From where then comes wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?
Read Chapter 28
Gregory The Dialogist
88. It deserves to be especially considered, that it is asked by the holy man, whence Wisdom cometh. For It ‘comes’ from Him from Whom It sprung. Now because It is born of the Invisible and Coeternal Father, the way thereof is hidden. Whence too it is said by the Prophet, And who shall declare His generations? [Is. 53, 8] Now ‘the place of the understanding of her’ is the mind of man, which mind the Wisdom of God when it has filled makes holy. And so because both He is invisible, from Whom It came forth, and it is doubtful to us in whose mind It rests as being understood, it is rightly said now, Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding? But this is very wonderful that it is directly brought in; seeing that it is hidden from the eyes of all living. For if the Wisdom, which is God, had been ‘hidden from the eyes of all living,’ then surely this Wisdom no one of the Saints would have seen. But see, I hear John agreeing with this sentence, who says, No man hath seen God at any time. [1 John 4, 12] And again, when I look at the Fathers of the Old Testament, I learn that many of those, as the very history of the Sacred Reading is witness, did see God. Thus Jacob saw the Lord, who says, For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. [Gen. 32, 30] Moses likewise saw God, of whom it is written, And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man Speaketh unto his friend. [Ex. 33, 11] This very Job saw the Lord, who says, I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth Thee. [Job 42, 5] Isaiah saw the Lord, who saith, In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up. [Is. 6, 1] Michaiah saw the Lord, who saith, I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right hand and on His left. [1 Kings 22, 19] What does it mean then that so many Fathers of the Old Testament have witnessed that they have seen God, and yet concerning this Wisdom, which is God, it is said, Seeing that it is hid from the eyes of all living? And John saith, No man hath seen God at any time. Seeing this, which is plainly given us to understand, that so long as we live here a mortal life, God may be seen by certain semblances, but by the actual appearance of His Nature He cannot be seen, so that the soul being inspired with the grace of the Spirit should by certain figures behold God, but not attain to the actual power of His Essence? For hence it is that Jacob, who bears witness that he had seen God, saw Him not save in an Angel. Hence it is that Moses who ‘talked with God face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend,’ in the midst of the very words of his speaking, says, If I have found grace in Thy sight, shew Thyself manifestly to me, that I may see Thee. [Ex. 33, 13. Vulg. Shew me Thy face.] For assuredly if it were not God with whom he was talking, he would have said, ‘Shew me God,’ and not ‘Shew me Thyself.’ But if it was God, with Whom he was speaking ‘face to face,’ wherefore did he pray to see Him, Whom he was seeing? But from this requesting of his, it is inferred that Him he was athirst to perceive in the brightness of His Incomprehensible nature, Whom he had already begun to see by certain semblances, that so the heavenly Essence might be present to the eyes of his mind, in order that for the vision of Eternity there might not be interposed to him any created semblance with the circumstances of time. And so the Fathers of the Old Testament saw the Lord, and yet according to the voice of John, No man hath seen God at anytime; and according to the sentence of blessed Job, the Wisdom Which is God is ‘hid from the eyes of all living,’ because by persons settled in this mortal life He was both able to be seen in certain comprehensible images, and not able to be seen in the Incomprehensible Light of Eternity.
89. But if it is so, that by some while still living in this corruptible flesh, yet growing in incalculable power by a certain piercingness of contemplation, the Eternal Brightness is able to be seen, this too is not at variance with the sentence of blessed Job, who says, Seeing that it is hid from the eyes of all living; because he that sees ‘Wisdom,’ Which is God, wholly and entirely dies to this life, that henceforth he should not be held by the love thereof. For no one has seen Her, who still lives in a carnal way, because no man can embrace God and the world at one and the same time. He who sees God dies by the mere circumstance alone, that either by the bent of the interior, or by the carrying out of practice, he is separated with all his mind from the gratifications of this life. Hence yet further it is said to that same Moses too; For there shall no man see Me, and live. [Ex. 33, 20] As though it were plainly expressed, ‘No man ever at any time sees God spiritually and lives to the world carnally.’ Hence Paul the Apostle too, who as yet had learnt the invisible things of God, as he himself testifies, in part, [1 Cor. 13, 12] related that henceforth he was dead all over to this world, saying, By Whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. [Gal. 6, 14] For as we have already said far above, it is not enough for him to say, I am crucified to the world, except he also first out with, The world is crucified to me, that he might not only bear witness that he was dead to the world, but also that the world was dead to himself, so that neither he himself should covet the world, nor the world henceforth covet him. For if perchance there be two in one place, of whom one is alive, and the other dead, though the dead person does not see the living, yet the live one does see the dead. Now the Preacher of God, in order that he might shew that by the abasement whereby he had cast himself down in humbling himself he was now become such, that neither he himself longed after the world, nor the world after him; not only says that he was crucified to the world, that he himself as one dead should not see the glory of the world, that he might long after, but likewise declared the world crucified to him, wherein he had cast himself down to the ground with such humility, that the world itself likewise, as if dead to him, could not now at all see Paul as being humble and despised.
