Ambrose of Milan: The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil Saturday, Oct 5 2013 

ambrose_of_milanI shall not despoil Adam of all the virtues, so that he would appear to have attained no virtue in Paradise and would seem to have eaten nothing from the other trees, but had fallen into sin before he had obtained any fruit.

I shall…not despoil Adam lest I may despoil the whole human race, which is innocent before it acquires the capacity to know good and evil.

Not without reason was it said: ‘Unless you turn and become like this child, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt.18:3).

The child, when he is scolded, does not retaliate. When he is struck, he does not strike back. He is not conscious of the allurements of ambition and self-seeking.

The truth seems to be, then, that He commanded the tree not to be eaten, not even along with the fruit of the other trees.

Knowledge of good, in fact, although of no use to a perfect man, is, on the other hand, of no value to a man who is imperfect.

Paul speaks of himself as imperfect: ‘Not that I have already obtained this or already have been made perfect, but I press on hoping that I may lay hold of it already’ (Phil. 3:12).

Hence the Lord says to the imperfect: ‘Do not judge that you may not be judged’ (Matt. 7:1). Knowledge is, therefore, of no use to the imperfect. Hence we read: ‘I did not know sin unless the Law had said, thou shalt not lust’. And further on we read: ‘For without the Law sin is dead’ (Rom. 7:7-8).

What advantage is it to me to know what I cannot avoid? What avails it for me to know that the law of my flesh assails me? Paul is assailed and sees ‘the law of his flesh warring against that of his mind and making him prisoner to the law of sin.

He does not rely on himself, but by the grace of Christ is confident of his ‘deliverance from the body of death (Rom. 7:23-24). Do you think that anyone with knowledge of sin can avoid it?

Paul says: ‘For I do not the good that I wish, but the evil that I do not wish’ (Rom. 7:19). Do you consider that this knowledge which adds to the reproach of sin can be of help to man?

Granted, however, that the perfect man is unable to sin. God foresaw all men in the person of Adam. Hence it was not fitting that the human race in general should have a knowledge of good and evil – a knowledge which he could not utilize because of the weakness of the flesh.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397): On Paradise, 12, 59-60 from Saint Ambrose: Hexameron, Paradise, Cain and Abel, translated by John J. Savage, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 42), pp. 340-342.

Richard of St Victor: “Rejoice in the Lord Always, Again I Say Rejoice” Saturday, Dec 22 2012 

Hugh_of_St_Victor“How great” is “the multitude of sweetness, which God has hidden for those who love him” (Ps. 30:20).  “He has hidden,” it says.  Therefore, why marvel if any lover of the world does not know that which God has hidden for those who love Him?

[…] For it is manna, hidden and completely unknown except to those who taste it.  For it is such sweetness of the heart, and not of the flesh, that no carnal person whomever is able to have known it.  “You have put joy in my heart” (Ps. 4:7).

Corporeal delights, like the body itself, can be seen by the bodily eyes; eyes of the flesh cannot see the delights of the heart and also not even the heart itself.  Therefore by what way could he know spiritual delights unless he makes a point of entering into his heart and dwelling within?

Therefore it is said to him: “Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matt. 25:21).  This inner joy is for spiritual persons.  That sweetness which is felt within is that son of Leah….  For joy is one of the principal affections….

However, when it has been set in order, this can rightly be numbered among the sons of Jacob and Leah.  For we certainly have ordered and true joy when we rejoice concerning true and inner goods.

The Apostle wished to animate us to the desire for such offspring when he said: “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice” (Phil. 4:4).  And the Prophet: “Rejoice in the Lord and exult you just, and glory all you with an upright heart” (Ps. 31:11).

For such offspring Leah gladly despised the mandrakes so that she would be able to have such a son.  In fact, the mind that delights in the praise of men does not deserve to experience what inner joy is.

