Gregorius Moralia EN 279
280 (Jb 1,20)
Sitting is for the passive, rising for the one who will fight. To rise on hearing bad news is to make the mind strong and ready for combat in the face of temptation. The mind in its discernment grows stronger in the face of such temptation by learning how to distinguish more precisely between the virtues and the vices. So it follows:
We rend our garments when we reconsider our deeds, separating good from bad. If our deeds did not protect us in the sight of God as clothing would, it would never have been said in the voice of the angel: "Blessed is the man who keeps watch and protects his garments, lest he should come forth naked and they should see his shame." Our shame is seen when our life is reprehensible in the eyes of the just at judgment and covered by no veil of good works. But because we are stirred to lamentations when pressed by our guilt, and then roused by those lamentations we open the eyes of the mind the better to perceive the light of justice, we are said to rend our garments, because we punish our own deeds all the more severely, raising an angry hand against ourselves, when discernment reasserts itself in our tears. Then all our proud elation collapses, then all our superfluous and silly thoughts fall away from the mind. So it says then:
282 (Jb 1,20)
What now shall we make of the hairs of the head (considered in light of the moral sense) if not that they are the mind's thoughts that fall away and disappear? So elsewhere it is said to the church, "Your lips, my bride, are like a scarlet ribbon, and your words are sweet." The lips of the bride are like a ribbon then, because when the church exhorts the faithful, all the thoughts dispersed in the minds of those who hear are bound together again, lest they should be let go and scatter, lest they spread in ways they should not, lest thus scattered they should take away sight from the eyes of the heart. Instead they are gathered and bound together into a single thought, when the ribbon of holy preaching ties them together. How right to call the ribbon scarlet! The preaching of the saints burns with the ardor of charity alone.
What then does the head stand for if not the mind, which is the principal agent in every action we take? So elsewhere it is said, "And let there be no oil lacking for your head." Anointing oil is for the head what charity is for the mind: and the head lacks this oil when charity departs from the mind. To shave the head therefore is to cut away superfluous thoughts from the mind. To fall to the ground with shaven head is to repress presumptuous thoughts and recognize humbly how weak we are in and of ourselves.
283 It is difficult to do great things and not have some secret thoughts
of self-confidence stemming from those great deeds. The more staunchly we live our lives in the face of vice, the more presumptuous thoughts are begotten in the heart. While the mind is valiantly fending off culpability without, very often it is secretly swelling with pride within. We think that we must be of some great value and that we have not sinned even in the thoughts of self-esteem. In the eyes of the strict judge, however, our sin is worse the more our guilt is incurred secretly (and thus lies further beyond correction). The trap lies open and yawning at our feet just insofar as we let our life glory in itself secretly. This is why we have often said that it is providential how the self-confident soul is shaken by an appropriate temptation, so that in its weakness it might discover its own true nature and surrender its arrogant presumption: for as soon as temptation strikes the mind, every presumptuous thought and feeling falls silent.
284 The mind becomes a veritable tyrant
when it swells with pride. It has sycophants for its tyranny in the thoughts that only encourage its excesses. But when the enemy swoops down against the tyrant, the claque of sycophants soon fades away. As the adversary approaches, these courtiers flee and in their fright abandon the man they had been lauding with clever flattery when they were comfortably established in peacetime. When the flatterers are gone, the tyrant remains alone to face the enemy, for when proud thoughts fade away, the troubled mind is left confronting nothing but temptation and its own weakness. The head is to be shaved when bad news is heard, because when temptations attack, the mind is stripped of its presumptuous thoughts.
Why, after all, do the Nazarites grow their hair? Is it not because through their life of great continence they allow presumptuous thoughts to grow? But why must the Nazarite shave his head at the completion of his devotion, and place his hair in the fire of sacrifice, if not because we only reach the height of perfection when we have so far defeated the outward vices that we can even cut away superfluous thoughts from the mind? To burn the hair in the fire of sacrifice is to incinerate those thoughts in the flame of divine love, so that the whole heart might burn with love of God and consume its vain thoughts with fire, as the Nazarite does with his hair at the end of his devotions.
