How long will you not look away from me, nor let me alone till I swallow down my spittle?
Read Chapter 7
Gregory The Dialogist
49. The spittle runs into the mouth from the head, but from the mouth it is carried into the belly by being swallowed. And what is our head saving the Deity, through Whom we derive the original of our being, so as to be ‘creature,’ as Paul bears witness, who declares, The head of every man is Christ, and the head of Christ is God; and what is our belly, saving the mind, which, whilst it takes its food, i.e. heavenly perception, being invigorated, doth surely rule the members of the several actions. For except Holy Writ did sometimes describe the mind by the name of ‘the belly,’ Solomon surely would never have said, The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly; [Prov. 20, 27] forasmuch as whilst the grace of heavenly visitation illumines us, it discloses even all the depths of the mind that are hidden from our sight. What then is meant by the term ‘spittle,’ but the savour of interior contemplation, which runs down from the head to the mouth, in that issuing from the brightness of the Creator, whilst we are still set in this life, it but just touches us with a taste of revelation. And hence the Redeemer at His coming mixed the spittle with clay, and restored the eyes of him that was born blind, [John 9, 6] in that heavenly grace enlightens the carnal bent of our hearts, by a mixture of the contemplation of Itself, and from his original blindness restores man anew to perception. For whereas nature henceforth brought him forth in this place of exile, since he was banished from all the joys of Paradise, man was produced from his birth, as it were, without eyes. But, as the holy man teaches, this spittle runs into the mouth indeed, but that it should not reach into the belly, it is not swallowed down, in that the contemplation of the Divine Being grazes the sense, but does not perfectly refresh the mind, because the soul is unable perfectly to behold what as yet, the mist of corruption impeding the view, it sees by a hasty glimpse.
50. For see how the soul of the Elect already bears down all earthly desires beneath itself, already mounts above all the objects that it sees are of a nature to pass away, is already lifted up from the enjoyment of external delights, and closely searches what are the invisible good things, and in doing the same is carried away into the sweetness of heavenly contemplation; already very often it sees something of the interior world as it were through the mist, and with burning desire strives to the utmost to be admitted to the spiritual ministries of the Angels, feeds on the taste of the Light Incomprehensible, and being carried out of self disdains to sink back again into self; for forasmuch as the body, which is in the way to corruption, still weighs down the soul, it has not power to attach itself to the Light for long, which it sees in a momentary glimpse. For the mere infirmity of the flesh by itself drags down the soul, as it mounts above itself, and brings it down, as it aspires, to provide for low cares and wants. And so spittle flowing from the head touches the mouth, but never reaches to the belly; in that our understanding indeed is henceforth watered with the dews of heavenly contemplation, but the soul is not at all fully satisfied. For in the mouth is the taste, but fulness in the belly; and so we cannot ‘swallow down our spittle,’ in that we are not suffered to fill ourselves with the excellency of heavenly brightness, which we taste as yet but in a sip. But whereas this very same that we are already in some slight degree made acquainted with above us, comes from the pitifulness of One that spareth, while that we cannot as yet obtain a perfect perception of it is of the punishment of the old curse still, it is rightly said now, How long dost Thou not spare me, nor let me alone, till I swallow down my spittle? As if it were in plain words; ‘Then Thou dost perfectly spare man, when Thou admittest Him to the perfect measure of the contemplation of Thee; that being transported he may behold Thy brightness in the interior, and no corruption of his flesh without should hold him back. Then ‘thou lettest me alone till I swallow down my spittle, when Thou replenishest me with the savour of Thy brightness even to the very overflow of fulness, that I should never henceforth go a hungered, with but a taste of the mouth, through lack of food, but be stedfastly stayed in Thee, the belly of my interior being watered.’ But whoso would obtain the good that he desires must acknowledge the evil that he has done.