Gregorius Moralia EN 567
and he found wickedness in his angels. How much more shall the ones who dwell in houses of mud, who have a foundation of earth, be eaten up as if by moths? (Jb 4,18-19)
Even when angelic nature clings to contemplation of its creator and abides forever unchangeably in its original state, still it suffers some alternation of changeableness in itself for the mere fact that it is a created being. But to be changed from one thing to another is to be intrinsically unstable. Everything tends to become something else to the extent that it is subject to the movements of mutability. Only the nature that is incomprehensible is unable to be moved from its original state, not knowing how to change because it is always the same. If angelic substance had been entirely untouched by mutability, it would never have fallen, as the reprobate spirits did, from the citadel of its blessedness, having been created good by the creator. But almighty God wonderfully made the nature of the highest spirits good but mutable, so that those who did not wish to stand might fall and those who remained as they were created might stand the more worthily because they stood by their own choice. And they would be the more deserving with God for having brought their motion to a halt through the power of the will. Because therefore even the angelic nature by itself is mutable, but conquered that mutability by binding itself in chains of love to the one who is always the same, it is now rightly said, "Behold, the ones who serve him do not stand fast." And evidence of that mutability is immediately added, when it is said of the apostate spirits, "and he found wickedness among his angels."
From the angels' fall, Eliphaz wisely understands something of human infirmity, for he adds, "How much more shall the ones who dwell in houses of mud, who have a foundation of earth, be eaten up as if by moths?" We dwell in houses of mud because we exist in bodies made of earth. Paul said of this well, "We have this treasure in earthen vessels." And again: "We know that if this earthly home of our dwelling should be dissolved that we have our support from God, a house not made of hands." A foundation of earth is the substance of the flesh: the psalmist observed this carefully in himself, saying, "My face is not hidden from you, which you made in secret, and my substance in the depths of the earth." Moths come from clothing and, as they come, corrupt the clothing they come from. The flesh is a kind of clothing of the soul; but this clothing has its moths because from it the temptation of the flesh comes, by which the soul is torn. Our clothing is eaten by moths of its own when the corruptible flesh gives birth to temptation and through this leads itself to ruin. Man is consumed by a moth when what wears him away comes from himself. This is as if to say openly, 'If those spirits which were burdened by no weakness of the flesh could not be immutable how do men arrogantly think that they can abide forever in the good when the weakness of the flesh drags them down and impedes their understanding as it reaches for the heights? Through the vice of corruption they have in themselves the cource of the oldness that alters the freshness within.
569 The angels can also be taken as holy scholars,
as it says in the prophet, "The lips of the priest preserve knowledge and they will seek the law from his mouth, because he is the messenger [angelus] of the Lord of hosts." However great the virtue with which they shine, they cannot be entirely without fault when they follow the path of the present life, because their step may be tainted by the mud of illicit acts or the dust of thought. They dwell in houses of mud when they rejoice in this enticing life of the flesh. Paul belittled the thought of living in these houses of mud when he said, "Our dwelling is in heaven." To let it be said, "Behold, the ones who serve him to not stand fast and he found wickedness among his angels. How much more shall the ones who dwell in houses of mud, who have a foundation of earth, be eaten as if by moths?" This is as if to say openly, 'If people who proclaim eternal things and gird themselves to endure worldly things cannot pass through the road of this life without being infected, what disadvantages will not be sustained by the people who rejoice to be among the delights of the flesh's dwelling place?' The people who serve him are not standing fast, because when the mind reaches for the heights, it is distracted by the thoughts of the flesh. So often the mind, eager for what is within, looking only to heaven, is struck with sudden pleasure of the flesh; divided from itself it lies prostrate and, though it thought it had conquered its troubles and weakness, groans to find itself laid low by a sudden wound.
