That which is far off, and exceedingly deep, who can find it out?
Read Chapter 7
Athanasius the Apostolic
Consider therefore how it is written in the book of Ecclesiastes, “I said, I will be wise, but it was far from me. That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who shall find it out?” [Consider] what is said in the Psalms, “The knowledge of you is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.” And Solomon says, “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing.” [Therefore] I frequently designed to stop and to cease writing; believe me, I did. But lest I should be found to disappoint you, or by my silence to lead into impiety those who have made enquiry of you and are given to disputation, I constrained myself to write briefly, what I have now sent to your piety.
Even if all minds, in fact, should combine their researches and all tongues would concur in their utterance, never, as I have said, could anyone achieve a worthy result in this matter. Solomon, the wisest of all, presents this thought clearly to us when he says, “I have said: I will be wise; and it departed farther from me”; not that it really fled but because wisdom appears unattainable particularly to those to whom knowledge has been given in an exceptionally high degree by the grace of God. .
Who is it, who made all things by his Word, and formed man by his Wisdom, and gathered into one things scattered abroad, and mingled dust with spirit, and compounded an animal visible and invisible, temporal and immortal, earthly and heavenly, able to attain to God but not to comprehend him, drawing near and yet far off? “I said, I will be wise,” says Solomon, “but she was far from me beyond what is,” and, “Verily, he that increases knowledge increases sorrow.” For the joy of what we have discovered is no greater than the pain of what escapes us; a pain, I imagine, like that felt by those who are dragged, while yet thirsty, from the water, or are unable to retain what they think they hold, or are suddenly left in the dark by a flash of lightning. In Defense of His Flight, Oration
What Ecclesiastes is saying is this: Before I turned my thoughts to ponder over God’s work, I was not aware of God’s magnificence. I said, I must have wisdom; that is, I must inquire into the nature of every cause; and wisdom withdrew farther away from me than it ever was before. By that I mean, formerly I was not in quest of wisdom because I was unaware of it, and afterwards, when I began to seek it, I could not find it. Homilies on the Psalms (Psalm ).
As far in it as the breath of the divine Spirit may have brought us, yet the vastness that opens out before our eyes is ever more immeasurable. In the words of Solomon, “It will become much farther from us than it was, and a great depth. Who shall find it out?” Therefore let us beseech the Lord that the fear of him and the love that cannot fail may remain fixed in us, making us wise in all things and keeping us ever unharmed from the devil’s missiles. For with these protections it is impossible for anyone to fall into the snares of death. –.