"The earth was invisible and unfinished."  

    1. IN the few words which have occupied us this morning we have found such 
a depth of thought that we despair of penetrating further. If such is the fore 
court of the sanctuary, if the portico of the temple is so grand and 
magnificent, if the splendour of its beauty thus dazzles the eyes of the soul, 
what will be the holy of holies? Who will dare to try to gain access to the 
innermost shrine? Who will look into its secrets? To gaze into it is indeed 
forbidden us, and language. is powerless to express what the mind conceives. 
However, since there are rewards, and most desirable ones, reserved by the 
just Judge for the intention alone of doing good, do not let us hesitate to 
continue our researches. Although we may not attain to the truth, if, with the 
help of the 
Spirit, we do not fall away from the meaning of Holy Scripture we shall not 
deserve to be rejected, and, with the help of grace, we shall contribute to 
the edification of the Church of God. 

    "The earth," says Holy Scripture, "was  invisible and unfinished." The 
heavens and the earth were created without distinction. How then is it that 
the heavens are perfect whilst the earth is still unformed and incomplete? In 
one word, what was the unfinished condition of the earth? And for what reason 
was it invisible? The fertility of the earth is its perfect finishing; growth 
of all kinds of plants, the upspringing of tall trees, both productive and 
sterile, flowers' sweet scents and fair colours, and all that which, a little 
later, at the voice of God came forth from the earth to beautify her, their 
universal Mother. As nothing of all this yet existed, Scripture is right in 
calling the earth "without form." We could also say of the heavens that they 
were still imperfect and had not received their natural adornment, since at 
that time they did not shine with the glory of the sun and of the moon and 
were not crowned by the choirs of the stars.  These bodies were not yet 
created. Thus you will not diverge from the truth in saying that the heavens 
also were "without form." The earth was invisible for two reasons: it may be 
because man, the spectator, did not yet exist, or because being submerged 
under the waters which over-flowed the surface, it could not be seen, since 
the waters had not yet been gathered together into their own places, where God 
afterwards collected them, and gave them the name of seas. What is invisible? 
First of all that which our fleshly eye cannot perceive; our mind, for 
example; then that which, visible in its nature, is hidden by some body which 
conceals it, like iron in the depths of the earth. It is in this sense, 
because it was hidden under the waters, that the earth was still invisible. 
However, as light did not yet exist, and as the earth lay in darkness, because 
of the obscurity of the air above it, it should not astonish us that for this 
reason Scripture calls it" invisible." 

    2. But the corrupters of the truth, who,  incapable of submitting their 
reason to Holy  Scripture, distort at will the meaning of  the Holy 
Scriptures, pretend that these  words mean matter. For it is matter, they  
say, which from its nature is without form  and invisible,--being by the 
conditions of  its existence without quality and without form and figure.  
The Artificer submitting it to the working of His wisdom clothed it with a 
form, organized it, and thus gave being to the visible world. 

    If matter is uncreated, it has a claim to the same honours as God, since 
it must be of equal rank with Him. Is this not the summit of wickedness, that 
an extreme deformity, without quality, without form, shape, ugliness without 
configuration, to use their  own expression, should enjoy the same 
prerogatives with Him, Who is wisdom. power and beauty itself, the Creator and 
the Demiurge of the universe? This is not all. If matter is so great as to be 
capable of being acted on by the whole wisdom of God, it would in a way raise 
its hypostasis to an equality with the inaccessible power of God, since it 
would be able to measure by itself all the extent of the divine intelligence. 
If it is insufficient for the operations of God, then we fall into a more 
absurd blasphemy, since we condemn God for not being able, on account of the 
want of matter, to finish His own works. The poverty of human nature has 
deceived these reasoners. Each of our crafts Is exercised upon some special 
matter--the art of the smith upon iron, that of the carpenter on wood. In all, 
there is the subject, the form and the work which results from the form. 
Matter is taken from without--art gives the form--and the work is composed at 
the same time of form and of matter.  

