St Augustine begins by reminding us that in his compassion, Christ sees that the hearts of his disciples are troubled, and St Cyril of Alexandria, who also comments on the tender heart of the Lord, tells us that in telling them not to be troubled, Christ offers his mercy to them in their weakness and their human frailty. Peter had declared that he would never betray the Lord, but Christ knew the hearts of men better, and he sought, Chrysostom writes, to reassure them that the mercy of God was more powerful than the darkness of the despair which was coming. Jesus, St Cyril says, makes soldiers out of ‘recent cowards’; cling, he says, to the power of faith, for it is a weapon whose blade is stout and broad; suffering will come, of this we can be sure, but let us not fear that the evil one can triumph; he cannot; Christ is risen. St Hilary of Poitiers points out that here the Lord demonstrates his unity with the divine nature, whilst also distinguishing his person as the Son in the Holy Trinity.
St Irenaeus reminds us that God has prepared all things from the beginning; each has been allocated a place Augustine tells us that in preparing the dwellings, God is also preparing us to be fit occupants of them. All these mansions will be filled, St Gregory of Nazianzus, writes, for the grace and mercy of God are as beyond our comprehension as the stars are above the earth. As Theodore of Mopsuestia comments, ‘with my Father there is such an abundance that he can give everyone the delights of eternal happiness.’ Christ, St Cyril says, points the way to these heavenly mansions, and we come to them through him alone. But he will leave, Augustine comments, his disciples here in order to elicit faith, which would not have been possible (or necessary) had he remained in the world in the flesh. He is coming again for them and for us because he is life.
St Thomas’ comments shows, Augustine tells us, how much the disciples did not know that they knew. Leo the Great reminds us that if we follow the Cross, we follow Christ who is the way, the truth and the life. We come to God through God, Chrysostom says, although the disciples did not yet clearly see this. We must, Augustine reminds us, walk by faith in the truth that is Christ, so that we shall one day know the whole of that truth.
St Cyril tells us that the Lord is the life because he alone can restore to us the life of incorruptibility that we hope for and which we were made; Christ is the immortality which he gives to us, as St Gregory of Nyssa reminds us. No one, St Hilary comments, can come to the Father except through the Son, nor can any partake of the divine nature apart from the meditation of Christ; this St Cyril emphasises, instructing us that it is through practising every type of virtue, through faith in right doctrine and by hope in the life to come, that we shall be sustained. In Him alone must we trust.
In this discourse, Christ reveals to us his knowledge of who he is. But it is not, St Hilary tells us, Christ’s human nature which makes the Father known to us, but rather his divine nature. The disciples know, Chysostom says, something of God, but they did not yet know him as the Father; St Philip fails to understand what Christ has been telling them, that the Father is seen in him, because he does not yet have what Augustine calls ‘the eye of faith’. The Old testament tells us that no one can look upon the face of God and live, but Christ is the perfect divine image of the one who begot him before all worlds; it is the will of Christ and the will of the Father which are one, as St Basil reminds us.
But we are not to think, as St Hilary instructs us, that we can understand the mutual indwelling of the Father and the Son; they are of one substance, but they are two persons, and we must not suppose that at one moment the Father is the Son or the Son the Father; one may speak through the voice of the other, but that, St Cyril reminds us, is because their will is perfect union. All three persons of the adorable and blessed Trinity are. Augustine reminds us, one in their will and actions; as the image of the Father, the Son shares his attributes, as St Athanasius comments.We cannot have that same unity, although we can be adopted as sons. Our very believing is the work of Christ himself, and if we go to Him, we go to the Godhead. We are granted what is best for us, which we may not know with the certainty that God alone has; He alone is all-wise and compassionate.