He only gave a hint that they would not possess a complete knowledge about Christ as long as they believed that He was only a man and did not understand the Divine nature which was in Him and because of which the one who was from the seed of David became worthy of the honour of being Lord. David, from whose seed He was by nature, would not have called him His Lord if he did not believe that the one who was of the same nature as himself was something higher and better than the nature of men, and one who by His union with the Lord was elevated to such a great honour that He was believed to be Lord. He is, therefore, of the same nature as David because He is of his seed, but we understand Him to be also Lord because of the union that He had with the Divine nature which is the cause and the Lord of all.
We ought, therefore, to know the natures of both, the one who assumed and the one who was assumed, and realise that the former is God and the latter is the form of a servant, and that it is God who dwells and man is His temple which He built and constituted as His dwelling. This is the reason why He said: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up,” (John 2:19) which the evangelist interpreted and said: “For He spake of the temple of His body.” (Ibid. 21) He called the man who was assumed His temple while showing that He Himself was dwelling in that temple, and through His dwelling He clearly showed us His power when He delivered it (His dwelling) to the destruction of death, according to His desire, and then raised it by the greatness of His might; and so that it might die He allowed it to suffer according to its nature while He, as Lord, impeded it from seeing corruption (Ps. 16:10) and from being delivered to dissolution. He allowed it to die because He wished it, and after its death, He raised it up according to His will.
He would not have said, “Destroy this temple” had He not known that He had the power (to say so), and since He is Lord He implied two things in the sentence “Destroy this temple”: although it is in its nature to be destroyed yet I have it in My power that this should happen or not. I will allow it to be destroyed according to its nature, and if I do not wish it I have the power to impede it from being destroyed. “Destroy this temple,” because it is impossible that I myself should be destroyed, as My nature is undestroyable, but I will allow this (temple) to be destroyed because such a thing is inherent in its nature; I would not have allowed this to happen to it had I not intended to do a higher thing to it; I am allowing this (to happen) to it because I am prepared to do another thing:
What is the meaning of the sentence “and in three days I will raise it up”? (It means) that when it has been destroyed I will build it up again and will raise it up at the resurrection from the dead in a state higher and better than the first; it will not be then mortal and destroyable in its nature as it is now, but immortal, indissoluble, impassible, and immutable; it is in this way that I will raise it up to a much higher state than that in which it is at present by nature; I will allow it to be destroyed in order that I may do something higher to it. Destroy, therefore, this temple; fulfil your wish; make use of your artifice; I will allow you to do what you wish so that after you have done it you should feel my power which is higher than all, as it is by it that I will raise it up from the dead and make it into something higher than it is now. You will then realise that you would not even have been in a position to destroy it if I had not willed it, and that it would not have died if I had not permitted it; since I will it, however, it will be good to it: “destroy, therefore, this temple and m three days I will raise it up.”
In these words He showed sufficiently the difference between Him and the one who was destroyable, because the latter was the temple and the former its dweller; the latter His dwelling as a temple, and the former its dweller as a God; not a temple for a short time only and not one in which God the Word sometimes dwelt and sometimes not, but a temple from which it will never be separated, as it possesses an ineffable union with the one who is dwelling in it. He made Him perfect through His sufferings, as the blessed Paul said, (Heb. 2:10) and He received these sufferings according to His nature while He was in need of the One who was to deliver him from passion, the One who changed His nature and made Him impassible and crowned Him with sufferings. As to Himself He dwelt in Him, and He is by nature impassible, and has the power to make Him impassible also although (by nature) passible. In this way He perfected through sufferings and made immortal and immutable in everything the form of a servant (Phil. 2:7) which was assumed as His temple, that is to say the man who was assumed for our salvation.
The blessed Paul said: “For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come whereof we speak, but unto the one about whom the Book testifies, ‘What is man that Thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that Thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels, Thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of Thy hands and Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet.'” (Heb. 2:5-8) After having shown that He did not take on Him the nature of angels but of man, (Ibid. 16) he explained to us who was this man and said: “We see Jesus Christ who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of His death crowned with glory and honour” (Ibid. 9) in order to show that this man Jesus, who was assumed for our salvation, became a little lower than the angels because He tasted death, and that honour and glory are also placed on His head because He rose from the dead and through His union with God became higher than all creation.
And in order to teach us why He suffered and became “a little lower” he said: “Apart from God He tasted death for every man.” (Hebrews 2:9) In this he shows that Divine nature willed that He should taste death for the benefit of every man, and also that the Godhead was separated from the one who was suffering in the trial of death, because it was impossible for Him to taste the trial of death if (the Godhead) were not cautiously remote from Him, but also near enough to do the needful and necessary things for the nature that was assumed by it. It was necessary for the one through whom and for whom everything was (done) to perfect with sufferings the source of the life of the many children whom he brought to His glory. He Himself was not tried with the trial of death but He was near to him and doing to him the things that were congruous to His nature as the Maker who is the cause of everything, i.e. He brought him to perfection through sufferings and made him for ever immortal, impassible, incorruptible, and immutable for the salvation of the multitudes who would be receiving communion with him.
In this way the Sacred Books teach us the difference between the two natures, and so it is indispensable for us to ascertain who is the one who assumed and the one who was assumed. The one who assumed is the Divine nature that does everything for us, and the other is the human nature which was assumed on behalf of all of us by the One who is the cause of everything, and is united to it in an ineffable union which will never be separated. This is the reason why on account of our association with it the gift which we are expecting to receive will also remain truly with us. The Sacred Books also teach us this union, not only when they impart to us the knowledge of each nature but also when they affirm that what is due to one is also due to the other, so that we should understand the wonderfulness and the sublimity of the union that took place (between them). As such is the statement: “Of whom as concerning the flesh Christ (came), who is God over all.” (Rom. 9:5) It is not the one who is of the Jews in the flesh who is by nature God over all, nor the one who by nature is God over all is also by nature from the Jews, but in his sentence the Apostle showed us the two natures. In saying, “of whom is Christ concerning the flesh” he alluded to His humanity, and in saying, “who is God over all” he taught us concerning the nature of His divinity; and he referred his teaching to one only by saying, “of whom Christ concerning the flesh, who is God over all.”
