St. Ambrose – Bk 4 – Chapter 10

02trinitThe objection that Christ, on the showing of St. John, lives because of the Father, and therefore is not to be regarded as equal with the Father, is met by the reply that for the Life of the Son, in respect of His Godhead, there has never been a time when it began; and that it is dependent upon none, whilst the passage in question must be understood as referring to His human life, as is shown by His speaking there of His body and blood. Two expositions of the passage are given, the one of which is shown to refer to Christ’s Manhood, whilst the second teaches His equality with the Father, as also His likeness with men. Rebuke is administered to the Arians for the insult which they are seeking to inflict upon the Son, and the sense in which the Son can be said to live because of the Father is explained, as also the union of life with the divine Life. A further objection, based upon the Son’s prayer that He may be glorified by the Father, is briefly refuted.

118. There are not a few who raise this further objection, that it is written: As the living Father has sent Me, and I live by the Father; so he that eats Me, lives also by Me. John 6:58 How, ask they, is the Son equal with the Father, when He has said that He lives by the Father?

119. Let those who oppose us on this ground tell us first what the Life of the Son is. Is it a life bestowed by the Father upon one lacking life? But how could the Son ever fail to possess life, He Himself being the Life, as He says, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Isaiah 14:6 Truly, His life is eternal, even as His power is eternal. Was there a time, then, when (so to speak) Life possessed not itself?

120. Bethink you what is read this day concerning the Lord Jesus, that He died for our sakes, to the end that whether we wake or whether we sleep, we may live with Him. 1 Thessalonians 5:10 He Whose Death is Life, is not His Godhead Life, seeing that the Godhead is Life eternal?

121. But is His Life truly in the Father’s power? Why, He showed that even His bodily life was not in the power of any other, as we have it on record: I lay down My life, that I may take it again. No man takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and again I have power to take it. This commandment have I received of My Father.

122. Is His divine Life then to be regarded as depending upon the power of another, when His bodily life was subject to no other power but His own? For it would have been the power of another, but for the Unity of power. But just as He gives us to understand that His laying down His life was done of His own power, and of His free Will, so also He teaches us, in laying it down in obedience to His Father’s command, the unity of His own with the Father’s Will.

123. If, then, there has neither been a time when the Life of the Son took a commencement, nor any power to which it has been subjected, let us consider what His meaning was when He said: Even as the living Father has sent Me, and I live by the Father? Let us expound His meaning as best we can; nay, rather let Him expound it Himself.

124. Take notice, then, what He said in an earlier part of His discourse. Verily, verily, I say unto you. He first teaches you how you ought to listen. Verily, verily, I say unto you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, you shall have no life in you. John 6:54 He first premised that He was speaking as Son of Man; do you then think that what He has said, as Son of Man, concerning His Flesh and His Blood, is to be applied to His Godhead?

125. Then He added: For My Flesh is meat indeed, and My Blood is drink [indeed]. John 6:56 You hear Him speak of His Flesh and of His Blood, you perceive the sacred pledges, [conveying to us the merits and power] of the Lord’s death, John 6:52 and you dishonour His Godhead. Hear His own words: A spirit has not flesh and bones. Luke 24:39 Now we, as often as we receive the Sacramental Elements, which by the mysterious efficacy of holy prayer are transformed into the Flesh and the Blood, do show the Lord’s Death.

126. Then, after calling on us to take notice that He speaks as Son of Man, and frequent repeated mention of His Flesh and His Blood, He adds: Even as the living Father has sent Me, and I live by the Father, so he that eats Me, he also lives by Me. How then do they suppose that we are to understand these words?— for the comparison can be shown as a double one. The first comparison being after the following manner: Even as the living Father has sent Me, I live by the Father; the second: Even as the living Father has sent Me, and I live by the Father, so also he that eats Me, he too lives by Me.

127. If our adversaries choose the former, the meaning is this, that, as I am sent by the Father and have come down from the Father, so (in accordance therewith) I live by the Father. But in what character was He sent, and came down, save as Son of Man, even as He Himself said before: No man has ascended into heaven, save He that has come down from heaven as Son of Man. John 3:13 Then, just as He was sent and came down as Son of Man, so as Son of Man He lives by the Father. Furthermore, he that eats Him, as eating the Son of Man, does himself also live by the Son of Man. Thus, He has compared the effect of His Incarnation to His coming.

