And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it was parted, and became four heads.
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Ambrose of Milan
“The river,” we are told, “is separated into four branches.” The name of one is Pishon, which encircles all the land of Hevila, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx are there. The name of the second river is Gihon. This river encircles all the land of Ethiopia. The name of the third river is Tigris, which river flows by the Assyrians. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. There are, therefore, four rivers. Pishon—so called by the Hebrews but named Ganges by the Greeks—flows in the direction of India. Gihon is the river Nile, which flows around the land of Egypt or Ethiopia. The land enclosed by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers is called Mesopotamia because it lives between these two rivers. This name conveys its location even to fardistant peoples and besides expresses popular belief. But how is the fount called the Wisdom of God? That this is a fount the Gospel tells us in the words “If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink.” Wisdom is a foun...
Paradise is, therefore, a land of fertility-that is to say, a soul which is fertile-planted in Eden, that is, in a certain delightful or well-tilled land in which the soul finds pleasure. Adam exists there as nous [mind] and Eve as 'sense.' Take note of what this soul of ours has in the nature of defense against natural and weak tendencies or against situations which might be unfavorable to us in our attempts to avoid danger.
There was a fount which irrigated the land of Paradise. [ Gen 2:10 ] Is not this stream our Lord Jesus Christ, the Fount as well as the Father of eternal life? It is written: 'For with thee is the fountain of life.' [ Ps 35:10 ] Hence: 'From within him there shall flow living waters.' [ John 7:38; cf. Isa 58:11 ] We read of a fountain and a river which irrigates in Paradise the fruit-bearing tree that bears fruit for life eternal. You have read, then, that a fount was there and that 'a river rose in Eden,' [ Gen 2:10 ] ,/cite that is, in your soul there exists a ...
The church encloses fruitful trees within its walls. It waters these trees with four rivers, that is, with the four Gospels, from which it bestows the grace of baptism by the salutary and heavenly inundation. Can he who is not inside the church be watered from the fountains of the church? How could one who is perverse and condemned by himself and banished beyond the fountains of paradise provide a healthful resource of water? How could one who has dried up and has failed with the dryness of eternal thirst bestow upon another the salutary drinks of paradise? Letters
Moses turned to write about the river that flowed out from paradise and that, once outside of it, divided into four distinct sources, saying, “A river flowed out of Eden to water paradise.” Here too Moses calls the delightful land of paradise Eden. If that river had indeed watered paradise, it would not have divided into the four rivers outside it. I would suggest that it was perhaps due to convention that it is said “to water,” since the spiritual trees of paradise had no need of water. But if someone should say that because they are spiritual, they drink from the blessed and spiritual waters there, I would not quarrel over this. The four rivers that flowed from that river were not similar in taste to the headspring. For if the waters of our lands vary, all being placed under the sentence of a curse, how much more distinct should the taste of the blessed land of Eden be from the taste of that land that had been placed under the curse of the Just One due to Adam’s transgression of the ...
After having spoken of Paradise and the day on which it was planted, as well as the introduction into it of Adam, and the Tree of Life and its companion, Scripture turns to describe the river which goes out from its midst, and how it is divided up outside Paradise into four sources: "A river was issuing from Eden to irrigate Paradise. " [ Gen2:10 ] Notice that here too it calls the delightful land of Paradise "Eden."
Had that river not first irrigated Paradise it would not have divided up into four sources outside it. I think it was perhaps for purposes of convenience that it was said to "irrigate," seeing that the spiritual trees of Paradise do not require any irrigation by water. But if, despite their being spiritual, they nevertheless absorbed something of those blessed and spiritual waters there, I should not object to such an opinion.
The taste of the water of the four tributaries which flow from that river is not like the taste of the head of the source. For if water varies...
A river Moses gives many characteristics of Paradise, inviting us, as it were, to search for it; and still we cannot certainly discover where it is, or whether it exist at all at present, in a state of cultivation. We must therefore endeavour to find the mystic Paradise, Heaven and the true Church; the road to which, though more obvious, is too frequently mistaken. See St. Augustine, City of God xiii. 21.; Proverbs iii. 18. (Haydock)
Aweinspiring, in truth, are the mysteries of the church. Awesome truth is its altar. A fountain sprang up out of paradise, sending forth not only visible streams but also spiritual streams arising as a fountain from this high tableland. Alongside this fountain there have grown, not willows without fruit but abundant trees reaching to heaven itself, with fruit ever in season and remaining still incorrupt. If someone is intensely hot, let him come to this fountain and cool down this feverish heat. It dispels parching heat and gently cools all things that are very hot—not only those literally inflamed by the sun’s heat but also those set on fire by sin’s burning arrows. It does so because it takes its beginning from above and has its source from there, and from there it is fed. Many are the streams of this fountain, streams that the Paraclete sends forth; and the Son becomes its custodian, not keeping its channel open with a mattock but by making our hearts receptive.
Perhaps, however, those people who like to talk from their own wisdom do not concede again that these rivers are rivers or these waters really waters but propound some different interpretation to people ready to lend them their ears. Let us, however, I beg you, not be convinced by them but block our ears against them; let us instead place our credence in sacred Scripture and heed what is told us there.
Then there is the ocean that encircles the entire earth like a sort of river and to which it seems to me that Scripture referred when it said that “a river flowed out of paradise.” It has sweet potable water and supplies the seas, but because the water remains stagnant in the seas for a long time it becomes brackish. The sun and the waterspouts are constantly drawing up the less dense water, and from this the clouds are formed and the rain comes, the water becoming sweet by filtration. This ocean is divided into four heads, of four rivers. The name of the first is Pishon; this is the Ganges of India. The name of the second is Gehon; this is the Nile, which comes down from Ethiopia into Egypt. The name of the third is Tigris, and of the fourth, Euphrates.
Now is manifested the reason of the truth why the fourth day is called the Tetras, why we fast even to the ninth hour, or even to the evening, or why there should be a passing over even to the next day. Therefore this world of ours is composed of four elements— fire, water, heaven, earth. These four elements, therefore, form the quaternion of times or seasons. The sun, also, and the moon constitute throughout the space of the year four seasons— of spring, summer, autumn, winter; and these seasons make a quaternion. And to proceed further still from that principle, lo, there are four living creatures before God's throne, four Gospels, four rivers flowing in paradise; Genesis 2:10 four generations of people from Adam to Noah, from Noah to Abraham, from Abraham to Moses, from Moses to Christ the Lord, the Son of God; and four living creatures, viz., a man, a calf, a lion, an eagle; and four rivers, the Pison, the Gihon, the Tigris, and the Euphrates. The man Christ Jesus, the originator o...