Super Evangelium S. Ioannis LecturaCommentary on JohnProoemiumPrologueIsaiae 6:1Isaiah 6:16:1 Vidi Dominum sedentem super solium excelsum et elevatum, et plena erat omnis terra maiestate eius, et ea quae sub ipso erant, replebant templum.6:1 I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and the whole house was full of his majesty, and the things that were under him filled the temple.1. Verba proposita sunt contemplantis, et si capiantur quasi ex ore Ioannis Evangelistae prolata, satis pertinent ad declarationem huius Evangelii. Ut enim dicit Augustinus in libro de Consensu evangelist., caeteri Evangelistae informant nos in eorum Evangeliis quantum ad vitam activam; sed Ioannes in suo Evangelio informat nos etiam quantum ad vitam contemplativam.1. These are the words of a contemplative, and if we regard them as spoken by John the Evangelist they apply quite well to showing the nature of this Gospel. For as Augustine says in his work On the Agreement of the Evangelists: the other evangelists instruct us in their Gospels on the active life; but John in his Gospel instructs us also on the contemplative life.In verbis autem propositis describitur contemplatio Ioannis tripliciter, secundum quod Dominum Iesum est tripliciter contemplatus. Describitur autem alta, ampla et perfecta. Alta quidem, quia vidi Dominum sedentem super solium excelsum et elevatum; ampla quidem, quia plena est omnis terra maiestate eius; perfecta, quia ea quae sub ipso erant replebant templum.The contemplation of John is described above in three ways, in keeping with the threefold manner in which he contemplated the Lord Jesus. It is described as high, full, and perfect. It is high: I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne; it is full: and the whole house was full of his majesty; and it was perfect: and the things that were under him filled the temple.2. Circa primum sciendum quod altitudo et sublimitas contemplationis consistit maxime in contemplatione et cognitione Dei; Is. XL, 26: levate in excelso oculos vestros, et videte quis fecit haec. Tunc ergo homo oculos contemplationis in excelso elevat, quando videt et contemplatur ipsum rerum omnium Creatorem. Quia ergo Ioannes transcendit quicquid creatum est, scilicet ipsos montes, ipsos caelos, ipsos angelos, et pervenit ad ipsum Creatorem omnium, ut dicit Augustinus, manifestum est, quod contemplatio sua altissima fuit; et ideo vidi Dominum. Et quia, sicut ipse Ioannes dicit: haec dixit Isaias quando vidit gloriam eius, scilicet Christi, et locutus est de eo, ideo Dominus sedens super solium excelsum et elevatum, Christus est.2. As to the first, we must understand that the height and sublimity of contemplation consists most of all in the contemplation and knowledge of God. Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things (Isa 40:26). A man lifts up his eyes on high when he sees and contemplates the Creator of all things. Now since John rose above whatever had been created—mountains, heavens, angels—and reached the Creator of all, as Augustine says, it is clear that his contemplation was most high. Thus, I saw the Lord. And because, as John himself says below: Isaiah said this because he had seen his glory, namely, of Christ, and spoke of him (John 12:41), therefore the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne is Christ.In hac autem contemplatione Ioannis circa verbum incarnatum quadruplex altitudo designatur. Auctoritatis, unde dicit vidi Dominum, aeternitatis, cum dicit sedentem, dignitatis, seu nobilitatis naturae, unde dicit super solium excelsum, et incomprehensibilis veritatis, cum dicit et elevatum.Now a fourfold height is indicated in this contemplation of John. A height of authority; hence he says, I saw the Lord. A height of eternity; when he says, seated. One of dignity, or nobility of nature; so he says, on a high throne. And a height of incomprehensible truth; when he says, lofty.Istis enim quatuor modis antiqui philosophi ad Dei cognitionem pervenerunt.It is in these four ways that the early philosophers arrived at the knowledge of God.3. Quidam enim per auctoritatem Dei in ipsius cognitionem pervenerunt; et haec est via efficacissima.3. Some attained to a knowledge of God through his authority, and this is the most efficacious way.Videmus enim ea quae sunt in rebus naturalibus, propter finem agere, et consequi utiles et certos fines; et cum intellectu careant, se ipsa dirigere