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The Philocalia Of Origen -Origen

That a man ought not to faint in reading the Divine Scripture if he cannot comprehend the dark riddles and parables therein. From the 20th Homily on Joshua, the son of Nun

1. A hearer greatly profits by such readings as these if he can understand the true inheritance which Joshua divided by lot to the children of Israel, and if he can both ascend to the holy land, the true, really good land, and, following the list of names, can adapt the local descriptions to the varying circumstances of those who receive the inheritance. But it is difficult to find a man who thus profits, and we therefore wish to encourage our hearers not to faint as they read. What the encouragement is which I offer to him who hears such passages, I must now tell. Charms have a certain natural force; and any one who comes under the influence of the charm, even if he does not understand it, gets something from it, according to the nature of the sounds thereof, either to the injury or to the healing of his body, or his soul. Just so, pray observe, it is with the giving of names in the Divine Scriptures, only they are stronger than any charm. For there are certain faculties in us, the best of which are nourished by these “charms,” as I may call them, being akin to them, though we may not perceive that those faculties by understanding what we are told become more effective in the development of our lives. For that there are certain invisible departments of our being, and those many in number, the words of the Psalm will prove, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name.” There is, then, within us a multitude of faculties amongst which we have been, as it were, souls and bodies, divided by lot; and these are such that if holy they profit and gather strength at the reading of the Scripture, even though the understanding be unfruitful; as it is written concerning him who speaketh “in a tongue,” “My spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.” Please note, then, that though at times our understanding is unfruitful, the faculties which assist the soul, and the understanding, and help us all, are nourished with rational nourishment drawn from the Holy Scriptures, and from these names, and that being nourished they are better able to assist us. And just as our better faculties, as it were, use the charm and are profited, and gain strength through Scriptures and names like these, so the opposing faculties of our inner nature, we may say, are weakened and overcome by God’s enchantments, and being overcome are put to sleep.

2. If any of you have ever seen an asp or some other venomous creature under the spell of the charmer, I would have you take that as an illustration of the Scripture. If it be read and not understood, the hearer sometimes grows listless and weary; yet let him believe that the asps and vipers within him are weakened through the charms of the charmers, that is to say, by wise Moses, wise Joshua, the wise and holy Prophets. Let us not then weary when we hear Scriptures which we do not understand; but let it be unto us according to our faith, by which we believe that all Scripture being inspired by God is profitable. For as regards these Scriptures, you must admit one of two things: either that they are not inspired because they are not profitable, as an unbeliever might suppose; or, as a believer, you must allow that because they are inspired they are profitable. We must, however, know that we often profit without perceiving it, just as frequently happens when we diet ourselves to improve our eyesight; we do not, I suppose, while we are eating perceive that our eyesight is better, but after two or three days, when the food is assimilated which benefits the eye, we are convinced of the fact by experience; and the same remark applies to other foods which benefit other parts of the body. Well, then, have the like faith with regard to Divine Scripture; believe that thy soul is profited by the mere reading, even though thy understanding does not receive the fruit of profiting by these passages. Our inner nature is charmed; its better elements are nourished, the worse weakened and brought to nought.

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