Gregorius Moralia EN 361

XXXII. 'Do you still persist with your simplicity? Curse God, and die.'

362 (Jb 2,9)

This wife full of wicked persuasion represents the thoughts of the flesh harassing the mind. For as it has often been said we are worn down by the lash on the outside and worn out by the suggestions of the flesh within. This is what Jeremiah laments, saying, "The sword is abroad killing, and at home a like death waits." For the sword is abroad killing when punishment strikes us from without and brings us to a halt. A like death waits at home because the one who bears these lashes is still not free of the stain of temptation in his conscience within. Hence David says, "Let them be like dust in the face of the wind, and the angel of the Lord assailing them."81 The one who is swept away by the gust of temptation in his heart is the one taken up like dust before the wind. When divine punishment strikes at such a time, who will doubt that this is the assailing angel of the Lord?

63 But it is one way with the reprobate, another with the elect. The hearts of the reprobate are tempted, and they give in; the hearts of the just face temptation but fend it off. The reprobate are taken by a delight in temptation, and even if what is wickedly suggested is displeasing for the moment, there comes a time when it becomes pleasing after deliberation. But the elect face the arrows of temptation, resist them dauntlessly, and are wearied in the process; if the mind in temptation is then sometimes taken a little with delight, nevertheless the elect blush at the surreptitious entry of this delight and rebuke with bold censure whatever fleshly desire they see rise up within them.

XXXIII. 'You have spoken like a foolish woman.

If we have taken good things from the hand of the Lord, how shall we refuse the bad?' (
Jb 2,10)

It is right that the holy mind should reject with spiritual discipline whatever impudent whisperings of the flesh it hears, lest the flesh might speak harshly and provoke anger or speak softly and lead to lust and dissipation. Manly censure, rebuking illicit hints and thoughts, restrains the dissolute weakness of turpitude, saying, "You have spoken like a foolish woman." And again reflection on God's gifts restrains the exasperation of harsh thoughts, saying, "if we have taken good things from the hand of the Lord, how shall we refuse the bad?" Whoever tries to subdue the vices and strive to reach the eternal heights of inner reward with long strides of true intentions, seeing himself surrounded on all sides in the war of the vices, girds himself up staunchly with the arms of virtue. He fears oncoming arrows less for having fortified his breast against them.

365 Often when we try to protect ourselves

with the armor of virtue in the war against temptation, there are vices that lurk under the guise of virtue and come to us with smiling face, but we recognize and understand their hostility. So the friends of blessed Job come together as if to console him, but they break out in insults, because the lurking vices take on the appearance of virtue but attack us like enemies. So often unrestrained wrath masks as justice, and weak laxity wants to be taken for mercy. Often heedless fear passes as humility, while unchecked pride claims to be freedom of spirit. The friends therefore come to console but slip into hostile criticism, because the vices,

whitewashed with the appearance of virtue, begin with a smiling appearance but soon trouble us with their harsh opposition.

 XXIV. For they had agreed that they would come jointly to see Job and console him.

366 (Jb 2,10)

 The vices agree together under the guise of virtue because there are vices which are joined in league among themselves against us, like pride and anger, laxity and fear. Anger is close to pride, laxity to fear. So they come towards us in agreement, these vices joined together by a kinship of depravity against us. But if we have come to know the misery of our captivity here, and if in our inmost hearts we are sorrowing out of love for our eternal homeland, the vices that ambush the wickedly happy cannot prevail against the sadly good.

XXXV. And when they looked upon him from afar, they did not recognize him.

Jb 2,12)

The vices do not recognize us in time of affliction, for as soon as they strike a saddened heart, they are repelled and denied.  When we were happy they knew us, inasmuch as they penetrated our defenses, now they cannot recognize us in our grief, because they are defeated by our strength. But the ancient enemy sees that he has been discovered in them, and hides himself all the more under a show of virtue.

