THE MEANING OF THE GOSPEL"
We may venture to say that the Gospel is the first fruits of all the Scriptures."
Origen gives an extensive survey of the "Gospel" as he understands, in the first part of Book One of his Commentary on John. The Gospel is good news about Jesus, first and foremost. Not only a recital of what he said and did, though this, too, is "gospel," but also it presents Jesus Christ so that we may attain Him. The supreme significance of "Gospel" is good news about Jesus Himself as a Person. "We must say that the good things the Apostles announce in this Gospel are simply Jesus."
To be sure, the good news has specific and varied content. "One good thing is life: but Jesus is the Life. Another good thing is the Light of the world, when it is true Light, and the light of men: and all these things the Son of God is said to be." The same may be said of the Truth, or the Way that leads to Truth, the Door, or the Resurrection. "All these things the Savior teaches that He is."
The Savior, when He sojourned with men and caused the Gospel to appear in bodily form, caused all things to appear as gospel (good tidings) ."
Origen, however, prefers to hold that "all the New Testament ought to be called the Gospel." Every page of it has the sweet odor of the presence of Jesus, and "it also contains many praises of Him and many of His teachings, on whose account the Gospel is a gospel."
WITNESSING TO CHRIST
Christians used to witness to Christ even in the public places of the towns. Celsus complained of the spread of the faith by these means, "We see that those who display their trickery in the market places and go about begging would never enter a gathering of intelligent men, nor would they dare to reveal their noble beliefs in their presence: but whenever they see adolescent boys and a crowd of slaves and a company of fools, they push themselves in and show off."
This was an accusation that hurt Origen very much. How could anyone call "reading of the Bible, and explanations of the reading" together with "exhortation to goodness" trickery?
And as for the claim that only the ignorant were attracted by Christianity presented in this guise, Origen indignantly and lengthily denies it. Christianity is the true philosophy, and market place evangelism is one perfectly proper way for an educated Christian to disseminate it.
Origen refers to men of this sort when he replies to Celsus: "Christians do all in their power to spread the faith all over the world. Some of them accordingly make it the business of their life to wander not only from city to city but from town to town and village to village in order to win fresh converts for the Lord." From being motivated by selfish considerations, "they often refuse to accept the bare necessities of life; even if necessity drives them to accept a gift on occasion, they are content with getting their most pressing needs satisfied, although many people are willing to give them much more than that. And if at the present day, owing to the large number of people who are converted, some rich men of good position and delicate high-born women give hospitality to the messengers of the faith, will anyone venture to assert that some of the latter preach the Christian faith merely for the sake of being honored? In the early days when great peril threatened the preachers of the faith in particular, such a suspicion could not easily have been entertained; and even at the present day the discredit with which Christians are assailed by unbelievers outweighs any honor that some of their fellow-believers show them.
Their aim was throughout pastoral and evangelistic; that is why they adapted their message to the capabilities of the hearers. "We confess that we do want to educate all men with the Word of God, even if Celsus does not wish to believe it" was Origens proud boast, and he carried it out. In addition to his Christian pupils in the school at Alexandria, he had pagan hearers to whom he gave instruction in the faith. Indeed, Julia Mamaea, the queen-mother, heard him lecture. It would be a mistake to think that the apologists and theologians were anything less than evangelists. The objective of their lives was to bring men of all sorts and intellectual abilities to the truth about God, man and the universe as it was revealed in Jesus Christ.
Origen believes that Adam, as the father of mankind attained salvation through the Cross of Christ. He refers to a tradition that Adam was buried in the same place that Christ was crucified, and in that place "found resurrection through the resurrection of the Savior... For it was unfitting that while the many sprung from him should receive remission of sins and the blessing of resurrection, he-the father of mankind-should not all the more attain to grace of this kind."
Origen believes that Adam was a prophet.
And among the prophets Adam too is reckoned to have prophesied the great mystery in Christ and in the Church, when he said: For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh. It is clearly with reference to these words of his that the Apostle says that this is a great mystery, but I speak in Christ and in the Church.
