The Greek Philosophy,

Knowledge

and

Faith


1. KNOWLEDGE

I have already spoken of "The School of Alexandria and the Gnostics. "

KNOWLEDGE (GNOSIS)

St. Clement attempting to create a true, and authentic and practical Christian "gnosis," constantly uses the word Gnostic to mean "spiritual believer." He does not separate knowledge (gnosis) from spirituality, while Origen never denotes by this term the Christian "spirituality," but he uses the Pauline terms teleios, perfect, or pneumatikos, spiritual. The word gnostikos is very rare and is only found once applied to the spiritual, in a fragmented document, with a clearly ironical intention directed at those who hold to the supposed gnosis.

 

THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE

In the School of Alexandria, Origen had learned how to thirst after wisdom till he rested in God Himself. "The desire for wisdom," as St. Clement says, "grows when it is inspired and fed by habits of study, and it grows in proportion to the growth of the student’s faith." "He who, therefore, has God resting in him will not desire to seek elsewhere. At once leaving all hindrances, and despising all matter which distracts him, he cleaves to heaven by knowledge, and passing through the spiritual essences, and all rule and authority, he touches the highest thrones, hasting to that alone for the sake of which he alone knows... For works follow knowledge, as the shadow follows the body."

 

KNOWLEDGE AND CHURCH LIFE

The deans and students of the School of Alexandria looked to the Christian life or to Church life as a source of unceasing learning of the divine knowledge. The true members of the Church are the friends of wisdom, and the students of faith are students of true knowledge. R. Cadiou says,

Thus it happened that, from the day a student enrolled at the Academy, he was taught to regard the life of a Christian as a progressive introduction to knowledge of the divine. He learned to see the Church as a long course in the study of religion, a course which admitted of several degrees. And he absorbed the general principle of the Academy, which made a distinction between the two kinds of Christian, the simple and the perfect.

In the eyes of Origen, as in those of Clement, the Church has its privileged souls; they are the friends of wisdom, and they either cultivate the spirit in lives of personal holiness or dedicate themselves to philosophical research. Beyond this group is the main body of the faithful, content to eat humbler fare.

 

KNOWLEDGE AS THE ASSURANCE OF SALVATION

As I said before, the Alexandrians were interested in the "gnosis," not merely for the delight of their minds, but rather for the satisfaction of the soul. The "knowledge" for them is an experience of the unity with the Father in the Only-begotten Son by the Holy Spirit. Through the true knowledge of the Holy Trinity we attain the new risen life in Christ, by the work of the Holy Spirit, instead of spiritual death which we had suffered.

St. Clement insists that the goal of Christian education is "practical, not theoretical. Its aim is to improve the soul, not to teach, and to train it up to a virtuous, not an intellectual life."

R. Cadiou in his book, "Origen" says,

Not without reason did the students who followed the elementary classes at Alexandria long for the special knowledge of God which Clement had promised them. In the common conviction among all the various sects of the day, this special knowledge of God was an assurance of salvation; it was supposed to be mysteriously imparted to special individuals who were born with the gift of unlocking the secrets of the divine. Such special individuals were considered to differ essentially from the common run of men.

For Origen, knowledge is not just an intellectual meditation on God and His glory, but it is a daily experience in our worship and life. Therefore it is the same thing as union with God and love. To ask him the question whether blessedness is knowledge or love would be for him nonsense, for knowledge is love. For him there is no distinction between intellectual and spiritual knowledge.

Origen relies on the Hebrew meaning of the verb to know, used to express the human act of love: "Adam knew his wife Eve." Such is the ultimate definition of knowing compounded with love in union. This last quotation excludes all pantheism: just as the man and the woman are "two in one flesh" so God and the believer become two in ‘one and the same spirit’.

According to Origen, knowledge inflames our love, grants us perfection of the soul, its purification, and thus it attains likeness to the Son of God. The goal of our spiritual life is to attain knowledge, through which we share fellowship with Christ, meet Him as if face to face and to be in His likeness. Knowledge develops both the filiation and the glorification.

H. Crouzel says that knowledge is a vision or a direct contact, dispensing with the mediation of the sign, the image, the word, which are rendered necessary here below by our corporeal condition. It is participation in its object, better still it is union, ‘mingling’ with its object, and love. In the state of blessedness, we repeat, the saved will have been taken, as it were, into the Son, yet without pantheism, for they will see God with the very eyes of the Son...

The apostolic life of the preacher and teacher only has value if its aim is contemplation; and contemplation blossoms into apostolic action. To see Jesus transfigured on the mountain, and thus to contemplate the divinity of the Word seen through his humanity - the Transfiguration is the symbol of the highest knowledge of God in his Son which is possible here below - one must, with the three apostles, make the ascent of the mountain, symbolizing the spiritual ascent. Those who remain in the plain see Jesus "with no form nor comeliness" (Isa. 53:2), even if they believe in his divinity: for these spiritual invalids He is simply the Doctor who cares for them. Or to use another image from the Gospels Jesus speaks to the people in parables out of doors; He explains them to the disciples indoors: so one must go into the house in order to begin to understand..

We conclude from these words (Luke 1:2) that knowledge sometimes is an aim in itself, but deeds crown it... To be satisfied with knowledge without applying it, it becomes a useful science. As science is correlated to the practical deeds so knowledge to the ministry of the Word.

KNOWLEDGE AND FREEDOM

Origen considers the grace of knowledge a free gift of the divine love. It must be received freely by man and ascesis is the witness to this will on man's part. Origen criticized the conception held by the Montanists of trance as unconsciousness and that shows that God does not take possession of a soul without its consent.

Knowledge is the meeting of two freedoms, that of God and that of man. That of God on the one hand, for a divine Being is only seen if He is willing to make Himself visible. The Contra Celsus clearly asserts, dealing with passages from Plato that Celsus brings up, the whole distance that separates Christian grace from the approximations known to Plato and the Platonists. Of course, for the latter, the divine realities can only be seen in the light of God, but this light will necessarily come to anyone who places himself in certain conditions of ascesis. Now, Origen recalls, the grace of knowledge is a free gift of the divine love. It must be received freely by man and ascesis is the witness to this will on man's part. Origen criticized the conception held by the Montanists of trance as unconsciousness and that shows that God does not take possession of a soul without its consent.

 

HUMAN KNOWLEDGE AND DIVINE PROVIDENCE

There is strength to the summary of Hal Koch, that Origen’s theology involves a meeting of divine providence and human learning: pronoia and paideusis. The education of humanity takes place through the providential teaching of the Incarnate Word; Logos is Paidagogos . Origen at the end has to grapple with the logic of this dynamic role for Logos: how can such lively paideia spring from the changeless One?