As such also are the words uttered by our Lord in the Gospel: “If ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before.” (John 6:62) Lo, it is known that the Son of man who was a man by His nature was not in heaven before, but ascended up because of the Divine nature which was in Him, and which was in heaven. When He said also of His body that it can give immortal life to those who eat it, (Ibid. 51) because the words that He uttered were not believed by the hearers, He endeavoured to convince them from the fact that although His words were incredible at the present time they will be credible later, as if He were saying to them: When you see that I have become immortal and have ascended up to heaven you will believe that you will partake of the things that will happen to me because of your association with me in those things, as the Divine nature which dwells in me and which was before in heaven will grant immortality to this one and will take Him up to heaven and will grant you also communion with Him. He (Christ) uttered these words as of one in order to demonstrate the close union that took place: If ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before—If this were not as we said He was bound to say: If ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where the One who is in Him was,—you will understand the greatness of the Divine nature which is dwelling in Me and you will be astonished at the wonderfulness of the things that will happen to Me, and because of Me to you also.
As such also is the meaning of the sentence: “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, the Son of man which is in heaven.” (John 3:13) He did not say that no man hath ascended up to heaven, and I ascended up because of the Divine nature which dwells in Me and which is even now in heaven, but He referred His words jointly to one: “no man hath ascended up to heaven but He that came down from heaven, the Son of man which is in heaven.” He did not wish to say separately that no man ascended up to heaven but the Son of man who was dwelling in Him and who came down and was in heaven. He did not approve of this method of speaking and uttered His sentence in a way that it refers to one individual, and this in order to demonstrate and confirm the wonderful things done to the one who was visible.
Any time the Book wishes to speak of the things done to the human nature, it rightly refers them to the Divine nature because they are high above our nature; in this it shows the union (of the Divine nature) with that man in order to make credible the things done to Him: it shows also that it is through the wonderful Divine nature which was united to Him that He became worthy of all this honour and glory, and it assures us that these same things will in the future be done to us. Indeed that man would not have been the possessor of such great benefits if He had no union with God, nor would we be hoping for all the future good things if the Divine nature that put on the form of a servant had not wished to grant to Him all those good things and extended their delight to us.
Because of all this let us learn the distinction between the natures and their union from the Holy Scripture and let us hold steadfast to this doctrine and understand the difference between these natures: that the one who assumed was God and the Only Begotten Son, while the one who was assumed was the form of a servant, which is man; that God assumed (man) for the benefit of our human race, and that (man) was assumed so that He should remain in virtues and bestow on us the communion of His grace. We should also be mindful of that inseparable union through which that form of man can never and under no circumstances be separated from the Divine nature which put it on. The distinction between the natures does not annul the close union nor does the close union destroy the distinction between the natures, but the natures remain in their respective existence while separated, and the union remains intact, because the one who was assumed is united in honour and glory with the one who assumed according to the will of the one who assumed Him.
From the fact that we say two natures we are not constrained to say two Lords nor two sons; this would be extreme folly. All things that in one respect are two and in another respect one, their union through which they are one does not annul the distinction between the natures, and the distinction between the natures impedes them from being one. So in the sentence: “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30) the word “one” does not annul the fact of “I and my Father,” who are two. In another passage He said about the husband and wife that “they are no more twain but one flesh.” (Matt. xix. 6) The fact that the husband and wife are one flesh does not impede them from being two. Indeed they will remain two because they are two, but they are one because they are also one and not two. In this same way here (in the Incarnation) they are two by nature and one by union: two by nature, because there is a great difference between the natures, and one by union because the adoration offered to the one who has been assumed is not differentiated from that to the one who assumed Him, as the former is the temple from which it is not possible for the one who dwells in it to depart.
All things said of two take the qualification of two when one of them is not differentiated by the object through which it receives the number two; as such is the sentence of the Scripture in which mention is made of four beasts: a lion, a bear, a leopard and another more dreadful. (Dan. 7:4) The Book said “four” because each one of them is a beast in its nature. As such also is the sentence: “The testimony of two men is true,” (John 8:17) because each one of them is by nature that which the other is. Likewise in the sentence: “No man can serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24) because any man who serves mammon with the same care as he serves God has both as masters.
Here also if each of them was Son and Lord by nature it would be possible for us to say two Sons and two Lords, according to the number of the persons, but one being Son and Lord by nature and the other being neither Son nor Lord by nature, we believe that the latter received these (attributes) through His close union with the Only Begotten God the Word, and so we hold that there is one Son only; and we understand that the one who is truly Son and Lord is the one who possesses these (attributes) by nature, and we add in our thought the temple in which He dwells and in which He will always and inseparably remain on account of the inseparable union which He has with Him and because of which we believe that He is both Son and Lord.
In any other passage in which the Book calls the one who was assumed “Son,” it will be seen that He is called Son because of the close union that He had with the one who assumed Him. When it says: “Concerning His Son who was made of the seed of David according to the flesh,” (Rom. 1:3) it is evident that it calls here Son the one who was made of the seed of David in the flesh and not God the Word but the form of the servant which was assumed. Indeed it is not God who became flesh nor was it God who was made of the seed of David but the man who was assumed for us, and it is Him that the blessed Paul clearly called Son. We understand Him to be Son and we call Him so; not for Himself but because of the union that He had with the true Son. It is in this sense that our Lord taught His disciples when He said: “Go ye and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Matt, 28:19)
This teaching we uphold in this way: as we call the Father Divine nature, and the Holy Ghost Divine nature from God the Father, so we call the Son the Divine nature of the Only Begotten, as in the case of the Father and of the Spirit, but to our knowledge concerning the Godhead we add the man who was assumed and through whom we received our knowledge of the Divine nature of which is the one who assumed Him, who is God the Word, and also His Father and of the Holy Ghost. It is written: “The Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth these works” (John 14:10) and of the Holy Spirit it is written that it descended like a dove and dwelled in Him. (Matt. 3:16) Indeed as the Father cannot be separated from the Son nor the Son from the Father—”I am in my Father and my Father is in me (John 17:21) — so also the Father cannot be separated from the Holy Spirit. The Scripture says: “For what man knoweth the things of a man save the Spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God,” (1 Cor. 2:11) in order to show us that the Holy Spirit is always and without separation with God the Father in the same way as our soul is never separated from us as long as we live and are human beings. He was, therefore, Son by necessity in that form of a servant which was assumed, and the Father was with the Son and the Holy Spirit.
If He said concerning all men: “He that loveth me keepeth my commandments, and I will love him and will manifest myself to him,” (John 14:21) and: “I and my Father will come unto him and make our abode with him,” (John 14:23) why should you wonder if in the Lord Christ according to the flesh dwelleth the Father together with the Son and the Holy Spirit? Inasmuch as when we say ‘ Father, Son and Holy Spirit,’ we name the Godhead in which we ought to be initiated to religion and be baptised, so also when we say “Son” we refer to the Divine nature of the Only Begotten while rightly including also in our thought the man who was assumed on our behalf and in whom God the Word was made known and preached and is now in Him, while the Father and the Holy Spirit are not remote from Him, because Trinity is not separable, consisting as it does of one, incorporeal and uncircumscribed nature. We learned these things from the Sacred Books, and we ought to think and to believe accordingly.
