Friday, July 10, 2020

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matt 13:3–9)

“The sower went forth to sow,” not simply going from place to place but with deliberate design. He did not go where He had not been before, nor did He abandon the place he had left, because God is everywhere. He did not go beyond His presence because God is everywhere. Rather, He went out because God is present where His righteousness is honored. Where His righteousness is not present, neither is God fully received. Those who are within His righteousness are found inside, and those who are not within His righteousness are found outside. Therefore, as long as God was in heaven where all are righteous, He was inside. Coming forth into the fallen world, however, which was completely outside God's righteousness, He went outside in order to bring it inside. Therefore, since all nations, disdaining God's righteousness, were living under the power of the devil, He went forth outside in order to sow righteousness in the world, where it had been absent before on account of their sins. “The sower went out to sow.” It was not sufficient for Him to say, “He went out to sow,” but He added, “The sower went out to sow” to point out that He was not a new sower and was not doing this work for the first time. It was just like God to do this. He has always been sowing. Indeed, from the beginning of the human race, it was natural for God to sow the seeds of knowledge. He is the One who, through Moses, sowed among the people the seeds of the commandments of the law. He is the One who, speaking through the prophets, sowed not only the remedies of things present but also the knowledge of things future. He went out so that in a human body and through Himself, He might sow His divine commandments.

Incomplete Work on Matthew, Homily 31

Friday, July 3, 2020

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matt 11:25–30)

Jesus praises and glorifies the Father, who had foreseen the entire trajectory of the Word first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. Our Lord here gives thanks to his Father, the Lord of heaven and earth, for his mission in becoming incarnate in the form of a servant. He speaks about the Father's good pleasure now to hide this mystery about Himself from Israel, which might be expected to be wise, and to reveal it to the Gentiles, who were until now without understanding. It is thereby demonstrated that God did not forget to fulfill His purpose, nor did Christ’s coming fail in its appointed end. These things indeed have happened, God knowing them beforehand and having commanded beforehand the repentance of grace.

Origen, Commentary on Matthew Fragment 239

Finally, He calls to Himself those who labor under the difficulties of the Law and those burdened with worldly sins. He promises to relieve their labor and their burden if only they take up His yoke. In other words, they ought to accept the teaching of His commandments and come to Him through the mystery of His cross, because He is humble and meek in heart and they will find rest in their souls. By establishing the appeal of his pleasant yoke and the attractions of a light burden, He grants to believers knowledge of His goodness that He alone knows in the Father. And what is more pleasant than His yoke? What is lighter than His burden? By these we become worthy of approval, we abstain from wickedness, we desire to do good, we refuse to do evil, we love all people, we hate no one, we attain eternity. We are not infatuated with the present times; we are unwilling to bring upon another the trouble which we ourselves would not wish to endure.

Hilary of Poitiers, Commentary on Matthew 11.13

Friday, June 26, 2020

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to “set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law”; and “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward. (Matt 10:34–42)

When we are renewed in the laver of baptism through the power of the Word, we are separated from the sins that come from our origin and are separated from its authors. Once we have endured a sort of excision by God’s sword, we are cut from the dispositions of our father and mother. Casting off the “old man” with his sins and unbelief, we are renewed in soul and body by the Spirit, rejecting our inborn habits and former ways. Because the body itself has been mortified through faith, it rises to the nature of the soul, which comes from the breath of God (although it still subsists in its own physical form); a communion between the two is brought about by the Word. For this reason, the body begins to desire to be made one and the same with the soul, that is, with what is spiritual. For both, a freedom of the will from its mother-in-law; that is, it is separated from unbelief, and yields all of its own law, with the result that what was freedom of will is later on the power of the soul. The result will be serious dissension in one household, and the “new man’s” enemies will be the members of his household. Now separated from the others by the Word of God, he will rejoice to remain, both inside and outside, that is, both his soul and body, in the newness of the Spirit.

As a result of these inborn qualities and what we might call an antiquity of lineage, they still desire to remain in those things which gave pleasure to them: the origins of their flesh and the origin of their soul and their free will. These will be separated into two, that is, the soul and body of the new man, which have begun to desire to be one and the same. And the three that are separated will be subject to the two, which are stronger under the governance of the newness of the Spirit. Those who have preferred the love of one’s household name instead of God’s love will be unworthy of inheriting the good to come.