JOHN THE BAPTIST
1. The word "John" in Hebrew means "God is merciful;" Origen says that it means "the grace of God."
"John" means "the grace of God". Hence when Zachariah wrote on the tablet that the name was John, immediately his mouth was opened by the grace of God...and his tongue, no longer bound by unbelief, was restored to him.
2. St. John is the voice, while our Lord Jesus Christ is the Speech. How great is the difference between a voice and Speech?!
Now we know voice and speech to be different things. The voice can be produced without any meaning and with no speech in it, and similarly speech can be reported to the mind without voice, as when we make mental excursions, within ourselves. And thus the Savior is, in one view of Him, Speech, and John differs from Him; for as the Savior is Speech, John is voice.
John himself invites me to take this view of him, for to those who asked who he was, he answered. "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord! make His paths straight!"
This explains, perhaps, how it was that Zachary lost his voice at the birth of the voice which points out the Word of God, and only recovered it when the voice, forerunner of the Word, was born.
A voice must be perceived with the ears if the mind is afterwards to receive the speech which the voice indicates. Hence, John is, in point of his birth, a little older than Christ, for our voice comes to us before our speech. But John also points to Christ; for speech is brought forward by the voice. And Christ is baptized by John, though John declares himself to have need to be baptized by Christ; for with men speech is purified by voice, though the natural way is that speech should purify the voice which indicates it. In a word, when John points out Christ, it is man pointing out God, the Savior incorporeal, the voice pointing out the Word.
3. The baptism of St. John prepared the way to the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ.
John has a right and duty to baptize even though he is not the promised Messiah because his humble baptism in water is a necessary preparation for the spiritual baptism of the Messiah who is to come.
John (the Baptist) "turned many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God",... but our Lord Jesus Christ enlightened everyone to the knowledge of the truth, for that is His work.
4. St. John the Baptist knew our Lord, even while he was in his mothers womb, but his knowledge was not perfect till He was baptized.
He knew Him from his mother's womb, but not all about Him. He did not know perhaps that this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire, when he saw the Spirit descending.
5. Origen believes that the spirit and power of Elijah the Prophet - not the soul - were in St. John the Baptist.
I have thought it necessary to dwell some time on the examination of the doctrine of transmigration, because of the suspicion of some who suppose that the soul under consideration was the same in Elijah and in John, being called in the former case Elijah, and in the second case John...
The soul of John being in no wise Elijah.
For in truth, while many prophets are his equal, none is his superior in the (measure of) grace given unto him. (John the Baptist speaks): I have attained to so great grace as to be deemed worthy of the prophecy which foretold of my life on earth in the words "I am the voice of one crying..." and "Behold I send my messenger..." (When Mary conceived she stayed with Elizabeth) when the one child who was being formed [the unborn Jesus] graciously bestowed on the other [John] with some exactness His own likeness, and caused him to be conformed to His glory. That is why later John was supposed to be Christ, from the similarity of appearance, and Jesus was thought to be John raised from the dead, by those who were not capable of distinguishing the image from its own likeness.
1. The saints, for Origen, are all spiritual persons, living and dead. Such people have the power to intercede with God for us and to obtain for us the forgiveness of our sins.
When Origen speaks of prayer to the saints, he meant requesting the prayers of fellow Christians, and these which are offered to the departed saints. In fact, the departed saints may be better able to intercede for us than our fellow Christians since they have obtained fullness of knowledge and are no longer hindered by bodily passions.
Since the saints at rest are still members of the body of Christ, in which all members care for each other, we may safely presume that they take an interest in our needs.