Since the measure of things said suffices let us add here to our discourse glory to God the Father, to the Only Begotten Son, and to the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever.—Amen.
Here ends the eighth chapter.
You have heard from what has been spoken to you how our blessed Fathers instructed us successively and according to the teaching of the Sacred Books concerning the Father and the Son without neglecting the Economy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Let us now bring forth what is written after this. The question will deal now with the Holy Spirit, and our blessed Fathers who assembled from all parts in the town of Nicea for the sake of that wonderful Council wrote about Him simply and without amplification by saying: And in the Holy Spirit. They thought that this would be sufficient for the ears of that period. Those who after them handed to us a complete doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit were the Western Bishops who by themselves assembled in a Synod, as they were unable to come to the East on account of the persecution that the Arians inflicted on this country. And later, when Divine grace put an end to the persecution, the Eastern Bishops gladly accepted the doctrine handed down by (the Bishops of) that Western Synod, concurred in their decision, and by subscribing to what they had said, showed their adhesion to them. If one looks deeply into the matter, however, one will find that they derived their reason for the complementary addition that they made later in their teaching concerning the Holy Spirit from the blessed Fathers who had assembled from the whole world in the first Council held in the town of Nicea.
The reason why our blessed Fathers did not hand down to us in a complete form all things that were said later concerning the Holy Spirit is clear and evident, and it is that at that time had risen the unholy Arius who was the first to blaspheme against the Son of God, and assert wickedly that the Only Begotten Son of God, and God the Word, was created and made from nothing. Because of this our blessed Fathers rightly assembled and held a wonderful Council. The time was propitious for their gathering because the God-loving and the blessed Constantine urged them to it in order to destroy the wickedness of the heretics and to confirm the faith of the Church. This is the reason why they made use in their doctrine concerning the Son of clear statements and copious words for the destruction of the heresy of Arius and the confirmation of the true faith of the Church of God. They did not do the same in the case of the Holy Spirit because at that time no question had yet been raised concerning Him by the heretics. They thought that for a complete belief in the true faith it would be sufficient to insert in their creed the name of the Spirit in its right place according to the teaching of our Lord, and to teach all men that in the Creed and in the profession of faith it ought to be pronounced with that of the Father and of the Son. It is not possible for any one to have faith if he does not name, profess, and believe in, the Holy Spirit together with the Father and the Son.
This is the meaning of their words in saying: And in the Holy Spirit. Men who did not include (in their words) any created being would not have inserted the Holy Spirit with so much care in their faith and in their creed side by side with the Father and the Son had they not wished to separate in this same creed all the created beings from the uncreated nature. It was thus necessary that the Spirit should be named and professed side by side with the Father and the Son, because He also is from the uncreated nature, existing from eternity, and cause of everything, to which adoration is due to the exclusion of all created beings. That this is so our profession of faith testifies; indeed faith is not professed in a created nature but in a Divine and uncreated nature; nor did our blessed Fathers discover and write a new doctrine from their own head but they clearly followed the teaching of our Lord who taught His disciples, saying: “Go ye and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Matt. 28:19)
It is clear and evident that He made His disciples the teachers of all the world and ordered them to convert all men from the error of polytheism to which they were formerly clinging—by ascribing the name of God to creatures and giving honour to natures which did not deserve honour—and to teach them to offer true worship only to the Divine nature which is eternal, not made, and the cause of everything. He did not order them to convert all nations from the error of worshipping those who are not gods by nature in order to bring them to the discipleship of one who is not God by nature, but He did order them to preach, instead of those who were wrongly called gods, the nature which is not made, is eternal and the cause of everything, and to which is rightly due the name of Lord and God because it is Lord and God by nature. The knowledge of religion consists in this faith, and it is (this faith) that is the cause of all good things.
It is in this name that we are baptised and expect that the communion of the ineffable Divine benefits will accrue to us through baptism. We would not have named at baptism a being that was not the cause of the benefits that we are expecting to possess. We name (Him) because we know that He has the power to grant us the heavenly and imperishable benefits in the hope of which we receive the gift of baptism. In the same way as (the Book) said: “In the name of Jesus of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6) and showed that it was Christ who was the cause of the cure of the lame man, in this same way where it ordered: “Baptise in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost” it clearly showed that these names which are pronounced at baptism are the cause of all the benefits which we are expecting to possess. It is not to no purpose that it says: “in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost,” but in order that from their names we may derive our hope of enjoying the future good things.
As such also is the sentence uttered by the prophet: “Beside Thee we know no other Lord. We are called by Thy name.” (Isa. 27:13) (The prophet) shows here that they did not recognise nor did they name another Lord beside the one who is truly Lord. And again: “Because of Thy name we shall tread down our enemies,” (Ps. 44:5) and: “In Thy name our horn shall be exalted,” (Ps. 89:24) in order to show that they prevailed against their enemies through His name. In another passage he said: “I will call on the name of the Lord,” (Ps. 116:17) that is to say, I have believed that He is the Lord and also the cause of all good things to me. (Our Lord) said here also: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” in order that His disciples might learn from Him that all the nations were looking for this name as the cause of all their good things, because the nature which is called “Father, and Son and Holy Ghost,” and in which we are baptised, is truly the Lord who is able to give us the heavenly good things which we are expecting and in the hope of which we draw nigh unto the grace of baptism.
As He ordered us to name the Father in the act of our disciple-ship and our baptism, because He is the Divine nature which is eternal and cause of everything and because He is able to vouchsafe unto us the benefits involved in the promise of baptism; and as He ordered us to name the Son because He has an identical nature and is able to vouchsafe unto us the same benefits, it is likewise evident that He named the Holy Spirit side by side with the Father and the Son for this very reason, that is to say because He is of the same nature as that which is eternal and cause of everything, to which is truly due the name of Lord and God. If in this creed He had wished to refer to a nature which was created and to another which was uncreated, we must admit that He neglected to name myriads of other created natures, that is to say, everything! A man with a sound mind will not think of such a thing.
It is clear that our Lord was handing down to us the doctrine of the Divine knowledge and teaching us the religious name which was congruous to the Divine nature in which we were to be baptised and which was able to vouchsafe unto us the future good things. We are thus ordered not to look for another name as the cause of the future good things except to that of the Divine nature which is eternal and cause of everything. It is, therefore, evident that He would not have named the Spirit side by side with the Father if they were not one Divine nature which was eternal and cause of everything, to which the name of Lord and God was truly due, and by the grace of which we shall also participate in the future good things.
