St. Thomas Aquinas,
Catena Aurea (Golden Chain),
Gospel of John, Chapter
(John Henry Parker, v. I, J.G.F. and J. Rivington:London, 1842)
1. I am the true
vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2. Every branch in me that bears not fruit he takes away: and every branch
that bears fruit, he purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
3. Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken to you.
HILARY. He rises in haste to perform the sacrament of His final passion in
the flesh (such is His desire to fulfill His Father's commandment) and
therefore takes occasion to unfold the mystery of His assumption of His
flesh, whereby He supports us, as the vine does its branches: I am the true
AUG. He says this as being the Head of the Church, of which we are the
members, the Man Christ Jesus; for the vine and the branches are of the same
nature. When He says, I am the true vine, He does not mean really a vine;
for He is only called so metaphorically, not literally, even as He is called
the Lamb, the Sheep, and the like; but He distinguishes Himself from that
vine to whom it is said, How you are turned into the degenerate plant of a
strange vine to me (Jer 11:21). For how is that a true vine, which when
grapes are expected from it, produces only thorns?
HILARY. But He wholly separates this humiliation in the flesh from the form
of the Paternal Majesty, by setting forth the Father as the diligent
husbandman of this vine: And My Father is the husbandman.
AUG. For we cultivate God, and God cultivates us. But our culture of God
does not make Him better: our culture is that of adoration, not of plowing:
His culture of us makes us better. His culture consists in extirpating all
the seeds of wickedness from our hearts, in opening our heart to the plow,
as it were, of His word, in sowing in us the seeds of His commandments, in
waiting for the fruits of piety.
CHRYS. And forasmuch as Christ was sufficient for Himself, but His disciples
needed the help of the Husbandman, of the vine He says nothing, but adds
concerning the branches, Every branch in Me that bears not fruit, He takes
away. By fruit is meant life, i.e. that no one can be in Him without good
HILARY. The useless and deceitful branches He cuts down for burning.
CHRYS. And inasmuch as even the best of men require the work of the
husbandman, He adds, And every branch that bears fruit, He purges it, that
it may bring forth more fruit. He alludes here to the tribulations and
trials which were coming upon them, the effect of which would be to purge,
and so to strengthen them. By pruning the branches we make the tree shoot
out the more.
AUG. And who is there in this world so clean, that he cannot be more and
more changed? Here, if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. He
cleans then the clean, i.e. the fruitful, that the cleaner they be, the more
fruitful they may be. Christ is the vine, in that He said, My Father is
greater than I; but in that He said, I and My Father are one, He is the
husbandman; not like those who carry on an external ministry only; for He
gives increase within.
Thus He calls Himself immediately the cleanser of the branches: Now you are
clean through the word, which I have spoken to you. He performs the part of
the husbandman then, as well as of the vine. But why does He not say, you
are clean by reason of the baptism wherewith you are washed? Because it is
the word in the water which cleans. Take away the word, and what is the
water, which but water.
Add the word to the element, and you have a sacrament. Whence has the water
such virtue as that by touching the body, it cleans the heart, but by the
power of the word, not spoken only, but believed? For in the word itself the
passing sound is one thing, the abiding virtue another. This word of faith
is of such avail in the Church of God that by Him who believes, presents,
blesses, sprinkles the infant, it cleanses that infant, though itself is
unable to believe.
CHRYS. You are clean through the word which I have spoken to you, i.e., you
have been enlightened by My doctrine, and been delivered from Jewish error.
4. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself,
except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in me.
5. I am the vine, you are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him,
the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.
6. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered;
and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
7. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you
will, and it shall be done to you.
CHRYS. Having said that they were clean through the word which He had spoken
to them, He now taught them that they must do their part.
AUG. Abide in Me, and I in you: not they in Him, as He in them; for both are
for the profit not of Him, but them. The branches do not confer any
advantage upon the vine, but receive their support from it: the vine
supplies nourishment to the branches, takes none from them: so that the
abiding in Christ, and the having Christ abiding in them, are both for the
profit of the disciples, not of Christ; according to what follows, As the
branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can
you, except you abide in Me.
Great display of grace! He strengthens the hearts of the humble, stops the
mouth of the proud. They who hold that God is not necessary for the doing of
good works, the subverters, not the asserters, of free will, contradict this
truth. For he who thinks that he bears fruit of himself, is not in the vine;
he who is not in the vine, is not in Christ; he who is not in Christ, is not
ALCUIN. All the fruit of good works proceeds from this root. He who has
delivered us by His grace, also carries us onward by his help, so that we
bring forth more fruit. Wherefore He repeats, and explains what He has said:
I am the vine, you are the branches. He that abides in Me, by believing,
obeying, persevering, and I in Him, by enlightening, assisting, giving
perseverance, the same, and none other, brings forth much fruit.
AUG. But lest any should suppose that a branch could bring forth a little
fruit of itself, He adds, For without Me you can do nothing. He does not
say, you can do little. Unless the branch abides in the vine, and lives from
the root, it can bear no fruit whatever. Christ, though He would not be the
vine, except He were man, yet could not give this grace to the branches,
except He were God.
CHRYS. The Son then contributes no less than the Father to the help of the
disciples. The Father changes, but the Son keeps them in Him, which is that
which makes the branches fruitful. And again, the cleansing is attributed to
the Son also, and the abiding in the root to the Father who begot the root.