    Such is the idea that they make for themselves of the divine work. The 
form of the world is due to the wisdom of the supreme Artificer; matter came 
to the Creator from without; and thus the world results from a double origin. 
It hits received from outside its matter and its essence, and from God its 
form and figure.  They thus come to deny that the mighty God has presided at 
the formation of the universe, and pretend that  He has only brought a 
crowning contribution to a common work, that He has only contributed some 
small portion to the genesis of beings: they are incapable from the debasement
of their reasonings of raising their glances to the height of truth. Here 
below arts are subsequent to matter--introduced into life by the indispensable 
need of them. Wool existed before weaving made it supply one of nature's 
imperfections. Wood existed before carpentering took possession of it, and 
transformed it each day to supply new wants, and made us see all the 
advantages derived from it, giving the oar to the sailor, the winnowing fan to 
the labourer, the lance to the soldier. But God, before all those things which 
now attract our notice existed, after casting about in His mind and 
determining to bring into being time which had no being, imagined the world 
such as it ought to be, and created matter in harmony with the forth which He 
wished to give it.  He assigned to the heavens the nature adapted for the 
heavens, and gave to the earth an essence in accordance with its form. He 
formed, as He wished, fire, air and water, and gave to each the essence which 
the object of its existence required. Finally, He welded all the diverse parts 
of the universe by links of indissoluble attachment and established between 
them so perfect a fellowship and harmony that the most distant, in spite of 
their distance, appeared united in one universal sympathy. Let those men 
therefore renounce their fabulous imaginations, who, in spite of the weakness 
of their argument, pretend to measure a power as incomprehensible to man's 
reason as it is unutterable by man's voice. 

    3. God created the heavens and the earth, but not only half;--He created 
all the heavens and all the earth, creating the essence with the form. For He 
is not an inventor of figures, but the Creator even of the essence of beings. 
Further let them tell us how the efficient power of God could deal with the 
passive nature of matter, the latter furnishing the matter without form, the 
former possessing the science of the form without matter, both being in need 
of each other; the Creator in order to display His art, matter in order to 
cease to be without form and to receive a form. 2) But let us stop here and 
return to our subject. 

    "The earth was invisible and unfinished." In saying "In the beginning God 
created the heavens and the earth," the sacred writer passed over many things 
in silence, water, air, fire and the results from them, which, all forming in 
reality the true complement of the world, were, without doubt, made at the 
same time as the universe. By this silence, history wishes to train the 
activity or our intelligence, giving it a weak point for starting, to impel it 
to the discovery of the truth. Thus, we are not told of the creation of water; 
but, as we are told that the earth was invisible, ask yourself what could have 
covered it, and prevented it from being seen? Fire could not conceal it. Fire 
brightens all about it, and spreads light rather than darkness around. No more 
was it air that enveloped the earth. Air by nature is of little density and 
transparent. It receives all kinds of visible object, and transmits them to 
the spectators. Only one supposition remains; that which floated on the 
surface of the earth was water--the fluid essence which had not yet been 
confined to its own place. Thus the earth was not only invisible; it was still 
incomplete. Even today excessive damp is a hindrance to the productiveness of 
the earth. The same cause at the same time prevents it from being seen, and 
from being complete, for the proper and natural adornment of the earth is its 
completion: corn waving in the valleys--meadows green with grass and rich with 
many coloured flowers--fertile glades and hill-tops shaded by forests. Of all 
this nothing was yet produced; the earth was in travail with it in virtue of 
the power that she had received from the Creator. But she was waiting for the 
appointed time and the divine order to bring forth. 

    4. "Darkness was upon the face of the deep."  A new source for fables 
and most impious imaginations if one distorts the sense of these words at the 
will of one's fancies. By "darkness" these wicked men do not understand what 
is meant in reality--air not illumined, the shadow produced by the interposition
of a body, or finally a place for some reason deprived of light. For 
them "darkness" is an evil power, or rather the personification of evil, 
having his origin in himself in opposition to, and in perpetual struggle with, 
the goodness of God. If God is light, they say, without any doubt the power 
which struggles against Him must be darkness, "Darkness" not owing its 
existence to a foreign origin, but an evil existing by itself. "Darkness" is 
the enemy of souls, the primary cause of death, the adversary of virtue. The 
words of the Prophet, they say in their error, show that it exists and that it 
does not proceed from God. From this what perverse and impious dogmas have 
been imagined! What grievous wolves,  tearing the flock of the Lord, have 
sprung from these words to cast themselves upon souls! Is it not from hence 
that have come forth Marcions and Valentini,  and the detestable heresy of 
the Manicheans,  which you may without going far wrong call the putrid 
humour of the churches. 

