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The Philocalia Of Origen -Origen

And again, earlier in the same book, Origen says, That our faith in our Lord has nothing in common with the irrational superstitious faith of the Gentiles, and that it is both commendable, and accords with the original moral notions of mankind. In answer also to those who say, How do we think that Jesus is God seeing that He had a mortal body?

1. Faith in Antinous or some other Egyptian or Greek hero, is, if I may use the expression, unfortunate; but faith in Jesus would appear to be either fortunate, or to have its claims severely tested; for it seems to be fortunate with the many, and severely tested by very few. And if I say that a certain faith is fortunate, as the many would call it, I refer the explanation of this good fortune to God, Who knows the causes of every human being’s lot in life. And the Greeks will also admit that even in the case of those who are regarded as their wisest men, good fortune accounts for much, as for example the sort of teachers they have, and whether they meet with better ones (for other men teach opposite doctrines), and whether they have a better bringing up. For it is the lot of many to be so brought up that they cannot get even a faint perception of the higher life, but from their very earliest years are destined to be among the favourites of licentious men, or of tyrants, or to be in some other sad condition which prevents the opening of the eyes of the soul. I quite suppose that the causes of this are to be found in the rulings of Providence; but how the causes affect mankind is not easy to explain. I thought I would make this digression in passing, for we remember the old saying, “What wonders faith performs when it once takes hold of anything!” It was necessary to speak of different forms of faith on account of the different ways men are brought up; and from this to go on to show that what is called good or bad fortune would appear to assist even clever men in this very respect, that they appear more reasonable than other men, and with better reason for the most part to adopt their opinions. But enough of this.

2. But we must consider what Celsus says next. Amongst other things he tells us that “we are already under the influence of faith when we thus submit to Jesus.” And in truth faith does effect this submission. Observe, however, whether the very act of faith does not exhibit something praiseworthy when we submit ourselves to God Who is over all, confessing our gratitude to Him Who has guided us to such a faith, and saying that He did not without God’s help undertake and accomplish such a difficult task. And we believe also in the intentions of those who wrote the Gospels, as we mark the caution and conscientiousness shown in their writings, and how they admit nothing spurious, hazardous, invented, or unscrupulous. For it strikes us that souls which knew nothing of the strange devices taught by the unscrupulous sophistry of the Greeks, and by the rhetoric bandied in the law-courts, could not thus invent incidents able of themselves to lead men to faith and to a life in keeping with their faith. And I suppose this was why Jesus wished to employ such teachers of His doctrines, that there might be no room to suspect them of plausible sophisms, but that they who are capable of understanding may see clearly that the writers’ purity of intention with its, if I may so speak, great simplicity, was deemed worthy of Divine help, which accomplishes far more than diction, and composition, and right construction with its refinements and rules of Grecian art seems able to accomplish.

3. Now see whether the principles of our faith, being accordant with man’s original conceptions, do not work a change in fair-minded hearers of the Word. For though the perverted doctrine, backed up with much instruction, has been able to implant in the minds of the many the belief that images are gods, and that things made of gold, and silver, and ivory, and stone, are worthy of worship; common sense, nevertheless, forbids us to think that God is by any means corruptible matter, or that He is honoured when He is fashioned by men in forms of dead matter, supposed to pictorially or symbolically represent Him. And we accordingly at once decide respecting images that they are not gods; and respecting such works of art that they are not to be compared to the Creator; and that they are insignificant when we think of God, Who is over all, the Maker, Preserver, and Governor of the universe. And the rational soul, as if it recognised its affinity, at once rejects what it hitherto imagined to be gods, and resumes its natural affection for the Creator; and because of that natural affection for Him, it eagerly accepts Him, Who first showed these truths to the Gentile world by means of the disciples whom He prepared, and whom He sent forth with Divine power and authority to preach the Word concerning God and His kingdom.

4. And whereas Celsus, I know not how many times already, taunts us with holding that Jesus, though He had a mortal body, is a god, and with supposing that herein we show our piety, it is superfluous to say more, for more than enough has already been said. Still, I would have our accusers know that He Who we think and are persuaded was from the beginning God and Son of God, is the very Word, and very Wisdom, and very Truth; and we affirm that the mortal body and the human soul therein, not only by communication with Him, but by an union and intimate mixture, gained the highest honours, and having participated in the Divine Nature, were taken into God. And if any one stumbles at our saying this concerning His body, let him attend to what is said by the Greeks about matter, in itself unqualified, acquiring whatever qualities the Creator wishes to invest it with; and how it frequently divests itself of its former qualities and assumes better ones of a different kind. For if this is sound doctrine, is it any wonder that the quality of mortality attaching to the body of Jesus should by the providence of God, Who so willed, change into one that was heavenly and Divine?

5. Celsus, then, did not show his dialectical skill when, comparing the human flesh of Jesus to gold, and silver, and stone, he saw it was more corruptible than they. For, to speak correctly, what is incorruptible cannot be more incorruptible than something else which is incorruptible, nor can what is corruptible be more corruptible than some other corruptible thing. But allowing that there are degrees of corruptibility, we shall still reply, that if it is possible for the matter which underlies all qualities to change its qualities, why should it be impossible for the flesh of Jesus to change its qualities, and become such as it ought to be if it is to live in the sky, and the upper realms, no longer having the qualities of fleshly weakness, and whatever other qualities Celsus called “pollutions”?—and in doing so did not speak like a philosopher. For in the proper sense pollution is the result of vice; but the nature of the body is not polluted; for as bodily nature it has no vice, which generates the pollution.

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