Wickedness is found in the angels as well, for even those who proclaim the truth are sometimes dragged down by the temptation of the deceptive life here. So if the ones whose holy intentions had stiffened them to face the wickedness of this world are smitten by it, what blows will not succeed in reaching those who lie cast down before its arrows by their delight in weakness? They are well said to be eaten up by moths, for the moth does his damage and makes no sound; so the minds of the wicked, because they fail to think about the injuries they suffer, lose their integrity in ignorance. They lose the innocence of the heart, the truth of the mouth, the continence of the flesh, and, as time passes, life itself. But they do not see themselves losing these things as they go, for they are totally wrapped up in worldly cares by their desires. So they are eaten up by moths, because there is no sound as they bear the bite of sin, unaware of the damage done to their life and to their innocence. So it is well added,
570 (Jb 4,20)
The sinner is cut down from morning to evening when he wounds himself by the doing of wickedness from the beginning of his life to the end. At all times the reprobate are redoubling the blows of malice against themselves by which they are cut down to fall to the depths. Of them it is well put by the psalmist, "Men of blood and deceitful ones shall not cut their days in half." To cut your days in half is to divide the time of your life badly spent on pleasure, to leave room for the laments of repentance, and thus by measuring out your life to repair it to a good use. But the wicked do not cut their days in half because they change their perverse mind not at all, not even at the end. Against them Paul warns us well, saying, "Redeeming the time, because the days are wicked." We redeem the time when we repair our past life with tears, the life we had wasted in lasciviousness.
571 (Jb 4,20)
None, none of those who are cut down from morning to evening, none of those who perish or who imitate the evil ways of those who perish, none understand. So it is written elsewhere, "The just man perishes and there is no one who thinks of it in his heart, and men of mercy are gathered together, because there is none who understands." So when wicked men seek temporal goods alone, they despise the goods that abide for the elect forever. When they see that the just are afflicted and do not recognize the reward that awaits beyond this affliction, they place their foot on the path to the pit, because they have voluntarily closed their eyes from the light that gives understanding. Deceived by their folly and pleasure, they love the worldly things they see and do not see that they are alienated from themselves, plunging into eternal ruin.
Morning can also stand for the prosperity of this world, evening for its adversity. From morning to evening, therefore, the wicked are cut down, because they wallow to perdition in the midst of prosperity, and they quail at adversity and let it drive them to madness. Their guilt would not cut them down from morning to evening, if they would believe that prosperity is a kind of succour for their wounds, or adversity a surgeon's healing knife.
572 But because the whole of the human race is not left
to head down the road to perdition, there are some who despise the enticements of the present life even when they are at hand, recognizing that they are transitory and trampling on them out of love for eternity. And when they place their feet on the first step of right judgment, they reach the higher steps with a livelier step and not only despise earthly things because they must be quickly lost, but they even cease to desire to cling to them, even if they could have them forever. they take their love away from the beautiful things of creation because they turn the steps of the heart towards the author of all that beauty.
And there are those who love the good things of the present life but still do not pursue them. They desire temporal things with all their heart, they seek the glory of this world, but they cannot attain it. The heart, if I may say so, draws these men to the world, but the world repels them to find their heart. Often it happens that they are broken by their adversities, come to their senses and, once restored to themselves, consider the emptiness of the things they were seeking and turn about completely to weep for their foolish wants. And then they desire eternity the more ardently for having worked so foolishly for earthly things for which now they sorrow. So after describing these reprobate people, it does on,
573 (Jb 4,21)
Who are the ones who are left if not the ones despised by the world? When the present age chooses them for no glorious service, it leaves them as the least and most unworthy. But the leftovers of the world are said to be taken away by the Lord because he has deigned to choose the despised of the world, as Paul attests and says, "Not many of the wise according to the flesh, not many of the powerful, not many of the noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak ones of the world to confound the strong."