    O man, why wander thus from the truth, and imagine for thyself that which 
will cause thy perdition? The word is simple and within the comprehension of 
all. "The earth was invisible." Why? Because the "deep" was spread over its 
surface. What is "the deep"? A mass of water of extreme depth. But we know 
that we can see many bodies through clear and transparent water. How then was 
it that no part of the earth appeared through the water? Because the air which 
surrounded it was still without light and in darkness. The rays of the sun, 
penetrating the water, often allow its to see the pebbles which form the bed 
of the river, but in a dark night it is impossible for our glance to penetrate 
under the water. Thus, these words "the earth was invisible" are explained by 
those that follow; "the deep" covered it and itself was in darkness. Thus, the 
deep is not a multitude of hostile powers, as has been imagined;  nor 
"darkness" an evil sovereign force in enmity with good. In reality two rival 
principles of equal power, if engaged without ceasing in a war o mutual 
attacks, will end in self destruction. But if one should gain the mastery it 

completely annihilate the conquered. Thus, to maintain the balance in the 
struggle between good anti evil is to represent them as engaged in a war 
without end and in perpetual destruction, where the opponents are at the same 
time conquerors and conquered. If good is the stronger, what is there to 
prevent evil being completely annihilated? But if that be the case, the very 
utterance of which is impious, I ask myself how it is that they themselves are 
not filled with horror to think that they have imagined such abominable 

    It is equally impious to say that evil has its origin from God;  because 
the contrary cannot proceed from its contrary. Life dots not engender death; 
darkness is not the origin of light; sickness is not the maker of health.  
In the changes of conditions there are transitions from one condition to the 
contrary; but in genesis each being proceeds from its like, and not from its 
contrary. If then evil is neither uncreate nor created by God, from whence 
comes its nature? Certainly that evil exists, no one living in the world will 
deny. What shall we say then? Evil is not a living animated essence; it is the 
condition of the soul opposed to virtue, developed in the careless on account 
of their   falling away from good.  

    5. Do not then go beyond yourself to seek for evil, and imagine that there 
is an original nature of wickedness. Each of us, 
let us acknowledge it, is the first author of his own vice. Among the ordinary 
events of life, some come naturally, like old age  and sickness, others by 
chance like unforeseen occurrences, of which the origin is beyond ourselves, 
often sad, sometimes fortunate, as for instance the discovery of a treasure 
when digging a well, or the meeting of a mad dog when going to the market 
place. Others depend upon ourselves, such as ruling one's passions, or not 
putting a bridle on one's pleasures, to be master of our anger, or to raise 
the hand against him who irritates us, to tell the truth, or to lie, to have a 
sweet and well-regulated disposition, or to be fierce and swollen and exalted 
with pride.  Here you are the master of your actions. Do not look for the 
guiding cause beyond yourself, but recognise that evil, rightly so called, has 
no other origin than our voluntary falls. If it were involuntary, and did not 
depend upon ourselves, the laws would not have so much terror for the guilty, 
and the tribunals would not be so without pity when they condemn wretches 
according to the measure of their crimes. But enough concerning evil rightly 
so called. Sickness, poverty, obscurity, death, finally all human afflictions, 
ought not to be ranked as evils; since we do not count among the greatest 
boons things which are their opposites.  Among these afflictions, some are 
the effect of nature, others have obviously been for many a source of 
advantage. Let us then be silent for the moment about these metaphors and 
allegories, and, simply following without vain curiosity the words of Holy 
Scripture, let us take from darkness the idea which it gives us. 

    But reason asks, was darkness created with the world? Is it older than 
light? Why in spite of its inferiority has it preceded it? Darkness, we reply, 
did not exist in essence; it is a condition produced in the air by the 
withdrawal of light. What then is that light which disappeared suddenly from 
the world, so that darkness should cover the face of the deep? If anything had 
existed before the formation of this sensible and perishable world, no doubt 
we conclude it would have been in light. The orders of angels, the heavenly 
hosts, all intellectual natures named or unnamed, all the ministering 
spirits,  did not live in darkness, but enjoyed a condition fitted for them 
in light and spiritual joy.  

