My harp also is turned to mourning, and my flute into the voice of them that weep.
All Commentaries on Job 30:31 Go To Job 30
Gregory The Dialogist
78. Whereas the organ gives its sounds by means of pipes, and the harp by chords; it may be that by the ‘harp’ right practising is denoted, and by the ‘organ’ holy preaching. For by the pipes of an organ we not unsuitably understand the mouths of persons preaching, and by the chords of the harps the bent of those living aright. Which whilst it is stretched to another life by the afflicting of the flesh, it is as if the thin drawn chord in the harp sounded in the admiration of those beholding. For the chord is dried that it may give a suitable note on the harp; because holy men also chasten their body, and subject it to service, and are stretched from things below to those above. Moreover it is to be considered that the chord in the harp, if it be strung too little, does not sound, if too much, it sounds harsh; because doubtless the virtue of abstinence is altogether nothing if a man does not tame his body as much as he is able; or it is very ill ordered if he wears it down more than he is able. For by abstinence the imperfections of the flesh are to be done away, and not the flesh, and every one ought to rule himself with such great control, that both the flesh may not carry itself high for sin, and yet that it may be upheld in practice for the carrying out of righteousness. It is a satisfaction herein to look at the great preacher, with what great skill of preceptorship the souls of believers like chords strung on the harp, one set by stretching the more, he draws fine, another by loosening from their stretch he preserves. For to some he says; Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness. [Rom. 13, 13] And again he says; Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth. [Col. 3, 5] And yet to the most beloved preacher he writes, saying, Drink no longer water, but use a little wine, for thy stomach’s sake, and for thine often infirmities. [1 Tim. 5, 23] Thus those chords by drawing thin he stretches, lest by not being stretched they altogether give no sound. But this chord he abates of its stretching, lest whilst it is stretched more, the less it should sound.
79. But whether it be the holy preachers in the Church, or the simpleminded and temperate generally, as far as they are vouchsafed powers, they render to their neighbours in her the song of goodly exhortation. For both the wise sort severally keep discreetly on the watch to the fruit of preaching, and that they may draw others to life they ply themselves with a sound of mighty persuading; and they that appear to be of slower wit within her, by the mere merit of their lives, to the extent that they see that they are able, take upon them authority of exhortation towards others, and cease not to draw to the heavenly Country those whom they are able. But Holy Church being borne down by the last persecutions, when she sees her words to be set at nought by the children of perdition, shapes the goodness of her love to lamentations alone, because surely she bewails those whom she is not able by exhorting to draw. Let her say then, My harp also is turned to mourning, and mine organ into the voice of them that weep. As though she avowed in plain words, saying, ‘In the season of my peace, indeed, by some I preached little things after the manner of a harp, whilst by others things great and sounding after the manner of an organ; but now ‘my harp is turned into mourning and mine organ into the voice of them that weep,’ because whilst I see myself to be despised I mourn over those who hear not the song of preaching.’ Such things is Holy Church to do by certain persons in the end, these things has she already done by certain in her beginnings. For the first martyr Stephen endeavoured by preaching to benefit the Jews that persecuted him, which persons when he saw, notwithstanding, after the words of preaching to have flocked together to throwing stones, he prayed with his knees set fast, saying, Lord Jesus, lay not this sin to their charge. [Acts. 7, 60] How then was it to him who for long had told things both small and great, but that the melody of his ‘harp and of his organ’ was already mute, and they were ‘turned into mourning,’ because those whom he had not drawn in preaching, he wept for in loving? Which same Holy Church ceases not daily to do, because she already sees that the word of preaching is almost every where become mute. For some close their mouths from speaking, others scorn to hear right things. But the mind of the Elect whilst it sees the song of preaching to be stilled, returns groaning and in silence to lamentations. Therefore let her say, My harp is turned into mourning, and mine organ into the voice of them that weep, because every elect person in proportion as the voice of holy preaching has been stilled, so much the more sorely does he bewail the woes of the Church.
Thus far blessed Job has described the evils that he underwent; but from this place he begins to relate with more particularity the good things that he did. Now the words of grief we have run through by an historical and allegorical explanation: but the deeds of virtuous qualities we in great measure hold according to the text of the history alone, lest if we draw these to the exploring of mysteries, we should perchance appear to be making void the verity of the deed.