St Gregory the Dialogist: Are You Standing in the Citadel?

Feast of St Elizabeth the Wonderworker

Gregory_Great_Square.jpgTHE EASE OF indolence is represented by sleep, and physical labor by getting up. And the desire for rest is represented by the word evening, something associated with sleep. But the holy church, for as long as she continues in a life of corruption, unceasingly laments what she has lost through her mutability. For the first human was created for this purpose: that, with upright mind, he would lift himself up to the citadel of contemplation, and that no corruption would turn him away from the love of his Creator. But, because he moved the foot of his will away from his inborn security of standing, he immediately fell down from the love of the Creator into himself. But when he abandoned the love of God, that true citadel where he stood, he was unable to remain firm in himself either, because, through the power of slippery mutability, in his corruption he tumbled beneath himself to the point of being at variance with himself. Now, no longer held firmly by his secure place in the creation, he is always subject to change by the motion of alternating desire, so that when he is at rest he wants to be doing something and when he is busy he pants for rest. For because his mind, when firmly established, did not wish to stand when it was able, it is now unable to stand even though it may wish to. Yes, in abandoning the contemplation of its Creator it lost its good health and, always unwell, wherever it may find itself it wants to be somewhere else. Therefore, describing the inconstancy of the human mind, he can say: “If I am asleep, I shall say: When shall I get up? And I shall await the evening again” (Job 7.4). As if he were to say openly: nothing which his mind experiences is enough, because it lost the one who would truly have been enough. For indeed, when I am asleep I want to get up, and when I get up I await the evening, because when I am quiet I want to be busy, and when I am occupied I seek quiet rest.

—St Gregory the Great, Morals on Job

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