And as knowledge is revealed to the saints now through a glass in a dark manner, but then face to face, so it would be unreasonable not to employ the analogy for all the other virtues also, which if prepared already in this life will be perfected in the next. Now the one great virtue according to the Word of God is love of one's neighbor. We must believe that the saints who have died have this love in a far greater degree towards them that are engaged n the combat of life, than those who are still subject to human weakness and are engaged in the combat along with their weaker brethren. The saying: if one member suffer any thing, all the members suffer with it, or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it, does not apply only to those who here on earth love their brethren For one can quite properly say also of the love of those who have quit this present life: ... the solicitude for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is scandalized, and I am not on fire?
Origen believes that the two and half tribes who passed the Jordan to fight with other tribes till the end, and returned to their inherited land in the eastern side of the Jordan refers to the departed members of the Church who struggle with us by praying till all of us will inherit.
Origen often speaks of their intercession with God, starting from two texts of the Old Testament: the dead Samuel prophesies for Saul at the house of the witch of Endor and of Jeremiah it is written: He who is the friend of his brethren and prays much for the people and for the whole holy city, Jeremiah, the prophet of God. Origen cites these two examples several times to show that the saints in heaven do not remain idle, but are full of charity for their brethren still in this world, whom they help with their prayers and intercessions.
Several texts emphasize the intervention of the martyrs, co-redeemers with Christ, on behalf of their brethren. The saints of the Old Testament also go before us in the front rank in our battles with the evil powers.
The joy of Christ and the saints will not be complete until the whole Body is reconstituted in the heavenly Jerusalem.
2. Origen states that saints have their own sins. Ernest Latko says,
In commenting on the name saints as applied to the people of God, Origen, in one of his Homilies on the Book of Numbers, reminds us that because they are saints they are not necessarily exempt from sin. Their holiness is not absolute; it is relative and consists in a consecration of their lives to God, Who in His goodness preserves them from the gravest faults.
Those who are not saints die in their sins; but those who are saints do penance for their sins, put up with their wounds, understand their faults, and so they search out the priest, and ask for a cure; they look forward to a purification through the bishop. That is why therefore the word of the law cautiously and with significance states that the bishops and priests receive the sins not of anyone, but of the saints alone; for he is a saint who attends to his sin through the bishop.
A SAINTLY LIFE
Therefore, "be holy, says the Lord, even as I am holy" (Lev. 20:7). What does it mean "even as I am holy"? Just as, it says, I am set apart and separated at a distance from everything that is praised or worshipped either on earth or in heaven; just as I surpass every creature and I am set apart from everything which I have made; so also you be set apart from all those who are not holy nor dedicated to God...
Finally this same word which is called hagios in the Greek language signifies that it is something outside the earth.
But if you wish to recall some other of the saints, the word of Scripture replies to you, saying, "There is no man upon the earth who does good and sins not" (Eccl. 7:20). Therefore, only Jesus rightly "has perfect hands"; who alone "does not sin" (1 Pet. 2:22), that is, who has perfect and whole works of his hands.
A COMPARISON BETWEEN SINNERS AND SAINTS
With regards to the fact that he ordered "to shave off all his hair"(Cf. Lev. 14:9), I think that each work of death placed in the soul which originated in sin is ordered to be cast away-for now they are called the hairs. For it is preferable for the sinner to set right everything that is born in him either in council or in word or in deed if he truly wants to be cleansed, to remove it and cast it off and not allow anything to remain. But the saint ought to preserve every hair, and if possible, "a razor" ought not "pass over his head" that he be not able to cut off anything from his wise thoughts either in words or deeds. Whence, of course, it is that "a razor" is said 'not to have passed over the head" of Samuel (1 Sam. 1:11); but also from all the Nazarenes, (Cf. Num. 6.5) who are the just because of the just it has been written, "whatever he does will prosper, and his leaves will not fall" (Cf. Ps. 1:3). Whence also, "the hairs of the head" of the Lord's disciples also are said "to be numbered" (Cf. Matt. 10:30), that is , all their acts, all their words, all their thoughts are kept before the Lord because they are just, because they are holy. But every work, every word, every thought of a sinner ought to be cut off. And this is what is meant: "That every hair of his body is shaved off and then he will be clean" (Cf. Lev 14:9) .