Hilary of Poitiers, Commentary on Matthew 10.24

Friday, June 19, 2020

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Third Sunday after Pentecost

Courtesy of
Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. (Matt 10:27–33)

We read that the Lord was not accustomed to making pronouncements at night or teaching in the dark. In fact, every word of His is darkness to carnal persons, and His word is night to unbelievers. Whatever He has said must be spoken with a freedom of faith and confession by each one. For this reason, He commands that those words spoken in darkness should be proclaimed in the light. Whatever the Lord entrusted to their hearing in secret, let it be heard on the rooftops, and the speaker’s declamation may be heard from on high. For the knowledge of God must be faithfully announced, and the teaching of the Gospel’s hidden depths must be revealed in the light of the apostolic preaching. We do not fear those who, though they possess bodily abilities, have no law over the soul. Rather, we fear God who has power of destroying both soul and body in Gehenna.

Bringing anything together in order to count it has to be done carefully with diligence and solicitude. So too, counting things that will perish is not a worthwhile task. So that we may know that we are not going to perish, because we are worth much more than many sparrows, the Lord states that the very number of our hairs is counted. Because we are going to be completely saved, whatever is innumerable in us must be preserved so that by his favor and power, it may be counted. We need not fear the fall of our bodies, nor should the destruction of our flesh give us any reason for sorrow. Once the body has been dissolved in keeping with the condition of its nature and its origin, it will be re-established in the substance of a spiritual soul.

Once we have been confirmed in this teaching, we may rightfully possess a steadfast freedom in our confession of God. The Lord comments also about our situation: He will deny before the Father in heaven the one who has denied Him before men on earth. Whoever personally acknowledges the Lord before men will be acknowledged by Him in heaven. Whatever sort of witnesses to His name we have been before men, the same testimony will be used before God the Father about us.

Hilary of Poitiers, Commentary on Matthew 10.17, 20–21

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Lord, Have Mercy

When reading the penitential psalms, I have often been mystified by the intensity of the emotion being expressed. How does anyone feel that deeply and then cry out to God with such passion over sin? Is it that I have not sufficiently cared about the import of actions or events? Increasingly, I feel the need to number my days (Ps 90:12) as I realize there will be ever-increasing, life-altering circumstances that can be neither ignored nor controlled. To that end, what is my attitude toward sin? Do I scrutinize according to God’s Word or pass it off as a common failing? Do I confess my sin or rationalize that God will just cover it? And finally, am I confident He forgives? Or to summarize, am I sure that He is a promise-keeping God, both to judge and forgive? King David certainly did. That is why he begins Psalm 6 with a request to refrain from reproof and discipline.
O Lord, do not reprove me in Your anger,
Nor discipline me in Your wrath.
Do we know David’s manner of sin? No, but that is irrelevant. We know from the humble opening that he was aware of the Lord’s attitude to sin and that he deserved whatever condemnation was warranted. He had no standing before a holy, righteous God and, therefore, threw himself on His mercy.
Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak;
Heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled;
And my soul is greatly troubled;
But You, O Lord, how long?
The proper approach after sin is to admit weakness and frailty. While we retain youth and vigor, there is an inclination of invincibility in both body and spirit. Whatever may come can be handled by attempting stoicism: we can tough it out and do better next time. Through aging, the realization that we are but dust looms large. Strength wanes and corruption slowly causes us to understand that our lives are not so easily controlled. Order increasingly gives way to disorder. Confidence falters. Questions arise as to when the Lord might intervene.
Return, O Lord, and deliver my soul.
Save me because of Your mercy.
For there is no remembrance of You in death;
And in Hades who will give thanks to You?
In the midst of uncertainty, there remains a certain hope. The Lord is most certainly attentive. There should be no apprehension if we ask according to His will. And how do we know what His will is? Taking in His word. Our God has made Himself known through His precepts and promises. God will answer because He is merciful and will deliver because He does not delight in the death of the wicked (Ez 33:11), much less His children. And why would this be? Mankind was intended to give glory to God on earth as a complete being in His image and likeness. The ultimate reality will be to properly do so in the resurrection when all things are restored. Before we reach that end, we are brought low by burdens and afflictions.
I am weary with my groaning;
Every single night I will dampen my bed;
I will drench my couch with my tears.
My eye is troubled by anger;
I grow old among all my enemies.
When sin entered the world, every deed, every relationship became corrupted. Individuals struggle with one another fueled by selfishness, pride, or a thirst for control, making enemies whose sole focus is to cause the godly one’s demise or diversion from the right. The attack is relentless, not because of a constant barrage from those seeking our harm, though this may be, but also from the knowledge that the struggle and warring within each believer, as the sinful flesh inherited from Adam, continues its unrelenting attempts for control. We succumb to the weariness of it all, in humility crying out to God that He might deliver us being fully assured that He is faithful.
Depart from me, all you workers of lawlessness;
For the Lord heard the voice of my weeping;
The Lord heard my supplication;
The Lord received my prayer.
Let all my enemies be ashamed and greatly troubled;
Let them turn back and be suddenly ashamed.
Believers who know and hold fast to God’s promises know He understands our anguish. We know He hears our request. We know He receives our prayer when we ask rightly, not for our own pleasures. We also can act and speak with proper authority according to His precepts. We can order the lawless to depart and pray that our enemies be ashamed and troubled—not just those of the flesh but also spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies (Eph 6:12). I do not mention this to advocate militancy as a spiritual discipline. Rather my desire is to recognize that we, with full rights and responsibilities of sonship, have full authority to assess situations and request action from our Lord and God.

