The deep says, It is not in me: and the sea says, It is not with me.
Read Chapter 28
Gregory The Dialogist
67. What does he call ‘the bottomless pit’ but the hearts of men, which are at once by the fall all floating, and by the mistiness of double-dealing full of darkness? Which same ‘bottomless pit’ declares that this Wisdom ‘is not with’ it; because the wicked mind, while it longs to be wise in a carnal way, shews itself foolish as to things spiritual. For because as Paul testifies, the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, so much the more completely is every one rendered foolish within, as he endeavours to appear wise without. Concerning this abyss it is said by John, And I saw an Angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years. And cast him, into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled. [Rev. 20, 1–3.] For by the number of a thousand, he denoted not the quantity of time but the universality, with which the Church exercises dominion. Now the old serpent is bound with a chain and cast into the bottomless pit, because being tied up from the hearts of the good, while he is shut up in the minds of lost sinners, he rules over them with worse cruelty. And a little while afterwards he is described as brought up out of the hollow of the bottomless pit, in that from the hearts of the wicked which now rage secretly, having then gotten power against the Church, he shall break out into the violence of open persecution. And so this bottomless pit, wherein the devil is now kept hidden, ‘saith that Wisdom is not with it,’ because by wicked deeds it shows itself a stranger to true wisdom. For, whilst a man covers wickedness in the heart, but with the mouth gives forth flatteries, whilst he overshadows his purposes with double-dealing, whilst he eschews words of singlemindedness as foolishness, whilst he shuns the ways of simple innocency, it is as if the Abyss denies that she has the Wisdom of God. And because minds that are devoted to this world, are disturbed by the cares and anxieties of the present life, and therefore are quite unable to enjoy the repose of that Wisdom, it is rightly added;
And the sea saith, It is not with me.
68. For what is there denoted by the name of the sea having the bitter disquietude of worldly minds, which while they fall foul of one another in enmities by turns, dash themselves together like encountering waves? For the life of worldly persons is rightly called ‘a sea;’ because, whilst it is agitated by the tempestuous stirrings of actions, it is parted from the tranquillity and stedfastness of interior Wisdom. Contrary to which it is well said by the Prophet, Upon whom shall My Spirit rest but upon him that is humble and quiet, and that trembleth at my words? [Isa. 66, 2] But from earthly minds the Spirit flies the further in proportion as He findeth no rest with them. For it is hence that it is said of certain by the Psalmist; Bruising and unhappiness is in their ways, and the way of peace have they not known. [Ps. 13, 7. Vulg. 14, 7. Com. Pr.] From which same bruising of disquietude the Lord calls us back, saying, Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. [Matt. 11, 28. 29.] For what is more toilsome in this life than to be fevered with earthly desires? or what is there more full of repose here, than to long for nought of this world? It is hence that the Israelitish people received the keeping of the Sabbath in gift; it is hence on the opposite side that Egypt was smitten with a multitude of flies. For the people, that follows God, receives the Sabbath, i.e. the rest of the spirit, that it should not be worn out in this life by any craving of carnal passions. But Egypt, which bears a likeness of this world, is stricken with flies. For the fly is an excessively intrusive and restless creature. Wherein what else is there represented but the intrusive solicitations of carnal desires. Whence it is said elsewhere, Dying flies destroy the sweetness of the ointment. [Eccl. 10, 1] Because superfluous thoughts, which in the mind taken up with things carnal are for ever both springing into life and dying away, destroy that sweetness, with which each individual has been inwardly anointed by the Spirit; because they do not suffer him to enjoy the unadulteratedness thereof. And so Egypt is smitten with flies, because the parts of those persons that love an earthly life, while they are stricken with the disquietudes of their desires, are by the swarms of carnal imaginations borne down beneath, so that they cannot be lifted up to the desire of interior rest. Whence when Truth comes to the heart with the wonderful help of His pitifulness, He first banishes therefrom the fevers of carnal thoughts, and afterwards distributes in it the gifts of the parts of virtue. Which same the sacred history of the Gospel excellently conveys to us; in which when the Lord being besought was led by the way in order to restore the daughter of the ruler to life, it is added directly, But when the crowd were put forth He went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. [Matt. 9, 20] So the crowd is cast forth without, in order that the damsel may be raised up; because if the importunate throng of worldly cares be not first expelled from the inner recesses of the heart, the soul, which lies dead in the interior, cannot rise up. For whilst it lets itself loose amongst the countless imaginings of earthly desires, it never in any degree gathers itself up to the consideration of self. Thus then, knowing and seeing that in these waves of perturbations Wisdom cannot dwell, he says, And the sea saith, It is not with me. For no man receives her fully, saving he who strives to withdraw himself from all the drifting to and fro of carnal courses. And hence it is said elsewhere, Write wisdom in the time of leisure. And he that is lessened in doing, even he shall win her. [Ecclus. 