XXXVI. Crying out, they wept, rent their garments,

and scattered dust to the heavens upon their heads. They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights. (
Jb 2,12)

Pity is indicated by their weeping, discernment by their torn garments, energy for good works by the dust of the head, humility by their sitting down. For sometimes the insidious enemy masquerades at pity in order to lead us to the limits of cruelty, as when he prevents the present punishment of guilt, so that what is not checked here will be greeted later by the fire of gehenna.  Sometimes he places the appearance of discernment before our eyes and leads us into the snares of indiscretion, as when at his instigation we prudently let ourselves have more to eat as a concession to illness, thus uncautiously stirring up the war of the flesh against us. Sometimes he creates the illusion of energy for good works but through this introduces restlessness in the face of toil, as when someone is unable to relax at all and fears to be thought lazy. Sometimes he displays a show of humility in order to remove our usefulness, as when he tells some  that they are more feeble and useless than they in fact are, so that by thinking themselves too unworthy, they will come to fear to be involved in matters in which they could be of use to their neighbors.

369 But the hand of compunction, working subtly,

discerns these virtues hidden by the ancient enemy under a pretense of virtue.  The one who is truly sorrowful within is boldly provident in seeing what is to be done, and what not to be done, in the world outside. For if the power of compunction touches us deep within, all the clamor of wicked temptation falls silent.

XXXVII. No one said a word to him, for they saw his grief was overwhelming.

370 (Jb 2,13)

 For if the heart is truly sorrowful, the vices will not find their tongue against us. For when the life of righteousness is sought wholeheartedly, the useless suggestion of evil is blocked out. Indeed, if we are in the habit of girding ourselves energetically against the enticements of vice, we turn those vices to the service of virtue. Anger may possess some people, but if they subject it to rational control they turn it to the beneficial service of holy zeal. Pride lifts some people, but if they bow their soul in fear of God, they turn their pride to serve in the defense of justice with a voice of freedom and authority. The power of the flesh entices some people, but if they subdue the body in the performance of works of mercy they can win the rewards of pity where they had suffered the goad of wickedness. So it is well that blessed Job made a burnt offering for his friends after all their quarrels. He had borne them as enemies through their long conflict, but made them his fellow citizens again through sacrifice; for when we subdue all our vicious thoughts and turn them into virtues, it is as if we are changing the hostility of our temptations through the offering of our good intentions into friendly hearts.

Let it be enough for us to have treated this material triply in three volumes. We have planted a root strong here at the outset of the work as if to provide support for the tree that is to be born, so that we may later bring out the branches of our discussion as the ... ... may require.

 (One footnote left over: Ps 34,5, messed up someplace.)

Book Four


4001 Whoever looks into this text without understanding the spirit

of sacred discourse will not so much instruct himself with knowledge as confuse himself with ambiguity, because sometimes the words of the literal text contradict each other. But when they disagree and oppose each other, they send the reader in pursuit of true understanding.

 How is it, for example, that Solomon says, "Better to eat and drink," and shortly after adds, "Better to go to the house of grief than to the house of feasting"? Why does he prefer grief to feasting here when just before he had praised eating and drinking? For if by choice it is good to eat and drink, clearly it would be better to hasten to a house full of rejoicing than to a house full of lamentation. This is why he says again, "Rejoice, young man, in your adolescence," and a little later adds, "Adolescence and pleasure are empty and vain." Why does he either first suggest reprehensible things or later reprehend what he has suggested, if not because he uses the words of the literal sense to suggest that whoever experiences difficulty with the surface should look to the inner meaning of truth to follow?

To seek this understanding of truth we need humility of heart:  to find it, diligent reading. We see the faces of strangers and know nothing of their hearts, but if we converse with them, we discover their minds in their ordinary conversation. So when we find only the surface story in scripture, we see nothing but the face; but if we cling to this, we can reach its mind as if in ordinary conversation. We gather various impressions from various directions, but we can readily recognize in scripture's words that it says one thing, but suggests another meaning. If we are tied to the surface meaning, we will not be admitted to true knowledge of scripture.

 Take the words of blessed Job cursing his day and saying, "Perish the day on which I was born and the night in which it was said, 'A man is conceived.'" If we heed that only superficially, what could be found more disgusting than these words? But who would fail to notice that the day on which he was born could not then still be standing when he spoke? It is the nature of time that it cannot stand and remain. Time is always hurrying the future into existence, and hastening the past into nothingness. Why should such a great man curse something which he had to know did not exist at all? But perhaps someone might say that the magnitude of his virtue is to be observed here, for when he was troubled by grief he called down a curse on something he knew could not exist. But this argument is readily demolished if we consider it, for if the thing he was cursing did exist, he was inflicting on it a vile curse, and if it did not exist, the curse was an empty one. But anyone who is filled with the spirit of the one who says, "Every empty word which men have spoken, they shall render an account for it on the day of judgment," fears to yield to empty curses as much as to vile ones.