THE TRUE BEAUTY
He that has understood what is meant by the beauty of the bride whom the Bridegroom, the Word of God, loves, that is to say, of the soul blooming with beauty supercelestial and supramundane, will be ashamed to honor with the same term "beauty" the bodily beauty of women or child or man. The flesh is incapable of real beauty, since it is all ugliness. For all flesh is as grass; and the glory thereof (John 3:29), as seen in the reputed beauty of women and children, is compared by the prophet to a flower: All flesh is as grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of the field . ... The grass is withered and the flower is fallen; but the word of the Lord endures forever (Isaiah 40:6-8).
Origen used the familiar Stoic distinction between "the ultimate law of nature" and "the written code of cities" to justify the Christian refusal to obey the idolatrous laws of the nations, including Rome; he was "apparently the first to justify the right to resist tyranny by appeal to natural law." But the Christian acceptance of the pagan idea of natural law did not compel a Christian theologian such as Origen to be oblivious of the relativity in the laws of the nations.
Origen believes that all men partake of God:
I am of the opinion then, that the activity of the Father and the Son is to be seen both in saints and in sinners, in rational men and in dumb animals, yes, and even in lifeless things and in absolutely everything that exists; but the activity of the Holy Spirit does not extend at all either to lifeless things, or to things that have life but yet are dumb, nor is it to be found in those who, though rational, still lie in wickedness (1 John 5:19) and are not wholly converted to better things. Only in those who are already turning to better things and walking in the ways of Jesus Christ, that is, who are engaged in good deeds and who abide in God (1 Cor. 4:17; Eph. 2:10; 1 John 4:13), is the work of the Holy Spirit, I think, to be found.
That the activity of the Father and the Son is to be found both in saints and in sinners is clear from the fact that all rational beings are partakers of the word of God, that is, of reason, and so have implanted within them some seeds, as it were, of wisdom and righteousness, which is Christ. And all things that exist derive their share of being from him who truly exists, who said through Moses, I am that I am (Exodus 3:14); which participation in God the Father extends to all, both righteous and sinners, rational and irrational creatures and absolutely everything that exists. Certainly the apostle Paul shows that all have a share in Christ, when he says, Say not in your heart, who shall ascend into heaven? that is, to bring Christ down; or who shall descend into the abyss? that is, to bring Christ back again from the dead. But what says the scripture? The word is nigh you, even in your mouth and in your heart (Rom. 10:6-8). By this he indicates that Christ is in the heart of all men, in virtue of His being the Word or Reason, by sharing in Which men are rational...
Again, the gospel teaches that no men are without communion with God, when the Savior speaks as follows, The kingdom of God comes not with observation; neither shall they say, Lo here! or, there! but the kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:20, 21).
If he [non-Christian] keep justice or preserve chastity, or maintain prudence, temperance, and modesty; although he be alien from eternal life, because he does not believe in Christ, and cannot enter the kingdom of heaven, because he has not been born again of water and of the Spirit, still it seems, according to the Apostle's words, that the glory and honor and peace of his good works cannot perish utterly.
Yet later in the same sermon he says:
I can scarcely persuade myself that there is any work which can claim remuneration from God as a debt, since even the very ability to do, or think, or speak, comes to us from the generous gift of God. How then can he be in debt to us, who has first put us in his debt?
Without any derogation of the mission of the Savior, the Academy of Alexandria discovered in every individual a sense of divine things and the hidden image of God.