38, 24] And again, Be still, and know that I am God. [Ps. 46, 10]
69. But how is it that we know that most of the old Fathers at once interiorly held fast this Wisdom in its life, and outwardly administered the affairs of the world in ordinary? Do we call Joseph deprived of the attainment of this Wisdom, who in the time of dearth taking upon himself the affairs of all Egypt not only furnished provisions to the Egyptians, but by the skilfulness of his administration preserved the life of foreign people as well that came to him? Did Daniel prove a stranger to this Wisdom, who, when he was made by the king of the Chaldeans in Babylon chief of the governors, was busied with greater charges in proportion as by a higher pitch of dignity he was likewise set above all? Whereas then it is plain that very often even the good are engaged in earthly charges with no interest, we plainly see that in this way the citizens of Jerusalem sometimes render services [angarias] to Babylon, in like manner as oftentimes the citizens of Babylon pay suit and service to Jerusalem. For there are some persons who preach the word of life for the displaying of wisdom alone, they minister the succour of alms from the passion of vain-glory; and indeed the things they do seem to be proper to Jerusalem, but yet are they citizens of Babylon.
70. In this way then it sometimes happens, that they who love the heavenly Country alone, seem to be subjected to the charges of the earthly country. Whose ministration however is distinguished from the practices of the wicked for the most part in act, but sometimes before the Judge Above in thought only. For being full of wisdom from Above, they distinguish how they may at once be free to one thing inwardly, and busied with another thing outwardly; so that if perchance by God’s secret appointment aught of the concerns of this world is charged upon them, they coveting it not, they may yield to God Whom they delight in, and from the love of Him, may interiorly desire His Vision only, but from the fear of Him externally discharge the course imposed upon them with humility, that they should at once desire to be disengaged to God by force of the free attachment of loving affection, and again fulfil the charges imposed upon them by force of the constitution of servitude; and when the affairs of business make a din without, within the most peaceful repose is maintained in love; and the turmoils of employments outwardly clamouring, reason as presiding judge disposes of within, and with tranquil governance regulates the things, which all around it are too little tranquil. For as force of mind is at the head for bridling the motions of the flesh, so very often the love of tranquillity regulates aright the imposed turmoils of business; because exterior charges, if they be not desired with a wrong affection, may be executed with a mind not disordered but regulated. For holy men never court them, but lament them when put upon them by secret appointment, and though in respect of a better aim they shun them, yet in respect of a submissive mind they bear them. Which same they are above every thing eager to avoid if it might be, but fearing the secret dispensations of God, they lay hold of that they eschew, and execute what they avoid. For they go into their conscience, and they there take counsel what the secret will of God would have, and being conscious that they ought to be subject to the Appointments on high, they humble the neck of the heart to the yoke of Divine Providence. But he that is such as this, whatever turmoils are at work without, they never reach to his interior parts. And so it comes to pass that there is one thing maintained within in wish and another thing maintained without in office, and that with this Wisdom their hearts are filled, being no longer troubled and disordered, but in a state of tranquillity. Well, then, is it said thereof, that the depth saith, It is not with me, and the sea saith, It is not with me. As though it were expressed in plain speech; ‘The troubled minds of the worldly cry out by the mere circumstance of their not being quiet, that they are widely separated from true Wisdom. But because this Wisdom of God, abiding with the Father before the ages of the world, was to be made Incarnate in the end thereof, so that in order to redeem the human race, It should send not the holy Angels, not just men, but in the manifestation of very sight comes by Its own Self.