90. But we are to know that there were some persons, who said that even in that region of blessedness God is beheld indeed in His Brightness, but far from beheld in His Nature. Which persons surely too little exactness of enquiry deceived. For not to that simple and unchangeable Essence is Brightness one thing, and Nature another; but Its very Nature is to It Brightness, and the very Brightness is Nature. For that to Its votaries the Wisdom of God should one day display Itself, He Himself pledges His word, saying, He that loveth Me, shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him. [John 14, 21] As though He said in plain terms, ‘Ye who see Me in your nature, it remains that ye should see Me in Mine own nature.’ Hence He says again; Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. [Matt. 5, 8] Hence Paul says, For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part, then shall I know even as also I am known. [1 Cor. 13, 12]
91. But because it is said concerning God by the first preacher of the Church, Whom the Angels desire to look upon, [1 Pet. 1, 12] there are some who imagine that even the Angels never see God; and yet we know that it is spoken by a sentence of Truth, In heaven their Angels do always behold the face of My Father, Which is in heaven. [Matt. 18, 10] Does, then, Truth sound one thing and the preacher of truth another? But if both sentences be compared together, it is ascertained, that they are not at all at variance with one another. For the Angels at once see and desire to see God, and thirst to behold and do behold. For if they so desire to see Him that they never at all enjoy the carrying out of their desire, desire has anxiety without fruit, and anxiety has punishment. But the blessed Angels are far removed from all punishment of anxiety, because never can punishment and blessedness meet in one. Again, when we say that these Angels are satisfied with the vision of God, because the Psalmist too says, I shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness, [Ps. 17, 15] we are to consider that upon satisfying there follows disgust. So then, that the two may rightly agree together, let Truth say, that they always see; and let the excellent Preacher say, that they always desire to see. For that there be not anxiety in desire, in desiring they are satisfied, and that there be not disgust in their satisfying, whilst being satisfied they desire. And therefore they desire without suffering, because desire is accompanied by satisfying. And they are satisfied without disgust, because the very satisfying itself is ever being inflamed by desire. So also shall we too one day be, when we shall come to the fountain of life. There shall be delightfully stamped upon us at one and the same time a thirsting and a satisfying. But from the thirsting necessity is far absent, and disgust far from that satisfying, because at once in thirsting we shall be satisfied, and in being satisfied we shall thirst. Therefore we shall see God, and it shall be the very reward of our labour, that after the darkness of this mortal state we should be made glad by His light being approached unto.
92. But when we talk of His light being approached, that presents itself to the mind which Paul says, Dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto, Whom no man hath seen, nor can see. [1 Tim. 6, 16] And again, I hear what the Psalmist says; Approach unto Him, and be enlightened. [Ps. 34, 5] How then by approaching are we enlightened, if we see not the very Light by which we are able to be enlightened? But if by approaching to Him we see the very Light whereby we are enlightened, how is it declared to be unapproachable? Wherein it deserves to be considered that he called it unapproachable, but to every man that minds the things of men. Since sacred Scripture is used to mark all the followers of carnal things with the designation of the being ‘men.’ Whence the same Apostle says to certain persons at strife, For whereas there is among you envying and strife and divisions, are ye not carnal; and walk as men? [1 Cor. 3, 3. 4.] To which he soon afterwards appends, Are ye not men? And hence he elsewhere brought forward the testimony; Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. [1 Cor. 2, 9] And when he had described this as hidden from ‘men,’ he added directly, But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit; [1 Cor. 2, 10] separating his own self from the designation of ‘man’ in that having been transported above man he now tasted what is divine. So also in this place, when he told of the light of God being unapproachable, that he might shew to what persons unapproachable, he added, Whom no man hath seen, no nor can see. After his manner calling ‘men’ all whose taste is for things of man. Because they who have a taste for what is divine, are doubtless above men. Therefore we shall see God, if by a heavenly conversation we obtain to be above men. Not yet that we shall so see Him as He Himself sees His very own Self. For the Creator sees Himself in a way far unlike to that in which the creature sees the Creator. For as to the unmeasurableness of God there is a certain measure of contemplation set to us, because we are limited by the mere weight that we are a creature.
93. But assuredly we do not so behold God, as He sees Himself, as we do not so rest in God, as He rests in Himself. For our sight or our rest will be to a certain degree like to His sight or His rest, but not equal to it. For lest we should be prostrate in ourselves, the wing of contemplation, so to say, uplifts us, and we are carried up from ourselves for the beholding Him, and being carried away by the bent of the heart and the sweetness of contemplation, in a certain manner go away from ourselves into Himself, and now this very going away of ours is not to rest, and yet so to go is most perfectly to rest. And so it is perfect rest because God is discerned, and yet it is not to be equalled to His rest, Who doth not pass on from Himself into another, that He may rest. And therefore the rest is, so to say, like and unlike, because what His rest is, our rest imitates. For that we may be blessed and eternal for everlasting, we imitate the Everlasting. And it is a great eternity to us to be imitating eternity. Nor are we heritless of Him Whom we imitate, because in seeing we partake, and in partaking imitate Him. Which same sight is now begun by faith, but is then perfected in Appearance, when we drink at the very springhead the Wisdom coeternal with God which we now derive through the lips of those that preach, as it were in running streams.