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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol IX:
Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew.: Chapter IV

Early Church Fathers  Index     

4.  Spiritual Epileptics.

But since our present object is not to make inquiry about every case, but about the passage before us, let us, adopting a figurative interpretation, consider who we may say the lunatic was, and who was his father who prayed for him, and what is meant by the sufferer falling not constantly but oft-times, sometimes into the fire, and sometimes into the water, and what is meant by the fact that he could not be healed by the disciples but by Jesus Himself.  For if every sickness and every infirmity, which our Saviour then healed among the people, refers to different disorders in souls, it is also in accordance with reason that by the paralytics are symbolised the palsied in soul, who keep it lying paralysed in the body; but by those who are blind are symbolised those who are blind in respect of things seen by the soul alone, and these are really blind; and by the deaf are symbolised those who are deaf in regard to the reception of the word of salvation.  On the same principle it will be necessary that the matters regarding the epileptic should be investigated.  Now this affection attacks the sufferers at considerable intervals, during which he who suffers from it seems in no way to differ from the man in good health, at the season when the epilepsy is not working on him.  Similar disorders you may find in certain souls, which are often supposed to be healthy in point of temperance and the other virtues; then, sometimes, as if they were seized with a kind of epilepsy arising from their passions, they fall down from the position in which they seemed to stand, and are drawn away by the deceit of this world and other lusts.  Perhaps, therefore, you would not err if you said, that such persons, so to speak, are epileptic spiritually, having been cast down by “the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places,” 5864 and are often ill, at the time when the passions attack their soul; at one time falling into the fire of burnings, when, according to what is said in Hosea, they become adulterers, like a pan heated for the cooking from the burning flame; 5865 and, at another time, into the water, when the king of all the dragons in the waters casts them down from the sphere where they appeared to breath freely, so that they come into the depths of the waves of the sea of human life.  This interpretation of ours in regard to the lunatic will be supported by him who says in the Book of Wisdom with reference to the even temperament of the just man, “The discourse of a pious man is always wisdom,” but, in regard to what we have said, “The fool changes as the moon.” 5866   And sometimes even in the case of such you may see impulses which might carry away in praise of them those who do not attend to their want of ballast, so that they would say that it was as full moon in their case, or almost full moon.  And you might see again the light that seemed to be in them dimp. 478 inishing ,—as it was not the light of day but the light of night,—fading to so great an extent, that the light which appeared to be seen in them no longer existed.  But whether or not those who first gave their names to things, on account of this gave the name of lunacy to the disease epilepsy, you will judge for yourself.


Footnotes

477:5864

Eph. vi. 12.

477:5865

Hos. vii. 4.

477:5866

Ecclesiasticus 27.11.


Next: Chapter V

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