HUMAN KNOWLEDGE AND CHURCH TRADITION

Origen as a churchman trusts in the Church Tradition as a source of the Christian dogmas

and doctrines, but in broadmindedness and openness of heart, for he believes that the human mind is a divine gift, and in itself is an image of deity. Like knows like; mind comprehends Mind. Joseph C. McLelland says,

He is careful to distinguish between two areas of thought. The first is that in which he is reasoning within the common confession of faith, where "that alone is to be accepted as truth which differs in no respect from ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition" The second is that in which doctrine is still "open," where he is relatively free to speculate, to suggest gymnastikos theories about the origin of the soul, angelogy, and especially cosmogony and eschatology. These latter two doctrines become at Origen’s hands an eternal creation and the famous apokatastasis or restorationism which has characterized his name in popular opinion ever since...

Origen, of course, has only begun; he proceeds to expound the way in which there is positive human knowledge of God. He shows that although God is incomprehensible there is no absolute darkness but a "veritable esoterisme" of Light.

The argument of Celsus which Origen seeks to refute in 7:32f turns on whether the Christian doctrine of the resurrection is worthy of the invisible God or not. Origen agrees with Celsus’ idealist presupposition, and states: "The knowledge of God is not derived from the eye of the body, but from the mind which sees that which is in the image of the Creator and by divine providence has received the power to know God."

There is an intellectual sight which is different in kind from sensible sight: "in proportion to the degree in which the superior eye is awake and the sight of the senses is closed, the supreme God and His Son, who is the Logos and Wisdom and the other titles, are comprehended and seen by each man."

 

THE Wisdom of God And The Wisdom of the world

Henri De Lubac says,

Nor does Origen confuse wisdom with wisdom. We cite once again his clear declaration against Celsus’ haughty reflections: "Human wisdom is what we call ‘the wisdom of the world,’ which is ‘foolishness with God.’ But the divine wisdom, which is different from the human if it really is divine, comes by the grace of God who gives it to those who prove themselves to be suitable persons to receive it... Celsus describes as very uneducated and as slaves and as quite ignorant those who... Have not been educated in the learning of the Greeks. But the people whom we call very uneducated are those who are not ashamed to address lifeless objects... However, there is some excuse here for the error."

It is not astonishing that certain writers, who have clear ideas on the arts and sciences and who sometimes display an ability to discuss questions of morals or to solve problems in literature, should remain in ignorance of God. Their intellect is like the vision of a man who can see every object except the sun and who never lifts his eyes toward the sun’s rays.

 

OUR CONTINUOS PROGRESS IN KNOWLEDGE

Although Origen sees God more as Light than as Darkness, he sometimes alludes to the Darkness in which God hides Himself. But this relates to our ignorance which belongs to our carnal condition. The goal is knowledge ‘face to face,’ coinciding with the perfect ‘likeness.’ In the resurrection we shall have a knowledge like that of the angels, though Origen does not say clearly how perfect that knowledge is.

 


2. KNOWLEDGE OF GOD

 

HUMAN LANGUAGE

According to St. Clement, "God of the universe who is above all speech, all conception, all thought, can never be committed to writing, being inexpressible even by His own power." "God is invisible and beyond expression by words..., what is divine is unutterable by human power (2 Cor. 12:4; Rom. 11:33)... The discourse concerning God is most difficult to deal with."

Joseph C. McLelland writes,

If God is unknowable He cannot be spoken of, and therefore man cannot give him a name. Such was the theology of the Platonists: for Albinus, God is transcendent so decisively that he is unspeakable and therefore unnamable (arretos, akatonomastos). Celsus had also stated that "he cannot be named" and Origen takes this up as worthy of a detailed reply. Celsus is right, Origen states, if he means that our descriptions by word or expression cannot show the divine attributes. But this applies to attribution on any level - "who can express in words the sweetness of a date and that of a dried fig?" There is difficulty in finding names to distinguish between qualities even in this regard. But if by "name " one means that he can "show something about His attributes in order to guide the hearer and to make him understand God’s character insofar as some of His attributes are attainable by human nature," then this is a valid mode of speaking.

Origen states that through His infinite love God uses even our human language and expressions to make a communication with us.

"For I am the Lord your God, a jealous God"(Exod. 20:5). Behold the kindness of God! He Himself assumes the weakness of human dispositions that He might teach us and make us perfect. For who, when he hears the phrase, "a jealous God," is not immediately astonished and thinks of the defect of human weakness?!

But God does and suffers all things for our sake. It is so we can be taught that He speaks with dispositions which are known and customary to us. Let us see, therefore, what this statement means: "I am a jealous God."

Furthermore, Origen's doctrine of God unreservedly accepts the traditional Platonic definitions that God is immutable, impassible, beyond time and space, without shape or color, not needing the world, though creating it by His goodness. Although he speaks of God's divine impassability and that He has no human emotion, he insists upon declaring God’s true Fatherhood through love, expressed to us through human language as if He has every feeling and emotion.

Moreover, does not the Father and God of the Universe somehow experience emotion, since He is long-suffering and of great mercy?!

Or do you know that when He distributes human gifts He experiences human emotion?!

For 'the Lord your God endured your ways, as when man endures his son' (Deut. 1:31).

 

GOD IS INCOMPREHENSIBLE

1. For Origen, God who is incomprehensible, reveals Himself, His nature, and His characteristics to man, not as an object of showing or curiosity, but for man’s advantage. God wants His closest and dearest creature to know Him so that he may imitate Him and share with Him His life. In other words, establishing the Spiritual Church as the Bride of Christ is the true aim of theology or of our faith and knowledge of God.

God is not an object of curiosity, but a free and sovereign Being who gives Himself to be known by a created being, who is equally respected for its own subjective integrity and expected to be willingly and freely related to God. This faith has gathered together men from east, west, north, and the south into the knowledge of God.

2. God is immaterial, transcendent, and incomprehensible, but He reveals Himself to men especially when they have pure minds.

There is a kinship between the human mind and God; for the mind is itself an image of God, and therefore can have some conception of the divine nature, especially the more it is purified and removed from matter.

3. Through God’s help and grace man can acknowledge Him. Joseph C. McLelland writes,

Man knows God, Origen answers Celsus, "by looking at the image of the invisible God, " that is "by a certain divine grace, which does not come about in the soul without God’s action, but with a sort of inspiration". Plato had thought God difficult to know, but not impossible, whereas "it is probable that the knowledge of God is beyond the capacity of human nature (that is why there are such great errors about God among men), but that by God’s kindness and love to man and by a miraculous divine grace the knowledge of God extends to those who by God’s foreknowledge have been previously determined, because they would live lives worthy of Him after He was made known to them".

4. God who is absolutely impassible has no human motions, at the same time He is not a solid Being, for He is "Love," unique Love. Love is expressed by our human nature that we might acknowledge it and accept it, therefore we read in the Holy Scriptures that God grieves at our falling into sin; He hates sin and rejoices in our repentance. Origen gives many examples from the Scriptures, then concludes,

Now all these passages where God is said to lament, or rejoice, or hate, or be glad, are to be understood as spoken by Scripture in metaphorical and human fashion. For the divine nature is remote from all affection of passion and change, remaining ever unmoved and untroubled in its own summit of bliss.

