HOMILY IX: The creation of terrestrial animals.

1. How did you like the fare of my morning’s discourse? It seemed to me
that I had the good intentions of a poor giver of a feast, who, ambitious
of having the credit of keeping a good table saddens his guests by the poor
supply of the more expensive dishes. In vain he lavishly covers his table
with his mean fare; his ambition only shows his folly. It is for you to
judge if I have shared the same fate. Yet, whatever my discourse may have
been, take care lest you disregard it. No one refused to sit at the table
of Elisha; and yet he only gave his friends wild vegetables.(1) I know the
laws of allegory, though less by myself than from the works of others.
There are those truly, who do not admit the common sense of the Scriptures,
for whom water is not water, but some other nature, who see in a plant, in
a fish, what their fancy wishes, who change the nature of reptiles and of
wild beasts to suit their allegories, like the interpreters of dreams who
explain visions in sleep to snake them serve their own ends. For me grass
is grass; plant, fish, wild beast, domestic animal, I take all in the
literal sense.(2) “For I am not ashamed of the gospel.”(3) Those who have
written about the nature of the universe have discussed at length the shape
of the earth. If it be spherical or cylindrical, if it resemble a disc and
is equally rounded in all parts, or if it has the forth of a winnowing
basket and is hollow in the middle;(4) all these conjectures have been
suggested by cosmographers, each one upsetting that of his predecessor. It
will not lead me to give less importance to the creation of the universe,
that the servant of God, Moses, is silent as to shapes; he has not said
that the earth is a hundred and eighty thousand furlongs in circumference;
he has not measured into what extent of air its shadow projects itself
whilst the sun revolves around it, nor stated how this shadow, casting
itself upon the moon, produces eclipses. He has passed over in silence, as
useless, all that is unimportant for us. Shall I then prefer foolish wisdom
to the oracles of the Holy Spirit? Shall I not rather exalt Him who, not
wishing to fill our minds with these vanities, has regulated all the
economy of Scripture in view of the edification and the making perfect of
our souls? It is this which those seem to me not to have understood, who,
giving themselves up to the distorted meaning of allegory, have undertaken
to give a majesty of their own invention to Scripture. It is to believe
themselves wiser than the Holy Spirit, and to bring forth their own ideas
under a pretext of exegesis. Let us hear Scripture as it has been written.

2. “Let the earth bring forth thee living creature.”(1) Behold the word
of God pervading creation, beginning even then the efficacy which is seen
displayed to-day, and will be displayed to the end of the world! As a ball,
which one pushes, if it meet a declivity, descends, carried by its form and
the nature of the ground and does not stop until it has reached a level
surface; so nature, once put in motion by the Divine command,  traverses
creation with an equal step, through birth and death, and keeps up the
succession of kinds through resemblance, to the last.(2) Nature always
makes a horse succeed to a horse, a lion to a lion, an eagle to an eagle,
and preserving each animal by these uninterrupted successions she transmits
it to the end of all things. Animals do not see their peculiarities
destroyed or effaced by any length of time; their nature, as though it had
been just constituted, follows the course of ages, for ever young.(3) “Let
the earth bring forth the living creature.” This command has continued and
earth does not cease to obey the Creator. For, if there are creatures which
are successively produced by their predecessors, there are others that even
to-day we see born from the earth itself. In wet weather she brings forth
grasshoppers and an immense number of insects which fly in the air and have
no names because they are so small; she also produces mice and frogs. In
the environs of Thebes in Egypt, after abundant rain in hot weather, the
country is covered with field mice.(1) We see mud alone produce eels; they
do not proceed from an egg, nor in any other manner; it is the earth alone
which gives them birth.(2) Let the earth produce a living creature.”