I began this piece with some personal reflections of my own unworthiness and weakness, being without inherent privilege. Yet, here I am: chosen of God, baptized into Christ, sealed with the Holy Spirit, and adopted as a son. Where someone might increasingly despair while moving toward the terminus of their earthly lives, we believers can look at the increasing unpleasantness that will befall us and rest in knowing that the final enemy, death, has already been brought to shame and defeated. We pray for strength to end well as we look to the Lord’s triumphal return and the final resurrection.

Lord, have mercy.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Second Sunday after Pentecost

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. (Matt 9:35–10:1)

No troublemaker had stirred up the crowd, nor were they harassed or made helpless by some calamity or disturbance. Why did the Lord have pity on those who were harassed and helpless? Clearly, the Lord took pity on the people troubled by the oppressive violence of the unclean spirit and disabled by the weight of the Law because they still had no shepherd who would restore to them the guardianship of the Holy Spirit. Although the fruit of this gift was most abundant, nothing had yet been harvested. For the Spirit’s abundance surpasses the multitude of those who draw on Him. If everyone gathers as much as he needs, there is always enough to give generously. It is useful that the Lord ministers through many; He urged nonetheless that we ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth many workers into the harvest, that is, that we ask God to grant an abundance of harvesters who utilize the gift of the Holy Spirit which was prepared. Through prayer and supplication, God pours His bounty upon us. In order to indicate that this harvest and the many harvesters would be drawn first from the twelve apostles, He gave to those gathered together the authority for expelling spirits and for healing every kind of sickness. By the powers of this gift, they were able to expel the Troubler and cure illness. It is appropriate that we consider the significance of each point of this teaching.

Hilary of Poitiers, Commentary on Matthew 10.2

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Good Friday Thievery

While catching up on my reading, I ran across this Good Friday sermon in Gottesdienst, Vol. 28, No. 1 on the gospel text: St. John 18:1–19:42. May it be a blessing to you.

† In the name of Jesus. †

thief to his left, a thief to his right, and thieves all around.

For to Christ, all are thieves. The elders of the people had robbed him of his title, Messiah. The disciples had robbed him of comfort and consolation. Judas had been pilfering his purse all along. The soldiers robbed him of his clothing, and Pontius Pilate would soon rob him of his life.

Thieves to the left, thieves to the right, and thieves all around.

And the thievery continues to this day. Modern science has robbed Jesus of the title, Creator. Perverse and sinful people rob him of the obedience that should be his. Abortionists rob him of little worshipers and rob the rest of us of potential researchers who might find the cure for cancer and other diseases. Indeed, thieves all around. But don't be too smug, you too have joined in the thievery. Your complaint that your life should have turned out better than it has, has robbed your God of the titles, Father and Provider. Your fear that there will not be enough for you has called into question the truthfulness of his promises and has left you selfish, failing to help others as you ought. Your angry, lusting, and pitying thoughts have robbed him of his sovereignty over you. By your self-justification, your lame excuses, your blaming others, you have robbed him of the title, the One Alone Who Justifies the Wicked.

Thieves to the left, thieves to the right, and thieves all around.

But here is the grand surprise, my friends, here is the "Ha, Ha!" from heaven, here is the great, divine comedy. Thieves to the left, thieves to the right, and thieves all around, but the greatest thief is on the center cross. Didn't the Lord Jesus say that he would come to judge the world like a thief in the night? Didn't the little Lord Jesus slip into our time and space in the deep of night? Didn't Jesus say that when a strong man guards his house his goods are safe, but when one stronger than him comes he breaks in and plunders all his goods? Yes, the strong man kidnapped us and took us into his house, but unlike other kidnappings, we went willingly. Like our father Adam we snatched up the glittering trash that he held out. He's a liar, but we love his lies. We love the lie that our lives should have turned out better. We want to believe the lie that there is no need for contention in the church, no need for confession of the truth, no need for martyrs anymore. We love the lie that our sins are small compared to others, that we are not as bad as most and better than some. We believed the lie that his prison-house was actually a mansion and the place where we could find true happiness.