It is a great loss to be able to do nothing, but He goes on to say more than
this: If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, i.e. shall not
benefit by the care of the husbandman, and withers, i.e., shall lose all
that it desires from the root, all that supports its life, and shall die.
ALCUIN. And men gather them, i.e., the reapers, the Angels, and cast them
into the fire, everlasting fire, and they are burned.
AUG. For the branches of the vine are as contemptible, if they abide not in
the vine, as they are glorious, if they abide. One of the two the branch
must be in, either the vine, or the fire: if it is not in the vine, it will
be in the fire.
CHRYS. Then He shows what it is to abide in Him. If you abide in Me, and My
words abide in you, you shall ask what you will and it shall be done to you.
It is to be shown by their works.
AUG. For then may His words be said to abide in us, when we do what He has
commanded, and love what He has promised. But when His words abide in the
memory and are not found in the life, the branch is not accounted to be in
the vine, because it derives no life from its root. So far as we abide in
the Savior we cannot will any thing that is foreign to our salvation.
We have one will, insofar as we are in Christ, another, insofar as we are in
this world And by reason of our abode in this world, it sometimes happens
that we ask for that which is not expedient, through ignorance. But never,
if we abide in Christ, will He grant it us, Who does not grant except what
is expedient for us. And here we are directed to the prayer, Our Father. Let
us adhere to the words and the meaning of this prayer in our petitions, and
whatever we ask will be done for us.
8. Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you
be my disciples.
9. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you: continue in my love.
10. If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love--even as I have
kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.
11. These things have I spoken to you, that my joy might remain in you, and
that your joy might be full.
CHRYS. Our Lord showed above, that those who plotted against them should be
burned, inasmuch as they abode not in Christ: now He shows that they
themselves would be invincible, bringing forth much fruit; Herein is My
Father glorified, that you bear much fruit: as if He said, If it appertains
to My Father's glory that you bring forth fruit, He will not despise His own
glory. And he that brings forth fruit is Christ's disciple: So shall you be
THEOPHYL. The fruit of the Apostles are the Gentiles, who through their
teaching were converted to the faith, and brought into subjection to the
glory of God.
AUG. Made bright or glorified; the Greek word may be translated in either
way. In Greek it signifies glory; not our own glory, we must remember, as if
we had it of ourselves: it is of His grace that we have it; and therefore it
is not our own but His glory. For from whom shall we derive our
fruitfulness, but from His mercy preventing us.
Wherefore He adds, As My Father has loved Me, even so love I you. This then
is the source of our good works. Our good works proceed from faith which
works by love: but we could not love unless we were loved first: As My
Father has loved Me, even so love I you. This does not prove that our nature
is equal to His, as His is to the Father's, but the grace, whereby He is the
Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. The Father loves us, but
CHRYS. If then I love you, be of good cheer; if it is the Father's glory
that you bring forth good fruit, bear no evil. Then to rouse them to
exertion, He adds, Continue you in My love; and then shows how this is to be
done: If you keep My commandments, you shall abide in My love.
AUG. Who doubts that love precedes the observance of the commandments? For
who loves not, has not that whereby to keep the commandments. These words
then do not declare whence love arises, but how it is shown, that no one
might deceive himself into thinking that he loved our Lord, when he did not
keep His commandments. Though the words, Continue you in My love, do not of
themselves make it evident which love He means, ours to Him, or His to us,
yet the preceding words do: I love you, He says: and then immediately after,
Continue you in My love.
Continue you in My love, then, is, continue in My grace; and, If you keep My
commandments, you shall abide in My love, is, Your keeping of My
commandments will be evidence to you that you abide in My love. It is not
that we keep His commandments first, and that then He loves; but that He
loves us, and then we keep His commandments. This is that grace, which is
revealed to the humble, but hidden from the proud. But what means the next
words, Even as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love:
i.e., the Father's love, wherewith He loves the Son.
Must this grace, wherewith the Father loves the Son, be understood to be
like the grace wherewith the Son loves us? No; for whereas we are sons not
by nature, but by grace, the Only Begotten is Son not by grace, but by
nature. We must understand this then to refer to the manhood in the Son,
even as the words themselves imply: As My Father has loved Me, even so love
The grace of a Mediator is expressed here; and Christ is Mediator between
God and man, not as God, but as man. This then we may say, that since human
nature does not pertain to the nature of God, but does by grace pertain to
the Person of the Son, grace also pertains to that Person: such grace as has
nothing superior, nothing equal to it. For no merits on man's part preceded
the assumption of that nature.
ALCUIN. Even as 1 have kept My Father's commandments. The Apostle explains
what these commandments were: Christ became obedient to death, even the
death of the cross (Phil 2:8).
CHRYS. Then because the Passion was now approaching to interrupt their joy,
He adds, These things have I spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you:
as if He said, And if sorrow fall upon you, I will take it away, so that you
shall rejoice in the end.
AUG. And what is Christ's joy in us, but that He deigns to rejoice on our
account? And what is our joy, which He says shall be full, but to have
fellowship with Him? He had perfect joy on our account, when He rejoiced in
foreknowing, and predestinating us; but that joy was not in us, because then
we did not exist: it began to be in us, when He called us. And this joy we
rightly call our own, this joy wherewith we shall be blessed; which is begun
in the faith of them who are born again, and shall be fulfilled in the
reward of them who rise again.