And we should note that Job fell on the earth in adoration. We show true adoration to God when we recognize humbly that we are dust, when we attribute nothing to our own strength, and when we recognize that all our good works come from the mercy of the creator. Thus it is then said fittingly:
285 (Jb 1,21)
As if the mind, confronted by temptation and recognizing the poverty of its weakness, should say: 'Grace first brought me naked into the world in faith, and grace shall take me up and save me, still naked, in the end.' It is a great consolation for the troubled soul, when it sees itself beset by vices and denuded of its virtues, to fly to the one hope of mercy. It can keep from shameful nakedness by thinking itself humbly denuded of virtues. Even if stripped of some virtue by temptation, it is better clad in humility itself when it recognizes its own infirmity. It lies prostrate with more strength than it had once stood, now that it no longer claims what it has for itself as though in no need of divine aid. So Job now humbly recognizes the hand of the judge and benefactor:
286 (Jb 1,21)
Schooled by temptation, he has truly grown when he can recognize the hand of the giver in the virtue he had and the power of the taker in the disruption of his strength. His strength is not in fact taken away but is weakened by this interference, so that the mind might fear its loss altogether and, thus made humble, never have to lose it in fact.
287 (Jb 1,21)
When we are shaken by inner turmoil, it is fitting that we should rely on the judgment of our creator, so that in that way our heart might offer greater praise to its helper the more it weighs accurately, in the midst of its troubles, its real weakness and feebleness.
288 (Jb 1,22)
The mind that sorrows must be especially careful not to murmur against its trials, not to burst forth openly with unseemly words when it senses itself pricked by temptation within, lest the fire that burns even gold should turn the mind to ash like straw, as punishment for improper speech.
289 There is no reason why what we have said about the virtues should not
also be said of those gifts of the holy spirit that declare virtue to the world. To some is given prophecy, to some speaking in tongues, while to others the power to heal. But because these gifts are not always present in the mind in the same way, it is clear that they are sometimes taken away for our benefit, lest the mind should swell with presumption.
If the spirit of prophecy were always present to the prophets, Elisha the prophet would not have said: "Let her go, for her soul is bitter and the Lord has hidden his word from me." If the spirit of prophecy were always present to the prophets, the prophet Amos would not have answered and said, "I am not a prophet," where he also added, "nor am I the son of a prophet; but I am a shepherd and a picker of sycamore trees." How is it that he was not a prophet when he foretold the future in truth so many times? Or how is it that he was a prophet if he denied the truth about himself at the time? But because at the hour in which he was sought he felt himself lacking the spirit of prophecy, he bore true witness concerning himself saying, "I am not a prophet." But he went on to say: "And now hear the word of the Lord . . . . This is what the Lord says: 'Your wife shall go whoring in the city, and your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword, and your property shall be registered by the surveyor, and you will die in an unclean land.'" From these words of the prophet it is clear that what he has spoken of himself is fulfilled in truth; and now he has so quickly deserved to receive the spirit of prophecy because he so humbly acknowledged that he was no prophet. If the gift of prophecy were always present to the prophets, the prophet Nathan would never have granted to king David (who was asking whether he might construct a temple) the answer that would be denied again in a little while.
290 So it is well written in the gospel: "The one upon whom
you see the spirit coming down and remaining upon him, this is the one who baptizes." The spirit comes to all the faithful, but it remains uniquely with the Mediator alone, for it never abandons the humanity of the one from whose divinity it has come forth. It abides in him who is alone capable always of all things. The faithful, who receive the spirit (since they cannot always have, as they desire, the gifts of these signs of virtue) give evidence of their acceptance of the spirit by transient manifestations. But when it is said of the same spirit by the voice of truth to the disciples, "It will abide with you and will be within you," it seems to contradict what is said by the divine voice of the spirit abiding with the Mediator (when it says, "The one upon whom you see the spirit coming down and remaining upon him"). If the master's voice says that the spirit abides in the disciples, how can it be a unique sign that it abides with the Mediator? We can solve this puzzle quickly if we consider the gifts of the spirit.