Our blessed Fathers also meant this when they said: And in the Holy Spirit. They said this so that they might be understood by others that they were following the teaching of our Lord and so that they might intimate to every one that they also named the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Son according to our Lord’s doctrine, because He also is, like the Son, of the same Divine nature of the Father, and we ought to believe in Him and to worship Him as the cause of the future good things. They left their statement in the above simple sentence without any amplification because no question had yet been raised by the heretics against the Holy Spirit; and they thought that the addition “Holy” placed after the name of the Spirit, according to the teaching of our Lord, was sufficient as a perfect doctrine for those by whom truth is honoured.
To men of good will the sentence used by our blessed Fathers according to the teaching of our Lord was indeed adequate, because they could not have taught us how to believe in things concerning a man in our profession of faith concerning God. They who taught clearly concerning the Son of God to the effect that we ought to believe in Him as consubstantial with God, would not have added in their profession of faith a word concerning the Holy Spirit had they not known that He also was of the same Divine nature of God the Father. The mere mention of the name “Holy Spirit” was sufficient to demonstrate His nature as taught to us by the Divine Book, which indeed would not have called Him by this exclusive name if He was not of Divine nature. Actually there are many things referred to by the word “spirit” in the Holy Scripture: the angels are called by it: “He made his angels a spirit,” (Ps. 114:4) and also our soul: “His spirit goeth out and he returneth to his earth,” (Ps. 146:4) and likewise the winds: “He causeth the spirits to blow and they cause waters to flow.” (Ps. 147:18) Similarly all things which have a subtile nature in comparison with the visible objects, which our senses cannot accurately comprehend and which are not clearly defined, we call spirits.
Although numerous are the things which in common parlance are called spirits, yet this word “spirit” refers in an exclusive way, as the Holy Scripture teaches us, to the Godhead, which is incorporeal and can never be circumscribed. Holy Writ bears witness to the fact that it is called and is truly a spirit. This is the reason why our Lord said to the Samaritan woman who had believed that God was worshipped in a special place, and was contending against the Jews and asking whether the place which was fit for worship was Mount Gerizim or Jerusalem: “God is a spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24) What He showed here amounted to this: all of you are in great error in believing that God is more in this or in that place. God being incorporeal and uncircumscribed is not confined to a place, but is in all places equally. A worship of duty and of truth is good and obligatory when man worships while believing that God is incorporeal and uncircumscribed, and thinks in clear conscience that God is not confined nor circumscribed in a place.
As there are many beings who bear the name of “I am” — as all things created from nothing are so called because they “are”— when God was asked by the blessed Moses about His name He answered: “I am that I am. This is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” (Ex. 3:14-15) He did not mean to say that there is nothing else that is “I am,” but that this name “I am” belongs prominently to Him, not that He once was “I am” and once was not, but that He was “I am” eternally and always. In this same way there are many beings who bear the name of “spirits,” but the word “Spirit” refers pre-eminently and is due to Divine nature which is truly incorporeal and uncircumscribed. If, therefore, it were possible to contend that when the Scripture says “Holy Spirit” it says it in a general sense and throws ambiguity in the minds of the hearers, who in hearing this very name “Holy Spirit” mentioned might think and say: “What is the precise meaning conveyed by the Scripture, since this name is applied to all the other beings who are called spirits?”—the case would be similar with regard to the name “I am” which Holy Writ applies to God because we would not be able to understand to whom it is precisely ascribed, as there are many beings who are referred to by the word “I am” and it is not known whether man or another being is implied; this general term would, therefore, be in need of an addition through which the one who is called by it is distinguished. We do not, however, understand God in this sense, either when we call Him “I am” or when we call Him “Spirit,” because if we call Him “I am” we understand that in truth He is “I am” alone, and if we call Him “Spirit,” He is in truth “Spirit” alone.
It is imperative now that we should discuss also the Holy Spirit and see to what kind of “Spirit” (the Book) refers when it says, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” There is no one who is so mad as to believe that this passage requires discussion, because it is known that the Divine Book is wont to refer by this name exclusively to one whom it everywhere names side by side with the Father and the Son, in the same way as it named Him when baptism was handed down to us. While all spirits have by general usage assumed one common name (of spirit) because they are subtile in their nature in comparison with the visible things, which are in no way grasped by any of our visible senses—this name “spirit” is rightly said with pre-eminence of the Divine nature as it is truly a spirit which is incorporeal and uncircumscribed. Thus we have understood Divine nature to be, and the Holy Spirit is called and professed by this name alone side by side with the Father and the Son because He possesses an identical nature with them.
As when we hear the name of the Father, although there are many other fathers, we nevertheless understand it to refer truly to one mighty God who is eternal; and as, although many are called sons, we, nevertheless, think only of one Son, who did not become, neither is He, a Son through the process of transformation—like the sons whom we have with us and who are born through the transformation of the (human) seed and are afterwards called sons—but He is truly alone Son of a Father who is eternal, and He is eternally from Him and with Him—, in this same way when we hear [the name of] the Holy Spirit we do not think of one of those beings who are called spirits but of the one who is truly called alone by this name and is incorporeal, uncircumscribed and confessed side by side with the Father and the Son in one Divine nature.
The addition “Holy” is characterised by the same implications as the name “Spirit.” Although there are many beings that are “holy,” as in the sentence, “When He shall come in the glory of His Father and of His holy angels,” (Luke 9:26, Matt. 25:31) and although there are also many objects called by this name of holiness, such as “The tabernacle of the Most High is holy,” (Ps. 46:4) these are called holy by common usage only as having derived their holiness from God. The one who is truly holy is Divine nature. It is indeed said: “Thou art holy and Thy name is reverend”; (Ps. 111:9) and even the Seraphim when they glorify they say in their canticle which is congruous to this Divine nature as follows: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole heaven and earth are full of His glory.” (Isa. 6:3)
The one who is truly holy is He whose nature is immutable and unchangeable and He who has not received holiness from another but alone can bestow holiness on all He pleases. In this way the Divine Book calls Holy Spirit the one who is alone confessed, at baptism and in the act of discipleship, side by side with the Father and the Son, because this name Holy Spirit is truly due only to Divine nature. This is the reason why when we hear this name Holy Spirit we do not ask who is meant by it, because we know that He is the one who is alone (holy) by nature and who is named with the Father and the Son as an act due to His nature, because the nature of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is one.
From this it is easily understood by men of good will that our blessed Fathers taught us sufficiently concerning the nature of the Holy Spirit when they placed Him on the same level with the Father and the Son, because in this they clearly taught us something that is in harmony with the words which our Lord pronounced to His disciples and which ascribed to Him a name congruous to Divine nature. It was deemed sufficient by them simply to insert this name in the profession of faith which they taught, because by its exclusiveness it is capable of demonstrating the nature of the one who is named.