This is well indicated in the books of Kings by the servant growing weary on the road whom the Amalakite left ill on the road; David found him, refreshed him with food, and made him the guide of his journey. He pursued the Amalakite, found him feasting, and wiped him out utterly. Why does the Amalakite's Egyptian servant grow weary on the road, if not because the lover of this present age, covered with the blackness of his sin, is often left abandoned by the same present age, weak and despised and unable to run with it, broken with adversity and devoid of energy? But David found him because our Redeemer, truly strong of hand, now and again comes upon those despised by the world's glory and converts them with his love. He refreshes him with food, because he feeds him with the knowledge of his word. He makes him the guide for his journey, because he makes him his own preacher. And the one who could not keep up with the Amalakite is made a leader for David, because the one the world has abandoned as unworthy not only converts and receives the Lord in his mind, but by his preaching leads him to the hearts of others. With this leader, David found the Amalakite feasting and wiped him out, because Christ destroys the festivities of the world with such preachers, men whom the world refused to accept as comrades. Because therefore the Lord often chooses those whom the world leaves behind, it is now rightly said, "But the ones who are left will be taken from them:"
574 (Jb 4,21)
Why does he first mention the death of the reprobate ("And because none understand, they will perish forever"), then next speak of the elect of God ("But the ones who are left will be taken from them"), and then immediately add something that does not apply to the elect: "They shall die, and not with wisdom"? If they have been taken away from the reprobate by God, how can they be said to die, "and not with wisdom"? But surely it is the custom of sacred scripture, when it narrates something, to interject a remark on one subject, then return to what went before. After it said, "And because none understand, they will perish forever," it immediately mentioned the fate of the elect, saying, "But the ones who are left will be taken from them." And then it casts an eye back to the death of the wicked already mentioned, and adds suddenly, "They will die, and not with wisdom." As if to say: 'Those whom I said would perish because they do not understand, without doubt they die without wisdom."
But we can show this to be the custom of sacred scripture better if we produce another example like this one. Paul the apostle, when he admonished a beloved disciple how to organize the offices of the church, said, lest any unworthy persons should come forth for sacred orders out of order, "Lay hands on no man quickly, and do not communicate with others' sins: keep yourself chaste." Then he turns aside his words to speak of the weakness of the body, saying, "Drink water no longer, but use a little wine for your stomach, and your recurring illnesses." Immediately he ads: "The sins of some men are manifest, leading them to judgment, but some men's sins follow them behind." What has this statement about the hidden and manifest sins of some men got to do with telling the sick not to drink water? It is just that with a sentence interposed about the weakness of the flesh, he was returning to his earlier subject where he last said, "Lay hands on no man quickly, and do not communicate with others' sins." This shows how vigorously he should examine these sins, when after interposing a counsel of discernment for the troubles of the flesh, he immediately mentioned what is overt in some, hidden in others, saying, "The sins of some men are manifest, leading them on to judgment, but some men's sins follow them behind." In this sentence, then, Paul's words do not readily fit with what he had said about Timothy's illness, but referred back to what he had said before the interruption; similarly in this place, when Eliphaz was speaking of the elect, ("But the ones who are left will be taken from them") he adds, "They will die and not with wisdom," referring to what he had said before, "and because none understand they will perish forever."
575 The reprobate despise the elect
because they reach beyond visible death towards invisible life. Of them it is well said now, "They will die, and not with wisdom." As if it were said openly, 'They flee death and wisdom equally; but they abandon wisdom altogether, without being able to evade the snares of death.' And though they could have found life in death when they were going to die anyway, instead they fear the death that is certainly coming so much that they lose both life and wisdom. On the other hand, the just die with wisdom because they refuse to prolong the life that must end sometime when to do so would require the sacrifice of truth. Bearing death calmly, they turn the penalty imposed on their race into an instrument of virtue and so deserve to receive life on account of just the thing that compels life to end as punishment for the first sin. But because Eliphaz proclaimed these things truthfully against the wicked, thinking blessed Job an object of reproach, he really filled himself up with the pride of wisdom. So after approving great rectitude, he adds words of derision, saying,
576 (Jb 5,1)
Almighty God often deserts the prayer of a troubled man, when that man has despised God's commands in time of tranquility. So it is written, "Whoever turns away his ear so as not to hear the law, his prayer shall be despised." When we call, we beseech God in humble prayer; when God answers, he grants effectiveness to our prayers. Eliphaz says therefore, "Call, then, if there is anyone who will answer you." As if to say openly, 'However much you cry out in affliction, you do not have God to answer you because the voice of tribulation does not find the one whom the mind has despised in tranquility.' So he adds in derision.