However, after the birth of Gad and Asher, Leah rightly gave birth to such a son because except by means of abstinence and patience the human mind cannot reach true joy.

Therefore it is necessary that he who wishes to rejoice concerning the truth exclude not only false pleasure but also vain disquiet.  For he who until now delights in the lowest things is especially unworthy of inner enjoyment, and he who is disquieted by vain fear is not able fully to enjoy spiritual sweetness.

Truth condemned false joy when he said: “Woe to you who now laugh” (Luke 6:25).  He extirpated vain disquiet when he admonished his hearers, saying: “Do not fear those who kill the body, for they are not able to kill the soul” (Matt. 10:28).

Richard of St Victor (d. 1173): The Twelve Patriarchs, c. 36,translated by Grover A. Zinn, Paulist Press @ Lectionary Central.

R. Garrigou-Lagrange: Gifts of the Holy Spirit (3) – Knowledge Saturday, Jul 31 2010 

To have a solid piety that avoids illusion and dominates the imagination and sentimentalism, the Holy Ghost must give us the higher gift of knowledge.

The gift of knowledge renders us docile to inspirations superior to human knowledge and even to reasoned theology.

We are here concerned with a supernatural feeling that makes us judge rightly of human things, either as symbols of divine things, or in their opposition to the latter.

It shows us vividly the vanity of all passing things, of honors, titles, the praises of men; it makes us see especially the infinite gravity of mortal sin as an offense against God and a disease of the soul.

[…] By showing the infinite gravity of mortal sin, it produces not only fear but horror of sin and a great sorrow for having offended God.

It gives the true knowledge of good and evil, and not that which the devil promised to Adam and Eve when he said to them: “In what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil”.

As a matter of fact, they had the bitter knowledge or experience of evil committed, of proud disobedience, and of its results.

The Holy Ghost, on the other hand, promises the true knowledge of good and evil; if we follow Him, we shall be in a sense like God, who knows evil to detest it and good to realize it.

Only too often human knowledge produces presumption; the gift of knowledge, on the contrary, strengthens hope because it shows us that every human help is fragile as a reed;

it makes us see the nothingness of earthly goods and leads us to desire heaven, putting all our confidence in God.

As St. Augustine says, it corresponds to the beatitude of the tears of contrition. Blessed are they who know the emptiness of human things, especially the gravity of sin;

blessed are they who weep for their sins, who have true compunction of heart, of which The Imitation often speaks.

By this gift we find the happy mean between a discouraging pessimism and an optimism made up of levity and vanity.

Precious was the knowledge of the saints possessed by all great apostles: St. Dominic, for example, often wept on seeing the state of certain souls to which he brought the word of God.

R. Garrigou-Lagrange OP (1877-1964): The Three Ages of the Interior Life.

Henry Suso: Unlock Thy Interior Sense Friday, Feb 26 2010 

The Servant: Lord, people say as follows: that how sweet soever Thy love may be, Thou dost yet allow it to prove very harsh to Thy friends in the many severe trials which Thou sendest them, such as worldly scorn and much adversity, both inwardly and outwardly.

Scarcely is any one, say they, admitted to Thy friendship, but he has forthwith to gather up his courage for suffering.

Lord, by Thy goodness! what sweetness can they have in all this? Or how canst Thou permit it in Thy friends? Or art Thou pleased not to know anything about it?

[…]  Lord, on this account there are also indeed many who, when they gain Thy friendship, and ought to prove constant in suffering, fall off from Thee; and (woe is me! that I must say it in sorrow of heart, and with bitter tears) relapse to that state which, through Thee, they had forsaken. O my Lord, what hast Thou to say to this?

Eternal Wisdom: This is the complaint of persons of a sick faith and of small works, of a lukewarm life, and undisciplined spirit.

But thou, beloved soul, up with thy mind out of the slime and deep slough of carnal delights! Unlock thy interior sense, open thy spiritual eyes and see.