This being the case it is only men of ill will who make show of insolence and call the Holy Spirit a servant or a creature, while some others amongst them although refraining from these words yet refuse to call Him God. It is with a sense of duty, therefore, that the Doctors of the Church, who assembled from all parts of the world and who were the heirs of the first blessed Fathers, proclaimed before all men the wish of their Fathers and in accurate deliberations made manifest the truth of their faith and interpreted also their mind. They wrote to us words which warn the children of faith and destroy the error of the heretics. As their Fathers did in the profession of faith concerning the Son for the refutation of the ungodliness of Arius, so they did in their words concerning the Holy Spirit for the confutation of those who blasphemed against Him.
They thought that it would be the height of folly to call creature and servant one who by the mention of His name frees us from death and corruption through baptism, and renews us according to the teaching of our Lord, because a creature is not able to free us nor is a servant able to renew us. It was considered by them to be folly to hesitate to call God one who is truly God, as it is clear that one who is neither a creature nor a servant is God. If He be a creature, He is also a servant, and no creature and no servant are truly God. To call creature or servant one by whose name we expect to be renewed and freed—since in calling Him by His name side by side with that of the Father and the Son we believe that He will grant us renewal and freedom—is a great error and an outrageous blasphemy. Duty compels us, therefore, to call Him God because no other nature can create, renew and free except Divine nature, which is neither created nor made, but is the cause of everything, is able to renew its works according to its will and has the power to give us freedom as it wishes.
Because of this and for it, it was right on the part of our blessed Fathers to proclaim in their creed that the Holy Spirit was Divine nature with the Father and the Son, and by the addition of short words to confirm the true doctrine of the Church which was to be made manifest to those who draw nigh unto the holy baptism: And in ONE Holy Spirit. What our Fathers wrote does not differ in meaning from: And in Holy Spirit. Although they made use of this word, well knowing that the Holy Spirit that was called by this name was one as the Divine Books had taught us, they nevertheless made its meaning clear by saying: And in one Holy Spirit, and thus brought themselves into harmony with the usage adopted by Holy Writ which in saying “one” Father and “one” Son says also “one” Holy Spirit.
This is the reason why the blessed Paul said in one passage: “By one Spirit we are all baptized into one body.” (1 Cor. 12:13) And in another passage: “One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one body, one Spirit, one God Father of all, who is above all and through all and in us all.” (Eph. 4:4-6) And again: “There are diversities of gifts but the Spirit is one, and there are diversities of administration but the Lord is one, and there are diversities of operations but it is the same God which worketh all in all.” (1 Cor. 12:4-6) He clearly shows here that as there is one Lord, because He is the Lord and there is no other beside Him, and as there is one God and there is no other beside Him, so there is one Spirit and there is no other beside Him. The created beings are numerous and different in their nature, but there is only one immutable nature which is the cause of everything, and outside this nature there is no uncreated being who is the cause of the created beings, and He who is of that nature is truly uncreated and cause of everything.
This is the reason why there is only one Father who is truly Father alone and Divine nature, and there is only one Son who is truly Son alone from the Divine nature of God, and there is only one Holy Spirit who is Holy Spirit alone and whom we have learnt from the sacred Books to call by this name, because He also is from that eternal nature and is God and cause of everything. He is also truly God and Lord alone because He created everything, and has power over everything, and is called and is truly Spirit because He is truly incorporeal and uncircumscribed, and to Him is due the attribute of holiness, as He is alone holy and immutable by nature, and as it is He who bestows holiness upon those He pleases and frees them from inclination towards evil.
All the created beings are not holy by nature but are receivers of holiness from the one who is the cause of their being. It is with justice, therefore, that when the blessed Paul exhorted the Ephesians to unity and to be of one mind, made mention of this nature by which they were to be of one mind: “Endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” (Eph. 4:3) and as you were born of one Spirit in order to be one in your motherly bond so you ought to be united and joined one to another. In amplifying his sentence he said: “one body and one Spirit even as ye are called in one hope of your calling,” (Eph. 4:4) because as you were born of one spirit you have become one body of Christ who is the head: (Ibid. 15) the man who was assumed so that through Him we might have relationship with Divine nature, as we are expecting to have communion with Him in the next world, because we believe that our vile body shall be changed and fashioned like unto His glorious body. (Phil. 3:21) We have been called to the hope of these (benefits), and we were born of baptism by the power of the Holy Spirit; and as a symbol and earnest of the future things we received the firstfruits of the Spirit, (Rom. 8:23) through whom we were reborn and by whom we obtained the gift of being one body of Christ.
In expanding further his sentence the blessed Paul said: “One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one body, one Spirit, and one God the Father who is above all and through all and in us all.” (Eph. ibid) One is the Spirit of whom you were born, in the same way as one is the Lord and one is God whom we believe to be our Lord and our Maker and whom by the grace of baptism we have been worthy to call Father. One faith and one baptism: because although we say Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we only profess one nature of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in which we are initiated to our faith and which we have agreed to name at baptism. It is evident that he would not have said one faith if he did not know that the names of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit through whom disciple-ship is effected were one nature; nor would he have said one baptism had he not been aware that those names which are pronounced at baptism had only one power, one will and one act through which the grace of our second birth was accomplished.
The addition of the word one has, therefore, taught us sufficiently and accurately the Divine nature of the Holy Spirit. He is one as the Father is one and as the Son is one, and we believe that the (nature) of each one of them is identical, because the Divine nature, which is uncreated, eternal, and cause of everything, is one. It is known that the created beings are numerous and possess various and different natures according to the wish of their Maker, and are bound to be always dependent on that nature which is uncreated and the cause of everything.
Things that have now been spoken will suffice us for to-day, and we will leave off the rest for another day if God wishes. Let us, therefore, put an end here to our discourse and praise God the Father, the Only Begotten Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, always, and for ever and ever. Amen. Amen.
Here ends the ninth chapter.
I know that you remember what we spoke to your love concerning the Holy Spirit, when we showed the greatness of His glory from the fact that in the initiation of baptism He is believed in side by side with the Father and the Son. We adduced another reason which is no less cogent than this from the fact that He is alone called exclusively Holy Spirit, a name which in the teaching of the Books is simply ascribed to Divine nature; and also from the fact that He is called one Spirit like one Son, one God and one Lord. To those who have goodwill in religion the words written in the sacred Books would have been sufficient; these have been written also in the teaching of our blessed Fathers, who, however, because there are no adequate words easily to convince an evil mind, added of necessity to their teaching a statement which they chose in order to warn the children of the faith and refute the error of the heretics. They inserted, therefore, in their doctrine words that resemble those said of the Son. In speaking of the Son it was sufficient for those who do not refuse to be convinced to state that the one who was called an Only Begotten Son was truly a Son consubstantial with His Father, but on account of the wicked men who are bent on perversion they added: Born of Him before all the worlds, and not made, true God of true God, consubstantial with His Father, and in this they made clear to all the meaning of the name ” Only Begotten” in order to confirm the faithful and rebuke the haters of truth.
