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NPNF2-08. Basil: Letters and Select Works
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Chapter XXII.

Establishment of the natural communion of the Spirit from His being, equally with the Father and the Son, unapproachable in thought.11671167    πρὸς θεωρίαν δυσέφικτον.  The Benedictine Latin is “incomprehensibilis,” but this is rather ἀκατάληπτος.  The “incomprehensible” of the Ath. Creed is “immensus.”

53.  Moreover the surpassing excellence of the nature of the Spirit is to be learned not only from His having the same title as the Father and the Son, and sharing in their operations, but also from His being, like the Father and the Son, unapproachable in thought.  For what our Lord says of the Father as being above and beyond human conception, and what He says of the Son, this same language He uses also of the Holy Ghost.  “O righteous Father,” He says, “the world hath not known Thee,”11681168    John xvii. 25. meaning here by the world not the complex whole compounded of heaven and earth, but this life of ours subject to death,11691169    ἐπίκηρος.  The force of the word as applied to this life is illustrated by the 61st Epigram of Callimachus:
   Τίς ξένος, ὦ ναυηγέ; Δεόντιχος ἐνθάδε νεκρὸν

   εὗρεν ἐπ᾽ αἰγιαλοῖς, χῶσε δὲ τῷδε τάφῳ

   δακρύσας ἐπίκηρον εὸν βίον· οὐδὲ γὰρ αὐτὸς

   ἥσυχος, αἰθυί& 219·ς δ᾽ ἶσα θαλασσοπορεῖ .
and exposed to innumerable vicissitudes.  And when discoursing of Himself He says, “Yet a little while and the world seeth me no more, but ye see me;”11701170    John xiv. 19. again in this passage, applying the word world to those who being bound down by this material and carnal life, and beholding11711171    ἐπιβλέποντας , the reading of the Viennese ms. vulgo ἐπιτρέποντας. the truth by material sight alone,11721172    μόνοις ὀφθαλμοῖς. were ordained, through their unbelief in the resurrection, to see our Lord no more with the eyes of the heart.  And He said the same concerning the Spirit.  “The Spirit of truth,” He says, “whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him:  but ye know Him, for He dwelleth with you.”11731173    John xiv. 17.  For the carnal man, who has never trained his mind to contemplation,11741174    ἀγύμναστον ἔχων τὸν νοῦνcf. Heb. v. 14. but rather keeps it buried deep in lust of the flesh,11751175    τῷ φρονήματι τῆς σαρκόςcf. Rom. viii. 6 τὸ γὰρ φρόνημα τῆς σαρκὸς θάνατος. as in mud, is powerless to look up to the spiritual light of the truth.  And so the world, that is life enslaved by the affections of the flesh, can no more receive the grace of the Spirit than a weak eye the light of a sunbeam.  But the Lord, who by His teaching bore witness to purity of life, gives to His disciples the power of now both beholding and contemplating the Spirit.  For “now,” He says, “Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you,”11761176    John xv. 3. wherefore “the world cannot receive Him, because it seeth Him not,…but ye know Him; for he dwelleth with you.”11771177    John xiv. 17.  And so says Isaiah;—“He that spread forth the earth and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and Spirit to them that trample on it”11781178    Is. xlii. 5, LXX. πατοῦσιν αὐτήν.  So St. Basil’s argument requires us to translate the lxx.  The “walk therein” of A.V. would not bear out his meaning.  For this use of πατειν, cf. Soph., Ant. 745. οὐ γὰρ σέβεις τιμάς γε τὰς θεῶν πατῶν.  So in the vulgate we read “et spiritum calcantibus eam,”—calcare bearing the sense of “trample on,” as in Juvenal, Sat. x. 86, “calcemus Cæsaris hostem.”  The Hebrew bears no such meaning.; for they that trample down earthly things and rise above them are borne witness to as worthy of the gift of the Holy Ghost.  What then ought to be thought of Him whom the world cannot receive, and Whom saints alone can contemplate through pureness of heart?  What kind of honours can be deemed adequate to Him?


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