Rowan A. Greer says:

Origen means to be insisting upon the Biblical witness that God is the Creator and Sovereign Lord of the created order. And he is able to expound the idea not only by using Scripture, but also by employing philosophical ideas. One line of argumentation lies behind the discussion in De Principiis 4:1-2. God is not contained by the created order, but He informs it with His own presence and power. The theme is originally Jewish and may be found both in Philo and in the rabbinical writings...

Origen's argument is that to regard God as the first principle of the universe requires that He be defined as a unity and incorporeal. As he points out, the very notion of matter or corporeality carries with it the implication of diversity ... Thus, if God is to be transcendent and the first principle of the universe, He must be one. And if He is one, then He is beyond the diversity characteristic of corporeality... the Biblical and philosophical themes are united in a vision of God who is not limited by space or time and so is the Lord of creation...

In His relation to God, the Word is God in precisely the same way that no real difference can be made between a thought and its thinker.

5. Origen began by acknowledging that God is incomprehensible. God is known only indirectly at best, by inference from the universe and the created order. God being perfect brought into existence a world of spiritual beings, souls, co-eternal with himself. Origen believes that God must always have a universe related to him, but the universe is not regarded as a second uncreated principle alongside God.

 

 

KNOWLEDGE OF GOD AND GRACE

"No man has known the Father save the Son, and he to whom the Son may reveal Him" (Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22). He shows that God is known by a certain divine grace which does not come into the soul without God’s working but with a sort of inspiration [or "God-possession"]. Indeed it is likely that the knowledge of God is beyond the reach of human nature - hence the great blunders men make about God - but that by God’s kindness and love toward man and by a miraculous and divine grace the knowledge of God reaches those who have been determined in advance by God’s foreknowledge, because they would live worthily of Him when He was made known to them.

Out of love to man God manifested the truth and that which may be known of Himself (Rom. 1:18) not only to those who are devoted to Him but also to some who know nothing of pure worship and piety toward Him.

REVELATION OF GOD

Our Savior, therefore, is the image of the invisible God, in as much as compared with the Father Himself He is the truth; and as compared with us, to whom He reveals the Father, He is the image by which we come to the knowledge of the Father, whom no one knows save the Son, and He to whom the Son is pleased to reveal Him.

All who believe and are assured that 'grace and truth came through Jesus Christ' (John 1:17), and who know Christ to be the truth, agreeably to His own declaration, 'I am the truth' (John 14:6), derive the knowledge which incites men to a good and happy life from no other source than from the very words and teaching of Christ. And by the words of Christ we do not mean those only which He spoke when He became man and tabernacled in the flesh; for before that time, Christ, the Word of God was in Moses and the prophets.

 

VISION OF GOD AND HIS ANGELS

Jean Daniélou writes, "Celsus had agreed with Plato that the vision of God is within man’s reach but at the price of great effort, and that it is the privilege of the few. Origen rejects both propositions."

We shall see the Father face to face, but only because we shall be "One spirit with the Lord." In this sense only Origen believed that the work of Redemption and Mediation will have an end. We shall see the Father no longer in the Son, but as the Son sees Him, in the day when God shall be all in all.

Origen asserts the following realties:

1. None can see God or His angels except through pure heart.

2. This vision as a divine gift, is offered to us according to His will and desire. For God and His angels are present with us, but we don’t see them. The Divine grace grants the just to see God by their inner sight.

3. Even when man sees God, he cannot see Him as He is.

God was seen by Abraham or by other holy ones through divine grace. The eye of the soul of Abraham was not the only cause, but God offered Himself to be seen by the righteous man, who was worthy of seeing Him.

Probably there is an angel near us now while we are speaking, but cannot see him because of our unworthiness.

The (bodily) eye or the inner one may endeavor to attain this vision, but unless the angel himself reveals himself to us those who have the desire cannot see him.

This reality does not concern the vision of God only in this present age but also when we shall leave this world. For God and His angels do not appear to all men after their departure immediately... but this vision is granted to the pure heart which is prepared to see God.

A man whose heart is burdened with sin is not in the same place with he whose heart is pure, the latter sees God, while the other does not see Him.

I think this happened when Christ was here in the flesh on earth. For not all who beheld Him saw God. Pilate and Herod the ruler beheld Him and at the same time did not see Him ( as God).

Three men, therefore, came to Abraham at midday; two come to Lot and in the evening (Gen. 19:1). For Lot could not receive the magnitude of midday light, but Abraham was capable of receiving the full brightness of the light.

First, however, observe that the Lord also was present with Abraham with two angels, but two angels alone proceeded to Lot. And what do they say? "The Lord has sent us to consume the city and destroy it" (Gen 19.13.) He, therefore, received those who would give destruction. He did not receive Him who would save. But Abraham received both Him who saves and those who destroy.

"The Lord blessed Isaac," the text says, "and he dwelt at the well of vision." (Gen. 25:11) This is the whole blessing with which the Lord blessed Isaac: that he might dwell "at the well of vision." That is a great blessing for those who understand it. Would that the Lord might give this blessing to me too, that I might deserve to dwell "at the well of vision."

But if anyone rarely comes to church, rarely draws from the fountains of the Scriptures, and dismisses what he hears at once when he departs and is occupied with other affairs, this man does not dwell "at the well of vision." Do you want me to show you who it is who never withdraws from the well of vision? It is the apostle Paul who said: "But we all with open face behold the glory of the Lord" (Cf. 2 Cor. 3:18) .

The vision that sees God is not physical but mental and spiritual; and ... this is why the Savior was careful to use the right word and say "no man knows the Father save the Son", not... "sees." Again, to those whom He grants to see God, He gives the "spirit of knowledge" and the "spirit of wisdom", that through the Spirit himself they may see God (Isa. 11:2) .

The organ which knows God is not the eye of the body but the mind, for it sees that which is in the image of the Creator, and it has received by the providence of God the faculty of knowing Him.

For now, even if we are deemed worthy of seeing God with our mind and heart, we do not see Him as He is but as He becomes to us in order to bring His providence to bear on us.... .

Even if we are deemed worthy of seeing God,... we do not see Him as He is, but as He (accommodates Himself to us) .

God is Love

Although the Early Alexandrian theologians spoke of God's divine impassability and that He has no human emotion, they insisted upon declaring His true Fatherhood through love, expressed to us through human language as if He has every feeling and emotion. Origen states, 'Moreover, does not the Father and God of the Universe somehow experience emotion, since He is long-suffering and of great mercy?! Or do you know that when He distributes human gifts He experiences human emotion?! For 'the Lord your God endured your ways, as when man endures his son' (Deut. 1:31)..

