St Augustine of Africa“Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; to my God, and your God” (John 20:17).

Jesus was giving a lesson in faith to the woman [St Mary Magdalen], who had recognized Him as her Master, and called Him so in her reply; and this gardener was sowing in her heart, as in His own garden, the grain of mustard seed.

[…] Some sacred mystery must lie concealed in these words; and whether we discover it or utterly fail to do so, yet we ought to be in no doubt as to its actual existence.

Accordingly, either the words, Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father, had this meaning, that by this woman the Church of the Gentiles was symbolized, which did not believe on Christ till He had actually ascended to the Father;

Or else they mean that in this way Christ wished Himself to be believed on; in other words, to be touched spiritually, that He and the Father are one.

For He has in a manner ascended to the Father, to the inward perception of him who has made such progress in the knowledge of Christ that he acknowledges Him as equal with the Father.

In any other way He is not rightly touched, that is to say, in any other way He is not rightly believed on.

But Mary might have still so believed as to account Him unequal with the Father, and this certainly is forbidden her by the words, Touch me not.

It is as if Jesus were saying: “Believe not thus on me according to thy present notions.

“Let not your thoughts stretch outwards to what I have been made in thy behalf, without passing beyond to that whereby thou hast thyself been made.”

For how could it be otherwise than carnally that she still believed on Him whom she was weeping over as a man?

For I am not yet ascended, He says, to my Father – as if He were saying, “there shall you touch me, when you believe me to be God, in no wise unequal with the Father.”

But go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father. He does not say “Our Father”, as if He were saying, “in one sense, therefore, is He mine, in another sense, yours; by nature mine, by grace yours.”

And my God, and your God. Neither does He say here “Our God”. Here, therefore, also, He says “He is in one sense mine, in another sense yours: my God; under whom I also am as man; your God, between whom and you I am mediator.”

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Homilies on St John’s Gospel, 121, 3 @ Lectionary Central (slightly adapted).

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