1. The continual remembrance of God is a holy thing, and of
this pious remembrance there can never be enough for the soul that loves
God. But to put into words the things of God is a bold undertaking. For
our mind falls far below what is needed for this; while at the same time,
words but feebly convey the thoughts of the mind. If therefore our understanding
is left so far behind by the greatness of the things of God, and if our
words are weaker than our understanding, how should we not be silent, for
fear that the wonders of the things of God should be in danger through
the feebleness of our words? Though the desire to give glory to God is
implanted by nature in every rational creature, nevertheless we all alike
are unable to praise Him fittingly. But though we differ one from another
in our desire to praise and serve God, yet there is no one so blinds himself,
so deceives himself, as to think that he has attained to the summit of
human understanding. Rather, the further we advance in knowledge, the more
clearly we perceive our own insignificance. So it was with Abraham. So
it was with Moses. For when it was given to them to see God, as far as
man can see God, then especially did they humble themselves: Abraham spoke
of himself as, dust and ashes (Gen. xviii. 27), and Moses said he
was a stammerer and slow of tongue (Exod. iv. 10). For he knew the
poverty of his tongue, and that it was unable to serve the greatness of
the things he had grasped with his mind.
But since every ear is now open to hear me speak of the things of God,
and since there is never enough in the Church of hearing of these things,
confirming the words of Ecclesiastes about them: The ear is not filled
with hearing (i. 8), we must therefore speak as best we can. But we
shall speak, not of God as He is, but of God as far as it is possible for
us to know Him. For though we cannot with mortal eyes see all that lies
between heaven and earth, yet there is no reason why we should not look
upon what we can see. So with our few words we shall now endeavour to fulfil
what is required of us in the service of God; but in every word of ours
we humbly bow before the majesty of His Divine Nature: for not even the
tongue of Angels, whatever they may be, nor the tongues of Archangels,
joined to those of every reasoning creature, would be able to describe
its least part, much less attain to speak of the Whole.
But you, if you would speak of God, or hear of Him, go out from your
body, put aside your bodily senses, leave this earth behind you, leave
the sea behind you, set the skies beneath you, pass beyond the measuring
of time, the procession of the seasons, the ordered perfection of the universe,
rise above the heavens, pass beyond the stars, and the wonders that relate
to them, their ordered movement, their magnitude, their service to all
the universe, their harmony, their shining splendour, their ordered station,
their motion, their rotation one in respect of another. Passing in mind
beyond all these things, raised above them all, gaze in thought upon all
the beauty there, upon the heavenly hosts, the Angelic Choirs, the Dignities
of the Archangels, the Glory of the Dominations, the Seats of the Thrones,
the Virtues, the Principalities, the Powers. Passing beyond all these,
reaching upwards in thought beyond every created thing, uplifting the mind
beyond them, now contemplate the Divine Nature: stable, immovable, unchangeable,
impassable, simple, indivisible, dwelling in light inaccessible
(I Tim. vi. 10), surpassing glory, goodness the most desired, beauty inconceivable;
which fastens fiercely upon the soul, wounding it, yet cannot fittingly
be spoken of in words.
2. There are the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit: Nature Uncreated,
Sovereign Majesty, Goodness Itself. The Father the beginning of all things,
the Source of existence of all that is, the Root of all that lives. From
Him comes forth the Fount of Life, Wisdom, Power, the perfect Image
of the invisible God (Col. i. 15), the Son Begotten of the Father,
the Living Word, Who is God, Who is with God (Jn. i. 2), not added to Him;
Who is before all ages, not afterwards acquired; a Son, not a possession;
a Maker, not made; a Creator, not created; Who is whatever the Father is.
Son, I say, and Father. Note with me these particular terms. While remaining
as Son, He is all the Father is; as the words of the Lord Himself bear
witness, saying: All things whatsoever the Father hath, are mine (Jn.
xvi. 15). All that belongs to the First Form, is found also in the Image.
For, we saw his glory, says the Evangelist, the glory as it were
of the Only-Begotten of the Father (Jn. i. 14); that is, He has not
received all these wondrous things by gift or by grace, but by reason of
their common Nature the Son shares with the Father the glory of the Godhead.
For to receive, is common to everything created; to have by nature, belongs
only to one who has been begotten. As Son therefore He possesses all that
the Father possesses; and as the Only-Begotten, He holds this all within
Himself as His; sharing no part of it with another. From this that He is
called Son, we learn that He shares His Father’s Nature, that He was not
created by the Divine command, but that beaming forth unceasingly from
His Substance, united timelessly to the Father, He is equal to Him in Goodness,
equal in Power, equal in Majesty. For what is He but His Seal and Image,
wholly manifesting the Father in Himself?