    No one will contradict this; least of all he who looks for celestial light 
as one of the rewards promised to virtues the light which, as Solomon says, is 
always a light to the righteous,  the light which made the Apostle say 
"Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the 
inheritance of the saints in light."  Finally, if the condemned are sent 
into outer darkness  evidently those who are made worthy of God's approval, 
are at rest in heavenly light. When then, according to the order of God, the 
heaven appeared, enveloping all that its circumference included, a vast and 
unbroken body separating outer things from those which it enclosed, it 
necessarily kept the space inside in darkness for want of communication with 
the outer light. Three things are, indeed, needed to form a shadow, light, a 
body, a dark place. The shadow of heaven forms the darkness of the world. 
Understand, I pray you, what I mean, by a simple example; by raising for 
yourself at mid-day a tent of some compact and impenetrable material, and 
shutting yourself up in it in sudden darkness. Suppose that original darkness 
was like this, not subsisting directly by itself, but resulting from some 
external coasts. If it is said that it rested upon the deep, it is because the 
extremity of air naturally touches the surface of bodies; and as at that time 
the water covered everything, we are obliged to say that darkness was upon the 
face of the deep. 

    6. And the Spirit of God was borne upon the face of the waters.  Does 
this spirit mean the diffusion of air? The sacred writer wishes to enumerate 
to you the elements of the world, to tell you that God created the heavens, 
the earth, water, and air and that the last was now diffused and in motion; or 
rather, that which is truer and confirmed by the authority of the ancients, by 
the Spirit of God, he means the Holy Spirit. It is, as has been remarked, the 
special name, the name above all others that Scripture delights to give to the 
Holy Spirit. and always by the spirit of God the Holy Spirit is meant, 
the Spirit which completes the divine and blessed Trinity. You will find it 
better therefore to take it in this sense. How then did the Spirit of God move 
upon the waters? The explanation that I am about to give you is not an 
original one, but that of a Syrian,  who was as ignorant in the wisdom of 
this world as he was versed in the knowledge of the Truth. He said, then, that 
the Syriac word was more expressive, and that being more analogous to the 
Hebrew term it was a nearer approach to the scriptural sense. This is the 
meaning of the word; by "was borne" the Syrians, he says, understand: it 
cherished  the nature of the waters as one sees a bird cover the eggs with 
her body and impart to them vital force from her own warmth. Such is, as 
nearly as possible, the meaning of these words--the Spirit was borne: let us 
understand, that is, prepared the nature of water to produce living beings:  
a sufficient proof for those who ask if the Holy Spirit took an active part in 
the creation of the world. 

7. And God said, Let there be light:  The first word of God created the 
nature of light; it made darkness vanish, dispelled gloom, illuminated the 
world, and gave to all beings at the same time a sweet and gracious aspect. 
The heavens, until then enveloped in darkness, appeared with that beauty which 
they still present to our eyes. The air was lighted up, or rather made the 
light circulate  mixed with its substance, and, distributing its  splendour 
rapidly in every direction, so dispersed itself to its extreme limits. Up it 
sprang to the very aether and heaven. In an instant it lighted up the whole 
extent of the world, the North and the South, the East and the West. For the 
aether also is such a subtle substance and so transparent that it needs not 
the space of a moment for light to pass through it. Just as it carries our 
sight instantaneously to the object of vision,  so without the least 
interval, with a rapidity I that thought cannot conceive, it receives these 
rays of light in its uttermost limits. With light the aether becomes more 
pleasing and the waters more limpid. These last, not content with receiving 
its splendour, return it by the reflection of light and in all directions send 
forth quivering flashes. The divine word gives every object a more cheerful 
and a more attractive appearance, just as when men in deep sea pour in oil 
they make the place about them clear. So, with a single word and in one 
instant, the Creator of all things gave the boon of light to the world.  

    Let there be light. The order was itself an operation, and a state of 
things was brought into being, than which man's mind   cannot even imagine a 
pleasanter one for our enjoyment. It must be well understood that when we 
speak of the voice, of the word, of the command of God, this divine language 
does not mean to us a sound which escapes from the organs of speech, a 
collision of air  struck by the tongue; it is a simple sign of the will of 
God, and, if we give it the form of an order, it is only the better to impress 
the souls whom we instruct.  

    And God saw the light, that it was good.  How can we worthily praise 
light after the testimony given by the Creator to its goodness? The word, even 
among us, refers the judgment to the eyes, incapable of raising itself to the 
idea that the senses have already received.  But, if beauty in bodies 
results from symmetry of parts, and the harmonious 
appearance of colours, how in a simple and homogeneous essence like light, can 
this idea of beauty be preserved? Would not the symmetry in light be less 
shown in its parts than in the pleasure and delight at the sight of it? Such 
is also the beauty of gold, which it owes not to the happy mingling of its 
parts, but only to its beautiful colour which has a charm attractive to the 

    Thus again, the evening star is the most beautiful of the stars:  not 
that the parts of which it is composed form a harmonious whole; but thanks to 
the unalloyed and beautiful brightness which meets our eyes. And further, when 
God proclaimed the goodness of light, it was not in regard to the charm of the 
eye but as a provision for future advantage, because at that time there were 
as yet no eyes to judge of its beauty. "And God divided the light from the 
darkness;  that is to say, God gave them natures incapable of mixing, 
perpetually in opposition to each other, and put between them the widest space 
and distance. 

