It stood still, but I could not discern its form: an image was before my eyes, there was silence, and I heard a voice, saying,
All Commentaries on Job 4:16 Go To Job 4
Gregory The Dialogist
61. For we do not speak of a certain one, saving surely in the case of him, whom we are either unwilling or unable to express. Now with what feeling it is here said a certain one, is clearly set forth, in that it immediately comes in, but I could not discern the form thereof. For the human soul, being by the sin of the first of mankind banished from the joys of paradise, lost the light of the invisible, and poured itself out entire in the love of the visible, and was darkened in the interior sight, in proportion as it was dissipated without, to the deformment of itself. Whence it comes to pass that it knows nothing, saving the things that it acquaints itself with by the palpable touch, so to say, of the bodily eyes. For man, who, had he been willing to have kept the commandment, would even in his flesh have been a spiritual being, by sinning was rendered even in soul carnal, so as to imagine such things only as he derives to the soul through the images of bodily substances. For body is the property of heaven, earth, water, animals, and all the visible things; which he unceasingly beholds; and while the delighted mind wholly precipitates itself into these, it waxes gross, loses the fineness of the inward sense; and whereas it is now no longer able to erect itself to things on high, it willingly lies prostrate in its weakness in things below. But when with marvellous efforts it strives to rise up from the same, it is great indeed, if the soul, thrusting aside the bodily form, be brought to the knowledge of itself, so as to think of itself without a bodily figure, and by thus thinking of itself to prepare itself a pathway to contemplate the substance of Eternity.
62. Now in this way it shews itself to its own eyes as a kind of ladder, whereby in ascending from outward things to pass into itself, and from itself to tend unto its Maker. For when the mind quits bodily images, entering into itself, it mounts up to no mean height; for though the soul be incorporeal, yet because she is incorporate with the body, she is known by that property of hers, which is confined within the local bounds of the flesh. And whereas she forgets things known, acquaints herself with such as are unknown, remembers what has been consigned to oblivion, entertains mirth after sadness, is adjudged to punishment [addicitur] after joy; she herself shews by her own diversity in herself, how widely she is removed from the Substance of eternal Unchangeableness. Which is always the same, even as It Is; Which every where present, every where invisible, every where whole and entire, every where incomprehensible, is by the longing mind discerned without seeing, heard without uncertainty, taken in without motion, touched without bodily substance, held without locality. Now when the mind that is used to corporeal objects represents to itself this same Substance, it is loaded with the phantasms of divers images. And whilst it banishes these from the eyes of its attention with the hand of discernment, making every thing give place thereto, it at last beholds It in some degree. And if it does not as yet apprehend what It is, it has surely learnt what It is not. And so because the mind is carried away into unaccustomed ground, when it pries into the Essence of the Deity, it is rightly said here, A certain one stood, but I could not discern the form thereof.
63. And it is well said, it stood still; for every created thing, in that it is made out of nothing, and of itself tends to nothing, has not the property to stand, but to run to an end. But a creature endowed with reason, by this very circumstance, that it is created after the image of its Maker, is fixed
that it should not pass into nothing. Now no irrational creature is ever fixed, but only, so long as, by the service of its appearing, it is completing the form and fashion of the universe, it is delayed in passing away. For though heaven and earth abide henceforth and for ever, still they are at this present time of themselves hastening on to nought; yet for the use of those, whom they serve, they remain to be changed for the better. To ‘stand’ then is the attribute of the Creator alone, through Whom all thing's pass away, Himself never passing away, and in Whom some things are held fast, that they should not pass away. Hence our Redeemer, because the fixed state of His Divine Nature could not be comprehended by the human mind, shewed this to us as it were in passing, by coming to us, by being created, born, dead, buried, by rising again, and returning to the heavenly realms. Which He well shadowed out in the Gospel by the enlightening the blind man, to whom when passing on He vouchsafed a hearing, but it was standing still that He healed his eyes. For by the economy of His Human Nature He had His passing on, but the standing by the power of His Divine Nature, in that He is every where present. Thus the Lord is said to hear the complaints of our blind condition in passing, in that being made Man He has compassion on human misery; but He restores light to the eyes standing still, in that He enlightens the darkness of our frail state by the efficacy of His Divine Nature. It is well then that, after it has been said, Then a spirit passed before my face, it should be added, but I could not discern the form thereof. As if it were in plain words, ‘Him, Whom I perceived in passing, I discovered never to pass.’ He then that ‘passes’ is the same as He that ‘stands still.’ He ‘passes,’ in that when known He cannot be detained, He ‘stands still,’ in that, so far as He is known, He is seen to be unchangeable. Therefore, because He, That is ever the Same, is seen by a hasty glance, God at the same time appears both passing and standing still. Or surely His ‘standing’ is His never varying with any change; as it is said to Moses, I AM THAT I AM. And as James represents Him, saying, With Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. [Jam. 1, 17] Now whereas every man, that apprehends something of the Eternal Being by contemplation, beholds the Same through His coeternal Image, it is rightly subjoined;
An image was before mine eyes.