To this sentence it is added: "Let that day be turned into darkness. May the Lord not ask after it from above and may he not shine his light upon it. May night shadows darken it, and the shadow of death. May fog cover it and may it be shrouded in bitterness. May a black whirlwind take possession of that night.

 Let it watch for the light and not see it, nor the coming of the rising dawn." How is a day which is known to have slipped away in the course of time said to be turned to darkness? And when it is clear that it does not exist, why does he pray that the shadow of death may darken it? or that fog cover it and the embrace of bitterness enfold it? Or that a black whirlwind possess the night which no longer exists? Or how does he hope that it be solitary when it has already become, in passing away, nothing?  Or how can it watch for the light, if it is without sense and does not exist in its own form?

 But to these words, he adds:

4003 "Why did I not die in the birth canal? Come forth from the womb, why did I not perish straightaway? Why was I taken to sit in the lap? Why nursed at the breast? For now would I be sleeping silently and be at rest in my sleep." For if he had perished immediately on coming from the womb, would he understand some deserved punishment as the cause of this death? Do the stillborn enjoy eternal rest? For whoever is not freed by the water of regeneration is held bound by the chain of the first sin. But what baptism does for us was accomplished among the ancients by faith alone for children, or by the power of sacrifice for their elders, or by the mystery of circumcision for those of the stock of Abraham. The prophet witnesses that everyone is conceived with the guilt of the first parent, saying, "Behold, I was conceived in iniquity." Only those who are washed in the water of salvation lose the punishments due to original sin, as the Truth clearly witnessed himself, saying, "Unless a man be reborn of water and the holy spirit he shall not have eternal life." Why then does he wish he could have died in the birth canal and hope to have enjoyed the peace of such a death, if the sacraments that come from knowing God had in no way freed him from his guilt for original sin?

 Then he says where he could have found rest, saying, "With the kings and consuls of the earth, who build for themselves deserted places." But who does not know that the kings and consuls of the earth are far from being in deserted places, for they are hemmed in by countless squadrons of attendants? or how difficult it is for these to find rest when they are so tied up and tangled in knots of endless business? For scripture says, "The sternest judgment will be against those who rule." So Truth says in the gospel, "To whom much has been given, much shall be sought from him." But Job goes on listing those who would have joined him in that rest, saying, "or with princes who possess gold and fill their houses with silver." It is surely rare that those who possess gold should be found on the road to true rest, when Truth says himself, "With difficulty shall those who have money enter into the kingdom of heaven." For if they are panting after more and more wealth here, what joys of another life can they be looking for? Our Redeemer showed that this is surely rare and that it can happen only through divine miracle: "With men," he says, "this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Because therefore these words are irrational in their surface meaning, the literal sense is already showing that the holy man is saying nothing literal in them.

4004 But if we discuss some other curses in scripture first, we can then elucidate what comes from the mouth of blessed Job here more precisely. What do we make of the curse which David directed against the mountains of Gelboe when Saul and Jonathan fell in battle? He was surely not one to give back evil for evil. "Mountains of Gelboe, let no dew nor rain come upon you, and may there be no fields of first fruits for you, for there Saul has thrown down his shield, as if he were not the one anointed with oil." What about the place where Jeremiah saw his preaching hindered by the obtuseness of his hearers and cursed saying, "Cursed the man who announced to my father and said, 'A manchild is born to you.'"