Mark well what thou art, where thou art, and whither thou dost belong; for then shalt thou understand that I do the very best for My friends.

According to thy natural essence thou art a mirror of the Divinity, thou art an image of the Trinity, and a copy of eternity.

For as I, in My eternal uncreated entity, am the good which is infinite, so art thou according to thy desires, fathomless, and as little as a small drop can yield in the vast depth of the sea, just so little can all that this world is able to afford contribute to the fulfillment of thy desires.

Thus, then, art thou in this wretched valley of tears, where joy and sorrow, laughing and weeping, mirth and sadness, are mingled together; where no heart ever obtained perfect happiness; for it is false and deceitful, more than I will tell thee.

It promises much and performs little; it is short, uncertain, and changeable; to-day much joy, tomorrow a heart full of woe. Behold, such is the disport of this scene of time!

Henry Suso (c. 1296 – 1366): The Little Book of Divine Wisdom, 1,10.

Augustine of Hippo: Oh! That Thou Wouldst Enter Into My Heart Sunday, Feb 14 2010 

Oh! that I might repose on Thee!

Oh! that Thou wouldst enter into my heart, and inebriate it, that I may forget my ills, and embrace Thee, my sole good!

What art Thou to me? In Thy pity, teach me to utter it. Or what am I to Thee that Thou demandest my love, and, if I give it not, art wroth with me, and threatenest me with grievous woes?

Is it then a slight woe to love Thee not? Oh! for Thy mercies’ sake, tell me, O Lord my God, what Thou art unto me.

Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation. So speak, that I may hear. Behold, Lord, my heart is before Thee.

Open Thou the ears thereof, and say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.

After this voice let me haste, and take hold on Thee. Hide not Thy face from me. Let me die – lest I die – only let me see Thy face.

Narrow is the mansion of my soul; enlarge Thou it, that Thou mayest enter in.

It is ruinous; repair Thou it. It has that within which must offend Thine eyes; I confess and know it.

But who shall cleanse it? or to whom should I cry, save Thee? Lord, cleanse me from my secret faults, and spare Thy servant from the power of the enemy.

I believe, and therefore do I speak. Lord, Thou knowest. Have I not confessed against myself my transgressions unto Thee, and Thou, my God, hast forgiven the iniquity of my heart?

I contend not in judgment with Thee, who art the truth; I fear to deceive myself; lest mine iniquity lie unto itself.

Therefore I contend not in judgment with Thee; for if Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall abide it?

Augustine of Hippo (354-430): Confessions, 1,5.

John of the Cross: “He That Renounces Not All Things That He Possesses With His Will Cannot Be My Disciple” Thursday, Feb 11 2010 

Wherefore, it is supreme ignorance for the soul to think that it will be able to pass to this high estate of union with God if first it void not the desire of all things, natural and supernatural, which may hinder it…

For this reason Our Lord, when showing us this path, said through Saint Luke: “He that renounces not all things that he possesses with his will cannot be My disciple”.

And this is evident; for the doctrine that the Son of God came to teach was contempt for all things, whereby a man might receive as a reward the Spirit of God in himself.

For, as long as the soul rejects not all things, it has no capacity to receive the Spirit of God in pure transformation.

[…] Oh, did spiritual persons but know how much good and what great abundance of spirit they lose through not seeking to raise up their desires above childish things, and how in this simple spiritual food they would find the sweetness of all things, if they desired not to taste those things!

[…]  Thus he that will love some other thing together with God of a certainty makes little account of God, for he weighs in the balance against God that which, as we have said, is at the greatest possible distance from God.

It is well known by experience that, when the will of a man is affectioned to one thing, he prizes it more than any other; although some other thing may be much better, he takes less pleasure in it.

And if he wishes to enjoy both, he is bound to wrong the more important, because he makes an equality between them.

Wherefore, since there is naught that equals God, the soul that loves some other thing together with Him, or clings to it, does Him a grievous wrong.