non possunt, nisi ab aliquo dirigente per intellectum dirigantur et moveantur. Et hinc est quod ipse motus rerum naturalium in finem certum, indicat esse aliquid altius, quo naturales res diriguntur in finem et gubernantur. Et ideo cum totus cursus naturae ordinate in finem procedat et dirigatur, de necessitate oportet nos ponere aliquid altius, quod dirigat ista et sicut dominus gubernet: et hic est Deus. Et haec gubernandi auctoritas in Verbo Dei demonstratur, cum dicit Dominum; unde in Ps. LXXXVIII, 10 dicitur: tu dominaris potestati maris; motum autem fluctuum eius tu mitigas; quasi dicat: tu es Dominus et universa gubernas.For we see the things in nature acting for an end, and attaining to ends which are both useful and certain. And since they lack intelligence, they are unable to direct themselves, but must be directed and moved by one directing them, and who possesses an intellect. Thus it is that the movement of the things of nature toward a certain end indicates the existence of something higher by which the things of nature are directed to an end and governed. And so, since the whole course of nature advances to an end in an orderly way and is directed, we have to posit something higher which directs and governs them as lord; and this is God. This authority in governing is shown to be in the Word of God when he says, Lord. Thus a Psalm says: you rule the power of the sea, and you still the swelling of its waves (Ps 88:10), as though saying: you are the Lord and govern all things.Hanc cognitionem manifestat Ioannes se habere de Verbo, cum dicit: in propria venit, scilicet in mundum; quia totus mundus est suus proprius.John shows that he knows this about the Word when he says below, he came unto his own (John 1:11), i.e., to the world, since the whole universe is his own.4. Alii vero venerunt in cognitionem Dei ex eius aeternitate. Viderunt enim quod quicquid est in rebus, est mutabile; et quanto aliquid est nobilius in gradibus rerum, tanto minus habet de mutabilitate: puta, inferiora corpora sunt secundum substantiam et secundum locum mutabilia; corpora vero caelestia, quae nobiliora sunt, secundum substantiam immutabilia sunt; secundum autem locum tantum moventur. Secundum hoc ergo evidenter colligi potest, quod primum principium omnium rerum, et supremum et nobilius, sit immobile et aeternum.4. Others came to a knowledge of God from his eternity. They saw that whatever was in things was changeable, and that the more noble something is in the grades of being, so much the less it has of mutability. For example, the lower bodies are mutable both as to their substance and to place, while the heavenly bodies, which are more noble, are immutable in substance and change only with respect to place. We can clearly conclude from this that the first principle of all things, which is supreme and more noble, is changeless and eternal.Et hanc aeternitatemVerbi propheta insinuat, cum dicit sedentem, idest absque omni mutabilitate et aeternitate praesidentem; Ps. c. XLIV, 7: sedes tua, Deus, in saeculum saeculi; Hebr. ult., 8: Iesus Christus heri et hodie, ipse et in saecula. Hanc aeternitatem Ioannes ostendit dicens: in principio erat Verbum.The prophet suggests this eternity of the Word when he says, seated, i.e., presiding without any change and eternally. Your throne, O God, is forever and ever (Ps 44:7); Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8). John points to this eternity when he says below, in the beginning was the Word (John 1:1).5. Quidam autem venerunt in cognitionem Dei ex dignitate ipsius Dei: et isti fuerunt Platonici.5. Still others came to a knowledge of God from the dignity of God; and these were the Platonists.Consideraverunt enim quod omne illud quod est secundum participationem, reducitur ad aliquid quod sit illud per suam essentiam, sicut ad primum et ad summum; sicut omnia ignita per participationem reducuntur ad ignem, qui est per essentiam suam talis. Cum ergo omnia quae sunt, participent esse, et sint per participationem entia, necesse est esse aliquid in cacumine omnium rerum, quod sit ipsum esse per suam essentiam, idest quod sua essentia sit suum esse: et hoc est Deus, qui est sufficientissima, et dignissima, et perfectissima causa totius esse, a quo omnia quae sunt, participant esse. Et huius dignitas ostenditur, cum dicitur super solium excelsum, quod, secundum Dionysium, ad divinam naturam refertur; Ps. CXII, 