How have the mountains sinned when Saul died, that neither rain nor dew should fall upon them and that the word of David's curse should blast them dry of every fruitful seed? But because Gelboe means "coming down," "declining," and because the anointment and death of Saul points to the death of our Mediator, it is not unlikely that the mountains of Gelboe stand for the proud hearts of the Jews that fall away into the desires of this world and are involved in the death of Christ, that is, of "the anointed one."  Because an anointed king died a physical death in those mountains, they lose the dew of grace and shrivel. It is well said of them, "may there be no fields of first fruits for you":  the proud minds of the Hebrews do not bring forth first fruits, because at the Redeemer's coming they stayed for the most part in their faithlessness and refused to follow faith's first footsteps. Thus the holy church in its first days was fertilized with a mass of outsiders and will barely find room for the Jews it wins over at the end of the world, gathering them up last and putting them away like the gleanings of the end of the harvest.  Of these remnants Isaiah said: "If the number of the sons of Israel should be like the sands of the shore, a remnant will be saved." Thus the mountains of Gelboe could be cursed in the mouth of the prophet, since fruits do not come from arid land and the landowners are stricken with loss from its barrenness. So they bear the sentence of that curse: for their iniquity they deserved to see the king die in their midst.

 But what about the curse of the prophet against the man who reported the prophet's birth to his father? There is greater mystery within this saying, for it is devoid on the outside of all human reason. If indeed there were anything reasonable about it on the surface, it would not drive us to seek its inner meaning. Something is generally therefore full of inner meaning to the extent that it shows no rational meaning on the outside.  For if the prophet came from his mother's womb into this world to suffer much, how has the messenger of his birth sinned? But the fickle prophet here stands for the changeableness of human nature that comes about as a punishment for sin. His father stands for the world which gives us birth. The man who reports the birth to the father is the ancient enemy, who sees us hesitating in our thoughts and stirs the mind of the wicked (who have the upper hand in this world) to try to lead us astray. And when he sees us weak, he calls us strong and showers us with gifts and tells us we have male children born when he rejoices to see us corrupting the truth with our lies. So he tells the prophet's father a male child is born then when he shows the world that the one he has led astray has been turned into a corrupter of innocence. For when it is said to some proud sinner, "You have acted like a man," what else is it than to say a male child is born into the world? The man who announces the birth of a male child is rightly cursed, because the message reveals the foul joy of our corrupter.

 We learn therefore from these scriptural curses what we should look for in the curses of blessed Job, lest we might criticize the words of the man that God, after all the wounds and words were past, still saw fit to reward--lest the reader presumptuously fail to understand.

 Now that we have clarified what was to be settled in this preface, let us pursue the exposition of the historical narrative.

  I. After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed his day:  'Perish the day on which I was born.'

Jb 3,1-3)

We should not be careless in interpreting what is said: "he opened his mouth." For sacred scripture gives tenuous hints in advance to foreshadow the things that follow: we should watch for them faithfully. We may not know what some covered dishes contain, but as soon as the lid is raised we know what is inside:  so the hearts of the saints are hidden when their lips are closed, but are revealed when they open their mouths. When they reveal their thoughts, they are said to open their mouth, so that we might hurry to concentrate our attention and understand what these dishes that were uncovered contain inside, and to refresh ourselves with the aromas that come from within. Just so, as the Lord was about to speak his wonderful commands from the mountain, "He opened his mouth and said." (Though there it is to be understood that he was opening his mouth to utter commandments concerning which the prophets had opened their mouths long ago.)

We must observe carefully that it says, "After this," in order to appreciate the significance of these things from their temporal arrangement. First there were described the devastation of his possessions, the slaughter of his children, the suffering of his flesh, the nagging of his wife, and the arrival of his friends, who tore their garments, cried out and wept, scattering dust on their heads and sitting long in silence on the ground: then it is added, "After this Job opened his mouth and cursed his day."  This is done so we will not think that impatience drove him to his curse since he broke out cursing while his friends were still silent. If he had cursed in anger when he heard of the loss of his property, or learned of the death of his children, then doubtless it would have been grief that made him curse. But we have heard what he said then, namely: "The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away." Again, if he had cursed in anger, he could have done so when he was stricken in the flesh or when he was hounded by his wife. But we know what he answered then, namely:  "You have spoken like a foolish woman. If we have taken good things from the hand of the Lord, how shall we refuse the bad?"  After this it is recounted how the friends come and weep and sit and keep silent; it is soon after this that he is said to have cursed his day.

