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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XI:
The Works of John Cassian.: Chapter IX. How those are wrong who say that the birth of Christ was a secret, since it was clearly shown even to the patriarch Jacob.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter IX.

How those are wrong who say that the birth of Christ was a secret, since it was clearly shown even to the patriarch Jacob.

But I suppose you excuse the degradation offered to the Lord by means of a subordinate honour, by the words “as the image of the secret God.” By the fact that you term Him an image you compare Him to man’s estate. In speaking of Him as the image of the secret God, you detract from the honour plainly due to Him. For “God,” says David, “shall plainly come; our God, and shall not keep silence.” 2615 And He surely came and did not keep silence, who before that He in His own person uttered anything after His birth, made known His advent by both earthly and heavenly witnesses alike, while the star points Him out, the magi adore Him, and angels declare Him. What more do you want? His voice was yet silent on earth, and His glory was already crying aloud in heaven. Do you say then that God was and is secret in Him? But this was not the announcement of the Prophets, of the Patriarchs, aye and of the whole Law. For they did not say that He would be secret, whose coming they all foretold. You err in your wretched blindness, seeking grounds for blasphemy and not finding them. You say that He was secret even after His advent. I maintain that He was not secret even before His advent. For did the mystery of God to be born of a Virgin escape the knowledge of that celebrated Patriarch on whom the vision of God present with him conferred a title, whereby from the name of Supplanter he rose to the name of Israel? Who, when from the struggle with the man who wrestled with him he understood the mystery of the Incarnation yet to come, said, “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” 2616 What, I pray you, had he seen, for him to believe that he had seen God? Did God manifest Himself to him in the midst of thunder and lightning? or when the heavens were opened, did the dazzling face of the Deity show itself to him? Most certainly not: but rather on the contrary he saw a man and acknowledged a God. O truly worthy of the name he received, as with the eyes of the soul rather than of the body he earned the honour of a title given by God! He saw a human form wrestling with him, and declared that he saw God. He certainly knew that human form was indeed God: for in that form in which God then appeared, in the selfsame form He was in very truth afterwards to come. Although why should we be surprised that so great a patriarch unhesitatingly believed what God Himself so plainly showed in His own Person to him, when he said, “I have seen God face to face and my life is preserved.” How did God show to him so much of the presence of Deity, that he could say that the face of God was shown to him? For it seems that only a man had appeared to him, whom he had actually beaten in the struggle. But God was certainly bringing this about by precursory signs, that there might not be any one to disbelieve p. 610 that God was born of man, when already long before the Patriarch had seen God in human form.


Footnotes

609:2615

Psa. 50.3.

609:2616

Gen. xxxii. 30. The name Israel was in the 4th and 5th centuries commonly explained to mean the “man seeing God” as if it came from שּׁיא, האָרָ, and לא”· S. Jerome (Quæst. in Genesim c. xxxii. ver. 27, 28) rejects this interpretation as forced and prefers “a Prince with God.” Hence the rendering in the A.V. “For as a prince hast thou power with God and with men and hast prevailed.” This however is now generally rejected, and the right interpretation of the name appears to be “He who striveth with God.” Cf. R.V. “For thou hast striven with God and men, and hast prevailed.” Cf. the Conferences, Pref. and V. xxiii. XII. xi.


Next: Chapter X. He collects more witnesses of the same fact.

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