Cattle are terrestrial and bent towards the earth. Man, a celestial
growth, rises superior to them as much by the mould of his bodily
conformation as by the dignity of his soul. What is the form of quadrupeds?
Their head is bent towards the earth and looks towards their belly, and
only pursues their belly’s good. Thy head, O man! is turned towards heaven;
thy eyes look up.(3) When therefore thou degradest thyself by the passions
of the flesh, slave of thy belly, and thy  lowest parts, thou approachest
animals without reason and becomest like one of them.(4) Thou art called’
to more noble cares; “seek those things which are above where Christ
sitteth.”(5) Raise thy soul above the earth; draw from its natural
conformation the rule of thy conduct; fix thy conversation in heaven. Thy
true country is the heavenly Jerusalem;(6) thy fellow- citizens and thy
compatriots are “the first-born which are written in heaven.”(1)

3. “Let the earth bring forth the living creature. Thus when the soul
of brutes appeared it was not concealed in the earth, but it was born by
the command of God. Brutes have one and the same soul of which the common
characteristic is absence of reason. But each animal is distinguished by
peculiar qualities. The ox is steady, the ass is lazy, the horse has strong
passions, the wolf cannot be tamed, the fox is deceitful, the stag timid,
the ant industrious, the dog grateful and faithful in his friendships. As
each animal was created the distinctive character of his nature appeared in
him in due measure; in the lion spirit, taste for solitary life, an
unsociable character. True tyrant of animals, he, in his natural arrogance,
admits but few to share his honours. He disdains his yesterday’s food and
never returns to the remains of the prey. Nature has provided his organs of
voice with such great force that often much swifter animals are caught by
his roaring alone. The panther, violent and impetuous in his leaps, has a
body fitted for his activity and lightness, in accord with the movements of
his soul. The bear has a sluggish nature, ways of its own, a sly character,
and is very secret; therefore it has an analogous body, heavy, thick,
without articulations such as are necessary for a cold dweller in dens.

When we consider the natural and innate care that these creatures
without reason take of their lives we shall be induced to watch over
ourselves and to think of the salvation of our souls; or rather we shall be
the more condemned when we are found falling short even of the imitation of
brutes. The bear, which often gets severely wounded, cares for himself and
cleverly fills the wounds with mullein, a plant whose nature is very
astringent. You will also see the fox heal his wounds with droppings from
the pine tree; the tortoise, gorged with the flesh of the viper, finds in
the virtue of marjoram a specific against this venomous animal(1) and the
serpent heals sore eyes by eating fennel.(2)

And is not reasoning intelligence eclipsed by animals in their
provision for atmospheric changes? Do we not see sheep, when winter is
approaching, devouring grass with avidity as if to make provision for
future scarcity? Do we not also see oxen, long confined in the winter
season, recognise the return of spring by a natural sensation, and look to
the  end of their stables towards the doors, all turning their heads there
by common consent? Studious observers have remarked that the hedgehog makes
an opening at the two extremities of his hole. If the wind from the north
is going to blow he shuts up the aperture which looks towards the north; if
the south wind succeeds it the animal passes to the northern door.(3) What
lesson do these animals teach man? They not only show us in our Creator a
care which extends to all beings, but a certain presentiment of future even
in brutes. Then we ought not to attach ourselves to this present life and
ought to give all heed to that which is to come. Will you not be
industrious for yourself, O man? And will you not lay up in the present age
rest in that which is to come, after having seen the example of the ant?
The ant during summer collects treasures for winter. Far from giving itself
up to idleness, before this season has made it feel its severity, it
hastens to work with an invincible zeal until it has abundantly filled its
storehouses. Here again, how far it is from being negligent! With what wise
foresight it manages so as to keep its provisions as long as possible! With
its pincers it cuts the grains in half, for fear lest they should germinate
and not serve for its food. If they are damp it dries them; and it does not
spread them out in all weathers, but when it feels that the air will keep
of a mild temperature. Be sure that you will never see rain fall from the
clouds so long as the ant has left the grain out.(1)

What language can attain to the marvels of the Creator? What ear could
understand them? And what time would be sufficient to relate them? Let us
say, then, with the prophet, “O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom
hast thou made them all.”(2) We shall not be able to say in self-
justification, that we have learnt useful knowledge in books, since the
untaught law of nature makes us choose that which is advantageous to us. Do
you know what good you ought to do your neighbour? The good that you expect
from him yourself. Do you know what is evil? That which you would not wish
another to do to you. Neither botanical researches nor the experience of
simples have made animals discover those which are useful to them; but each
knows naturally what is salutary and marvellously appropriates what suits
its nature.