4: excelsus super omnes gentes Dominus. Hanc dignitatem ostendit nobis Ioannes, cum dicit: et Deus erat Verbum, quasi: Verbum erat Deus, ut ly Verbum ponatur ex parte suppositi, et Deus ex parte appositi.They noted that everything which is something by participation is reduced to what is the same thing by essence, as to the first and highest. Thus, all things which are fiery by participation are reduced to fire, which is such by its essence. And so since all things which exist participate in being and are beings by participation, there must necessarily be at the summit of all things something which is its existence through its own essence, i.e., whose essence is its existence. And this is God, who is the most sufficient, the most eminent, and the most perfect cause of the whole of existence, from whom all things that are participate in existence. This dignity is shown in the words, on a high throne, which, according to Denis, refer to the divine nature. The Lord is high above all nations (Ps 112:4). John shows us this dignity when he says below, the Word was God (John 1:1), with Word as subject and God as the predicate.6. Quidam autem venerunt in cognitionem Dei ex incomprehensibilitate veritatis.6. Yet others arrived at a knowledge of God from the incomprehensibility of truth.Omnis enim veritas quam intellectus noster capere potest, finita est; quia secundum Augustinum, omne quod scitur, scientis comprehensione finitur, et si finitur, est determinatum et particularizatum; et ideo necesse est primam et summam veritatem, quae superat omnem intellectum, incomprehensibilem et infinitam esse: et hoc est Deus. Unde in Ps. VIII, 2 dicitur: elevata est magnificentia tua super caelos, idest super omnem intellectum creatum, angelicum et humanum. Et hoc ideo, quia, ut dicit Apostolus, lucem habitat inaccessibilem, I Tim. ult. 16.All the truth which our intellect is able to grasp is finite, since according to Augustine, everything that is known is bounded by the comprehension of the one knowing; and if it is bounded, it is determined and particularized. Therefore, the first and supreme truth, which surpasses every intellect, must necessarily be incomprehensible and infinite; and this is God. Hence a psalm says, your greatness is above the heavens (Ps 8:2), i.e., above every created intellect, angelic and human. The Apostle says this in the words, he dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim 6:16).Huius autem incomprehensibilitas veritatis ostenditur nobis, cum dicit et elevatum, scilicet super omnem cognitionem intellectus creati. Et hanc incomprehensibilitatem insinuat nobis Ioannes, cum dicit: Deum nemo vidit unquam.This incomprehensibility of truth is shown to us in the word lofty, that is, above all the knowledge of the created intellect. John implies this incomprehensibility to us when he says below, no one has ever seen God (John 1:18).Sic ergo contemplatio Ioannis alta fuit et quantum ad auctoritatem, et quantum ad aeternitatem, et quantum ad dignitatem, et quantum ad Verbi incomprehensibilitatem, quam nobis in suo Evangelio tradidit Ioannes.Thus, the contemplation of John was high as regards authority, eternity, dignity, and the incomprehensibility of the Word. And John has passed on this contemplation to us in his Gospel.7. Fuit etiam ampla. Tunc enim contemplatio ampla est, quando in causa potest aliquis considerare omnes effectus ipsius causae; quando scilicet non solum essentiam causae, sed etiam virtutem eius, secundum quam se ad multa diffundit, cognoscit. De qua diffusione dicitur Eccli. XXV, 35: qui implet quasi Phison sapientiam, et quasi Tigris in diebus novorum; Ps. LXIV, 10: flumen Dei repletum est aquis, quia divina sapientia altitudinem habet quantum ad cognitionem omnium rerum; Sap. IX, 9: ab initio est tecum sapientia quae novit opera tua.7. John’s contemplation was also full. Now contemplation is full when someone is able to consider all the effects of a cause in the cause itself, that is, when he knows not only the essence of the cause, but also its power, according as it can extend out to many things. Of this flowing outward we read, it overflows with wisdom, like the Pishon, and like the Tigris in the days of the new fruits (Sir 25:35); the river of God is full with water, since the divine wisdom has depth in relation to its knowledge of all things (Ps 65:9). With you from the beginning is wisdom, who knows your works (Wis 9:9).Quia ergo Ioannes Evangelista elevatus in contemplationem naturae divini Verbi et essentiae est, cum dicit: in principio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum, statim virtutem ipsius Verbi secundum quod diffundit se ad omnia, nobis insinuat, cum dicit: omnia per ipsum facta sunt. Ideo contemplatio sua ampla fuit. Et ideo in auctoritate praemissa, postquam dixerat Propheta vidi Dominum sedentem, subiungit de virtute eius et plena erat omnis terra maiestate eius, idest tota plenitudo rerum et universi est a maiestate eius, et virtute Dei, per quem omnia facta sunt, et cuius lumine omnes homines venientes in hunc mundum illuminantur; Ps. XXIII, 1: Domini est terra, et plenitudo eius.Since John the Evangelist was raised up to the contemplation of the nature of the divine Word and of his essence when he said, in the beginning was the Word; and the Word was with God (John 1:1), he immediately tells us of the power of the Word as it extends to all things, saying, through him all things came into being (John 1:3). Thus his contemplation was full. And so after the Prophet had said, I saw the Lord seated, he added something about his power, and the whole house was full of his majesty, that is, the whole fullness of things and of the universe is from the majesty and power of God, through whom all things were made, and by whose light all the men coming into this world are enlightened. The earth and its fullness are the Lord’s (Ps 23:1).8. Fuit etiam contemplatio eius perfecta. Tunc enim contemplatio perfecta est, quando contemplans perducitur et elevatur ad altitudinem rei contemplatae: si enim remaneret in infimis, quantumcumque alta ipse contemplaretur, non esset contemplatio perfecta. Ad hoc ergo quod sit perfecta, oportet quod ascendat et consequatur ipsum finem rei contemplatae, inhaerendo et assentiendo per affectum et intellectum veritati contemplatae. Iob XXXVII, 16: numquid nosti semitas nubium, idest contemplationes praedicantium, quod perfectae sint? Inquantum firmiter per affectum et intellectum inhaerent summae veritati contemplatae.8. The contemplation of John was also perfect. For contemplation is perfect when the one contemplating is led and raised to the height of the thing contemplated. Should he remain at a lower level, then no matter how high the things which he might contemplate, the contemplation would not be perfect. So in order that it be perfect it is necessary that it rise and attain the end of the thing contemplated, adhering and assenting by affection and understanding to the truth contemplated. Job says, do you not know the path of the clouds, that is, the contemplation of those preaching, how perfect they are? (Job 37:16), inasmuch as they adhere firmly by affection and understanding to contemplating the highest truth.Quia ergo Ioannes non solum docuit quomodo Christus Iesus, Verbum Dei, est Deus super omnia elevatus et quomodo omnia per ipsum facta sunt, sed etiam quod per ipsum sanctificamur, et ei per gratiam quam nobis infundit, inhaeremus, dicit: de plenitudine eius omnes accepimus gratiam pro gratia. Ideo apparet, quod sua contemplatio perfecta fuit. Et haec perfectio ostenditur, cum subdit et ea quae sub ipso erat, replebant templum. Nam, sicut dicitur I Cor. c. XI, 3, caput Christi Deus. Quae ergo sub Christo sunt, sacramenta sunt humanitatis, per quae fideles replentur plenitudine gratiae. Sic ergo ea quae sub ipso erant, replebant templum, idest fideles qui sunt templum Dei sanctum, sicut dicitur I Cor. III, 17 inquantum per ipsius sacramenta humanitatis, fideles Christi omnes de plenitudine gratiae ipsius accipiunt.Since John not only taught how Christ Jesus, the Word of God, is God, raised above all things, and how all things were made through him, but also that we are sanctified by him and adhere to him by the grace which he pours into us, he says below, of his fullness we all have received—indeed, grace upon grace (John 1:16). It is therefore apparent that his contemplation is perfect. This perfection is shown in the addition, and the things that were under him filled the temple. For the head of Christ is God (1 Cor 11:3). The things that are under Christ are the sacraments of his humanity, through which the faithful are filled with the fullness of grace. In this way, then, the things that were under him filled the temple, i.e., the faithful, who are the holy temple of God (1 Cor 3:17) insofar