 So it is absurd that we should suspect him of cursing out of impatience with no encouragement, no pressure, when we know that he sang great praises in humility of mind to his creator when he lost his property and his children, when he was wounded, when he was pursued by his wife. It is clear in what spirit he said this, then, at a calm moment, when he had poured out praise to God in time of tribulation. He could never have become proud when left alone when the grief of suffering had proved him humble. But if we are sure that scripture prohibits cursing, why do we think it permissible sometimes to do that which that same scripture forbids?

402 We must realize that scripture speaks of two kinds of cursing:

one it approves, one it condemns. One kind of curse is brought forth by a just judge, another by vindictiveness and envy. The curse of a just judge was passed against the first man in his sin, when he heard it said, "Cursed be the land when you work it." The curse of a just judge was revealed when it was said to Abraham, "I shall curse the ones cursing you." But on the other hand a curse not of a just judge but of vindictive envy is thought of when we are advised by the voice of Paul in his preaching, "Bless, and do not curse." And again: "Nor shall those who curse . . . possess the kingdom of God." So God is said to curse and man is prohibited from cursing, because what man does out of vindictive malice, God does only with the caution and power of justice.

But when holy men bring forth a curse, they do this not to pray for revenge but to state what is just. They see the subtle judgments of God within and they understand the growing evil without that they must strike with their cursing. They do not sin by that curse when they are not out of harmony with the judge they know within. Thus Peter inflicted a curse on Simon Magus and his offer of money, saying, "Let your money perish along with you." For he said this in the optative, not the indicative mood. So Elias said to the two captains that came to him, "If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and swallow you up." In both cases the truth and power of the words became clear by the result of the dispute. For Simon Magus perished to eternal death and the two captains were indeed swallowed up by a flame coming from above. The result testifies that the curse was brought forth in the right way. When the one who curses is maintained in innocence and the curse pulls its target down to ruin, from the outcome for each party we gather that the sentence was one passed against a defendant by the one who judges within.

403 So if we consider the words of blessed Job carefully,

his curse comes not from sin and malice but from righteousness and justice. This is not the anger of a disturbed man but the sober teaching of a man of peace. His curse contained much truth, which shows that he did not give way to sin in time of turmoil but offered guidance and right instruction. For he saw his friends weep and cry out, he saw them tear their garments, he saw them sprinkle their heads with dust, he saw them keep silent out of consideration for what he had suffered: the holy man realized that those who look only to temporal prosperity thought that he had been broken by temporal adversity, for they could only compare him to themselves. He saw that they would not be weeping so desperately for someone suffering temporary affliction unless they had already abandoned, in despair of mind, the hope of safety and integrity within. So he burst out with words of grief to show his friends, suffering from inner wounds, what power of relief was available, saying,

404 Perish the day on which I was born. (Jb 3,3)

 What can we understand by his day of birth if not as the whole time of our mortal life here? As long as our life keeps us bound up in this changeable, corruptible form, we cannot see the perfection of eternity. Anyone who can see the day of eternity endures time and mortality only with difficulty. Note that he does not say, "Perish the day on which I was created," but "Perish the day on which I was born." For man is created in justice, but born in sin. Adam was the first to be created, but Cain the first to be born. What therefore is it to curse the day of one's birth if not to say openly: 'Let the age of mutability pass away and let the light of eternity flash forth'?

405 But we are accustomed to say "may it perish"

in two senses:  of things that we hope will be ruined completely, and of things that we hope will suffer ruinously. What follows in his words about this day ("May fog cover it and may it be shrouded in bitterness") clearly shows that this day is to perish not to the point of non-existence but is to suffer grievous treatment.  Something cannot be shrouded in bitterness if it has perished to ruin altogether: but this time of our mutability is not to perish in such a way that it still exists but suffers great ruination, but it is to pass away altogether, as we learn from the angel speaking in scripture, "by the one that lives for ever

"Their time shall last forever," time still passes away each moment, so by saying "time" he described their passing away, showing that those who are separated from the consolation of inner vision perish without ever quite perishing. So this time of our mortality is to perish completely, not simply to endure great ruin. We must ask why it is that in this place Job wishes it ill, but not that it perish utterly.

