St. Basil the Great (329 – 379)
God’s Creation Teaches His Qualities
“And God saw that it was good.” God does not judge the beauty of his work by the charm of the eyes, and He does not hold to the same idea of beauty that we do. What He esteems beautiful is that which presents in its perfection all the fitness of art, and that which tends to the usefulness of its end. …
May God who after having made such great things… grant you the intelligence of His truth so that you may raise yourselves from visible things to the invisible Being, and that the grandeur and beauty of creatures may give you a just idea of the Creator. For the visible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, and His power and divinity are eternal. Thus earth, air, sky, water, day, night, all visible things, remind us of Him who is our Benefactor.
~ Hexaemeron, Homily III.10, “On the Firmament.” In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Edition Vol. VIII, p. 71. Eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Erdmans, 1989.
A Lesson about Vigor through Natural Diversity
Some [gardeners] plant wild fig trees near cultivated fig trees, and there are others who, to remedy the weakness of the productive fruit tree of our gardens, attach to the branches unripe figs and so retain the fruit which had already begun to drop and to be lost. What lesson does nature here give us? That we must often borrow, even from those who are strangers to the faith, a certain vigor to show forth good works. If you see outside the Church, in pagan life, or in the midst of a pernicious heresy, the example of virtue and fidelity to moral laws, redouble your efforts to resemble the productive fig tree, who by the side of the wild fig tree, gains strength, prevents the fruit from being shed, and nourishes it with more care.
~ Hexaemeron, Homily V.7, “The Germination of the Earth.” In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Edition Vol. VIII, p. 80.Eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Erdmans, 1989.
How to Understand Creation’s Lessons about God
To investigate the great and prodigious show of creation, to understand supreme and ineffable wisdom, you must bring personal light for the contemplation of the wonders which I spread before your eyes, and help me, according to your power, in this struggle, where you are not so much judges as fellow combatants, for fear lest the truth might escape you…. Why these words? It is because we propose to study the world as a whole, and to consider the universe, not by the light of worldly wisdom, but by that with which God wills to enlighten His servant, when He speaks to him in person and without enigmas. It is because it is absolutely necessary that all lovers of great and grand shows should bring a mind well prepared to study them….
If sometimes, on a bright night, while gazing with watchful eyes on the inexpressible beauty of the stars, you have thought of the Creator of all things; if you have asked yourself who it is that has dotten heaven with such flowers, and why visible things are even more useful than beautiful; … if you have raised yourself by the visible things to the invisible Being, then you are a well prepared auditor, and you can take your place in this august and blessed amphitheatre.
Come in the same way that any one not knowing a town is taken by the hand and led through it; thus I am going to lead you, like strangers, through the mysterious marvels of this great city of the universe….
You will know that you are formed of earth, but the work of God’s hands, much weaker than the brute [creatures], but ordained to command beings without reason and soul…. If we are penetrated by these truths, we shall know God, we shall adore our Creator, we shall serve our Master, we shall glorify our Father, we shall love our Sustainer, we shall bless our Benefactor, we shall not cease to honor the Prince of present and future life, Who, by the riches that He showers upon us in this world, makes us believe in His promises and uses present good things to strengthen our expectations of the future. Truly, if such are the good things of time, what will be those of eternity? If such is the beauty of visible things, what shall we think of invisible things? If the grandeur of heaven exceeds the measure of human intelligence, what mind shall be able to trace the nature of the everlasting?
~ Hexaemeron VI.1, “The Creation of Luminous Bodies.” In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Edition Vol. VIII, p. 81-82. Eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Erdmans, 1989.
The Cause of Evil
If evil is neither uncreated nor created by God, from whence comes its nature? Certainly that evil exists, no one living in the world will deny. What shall we say then? Evil is not a living animated essence; it is a condition of the soul opposed to virtue, developed in the careless on account of their falling away from good.
~ Hexaemeron, Homily II.4, “The Earth was invisible and unfinished.” In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Edition Vol. VIII, p. 61. Eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Erdmans, 1989.