Part of our virtues we possess from our own resources, and we have gained it through our own choice; the other part is from God-that is, if we have such faith in the Savior and His Father as our free will allows: and for this we may have recourse to Him as did Jesus disciples with their "increase our faith-where "increase" implies that they were asking Him for God-given faith in addition to what they had gained of their own choice. Paul expressly says the "in proportion to our faith" (Rom 12:6) (i.e. the faith within us that is due to the exercise of our own free will) "the gifts of the Spirit are bestowed". "To another is given faith, by the same Spirit (1 Cor 12:9). If faith is given to a man in proportion to the faith he already has, it is clear that the God-given faith comes alongside that which we have achieved of our own resources. And so with the other virtues. Since then virtue is a grace, since it makes its possessor a "favored one", it follows that the part which comes from God comes alongside that already achieved by our own purpose; and this is the meaning of "grace for grace" being given us by God.
THE PROBLEM OF EVIL
He begins with the statement that, since the creature has received his being, he possesses the good in a manner that is limited, partial, and imperfect. In this participation Origen will seek the cause of sin and evil, which, according to the heretics, are caused by God. To refute this pessimism of theirs, let us begin by taking a less lofty view of man and by estimating at its real value the immutable virtue which adorns all the sages and wise men of this world. Their well-known perseverance is rendered possible, first by Gods primary gift; then by wisdom, which undertakes the education of the soul; and finally by the Holy Ghost, who makes the soul perfect.
It is wrong to think that the darkness vainly tries, like an active substance, to overtake the light. On the contrary, it always disappears and ceases to exist. In order that falsehood and imposture should be dispelled, is it not sufficient for the light of truth to appear? However strange it may seem, the darkness must be far away if it is to try to reach the light. The nearer it approaches the light, the more quickly it is dissolved. We can say, then, that error has strength and movement within us only when we are far removed from truth. Only then does it move forward to come to grips with our understanding; and each time it approaches the enlightened intelligence, it shows its own nothingness." In the wide sweep of this passage, written in the loftiest terms of Alexandrian thought, we see the reflection of all the vital elements of the Academy over which Origen presided: the rejection of Gnostic dualism, the high regard in which intellectualism was held, and the glowing optimism based upon the feeling that the religion revealed by Christ would be preached to all men.
On the one hand, he rejects the Gnostic theory, which makes evil an alien substance, not created by God; on the other, he excludes the Stoic idea that evil is only apparent. In his opinion, evil is certainly real, but it can be conducive to good and it will eventually cease to exist. Hence the existence of evil is consistent with the goodness of God. When God created the world, he knew that evil would one day come into it, because where there are creatures endowed with freedom it is inevitable. If he did not prevent it, the reasons were, first, that he has a sovereign respect for the freedom of the will and, second, that he knew it would help the execution of his plan. As always, Origen means this quite literally. There is no evil except in mens wills. The sinners ill-will may have consequences both for the sinner himself and for other people. This corresponds to the two sides of evil: in so far as evil acts against its author, it is sin; in so far as its acts on others, it is suffering. But both may lead to good. Sin is allowed to exist so that if men want to see what it is like, they may wallow in it, and then, finding how bitter it tastes, grow weary of it and of their own accord go back to the good. Experience of evil thus appears as the essential preliminary to the recovery of the good by creatures possessing freewill.
Now to withdraw from the good is nothing else than to be immersed in evil; for it is certain that to be evil means to be lacking in good. Hence it is that in whatever degree one declines from the good, one descends into an equal degree of wickedness. And so each mind, neglecting the good either more or less in proportion to its own movements, was drawn to the opposite of good, which undoubtedly is evil.
As therefore God is fire and the angels a flame of fire and the saints are all fervent in spirit so on the contrary those who have fallen away from the love of God must undoubtedly be said to have cooled in their affection for Him and to have become cold. For the Lord also says, Because iniquity has multiplied, the love of the many shall grow cold. And further, all those things, whatever they may be, which in the holy Scripture are likened to the adverse power, you invariably find to be cold. For the devil is called a serpent and a dragon, and what can be found colder than these? .
THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION
The doctrine of election was important for Origen, especially in his dealings with the Jews. His concern was twofold.
First, he wanted to show that the election of Gentiles, as taught by the Church, was prophesied in the Hebrew Bible.
