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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. X:
Dogmatic Treatises, Ethical Works, and Sermons.: Introduction.

Early Church Fathers  Index     


The Three Persons of the Godhead were not unknown to the judges of old nor to Moses, for the equality of the Son with the Father, as well as of the Three Persons amongst Themselves, is laid down both elsewhere and by him. Samson also enjoyed the assistance of the Holy Spirit, his history is touched upon and shown to be in some points typical of the Church and her mysteries. When the Holy Spirit left Samson he fell into various calamities, and St. Ambrose explains the spiritual significance of his shorn locks.

1. Even in reading the first book of the ancient history it is made clear both that the sevenfold grace of the Spirit shone forth in the judges themselves of the Jews, and that the mysteries of the heavenly sacraments were made known by the Spirit, of Whose eternity Moses was not ignorant. Then, too, at the very beginning of the world, and indeed before its beginning, he conjoined Him with God, Whom he knew to be eternal before the beginning of the world. For if any one takes good heed he will recognize in the beginning both the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. For of the Father it is written: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” 1006 Of the Spirit it is said: “The Spirit was borne upon the waters.” 1007 And well in the beginning of creation is there set forth the figure of baptism whereby the creature had to be purified. And of the Son we read that He it is Who divided light from darkness, for there is one God the Father Who speaks, and one God the Son Who acts.

2. But, again, that you may not think that there was assumption in the bidding of Him Who spoke, or inferiority on the part of Him Who carried out the bidding, the Father acknowledges the Son as equal to Himself in the execution of the work, saying: “Let Us make man after Our image and likeness.” 1008 For the common image and the working and the likeness can signify nothing but the oneness of the same Majesty.

3. But that we may more fully recognize the equality of the Father and the Son, as the Father spoke, the Son made, so, too, the Father works and the Son speaks. The Father works, as it is written: “My Father worketh hitherto.” 1009 You find it said to the Son: “Say the word and he shall be healed.” 1010 And the Son says to the Father: “I will that where I am, they too shall be with Me.” 1011 The Father did what the Son said.

4. But neither was Abraham ignorant of the Holy Spirit; he saw Three and worshipped One, for there is one God, one Lord, and one Spirit. And so there is a oneness of honour, because there is a oneness of power.

5. And why should I speak of all one by one? Samson, born by the divine promise, had the Spirit accompanying him, for we read: “The Lord blessed him, and the Spirit of the Lord began to be with him in the camp.” 1012 And so foreshadowing the future mystery, he demanded a wife of the aliens, which, as it is written, his father and mother knew not of, because it was from the Lord. And rightly was he esteemed stronger than others, because the Spirit of the Lord guided him, under Whose guidance he alone put to flight the people of the aliens, and at another time inaccessible to the bite of the lion, he, unconquerable in his strength, tore him asunder with his hands. Would that he had been as careful to preserve grace, as strong to overcome the beast!

p. 116 6. And perhaps this was not only a prodigy of valour, but also a mystery of wisdom, an utterance of prophecy. For it does not seem to have been without a purpose that, as he was going to his marriage, a roaring lion met him, which he tore asunder with his hands, in whose body, when about to enjoy the wished-for wedlock, he found a swarm of bees, and took honey from its mouth, which he gave to his father and mother to eat. The people of the Gentiles which believed had honey, the people which was before savage is now the people of Christ.

7. Nor is the riddle without mystery, which he set forth to his companions: “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.” 1013 And there was a mystery up to the point of the three days in which its answer was sought in vain, which could not be made known except by the faith of the Church, on the seventh day, the time of the Law being completed, after the Passion of the Lord. For thus you find that the apostles did not understand, “because Jesus was not yet glorified.” 1014

8. “What,” answer they, “is sweeter than honey, and what is stronger than a lion?” To which he replied: “If ye had not farmed with my heifer, you would not have found out my riddle.” 1015 O divine mystery! O manifest sacrament! we have escaped from the slayer, we have overcome the strong one. The food of life is now there, where before was the hunger of a miserable death. Dangers are changed into safety, bitterness into sweetness. Grace came forth from the offence, power from weakness, and life from death.