In this same way they inserted here also a word which gives us the true meaning of the name which is handed down to us by the Divine Books concerning the Spirit, who at the time of our initiation and baptism is confessed side by side with the Father and the Son. For people of goodwill in religion a word which would show that the Holy Spirit was of the Divine nature of God the Father would have been sufficient, but on account of people inclined to insolence and steadfast in it and in blasphemy, our blessed Fathers were rightly advised, even after all this credible teaching, to corroborate the doctrine of faith by means of a short addition, for the benefit of all and especially for your benefit, you who are on the point of drawing nigh unto the gift of the Spirit. They, therefore, said: And in ONE Holy Spirit. They did not invent this expression but took it from the teaching of our Lord, who, speaking to all His disciples before His passion wished to instruct them on the kind of resurrection from the dead which He will grant to mankind, and said that He will bestow upon them the grace of the Holy Spirit from which is derived the happiness of the future good things, which are so wonderful and have such a permanent effect on those who are worthy to receive them.
He rightly instructed us in His teaching on the greatness and glory of the Holy Spirit, and by this He showed us the greatness of the grace which was to be given to the faithful, so that we should firmly believe in the wonderful benefits which from it would be granted to us and would never be taken from us. He said thus: “If ye love me, keep My commandments, and I will pray the Father, and He shall send you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever.” (John 14:15-16) He showed them in these words: You should persevere in keeping My commandments, never to deviate from them in any way, and since you will not be receiving a casual and ordinary thing only, you will have to show great care and diligence: you will be receivers of no less a gift than the grace of the Holy Spirit, which will be always with you and bestow heavenly gifts upon you. And in corroboration of what had been said He added something that shows the honour due to the Holy Spirit, and said: “The Spirit of Truth.” (Ibid. 17) Indeed, it is the nature of the Spirit to give everything in truth without any change, and because He is eternal, immutable and unchangeable in His nature He is able to bestow upon others the delight of heavenly gifts which will not perish nor suffer any change.
(The Book) calls falsehood a perishable thing that is not permanent, and truth an imperishable thing that is permanent. Because the one who affirms a thing which does not exist lies, and the one who affirms a thing which exists tells the truth, it (the Book) calls falsehood a thing which does not last because it becomes like a thing which does not exist, while it calls truth a thing which lasts and exists permanently. This is the reason why the blessed David said: “I said in my haste, All men are liars,” (Ps. 116:11) that is to say because I became proud and thought highly of myself I suddenly fell into dire calamities and was in danger, as if I was nothing, and was about to perish, if Thy wonderful help had not assisted me; I was astonished at the great number of calamities that assailed me and understood that it was falsely that I had thought highly of myself; I found by experience that human things are nothing and that in truth they are all false: wealth, power, might, and all things which are considered by men to be great and wonderful. All these things, nay, even the fact of our existence are also false, because we make show of this fact of our existence to deceive those who see us, while eventually we are cut off by death and reminded that we are nothing, and all the great things that we are supposed to possess leave us at the end of our life.
As (the Book) calls falsehood a thing that has no enduring effect so it calls truth a thing that is lasting and does not perish, as it is said, “Mercy and truth will meet us” (Ps. 85:10) to show us that He (God) will truly grant us mercy. He is, therefore, called God of truth because He is truly able to give us all. It is said: “Thou hast saved us O Lord God of truth,” (Ps. 36:5) that is to say, Thou hast saved us from the calamities that are known to us because Thou alone art able to grant benefits that are lasting and imperishable to whomsoever Thou wishest. The blessed David said these things of God and called Him God of truth in order to show that He is truly able to grant everything.
Our Lord also said similar things of the Holy Spirit in order to confirm the truth of the future good things that will be granted to us in the next world by the same Holy Spirit. It is as if He had said: The Holy Spirit, the gift of whose grace you will receive, is one who gives heavenly and imperishable benefits to all He pleases, and because He is eternal in His nature and immutable and unchangeable, the things which He will give will also last for ever and will not change or perish. It is not possible that the one who grants benefits which are unchangeable and imperishable should not Himself be eternal and imperishable in His nature, and such a one is indeed Divine nature which is eternal. In created things there is nothing that can last by itself; the one who may be so constituted is so through another; indeed, how can a created being have by himself the attribute of permanency unless this be given to him by his Maker? The one, however, who is eternal, because immutable in His nature, is able to grant imperishable benefits to others as He pleases.
In short, Christ our Lord gave us a great testimony about the nature of the Spirit, in saying, “The Spirit of Truth.” This expression cannot in any way fit the created beings because they are very far from being able to give any lasting thing to others, as they themselves are in need of their Maker to remain in the state in which they had once been created. And He fittingly added: “Whom the world cannot receive because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him.” (John 14:17) There is no reason to wonder that the Holy Spirit is so in His nature and in His power, as in His nature He is higher than all creation and there is no created being that can see Him and receive Him in His nature or understand Him, if He Himself does not reveal His knowledge to mankind by His will. This is the reason why He added: “But you know Him for He is with you and dwelleth in you,” (Ibid) and you rightly receive His knowledge because you have received from Him the gift of grace, which will remain with you for ever for the confirmation of the pleasures of the future good things in which you will be immortal and immutable.
Our blessed Fathers inserted this expression concerning the Holy Spirit as they had received it from our Lord, and added another: Who proceeds from the Father. This is also found in the teaching of our Lord to His disciples: “When the Spirit Paraclete is come, whom I will send unto you, even the Spirit of Truth which proceedeth from the Father, He will testify of me.” (John. 15:26) Here also He revealed in advance the gift of the grace of the Holy Spirit which was to be bestowed upon all the disciples after His ascension. In saying: “When the Paraclete is come, whom I will send unto you” He refers to the grace of the Spirit which He was about to bestow on them. He was not going to send unto them the Divine nature of the Spirit which was everywhere, but He said this of the gift of the grace which was poured upon them and in which He called also the Paraclete the “Comforter,” because He was able to impart unto them the knowledge which was required of them for comforting their souls in the numerous trials of this world.
