Thoughts from the Early Church
Commentary by Ambrose
I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Let us march forward intrepidly to meet our Redeemer, Jesus, pursuing our onward course without swerving until we come to the assembly of the saints and are welcomed by the company of the just.
It is to join our Christian forebears that we are journeying, to those who taught us our faith—that faith which comes to our aid and safeguards our heritage for us even when we have no good works to show.
In the place we are making, the Lord will be everyone’s light; the true light which enlightens every human person will shine upon all.
In the house where we are going the Lord Jesus has prepared many dwelling-places for his servants, so that where he is we also may be, for this was his desire.
Hear his own words about them: “In my Father’s house are many dwelling-places,” and about his desire: “I will come again, he says, and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”
“But he was speaking only to his disciples” you say, “and so it was to them alone that the many dwelling-places were promised.” Do you really suppose it was only for the eleven disciples they were prepared?
And what of the saying about people coming from all the corners of the earth to sit at table in the kingdom of heaven? Do we doubt that the divine will will be accomplished?
But for Christ, to will is to do! Accordingly he has shown us both the way and the place: “You know where I am going,” he said, “and you know the way.”
The place is where the Father is; the way is Christ, according to his own declaration: “I am the way, and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.”
Let us set out on this way, let us hold fast to truth, let us follow life. It is the way that leads us, the truth that strengthens us, the life that is restored to us through him.
To make sure that we really understand his will, Christ prays later on: “Father, it is my desire that those whom you have given me may be with me where I am, so that they may see my glory.”
How graciously he asks for what he had already promised! The promise came first and then the request, not the other way around.
Conscious of his authority and knowing the gift was at his own disposal, he made the promise; then, as if to show his filial submission, he asked his Father to grant it. He promised first to make us aware of his power; he asked afterwards to show us his loving deference to his Father.
Yes, Lord Jesus, we do follow you, but we can only come at your bidding. No one can make the ascent without you, for you are our way, our truth, our life, our strength, our confidence, our reward. Be the way that receives us, the truth that strengthens us, the life that invigorates us.
(Death as a Blessing 12, 52-55: CSEL 32, 747-750)
Ambrose (339-397) was born in Trier, the son of a praetorian prefect of Gaul. On the death of Auxentius, the Arian bishop of Milan, Ambrose, while still a catechumen, was elected to the see by acclamation. We know from Saint Augustine that as bishop he was accessible to everyone. Although Ambrose was influenced by the Greek Fathers, especially Origen, his preaching had the practical bent characteristic of Western theological writers.
**From Saint Louis University