as through the sacraments of his humanity all the faithful of Christ receive from the fullness of his grace.Fuit ergo Ioannis contemplatio ampla, alta et perfecta.The contemplation of John was thus full, high, and perfect.9. Sed notandum quod diversimode diversae scientiae istos tres modos contemplationis sortiuntur. Perfectionem namque contemplationis habet scientia moralis, quae est de ultimo fine; plenitudinem autem scientia naturalis, quae res a Deo procedentes considerat; altitudinem vero contemplationis inter scientias physicas habet metaphysica. Sed Evangelium Ioannis, quod divisim scientiae praedictae habent, totum simul continet, et ideo est perfectissimum.9. We should note, however, that these three characteristics of contemplation belong to the different sciences in different ways. The perfection of contemplation is found in moral science, which is concerned with the ultimate end. The fullness of contemplation is possessed by natural science, which considers things as proceeding from God. Among the physical sciences, the height of contemplation is found in metaphysics. But the Gospel of John contains all together what the above sciences have in a divided way, and so it is most perfect.10. Sic ergo ex praemissis colligitur materia huius Evangelii; quia cum evangelistae alii tractent principaliter mysteria humanitatis Christi, Ioannes specialiter et praecipue divinitatem Christi in Evangelio suo insinuat, ut supra dictum est: nec tamen praetermisit mysteria humanitatis; quod ideo factum est, quia postquam alii evangelistae sua Evangelia scripserunt, insurrexerunt haereses circa divinitatem Christi, quae erant quod Christus erat purus homo, sicut Ebion et Cerinthus falso opinabantur. Et ideo Ioannes Evangelista, qui veritatem divinitatis Verbi ab ipso fonte divini pectoris hauserat, ad preces fidelium, Evangelium istud scripsit, in quo doctrinam de Christi divinitate nobis tradidit, et omnes haereses confutavit.10. In this way then, from what has been said, we can understand the matter of this Gospel. For while the other evangelists treat principally of the mysteries of the humanity of Christ, John, especially and above all, makes known the divinity of Christ in his Gospel, as we saw above. Still, he does not ignore the mysteries of his humanity. He did this because, after the other evangelists had written their Gospels, heresies had arisen concerning the divinity of Christ, to the effect that Christ was purely and simply a man, as Ebion and Cerinthus falsely thought. And so John the Evangelist, who had drawn the truth about the divinity of the Word from the very fountain-head of the divine breast, wrote this Gospel at the request of the faithful. And in it he gives us the doctrine of the divinity of Christ and refutes all heresies.Patet ergo ordo istius Evangelii ex verbis praemissis. Primo enim insinuat nobis Dominum sedentem super solium excelsum et elevatum, in prima parte, cum dicit: in principio erat Verbum. In secunda vero parte insinuat quomodo omnis terra plena est maiestate eius, cum dicit: omnia per ipsum facta sunt. In tertia parte manifestat quomodo ea quae sub ipso erant, replebant templum cum ipse dicit: Verbum caro factum est.The order of this Gospel is clear from the above. For John first shows us the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, when he says below, in the beginning was the Word (John 1:1). He shows second how the house was full of his majesty, when he says, through him all things came into being (John 1:3). Third, he shows how the things that were under him filled the temple, when he says, the Word was made flesh (John 1:14).Patet etiam finis huius Evangelii, qui est ut fideles templum Dei efficiantur, et repleantur a maiestate Dei; unde et ipse Ioannes XX, 31: haec autem scripta sunt, ut credatis quia Iesus est Christus Filius Dei.The end of this Gospel is also clear, and it is that the faithful become the temple of God, and become filled with the majesty of God; and so John says below, these things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:31).Patet etiam materia huius Evangelii, quae est cognitio divinitas Verbi. Patet ordo, patet et finis.The matter of this Gospel, the knowledge of the divinity of the Word, is clear, as well as its order and end.11. Sequitur conditio auctoris, qui quidem describitur in praemissis quantum ad quatuor: quantum ad nomen, quantum ad virtutem, quantum ad