291 There are some gifts of the spirit without which
we never come to life at all, and others by which the holiness of our life is publicly revealed for the benefit of others. Gentleness, for example, and humility and patience, faith and hope and charity, these are the spirit's gifts, but they are the kind without which human beings can never truly attain to life itself. But prophecy, and the power to cure, and the gift of tongues, and the ability to interpret what has been said in tongues, these are also gifts of the spirit but are the kind that display the presence of his power to inspire those who behold them. Through those gifts without which life is impossible, the holy spirit remains forever, in all the elect, or at least in those who preach the word. But through those gifts that are given not to save our life but to reach out to others, the spirit does not remain forever even in his preachers, for he constantly rules their hearts to live well but does not always show the signs of his power through them. Sometimes, indeed, he withdraws the signs of his power from them, so that they may be cherished all the more humbly for being impossible to possess fully.
292 But the Mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, has the spirit always and continually present to him in all things, because the same spirit is brought forth from Christ in his substantial nature. So it is right to say that though he abides in his holy preachers, he remains uniquely in the mediator. He remains in his preachers through grace for some specific purpose, but in Christ he remains substantially for all things. Just as our body enjoys only the sense of touch, but the head of the body has the use of all five senses at once, so it sees and hears and tastes and smells and touches, in just such a way the members of the heavenly body shine with certain virtues, but the head is afire with all the virtues. The spirit abides naturally in Christ in a different way, never drawing back. The gifts of the spirit by which one reaches for life cannot be lost without danger; but the gifts by which holiness of life is made manifest are very often, as we say, taken away without any loss. The first are to be clung to for our benefit, the others are to be sought for others' benefit. The first leave us fearful that we may lose them; but humility consoles itself when the rest are taken away for a time, because it knows they could have lifted the mind to the sin of pride. When therefore the signs of the spirit's power are taken away from us, we should rightly say, "The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away; as it has pleased the Lord, so it has been done. Blessed be the name of the Lord." We only really show that we have possessed them rightly when we bear their temporary loss calmly from the outset.
under the lash to life itself. The ancient enemy had thought to extinguish his goodness, but found instead to his dismay that it had been multiplied. When he saw himself fail in the first contest, he revived himself for other battles of temptation and still had hopes in his impudence of drawing evil from the holy man: for evil cannot believe in goodness, even the goodness it experiences. But now the things that were passed over in the frist trial are brought up again, when it says:
Then one day when the sons of God had come and were standing before the Lord, Satan also came in their midst to stand in the sight of God, and the Lord was saying to Satan, 'Whence do you come?' He answers, saying, 'I have gone all around the earth, passing through it to and fro.' And the Lord said to Satan, 'Have you considered my servant Job? For there is none like him on the earth, simple and upright, who fears God and draws back from all evil-doing.' (Jb 2,1-3)
Because we have discussed these words extensively above, we do better to pass over them now in silence lest we be retarded in getting to new material by continual repetition of what we have already said. (But I do think that when it is said in the voice of God to Satan, 'Whence do you come?' it should not be taken the same as before. When Satan returns beaten from the contest that had been granted to his request and God, who already knows, asks whence he comes, what else does this question do but rebuke the feebleness of Satan's pride? It is as if the divine voice said openly, 'See how you are beaten by one man, a man burdened by the weakness of the flesh, and you try to set yourself up against me, the author of all things.') So it is that when the Lord has recounted the virtues of Job as before, he adds this enumeration of his new triumphs:
302 (Jb 2,3)
As if to say: 'You have tried your malice, but he has not lost his innocence. Where you thought to lessen his credit, you have rather been forced to serve his reputation yourself, because he preserved the innocence of his mind, which he had possessed with distinction in time of peace, yet more gloriously in time of tribulation.'
303 (Jb 2,3)
Since God is just and true, it surely must be asked how he can say that he had afflicted blessed Job for nothing. Because he is just, he could not afflict him for nothing; but again because he is true, his words could not have contradicted his deeds. In order that he may be both just and true, saying what is true and doing what is not unjust, we should recognize that blessed Job was afflicted in vain in one sense, but effectively in another sense. Because the one who is just and true says these things of himself, we must demonstrate that what he said was true and what he did was right. It was necessary that the holy man, known to himself and to God alone, should reveal to all who might imitate him how great was his virtue. But he could not give clear examples to others of his virtue if he remained untested. It was brought about therefore that the power of temptation should be the force to display his strength as as model to all, that the whip should reveal what had been hidden in time of tranquility. Under those sufferings his patience grew and the glory of his eventual reward was enhanced by the pains he had suffered. To preserve the truth of what the Lord says and the rightness of what he did, we acknowledge that blessed Job was not tested for nothing, because his merits were increased; and yet it was all for nothing because he is not punished for any offence of his own. Someone is punished for nothing if no guilt is removed thereby; but it is not for nothing if the merits of his virtues are thus increased.
