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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

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 75

2. "Let the earth bring forth the living creature." [1694] 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. [1695] 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. [1696] "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. [1697] 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. [1698] 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. [1699] 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. [1700] Thou art called to more noble cares; "seek those things which are above where Christ sitteth." [1701] 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; [1702] thy fellow-citizens and thy compatriots are "the first-born which are written in heaven." [1703]

[1694] Gen. i. 24.

[1695] cf. note on Hom. v. p. 76.

[1696] "Sed, si quaeque suo ritu procedit, et omnes Foedere naturae certo discrimina servant." Luc. v. 921.

[1697] cf. Plin. ix. 84: Verum omnibus his fidem Nili inundatio affert omnia exedente miraculo: quippe detegente eo musculi reperiuntur inchoato opere genitalis aquae terroeque, jam parte corporis viventes, novissima effigie etiamnum terrena." So Mela De Nilo i. 9. "Glebis etiam infundit animas, ex ipsoque humo vitalia effingit," and Ovid, Met. i. 42: "Sic ubi deseruit madidos septemfluus agros Nilus, et antiquo sua flumina reddidit alveo, AEthereoque recens exarsit sidere limus, Plurima cultores versis animalia glebis Inveniunt."

[1698] Arist. H.A. vi. 16. Hai enchelus gignontai ek ton kaloumenon ges enteron ha automata sunistatai en to pelo kai en te ge enikmo. Kai ede eisin ommenai hai men ekdunousai ek touton, hai de en diaknizomenois kai diairoumenois gignontai phanerai.

[1699] Arist., Part. An. iv. 10, 18. monon orthon esti ton zoon ho anthropos.

[1700] cf. Ps. xlix. 12.

[1701] Col. iii. 1.

[1702] cf. Phil. iii. 20.

[1703] Heb. xii. 23.

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