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The Philocalia Of Origen -Origen

Of things in the Divine Scripture which seem to come near to being a stumbling-block and rock of offence. From the 39th Homily on Jeremiah: “The Lord could not bear because of the evil of your doings.”

1. If at any time in reading the Scripture you stumble at something which is a fair stone of stumbling, and rock of offence, blame yourself; for you must not despair of finding in this stone of stumbling and rock of offence thoughts to justify the saying, “He that believeth shall not be ashamed.” First believe, and thou shalt find beneath what is deemed a stumbling-stone much gain in godliness. For if we really received a commandment to speak no idle word, because we shall give account of it in the day of judgment; and if we must with all our might endeavour to make every word proceeding out of our mouths a working word both in ourselves who speak and in those who hear, must we not conclude that every word spoken through the Prophets was fit for work? and it is no wonder if every word spoken by the Prophets had a work adapted to it. Nay, I suppose that every letter, no matter how strange, which is written in the oracles of God, does its work. And there is not one jot or tittle written in the Scripture, which, when men know how to extract the virtue does not work its own work.

2. As every herb has its own virtue whether for the healing of the body, or some other purpose, and it is not given to everybody to know the use of every herb, but certain persons have acquired the knowledge by the systematic study of botany, so that they may understand when a particular herb is to be used, and to what part it is to be applied, and how it is to be prepared, if it is to do the patient good; just so it is in things spiritual; the saint is a sort of spiritual herbalist, who culls from the sacred Scriptures every jot and every common letter, discovers the value of what is written and its use, and finds that there is nothing in the Scriptures superfluous. If you would like another illustration, every member of our body has been designed by God to do some work. But it is not for everybody to know the power and use of all the members, even the meanest, but those physicians who are expert anatomists can tell for what use every part, even the least, was intended by Providence. Just so, you may regard the Scriptures as a collection of herbs, or as one perfect body of reason; but if you are neither a scriptural botanist, nor can dissect the words of the Prophets, you must not suppose that anything written is superfluous, but blame yourself and not the sacred Scriptures when you fail to find the point of what is written. All this by way of general preface, though it may be applied to the whole of Scripture; so that they who will give heed to their reading may beware of passing over a single letter without examination and inquiry.

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