The Limits of Creation’s Ability to Teach us About God
May He who has given us intelligence to recognize in the smallest objects of creation the great wisdom of the Contriver, make us find in great celestial bodies a still higher idea of their Creator. However, compared with their Author, the sun and moon are but a fly and an ant. The whole universe cannot give us a right idea of the greatness of God; and is is only by signs, weak and slight in themselves, often by the help of the smallest insects and of the least plants, that we raise ourselves to Him. Content with these words, let us offer our thanks… to Him who feeds us…. May He feed you forever, and in proportion to your faith grant you the manifestation of the Spirit, in Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory and power for ever and ever.
~ Hexaemeron, Homily VI.11, “The Creation of Luminous Bodies.” In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Edition Vol. VIII, p. 89.Eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Erdmans, 1989.
Each Animal is Different
Each animal is distinguished by particular qualities. The ox is steady, the horse has strong passions, the wolf cannot be tamed, the fox is deceptive, 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….
~ Hexaemeron, Homily IX.3, “The creation of terrestrial animals.” In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Edition Vol. VIII, p. 102.Eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Erdmans, 1989.
Each Thing in Creation has its Own Reason and Purpose
In the rich treasures of creation it is difficult to select what is most precious; the loss of what is omitted is too severe. “Let the earth bring forth grasses” and with useful plants appear noxious plants; with corn, hemlock; with the other nutritious plants, hellebore, monkshood, mandrake and the poppy. What then? Shall we show no gratitude for so many beneficial gifts, and reproach the Cretor for those which may be harmful to our life? … But in creation, not a single thing has been created without a reason, not a single thing is useless. One serves as food to some animal; medicine is found in another, a relief for our maladies. Thus the starling eats hemlock, its constitution rendering it insusceptible to the action of the poison…. The quail, thanks to its peculiar temperment, feeds on hellebore. There are even circumstances where poisons are useful to men: with mankrake, doctors give us sleep; with opium they lull violent pain. Hemlock has been used to appease the rage of unruly diseases; and many times hellebore has taken away long standing diseases. These plants, then, instead of making you accuse the Creator, give you a new subject for gratitude.
~ Hexaemeron, Homily V.4, “The Germination of the Earth.” In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Edition Vol. VIII, p. 77. Eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Erdmans, 1989.
Creation Helps Us to Know the Creator
May He who has given us intelligence to recognize in the smallest objects of creation the great wisdom of the Contriver make us find in great celestial bodies a still higher idea of their Creator. However, compared with their Author, the sun and moon are but a fly and an ant. The whole universe cannot give us a right idea of the greatness of God; and it is only by signs, weak and slight in themselves, often by the help of the smallest insects and of the least plants, that we raise ourselves to Him.
~ Hexaemeron, Homily VI.11,”The creation of Luminous Bodies.” In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Edition Vol. VIII, p. 89. Eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Erdmans, 1989.
Why Contemplate Nature?
The contemplation of nature abates the fever of the soul, and banishes all insincerity and presumption.
~ B. Wallace-Hadrill, The Greek Patristic View of Nature, Manchester Univ. Press, 1968, pg. 33, quoted in Keith Warner, OFM, Back to Eden: Christian Attitudes toward Wilderness in the Patristic and Medieval Period, paper, 1996, pg. 12.
A Definition of Self-Control
Let this be the best definition and rule of self-control, to look neither after luxury of flesh nor its mortification, but to avoid the lack of proportion in each of these, so that it should not become gross and disturbed, nor yet fall ill and thus unable to carry out the work of the commandments…
~ “Ascetical Discourse,” as quoted in Orthodoxy and Ecology: Orthodox Youth Environmental Training Seminar Resource Book, Neamt, Romania, April 10-17, 1994, pg. 25.
A Place of Tranquility
It is a lofty mountain overshadowed with a deep wood … irrigated on the north by cold and transparent streams. At its foot is spread a low plain, enriched perpetually with the streams from the mountains. The wood, a virgin forest of trees of various kinds and foliage which grows around it, almost serves as a rampart…. My hut is built on another point, which uplifts lofty pinnacles on the summit, so that the plain is outspread before the gaze, and from the height I can catch a glimpse of the river flowing around… flowing with a swifter course than any river I know, for a short space billows along the adjacent rock, and then, plunging over it, rolls into a deep whirlpool, affording a most delightful view to me and to every spectator, and abundantly supplying the needs of the inhabitants, for it nurtures an incredible number of fish in its eddies. Why need I tell you the sweet exhalations from the earth or the breezes of the river? Other persons might admire the multitude of the flowers, or the lyric birds, but I have no time to attend to them. But my highest eulogy of the spot is, that, prolific as it is of all kinds of fruits from its happy situation, it bears for me the sweetest of all fruits, tranquility.