After having spoken of the gift of the grace of the Holy Spirit He began to speak of His nature and of the greatness of the honour due to Him, in order to show the character of the grace which they were going to receive, and said: “The Spirit of Truth.” This expression denotes the greatness of His nature and His power to grant imperishable benefits to all He pleases. Then He added the sentence that “He proceeds from the Father” to signify that He is always with God the Father and inseparable from Him. This has also been said by the blessed Paul: “What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit who is from God.” (1 Cor. 2:11) He meant by this that as the spirit of man is not separated from him as long as he is and remains a man, so also the Holy Spirit is not separated from God the Father because He is from Him and from His nature, and is always known and confessed side by side with Him To this our Lord referred as by a hint when He said: “He proceeds from the Father,” because the Holy Spirit is a spring which is always with God and has never been separated from Him. He has not been created later but He is eternally in Him, and He is from the nature of God the Father, and eternal; and like a river with undiminishing flow, He bestows His gifts upon whom He pleases.
In this way He said also in another passage: “He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water,” (John 7:38) and the blessed evangelist interpreting this expression said: “This spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive, for the Holy Spirit was not yet, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” (Ibid. 39) He explains here clearly that He was speaking of the gift of the Spirit. He did not speak of the person or of the nature of the Holy Spirit that they were not yet, when he said that Jesus was not yet glorified, because He was eternally before all creation, but He said it of the gift of the Holy Spirit which after the ascension of our Lord into heaven was poured and seen on the blessed Apostles and on those who were with them. He said that the gift of the Holy Spirit will be poured on those who will believe in Him, like an undiminishing flow of water, because it will be given by God the Spirit, who thus makes manifest His work of giving eternal life to those who believe in Him.
He who says that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father shows that He is eternally with God the Father and is not separated from Him, because He is always and eternally in Him. Indeed if gifts proceed from the Holy Spirit like a river, and if this Spirit proceeds from God the Father, it is clear that He is eternally from Him and with Him and He did not come into existence later. As when the Book says that “a river proceeded from Eden to water the garden, and from thence it was parted and became into four heads,” (Gen. 2:10) we rightly understand that the source which made these rivers to flow from Eden was not parted for the reason that it was from thence that it had to flow, so also when our Lord says in parable of the Holy Spirit that He proceeds from the Father, He gives us to understand that the Holy Spirit is not separated from Him, but He is eternally from Him, in Him and with Him, and like an undiminishing river He distributes gifts to all creatures according to the measure of the faith of His receivers, as the blessed Paul said: “There are diversities of Gifts but the Spirit is one,” (1 Cor. 12:4) and also “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” (Ibid. 7)
In explaining this expression of our Lord our blessed Fathers said that He proceeds from the nature of the Father, that He proceeds from Him eternally, and that He was always in the Father and did not come into existence later. It is evident that he who is eternally from the Father and with Him, proceeds also from His nature, because it is impossible that anything should be with God which is not by nature from Him.
After this they added in their teaching concerning the Spirit: Giver of Life, an expression which aptly demonstrates that the Holy Spirit is God like the expressions discussed above. Our Lord said: “The water that I shall give shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14) He refers by His words to the gift of the Holy Spirit which gives everlasting life to those who are worthy of it. And again in another passage: “He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38) He calls living water the gift of the Holy Spirit because it can grant everlasting life. And the Apostle also said: “The letter killeth but the Spirit giveth life” (2 Cor. 3:6) and showed us that He will make us immortal. And again in another passage: “The first Adam was made a living soul and the second Adam a quickening Spirit.” (1 Cor. 15:45) He shows by his words that Christ our Lord was changed in His body, at the resurrection from the dead, to immortality by the power of the Holy Spirit. He likewise said in another passage: “He was declared to be the Son of God with power and by the Spirit of holiness, and rose up from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 1:4) And: “If the Spirit of Him that raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Jesus Christ from the dead shall also quicken your dead bodies because of His Spirit that dwelleth in you.” (Rom. 8:11)
Our Lord also said when teaching us concerning His body: “It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63) in order to show that He also had immortality from the Holy Spirit and to demonstrate this point to others. Such an act belongs indeed to the nature that is eternal and cause of everything, because to Him who is able to create something from nothing belongs the act of giving life, that is to say, to make us immortal so that we should always live. Even among created beings those who have an immortal nature are considered higher in rank, and it is, therefore, clear and evident that he who is able to perform this act is also able to perform other acts. God Himself shows that it is the prerogative of the Divine nature to do this in saying: “Know now that I am He and there is no God beside Me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal.” (Deut. 32:39) He shows that it is His exclusive prerogative to raise from the dead and to free from their pain those who are wounded.
It is with the (above) words that our blessed Fathers warned us and taught us that we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit was from the Divine nature of God the Father. This is the reason why He is confessed and believed in side by side with the Father and the Son at the time of initiation and baptism. Each one of us is baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, according to the doctrine of our Fathers, which is derived from the teaching of our Lord, so that it should be made clear and manifest to all that our blessed Fathers handed down to us the doctrine of the true faith by following the order of Christ. Even the words of the creed contain nothing but an explanation and interpretation of the words found in the teaching of our Lord. Indeed, He who ordered to baptise the Gentiles in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit showed us clearly that the Divine nature of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is one. It was not possible that He should induce the Gentiles—who were converted to the true faith by casting away from them the error of polytheism and rejecting those who were falsely called gods—to receive a teaching that drew them nigh unto the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, if He did not know the oneness of their Divine nature which exists eternally and which is the cause of everything; (nor would He have induced us) to secede from those who are not truly gods and to believe in one Divine nature which is Father, Son and Holy Spirit; to desist from calling creatures gods and to believe that the uncreated nature is one, which from nothing can make everything because it is truly Lord and God to whom this name and this honour are justly due.
This is the reason why our Lord caused baptism to follow catechumenate (See Matt, 28:19) so that baptism should be the end of catechumenate. It was necessary for those who had rejected false gods and learnt that Divine nature was one, eternal and cause of everything, which is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to receive through these names the gift of baptism which is bestowed for the sake of a wonderful happiness and is the earnest of the future and ineffable benefits. Faith is professed at baptism by the mention of these names, because those who mention them designate one Divine nature which is eternal, cause of everything, and able to create all things from nothing while always caring and providing for them. We also rightly expect to be renewed and to receive the freedom of truth through these names of Father, Son and Holy Spirit which are pronounced at baptism.
Immediately after the profession of faith in baptism they (our blessed Fathers) added the profession of faith in: One Catholic Church. (It is as if the catechumen says): I shall be baptised in order to be a member of the great body of the Church, as the blessed Paul said: “One body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.” (Eph. 4:4) He does not call Church the building made with hands, even if we suppose that it has been so called because of the congregation of the faithful who are in it, but he calls Church all the congregation of the faithful who worship God in the right way and those who after the coming of Christ believed in Him from all countries till the end of the world and the second coming of our Saviour from heaven, which we are expecting. When our Lord also said to His blessed disciples: “Go ye and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you,” He added: “Lo, I am with you in all days even unto the end of the world.” (Matt, 28:19-20) He said the words “with you” in the person of the Apostles to all who will believe in Him in every country, and who will be baptised according to this teaching till the end of the world.