 

Through love we can acknowledge God

We must realize how many things ought to be said about (this) love, and also what great things need to be said about God, since He Himself is "Love." For "as no one knows the Father except the Son, and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal Him... Moreover, in like manner, because He is called Love, it is the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father, who alone knows what is in God; just as the spirit of man knows what is in man (1 Cor. 2:11). Here then the Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father (John 15:26), ranges, searching for souls worthy and able to receive the greatness of this love, that is of God, which He desires to reveal to them.

 


3. PHILOSOPHY

 

I have already spoken about "The School of Alexandria and Philosophical Attitudes." I discussed Origen’s view on Greek philosophy, why did the School of Alexandria use philosophy, and to what extent.

Philosophy and rhetorical training were the two principal ways to complete an education in Origen's time, and studying philosophy was less likely to offend Christians than the study of literature which he had already completed.

Origen knew and respected the works of Numenius of Apamea, a Platonist who lived during the second century A.D, but only fragments of Numenius' work survived.

"Who is Plato," Numenius asked, "but a Moses speaking Attic Greek?" In the course of On the Good, Numenius used both the Old and New Testaments, interpreted allegorically, to substantiate his thesis. Similarly, Philo and St. Clement reached out to Platonism to understand the deeper meaning of the Bible.

 

We can summarize Origen’s view of philosophy in the following points:

1. Like St. Clement, Origen believed that all past philosophy can be, and must be, placed in the service of Christ. He once told St. Gregory Thaumaturgus there could be no genuine piety in a man who despised philosophy: "a gift which man alone of all the creatures of the earth has been deemed honorable and worthy enough to possess."

Sometimes he praises philosophy and science. In his letter to St. Gregory Thaumaturgus he states that philosophy looks like gold which the Hebrews took from Egypt, instead of using it in establishing the Tabernacle they made the golden bull. He knows Philosophy well, but uses it as a theologian convinced of his right to dig his wells in the land of the Philistines in spite of their recriminations .

Origen studied philosophy not out of love, but to preach to those who had a philosophical education. In fact he gained many students from the Museum. In this he initiates St. Pantenaus.

2. Through adopting certain Platonic attitudes, Origen aimed to refute the first principles of Christian Gnosticism and Stoicism. Correspondences between Platonism and the needs of Christian theology in its battle with the Gnostics help explain the extraordinary power of Platonism over Origen's thought, a power greater than he himself was aware. He became convinced that false doctrine was bad philosophy, that true doctrine was true philosophy, and that good philosophy is Platonism. Origen knew how important Platonism was to his understanding of God and God's relation to the world, even if he ostensibly consider philosophy, as Clement did, a preparatory discipline, useful for making the Christians aware of what was already there, beneath the veil of allegory, in the Bible. He does not always seem to have been aware, even as aware as Clement was in his own case, of the extent to which Platonism molded his understanding of the Christian life.

3. Philosophy was the handmaiden, but he would never allow it to become the master. Jaroslav Pelikan says, "One of the most decisive differences between a theologian and a philosopher is that the former understands himself as, in Origen's classic phase, ‘a man of the church,’ a spokesman for the Christian community."

Origen was not like his teacher St. Clement, a philosopher who was converted to Christianity, therefore he was not so kind towards the Greek philosophy. He is sensitive to the beauty of the Greek language, he praises it in others, but care about style is inconsistent with the serious nature of his apostolic task. He concentrated on assuring its falseness and insufficiency, because he was afraid from the beauty of the philosophical expressions that may deceive believers.

In his speech of the wall of Jericho, he calls philosophy the high walls which support the world. We are in need of the Lord Jesus (Joshua) who sends the priests and apostles to use the silver trumpets (Num. 10:2, Ps. 98:6) presenting the heavenly teachings to destroy these walls of Jericho.

The wedge of gold which Achau stole (Jos. 1:21) is the spoiled philosophies which appear brilliant, deceiving the believers by the sweet golden tongue.

If you take it and put it in your tent, i.e., you permitted their teaching to enter in your heart, you defile the whole Church. This is what the wicked Valentinus and Basilides did. They stole the wedge of gold which was in Jericho and tried to transfer the evil philosophical principals to the church, which defile all the Church of God.

He warns us from philosophy, for the pagans abused it by mixing there own errors with the truth, and thus it cannot teach the will of God. He also declares that philosophy has no power to renew our nature.

4. Origen believes that Platonism contains truths present in the biblical account about reality. His purpose was to recover Plato for Platonism, and then Platonism for Christianity.

Plato is certainly for Origen the high point of Greek thought, of human thought apart from revelation, and he constantly draws inspiration from him, at least in the form in which Middle Platonism presented him. In the controversy with Celsus over knowledge of God many texts of Plato are called to witness by Celsus and sometimes admired and sometimes contradicted by Origen on the basis of the Christian revelation. In spite of his great admiration for Plato, Origen retains his independence of him and is able to criticize him from the standpoint of his Christian faith.

He sets an immediate distance between himself and Plato by sharp accusations that Plato was a pagan who, despite the high insights of dialogues such as the Republic and the Phaedo, failed to break with polytheism. It is significant that the complaint is directed not against Plato's metaphysics but against his behavior. Origen simply assumes as axiomatic the Platonic conception of the intelligible world with the sensible world as a reflection of it. For Origen the idea is fundamental to his view of revelation.

5. Origen does not treat all the schools alike and passes a different judgment on each; at the bottom of the order of merit is Epicureanism, "philosophy's shame" with its morality of pleasure which is the opposite of the Cross of Christ, its negation of Providence which makes it a veritable atheism, its atomic physics, its refusal to recognize man's spiritual privileges. With the Platonists and Stoics he is against Aristotle's doctrine of three kinds of good.

He does not believe in a certain philosophy, but chooses what is good in every theory.

Rowan A Greer says,

We are left in a circle. On the one hand, Origen begins with scripture, and his careful reading of it yields the theological conclusions that comprise his views as a whole. From this point of view he is certainly a Christian and, indeed, a Biblical theologian.

On the other hand, Origen approaches scripture with preconceptions that are in great part determined by his philosophical training and bent of mind. At this level it is possible to charge him with simply importing Greek philosophy into his interpretation of scripture. The resulting puzzle is not easily solved...

In the first instance Origen's importance lies in bridging the gap between Christianity and the Graeco-Roman world. He was able to expound the Gospel in terms meaningful to his pagan contemporaries and perhaps more important, to Christians who retain that culture even upon conversion...

This is Origen's point of view and his conviction is that Christianity had the power to transform the old culture and make it fruitful.

6. He deals with many philosophical problems, such as man's free will, the divine Providence, the relationship between God and man etc.

7. According to Origen, the main aim in studying philosophy is to build up a Christian philosophy, that is to say theology. After destroying Hesebon, the ‘city of thoughts,’ the Christian does not leave it in ruins but rebuilds it in his way, using the materials that suit him in what remains of the demolished town. Thus, it is the responsibility of the Church to establish the true philosophy instead of the false ones. Origen states that Celsus misunderstands Pauline texts, therefore he accuses the Christians of banishing all wisdom.