Second, he wanted to confirm this interpretation of the biblical passages in question by reference to the history of the Jews and the Christian church since the advent of Christ. De Lange argues that the second was the more important for Origen.
1. In speaking of "Virginity," we notice how Origen considers St. Mary as the first virgin and the model of virgins.
2. Origen alludes to St. Mary as restoring the womankind the honor it had lost through Eve's sin; in this way a woman "finds salvation in child bearing" 1 Tim. 2:15. He says,
The joy trumpeted by Gabriel to Mary destroyed the sentence of sorrow leveled by God against Eve.
Just as sin began with the woman and then reached the man, so too the good tidings had their beginning with the women: Mary and Elizabeth.
"Blessed are you among women." For no woman has been or ever can be a partaker in such grace. There has been but one divine conception, one divine birth, one bearer of the God-man. (Mary reflects) Since I have been deemed worthy of such great and wondrous grace from God... I above all women must glorify the One who is working such miracles in me.
3. Origen interpreted the sword that would pierce St. Mary according to Simeons prophecy (Luke 2:35) as doubts that would invade her on seeing her Son crucified. He stated that, like all human beings, she needed redemption from her sins.
4. Origen speaks about the soul's maternity. St. Mary, as the mother of God, represents the Church, whose members spiritually bear God in their souls, Origen considered the spiritual life of Christians after baptism as the growth of Christ Himself within their motherly souls.
Just as an infant is formed in the womb, so it seems to me that the Word of God is in the heart of a soul, which has received the grace of baptism and thereafter perceives within itself the word of faith ever more glorious and more plain.
It would be wrong to proclaim the incarnation of the Son of God from the holy Virgin without admitting also His incarnation in the Church... Everyone of us must, therefore, recognize His coming in the flesh by the pure Virgin, but at the same time we must recognize His coming in the spirit of each one of us.
Hear this, O shepherds of the churches,
O shepherds of God.
All through time the angel comes down and announces to you that today and every day
the Redeemer is born,
that is Christ the Lord!
In his work Peri Pascha, Origen refers to receiving new names perhaps on baptism, as a sign of the new life in Jesus Christ. He gives many examples of men whose names were changed by a divine call.
Those who have been made perfect have new names because they are no longer the same but have become other than what they were.
SIGNS AND MIRACLES
Origen points out that, unlike magic, Christian miracles are always wrought for the benefit of men, that they are done by men whose lives are exemplary, not wicked, and by faith in the power of God, not of evil. No magical lore and sophisticated training was necessary: indeed "it is, generally speaking, uneducated people who do this kind of work" by means of prayer, reliance on the name of Jesus, and some brief allusion to His story.For it was not the power of men, or their knowledge of the right formulae which produced these cures, but "the power in the word of Christ."
When Celsus asserted that God did not will anything that was contrary to nature, Origen countered with the teaching that whatever was done in accordance with the will and word of God could not be contrary to nature; this applied especially to so -called miracles. In his own exegesis of the miracle stories in the Bible, Origen seems to have held to their literal factuality, while in Against Celsus and especially in On First principles he argued at length that these stories were not to be taken as they stood, but as mystical statements of spiritual truths.
And as they believe the signs and not in Him but in His name, Jesus "did not trust Himself to them, because He knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man, because He knew what is in every man."
Next let us remark in what way, when asked in regard to one sign, that He might show it from heaven, to the Pharisees and Sadducees who put the question, He answers and says, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and there shall be no sign given to it, but the sign of Jonah the prophet," when also, "He left them and departed" (Matt. 17:4)...
Seek you also every sign in the Old Scriptures as indicative of some passage in the New Scripture, and that which is named a sign in the New Covenant as indicative of something either in the age about to be, or even in the subsequent generations after that the sign has taken place.
The crucifixion of Jesus has two sides.
The Son of God has been crucified in the body with a visible method, while Satan was invisibly crucified, the apostle proclaims, "having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the Cross" Col. 2:14.