This congregation of the faithful and God-fearing men our Lord called also Church when He said: “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18) He promised to assemble together all God-fearing men to this faith and to this creed, and their gathering will not perish nor be prevailed against, in their fight with the enemies. Upon this the blessed Paul said: “To the intent that unto the principalities and powers in heaven might be known by the Church the depth of the wisdom of God, which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord before the worlds.” (Eph. 3:10-11) He shows here that in this manifold wisdom of God the invisible powers were astonished that He assembled together all men to the worship of God, and made them as one body of Christ at the second birth from the holy baptism, and prepared them to hope that they will participate with Him in the future good things of the next world. He calls this Church the body of Christ because it received communion with Him through the regeneration of baptism, symbolically in this world but truly and effectively in the next, when “our vile body shall be changed, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body.” (Phil. 3:21) As we are in this world like unto the body of Adam and we resemble him also in our body, so we shall be called the body of Christ our Lord, because when our vile body is changed we shall receive the glory of His body.
The blessed Paul shows this in another passage: “I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body’s sake, which is His church, whereof I am made a minister.” (Col. 1:24) He clearly calls the Church the body of Christ, for the maintenance of which he became a minister, and because of this he endured and suffered much; and he shows also that all the faithful became one body through one power of the Holy Spirit because they were called to one future hope. This is the reason why in writing to the Corinthians he said: “You are the body of Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 12:27) Our Lord also said by way of prayer in His words to His disciples: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them which shall believe on Me through their word, that they all may be one as Thou Father art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us,” (John 17:20-21) i.e. I desire that not only these but all those who shall believe in me through them, be one in the change (which they will undergo for the possession) of the future benefits; as I have with Thee a close and ineffable union so let them also be one in their faith in Us, through the perfection of their change (for the possession) of those benefits, and be like unto My glory and possess union with Me, by means of which they will gradually move to the honour of relationship with the Divine nature.
We symbolise this state in baptism, since we die with Christ in baptism and rise again according to the testimony of the blessed Paul. (Rom. 6:4) This is the reason why each one of us declares: “I will believe and be baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit through one holy Catholic Church.” (The catachumen) shows by his words: I am not preparing for baptism for the sake of little things but for the sake of great and wonderful things and heavenly benefits, as I am expecting that through baptism I shall be made a member of the Church, which is the congregation of the faithful, who through baptism became worthy to be called the body of Christ our Lord and received an ineffable holiness and the hope of the future immortality and immutability. And it is one Church, which embraces all, on account of those who believe in all countries and expect to receive heavenly life, as the blessed Paul said: “The heavenly Church in which are written the firstborn of God.” (Heb. 12:23) He called them “The firstborn” because they will receive the wonderful adoption of sons (Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5) in a primary predestination, not like that of the Jews which was of a changing character, but an ineffable immortality and immutability in good, which is granted to those who are worthy of it. He called them also “written in heaven,” because it is there that they will dwell.
They called the Church “holy” because of the holiness and the immutability which it will receive from the Holy Spirit, and “Catholic” in order to refer to all those who believed in all countries and at all times, and “one” because only those who believed in Christ will receive the future good things, and it is they who are “one holy Church.”
In order to show the utility that accrues from this profession of faith they (our blessed Fathers) said: For the remission of sins. In these words they did not mean a simple remission of sin but its complete abolition. Our Lord said also: “This is My body which is broken on behalf of many for remission of sins,” (Matt. 26:26, 1 Cor. 11:24) that is to say all sins will be wiped off, because a true remission consists in the remission not of some sins but of all of them, as the blessed John said: “Behold the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) This, however, will take place fully in the next world when after the resurrection we shall be immortal and immutable and when all the impulses of sins will cease. This is the reason why the blessed Paul also said: “If the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised, and if Christ be not raised your faith is vain and ye are yet in your sins.” (1 Cor. 15:16-17) He shows in this that in the future resurrection from the dead we are expecting complete abolition of sin.
Our blessed Fathers, therefore, after having said, Remission of sins, added: For the resurrection of the flesh and life everlasting. They show here that we shall receive these when we shall have risen from the dead and received the happiness of the everlasting good things, and then after we have become truly immutable, the complete abolition of sin will take place, and we shall become one, holy and Catholic Church, as we shall receive an ineffable holiness and become immortal and immutable and be worthy to be always with Christ: “When this corruptible shall have put on incorruption and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O grave, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of the sin is the law.” (Ibid, 54-56) Then will truly take place the abolition of all these: of death, sin and corruption, and with them the law also will be abolished because saints who have become immortal and incorruptible are in no need of the law.
Our blessed Fathers did, therefore, well to give us first the profession of faith through which we receive our teaching according to the doctrine of our Lord, and understand that which we have to learn concerning the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, to the effect that the same Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one Divine nature, which is eternal and cause of everything, and that this nature is rightly and alone called Lord and God, whom we ought to confess, in whom we ought to believe and to whom worship is due from all created beings. After this, they taught us the profession of faith (which is to be made) at baptism in order to show that all this is in accordance with the sequence of the teaching of our Lord who said: “Go ye, teach and baptise in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt, 28:19) Thus they (catechumens) are taught and thus they perform the (sacrament of) baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Those who are about to be baptised in the hope of ineffable benefits ought not to name another nature beside the one from which all benefits are bestowed on all created beings. This is the reason why they added to this the profession of faith concerning the future benefits in the hope of which we draw nigh unto the grace of baptism, as by necessity we have to know what kind of benefits are granted to this discipleship, and also that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one Divine nature, and also that at the second birth from the holy baptism we receive the faith in the heavenly and imperishable benefits that the Divine nature, which is eternal and cause of everything, is able to bestow upon us.
We have in many past days spoken to your love in a comprehensive way that embraces the explanation of all the creed. It behoves you now to remember carefully the words that have been spoken to you in order that by keeping without modification the creed of the religion of the fear of God you may truly receive the happiness of the future benefits, of which may God make us worthy by the grace of His Only Begotten, our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom and His Father, in conjunction with the Holy Spirit, be glory and honour, now, always and for ever and ever. Amen. Amen.
Here ends the transcription of the ten chapters on the exposition of the creed, written by the righteous and lover of Christ, Mar Theodore, bishop and interpreter of the Divine Books.