The "divine philosophy" is a theology in the broadest sense of the term, with exegetical and spiritual content as well as speculative. On the other hand Origen seems to have no idea of a permanent rational philosophy in Christianity alongside theology. For that he would have needed to distinguish more fully between Reason and Revelation and between Natural and Supernatural. Reason is for him participation in the supernatural Reason of God, his Son, who is also the Revelation. If there are two passages in which a correct distinction is found between natural and supernatural, this distinction is offered in a way that does not seem familiar to him. Origen holds above all to a supernatural in which the natural is implicitly contained. Why have recourse to an imperfect source when perfect learning is given? When God speaks must not every human voice keep silence? The flesh pots of Egypt would be of little value, seeing that we have the manna of Scripture. Indeed it seems that for him philosophy of a purely rational order ceased to exist with the appearance of Christianity, not of course as reflection but as an independent discipline. Philosophy belongs to the past, a productive past, which the present uses for the building up of Christian theology, but does not sustain. The inheritance is accepted, with reservations.

 

AMMONIUS SACCAS AND MIDDLE PLATONISM

Origen studied under the Platonic philosopher Ammonius Saccas (c. 175-242 A.D). Ammonius was originally a Christian, who at some point renounced his faith to embrace Greek philosophy. He had no objection to teaching Christians; in addition to Origen, he taught Heraclas, a future bishop of Alexandria.

Origen’s decision to study with Ammonius Saccas would not be difficult to explain even if Clement had not been around to urge on him the value of philosophy as a preparation for the deeper Christian mysteries.

Ammonius taught at Alexandria for at least 50 years, from the time of Commodus (192 A.D) to his own death in c. 242 A.D, the year of Gordian III’s Persian expedition, which Plotinus joined. He was said to have earned his living as a porter and to have been at one time employed in that capacity at the docks of Alexandria. Born of Christian parents, he turned to the study of philosophy at some unknown date during the reign of Emperor Commodus. However, he retained a reminder of his former occupation, for he was generally known by the name Saccas ("Sack").

R. Cadiou says,

A contemporary witness asserts that the young Origen followed the lectures of Ammonius Saccas over a period of years. The record is found in the Treatise against the Christians which Porphyry wrote in the year 274. "This man, having been a hearer of Ammonius, who had made the greatest proficiency in philosophy among those of our day, with regard to knowledge, derived great benefit from his master."

Eusebius does not deny the influence of Ammonius although it lessens the stature of his hero. On the contrary he confirms Porphyry’s statement by quoting a letter written by Origen in the days of his exile. In that letter the great Alexandrian scholar acknowledged his depth to Greek learning. He says that he became a pupil of one whom he calls a master of philosophical sciences. He was then older than the ordinary student, for he informs us that he followed the example of Heraclas, his colleague, "who I have found persevered five years with a teacher of philosophy before I began to attend to these studies." This enables us to fix the year 210 as the earliest date when Origen could have joined the classes of Ammonius. At that date Origen was more than twenty-five years old. It is true that Ammonius is not mentioned in this letter, but it is obvious from the context that the school of Ammonius is the locale of the studies which Origen refers to.

The treatise "On the agreement between Moses and Jesus" mentioned by Eusebius can be explained as having been composed by Ammonius whom Eusebius confused with.

Ammonius wrote nothing, and it is notoriously difficult to reconstruct his doctrines, but he taught Origen and Plotinus, the two most influential thinkers of the third century, as well as other men eminent in their time. The historical record is confusing, but it seems that Origen could not have met Plotinus since Origen had left Alexandria permanently before Plotinus became Ammonius’ student.

In his lectures he aimed to reconcile the thought of Plato and Aristotle, thus aligning himself with the electic tendency characteristic of Antochus of Ascalon and middle Platonism and later renewed by Platonius and Prophyry.

It is impossible to say just what Origen learned from Ammonius. It may be that, like other great teachers, Ammonius influenced his students more by instilling in them a sympathetic yet critical approach to a great tradition than by passing on his own particular doctrines.

Origen’s debt to Ammonius and to the Platonism he mediated appears at every level of Origen's thought, from the language and style he employed to express himself to the deepest convictions he had about the way we can come to share in the being of God. Prophery is correct in implying that Origen was not a member of the brotherhood formed by the disciples of Ammonius, he was just a hearer, with the purpose of using and learning philosophy for the service of the preaching and finding solutions to the philosophical problems of his time.

 

What could have persuaded Origen to follow such a Platonism?

As Origen disagrees with the Stoics and some Gnostics that the divine ousia was material, that knowledge of God and reality rested on a materialist epistemology, and that everything was determined by fate, he desired to use Platonism to refute arguments. He found himself obliged to follow Ammonius, Maximus, St. Pantaenus, and St. Clement. Each viewed both Platonists and Aristotelians as allies in their attempt to correct falsehoods of Gnosticism and Stoicism.

Thus far, Origen and Plato were in profound agreement in their rejection of the Gnostics, but there was far more to their compatibility than simply their agreement on the goodness of the world and its Creator. The Christianity of Origen’s time, even as it rejected the Gnostics’ hatred of the world, taught its followers to despise the fundamental cravings for comfort, sex, and the continuation of life itself that tie us to the world. Plato's dictum that we should take flight from this world to become like the divine so far as we can find its echo in Paul’s "Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth" (Col. 3:2). If Plato complained that the body was a prison house in which the soul was tightly bound like an oyster in its shell, Paul asked who would deliver him from this body of death (Rom. 7:24).

 

What did the Neoplatonists believe?

1. They had many beliefs, but their strongest belief lay in the power of the speculative mind to solve all questions except one through the quiet logic of reasoning. All things could be understood save God alone. God is incommensurable and above reason, and could be apprehended only under three forms - as the infinite, limitless and without thought or form or being; as the one and the good, the source of all that loves; and as the sum of all the powers of the universe.

Out of this superabundance issues the world of ideas, radiating from God like the beams of the sun. From the world of ideas come the souls tainted with the love of sensation and mortal desires and all this world of appearances. The task of the good man is to ensure that he belongs to the world of ideas rather than to the world of matter, in which at last the heaviest souls dwell.

Ammonius may have made a particular point of the incompatibility between Plato and the Gnostics. Certainly no more fully agreed with Origen in this regard than did Plotinus. Plotinus unambiguously affirmed the goodness of the created order while being aware of its limitations.

2. Another area where Origen found Platonism and Christianity singularly compatible was in their simultaneous insistence on the activity of divine providence and human freedom.

Origen could read them in Plato himself. Indeed, Paul's "in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28) almost reads like an echo of Plato’s "all things that come from the gods work together for the best for him that is dear to the gods."