The human soul or angelic spirit is immortal in such a way that it can nevertheless die, yet mortal in such a way that it can also not die. It loses the happy life through sin or punishment, but it never loses the essence of life itself, neither by sin nor by punishment for sin. The soul's life may be impoverished and diminished, but not even when death comes does the soul sense the complete and final end of all existence. To put it briefly, the soul is immortally mortal and mortally immortal. By saying first he hoped that a day might perish and then later that it might be shrouded in bitterness, we must realize that the holy man is attempting to make that day he names stand for the apostate spirit who goes on living even in death. When he "perishes" he does not disappear, because immortal death wipes him out but keeps him trapped in eternal suffering. He has already fallen from the glory of blessedness and still Job hopes that he might perish, that he might be confined to places of fitting punishment and lose even the chance to tempt others.

406 The apostate is like the day in that he lures us on with prosperity,

but ends in the darkness of night because he leads us finally into adversity. He showed himself to be the day when he said, "On whatever day you shall eat of it, your eyes shall be opened and you will be like gods." But he brought on the night when he led us into the shadows of mortality. His day is the promise of better things, but the night he reveals is the palpable experience of calamity. The ancient enemy is day because he is created good by nature, but he is night by his own merit, having fallen into darkness. He is day when he promises good things, making himself like an angel of light to human eyes, as Paul attests when he says, "For Satan himself has transformed himself into an angel of light;" but he is night when he dims the minds of those who yield to him with the darkness of error.  The holy man therefore, weeping for the whole human condition in the middle of his own suffering, taking no special thought for his own wounds at all, calls back to mind the origins of sin and softens the pain of the penalty by thinking of its justice.

So let Job look upon the human race, whence it fell and where it fell, and let him say, "Perish the day on which I was born and the night in which it was said, 'A man is conceived.'" This is as if to say openly, 'Perish the hope brought by the apostate angel who masquerades as the day, shining with the promise of divinity for us, but revealing himself to be night, blotting out from us the light of our immortality. Let the ancient enemy perish, who offered the light of promise but brought the darkness of sin, who made himself like the day with gentle words, but led us to the blackest night by inflicting blindness on the heart.'

II. Let that day be turned into darkness.

Jb 3,4)

He shines like the day in the minds of men when his persuasive wickedness succeeds in winning our belief and we fail to understand what he is like within. But when his iniquity is realized for what it is, the day of false promise is covered with darkness in the sight of our judgment and we see him as he really is even in his soft words. Day is turned into darkness, then, when we understand that the things whose goodness he had promised us and persuaded us to seek are in fact bad for us. Day is turned into darkness when the ancient enemy is seen by us just as he is, savage with rage even when hiding under soft words. Then he will no longer deceive us with his false promises of success, as if by the light of day, and lead us to true misery in the darkness of sin.

III. May the Lord not ask after it from above and may he not shine his light upon it.

408 (Jb 3,4)

 Just as almighty God could make good things out of nothing, so when he wanted to, by the mystery of his incarnation, he could restore good things that had already perished. But he had made two creatures capable of understanding him as he is, the angel and the man. Pride battered and broke both and deposed them from their inborn righteousness, but only one of them had a covering of flesh, while the other bore no flesh's weakness: for the angel is purely spirit, but man is spirit and flesh. The creator had pity and chose to redeem and restore the creature which had, it was clear, fallen into the commission of sin at least in part through weakness. On the other hand, he rejected the apostate angel forcefully, for he had fallen away from standing strong at the Lord's side under no influence of any weakness of the flesh.  So the psalmist, when he speaks of the Redeemer's mercy toward men, rightly adds of the cause of his mercy, "And he recalled that they are flesh." This was as if to say, 'Because he saw their weakness, he did not wish to punish their faults too severely.'

 There was another reason why the man who had perished should be restored and why the haughty spirit could not be restored; for the angel had fallen because of his own malice, while another's malice laid mankind low.

 Because, therefore, the human race was led back to the light of penitence by the coming of the Redeemer, but the apostate angel was not called back to the light of restoration at all, nor by any hope of forgiveness, nor by any correction of his ways, it can rightly be said, "May not the Lord ask after it from above and may he not shine his light upon it." This is as if to say openly, 'Because he brought in the darkness, let him endure what is his own doing without end, nor may he ever recover the light of his earlier days, for he lost it at no one's urging.'

Gregorius Moralia EN 361