4. Virtues exist in us also by nature, and the soul has affinity with
them not by education, but by nature herself. We do not need lessons to
hate illness, but by ourselves we repel what afflicts us, the soul has no
need of a master to teach us to avoid vice. Now all vice is a sickness of
the sold as virtue is its health. Thus those have defined health well who
have called it a regularity in the discharge of natural functions; a
definition that can be applied without fear to the good condition of the
soul. Thus, without having need of lessons, the soul can attain by herself
to what is fit and conformable to nature.(3) Hence it comes that temperance
everywhere is praised, justice is in honour, courage admired, and prudence
the object of all aims; virtues which concern the soul more than health
concerns the body. Children love(1) your parents, and you, “parents provoke
not your children to wrath.”(2) Does not nature say the same? Paul teaches
us nothing new; he only tightens the links of nature. If the lioness loves
her cubs, if the she wolf fights to defend her little ones, what shall man
say who is unfaithful to the precept and violates nature herself; or the
son who insults the old age of his father; or the father whose second
marriage has made him forget his first children?

With animals invincible affection unites parents with children. It is
the Creator, God Himself, who substitutes the strength of feeling for
reason in them. From whence it comes that a lamb as it bounds from the
fold, in the midst of a thousand sheep recognises the colour and the voice
of its mother, runs to her, and seeks its own sources of milk. If its
mother’s udders are dry, it is content, and, without stopping, passes by
more abundant ones. And how does the mother recognise it among the many
lambs? All have the same voice, the same colour, the same smell, as far at
least as regards our sense of smell. Yet there is in these animals a more
subtle sense than our perception which makes them recognise their own.(1)
The little dog has as yet no teeth, nevertheless he defends himself with
his mouth against any one who teases him. The calf has as yet no horns,
nevertheless he already knows where his weapons will grow.(2) Here we have
evident proof that the instinct of animals is innate, and that in all
beings there is nothing disorderly, nothing unforeseen. All bear the marks
of the wisdom of the Creator, and show that they have come to life with the
means of assuring their preservation.

The dog is not gifted with a share of reason; but with him instinct has
the power of reason. The dog has learnt by nature the secret of elaborate
inferences, which sages of the world, after long years of study, have
hardly been able to disentangle. When the dog is on the track of game, if
he sees it divide in different directions, he examines these different
paths, and speech alone fails him to announce his reasoning. The creature,
he says, is gone here or there or in another direction. It is neither here
nor there; it is therefore in the third direction. And thus, neglecting the
false tracks, he discovers the true one. What more is done by those who,
gravely occupied in demonstrating theories, trace lines upon the dust and
reject two propositions to show that the third is the true one?(3)

Does not the gratitude of the dog shame all who are ungrateful to their
benefactors? Many are said to have fallen dead by their murdered masters in
lonely places. Others, when a crime has just been committed, have led those
who were searching for the murderers, and have caused the criminals to be
brought to justice. What will those say who, not content with not loving
the Master who has created them and nourished them, have for their friends
men whose mouth attacks the Lord, sitting at the same table with them, and,
whilst partaking of their food, blaspheme Him who has given it to them?

5. But let us return to the spectacle of creation. The easiest animals
to catch are the most productive. It is on account of this that hares and
wild goats produce many little ones, and that wild sheep have twins, for
fear lest these species should disappear, consumed by carnivorous animals.
Beasts of prey, on the contrary, produce only a few and a lioness with
difficulty gives birth to one lion;(1) because, if they say truly, the cub
issues from its mother by tearing her with its claws; and vipers are only
born by gnawing through the womb, inflicting a proper punishment on their
mother.(2) Thus in nature all has been foreseen, all is the object of
continual care. If you examine the members even of animals, you will find
that the Creator has given them nothing superfluous, that He has omitted
nothing that is necessary. To carnivorous animals He has given pointed
teeth which their nature requires for their support. Those that are only
half furnished with teeth have received several distinct receptacles for
their food. As it is not broken up enough in the first, they are gifted
with the power of returning it after it has been swallowed, and it does not
assimilate until it has been crushed by rumination. The first, second,
third, and fourth stomachs of ruminating animals do not remain idle; each
one of them fulfils a necessary function.(3) The neck of the camel is long
so that it may lower it to its feet and reach the grass on which it feeds.
Bears, lions, tigers, all animals of this sort, have short necks buried in
their shoulders; it is because they do not live upon grass and have no need
to bend down to the earth; they are carnivorous and eat the animals upon
whom they prey.