And if this is so, what would it be doing if it loved anything more than God?

John of the Cross (1542-1591): Ascent of Mount Carmel, 1, 5, 2-5.

Bonaventure: Scripture, Eternal Life and the Trinity Monday, Feb 8 2010 

The stream of holy Scripture flows not from human research but from revelation by God. It springs from “the Father of lights, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth takes its name”.

From him, through his Son Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit flows into us; and through the Holy Spirit, giving, at will, different gifts to different people, comes the gift of faith, and through faith Jesus Christ has his dwelling in our hearts.

This is the knowledge of Jesus Christ which is the ultimate basis of the solidity and wisdom of the whole of holy Scripture.

From all this it follows that it is impossible for anyone to start to recognise Scripture for what it is if he does not already have faith in Christ infused into him. Christ is the lamp that illuminates the whole of Scripture: he is its gateway and its foundation.

For this faith is behind all the supernatural enlightenments that we receive while we are still separated from the Lord and on our pilgrimage. It makes our foundation firm, it directs the light of the lamp, it leads us in through the gateway.

[…] The substance and fruit of holy Scripture is very specific: the fullness of eternal happiness.

For this is what Scripture is – its words are words of eternal life, and it is written not just so that we should believe, but specially so that we should possess eternal life in which we may see, and love, and have all our desires fulfilled.

When they are fulfilled, then we shall know the superabundant love that comes from knowledge, and so we shall be filled with all the fullness of God.

[…] If we are to follow the direct path of Scripture and come straight to the final destination, then right from the beginning – when simple faith starts to draw us towards the light of the Father – our hearts should kneel down and ask the Father to give us, through his Son and the Holy Spirit, true knowledge of Jesus and of his love.

Once we know him and love him like this, we shall be made firm in faith and deeply rooted in love, and we can know the breadth, length, depth and height of holy Scripture.

That news can then lead us to the full knowledge and overwhelming love of the most holy Trinity.

The desires of the saints draw them towards the Trinity, in which all that is good and true is and finds its completion.

Bonaventure of Bagnorea (1221-1274): Breviloquium, Prologue, taken from Office of Readings for Monday of Week 5 of Ordinary Time, at Universalis.

Alphonsus Liguori: God Wills Only Our Good Monday, Nov 16 2009 

God wills only our good; God loves us more than anybody else can or does love us.

His will is that no one should lose his soul, that everyone should save and sanctify his soul: “Not willing that any should perish, but that all should return to penance” (2 Pet. 3:9); “This is the will of God, your sanctification” (I Thess. 4:3).

God has made the attainment of our happiness his glory. Since he is by his nature infinite goodness, and since, as St. Leo says, goodness is diffusive of itself, God has a supreme desire to make us sharers of his goods and of his happiness.

If then he sends us suffering in this life, it is for our own good: “All things work together unto good” (Rom. 8:28).


Even chastisements come to us, not to crush us, but to make us mend our ways and save our souls: “Let us believe that these scourges of the Lord have happened for our amendment and not for our destruction” (Judith 8:27).

God surrounds us with his loving care lest we suffer eternal damnation: “O Lord, thou hast crowned us as with a shield of thy good will” (Ps. 5:13).

He is most solicitous for our welfare: “The Lord is solicitous for me” (Ps. 39:18). What can God deny us when he has given us his own son? “He that spared not even his own son, but delivered him up for us all, how hath he not also, with him, given us all things” (Rom. 8:32).

Therefore we should most confidently abandon ourselves to all the dispositions of divine providence, since they are for our own good.

In all that happens to us, let us say: “In peace, in the self same I will sleep, and I will rest: Because thou, O Lord, hast singularly settled me in hope” (Ps. 4:9-10).

Let us place ourselves unreservedly in his hands because he will not fail to have care of us: “Casting all your care upon him, for he hath care of you” (1 Pet. 5:7).

Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787): Uniformity with God’s Will