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June 17, 2024

Gospel Commentary for the Seventh Sunday of Pascha - John 17:2 (St. Cyril of Alexandria)


By St. Cyril of Alexandria

From his Commentary on the Gospel of John (Bk. 11, Ch. 4)

"Even as Thou gavest Him authority over all flesh, that whatsoever Thou hast given Him, to them He shall give eternal life" (John 17:2).

In these words Christ expounds once more to us the kind of glory whereby God will exalt and glorify His own Son; and He will also Himself be glorified in turn by His own Offspring. And He expands the saying, and makes the point clear to our edification and profit. For what need had God the Father, Who knows all things, of learning the kind of request? He invites then the Father's goodness towards us. For since He is the High Priest of our souls, insomuch as He appeared as Man, though being by Nature God together with the Father, He most fittingly makes His prayer on our behalf; trying to persuade us to believe that He is, even now, the propitiation for our sins, and a just Advocate, as John says. Therefore also Paul, wishing us to be of this mind, thus exhorts us: "For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but One that hath been in all points tempted like as we are; yet without sin." Then, since He is an High Priest, insomuch as He is Man, and, at the same time, brought Himself a blameless sacrifice to God the Father, as a ransom for the life of all men, being as it were the firstfruits of mortality, "that in all things He might have the pre-eminence," as Paul says; and He reconciles to Him the reprobate race of man upon the earth, purifying them by His own Blood, and shaping them to newness of life through the Holy Spirit; and since, as we have often said, all things are accomplished by the Father through the Son in the Spirit; He moulds the prayer for blessings towards us, as Mediator and High Priest, though He unites with His Father in giving and providing Divine and spiritual graces. For Christ divides the Spirit, according to His own will and pleasure, to every man severally, as He will.

So far with reference to this. Now let us examine and declare what is meant by the form of prayer used. "Father," He says, "glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may also glorify Thee." How then, or in what manner, will what I have said be brought to pass? "Even as Thou," He says, "gavest Him authority over all flesh, that whatsoever Thou hast given Him, to them He shall give eternal life." For the Father glorified His own Son, putting the whole world under His rule: and He was glorified Himself also in turn by Him. For the Son was glorified of the Father, being believed of all to be the Offspring and Fruit of Him that is all-powerful, and at His pleasure puts all things under the yoke of His Son's kingly power; and the Father was glorified in turn, so to speak, by His own Son. For since the Son was known to be able to accomplish all things at His pleasure, the splendour of His reputation has reached to Him that begat Him. "As therefore," He says, "Thou didst glorify and wast glorified, giving to the Son power and sovereignty over all, after the manner just now stated, so I will that nothing that Thou hast given Me be lost;" for this honour will pass from the Father to the Son, and from the Son to the Father. For it was meet that all those who were wholly subject to, and under, the rule of the Word, the all-powerful God, now having been saved once for all, should also abide in blessings without end, so as to be freed from the power of death, and the dominion of corruption and sin, and should no longer lie in subjection to their ancient enemies.

And, as the words, "Thou gavest Him authority over all flesh," may possibly perplex some simple-minded hearers, let us make a few reflections thereon which may be useful, without scruple, as it is necessary, even though language may be wholly inadequate to such an exposition. For the Lord will say this most suitably in the character He had assumed: I mean His humiliation and His lowly humanity. For listen to the argument: If indeed we feel ashamed, when we hear that He became a slave for our sakes, though Lord of all with the Father; and that He was set up as King upon His holy hill of Zion, though He had the power to reign over the universe by right of His own Nature, and borrowed it not from others; we must needs also feel ashamed, if He says that He receives anything as Man. And, if we marvel at His voluntary subjection, when we bear in mind the dignity that is His by birthright, why are we not also astonished when we hear this saying? For, possessing all things as God, He says that He receives as Man, to whom kingly power comes, not by natural right, but by gift. For "What hast thou that thou didst not receive?" will suit the limitations of created beings; and Christ is also a creature in so far as He is Man; though by Nature uncreated, in so far as He came from God. For all things are conceived of, as naturally and individually being in God's hand, and are so in truth; but all good things in us are borrowed and brought down to us by Divine grace. When then, as Man, being appointed to rule over us, He says that the Father has given Him power over all flesh, we must not be offended at it; for we must bear in mind the scheme of our redemption. But, if you choose to listen to His words as having more reference to His Divinity, think on what the Lord said to the Jews: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, no man can come to Me except the Father which sent Me draw Him." For whom the Father will quicken, them, as by His own life-giving power, He brings to His Son, and through Him gives them power and wisdom; if He will to bring any into subjection to His own rule, He calls them in no other way, save by the living and all-sufficient Might, whereby He rules over the universe - I mean His Son. For men, who have of themselves no power to accomplish anything that is above and beyond themselves, borrow from God the power, which can bring all things superhuman into subjection; for through Him, kings have their dominion, according to the Scripture, and monarchs through Him rule over the earth. And the God of the universe, having this power in Himself alone, subjects to Himself the race of man, who are reprobates from His love, and have shaken off the yoke of His kingdom, together with all beside; receiving, as it were, from His own might, the gift of dominion over them, and subjugating thereby whatsoever He will. For God the Father subjects them to His Son, as to His own power; and through Him wholly, and in no other way, all things that exist become His willing subjects, through obedience to His yoke. For as He endows with wisdom, and quickens with life, all things through Him, so also He rules over the universe through Him.

We must observe, however, that it was not to Israel alone any longer, that the favour of the Divine love of mankind was confined, but it was extended to all flesh. For that which is wholly subject to the power of the Saviour, will wholly partake in life and grace from Him.

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