304 But why is it said, "You have stirred me up against him?"
Was Truth itself been so enflamed by the words of Satan as to be virtually driven to torment its subjects? Who would believe this of God, when we would rightly believe it unworthy of a just man? But because we do not know how to smite another except when roused up, so we call the divine trial a kind of commotion. The divine voice descends to use our words in order to make divine deeds intelligible to any mortal. The power that created all things without any compulsion and rules over all things without negligence and sustains all things without effort and governs all things without distraction--that power can also punish without anger and so shape human minds according to its own will with a touch of the whip, lest we pass from the light of God's immutability into the shadow land of alienation.
A man will give up everything he has to save his life. But reach out your hand and touch his face and his flesh: then you will see that he will curse you to your face.' (Jb 2,4-5)
The ancient enemy draws from material things the wherewithal to press a charge against the mind of the blessed man. He says that skin is given for skin because often when we see a blow coming against our face, we put our hands before our very eyelids, to keep the blow from our eyes. Thus we subject one part of the body to a wound to protect a more vulnerable part from injury. Satan knows that we always do this, saying: 'Skin for skin! A man will give up everything he has to save his life.' As if to say, 'Job has borne up calmly under so many blows landing around him just because he fears that he might be struck himself. It is concern for his own flesh that leaves him unmoved by all the losses felt by the emotions of the flesh. While he fears for his own skin, he feels the blows to his family and property the less.' So next Satan demands that his flesh itself be smitten, saying, "But reach out your hand and touch his face and his flesh: then you will see that he will curse you to your face." Earlier he had said, "But reach out your hand and touch his wealth, and see if he does not curse you to your face." Now he would forget his earlier claim and, in defeat, make other claims of other things. But this is still rightly allowed by divine providence, so that the impudent debater should finally fall silent when he has been beaten often enough.
306 (Jb 2,6)
See how once again the permission to test is accompanied by watchful care, as divine providence abandons and protects his chosen one, protects and abandons him, giving up some of what is his, protecting the rest. If he should abandon Job to the hands of so powerful an adversary, what would a mere man be in the face of that? There is, therefore, a balance of pity mixed with the justice of the decision to allow Job to be tested. In one and the same contest the humble servant will profit from his sufferings and the haughty enemy will be brought down by God's generosity. So the holy man is handed over to the hand of the adversary, but in his inmost soul he is protected by the hand of his supporter. He was one of those sheep of whom truth speaks in the gospel: "No one shall snatch them from my hand." In spite of this, it was said to the enemy as he pressed his request, "So: he is in your hand." But the same man is in the hand of God, and in the hand of the devil. God says, "he is in your hand," but immediately adds, "but preserve his soul," clearly showing his pity and his help, for he clings to the one he has handed over, giving but not giving up the man he hands over to the enemy even as he protects him from the enemy's arrows.
307 But why is it said to Satan, "preserve his soul"?
How can he preserve something when he is always trying to defile things that have been carefully preserved? But Satan is said to preserve something when in reality he simply does not dare to defile it. In the opposite case, we pray to the Father in the Lord's prayer, "Lead us not into temptation." It is not that the Lord, who constantly protects his flock from temptation in his mercy, is going to lead us into temptation, but not to fortify us against the lures of temptation is, so to speak, to "lead us into temptation." God "leads us not into temptation" when he does not allow us to be tempted beyond our capacity to bear it. So God is said to "lead us into temptation" if he allows us to be led by our adversary, and so the adversary is said to preserve our life when he is kept from overcoming it with temptation.
Satan went out therefore from the presence of the Lord. (Jb 2,7)
How it can be said that Satan departed from the presence of the Lord is clear from our discussion earlier.