figuram, et quantum ad privilegium.11. Then follows the condition of the author, who is described above in four ways: as to his name, his virtue, his symbol, and his privilege.Quantum ad nomen, quia Ioannes, qui huius Evangelii auctor fuit, Ioannes autem interpretatur in quo est gratia, quia secreta divinitatis videre non possunt nisi qui gratiam Dei in se habent; unde I Cor. II, 11 dicitur: quae sunt Dei nemo cognovit, nisi Spiritus Dei.He is described as to name as John, the author of this Gospel. John is interpreted as in whom is grace, since the secrets of the divinity cannot be seen except by those who have the grace of God within themselves. No one knows the deep things of God but the Spirit of God (1 Cor 2:11).Ioannes ergo vidit Dominum sedentem, quantum ad virtutem, quia fuit virgo: talibus enim competit videre Dominum; Matth. c. V, 8: beati mundo corde.As concerns his virtue, John saw the Lord seated, because he was a virgin; for it is fitting that such persons see the Lord: blessed are the pure in heart (Matt 5:8).Quantum ad figuram, quia Ioannes figuratur per aquilam. Et hoc quia cum alii tres evangelistae circa ea quae Christus in carne est operatus, occupati, designentur per animalia, quae gradiuntur in terra, scilicet per hominem, vitulum et leonem; Ioannes vero, supra nebulam infirmitatis humanae sicut aquila volans, lucem incommutabilis veritatis altissimis atque firmissimis oculis cordis intuetur, atque ipsam deitatem Domini nostri Iesu Christi, qua Patri aequalis est, intendens, eam in suo Evangelio, quantum inter omnes sufficere credidit, studuit praecipue commendare. Et de hoc volatu Ioannis dicitur Iob c. XXXIX, 27: numquid ad praeceptum tuum elevabitur aquila? Idest Ioannes; et infra: oculi eius de longe prospiciunt, quia scilicet ipsum Verbum Dei in sinu Patris oculo mentis intuetur.He is described as to his symbol, for John is symbolized by an eagle. The other three evangelists, concerned with those things which Christ did in his flesh, are symbolized by animals which walk on the earth, namely, by a man, a bull calf, and a lion. But John flies like an eagle above the cloud of human weakness and looks upon the light of unchanging truth with the most lofty and firm eyes of the heart. And gazing on the very deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which he is equal to the Father, he has striven in this Gospel to confide this above all, to the extent that he believed was sufficient for all. Concerning this flight of John it is said: will the eagle, that is, John, fly up at your command? (Job 39:27) And further on it says, his eyes look far away, because the Word of God is seen in the bosom of the Father by the eye of the mind.Quantum ad privilegium, quia inter caeteros discipulos Domini Ioannes magis fuit dilectus a Christo: iste est enim discipulus ille quem diligebat Iesus, sicut ipsemet non exprimens nomen suum dixit; et ideo, quia amicis revelantur secreta, ut dicitur ibid. XV, 15: vos autem dixi amicos, quia omnia quaecumque audivi a patre meo, nota feci vobis, secreta sua huic discipulo specialiter dilecto specialiter commendavit. Unde Iob XXXVI, 32 dicitur: immanibus, idest superbis, abscondit lucem, Christus scilicet divinitatis suae veritatem, et annuntiat de ea amico suo, scilicet Ioanni, quod possessio eius sit etc., quia ipse est, qui lucem Verbi incarnati excellentius videns, ipsam nobis insinuat, dicens: erat lux vera etc.John is described as to privilege since, among the other disciples of the Lord, John was more loved by Christ. Without mentioning his own name John refers to himself below as the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 21:20). And because secrets are revealed to friends, I have called you friends because everything I have heard from my father I have made known to you (John 15:15), Jesus confided his secrets in a special way to that disciple who was specially loved. Thus it says in Job: from the savage, that is, the proud, he hides his light, that is, Christ hides the truth of his divinity, and shows his friend, that is, John, that it belongs to him (Job 36:32), since it is John who sees the light of the incarnate Word more excellently and expresses it to us, saying he was the true light (John 1:19).Patet ergo materia, ordo, finis et auctor huius Evangelii beati Ioannis, quod prae manibus habemus.Now the matter, order, end and author of this Gospel of the blessed John are clear.