Why has the elephant a trunk? This enormous creature, the greatest of
terrestrial animals, created for the terror of those who meet it, is
naturally huge and fleshy. If its neck was large and in proportion to its
feet it would be difficult to direct, and would be of such an excessive
weight that it would make it lean towards the earth. As it is, its head is
attached to the spine of the back by short vertebrae and it has its trunk
to take the place of a neck, and with it it picks up its food and draws up
its drink. Its feet, without joints,(1) like united columns, support the
weight of its body. If it were supported on lax and flexible legs, its
joints would constantly give way, equally incapable of supporting its
weight, should it wish either to kneel or rise. But it has under the foot a
little ankle joint which takes the place of the leg and knee joints whose
mobility would never have resisted this enormous and swaying mass. Thus it
had need of this nose which nearly touches its feet. Have you seen them in
war marching at the head of the phalanx, like living towers, or breaking
the enemies’ battalions like mountains of flesh with their irresistible
charge? If their lower parts were not in accordance with their size they
would never have been able to hold their own. Now we are told that the
elephant lives three hundred years and more,(2) another reason for him to
have solid and unjointed feet. But, as we have said, his trunk, which has
the form and the flexibility of a serpent, takes its food from the earth
and raises it up. Thus we are right in saying that it is impossible to find
anything superfluous or wanting in creation. Well! God has subdued this
monstrous animal to us to such a point that he understands the lessons and
endures the blows we give him; a manifest proof that the Creator has
submitted all to our rule, because we have been made in His image. It is
not in great animals only that we see unapproachable wisdom; no less
wonders are seen in the smallest. The high tops of the mountains which,
near to the clouds and continually beaten by the winds, keep up a perpetual
winter, do not arouse more admiration in me than the hollow valleys, which
escape the storms of lofty peaks and preserve a constant mild temperature.
In the same way in the constitution of animals I am not more astonished at
the size of the elephant, than at the mouse, who is feared by the elephant,
or at the scorpion’s delicate sting, which has been hollowed like a pipe by
the supreme artificer to throw venom into the wounds it makes. And let
nobody accuse the Creator of having produced venomous animals, destroyers
and enemies of our life. Else let them consider it a crime in the
schoolmaster when he disciplines the restlessness of youth by the use of
the rod and whip to maintain order.(3)