~ St. Basil, quoted in A. Biese, The Development of the Feeling for Nature in the Middle Ages and Modern Times, Blackwell, New York, 1905, pg. 32-33.
The Most Difficult of Sciences
Beasts bear witness to the faith… (but) 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 recognize its own faults. 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 (Psalm 139:14), fearfully and wonderfully made; that is to say, in observing myself I have known Thy infinite wisdom.
~ Hexaemeron, Homily IX.6, “The Creation of Terrestrial Animals.” In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Edition Vol. VIII, p. 105-106.Eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Erdmans, 1989.
The Divine Order Penetrates to the Smallest Part of Creation
See how the divine order embraces and extends to the smallest object. A fish does not resist God’s law, yet we men cannot endure His precepts of salvation! Do not despise fish because they are unreasoning; rather fear lest, in your resistance to the disposition of the Creator, you have even less reason than they. Listen to the fish, who by their actions all but speak and say: it is for the perpetuation of our species that we undertake this long voyage. They have not the gift of reason, but they have the law of nature firmly seated within them, to show them what they have to do.
~ Hexaemeron VII.4, “The Creation of Moving Creatures.” In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Edition Vol. VIII, p. 92-93.Eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Erdmans, 1989.
Before the Creation of the World
It appears, indeed, that even before this world an order of things existed of which our mind can attain by contemplation, but which has been left uninvestigated because it is too lofty a subject for men who are but beginners and babes in knowledge. The birth of the world was preceded by a condition of things suitable for the exercise of supernatural powers, outstripping the limits of time, eternal and infinite. The Creator and Demiurge of the universe perfected His works in it, spiritual light for the happiness of all who love the Lord, intellectual and invisible natures, all the orderly arrangement of pure intelligences who are beyond the reach of our mind and of whom we cannot even discover the names. They fill the essence of this invisible world, as Paul teaches us. “For by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers,” or virtues or hosts of angels, or the dignities of archangels.
To this world it was necessary to add a new world, both a school and training place, where the souls of men should be taught and a home for beings destined to be born and to die. Thus was created of a nature analogous to this world and the animals and plants which live thereon, the succession of time, forever pressing on and passing away and never stopping in its course. Is not this the nature of time, where the past is no more, the future does not exist, and the present escapes before being recognized? And such also is the nature of the creature which lives in time, condemned to grow or to perish without rest and without certain stability. It is therefore fit that the bodies of animals and plants, obliged to follow a sort of current, and carried away by the motion which leads to birth or to death, s hould live in the midst of surroundings whose nature is in accord with being subject to change. Thus the writer who wisely tells us of the birth of the Universe does not fail to put these words at the head of the narrative, “In the beginning, God created;” that is to say, in the beginning of time.
~ Hexaemeron, Homily 1:5, “In the Beginning…,” translation by Blomfield Jackson, King’s College, 1894, reprinted in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, Hendrickson Publ., Peabody, Mass., 1994, pg. 54-55.
Man is Made in the Image of God
God made man according to his image and likeness. He deemed him worthy of the knowledge of Himself, that in preference to all of the animals He adorned him with rationality, bestowed upon him the opportunity of taking his delight in the unbelievable beauties of paradise, and made him the chief of the creatures on earth.
~ The Long Rules, Response 2, in Saint Basil, Ascetical Works, The Fathers of the Church, trans. by Sr. Monica Wagner, csc, Catholic Univ. Amer. Press, Wash., DC, 1950, p. 237.
The World as Great Art
Among arts, some have production, or practice, or performance, as their object. … Thus dancing and music leave nothing behind; they have no object but themselves. In creative arts, on the contrary, the work lasts after the operation. Such is architecture – and such are the arts which use wood, brass or weaving. Even when the artist has departed, each shows the industrious intelligence of the artist and allows the architect, the brass worker or the weaver to be admired on account of his work. … The world too is a work of art displayed for the beholding of all people; to make them know Him who created it….
