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St Basil the Great HEXAEMERON, Complete

Translated by Bl. Jackson.

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80 Pages (Homilies: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

Page 15

2. But the corrupters of the truth, who, incapable of submitting their reason to Holy Scripture, distort at will the meaning of the Holy Scriptures, pretend that these words mean matter. For it is matter, they say, which from its nature is without form and invisible,--being by the conditions of its existence without quality and without form and figure. [1414] The Artificer submitting it to the working of His wisdom clothed it with a form, organized it, and thus gave being to the visible world.

If matter is uncreated, it has a claim to the same honours as God, since it must be of equal rank with Him. Is this not the summit of wickedness, that an extreme deformity, without quality, without form, shape, ugliness without configuration, to use their own expression, should enjoy the same prerogatives with Him, Who is wisdom, power and beauty itself, the Creator and the Demiurge of the universe? This is not all. If matter is so great as to be capable of being acted on by the whole wisdom of God, it would in a way raise its hypostasis to an equality with the inaccessible power of God, since it would be able to measure by itself all the extent of the divine intelligence. If it is insufficient for the operations of God, then we fall into a more absurd blasphemy, since we condemn God for not being able, on account of the want of matter, to finish His own works. The poverty of human nature has deceived these reasoners. Each of our crafts is exercised upon some special matter--the art of the smith upon iron, that of the carpenter on wood. In all, there is the subject, the form and the work which results from the form. Matter is taken from without--art gives the form--and the work is composed at the same time of form and of matter. [1415]

Such is the idea that they make for themselves of the divine work. The form of the world is due to the wisdom of the supreme Artificer; matter came to the Creator from without; and thus the world results from a double origin. It has received from outside its matter and its essence, and from God its form and figure. [1416] They thus come to deny that the mighty God has presided at the formation of the universe, and pretend that He has only brought a crowning contribution to a common work, that He has only contributed some small portion to the genesis of beings: they are incapable from the debasement of their reasonings of raising their glances to the height of truth. Here below arts are subsequent to matter--introduced into life by the indispensable need of them. Wool existed before weaving made it supply one of nature's imperfections. Wood existed before carpentering took possession of it, and transformed it each day to supply new wants, and made us see all the advantages derived from it, giving the oar to the sailor, the winnowing fan to the labourer, the lance to the soldier. But God, before all those things which now attract our notice existed, after casting about in His mind and determining to bring into being time which had no being, imagined the world such as it ought to be, and created matter in harmony with the form which He wished to give it. [1417] He assigned to the heavens the nature adapted for the heavens, and gave to the earth an essence in accordance with its form. He formed, as He wished, fire, air and water, and gave to each the essence which the object of its existence required. Finally, He welded all the diverse parts of the universe by links of indissoluble attachment and established between them so perfect a fellowship and harmony that the most distant, in spite of their distance, appeared united in one universal sympathy. Let those men therefore renounce their fabulous imaginations, who, in spite of the weakness of their argument, pretend to measure a power as incomprehensible to man's reason as it is unutterable by man's voice.

[1414] On prime matter and its being asomatos and amorphos vide Cudworth, Int. Syst. v. ii. S: 27, and Mosheim's note. "Ingens vero quondam summorum et inclytorum virorum numerus ab eorum semper stetit partibus, quibus ex qua dixi ratione, materiam placuit decernere asomaton esse, si'e chorpore charere Chichero omnes post Platonem peilosopeos eoch dogma pereibet tenuisse, Achad. Thuj3st. i. 7, sed subechtam putant omnibus sine ulla spechie, atthue charentem omni illa thualitate materiam thuandam ex thua omnia expressa atthue ephphechta sint.' Sed am diu ante Platonem Ppsteagorj3orum multi ei addichti phuerunt, thuod exTimaei Locri, nobilis hujus scholae et perantiqui philosophi, De Anima Mundi libello (Cap. i. p. 544, Ed. Galei) intelligitur: tan hulan amorphon de kath' autan kai achrematiston dechomenon de pasan morphan."

[1415] cf. Arist., Met. vi. 7, panta de ta gignomena hupo te tinos gignetai, kai ek tinos, kai de ex hou gignetai, hen legomen de huph' hou, ton phusei ti onton...eidos de lego to ti en einai hekaston, kai ten proten ousian.

[1416] cf. Cudworth, Int. Syst. iv. 6, and remarks there on Cic., Acad Quaest. i. 6. Arist. (Metaph. i. 2) says Theos gar dokei to aition pasin einai kai arche tis, but does this refer only to form?

[1417] Gen. ii. 5, "every herb of the field before it grew." There seems here an indication of the actual creation, poiesis, being in the mind of God.

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