64. For the Image of the Father is the Son, as Moses teaches in the case of man at his creation; So God created man in His own Image; in the Image of God created He him. [Gen. 1, 27] And as the Wise Man, in the setting forth of Wisdom, saith concerning the same Son, For She is the brightness of the everlasting light. [Wisd. 7, 26] And as Paul hath it, Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express Image of His Person. [Heb. 1, 3] When then His Eternity is perceived as far as the capability of our frail nature admits, His Image is set before the eyes of the mind, in that when we really strain towards the Father, as far as we receive Him we see Him by His Image, i.e. by His Son, And by That Image, Which was born of Himself without beginning, we strive in some sort to obtain a glimpse of Him, Who hath neither beginning nor ending. And hence this same Truth saith in the Gospel, No man cometh to the Father but by Me. [John 14, 6] And it is well added,
And I heard the voice as it were of a light breath.
65. For what is signified by ‘the voice of a light breath,’ but the knowledge of the Holy Spirit, Which proceeding from the Father, and receiving of that which belongeth to the Son, is gently imparted to the knowledge of our frail nature? Yet when It came upon the Apostles, It is demonstrated by an outward sound, like a vehement blast, where it is said, And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind. [Acts 2, 2] For when the Holy Spirit imparts Itself to the knowledge of frail humanity, It is both represented by ‘the sound of a rushing mighty wind,’ and also by the ‘voice of a gentle breath,’ clearly, in that when It comes, It is both ‘vehement’ and ‘gentle;’ ‘gentle,’ in that It tempers the knowledge of Itself to our perceptions, so as to be in some sort brought under our cognizance; ‘vehement,’ in that however It may temper that same, yet by Its coming, It confounds while It illumines the darkness of our frail condition. For It touches us but lightly by Its enlightening influence, yet it shakes our emptiness with fearful might.
66. So God's voice is heard as if of ‘a light breath,’ in that the Divine Being never imparts Himself as He is to those that contemplate Him while still in this life, but to the purblind eyes of our mind He discovers His brightness but scantily. Which is well represented by the very receiving of the Law itself, when it is said that Moses ascended, and God descended upon the Mount. For ‘the Mount’ is our very contemplation itself, whereinto we ascend, that we may be elevated to see those things which are beyond our frail nature; but the Lord descends thereupon, in that, when we advance much, He discloses some little concerning Himself to our perceptions, if either ‘little’ or ‘somewhat’ can be said to be in Him, Who, being always One and abiding the Same, cannot be understood by parts, and yet is said to be participated by His faithful servants, whereas ‘part’ is nowise admissible in His Substance. But because we are unable to express Him with perfect speech, being hindered by the scanty measure of our human nature, as by the impotency of the infant state, we give back an echo of Him in some sort with stammering utterance. But that when we are lifted up in high contemplation, it is somewhat refined that we attain unto in the knowledge of the Eternal One, is shewn by the words of Sacred Story, when the illustrious Prophet Elijah is instructed in the knowledge of God. For when the Lord promised him that He would pass by before him, saying, And, behold, the Lord passeth by, a great and strong wind rending the mountains, and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; He thereupon added, But the Lord is not in the wind: and after the wind a quaking, but the Lord is not in the quaking: and after the quaking a fire, but the Lord is not in the fire: and after the fire, a still small voice. [1 Kings 19, 11. 12.] [V. the whisper of a gentle air] For the wind before the Lord overturns the mountains, and shatters the rocks, in that the affright, which rushes in upon us from His coming, both casts down the exaltation of our hearts, and melts their hardness. But the Lord is said not to be in the ‘wind of quaking’ and in the fire, but it is not denied that He is ‘in the still small voice,’ in that verily when the mind is hung aloft in the height of contemplation, whatever it has power to see perfectly and completely is not God, but when it sees something of great fineness, this is the same as that he hears belonging to the incomprehensible substance of the Deity. For we as it were perceive a still small voice, when by a moment's contemplation we taste with finest sense the savour of incomprehensible truth. Accordingly then only is there truth in what we know concerning God, when we are made sensible that we cannot know any thing fully concerning Him. Hence it is well added in that place, And it was so when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out and stood at the entering in of the cave. After the still small voice, the Prophet covers his face with his mantle, because in that very refined contemplation he learns in what a cloak of ignorance man is shrouded; for to draw the mantle over the face is to veil the mind by the consideration of its own infirmity, that it may never presume to seek things above it, that it never rashly open the eyes of the understanding beyond itself, but close them with a feeling of awe to that which it cannot apprehend. And he, in doing such things, is described to have stood at the entering in of the cave. For what is our cave but this dwelling-place of our corrupt nature, wherein we are still held fast from remaining oldness? But when we begin to take in something of the knowledge of the Divine Being, we as it were already stand ‘in the entering in of our cave;’ for whereas we cannot make perfect progress, yet panting after the knowledge of the truth, we already catch something of the breath of liberty. So to ‘stand at the entering in of the cave,’ is, forcing aside the obstruction of our corrupt nature, to begin to issue forth to the knowledge of the truth. And hence upon the cloud descending on the Tabernacle, the Israelites seeing it afar off are related to have stood at the entering in of their tents, [Ex. 33, 9] in that they, who in some sort behold the coming of the Deity, as it were already issue forth from the habitation of the flesh. Therefore because with whatever amplitude of virtue the human mind may have enlarged its compass, yet it scarcely knows the very outermost extremes that belong to the interior things, it is rightly said here, And I heard the voice as of a light breath; but as at the time that the knowledge of the Deity shews us after all but little concerning Itself, It is perfectly instructing the ignorance of our infirmness; let him that ‘heard the voice of a light breath,’ declare all that he learnt by that same hearing.