All that is said to you after this of His bodily state, of the Plan
of man’s redemption, that He showed Himself to us clothed in Flesh, His
saying that He was sent, that of Himself He could do nothing, that He had
received a command, and such things, let none of these give you grounds
to lessen in any way the Godhead of the Only-Begotten. For the condescension
of His coming down to you, does not lessen the power of His Majesty. Rather,
think of His nature in a manner befitting the Godhead, but accept the lowlier
things spoken of Him as relating to the task of our redemption. And were
we now to speak, with exactness, of these things, we would without noticing
it heap up a vast, an endless number of words upon the subject.
3. But to return to the subject we have set before us. The mind then
that has been able to purify itself of all earthly affections, and to leave
behind it every known creature, and, like some fish from the deep, swim
upwards to the light, now attaining to the purity of the beginning, with
the Father and Son, there shall look upon the Holy Spirit, Who by reason
of His essential Unity of Nature with Them shares also in their Goodness,
Their Justice, Their Holiness, Their Life. For Thy Spirit, it is
written, is good (Ps. cxlii. 10). And again, He is a right Spirit
(Ps. i. 12). And again, He is Thy holy Spirit (v. 13). And the
Apostle also speaks of: The law of the Spirit of life (Rom. viii.
2). Of these things none has been received by Him, none afterwards added
to Him; but as heat is inseparable from fire and radiance from light, so
Sanctification cannot be separated from the Holy Spirit, nor the Giving
of Life, nor Goodness, nor Justice.
There then is the Spirit, there in the Blessed Nature; not numbered
with a multitude, but contemplated in the Trinity; singly made known to
us, not included within the heavenly orders. For as the Father is one,
and the Son one, so likewise is the Holy Ghost one. But the ministering
spirits each in their single order, shine forth to us an innumerable host.
Seek not then among creatures that Which is above creation. And lower not
the Sanctifier among those He sanctifies. He fills the Angels, He fills
the Archangels, He sanctifies the Powers He gives life to all. He is divided
among all creatures, and though partaken of in different measure by each
yet in nothing is He lessened by those who partake of Him. To all He gives
of His grace, remaining unconsumed by those who partake of it. And while
they who receive arc filled, in nothing is He lessened. And just as the
sun shines on our bodies and is enjoyed by them in varying degrees, while
in no way is its heat diminished by those who share in it, so also the
Spirit, while giving of His grace to all, remains Himself whole and undivided.
He enlightens all men, that they may know God. He breathes upon the
Prophets, He gives wisdom to lawmakers, He consecrates priests, fills kings
with strength, perfects the just, honours the wise and prudent, works in
the gifts of healing, gives life to the dead, frees those who are in bonds,
and of strangers makes children of adoption. And all this He accomplishes
through the new birth (cf. Jn. iii. 4). He finds a publican who
now believes, and makes him an Evangelist (Mt. ix. 9). He comes upon one
who is a fisherman, and makes him a Teacher of divine things (Mt. iv. 19).
He comes upon a persecutor who has repented, and makes him the Apostle
0f the Gentiles, a Preacher of the Faith, a Vessel of election (Acts ix.
Through Him the weak become strong, the poor rich, the ignorant become
wiser than the wise. Paul was weak, yet, through the Presence of the Spirit,
the cloths that wiped the sweat of his body brought healing to those who
touched them (Acts xix. 12). Peter too was clothed in a weak body, yet
through the grace of the Spirit dwelling within him, the shadow of his
body delivered the sick from their infirmities (Acts v. is).
Peter and John were poor — for they had neither gold nor silver —yet
they bestowed a healing more precious than much gold. The lame man that
sat at the gate of the Temple received money from many people, yet remained
a beggar. But receiving this grace from Peter he ceased to be a beggar,
and leaping like a deer he began to praise God (Acts iii. 6). John
knew not the wisdom of this world, but through the power of the Spirit
he speaks of things that no human wisdom could come to know.
The Spirit dwells in heaven, yet fills the earth; and though present
everywhere, is nowhere contained. He dwells Whole in each one, yet is wholly
with God. He distributes His gifts, not as one who ministers, but of His
own authority gives graces as He wills; for He distributes, says
the Scriptures, his gifts to each one as he wishes (I Cor. xii.
11). He is sent in the Divine Plan of our Redemption, but acts of His own
power. Let us beg of Him to help us by His Presence in our souls, and that
He may never depart from us, through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
to Whom be glory and honour world without end. Amen.