But Jesus would not leave us in that prison of delusion. The Valiant One came to release us. He broke into the prison house of Satan to set us free. He took the one thing that Satan could hold against us, keeping us in everlasting bondage, and that was our sin. He took that sin, and the death that comes with it, into Himself and shed his holy precious blood for the expiation of the world's sin, and ours as well, thereby slaying death. Through that blood, we have been cleansed in Holy Baptism and thereby are granted admission into the Supper of the Lamb and his Bride, the holiest of suppers, which we concelebrate with the saints above at each and every Mass.

Into to that grand banquet, the dying Lord was about to admit an unexpecting thief. This miserable little man, who did not sleep a wink all night for the horrifying thought of the hell he fully expected and deserved, heard the unimaginable and completely unexpected words, “Today … with me … in paradise.” We know him as the repentant thief, and he was. His brief Christian life was spent in defending his Master, praying to him, and believing his promises. Yet in one sense he remained a thief. And what do thieves do? They frustrate us, for after working hard for the things we own, they creep in and in an instant take what we labored for so long. And so, while the Lord was working to death for your salvation and the salvation of the little thief, the little thief found the treasury of Jesus' mercy and grace wide open where he found salvation freely given. But the Lord always has the last laugh, and as the little thief was snatching grace, the Grand Thief snatched him clean away forever!

People of God, if the little thief found hope in the mercy of Christ, then there is surely hope for thieves like you!

In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Ghost.

This sermon was preached by Pr. Peter M. Berg at the Tre Ore Service of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan on April 19, 2019.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to Holy Trinity Sunday

O Lord, our Lord, how wondrous is Your name in all the earth,
For Your splendor is exalted far beyond the heavens.
From the mouths of babies and nursing infants
You prepared praise because of Your enemies,
That You may destroy the enemy and avenger.
For I shall look at the heavens, the works of Your fingers,
The moon and stars You established.
What is man that You remember him,
Or the son of man that You visit him?
You made him a little lower than the angels;
You crowned him with glory and honor.
You set him over the works of Your hands;
You subjected all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen,
And besides these, also the animals of the field,
The birds of heaven and the fish of the sea,
And the things passing through the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord, how wondrous is Your name in all the earth. (Psalm 8 LXX)

By these words that we have quoted is indicated both God the Word, to whom the beginning of the psalm applies, and the man of whom He is mindful, whom He visits, whom He has made a little lower than the angels, whom He crowns with glory and honor, and whom He placed over the works of His hands. How great is the diversity of natures in him emerges here in that so lowly and insignificant is the condition of him whom God designed to call to mind that blessed David was struck with astonishment and wonder at their combination in it, as we said. I mean, when he says What is man that You are mindful and so on, he openly implies the lowliness of our nature and the absence of merit of the one of whom God is supposed to be so mindful as even to give it equal claim to honor in being united to Him. This is, in fact, the reason for the prophet in his astonishment to marvel at God’s goodness, that He combined in association with His dignity such a lowly and insignificant nature. It therefore is clear enough that it is God the Word who was mindful, who paid the visit, who made man a little lower than the angels, and who crowned him with glory and honor.

Theodore of Mopsuestia, Commentary on Psalms 8

But when the divine Word assumed our human first-fruits, declared it His own temple, named it His own flesh, and achieved the ineffable union, He took his seat above every principality, authority, and domination, and every name which is named, not only in this age but in the age to come; He put everything under his feet, not only sheep and all cattle but all creation, visible and invisible. The divine Apostle witnesses to this in his explicit cry, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor on account of the suffering of death”; and a little above, he says, “putting all things under His feet”; and in the letter to the Corinthians, “But when it says, ‘All things are put in subjection,’ it is clear that this does not include the one who put all things in subjection to Him.” Uncreated nature alone, you see, is separate from this subjection as something free. The nature, which receives existence from it, however, is subject whatever it be—visible or invisible—to Christ the Lord, both as God and as man. Such is the honor human nature received from the God of all. Hence, as a conclusion he used the same verse as at the beginning: O Lord our Lord, how wondrous is your name in all the earth!

