Easter I: Thomas Aquinas with Commentary
There are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, the water, and the blood.1 S. John v. 8.
IT is necessary that we should believe Christ to be the true God and true Man, and He therefore wished to furnish us with many testimonies that He was God and Man. We have both — i.e., the testimony of His Divinity, as above, There are three that bear record in Heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. (1 St. John v. 7)
The Divine witness, as St. John reminds us, is traced back to the inner life of the Divine Trinity. St. John had already spoken of this life in the Prologue to his Gospel. The Father is the uncreated and unbegotten origin and source of His only-begotten Word through the ever-proceeding Spirit that is reciprocated between the two. So the Father speaks His Word through His Spirit of love. The Word returns Himself to the Father as spoken through the same Spirit of Love. The community of three inform and define, enliven and quicken, and return and reconcile all things to the one essence or substance of the Divine Being.
Of the testimony of His humanity He says here, There are three that bear witness on earth.
The heavenly witnesses which Christ had to His Divinity are twelve — (1) The Father, (2) the Son, (3) the Holy Ghost, (4) the working of miracles, (5) the saints, (6) the angels, (7) the heavens, (8) the air, (9) the water, (10) the earth, (11) Hades, (12) the fire.
The Holy Trinity is revealed in the earthly life of Jesus Christ. The Divinity is revealed and disclosed through Jesus, who is the only-betotten Word as flesh, in the expression and communication of the Father’s will in time and space via the Holy Spirit. The miracles testify of the power of God. The saints testify of the mercy and compassion of God towards men who through obedience to the Father are already receiving the Word and Will of God in Christ either before, during, or after His Incarnation. The angels and their visitations to men disclose and reveal the Divinity of Christ as God’s wisdom, love, and power made flesh. They prepare men for the Divinity. They secure men in the Divinity. The heavens and the four elements give evidence of the Divinity of Christ because they reveal the Word or Logos through whom all things are made. They also respond to Christ’s crucifixion in harmonious recognition of the commencement of the new creation. Hades, or the place of the dead, reveals Christ’s Divinity since by it the faithful dead rise up to find their unity with the Risen Christ.
The earthly witnesses which S. John gives here to His humanity, in which chiefly His love to us appears, are three — first, the effusion of blood; secondly, the emanation of water; thirdly, the emission of the spirit. Of the first two: S. John xix. 34, Forthwith came there out blood and water."Of the third: S. Matt, xxvii. 50, Jesus, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
The water relates specifically to the humanity of Christ when he sheds water and blood following His death. This water is the effect of death and thus is a sign of His death that reveals the true meaning of Baptism. Baptism is a washing away with water and the Holy Ghost of Original Sin. The washing away of sin can come only from the meritorious death of Jesus Christ. And so in Baptism we are made one with Christ’s death through water and the Holy Ghost. ‘Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.’ (Romans vi. 3,4) Water incorporates us into death and new life. Water washes away sin and death and thus enables us ‘to walk in newness of life’. Thus water cleanses and purifies and thus makes us fit to be very members incorporate in the mystical body of Christ, the blessed company of all faithful people. (BCP, p. 83)
(2) The water of wisdom for the extinction of spiritual thirst: Ecclus. xv. 3, And give him the water of wholesome wisdom to drink. S. John iv. 14, Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst. S. Augustine says, that if anyone has drank of the water of Paradise — of which one drop is larger than the ocean — it results that the thirst of earthly desire would be extinguished in him.
Water is also a sign and symbol of wisdom. The water of wisdom satiates man’s desire for knowledge and the means to happiness. The water of wisdom purifies and cleanses the mind of all error and ignorance. The water of wisdom then refreshes the mind with the desire for truth, beauty, and goodness as the means to happiness. The water of wisdom stirs a man to seek the truth always and to know that with whatever knowledge he is satisfied there is more to had from the faithful and humble mind that seeks further understanding. The water of wisdom washes away any hunger or thirst for earthly things. The water of wisdom moves a man to find delectation and delight in spiritual things.
(3) The refreshing water of the Holy Spirit: S. John vii. 37-39, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink. But this spake He of the Spirit.
The water of Christ’s Holy Spirit overcomes man’s thirst for truth and happiness. Man is meant to drink in the water of the Holy Spirit. This is the water of sanctification whereby a man is established and secured within the Body of Christ through faith, hope, and love. This water enables a man to do the will of the Father, to cultivate the goodness of the Beatitudes, and to perfect the Image and Likeness of God in himself. This water enables a man to live by the faith of the Son of God. This water brings a happiness and joy that are beyond reason and the natural life. This water initiates the generation of affection and desire in the human heart that draws from the font and source of all love and peace.
2. On the second head it is to be noted, that by the shedding of blood seven benefits were wrought for us, which we studied last week.
3. On the third head it is to be noted, that He breathed forth His Spirit for three ends.
(1)That He might quicken us: S. John x. 15, I lay down My life for the sheep.
The Holy Spirit quickens us to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christ has died for us and we are meant to become living members of His Mystical Body. This means that in us he desires to apply the efficacious merits of His suffering and death, that we too might be dead unto sin and alive unto righteousness. (Romans vi. 11) He pours out His Spirit in suffering and death so that we might be enabled to suffer and die to ourselves that we can be saved. So this is the quickening Spirit of Christ’s love that begins to create His new Body in time and space through his love for all men.
(2) That He might deliver the saints from hell. The soul of Christ, with His Divinity, descended into hell, and delivered the saints who were there at that time: Zech. ix. 11, I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.
Christ breathed His Spirit in order that human beings who had been faithful to His coming might also enter into His humanity in order to be reconciled to the Father. He breathed His Spirit out of love for those who were born before His Holy Incarnation. And thus the love of His Spirit reaches down even into Hell in order that those who rested in hope might be saved.
(3)That He might give us an example of laying down our lives. For whosoever desires to follow Christ, ought entirely to surrender his life: S. Luke ix. 23, If any man will come after Me. 2 Cor. v. 15, He died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him Who died for them. He who so dies will come to that life in which no one dies; to which life may Christ, Who is our life, bring us.
Christ pours forth His Spirit in death that all men might live unto Him who died for them. Laying down one’s life means leaving the selfish self behind and loving all things as if we loved them not in comparison to our love for God in Jesus Christ. True life is found in death to the world, the flesh, the devil, and the self through the Holy Spirit. True life is found in Jesus Christ beginning here and now. In time and space then, while the time remains to us, let us live in and through our Saviour Jesus Christ. Let us become a part of His earthly body that we be denied not our heavenly reward. Let us become living members of His earthly body now so that through His humanity we may find His Divinity that alone reconciles us to our predetermined end.
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