Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Ascetic and Moral Treatises.: Chapter XX
Now it is impossible, as far as manual exercise goes, to ply two arts at once; for instance, husbandry and sailing, or tinkering and carpentering. If one is to be honestly taken in hand, the other must be left alone. Just so, there are these two marriages for our choice, the one effected in the flesh, the other in the spirit; and preoccupation in the one must cause of necessity alienation from the other. No more is the eye able to look at two objects at once; but it must concentrate its special attention on one at a time; no more can the tongue effect utterances in two different languages, so as to pronounce, for instance, a Hebrew word and a Greek word in the same moment: no more can the ear take in at one and the same time a narrative of facts, and a hortatory discourse; if each special tone is heard separately, it will impress its ideas upon the hearers minds; but if they are combined and so poured into the ear, an inextricable confusion of ideas will be the result, one meaning being mutually lost in the other: and no more, by analogy, do our emotional powers possess a nature which can at once pursue the pleasures of sense and court the spiritual union; nor, besides, can both those ends be gained by the same courses of life; continence, mortification of the passions, scorn of fleshly needs, are the agents of the one union; but all that are the reverse of these are the agents of bodily habitation. As, when two masters are before us to choose between, and we cannot be subject to both, for “no man can serve two masters 1485 ,” he who is wise will choose the one most useful to himself, so, when two marriages are before us to choose between, and we cannot contract both, for “he that is unmarried cares for the things of p. 366 the Lord, but he that is married careth for the things of the world 1486 ,” I repeat that it would be the aim of a sound mind not to miss choosing the more profitable one; and not to be ignorant either of the way which will lead it to this, a way which cannot be learnt but by some such comparison as the following. In the case of a marriage of this world a man who is anxious to avoid appearing altogether insignificant pays the greatest attention both to physical health, and becoming adornment, and amplitude of means and the security from any disgraceful revelations as to his antecedents or his parentage; for so he thinks things will be most likely to turn out as he wishes. Now just in the same way the man who is courting the spiritual alliance will first of all display himself, by the renewal of his mind 1487 , a young man, without a single touch of age upon him; next he will reveal a lineage rich in that in which it is a noble ambition to be rich, not priding himself on worldly wealth, but luxuriating only in the heavenly treasures. As for family distinction, he will not vaunt that which comes by the mere routine of devolution even to numbers of the worthless, but that which is gained by the successful efforts of his own zeal and labours; a distinction which only those can boast of who are “sons of the light” and children of God, and are styled “nobles from the sunrise 1488 ” because of their splendid deeds. Strength and health he will not try to gain by bodily training and feeding, but by all that is the contrary of this, perfecting the spirits strength in the bodys weakness. I could tell also of the suitors gifts to the bride in such a wedding 1489 ; they are not procured by the money that perishes, but are contributed out of the wealth peculiar to the soul. Would you know their names? You must hear from Paul, that excellent adorner of the Bride 1490 , in what the wealth of those consists who in everything commend themselves. He mentions much else that is priceless in it, and adds, “in chastity 1491 ”; and besides this all the recognized fruits of the spirit from any quarter whatever are gifts of this marriage. If a man is going to carry out the advice of Solomon and take for helpmate and life-companion that true Wisdom of which he says, “Love her, and she shall keep thee,” “honour her, that she may embrace thee 1492 ,” then he will prepare himself in a manner worthy of such a love, so as to feast with all the joyous wedding guests in spotless raiment, and not be cast forth, while claiming to sit at that feast, for not having put on the wedding garment. It is plain moreover that the argument applies equally to men and women, to move them towards such a marriage. “There is neither male nor female 1493 ,” the Apostle says; “Christ is all, and in all 1494 ”; and so it is equally reasonable that he who is enamoured of wisdom should hold the Object of his passionate desire, Who is the True Wisdom; and that the soul which cleaves to the undying Bridegroom should have the fruition of her love for the true Wisdom, which is God. We have now sufficiently revealed the nature of the spiritual union, and the Object of the pure and heavenly Love.
S. Matt. vi. 24366:1486
1 Cor. vii. 32.366:1487
See Eph. 4:22, 23.366:1488
See S. Matt. 8:11, Luke 13:29Matt. viii. 11; S. Luke xiii. 29. The same expression (εὐγενὴς τῶν ἀφ᾽ ἡλίου ἀνατολῶν) is used of Meletius, in Gregorys funeral oration on him.366:1489
τὰ ἕδνα τοῦ γάμου, i.e. given by the bridegroom. The Juris-consults called it Donatio propter nuptias, or simply Donatio. The human soul here espouses Wisdom, i.e. Christ, as its Bride. See below, where Prov. iv. 6 is quoted.366:1490
2 Cor. vi. 6.366:1492
Prov. iv. 6.366:1493
Gal. iii. 28.366:1494
Col. iii. 11.
Next: Chapter XXI
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