308 (Jb 2,7)
The blows of temptation must be measured in two ways: what kind they are, and how many they are. Often an abundance of blows is made more bearable if they are of the weaker sort, and often the more severe blows are mitigated if they are few, if, that is, they are many but weak, or few but severe. To show the excesses of the adversary in inflicting his blows upon the holy man, they are said to be not only wicked in nature but, to show their nature more clearly, also of the heaviest number: "He afflicted Job with the most terrible sores": this shows their kind. "From the sole of his foot to the top of his head": this shows their number. Surely there will be no glory lacking to the mind of one whose flesh lacks no suffering.
309 (Jb 2,8)
Of what is a potsherd made, but mud? But what are the oozings of the body, but mud? So to scrape his oozings with a potsherd is to try to clean mud with mud. The holy man had considered whence the body comes and, with a piece of an earthen vessel he scraped another broken earthen vessel. By this act he shows clearly how he had disciplined the body when it was healthy by taking such dismissive care of it when it is wounded. He shows how little he pampered his healthy flesh when he tended his wounds not with his hands, not with a piece of his clothing, but with a broken potsherd. The potsherd scraped the oozings: he saw himself in the piece of clay, and found a cure for his mind's woes in the cleansing of a physical wound.
310 Often the mind is puffed up with pride by the things with which we surround our bodies. The things with which we surround ourselves conceal the fragility of our body from the eyes of the heart. There are worldly dignitaries, for example, braced by their worldly success, ruling from lofty positions, seeing the obsequiousness of the many serving their every whim: in the face of this they fail to consider their own fragility and do not regard the earthen vessel they bear with them: they forget how swiftly it is broken. But blessed Job, seeing evidence of his fragility in his circumstances and keeping self-abasement clearly before his eyes, is said to have sat not merely on the ground, on some clean spot as he could easily have done, but on a dungheap. He placed his body on a dungheap so that his mind would learn to judge well the value of the flesh that is taken from the earth in the first place. He placed his body on a dungheap so that the stench of the place would remind him how quickly the body will come to such a smelly state itself.
311 But as we see blessed Job bearing so many losses of property,
grieving at the deaths of his children, tolerating so many wounds, scraping his running sores with a shard, sitting on a dunghill, oozing puss: we may well ask why it is that almighty God afflicts so terribly, as if contemptuously, those whom he knows are so dear to him for all eternity. But as I consider the wounds and sufferings of blessed Job, I call to mind the case of John the Baptist, and I am filled with wonder. He was filled with the spirit of prophecy while still in his mother's womb, reborn, if I may say so, before he was born. He was truly a friend of the bridegroom; there never rose one greater among the children of women; he was a prophet and more than a prophet, but he was cast into prison and beheaded to pay for a girl's dancing, and though he was a man of high gravity, he died as the laughing-stock of depraved men. Can we believe that there was any fault in his life to be purged by this disgraceful death? When could he have sinned even in by the way he ate, when all he ate were locusts and wild honey? How could he have sinned by the luxuriousness of his attire when he covered his body with rough camel's hair? What offense could there have been in his way of life when he never left the desert? How could he had defiled himself with his speech when he lived far from the society of men? But again, how could he have been held guilty of keeping silent when he violently reproached those who came out to him, saying, "Generation of vipers, who has shown you how to flee from the coming wrath?"
How then are we to understand that Job was singled out for God's praise and still hurled by his blows to lie on a dungheap? How is it that John is praised by the voice of God and still dies at the command of a drunkard to pay for a dance? Why does almighty God so violently despise in this life the people he chose on high before all ages? It must be that he wants to show the faithful in their pity that he thrusts these holy people down to the depths because he knows how high he will raise them with reward later. He casts them outside to face contempt because he leads them on inwardly to the things that are beyond comprehension. Everyone should learn from this how much those God condemns will suffer in the next life if he punishes so much here below the ones he loves. How can we imagine how those who are convicted in the hour of judgment are to be stricken, if we see the lives of those whom the judge himself praises taken away in this manner?