Then, there is two meanings to the Cross of the Lord: the first is mentioned by Peter the Apostle, "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that you should follow His steps" 1 Pet 2:21. The other meaning presents the chaliee of Christ's victory over Satan.
For it is impossible for a leper to be cleansed from sin without "the wood" of the cross, unless he also has recourse to "the wood" on which the Savior, as the Apostle Paul says, "despoiled the principalities and powers triumphing over them on the wood"(Cf. Col. 2:15,14).
CASTING A LOT
The Apostle (Acts 1:23-26) explains that if we use it (the casing of a lot) in absolute faith together with prayer, it reveals to men the hidden will of God very clearly.
Those who receive within themselves the greatness of the commandment and its priority, realize this through three conditions:
a. with all their hearts, they hold steadfastly in themselves the perfection of this love, its thoughts and its works.
b. with all their souls they be ready to sacrifice their own-selves on behalf of the service of God who created everything, when there is a need for this for the progress of His word. God is loved by the whole soul when there is no place of the soul outside the faith.
CHRISTIANS AND THE STATE
None better than Christians fight for the Emperor, but we fight "forming a special army," an army of piety, by offering our prayers to God.
MEN AND WOMEN
The Holy Scripture in fact does not differiate between men and women according to their sex. For before Christ there is no difference among the two sexes, but the difference is according to the heart which divides (the believers) into men and women.
How many women are considered as strong men before God?! And how many men are considered as weak women?!
THE HONOR OF WOMEN
Before the birth of John, Elizabeth prophesied; and before the birth of the Lord our Savior, Mary prophesied.
Thus it started with woman and reached to man, this salvation in the world started with women who overcame the weakness of their sex.
GRACE OF PROPHECY
Thanks be to God, that although the grace of prophecy was confined to Israel, now a still greater grace than all they had has been poured out on the Gentiles through our Savior Jesus.
ABRAHAM, ISAAC, AND JACOB
This.. threefold division of divine philosophy (moral, natural, contemplative) was, I think, privileged in [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob].... For Abraham shows forth, by his obedience, moral philosophy..., Isaac, who digs wells and searches the mysteries of nature, represents natural philosophy..., Jacob is the contemplative, and was named "Israel" because of his meditating on divine things (cf. his visions).... Hence we are not surprised to find that these three blessed men built altars to God, i.e. consecrated to Him the progress of their philosophy, that they might teach that these things should come under the heading not of human arts but of Gods grace.
The city of Alexandria lay on one of the frontiers of the Roman Empire. Its great port was the gateway to the main roads of Syria. When the Christian citizen of Alexandria looked out upon his immediate environment, he was faced with the problem of different races trying to live together. The nationalities that were subject to the empire of the Caesar remained unchanged by the culture and the laws of their conquerors. On the contrary, they evinced a tendency to maintain their own national individualism, at least to the point of reviving a number of their sacred traditions. How could the upholders of Christianity maintain that there was no longer either Greek or barbarian, Roman or Jew?
He argued that every soul in the world is placed in the rank best fitted for its capacity, and that in a forgotten past each souls freedom of will either incited it to progress by imitation of God or reduced it to failure through negligence. In this way he explained why a harmony exists between the inner life of the rational being and the outer circumstances that move him to action. Divine providence continues to regulate each soul according to its needs by preparing for it occasions or circumstances which correspond to the variety of its movements or of its feelings and purpose.
The equality of souls is demonstrated by the consummation common to all of them. In the course of the spiritual struggle in which they are now engaged they never lose the possibility of attaining it ultimately. The fact that brutal or perverted beings exist in this world must not cast doubt on this truth. A single act of free will is sufficient to manifest the immortal destiny of a savage and to show the kinship he enjoys with the holiest spirits. In the unenlightened minds of rude and unlettered men as well as in the minds of those who possess a refined feeling for things invisible, there is revealed a mode of participation proper to all creatures whom God has endowed with intelligence.