128. But if they choose the second method, do we not infer both the equality of the Son with the Father, and His likeness to men, together, though in clear mutual distinction? For what is the meaning of the words, Even as He Himself lives by the Father, so we also live by Him, but that the Son so quickens a man, as the Father has in the Son quickened human nature? For as the Father raises the dead and quickens them, so also the Son quickens whom He will, John 5:21as the Lord Himself has already said.

129. Thus the equality of the Son to the Father is established simply upon unity in the action of quickening, since the Son so quickens as the Father does. Acknowledge therefore the eternity of His Life and Sovereignty. Again, our likeness with the Son is discovered, and a certain unity with Him in the flesh, because that, like as the Son of God was quickened in the flesh by the Father, so also is man quickened; for thus it is written, that as God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, so we also, as men, are quickened by the Son of God. Romans 4:24

130. According to this interpretation, then, immortality is not only applied to our condition by grace of bounty, but is also proclaimed as the property of Godhead— the latter, because it is the Godhead which quickens; the former, because manhood is quickened in Christ.

131. But if any would apply the force of either comparison to Christ’s Godhead, then the Son of God is put on one footing with men, so that the Son of God lives by the Father just as we live by the Son of God. But the Son of God bestows eternal life by free gift, we cannot so do. If then He be placed on a level with us, He too does not bestow this gift. Let Arius’ disciples then have the due reward of their faith— which is, not to obtain eternal life of the Son.

132. I would now go further. If our opponents are pleased to apply the teaching of this passage to the principle of the eternity of the Divine Substance, let them hear a third exposition: Does not our Lord plainly appear to say that as the Father is a living Father, so too the Son also lives?— and who can but observe that here we must understand a reference to unity of Life, forasmuch as the same Life is the Life of the Father and the Life of the Son? For as the Father has Life in Himself, so has He given to the Son also to have Life in Himself. John 5:26 He has given— by reason of unity with Him. He has given, not to take away, but that He may be glorified in the Son. He has given, not that He, the Father, might keep guard over it, but that the Son might have it in possession.

133. But the Arians think that they must oppose hereto the fact that He had said, I live by the Father. Of a certainty (suppose that they conceive the words as referring to His Godhead) the Son lives by the Father, because He is the Son begotten of the Father—by the Father, because He is of one Substance with the Father—by the Father, because He is the Word given forth from the heart of the Father, because He came forth from the Father, because He is begotten of the bowels of the Father, because the Father is the Fountain and Root of the Son’s being.

134. But perhaps they may urge: If you hold that the Son, in saying, ‘And I live by the Father,’ spoke of the unity of life subsisting between the Father and the Son, does it not follow that He discovered the unity of life between the Son and mankind in saying that ‘he that eats Me, the same lives by Me’?

135. Even so. Just as I confess the unity of celestial Life subsisting in Father and Son by reason of the unity of the substance of the Godhead, so too, save as concerns the prerogatives of the Divine Nature or those which are the effect of the Incarnation of our Lord, I affirm of the Son a participation of spiritual life with us by virtue of the unity of His Manhood with ours, for as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. Further, even as in Him we sit at the right hand of the Father, not in the sense that we share His throne, but that we rest in the Body of Christ— even as, I say, we have part in Christ’s session by reason of corporal unity, so too we live in Christ by reason of unity of our bodies with His Body.

136. Not only, then, have I no fears of the text, I live by the Father, but I should have none, even though Christ had said, I live by help of the Father.

137. Now another objection commonly urged by them starts from the text: This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, to the end that His Son may be glorified by Him. John 11:4 But not only is the Son glorified through the Father and by the Father, as it is written: Glorify Me, Father; John 17:5 and again:Now has the Son of Man been glorified, and God has been glorified in Him, and God glorifies Him, John 13:31-32 but the Father also is glorified through the Son and by the Son, for Truth has said: I have glorified You upon earth. John 17:4

138. Even as the Son, therefore, is glorified through the Father, so too He lives by the Father. There are some who have been led by consideration of these words to the supposition that [the Greek] δόξα  means opinion, belief, rather than glory, and therefore have interpreted as follows: I have given you a δόξα upon earth, I have finished the work which You gave Me to do, and now, O Father, give me a δόξα; that is to say: I have taught men so to believe concerning You, as to know that You are the true God; do Thou also establish in them, concerning Me, the belief that I am Your Son, and very God.

 

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