312 (Jb 2,9)
The ancient enemy usually tests the human race in two ways. He tries to break the hearts of those who stand to face him with suffering, or to soften them with persuasion. He employs both tactics vigorously against blessed Job. First he assails the lord of the estate with property losses, then he bereaves the father with the deaths of his children, then he smites the healthy man with wounds and infections. But because he sees him infected without but healthy within, and naked without but richer within for his praise of the creator, and cleverly realizing that God's champion is taking strength from his troubles, Satan turns in defeat to the subtleties of persuasion in order to tempt him.
For he goes back to his old tricks, and because he knows how Adam can be deceived, he turns again to Eve. He saw blessed Job standing unconquered, in a veritable citadel of virtues, though swamped by so much loss of wealth and so many sufferings and wounds. Job had set his mind on high, and for that reason the enemy's ploys could not penetrate his defenses. So the adversary looks about to see by what path he might ascend to this well-fortified citadel. Near at hand is the man's wife and helpmate. Satan took possession of the woman's heart and found there a kind of ladder by which he could approach the heart of the man. The soul of the wife was his access to the husband. But he won nothing by this device, because the holy man treated the woman as one subjected to him and not placed in authority over him. Speaking the truth, he showed how the serpent had stirred her up to speak perversely. It was appropriate that his manly criticism should discipline her fickle mind, especially because he knew from the first fall of the human race that a woman would not know how to teach rightly. So it is well put through Paul, "I do not permit a woman to teach," for one time when a woman taught she separated us from eternal wisdom. So the ancient enemy loses now at Adam's hands upon a dungheap what he had won from Adam in paradise. He sends the woman, his helper, to inflame Job with wickedly persuasive words, but she finds there instruction and holy teaching. She had been stirred up to ruin her husband, but returns well taught so that she might not be ruined herself. So it happens in battle at the hands of our mighty heroes, that the enemy's weapons are themselves snatched away from him. Where Satan had thought to worsen the pain of Job's wounds, instead he supplies virtue with weapons to use against himself.
313 From the wife's words of wicked persuasion,
we should be alert to see that the ancient adversary attempts to sway our state of mind not only by his own actions but even by using the people who are closest to us. When he cannot overwhelm our heart by his own arguments, he creeps up on his goal through the words of those who are close to us. Hence it is written: "Beware of your sons and watch out for your servants." Hence it is said through the prophet: "Let each one protect himself against his neighbor and place not his trust in all his brothers." Hence again it is written: "A man's servants are his enemies." The enemy is clever, and when he sees himself driven away from the hearts of the good, he seeks out those whom they love greatly, and he offers blandishments in the words of the very people who are loved more than others. Thus while the power of love penetrates to the heart, the sword of his arguments readily breaks through to the innermost defenses of rectitude. So therefore it is after the loss of his wealth, after the funerals of his children, after the wounds and rendings of his body, that the ancient enemy incites the wife to speak.
314 We should notice when Satan chooses to attack the man's mind
with poisoned words. He adds words to wounds in the hope that the twisted hints of his argument will more easily prevail when the power of suffering is growing. If we consider the sequence of temptations closely we see just how cleverly the enemy rages. First he causes losses to property, losses that had nothing to do with Job's own nature and that did not come near his own flesh. Then he took away his sons, for they were not yet Job's own flesh, yet they were naturally of that flesh. Finally he struck even Job's body. But because he did not succeed in wounding the mind by wounding the body, he now tries to employ the tongue of the woman joined to Job by marriage. While he laments losing in open combat, he hurls a javelin, as if from ambush, through the words of the wife, when she says, "Do you still persist with your simplicity? Curse God and die." He took everything away to tempt Job, but he leaves the woman behind to tempt him: he has ruined everything for the holy man. But it is extraordinarily clever of him to have kept the wife as his helper, to say, "Do you still persist with your simplicity?" Eve returns to her old ways of speech. What does it mean to say, "abandon your simplicity, " but, "cast aside your obedience and eat what is forbidden"? And what is it to say, "Curse God and die," but, "Disobey the command and live beyond the limits with which you were created"? But this strong Adam of ours was lying on a dungheap, though once he had stood, but feebly, in paradise. So he responds immediately to the words of wicked persuasion, saying:
Gregorius Moralia EN 279