9. There are, however, who think on the other hand that the wedlock could not have been established unless the lion of the tribe of Judah had been slain; and so in His body, that is, the Church, bees were found who store up the honey of wisdom, because after the Passion of the Lord the apostles believed more fully. This lion, then, Samson as a Jew slew, but in it he found honey, as in the figure of the heritage which was to be redeemed, that the remnant might be saved according to the election of grace. 1016

10. “And the Spirit of the Lord,” it is said, “came upon him, and he went down to Ascalon, and smote thirty men of them.” 1017 For he could not fail to carry off the victory who saw the mysteries. And so in the garments they receive the reward of wisdom, the badge of intercourse, who resolve and answer the riddle.

11. Here, again, other mysteries come up, in that his wife is taken away, and for this foxes set fire to the sheaves of the aliens. For their own cunning often deceives those who contend against divine mysteries. Wherefore it is said again in the Song of Songs: “Take us the little foxes which destroy the vineyards, that our vineyards may flourish.” 1018 He said well “little,” because the larger could not destroy the vineyards, though to the strong even the devil is weak.

12. So, then, he (to sum up the story briefly, for the consideration of the whole passage is reserved for its own season) was unconquered so long as he kept the grace of the Spirit, as was the people of God chosen by the Lord, that Nazarite under the Law. Samson, then, was unconquered, and so invincible as to be able to smite a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass; 1019 so full of heavenly grace that when thirsty he found even water in the jawbone of an ass, whether you consider this as a miracle, or turn it to a mystery, because in the humility of the people of the Gentiles there would be both rest and triumph according to that which is written: “He that smiteth thee on the cheek, turn to him also the other.” 1020 For by this endurance of injuries, which the sacrament of baptism teaches, we triumph over the stings of anger, that having passed through death we may attain to the rest of the resurrection.

13. Is that, then, Samson who broke ropes twisted with thongs, and new cords like weak threads? Is that Samson who did not feel the bonds of his hair fastened to the beam, so long as he had the grace of the Spirit? He, I say, after the Spirit of God departed from him, was greatly changed from that Samson Who returned clothed in the spoils of the aliens, but fallen from his greatness on the knees of a woman, caressed and deceived, is shorn of his hair. 1021

14. Was, then, the hair of his head of such importance that, so long as it remained, his strength should endure unconquered, but when his head was shorn the man should suddenly lose all his strength? It is not so, nor may we think that the hair of his head has such power. There is the hair of religion and faith; the hair of the Nazarite p. 117 perfect in the Law, consecrated in sparingness and abstinence, with which she (a type of the Church), who poured ointment on the feet of the Lord, wiped the feet of the heavenly Word, for then she knew Christ also after the flesh. That hair it is of which it is said: “Thy hair is as flocks of goats,” 1022 growing on that head of which it is said: “The head of the man is Christ,” 1023 and in another place: “His head is as fine gold, and his locks like black pine-trees.” 1024

15. And so, also, in the Gospel our Lord, pointing out that some hairs are seen and known, says: “But even the hairs of your head are all numbered,” 1025 implying, indeed, acts of spiritual virtues, for God does not take care for our hair. Though, indeed, it is not absurd to believe that literally, seeing that according to His divine Majesty nothing can be hidden from Him.

16. But what does it profit me, if God Himself knows all my hairs? That rather abounds and profits me, if the watchful witness of good works reward me with the gift of eternal life. And, in fine, Samson himself, declaring that these hairs are not mystical, says: “If I be shorn my strength will depart from me.” 1026 So much concerning the mystery, let us now consider the order of the passage.



Gen. i. 1.


Gen. i. 4.


Gen. i. 26.


S. John v. 17.


S. Matt. viii. 8.


S. John xvii. 24.


Judg. xiii. 25.


Judg. xiv. 14.


S. John vii. 39.


Judg. xiv. 18.


Rom. xi. 5.


Judg. xiv. 19.


Song of Sol. 2.15.


Judg. xv. 15.


S. Matt. v. 39.


Judg. 16:7, 11, 19.


Song of Sol. 4.1.


1 Cor. xi. 3.


Song of Sol. 5.11.


S. Matt. x. 30.


Judg. xvi. 17.

Next: Chapter I. The Spirit is the Lord and Power; and in this is not inferior to the Father and the Son.

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