1. We have just heard, brethren, these words of the Lord, which He addressed to His disciples:
Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. You have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come unto you: if you loved me, you would surely rejoice, because I go unto the Father; for the Father is greater than I. Their hearts might have become filled with trouble and fear, simply because of His going away from them, even though intending to return; lest, possibly, in the very interval of the shepherd's absence, the wolf should make an onset on the flock. But as God, He abandoned not those from whom He departed as man: and Christ Himself is at once both man and God. And so He both went away in respect of His visible humanity, and remained as regards His Godhead: He went away as regards the nature which is subject to local limitations, and remained in respect of that which is ubiquitous. Why, then, should their heart be troubled and afraid, when His quitting their eyesight was of such a kind as to leave unaltered His presence in their heart? Although even God, who has no local bounds to His presence, may depart from the hearts of those who turn away from Him, not with their feet, but their moral character; just as He comes to such as turn to Him, not with their faces, but in faith, and approach Him in the spirit, and not in the flesh. But that they might understand that it was only in respect of His human nature that He said,
I go and come to you, He went on to say,
If you loved me, you would surely rejoice, because I go unto the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And so, then, in that very respect wherein the Son is not equal to the Father, in that was He to go to the Father, just as from Him is He hereafter to come to judge the quick and the dead: while in so far as the Only-begotten is equal to Him that begot, He never withdraws from the Father; but with Him is everywhere perfectly equal in that Godhead which knows of no local limitations. For
being as He was in the form of God, as the apostle says, robbery, which was His, not by usurpation, but by birth?
But He emptied Himself, taking upon Him the form of a servant; Philippians 2:6-7 and so, not losing the former, but assuming the latter, and emptying Himself in that very respect wherein He stood forth before us here in a humbler state than that wherein He still remained with the Father. For there was the accession of a servant-form, with no recession of the divine: in the assumption of the one there was no consumption of the other. In reference to the one He says,
The Father is greater than I; but because of the other,
I and my Father are one.
2. Let the Arian attend to this, and find healing in his attention; that wrangling may not lead to vanity, or, what is worse, to insanity. For it is the servant-form which is that wherein the Son of God is less, not only than the Father, but also than the Holy Spirit; and more than that, less also than Himself, for He Himself, in the form of God, is greater than Himself. For the man Christ does not cease to be called the Son of God, a name which was thought worthy of being applied even to His flesh alone as it lay in the tomb. And what else than this do we confess, when we declare that we believe in the only-begotten Son of God, who, under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, and buried? And what of Him was buried, save the flesh without the spirit? And so in believing in the Son of God, who was buried, we surely affix the name, Son of God, even to His flesh, which alone was laid in the grave. Christ Himself, therefore, the Son of God, equal with the Father because in the form of God, inasmuch as He emptied Himself, without losing the form of God, but assuming that of a servant, is greater even than Himself; because the unlost form of God is greater than the assumed form of a servant. And what, then, is there to wonder at, or what is there out of place, if, in reference to this servant-form, the Son of God says,
The Father is greater than I; and in speaking of the form of God, the self-same Son of God declares,
I and my Father are one? For one they are, inasmuch as
The Word was God; and greater is the Father, inasmuch as
the Word was made flesh. Let me add what cannot be gainsaid by Arians and Eunomians: in respect of this servant-form, Christ as a child was inferior also to His own parents, when, according to Scripture,
He was subject Luke 2:51 as an infant to His seniors. Why, then, heretic, seeing that Christ is both God and man, when He speaks as man, do you calumniate God? He in His own person commends our human nature; do you dare in Him to asperse the divine? Unbelieving and ungrateful as you are, will you degrade Him who made you, just for the very reason that He is declaring what He became because of you? For equal as He is with the Father, the Son, by whom man was made, became man, in order to be less than the Father: and had He not done so, what would have become of man?
3. May our Lord and Master bring home clearly to our minds the words,
If you loved me, you would surely rejoice, because I go unto the Father; for the Father is greater than I. Let us, along with the disciples, listen to the Teacher's words, and not, with strangers, give heed to the wiles of the deceiver. Let us acknowledge the twofold substance of Christ; to wit, the divine, in which he is equal with the Father, and the human, in respect to which the Father is greater. And yet at the same time both are not two, for Christ is one; and God is not a quaternity, but a Trinity. For as the rational soul and the body form but one man, so Christ, while both God and man, is one; and thus Christ is God, a rational soul, and a body. In all of these we confess Him to be Christ, we confess Him in each. Who, then, is He that made the world? Christ Jesus, but in the form of God. Who is it that was crucified under Pontius Pilate? Christ Jesus, but in the form of a servant. And so of the several parts whereof He consists as man. Who is He who was not left in hell? Christ Jesus, but only in respect of His soul. Who was to rise on the third day, after being laid in the tomb? Christ Jesus, but solely in reference to His flesh. In reference, then, to each of these, He is likewise called Christ. And yet all of them are not two, or three, but one Christ. On this account, therefore, did He say,
If you loved me, you would surely rejoice, because I go unto the Father; for human nature is worthy of congratulation, in being so assumed by the only-begotten Word as to be constituted immortal in heaven, and, earthy in its nature, to be so sublimated and exalted, that, as incorruptible dust, it might take its seat at the right hand of the Father. In such a sense it is that He said He would go to the Father. For in very truth He went unto Him, who was always with Him. But His going unto Him and departing from us were neither more nor less than His transforming and immortalizing that which He had taken upon Him from us in its mortal condition, and exalting that to heaven, by means of which He lived on earth in man's behalf. And who would not draw rejoicing from such a source, who has such love to Christ that he can at once congratulate his own nature as already immortal in Christ, and cherish the hope that he himself will yet become so through Christ?
Source. Translated by John Gibb. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 7. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1701078.htm>.
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