St-Gregory-the-DialogistThe wing of the ostrich is like the wings of the heron, and of the hawk (Job 39:13).

Who can be ignorant how much the heron and the hawk surpass all other birds in the swiftness of their flight?

But an ostrich has the likeness of their wing, but not the celerity of their flight.

For it cannot in truth rise from the ground, and raises its wings, in appearance as if to fly, but yet never raises itself from the earth in flying.

Thus, doubtless, are all hypocrites, who, while they simulate the conduct of the good, possess a resemblance of a holy appearance, but have no reality of holy conduct.

They have, in truth, wings for flight, in appearance, but in their doing they creep along the ground, because they spread their wings, by the semblance of sanctity, but, overwhelmed by the weight of secular cares, they are not at all raised from the earth.

For the Lord in reprobating the appearance of the Pharisees, reproves, as it were, the wing of the ostrich, which did one thing in action, and made a show of another in its colour; saying,

Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful to men outwardly, but are within full of dead men’s bones; even so do ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of covetousness and iniquity (Matthew 23:27-28).

As if He were saying: The beautiful show of your wings seems to raise you up, but the weight of your conduct weighs you down to the lowest depths. Of this weight it is said by the Prophet, Ye sons of men, how long will ye be heavy in heart? (Psalm 4:3).

The Lord promises that He will convert the hypocrisy of this ostrich, when He says by the Prophet; The beasts of the field shall honour Me, the dragons and the ostriches (Isaiah 43:20).

For what is expressed by the word ‘dragons,’ but minds openly wicked, which ever creep along the earth in most grovelling thoughts?

But what is designated by the word ‘ostriches,’ but those, who pretend that they are good, who retain a life of sanctity in appearance, as a wing for flight, but use it not in act?

The Lord, therefore, says that He is glorified by the dragon, or by the ostrich, because He frequently converts both the openly wicked, and the pretendedly good, to obey Him from their inmost thought.

Or certainly, the beasts of the field, that is the dragons and ostriches, glorify the Lord, when that Gentile people, which had before been a member of the devil in this world, exalts the faith which is in Him.

Gregory the Great (c.540-604): Reflections (Moralia) on Job, 31, 11 (on Job 39:13) @ Lectionary Central.

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