~ Hexaemeron, Homily I.7, “In the Beginning, God made the Heavens and the Earth.” In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Edition Vol. VIII, p. 55-56. Eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Erdmans, 1989.
Man and Creation
This is man: a mind united with a fitting and se
rviceable body. This mode of existence was prepared by the All-wise Artificer of the universe in our mother’s wombs. This being it is which was appointed to rule over the earth. For him, creation lies outspread, an exercise ground for virtue.
For him the law was made, commanding the imitation of the Creator in accordance with his powers and a reproducing upon earth as if in rough outline, of the good order of heaven.
~ Homily 21, On Detachment. In Fathers of the Early Church, Vol. 9, CUA Press, 2010, p. 494.
A founder of Eastern communal monastic life, Archbishop of Caesarea, brother of St. Gregory of Nyssa, doctor of the Church, and the first of the Cappadocian (Anatolian Greek) Fathers, Basil describes the handiwork of the Creator as “everywhere in creation” and probes deeply into the reasons for creation’s structure. He lays out a Christian cosmology that he says existed before time, that goes beyond spatial limitations, that remains orderly and intentional, and that is filled with an intelligible hierarchy beyond human comprehension. This marvelous creation he calls the “supreme icon” of Christian faith which leads to knowledge of the “Supreme Artisan.” His interests were as much in social relief and schools as theology. Throughout his life he relentlessly sought a comprehensive vision of how Christian faith applied to all aspects of livelihood. He is one of the most prolific and wide ranging of all the patristic writers on themes of creation.
Remembrance of God through Creation
I want creation to penetrate you with so much admiration that wherever you go, the least plant may bring you the clear remembrance of the Creator….
Scripture depicts to us the Supreme Artist, praising each one of His works; soon when His work is complete He will accord praise to the whole together….
A single plant, a blade of grass or one speck of dust is sufficient to occupy all your intelligence in beholding the art with which it has been made.
~ Hexaemeron, Homily V.2-3, “The Germination of the Earth.” In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Edition Vol. VIII, p. 77. Eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Erdmans, 1989.
The Wisdom in Creation
When I reflect upon the inexhaustible wisdom which is displayed in the works of creation, I seem to be but at the beginning of my story.
~ The Hexaemeron, Homily VIII.8, “The Creation of Fowl and Water Animals.”In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Edition Vol. VIII, p. 100-101. Eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Erdmans, 1989.
The Nature of the Creatures
“And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth the living creatures after their own kind, cattle and creeping things, and beasts of the earth, after their own kind; and it was so.'”
The command of God advanced step by step and earth thus received its adornment…. When the earth heard this command, “Let the earth bring forth grass and the tree yielding fruit,” it was not grass that it had hidden in it that it caused to bring spring forth… It is the Word of God which forms the natures of things created….
Without doubt the terrestrial animals are devoid of a human-like reason. At the same time how many affections of the soul each one of them expresses by the voice of nature! They express by cries their joys and sadness, recognition of what is familiar to them, the need for food, regret at being separated from their companions, and numerous emotions.
~ The Hexaemeron, Homily VIII.1. In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. VIII. Ed. Philip Schaff. Christian literature Company, 1895, p. 94-95.
Lessons from the Bees
Listen, Christians, you to whom it is forbidden to “recompense evil for evil” and who are commanded “to overcome evil with good.” Take the bee for your model, which constructs its cells without injuring anyone and without interfering with the goods of others. It gathers openly pollen from the flowers, drawing in the basis for the honey scattered over them like dew, and injects it into the hollow of its cells. At first this honey is liquid; time thickens it and gives it its sweetness. The Book of Proverbs has given the bee the most honorable and the best praise by calling her wise and industrious. How much activity she exerts in gathering this precious nourishment, by which both kings and men of low degree are brought to health! How great is the art and cunning she displays in the construction of the storehouses which are destined to receive the honey? After having spread the pollen like a thin membrane, she distributes it in contiguous compartments which, weak though they are, by their number and by their mass, sustain the whole edifice. Each cell in fact holds to the one next to it, and is separated by one upon another. The bee takes care not to make one vast cavity, for fear it mike break under the weight of the liquid, and allow it to escape. See how the discoveries of geometry are mere by-works to the wise bee!