6. Beasts bear witness to the faith. Hast thou confidence in the Lord?
“Thou shalt walk upon the asp and the basilisk and thou shalt trample under
feet the lion and the dragon.”(1) With faith thou hast the power to walk
upon serpents and scorpions. Do you not see that the viper which attached
itself to the hand of Paul, whilst he gathered sticks, did not injure him,
because it found the saint full of faith? If you have not faith, do not
fear beasts so much as your faithlessness, which renders you susceptible of
all corruption. But I see that for a long time you have been asking me for
an account of the creation of man, and I think I can hear you all cry in
your hearts, We are being taught the nature of our belongings, but we are
ignorant of ourselves. Let me then speak of it, since it is necessary, and
let me put an end to my hesitation. In truth the most difficult of sciences
is to know one’s self. Not only our eye, from which nothing outside us
escapes, cannot see itself; but our mind, so piercing to discover the sins
of others, is slow to recognise its own faults.(2) Thus my speech, after
eagerly investigating what is external to myself, is slow and hesitating in
exploring my own nature. Yet the beholding of heaven and earth does not
make us know God better than the attentive study of our being does; I am,
says the Prophet, fearfully and wonderfully made;(3) that is to say,  in
observing myself I have known Thy infinite wisdom.(4) And God said “Let us
make man.”(5) Does not the light of theology shine, in these words, as
through windows; and does not the second Person show Himself in a mystical
way, without yet manifesting Himself until the great day? Where is the Jew
who resisted the truth and pretended that God was speaking to Himself? It
is He who spoke, it is said, and it is He who made. “Let there be light and
there was light.” But then their words contain a manifest absurdity. Where
is the smith, the carpenter, the shoemaker, who, without help and alone
before the instruments of his trade, would say to himself; let us make the
sword, let us put together the plough, let us make the boot? Does he not
perform the work of his craft in silence? Strange folly, to say that any
one has seated himself to command himself, to watch over himself, to
constrain himself, to hurry himself, with the tones of a master! But the
unhappy creatures are not afraid to calumniate the Lord Himself. What will
they not say with a tongue so well practised in lying? Here, however, words
stop their mouth; “And God said let us make man.” Tell me; is there then
only one Person? It is  not written “Let man be made,” but, “Let us make
man.” The preaching of theology remains enveloped in shadow before the
appearance of him who was to be instructed, but, now, the creation of man
is expected, that faith unveils herself and the dogma of truth appears in
all its light. “Let us make man.” O enemy of Christ, hear God speaking to
His Co-operator, to Him by Whom also He made the worlds, Who upholds all
things by the word of His power.(1) But He does not leave the voice of true
religion without answer. Thus the Jews, race hostile to truth, when they
find themselves pressed, act like beasts enraged against man, who roar at
the bars of their cage and show the cruelty and the ferocity of their
nature, without being able to assuage their fury. God, they say, addresses
Himself to several persons; it is to the angels before Him that He says,
“Let us make man.” Jewish fiction! a fable whose frivolity shows whence it
has come. To reject one person, they admit many. To reject the Son, they
raise servants to the dignity of counsellors; they make of our fellow
slaves the agents in our creation. The perfect man attains the dignity of
an angel; but what creature can be like the Creator? Listen to the
continuation. “In our image.” What have you to reply? Is there one image of
God and the angels? Father and Son have by absolute necessity the same
form, but the form is here understood as becomes the divine, not in bodily
shape, but in the proper qualities of Godhead. Hear also, you who belong to
the new concision(2) and who, under the appearance of Christianity,
strengthen the error of the Jews.(3) To Whom does He say, “in our image,”
to whom if it is not to Him who is “the brightness of His glory and the
express image of His person,”(4) “the image of the invisible God”?(5) It is
then to His living image, to Him Who has said “I and my Father are one,”(6)
“He that hath seen me hath seen the Father,”(7) that God says “Let us make
man in our image.” Where is the unlikeness(8) in these Beings who have only
one image? “So God created man,”(9) It is not “They made.” Here Scripture
avoids the plurality of the Persons. After having enlightened the Jew, it
dissipates the error of the Gentiles in putting itself under the shelter of
unity, to make you understand that the Son is with the Father, and guarding
you from the danger of polytheism. He created him in the image of God. God
still shows us His co-operator, because He does not say, in His image, but
in the image of God.

If God permits, we will say later in what way man was created in the
image of God, and how he shares this resemblance. Today we say but only one
word. If there is one image, from whence comes the intolerable blasphemy of
pretending that the Son is unlike the Father? What ingratitude! You have
yourself received this likeness and you refuse it to your Benefactor! You
pretend to keep personally that which is in you a gift of grace, and you do
not wish that the Son should keep His natural likeness to Him who begat
Him.

But evening, which long ago sent the sun to the west, imposes silence
upon me. Here, then, let me be content with what I have said, and put my
discourse to bed.  I have told you enough up to this point to excite your
zeal; with the help of the Holy Spirit I will make for you a deeper
investigation into the truths which follow. Retire, then, I beg you, with
joy, O Christ-loving congregation, and, instead of sumptuous dishes of
various delicacies, adorn and sanctify your tables with the remembrance of
my words. May the Anomoean be confounded, the Jew covered with shame, the
faithful exultant in the dogmas of truth, and the Lord glorified, the Lord
to Whom be glory and power, world without end. Amen.

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