Vol II No. 5
From the Quarterly

Christ's coming and going: Thomas Aquinas with Commentary

by William J. Martin

Ascension Gd'Arpo


I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again I leave the world, and go to the Father. (St. John xvi. 28)

FOUR considerations are suggested by these words. Firstly, His going from the Father: ‘I came forth from the Father.’ His going forth from the Father was to make Himself visible. Secondly, His advent in the world: I am come into the world. Thirdly, His departure from the world: ‘Again I leave the world.’ Fourthly, His ascension to the Father: ‘And I go to the Father.’

  1. On the first head it is to be noted, that Christ came forth from the Father for three reasons.

(1) That He might manifest the Father in the world: ‘No man hath seen God at any time; the Only Begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.’ (St. John i. 18)

God the Father reveals His wisdom, power, and love through His Word made flesh Jesus Christ. Through the humanity of God’s Word made flesh we discover the logos, reason, meaning, principle, and definition of perfect human life in relation to God the Father. God’s wisdom is His Word, for it rule and governs the humanity of Jesus because Jesus wills it to be so. God’s power is His Word, for ‘He spake the Word and they were made,’(Ps. xxxiii. 9) and this power enables Jesus to accomplish the Father’s will alone. God’s love is His Word, for this love so rules the heart of Jesus that He longs to bear man’s burden of sin and lovingly bring it to death.

(2) To declare His Father’s will to us: ‘All things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you.’ (St. John xv. 15)

Jesus speaks only what He hears from the Father. The Father intends to be heard and so He communicates to the world through His Word as flesh. What the Person of the Word communicates through His earthly nature is first and foremost the Father’s desire for all men’s salvation. This Word is communicated sometimes silently, sometimes verbally, and sometimes miraculously. With regard to the first He gives man a pattern and example of humility, meekness, fear of the Lord, and the refusal to engage evil. With regard to the second He teaches all men the truth and meaning of His mission. With regard to the third He shows that the forgiveness of sins is rooted and grounded in the power of the Almighty Father.

(3) That He might show the Father’s love towards us: ‘God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him.’ (St. John iii. 16)

This Word of God as flesh in Jesus Christ reveals to the world the yearning, longing, hungering, thirsting, and craving of the Father for man’s salvation. Perfect passionate love is revealed by the Father through Jesus for His people. Perfect passionate love is revealed by the Son on behalf of all people for the Father. This is that uninterrupted and unceasing desire of God for His creation and the desire of Man for His God. In Jesus Christ the passion is offered and not forced as what alone can save Man. In Jesus Christ the love is revealed as what must be the cornerstone and foundation of any love for God. Man can love God again only through that perfect love of the Father that is found in the Son’s self-abnegation and self-emptying. The Son in turn will share His love with all men that they too might die to themselves and come alive to God.

  1. On the second head it is to be noted, that Christ came into the world for three reasons

(1) To enlighten it. ‘I am the Light of the world.’ (St. John viii. 12)

Christ’s Advent is the coming of the Life, Light, and Love of the Father. This is the eternal life that has lovingly given light to all other things. This is the Light that is the Life of the world. ‘In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.’ (St. John i. 4,5) This Light explains the meaning of all things. This Light enables man to give nature a voice and to find its utility in the cause of salvation. In this Light man knows his sin, repents, and finds illumination sufficient to embrace the Light of new life.

(2) That He might reconcile it to God the Father. ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.’ (2 Cor. v. 19)

The meaning and mission of Jesus Christ –the Life, Light, and Love of the Father, are to reconcile the world to God the Father. Christ has come to redeem the creation so that nature, man, and God might once again live in unity and harmony. Nature has never sinned but “feels” the disruption caused by the Adam’s Fall. There is tension, division, separation, and alienation in the relations of nature, man, and God. Through Christ the three can be one once again.