Theodoret of Cyrus, Commentary on the Psalms 8.7

Friday, May 29, 2020

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to Pentecost Sunday

So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord, and he gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tabernacle. Then the Lord descended in the cloud and spoke to him, and took of the Spirit upon him, and put Him upon the seventy men of the elders; and when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, although they never did so again. But two men remained in the camp: the name of one was Eldad and the name of the other Medad, and the Spirit rested upon them. Now they were among those registered but had not come to the tabernacle, yet they prophesied in the camp. So a young man ran and told Moses, and said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” Then Joshua, the son of Nun, who was near Moses, one of his choice men, answered and said, “Lord Moses, forbid them.” Then Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people might be prophets when the Lord would put His Spirit upon them.” So Moses returned to the camp, both he and the elders of Israel. (Num 11:24–30)

This Spirit descended upon the seventy Elders in the days of Moses. (Now let not the length of the discourse, beloved, produce weariness in you: but may He the very subject of our discourse grant strength to everyone, both to us who speak and to you who listen!) This Spirit, as I was saying, came down upon the seventy Elders in the time of Moses; and this I say to you, that I may now prove, that He knows all things and works as He will. The seventy Elders were chosen: And the Lord came down in a cloud, and took of the Spirit that was upon Moses, and put it upon the seventy Elders. Not that the Spirit was divided, but that His grace was distributed in proportion to the vessels and the capacity of the recipients. Now there were present sixty-eight, and they prophesied, but Eldad and Modad were not present. therefore that it might be shown that it was not Moses who bestowed the gift, but the Spirit who worked, Eldad and Modad, who though called, had not as yet presented themselves, did also prophesy.

Joshua the son of Nun, the successor of Moses, was amazed; and came to him and said, “Have you heard that Eldad and Modad are prophesying? They were called, and they came not; my lord Moses, forbid them.” “I cannot forbid them,” he says, “for this grace is from Heaven; no, so far am I from forbidding them, that I myself am thankful for it. I think not, however, that you have said this in envy; are you jealous for my sake, because they prophesy, and you do no yet prophesy? Wait for the proper season; and oh that all the Lord’s people may be prophets, whenever the Lord shall give His Spirit upon them!” saying this also prophetically, whenever the Lord shall give; “For as yet then He has not given it; so you do not have it yet.”—Had not then Abraham this, and Isaac, and Jacob, and Joseph? And they of old, did they not have it? No, but the words, “whenever the Lord shall give” evidently mean “give it upon all; as yet indeed the grace is partial, then it shall be given lavishly.” And he secretly alluded to what was to happen among us on the day of Pentecost; for He Himself came down among us. He had however also come down upon many before. For it is written, And Joshua the son of Nun was filled with a spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him. You see the figure everywhere the same in the Old and New Testament;—in the days of Moses, the Spirit was given by laying on of hands; and by laying on of hands Peter also gives the Spirit. And on you also, who are about to be baptized, shall His grace come; yet in what manner I will not say, for I will not anticipate the proper season.

Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 16.25–26

Friday, May 22, 2020

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Seventh Sunday of Easter

From the Maesta by Duccio
Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. (John 17:1–5)

Then one of those who are never weary of hearkening to the Scripture, and seriously pursue the study of Divine doctrines, will ask: Do we say that knowledge is eternal life; and that to know the one true and living God will suffice to give us complete security of expectation, and nothing else be lacking? Then how is faith apart from works dead? And when we speak of faith, we mean the true knowledge of God, and nothing else; for by faith comes knowledge: and the prophet Isaiah bears us witness, who said to some: If you do not believe this, neither will you understand it. And that the writings of the holy men are referring to the knowledge which consists in barren speculations, a thing wholly profitless, I think you will perceive from what follows. For one of the holy disciples said: You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!. What then shall we say to this? How does Christ speak truth, when He says that eternal life is the knowledge of God the Father, the One true God, and (with Him) of the Son? I think, indeed, we must answer that the saying of the Savior is wholly true. For this knowledge is life, travailing as it were in birth of the whole meaning of the mystery, and vouchsafing unto us participation in the mystery of the Eucharist, whereby we are joined unto the living and life-giving Word. And for this reason, I think, Paul says that the Gentiles are made fellow-members of the body and fellow-partakers of Christ; inasmuch as they partake in His blessed Body and Blood; and our members may in this sense be conceived of, as being members of Christ. This knowledge, then, which also brings to us the Eucharist by the Spirit, is life. For it dwells in our hearts, shaping anew those who receive it into sonship with Him, and molding them into incorruption and piety towards God, through life according to the Gospel. Our Lord Jesus Christ, then, knowing that the knowledge of the One true God brings unto us, and, so to speak, promotes our union with, the blessings of which we have spoken, says that it is eternal life; insomuch as it is the mother and nurse of eternal life, being in its own power and nature pregnant with those things which cause life, and lead unto it.

Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on the Gospel of John 11.5