Monday 27 May 2013

Things rightly created but wrongly desired

I've been reading the Office for over 25 years now, and only this morning I was struck by this comment of Gregory the Great on the book of Job:
‘I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil.’
‘I form the light and create darkness’: for when the darkness of pain is created by blows received from outside ourselves, the light of the mind is kindled by instruction within.
‘I make peace and create evil’: for peace with God is restored to us when the things which, rightly created but wrongly desired, turn into the kind of scourges that we regard as ‘evil’. We have grown at variance with God through sin. Therefore it is fitting that we should be brought back to peace with him by the scourge, so that as every being, created good, turns to pain for us, so the mind of chastened man may, in a humbled state, be made new in peace with the creator. [From the commentary of Pope St Gregory the Great on the book of Job. Bk 3, 15-16. The Divine Office (London: Collins, 1974) 3:113-14.]
Job's suffering is the suffering of the innocent. But Gregory seems to be talking about the suffering of one who is not quite innocent, for he speaks of wrongly desiring things that good in themselves. What is significant is that these good things turn into "the kind of scourges that we regard as 'evil'," and then, unexpectedly, "peace with God is restored to us." Is this something automatic? Or should we pay attention also to what Gregory says subsequently: that in times of affliction, even though this is not quite natural and spontaneous, we should make an effort to count our blessings?
And he who is bruised by scourges and yet, in the season of scourging neglects to comfort himself with the gifts which it has been his lot to receive, is thrown out of his steadfastness of mind by despair on every hand.


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