(3) To deliver it from the power of the Devil: ‘Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.’ (St. John xii. 31) ‘God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.’ (S. John iii. 17)

God sends His Son into the world in order to save the world from sin. The devil must be cast out of the world. This means that the devil must be cast out of the souls of the faithful, since in relation to God, he is meaningless and powerless. So Christ comes not to condemn creation or any creature. He does not come to condemn man to hell but to rescue him from it and carry him to heaven. And thus He offers Himself to us as the only way and means to salvation. So the creation is not destroyed but redeemed as Christ promises to send His Holy Spirit into the hearts of the faithful to cast out Satan and make room for the Word that He is.

III. On the third head it is to be noted, that Christ left the world for three reasons

(1) On account of its wickedness: ‘The whole world lieth in wickedness.’ (1 St. John v. 19)

The natural domicile of the God-Man is not earth but heaven. He will not effect His most successful work on earth but from the throne of His Ascension in Heaven. And thus Christ must leave because the best work that He shall do will be from the origin and fount of all truth, beauty, and goodness –Heaven. Also He must do His work from there because He is working from the invisible to the invisible. The visible realm is redeemed only by the invisible. He must work from Heaven in order to bring men’s souls into communion with their redeemed nature, found in Him, in Heavenly places. The soul that seeks salvation must lift its inner self above the earth to be moved by Christ from Heaven.

(2) On account of the perversity of its ingratitude: ‘If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. (St. John xv. 18) What could be greater ingratitude than for the world to hate Him Who came to save it?

Christ cannot remain on earth because of man’s hatred for Him. Lingering on in time and space and in an earthly manner would only frustrate the much more important work of men’s salvation that He will accomplish through His Holy Spirit. It is true enough that the world will hate His friends as much as it hated Him. But there will be more of them to hate once He infuses His Spirit into believers lives. At any rate, what is most important is that His earthly departure is necessary so that men might wonder, ponder, and study His mysterious presence in the lives of His followers.

(3) That by leaving the world He should give us an example: ‘Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.’ (1 St. John ii. 15) ‘Ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.’ (St. John xv. 19)

Christ must leave to prepare a place for us, that where He is we might be also. (St. John xiv. 3) Christ must leave us so that we know that our true native land, our patria, is in Heaven with the Father and not on earth. We must come to learn that this earthly existence is a gift from God through which we are given opportunity to discover our true natures in relation to His eternal wisdom, power, and love. We are chosen as those called to live out of and above this world. We cannot leave the world until God calls us. But while we are here we must remember that God has made us to live by His truth, beauty, and goodness. So we must see all creatures as made for God, to be used by us only in so far they enhance our conscious derivation from and dependence upon God. We are made for the vision and love of God. And thus we must follow Christ back to the Kingdom, beginning today.

IV. On the fourth head it is to be noted, that Christ ascended to the Father for three reasons.

(1) That he might intercede with Him for us: ‘I will pray the Father.’ (S. John xiv. 16)

We are still frail human flesh. We need a mediator and advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 St. John ii. 1) He prays for us, that where He is, we might be also. He prays that we might embrace His Grace and allow His Holy Spirit to unite us with the Word that He is. (Idem)

(2) That He might give to us the Holy Spirit: ‘If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.’ (S. John xvi. 7)

What must move us is what moved Jesus Christ to suffer and die for our salvation. What must move us is what moved Jesus Christ to rise for our justification. What we need most is to be moved by the Holy Spirit, through which the Father loves the Son and the Son loves and obeys the Father. What we need and desire is for the Holy Spirit to perfect the Word of the Father in our lives so that at last we may be saved.

(3) That He might prepare for us a place with the Father: ‘I go to prepare a place for you.’ (St. John xiv. 2) To which place may He lead us.

Christ is preparing for us a home in His Heaven. We must allow Him to depart from us in the flesh that He might acclimate our human nature to the definition and essence of His eternal being in Heaven through the Holy Spirit. He has gone to heaven before us to prepare for our final reconciliation through Him with the Father. From there, for now, let us let Him lead us there through His Holy Spirit.