~ Hexaemeron VIII.4, “The Creation of Fowl and Water Animals.” In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Edition Vol. VIII, p. 97. Eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Erdmans, 1989.
Lessons from the Birds
The solicitude of storks for their old would be sufficient, if our children would reflect upon it, to make them love their parents, because there is no one so failing in good sense as not to deem it a shame to be surpassed in virtue by birds devoid of reason. The storks surround their father when old age makes his feathers drop off, warm him with their wings, and provide abundantly for his support. Even in their flight, they help him as much as they are able, raising him gently on each side upon their wings, a conduct so famous that it has given to gratitude the name of “antipelargosis.“
Let no one lament poverty; let not the man whose house is bare despair of his life, when he considers the industry of the swallow. To build her nest, she brings bits of straw in her beak; and as she cannot raise the mud in her claws, she moistens the ends of her wings in water and then rolls in very fine dust and thus procures mud. After having mixed, little by little, the bits of straw with this mud, as with glue, she feeds her young; and if any one of them has its eyes injured, she has a natural remedy to heal the sight of her little ones.
This sight ought to warn you not to take to evil ways on account of poverty; and, even if you are reduced to the last extremity, not to lose all hope; not to abandon yourself to inaction and idleness, but to have recourse to God. If He is so bountiful to the swallow, what will He not do for those who call upon Him with all their hearts?
You have then heaven adorned, earth beautified, the sea populated with its own creatures, the air filled with birds which scour it in every direction. Studious listener, think of all these creations which God has drawn out of nothing, think of all those which my speech has left out, to avoid tediousness, and not to exceed my limits, recognize everywhere the wisdom of God; never cease to wonder, and through every creature, to glorify the Creator.
~ Hexaemeron VIII.5, “The Creation of Fowl and Water Animals.” In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Edition Vol. VIII, p. 98. Eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Erdmans, 1989.
Creation as a Theophany of Wisdom
You have then heaven and earth adorned, earth beautified, the sea peopled with its own creatures, the air filled with birds which scour in every direction. Studious listener, think of all these creations…, think of all those which my narration has left out to avoid tediousness; recognize everywhere the wisdom of God; never cease to wonder, and through every creature, to glorify the Creator.
~ Hexaemeron VIII.7, “The Creation of Fowl and Water Animals.” In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Edition Vol. VIII, p. 99. Eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Erdmans, 1989.
Ascent from the World
When the intellect is no longer dissipated among external things or dispersed across the world through the senses, it returns to itself; and by means of itself it ascends to the thought of God.
~ quoted by Kallistos Ware, from Ascetical Works Alternate translation in Letter II Basil to Gregory, section 2. In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Edition, Vol. VIII. Ed. Philip Schaff. Eerdmans, 1989, p. 110.
A Prayer for the Earth
The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.
O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, even our brothers, the animals, to whom Thou gavest the earth as their home in common with us.
We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to thee in song, has been a groan of pain.
May we realize that they live, not for us alone, but for themselves and for Thee and that they love the sweetness of life.
~ Liturgy of St. Basil. Quoted in Compassion for Animals, By Andrew Linzey and Tom Regan, SPCK Press, 1988, p. 34.
The Land as a Common Inheritance
God has poured the rains on a land tilled by avaricious hands; He has given the sun to keep the seeds warm, and to multiply the fruit through His productivity. Things of this kind are from God: the fertile land, moderate winds, abundance of seeds, the work of the oxen, and other things by which a farm is brought into productivity and abundance…. But the avaricious one has not remembered our common nature and has not thought of distribution.
~ Sermon IV:1, On Ownership. Quoted in Ownership – Early Christian Teachings, by Charles Avila, UMI Press, 1983, p. 51. Digitalized by the University of California in 2006.
A Conception of God from His Creation
Let us glorify the Master Craftsman for all that has been done wisely and skillfully; and from the beauty of the visible things, let us form an idea of Him Who is more than beautiful; and from the greatness of these perceptible and circumscribed bodies let us conceive of Him Who is infinite and immense and Who surpasses all understanding in the plenitude of His power. For even if we are ignorant of things made, yet, at least, that which in general comes under our observation is so wonderful that even the most acute mind is shown to be at a loss as regards the least of the things in the world, either in the ability to explain it worthily or to render due praise to the Creator, to Whom be all glory, honor and power forever.
