So am I made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed to me.
All Commentaries on Job 7:3 Go To Job 7
Gregory The Dialogist
15. For the Elect serve the Creator of things, and yet are often driven to straits by the want of things; they hold fast in God by love, and yet they lack the supports of the present life. So they who do not aim at present objects by their actions, as to the profits of the world, spend ‘months of vanity.’ Moreover they are subject to ‘wearisome nights,’ in that they bear the darkness of adversity not only to the extent of want, but oftentimes to the anguish of the body. For to undergo contempt and want is not hard to virtuous minds; but when adversity is turned to the paining of the flesh, then surely wearisomeness is felt from pain. It may also be not unsuitably interpreted, that each one of the Saints as a hireling spends ‘months of vanity,’ in that he now already bears the toil, but does not yet hold the reward; the one he undergoes, the other he looks for; but ‘he numbers him wearisome nights,’ in that by exercising himself in virtuous habits, he is accumulating upon his own head the ills of the present life: for if he does not aim to advance in spirit, he finds the things of the world perchance less galling to him.
16. Yet, if this sentence be referred to the voice of Holy Church, the meaning thereof is traced out with a little more particularity. For she herself has ‘months of vanity,’ who in her weak members has to bear earthly actions running on to nought without the meed of life. She ‘numbers to herself wearisome nights,’ in that in her strong members she bears manifold afflictions. For in this life there be some things that are hard, and some that are empty, and some that are both hard and empty at one and the same time. For from love of the Creator to be tried with the afflictions of the present life, is hard indeed, but not empty. For love of the present world to be dissolved in pleasures, is empty indeed, but not hard. But for the love of that world, to be exposed to any adversities, is at one and the same time both empty and laborious, in that the soul is at once ‘afflicted by adversity, and not replenished with the compensation of the reward. And so in those who being now placed within the pale of Holy Church, still let themselves out in the pursuit of their pleasures, and are thenceforth not enriched with the fruit of good works, she passes ‘months of vanity,’ in that she spends the periods of life without the gift of the reward. But in those who, being devoted to everlasting aims, meet with the crosses of this world, ‘she numbers herself wearisome nights,’ in that she as it were in the obscurity of the present life undergoes the darkness of woe. But in those who at one and the same time love this transitory world, and yet are wearied with its contradiction, she sustains at once ‘days of vanity,’ and ‘wearisome nights,’ in that neither does any recompense coming after reward their lives, and, yet present affliction straitens them. But it is rightly that she never says that she has ‘days,’ but ‘months of vanity’ in these. For by the name of ‘months,’ the sum and total amount of days is represented, and so by the ‘day,’ we have each individual action set forth: but by ‘months,’ the conclusion of those actions is implied. But it often happens that when we do anything in this world, being buoyed up by the eager intentness of our hope, this particular thing that we are about, we never think empty; but when we are come to the end of our doings, failing to obtain the object of our aims, we are grieved that we have been labouring for emptiness, and so we spend not only days, but likewise ‘months of vanity,’ in that not in the beginning of our actions, but only at the end, we bethink ourselves that we have been toiling in earthly practices without fruit. For when trouble follows upon our actions, it is as if the months of vanity of our life were brought home to us: in that it is only in the consummation of our actions that we learn, how vain was all our toil therein.
17. But because in the sacred word sometimes ‘night’ is put for ignorance, according to the testimony of Paul, who saith to his disciples instructed in the life to come; Ye are all the children of the light, and the children of the day; we are not of the night, nor of darkness. [1 Thess. 5, 5] To which words he prefixed, But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. [ib. 4] In this place the voice of Holy Church may be understood in the person of those of her members, who after the darkness of their state of ignorance are brought back to the love of righteousness, and being enlightened by the rays of truth, wash out with their tears all that they have done amiss. For every one that has been enlightened looks back to see how polluted all that was that he laboured at, in love with the present life. And therefore Holy Church in the case of these, in whom there is a return to life, compares her toils to ‘a servant’ in a state of heat, and to ‘an hireling longing for the end of his work,’ in the words, As a servant earnestly desireth the shadow, and as an hireling looketh for the end of his work; so am I made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights have I numbered me. For in drawing the comparison there are two things which he premised, as also in the describing of weariness there are two which he thereupon added. For to the one oppressed with heat he gave ‘months of vanity,’ in that in proportion as the refreshing of eternity is more the object of our desire, it is more clearly seen how vainly we spend our labour for this life. But to the one in expectance he brought in ‘wearisome nights,’ in that the more that at the end of our works we look at the reward we are to have given us, the more we lament that we so long knew nothing of the thing that we now aim at. And hence the very solicitude of the penitent is carefully set forth, so that it is said, ‘that he numbered to himself wearisome nights,’ in that the more truly we return to God, the more exactly we consider, while we grieve over them, those toils which we underwent in this world from ignorance. For as everyone finds that to become more and more sweet which he desires of the things of eternity, so that which he was undergoing for the love of the present world, is made appear to him proportionably burthensome. Now if the following words be considered with reference to the historical import alone, doubtless we have the mind of one in sorrow described by them, viz. how in the different impulses of desire he is variously urged by the force of grief.