R. Cadiou says,

The Platonism of the day was still holding fast to the old concepts; and Origen, even before Plotinus, denounces the timidity of his Platonist adversaries. "In their excessive fear, certain of the Greeks are of the opinion that future events are determined by necessity and that, if God foresees the future, there is no free will. In fear of excluding from the divine attributes what they call the divine magnificence, they have dared to put forward this impious teaching." By their vaunted reverence for the dignity of God they sought to justify their assumption that His knowledge determines the future. They were acquainted, of course, with the Bible, where the word "magnificence" is one of the titles of Providence and is employed in the text of the Septuagint as a reminder of the marvelous benefits that God showered upon the people of Israel.

3. Origen distinguished between simple believers who accept the Christian faith on authority and the tiny elite of spiritual Christians who seek to know the deep things of God. For Plato, as for Origen, the intellectual elite is a spiritual elite because the intellect is the faculty of the soul which alone can attain to the vision of true being.

 

ORIGEN AND PLOTINUS

Many scholars deal with the relationship between Origen the Christian and Plotinus the pagan in their main thoughts as two famous disciples of Ammonius Saccas, and have an important and lasting influence upon the thought of succeeding theologians and philosophers. Some scholars believe that they even did not meet face to face, but they had met through certain thoughts.

Plotinus was born in the thirteenth year of the reign of Septimius Severus, i.e. 204 A.D-205 A.D. Aged twenty-eight, i.e. in 323-233 A.D, he attended various teachers of philosophy at Alexandria, but was deeply disappointed by them all until he met Ammonius Saccas, who was a revelation for him and with whom he remained for eleven years. Early in 243 A.D - Ammonius had probably died shortly before - wishing to know the Persian religion, he joined the emperor Gordian III’s expedition against Persia. In the first months of 244 A.D, following the failure of the compaign and the death of the emperor, he went to Antioch; that same year he arrived in Rome, where he finally settled and began his teaching career. For ten years, following Ammonius’ example, he confined himself to oral teaching; only in the first year of Gallienus (253 A.D) did he begin to write some treatises.

R. Cadiou says,

Each of these two men founded a great philosophical system, and the two systems would soon be in opposition to each other. Each man became a professor; Origen of a Christian mysticism, the saner parts of which would later be absorbed into the mentality of the Church, and Plotinus of the last philosophy of Hellenism. Yet we cannot fail to perceive a definite relationship between them, a kinship that sometimes manifests itself in very lively resemblances in their methods, in the problems which they discussed, and in the prefaces and style of their various writings...

The comparison of these two writers shows that they sat at the feet of the same master. For several years before he left Alexandria, about 200 A.D., Origen attended the lectures of Ammonius. Plotinus spent a much longer time with Ammonius, eleven years, during the period when Origen was already settled in Caesarea. The consensus of critical opinion is that "if they seem to agree occasionally or to solve certain problems in a similar way, the explanation is to be found in the fact that they had learned those solutions from the same master."

R. Cadiou, as many other scholars, believes that there is a common philosophical tradition in the thoughts of Origen and Plotinus, although they differ as Origen depends on the church tradition and has biblical concepts. For this reason Porphyry reproaches Origen for having betrayed Plotinus, his classmate of earlier days.

As an example Plotinus and Origen criticize astrological prediction, but every one in his own way. Origen asks: "How can the arrangement of the stars today have caused events that happened years ago?" In the same strain Plotinus asks, "How is it possible to say that the stars are the cause of the nobility of man’s relatives, since those relatives already possessed their nobility before the stars fell into the position on which the astrologer makes his prediction?"

Another example is Origen and Plotinus’s view on the soul of man. Here I refer to the doctoral dissertation of Antonia Tripolitis: The Doctrine of the Soul in the Thought of Plotinus and Origen. In an essay based upon this doctoral dissertation, he writes:

Fundamental to the thought of both Plotinus and Origen, is their insistence on the divine origin and divine nature of the individual human soul? Their major concern, indeed the goal of their thought, was the ultimate "return" of the soul, by means of knowledge, to unity with its divine source. Both were convinced that the human soul belongs to the world of intelligible reality, and both undertook to describe, each in his own way, the means by which this union with Reality could be attained...

Both Plotinus and Origen believed that the rational soul participates in the divine eternal world and that its origin lies outside of time in the realm of the "intelligible" or divine. However, there is a difference in how each perceives the status of the soul as it participates in the divine, that is, the nature of the soul’s participation in its transcendent source. According to Plotinus, the human rational soul, which is a person’s true nature, is a direct emanation of the divine essence. It is a part of the divine world, a being which exists on the lowest level of divinity and therefore in continuous and direct relationship with the divine intellect. Origen, as a Christian who was influenced by the biblical view of creation, could not accept so exalted a view of human nature, that the rational should be a part of the divine and in direct association with it. This biblical pessimism notwithstanding, he did find, through a rational interpretation of the Genesis narratives, the basis for a qualified assertion of the soul’s participation in the divine...

Adhering to the Platonic doctrine of "assimilation to God," both Plotinus and Origen maintain that the world of sense is alien to the soul and a hindrance to the soul’s realization of its own true nature. Each believes that a person’s goal should be to become liberated from the things of sense and to realize one’s divine nature as logos or logikos, thus regaining one’s original status. The rational soul possesses within itself both the desire and power for communion with the divine. The attainment of perfection and the regaining of original purity is thus within the grasp of human capability.

Both Origen and Plotinus claim that the ability and power, movement and desire, to return to God have from the beginning been implanted by God within the soul. Both Origen and Plotinus state that it is the responsibility of the individual soul to recognize the power within it and, by means of this power, to strive conscientiously to attain the world of intelligible realities.

But it is only Origen, who holds to the soul’s unstable and changeable nature, in whose writings we find the insistence on the soul’s inability, of itself, to realize and utilize the divine power implanted within it to attain ultimate communion with God. It is important for the soul to realize and acknowledge its own limitations, that is, its instability and dependence, if it is to turn to God for that grace without which salvation is impossible. When it does this, the soul begins to receive God’s guidance, those personal and individual acts of grace which guide it through the various phases of the ascent towards God, all in accordance with the given soul’s maturity and capacity for spiritual progress. It is through the soul’s conscientious effort, its imitation of the divine Logos, and with the help and guidance of the Logos, that the soul is capable of being perfected and led to union with God. It is the Logos which provides the soul first with the moral power with which it can do battle against sin, and then with an increase of intellectual insight as it advances towards God, during which advance it begins to perceive and understand those mystical divine truths which heretofore had been hidden from it.

From a common Platonic tradition, then, there emerged two views of salvation, one of them pagan and one of them Christian. What they have in common stems from this shared tradition. Where their views differ stems from their respective understanding of human nature. Plotinus, as did the pagan Platonists, adopted certain elements of the tradition, reinterpreted them, and developed out of them an exalted anthropology. For Plotinus, the human is essentially divine; the true self, or rational soul, is a member of the intelligible universe, a stable, impassable, immortal, divine entity which is untreated and exists from before all time, eternally sustained in the intelligible universe and in constant communion with the divine. The goal of human existence is to understand this essential divinity and, through virtue and philosophy, to restore it to its proper, original relationship to the One and to the divine world.

