Will you play with him as with a bird? or will you leash him for your maidens?
Read Chapter 41
Gregory The Dialogist
30. Why is it that our adversary is first called Behemoth, afterwards Leviathan, but is now compared to a ‘bird,’ in ridicule at his destruction? For Behemoth, as we have said, is interpreted ‘monster,’ [‘bellua’] and it is shewn to be a quadruped, when it is said to eat hay as an ox. But Leviathan, as he is taken with a hook is doubtless set before us as a serpent in the waters. But now he is brought into comparison with a bird, when it is said, Wilt thou play with him as with a bird? Let us examine, therefore, why he is called a ‘monster,’ or a ‘beast,’ why a ‘dragon,’ and why a ‘bird.’ For we learn more quickly the meaning of his names, if we accurately examine the craft of his cunning. For he comes from heaven to earth, and no longer raises himself by any aspiration to the hope of heavenly things. He is, therefore, an irrational and four-footed animal by the folly of his unclean doings, a dragon by his malice in doing hurt, a ‘bird’ by the levity of his subtle nature. For because he knows not what he is doing against himself, he is a monster with brute sense; because he maliciously seeks to hurt us, he is a ‘dragon;’ but because he exalts himself haughtily on the subtlety of his nature, he is a ‘bird.’ Again, because he is in his wicked doings employed by the Divine power for our benefit, he is a ‘beast;’ because he secretly bites, he is a ‘serpent;’ but because he sometimes through his indomitable pride feigns himself to be an Angel of light, he is a ‘bird.’ For though he harasses mankind with his inexplicable skill in wickedness, yet he specially tempts by three sins; in order, namely, to subdue to himself some by lust, some by malice, and some by pride.
31. He is, therefore, deservedly designated by the very name of his doings, in what he attempts to do, when he is called a ‘beast,’ a ‘dragon,’ or a ‘bird.’ For in those whom he excites to the folly of lust, he is a ‘beast;’ in those whom he inflames to do malicious injury, he is a ‘dragon;’ but in those whom he exalts to the haughtiness of pride as though they understood high things, he is a ‘bird.’ But in those whom he pollutes equally with lust and malice and pride, he exists as a ‘beast,’ [‘jumentum’] a ‘dragon,’ and a ‘bird’ at the same time. For he has insinuated himself into the hearts of those deluded by him in as many shapes as the wickednesses in which he entangles them. He is, therefore, called by the name of many things, because he is changed into various kind of shapes before the eyes of those who are deluded by him. For when he tempts this one by the lust of the flesh, and yet does not overcome him, he changes his suggestion, and kindles his heart into malice. Because, therefore, he was unable to approach him as a ‘monster,’ [‘bellua’] he comes near as a ‘dragon.’ He is unable to corrupt him with the poison of malice, but yet he places his good qualities before his eyes, and exalts his heart to pride. He could not, therefore, steal up to this man as a dragon, but yet by bringing before him the phantom of vain glory, he flew before the sight of his thought as a bird. And this bird is doubtless raised up the more cruelly against us, the less it is impeded by any weakness of its own nature. For because it is not overcome by the death of the flesh, and saw our Redeemer was mortal in the flesh, it was puffed up with greater haughtiness of pride. But where it raised itself against its Maker with the wing of pride, it there found the snare of its death. For he was overcome by that very death of His flesh, which in pride he sought, and suffered from the snare by his very seeking the death of the Just One, as the prey of his malice. Let it he said then, Wilt thou play with him as with a bird? For the Lord in truth played with him as with a bird, when in the passion of His Only-Begotten Son He shewed him the bait, but concealed the snare. For he saw that which he was taking in his mouth, but he saw not what he was holding in his throat. For though he had himself confessed Him to be the Son of God, yet he believed that He was dying as a mere man, for whose death he had roused the minds of the persecuting Jews. But he is understood to have learnt at last too late, at the very moment of His betrayal, that he would be punished by that His death. Whence also he frightened the wife of Pilate by dreams, in order that her husband might desist from the persecution of the Just One. [Matt. 27, 19] But the plan which had been by the secret dispensation ordained, could not he by any machination overthrown. For it was expedient that the death of a Just Man dying unjustly should be a ransom for the death of sinners dying justly. But because this Leviathan was ignorant of this even to the time of His passion, he was deluded as a bird, and suffered from the snare of His Godhead, when he seized the bait of His Manhood. It follows;
Or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens?
32. Thou understandest, As I. Though the condition of male servants is despicable, their manhood is strong. But in maid servants their sex lies low, together with their condition. The Lord, therefore, well declares that He binds this Leviathan not for his male servants, but for his maidens. Because when He came for our redemption, and sent His preachers against the pride of the world, He chose the foolish, and left the wise; the weak, and left the strong; the poor, and left the rich. The Lord, therefore, bound the strength of this Leviathan for His maidens, because, as Paul witnesses, God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty. [l Cor. 1, 27] Whence it is well said by Solomon; Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out seven pillars, she hath slain her victims, she hath mingled wine, she hath set forth her table, she hath sent her maidens to summon to the citadel, and to the walls of the city. [Prov. 9, 1-3] For Wisdom in truth built her a house, when the Only-Begotten Son of God, through the intervention of His soul [Note: ‘Mediante anima.’ He means to say, not that the Human Soul of our Lord was the means of creating the Body, but that it is the medium through which that Body is personally united with the Godhead. See Bk. xxxi. §. 42], created Himself a human body within the womb of the Virgin. For the body of the Only-Begotten is called the house of God, just as it is also called a temple; but so, that that one and the same Son of God and Man, is Himself the Inhabitor, Himself the Inhabited. But this can be rightly understood in another sense also, if the Church is called the house of Wisdom. And She hath hewn out Herself seven pillars, because She has severed the minds of preachers from the love of the present world, and has raised them up to bear the fabric of this selfsame Church. And these, because they are supported by the virtue of perfection, are designated by the number seven. She hath slain her victims, because she allowed the life of preachers to be sacrificed by persecution. She hath mingled her wine, because she has announced to us the mysteries of the Godhead and Manhood alike. She hath also set forth her table, because She hath laid open and prepared for us the food of Holy Scripture. She hath likewise sent her maidens, to summon us to the citadel and to the walls of the city, because she studied to have weak and abject preachers, to gather the faithful people to the heavenly edifices of their spiritual country. Whence the Lord praises Nathaniel in the Gospel, [John 1, 47] but yet does not number him in the class of preachers, because such as had nothing praiseworthy of their own, ought to come to preach Him; in order that that which they were doing might be known more surely to be of the truth, the more plainly it was also seen that they were not sufficient of themselves to effect it. In order then that His wonderful power might shine forth by the tongues of His preachers, it was first ordered still more wonderfully, that these preachers should have no merit of their own. The Lord, therefore, sent ‘maidens’ and bound the strength of this Leviathan, because He set forth to the world feeble preachers, and confined with the bond of His terror all the mighty, who had been of his body. And this Leviathan is bound in His own person by maidens, when, on the light of truth shining forth by weak preachers, the ancient enemy is not permitted to rage, at his will, against the minds of the Elect, but is restrained by signs and mighty wonders from holding all whom he desires under the bondage of unbelief. He, therefore, who gives strength against him to the weak, works this mightily by Himself. But because the Lord informs us whom He sends against him, He now also adds what they do who are sent.