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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 16

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 16.—Of the Things Pertaining to Christ and the Church, Said Either Openly or Tropically in the 45th Psalm.

For whatever direct and manifest prophetic utterances there may be about anything, it is necessary that those which are tropical should be mingled with them; which, chiefly on account of those of slower understanding, thrust upon the more learned the laborious task of clearing up and expounding them.  Some of them, indeed, on the very first blush, as soon as they are spoken, exhibit Christ and the Church, although some things in them that are less intelligible remain to be expounded at leisure.  We have an example of this in that same Book of Psalms:  “My heart bubbled up a good matter:  I utter my words to the king.  My tongue is the pen of a scribe, writing swiftly.  Thy form is beautiful beyond the sons of men; grace is poured out in Thy lips:  therefore God hath blessed Thee for evermore.  Gird Thy sword about Thy thigh, O Most Mighty.  With Thy goodliness and Thy beauty go forward, proceed prosperously, and reign, because of Thy truth, and meekness, and righteousness; and Thy right hand shall lead Thee forth wonderfully.  Thy sharp arrows are most powerful:  in the heart of the king’s enemies.  The people shall fall under Thee.  Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever:  a rod of direction is the rod of Thy kingdom.  Thou hast loved righteousness, and hast hated iniquity:  therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of exultation above Thy fellows.  Myrrh and drops, and cassia from Thy vestments, from the houses of ivory:  out of which the daughters of kings have delighted Thee in Thine honor.” 1083   Who is there, no matter how slow, p. 354 but must here recognize Christ whom we preach, and in whom we believe, if he hears that He is God, whose throne is for ever and ever, and that He is anointed by God, as God indeed anoints, not with a visible, but with a spiritual and intelligible chrism?  For who is so untaught in this religion, or so deaf to its far and wide spread fame, as not to know that Christ is named from this chrism, that is, from this anointing?  But when it is acknowledged that this King is Christ, let each one who is already subject to Him who reigns because of truth, meekness, and righteousness, inquire at his leisure into these other things that are here said tropically:  how His form is beautiful beyond the sons of men, with a certain beauty that is the more to be loved and admired the less it is corporeal; and what His sword, arrows, and other things of that kind may be, which are set down, not properly, but tropically.

Then let him look upon His Church, joined to her so great Husband in spiritual marriage and divine love, of which it is said in these words which follow, “The queen stood upon Thy right hand in gold-embroidered vestments, girded about with variety.  Hearken, O daughter, and look, and incline thine ear; forget also thy people, and thy father’s house.  Because the King hath greatly desired thy beauty; for He is the Lord thy God.  And the daughters of Tyre shall worship Him with gifts; the rich among the people shall entreat Thy face.  The daughter of the King has all her glory within, in golden fringes, girded about with variety.  The virgins shall be brought after her to the King:  her neighbors shall be brought to Thee.  They shall be brought with gladness and exultation:  they shall be led into the temple of the King.  Instead of thy fathers, sons shall be born to thee:  thou shalt establish them as princes over all the earth.  They shall be mindful of thy name in every generation and descent.  Therefore shall the people acknowledge thee for evermore, even for ever and ever.” 1084   I do not think any one is so stupid as to believe that some poor woman is here praised and described, as the spouse, to wit, of Him to whom it is said, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever:  a rod of direction is the rod of Thy kingdom.  Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity:  therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of exultation above Thy fellows;” 1085 that is, plainly, Christ above Christians.  For these are His fellows, out of the unity and concord of whom in all nations that queen is formed, as it is said of her in another psalm, “The city of the great King.” 1086   The same is Sion spiritually, which name in Latin is interpreted speculatio (discovery); for she descries the great good of the world to come, because her attention is directed thither.  In the same way she is also Jerusalem spiritually, of which we have already said many things.  Her enemy is the city of the devil, Babylon, which is interpreted “confusion.”  Yet out of this Babylon this queen is in all nations set free by regeneration, and passes from the worst to the best King,—that is, from the devil to Christ.  Wherefore it is said to her, “Forget thy people and thy father’s house.”  Of this impious city those also are a portion who are Israelites only in the flesh and not by faith, enemies also of this great King Himself, and of His queen.  For Christ, having come to them, and been slain by them, has the more become the King of others, whom He did not see in the flesh.  Whence our King Himself says through the prophecy of a certain psalm, “Thou wilt deliver me from the contradictions of the people; Thou wilt make me head of the nations.  A people whom I have not known hath served me:  in the hearing of the ear it hath obeyed me.” 1087   Therefore this people of the nations, which Christ did not know in His bodily presence, yet has believed in that Christ as announced to it; so that it might be said of it with good reason, “In the hearing of the ear it hath obeyed me,” for “faith is by hearing.” 1088   This people, I say, added to those who are the true Israelites both by the flesh and by faith, is the city of God, which has brought forth Christ Himself according to the flesh, since He was in these Israelites only.  For thence came the Virgin Mary, in whom Christ assumed flesh that He might be man.  Of which city another psalm says, “Mother Sion, shall a man say, and the man is made in her, and the Highest Himself hath founded her.” 1089   Who is this Highest, save God?  And thus Christ, who is God, before He became man through Mary in that city, Himself founded it by the patriarchs and prophets.  As therefore was said by prophecy so long before to this queen, the city of God, what we already can see fulfilled, “Instead of thy fathers, sons are born to thee; thou shall make them princes over all the earth;” 1090 so out of her sons truly are set up even her fathers [princes] through all the earth, when the people, coming together to her, confess to her with the confession of eternal praise for ever and ever.  Beyond doubt, whatever p. 355 interpretation is put on what is here expressed somewhat darkly in figurative language, ought to be in agreement with these most manifest things.


Footnotes

353:1083

Ps. 45.1-9..

354:1084

Ps. 45.9-17.

354:1085

Ps. 45.7.

354:1086

Ps. 48.2.

354:1087

Ps. 18.43.

354:1088

Rom. 10.5.

354:1089

Ps. 87.5.

354:1090

Ps. 45.16.


Next: Chapter 17

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