~ Hexaemeron I.11, “In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth.” In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Edition Vol. VIII, p. 58. Eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Erdmans, 1989.
The Beginning of Time
The genesis of the world is the beginning of time. This beginning is not yet time, not even a fraction of time, just as the beginning of a road is not yet the road itself.
~ Hexaemeron I.6, “In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth.” In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Edition Vol. VIII, p. 55. Eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Erdmans, 1989.
Magnifying the Lord through Creation
He magnifies the Lord who observes with a keen understanding and most profound contemplation the greatness of creation, so that from the greatness and beauty of creatures he may contemplate their Creator. The deeper one penetrates into the reasons for which things in existence were made and were governed, the more he contemplates the magnificence of the Lord and, as far as it lies in him, magnifies the Lord.
~ Fathers of the Early Church Vol. 46, Homily 16:3, CUA Press, 1963, p. 252-253.
Creation Reminds Us of the Creator
May God grant you the intelligence of His truth, so that you may raise yourself from visible things to the invisible Being, and that the grandeur and beauty of creatures may give you a just idea of the Creator. For the visible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, and His power and divinity are eternal. Thus earth, air, sky, water, day, night, all visible things, remind us of who is our Benefactor.
~ Hexaemeron III.8, “On the Firmament.” In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Edition Vol. VIII, p. 71. Eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Erdmans, 1989.
And God Saw that It was Good
It is not with eyes that the Creator views the beauty of His works. He contemplates them in His ineffable wisdom…. However, it is not in this that Scripture makes God find the goodness and charm of the sea. Here it is the purpose of the work which makes the goodness.
In the first place sea water is the source of all the moisture of the earth. It filters through imperceptible conduits, as is proved by the subterranean openings and caves whither its waters penetrate; it is received in oblique and sinuous canals; … it rises to the surface of the earth, having become drinkable and free from its bitterness by this long percolation….
In the eyes of God, the sea is good, because it makes the undercurrent of moisture in the depths of the earth. It is good again because all the rivers without exceeding its limits. It is good because it is the origin and source of the waters of the air. Warmed by the rays of the sun, it escapes as vapor, is attracted into the high regions of the air, and there it is cooled on account of its rising high above the refraction of the rays from the ground, and the shade of the clouds adding to this refrigeration, it is changed into rain and fattens the earth….
Finally, the sea is good in the eyes of God, because it girdles the isles, of which it forms at the same time the rampart and the beauty, because it brings together the most distant parts of the earth, and facilitates the intercommunication of mariners. By this means it gives us the boon of general information, supplies the merchant with his wealth, and easily provides for the necessities of life, allowing the rich to export their excesses and blessing the poor with the supply of what they lack….
~ Hexaemeron IV, 6-7 “On the Gathering Together of the Waters.” In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Edition Vol. VIII, p. 75. Eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Erdmans,
Prayer for the Animals
For those, O Lord, the humble beasts
that bear with us the burden and heat of the day
and offer their guileless lives for the well-being of humankind;
And for the wild creatures,
whom Thou hast made
wise, strong, and beautiful,
We supplicate for them
Thy great tenderness of heart,
for Thou has promised to save both man and beast,
and great is Thy loving kindness,
O Master, Saviour of the world.
~ Quoted in Andrew Linzey, Compassion for Animals: Readings and Prayers, SPCK Publ., London, 1988, pg. 86
Before this World
Even before this world, an order of things existed of which our mind can form an idea, but which was left untold [in Genesis], because it is too lofty a subject for men who are but beginners and are still babes in knowledge. The birth of the world was preceded by a condition of things suitable for the exercise of supernatural powers, out-stripping the limits of time, eternal and infinite… the intellectual and invisible natures, all the orderly arrangement of pure intelligences who are beyond the reach of our mind and of whom we cannot ever discover the names… the host of angels or the dignities of archangels.
~ Hexaemeron 1:5, (alternate translation) this version quoted in Alexandre Kalomiros, “The Eternal Will,” The Christian Activist, Vol. 11, Winter, 1997, p. 8.