Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XI:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Works of John Cassian.: Chapter II. He meets the objection taken from these words: No one gave birth to one who had existed before her.
He meets the objection taken from these words: No one gave birth to one who had existed before her.
And before I begin to speak of those things of which I have given no foretaste in the earlier books, I think it right to try to carry out what I have already promised, that when I have thoroughly redeemed my pledge, I may begin to speak more freely of what has not been touched upon, after having satisfied my promise. So then that new serpent, in order to destroy the faith of the holy nativity, hisses out against the Church of God and says: “No one ever gives birth to one older than herself.” To begin with then I think that you know neither what you say nor where you get it from. For if you knew or understood where you got it from, you would never regard the nativity of the only begotten of God in the light of human fancies, nor would you try to settle by merely human propositions, about Him who was born without His conception originating from man: nor would you bring human impossibilities as objections against Divine Omnipotence if you knew that with God nothing was impossible. No one then, you say, gives birth to one older than herself. Tell me then, I pray, of what cases are you speaking, for the nature of what creatures do you think that you can lay down rules? Do you suppose that you can fix laws for men or beasts or birds or cattle? Those (and others of the same kind) are the things of which such assertions can be made. For none of them is able to produce one older than itself; for what has already been produced cannot return to it again so as to be born again by a new creation. And so no one can bear one older than herself, as no one can beget one older than himself: for the opportunity of bearing only results where there is the possibility of begetting. Do you then imagine that in reference to the nativity of Almighty God regard must be had to the same considerations as in the birth of earthly creatures? And do you bring the nature of mans conditions as a difficulty in the case of Him who is Himself the p. 605 author of nature? You see then that, as I said above, you know not whence or of whom you are talking, as you are comparing creatures to the Creator; and in order to calculate the power of God are drawing an instance from those things which would never have existed at all, but that the very fact of their existence comes from God. God then came as He would, when He would, and of her whom He would. Neither time nor person, nor the manner of men, nor the custom of creatures was any difficulty with Him; for the law of the creatures could not stand in the way of Him who is Himself the Creator of them all. And whatever He would have possible was ready to His hand, for the power of willing it was His. Do you want to know how far the omnipotence of God extends, and how great it is? I believe that the Lord could do that even in the case of His creatures which you do not believe that He could do in His own case. For all living creatures which now bear things younger than themselves could, if only God gave the word, bear things much older than themselves. For even food and drink, if it were Gods will, could be turned into the fœtus and offspring: and even water, which has been flowing from the beginning of things, and which all living creatures use, could, if God gave the word, be made a body in the womb, and have birth given to it. For who can set a limit to divine works, or circumscribe Divine Providence? or who (to use the words of Scripture) can say to Him “What doest thou?” 2601 If you deny that God can do all things, then deny, that, when God was born, one older than Mary could be born of her. But if there is nothing impossible with God, why do you bring as an objection against His coming an impossibility, when you know that for Him nothing is impossible in anything?
Isa. 45:9, Rom. 9:20.
Next: Chapter III. He replies to the cavil that the one who is born must be of one substance with the one who bears.
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