577 (Jb 5,1)
As if he should say in contempt, "You can find none of the saints to help you in affliction, since you chose not to have them as comrades when things were happy.' After deriding Job, he passes sentence on him, saying,
578 (Jb 5,2)
This judgment would be true if it had not been directed against a man of such long-suffering. Let us weigh what is said (though it be rejected in consideration of the virtue of the one who heard the sentence) to show how right the sentiment is if it had not been directed against blessed Job; for it is written, "But you, Lord, judge in tranquility." We must take pains to recognize that whenever we restrain the turbulent movements of the soul with gentleness, we are attempting to restore the likeness of our creator in us. When rage batters the tranquility of the mind, it leaves it troubled and battered and torn, at odds with itself, bereft of the strength of the likeness impressed upon it within. We should weigh carefully then the great fault of anger, through which, as gentleness is lost, the likeness we bear to the image from above is spoiled.
Wisdom is lost through anger, so that we no longer know what is to be done in what order, as is written: "Anger rests in the bosom of the fool." When we stir up the mind and confuse it, we take away the light of understanding.
Life is lost through anger, even if wisdom might seem to be kept, as is written, "Anger destroys even the prudent." When the mind is confused it cannot bring wisdom to life, even if prudence has managed some understanding.
Justice is abandoned by anger, as is written, "The wrath of man does not accomplish the justice of God." When the mind is in turmoil it makes the judgment of its rational faculty harsh, and thinks that everything anger suggests is right.
Through anger we lose the pleasure of sharing life with others, as is written, "Do not be too close to aman of anger, lest you might learn his paths and take scandal for your soul." Whoever does not restrain himself with human reason must necessarily live like a beast alone.
Concord is broken through anger, as is written, "A spirited man causes quarrels. And an angry man unearths sin." The angry man unearths sin because he makes even those wicked men whom he carelessly stirs to further discord worse than they were before.
The light of truth is lost through anger, as is written, "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath." When anger covers the mind with the darkness of confusion, God hides from the mind the ray of his knowledge.
Through anger the splendor of the holy spirit is cast aside, of which it is written according to the old translation, "Upon whom shall my spirit rest, if not on the humble and the peaceful and the ones who fear my words?" Saying humble, he adds peaceful right away: so if anger takes away peace of mind, it closes the mind as a dwelling for the holy spirit, and when it departs the mind is empty and soon drawn to open madness, abandoning the inmost foundation of its thoughts to dissipate itself in superficialities.
579 The heart burns and pounds under the stimulus of its anger,
the body shakes, the tongue trips over itself, the face flushes, the eyes flash, and friends go unrecognized. We form our mouth to cry out, but our sense does not know what it is saying. How does a man who is not aware of what he is doing differ from people who are beside themselves? So it often happens that anger takes control even of the hands and, as reason withdraws, anger grows bolder; the mind cannot control itself, because it is subjected to another power; fury drives the limbs to flail around outwardly as it holds the mind, master of the limbs, captive within. But sometimes it does not use the hands, but turns the tongue into a dart barbed with curses. In rage he demands his brother's death with his prayers and wants God to perpetrate the crime which his own perversity would fear or blush to perform. By his prayers and words he becomes a murderer even when his hands refrain from wounding his neighbor.
Sometimes anger compels the afflicted spirit to silence as if out of good judgment, and by not speaking out with its feelings through the tongue, inwardly it burns the worse. so the angry man withdraws from conversation with his fellows, and by saying nothing reveals how hostile he is. (Then sometimes this severe silence works designedly as a discipline, if of course the control of discernment within is strenuously maintained.)
But sometimes when the mind is inflamed, it checks itself from its accustomed speech and as time goes by is cut off almost completely from love of neighbor, and harsher goads come to the mind, and new causes arise to make matters worse. And the mote in the eye of the angry man becomes a beam, as anger is turned into hatred. Often anger, shut up within the mind, grows hotter in silence and, still silently, gives shape to loud words; it casts the words up to itself, making matters worse, and still more angrily responds to itself as if some kind of trial were going on. Solomon hints at this briefly: "The anticipation of the wicked is fury." So it happens that the mind hears a louder uproar in its silence and the flame of repressed anger consumes the mind in its distress. So a wise man before us once said, "The thoughts of an angry man are viperous offspring, and they devour the mind their mother."