Origen, also a Platonist, differed from Plotinus precisely in his adaptation of a more biblically based view of creation and of the imperfection of human nature. Thus he used those Platonic concepts which could the more readily explain his Christian anthropology. Origen is less optimistic than Plotinus about the inherent goodness of human nature, but more optimistic about the possibility of eternal salvation for all created beings. Heeding the biblical accounts of creation, Origen assigns to the human soul the status of creatureliness albeit created from all eternity in the image of God. As such, the soul has a certain "kinship" with God, is immortal, and capable of participating in the divine life. But it is not essentially divine. As created, the entire soul is basically unstable and in need of God’s grace and assistance. The aim of one’s life should be to purify oneself from the things of the sense and to return to fellowship with God. For the Christian, this is done through faith in Christ (Logos) and diligent imitation of Him who guides all souls in their return to God.

 

MYSTICAL KNOWLEDGE

The only kind of knowledge that really interests Origen is the kind that he calls 'mystical': mystikos being the adjective that corresponds to mysterion, mystery. The meaning of the expressions ‘mystical knowledge (gnosis)’ or 'mystical contemplation (theoria)' is essentially that of knowledge or contemplation of the mystery.

H. de Lubac says,

By the very stuff and movement of his thought, which cannot be separated from the most intimate aspects of his life, it seems to us that Origen was one of the greatest mystics in the Christian tradition.

This conception of knowledge is of a mystical kind in the strongest present day sense of the word: it is indisputable that a mystical desire powerfully inspires and directs this work, gives form to this thought, and explains this life.

 

Why has God spoken to men in symbols and why has He only given them the truth in this obscure form?

First, because man is a body, riveted to a corporeal world which is a world of images. There is a close connection between literalness and corporeality: the same reason lay behind the divine anthropomorphisms in the Bible and the Incarnation of the Son..

To man imprisoned in his body, incapable of understanding anything that is not made known to him through his physical organs, God could only reveal Himself through perceptible figures which would bring man little by little to the discovery of God's true nature..

It must be repeated that, according to the measure of spiritual progress made, the veil of ‘image’ which still covers the mystery in the temporal Gospel becomes more and more transparent, revealing the truth that it holds. When one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away, gradually no doubt, and the divinity of Christ shows more and more through his humanity, the flesh no longer forming a screen for those who have 'spiritual eyes' capable of perceiving the divinity..

There is no difficulty in showing the way that leads from one to the other; from the Old Testament to the historical Christ, the spiritual exegesis of the Old Testament: from the historical Christ to Christ present in the soul the spiritual interpretation of the New Testament..

From Christ present in the soul to the Wisdom Christ of whom there is speech among the perfect, to the transfigured Christ, the spiritual ascent symbolized by that of the three apostles climbing the Mountain; from the Wisdom Christ of whom there is speech among the perfect to the Wisdom Christ who is tantamount to the Intelligible World, the beatific vision.

 


4. FAITH

HOW GREAT IS FAITH!

The source and origin of every blessing is to believe in the supreme God.

Origen comments on the words of St. Matthew concerning the faith of the centurion, "When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, ‘assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!"

Notice how great is (faith), this which makes Jesus, the Only-Begotten Son of God admire! (Matt. 8:10) The gold, richness, kingdom, and authorities are in his eyes as the shadow and a faded flower. But nothing of these things He admires, nor does He look to it as a great or precious thing, except faith. He admires faith and honors it, looking to it as something acceptable to Him.

Lack of faith prevents us from the work of God in our lives. Origen comments on the words, "He did not there many mighty works because of their unbelief" (Matt. 13:58), saying,

We are taught by these things that powers were found in those who believed, since "to every one who has, to him more will be given" (Matt. 13:12), but among unbelievers not only did the powers not work, but as Mark wrote, "They could not work" (Mark 7:5). For attend to the words, "He could not there, do any mighty works," for it is not said, "He would not," but "He could not;" as if there came to the power when working co-operation from the faith of him on whom the power was working, but this co-operation was hindered in its exercise by unbelief. See, then, to those who said, "Why could we not cast it out?" He said, "Because of your little faith" (Matt. 17:19,20). And to Peter when he began to sink, it was said, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Matt. 14:31)

But, moreover, she who had the issue of blood, who did not ask for the cure, but only reasoned that if she were to touch the hem of His garment she would be healed, was healed on the spot. And the Savior, acknowledging the method of healing, says, "Who touched Me? For I perceived that power went forth from Me" (Luke 8:45, 46).

Without faith man is deprived from the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Everyone without faith is a deep and hollow "valley": belief in Christ fills him with the fruits of the Spirit - that is, with the virtues.

 

THE PURPOSE OF FAITH

Origen believes that faith in the Holy Trinity and the incarnation of the Logos for attaining unity with God is the way of the true knowledge. The aim of this knowledge is attaining perfection of the soul, through its restoration to its original nature. The soul or pseki means in Origen’s mind coldness, for it lost its original warmth through its estrangement from God. It can become spirit (pnevma). In Christ the soul acknowledges the Father, and beholds Him, and thus she becomes a spirit again

 

FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE

The perfection of faith is knowledge, which in its turn depends on faith as its foundation and its starting-point. Faith retains an indirect character, but knowledge, the fulfillment of faith, is in a certain manner a direct contact with Christ and the mysteries contained in Him..

Knowledge as Origen understands it starts from faith of which it is in a sense the perfecting.

We have faith... in God, who enriches us in all utterance and knowledge (1 Cor. 1:5), that He will enrich us as we strive to observe the spiritual laws, and that, progressing in our construction on the strength of His bounties, we shall attain the crown of the edifice.

 

FAITH AND VICTORY OVER HOSTILE POWERS

Origen comments on the divine words, "If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say unto this mountain: Move from here to there, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you" (Matt. 17:20).

The mountains here spoken of, in my opinion, are the hostile powers that have their being in a flood of great wickedness, such as are settled down, so to speak, in some souls of men. Whenever, then, anyone has all faith so that he no longer disbelieves in anything contained in the Holy Scriptures, and has faith such as was that of Abraham, who believed in God to such a degree that his faith was counted for righteousness, he has all faith as a grain of mustard seed; then will such a one say to this mountain - I mean, the dumb and deaf spirit in him who is called lunatic,- "Remove hence," clearly, from the man who is suffering, perhaps to the abyss, and it shall remove...

Let us also attend to this, "This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting" (Matt. 17:21)... As we devote ourselves to prayer and fasting, we may be successful as we pray for the sufferer, and by our own fasting may thrust out the unclean spirit from him.

 

FAITH AND PRAYER

For Origen, faith is the mother of the fruits of prayer, without her no child can be born.