580 But note that there are some people
who are quickly enraged, and just as easily abandoned by their anger. Some are slow to anger but cling to their anger longer. Others are like reeds on fire, giving voice to their feelings, like the sounds of flames crackling; they feed the flame quickly but soon grow cool and turn to ash. Others are like harder and heavier woods, taking flame slowly, but once inflamed they are difficult to extinguish and because their hackles were raised more slowly, they keep the flame of their fury longer and harder. But there are others, worse yet, who take flame quickly and give it up slowly. But some both take flame slowly and give it up quickly. In these four kinds of people, the reader will readily recognize that the last is closer to the ideal of tranquility than the first, and that the third is worse than the second. But of what use is it to describe how the mind is possessed by anger, if we do not say how anger can be brought under control?
581 There are two ways in which anger can be broken
and made to let go of the mind. First, the mind, before it begins any action, should consider in advance all the rebukes and insults it could suffer and then consider the indignities visited upon our Redeemer, and so prepare itself for adversity ahead of time. The man who has cautiously foreseen and armed himself against the things that come, bears them with more strength. The man who is caught unawares by adversity is like one caught sleeping by the enemy; the enemy kills him quickly, attacking a defenseless man. Whoever is cautiously aware of threatening dangers is like someone keeping watch in ambush against enemy attack; he is more strongly fortified for victory because the enemy thinks to catch him unawares. So the mind should think carefully, before it begins to act, about all the adversity that can come, so that thinking of these things always, it will be always fortified against them with the breastplate of patience. With its foresight it will overcome whatever happens and will count what does not happen as profit gained.
But the second way to preserve our gentleness is to think of our own sins against others when we see others going too far against us. When we consider our own weakness, we can excuse others' wickedness. The man who compassionately remembers that he has perhaps done something already that cries out to be tolerated is ready to bear some proffered injury calmly. Just as fire is put out by water, so if we call our own faults to mind when we feel the mind rising to anger, we blush at the thought that we might not tolerate others' sins when we remember that we have done things against God or neighbor that demand toleration equally.
582 But in this, we must realize that there is one kind of anger
aroused by impatience, and another shaped by zeal. One comes from a vice, the other from a virtue. If no anger came from virtue, Phineas would never have calmed the thrust of divine punishment with his sword. Because Eli did not have this kind of anger, he stirred the movement of heavenly revenge against himself irresistibly. To the extent that he had been cool in pursuing the vices of those under him, to that extent the punishment of the eternal governor flamed up against him. Of this it is said through the psalmist, "Be angry, and do not sin." Those who want this to apply only to anger against our own sins, and not those of our neighbors, misunderstand the passage. If we are commanded to love our neighbors like ourselves, it is clear that we should be as angry at their transgressions as at our own. Of this it is said through Solomon, "Anger is better than laughter, because the mind of the sinner is admonished by the sadness of the face." Of this again the psalmist says, "My eye is clouded with anger." Anger that comes through vice blinds the eye of the mind, but anger that comes through zeal clouds it, because contemplation is broken up (for it cannot be kept except by a tranquil heart) when the mind is stirred by jealousy for rectitude. Because the zeal for rectitude stirs the mind with restlessness, it soon beclouds the sight, so that it does not in its disturbance see what is higher, what it had seen better before in time of calm. But then it is led back to the heights of vision from which it had been driven away for a time. That jealousy for righteousness reveals eternal things to itself more abundantly in tranquility for having been shut off a little while through its disturbance. The mind draws strength to see truer and brighter from just the source of its disturbance and passing obscurity. So when an ointment is placed on a diseased eye, it loses the light altogether, but then a little later it takes in the light more clearly, having lost it a little while for its own good. Contemplation and disturbance are never together, nor does the mind in turmoil manage to see what it scarcely manages to sigh for in tranquility, for neither is the ray of the sun seen when blustering clouds cover the face of heaven, nor does a troubled spring of waters give back the image of an onlooker which it shows accurately when it is calm, for in the stirring of its waves it loses the appearance of the image in it.
583 But when the mind is moved by zeal,
it must be watched carefully lest the anger that is taken up as an instrument of virtue should become the mind's lord and master; it should be a handmaiden ready to serve, standing calmly behind our rational faculty, never going before like a mistress of a household. Zealous anger is more effectively aroused against sin when it is subordinated to the service of reason. Though anger may rise from the zeal of righteousness, if it is unchecked and controls the mind, it soon refuses to serve reason at all, then spreads itself abroad insolently, thinking the vice of insolence to be a virtue. So it is necessary above all that whoever is stirred by zeal for righteousness should take care that anger not get beyond the control of the mind but, observing the time and the manner, the mind should keep the rising disturbance of the soul carefully under control for the punishment of sin, restraining high spirits and keeping fervent enthusiasm checked by a sense of fairness. So a man punishes others more justly to the extent that he has first triumphed over himself. Before he corrects the faults of others, he should grow in patience and get beyond his ardor, taking care lest he should become unreasonably excited by the zeal of righteousness and wander far from righteousness itself. But because, as we said, even a laudable jealousy for goodness clouds the eye of the mind, it is rightly now said, "Rage has killed the fool." As if to say openly, 'Anger disturbs the wise when it comes through zeal, but anger that comes through vice slays the fools, because the first kind is controlled by reason, but the other kind rules irrationally over a vanquished mind.'
The only ones we can envy are those whom we think are better than we are in some way. The man who is killed by envy is an infant, because he bears witness against himself that he is inferior to the one he envies so painfully. So it is that the clever enemy crept up on the first man out of envy, because having lost his happiness he knew that he was inferior to the immortality of the man. So it is that Cain fell into the commission of fratricide; when his sacrifice was disdained, he was angry that the one whose offering God had accepted was preferred to himself. He cut down the one he saw was better than himself, so that this one would not be at all. So it is that Esau was eager to persecute his brother, because he had lost the blessing due to the first-born, selling it for a mess of pottage, and then lamented that he had become lesser than the one whom he had preceded by right of birth. So it is that Joseph's brothers sold him to the passing Ishmaelites, because they were trying to obstruct his advance lest he become greater than they, once the mystery of revelation was made known. So it is that Saul pursued David his subordinate, hurling his lance, because he sensed that the one who was growing daily with all the virtues was gradually growing beyond Saul's own power. So the one who is killed by envy is an infant because unless he were less than the other, he would not feel sorrow for the good the other enjoyed.
585 But in this we must realize that,
though every sin that is committed spreads abroad in the human heart the poison of the ancient enemy, in this crime particularly, the serpent draws on everything inside him and brings forth the plague of malice to impose on another. It is written of him then, Death came into the world through the devil's envy." When the foulness of envy has corrupted the vanquished heart, even outward appearances show how gravely the soul is afflicted within by madness. The complexion is touched with pallor, the eyes are downcast, the mind is inflamed but the limbs grow cold, there is madness in thought and gnashing of teeth; and when hatred hidden in the thickets of the heart grows greater, a hidden wound pierces the heart with blind grief. It takes no pleasure in what is its own, because its self-inflicted penalty inflames the festering mind, tormented by another's happiness. As someone else's constructions grow tall, the foundations of the inflamed mind are deeply undermined. As others go on to better things, the mind falls more into worse things. In this fall is lost what had seemed well-built by other deeds before. When envy makes the mind disintegrate, it eats away at all that it sees well done. So it is well said through Solomon, "The life of the flesh, health of the heart: but envy is the rot in the bones." What is flesh if not what is weak and tender? And what are the bones if not bold deeds? And often it happens that people who have true innocence of heart may seem weak in some of their deeds; and some doing great deeds in the eyes of the mind are still rotting away within with the pestilence of envy for the goods of others. So it is well said, "The life of the flesh, health of the heart," for if the mind's's innocence is preserved, even the things that are outwardly weak are eventually made strong. And it is rightly added, "but envy is rot in the bones," for through the sin of envy, even their mighty deeds of virtue perish in the eyes of God. For the bones to rot through envy is for strong things to perish.
Gregorius Moralia EN 567