Just as it is impossible to beget children without a woman and the act which results in the begetting of children, so it is impossible to obtain such and such requests if one does not likewise pray ... with a certain faith, and a record of life lived in such and such a way.

FAITH IN THE CROSS!

The passion of Christ, indeed, brings life to those who believe but death to those who do not believe. For although salvation and justification are for the Gentiles through His cross, to the Jews it is nonetheless destruction and condemnation. For so it is written in the Gospels, "behold, this one was born for the ruin and resurrection of many" (Luke 2:34).

FAITH AND GOD’S GIFTS

When we have offered to Him gifts from our own store, we then go on to receive gifts from Him. For when we have offered Him our faith and love, then He freely bestows on us the various gifts of the Holy Spirit.

God’s desire is first to receive something from us, and then to give us of His own, that His gifts and bounties may be seen to be bestowed on the deserving.

FAITH AS A DIVINE GRACE

The Divine grace grants us faith itself and increases it.

(Paul) says that among other things the gift of faith is also granted by the Holy Spirit (cf. . 1 Cor. 12:9, Phil. 1:29). [Origen then quotes Luke 17:5] "increase our faith" to show that] the apostles, understanding that the faith which springs up within a man cannot be perfect unless the faith coming from God is added to it, say to the Savior "Increase our faith," [and so Romans 4:16]: even that very faith by which we are seen to believe in God is confirmed in us by a gift of grace.

FAITH AS THE MEASURE OF ATTAINING GRACE

(Paul teaches that) there are three ways of receiving grace,.. his point is that we have some part to play in the matter, but that the greatest fact consists in the bounty of God. First... there is the "measure of faith" by which a man receives grace; then it is given "for a man’s profit;" lastly, the Spirit apportions it "as He wills" (cf. Rom 12:6 with 1 Cor. 12:7,11).

Now it appears to be our responsibility that sufficient faith should be found in us to merit higher grace; but God’s judgment determines for what profitable and useful ends it should be given, and of course the decision to give it at all rests entirely on Him... I think I have sufficiently laid down above the difference between the faith that is required from us and faith given us by God through grace... the faith which hopes, believes and trusts with no shadow of doubting is our own; but the mode of operation of faith itself, our knowledge of it, and the perfected understanding of the things we believe, is given by God.

God is above feeling and change. He is uncreated. But the acts of His providence are as various as are those whom His providence rules, for He is maker of all. Some of these acts, for example, provoke to anger, others to envy. In the same way do His spiritual servants receive dispensations of His grace, glory and splendor, given from the one omnipotent God who is Himself above change and feeling.

The grace or gifts of God are given to those who by faith and virtue have become prepared to receive them.

FAITH AND WORKS

Faith is belief as confidence: it is not a purely intellectual activity. It is not a theoretical idea in our thoughts, nor is it just some words we have to utter, but is expressed in its works, a practical response to the divine love and redeeming deeds. The living faith is a faith that works through love.

It is clear that he who dies while he is in sin does not believe truly in Christ, even if he says that he believes in Him.

For he who believes in the justice of Christ does not inequity, and who believes in His wisdom does not behave nor speak in foolishness.

Moses, therefore, lifts up his hands and, when he lifted them up, Amalec was overcome. To lift up the hands is to lift up our works and deeds to God and not to have deeds which are cast down and lying on the ground, but which are pleasing to God and raised to heaven. He, therefore, who "lays up treasure in heaven" lifts up his hands, "for where his treasure is" (Cf. Matt. 6:20-21). There also is his eye, there also his hand. He also lifts his hands who says, "The lifting up of my hands is as the evening sacrifice" (Ps. 140:2). If, therefore, our deeds are lifted up and are not on the earth, Amalec is overcome.

But we must keep in mind that we are judged at the divine tribunal not on our faith alone as if we did not have to answer for our conduct (cf. James 2.24), nor on our conduct alone as if our faith were not subject to examination.

We hope, however, that you pay attention to what is heard not only to hear the words of God in the Church but also to practice them in your homes and "to meditate on the Law of the Lord day and night.' (Cf. Ps 1.2) .

Therefore, from this "olive" let us extract the oil of our works, from which a lamp can be lit for the Lord " that we may not walk in darkness" (Cf. 1 John 2:11). That is all we have to say as regards " the lamp of the lampstand" and its "oil" Lev. 24:1f.).

The birds of heaven which are winged spiritually, are able to lodge in the branches of faith so great.

[Helchana had two wives, Anna (the ‘nobler’ wife) and Fennana; but he had children at first by the latter only]: This Helchana-which means "the possession of God"-is first made a father by his second wife....and it is only after she has had several children that the womb of Anna is opened in response to her prayers and she becomes the mother of that son whom he "offered to God"..."Fennana" means "conversion, and "Anna" means "grace". Hence each of us who wishes to become "the possession of God" should marry those two wives...: the first joined to us through faith (cf. Eph. 2:8)...; union to Fennana (i.e. "conversion") should come second, because it is only after the grace of belief that one experiences betterment of conduct and conversion of life. But the order of procreation is different from that of marriage. The first wife...to bear us children is Fennana, because the first fruits that we bring forth are those of conversion....For our first work of righteousness is to be converted from sins, since unless we are first converted...from evil, we cannot become fathers by Anna and bear children by grace. Note...the difference: Fennana has sons who do not wait on God-nor can the "sons of conversion" be such as can wait on and cling to God. They are not indeed useless, or completely alien from divine things, for they receive "portions" (I Sam 1:4) from the divine sacrifices....Each of us, then, is first converted from sin and by his conversion brings forth works of righteousness; later "Anna" is stirred up in us... "pours forth her prayer to God" and herself bears sons... (and the sons of grace) are such as wait upon God. Now "grace and truth came through Jesus Christ". He then is a son of grace who gives his time to God and God’s word. Cf. Hom. Gen. 9:2: If therefore a son of grace is of such greatness and quality, let us also hasten to Mary "Anna"; but let us be patient, that our first sons may be of conversion-that we should first give satisfaction by our good works, and only thereafter breed a son of grace and the "gift of the Spirit" (Acts 2:38)...(namely) "Samuel"... which means "God is there"... For where the "spirit of grace" is, there is said to be God Himself.

 

FAITH AND THE HOLY TRINITY

Origen comments on Numbers 17 concerning the budding of Aaron’s rod, saying,

Everyone who believes in Christ first dies then is reborn; and here is another lesson, in the subsequent budding of the dry rod.

The first shoot is the first confession a man makes in Christ.

Then come the leaves, when the reborn man has received the gift of grace from the sanctification of the Spirit of God.

Thereafter he bears flowers when he has begun to make headway - to be graced with refinement of character, to pour forth the bloom of mercy and kindness.

Finally he brings forth the fruits of righteousness, by which he not only lives himself but offers life to others too. For when he reaches perfection and puts forth the word of faith, this is bearing fruits by which others may be nourished.

This is the way the various types of believers are produced from the rod of Aaron, who is Christ.