    8. "And God called the light Day and the darkness he called Night."  
Since the birth of the sun, the light that it diffuses in the air, when 
shining on our hemisphere, is day; and the shadow produced by its 
disappearance is night. But at that time it was not after the movement of the 
sun, but following this primitive light spread abroad in the air or withdrawn 
in a measure determined by God, that day came and was followed by night. 

    "And the evening and the morning were the first day."  Evening is then 
the boundary common to day and night; and in the same way morning constitutes 
the approach of night to day. It was to give day the privileges of seniority 
that Scripture put the end of the first day before that of the first night, 
because night follows day: for, before the creation of light, the world was 
not in night, but in darkness. It is the opposite of day which was called 
night, and it did not receive its name until after day. Thus were created the 
evening and the morning.  Scripture means the space of a day and a night, 
and afterwards no more says day and night, but calls them both under the name 
of the more important: a custom which you will find throughout Scripture. 
Everywhere the measure of time is counted by days, without mention of nights. 
"The days of our years,"  says the Psalmist. "Few and evil have the days of 
the years of my life been,"  said Jacob, and elsewhere "all the days of my 
life."  Thus under the form of history the law is laid down for what is to 

  And the evening and the morning were one day.  Why does Scripture say "one 
day the first day"? Before speaking to us of the second, the third, and the 
fourth days, would it not have been more natural to call that one the first 
which began the series? If it therefore says "one day," it is from a wish to 
determine the measure of day and night, and to combine the time that they 
contain. Now twenty-four hours fill up the space of one day--we mean of a day 
and of a night; and if, at the time of the solstices, they have not both an 
equal length, the time marked by  Scripture does not the less circumscribe 
their duration. It is as though it said: twenty-four hours measure the space 
of a day, or that, in reality a day is the time that the heavens starting from 
one point take to return there. Thus, every time that, in the revolution of 
the sun, evening and morning occupy the world, their periodical succession 
never exceeds the space of one day. 

   But must we believe in a mysterious reason for this? God who made the 
nature of time measured it out and determined it by intervals of days; and, 
wishing to give it a week as a measure, he ordered the week to revolve from 
period to period upon itself, to count the movement of time, forming the week 
of one day revolving seven times upon itself: a proper circle begins and ends 
with itself. Such is also the character of eternity, to revolve upon itself 
and to end nowhere. If then the beginning of time is called "one day" rather 
than "the first day," it is because Scripture wishes to establish its 
relationship with eternity. It was, in reality, fit and natural to call "one" 
the day whose character is to be one wholly separated and isolated from all 
the others. If Scripture 

speaks to us of many ages, saying everywhere, "age of age, and ages of ages," 
we do not see it enumerate them as first, second, and third. It follows that 
we are hereby shown not so much limits, ends and succession of ages, as 
distinctions between various states and modes of action. "The day of the 
Lord," Scripture says, "is great and very terrible,"  and elsewhere "Woe 
unto you 
that desire the day of the Lord: to what end is it for you? The day of the 
Lord is darkness and not light."  A day of darkness for those who are worthy 
of darkness. No; this day without evening, without succession and without end 
is not unknown to Scripture, and it is the day that the Psalmist calls the 
eighth day, because it is outside this time of weeks.  Thus whether you call 
it day, or whether you call it eternity, you express the same idea. Give this 
state the name of day; there are not several, but only one. If you call it 
eternity still it is unique and not manifold. Thus it is in order that you may 
carry your thoughts forward towards a future life, that Scripture marks by the 
word "one" the day which is the type of eternity, the first fruits of days, 
the contemporary of light, the holy Lord's day honoured by the Resurrection of 
our Lord. And the evening and the morning were one day." 

    But, whilst I am conversing with you about the first evening of the world, 
evening takes me by surprise, and puts an end to my discourse. May the Father 
of the true light, Who has adorned day with celestial light, Who has made the 
fire to shine which illuminates us during the night, Who reserves for us in 
the peace of a future age a spiritual and everlasting light, enlighten your 
hearts in the knowledge of truth, keep you from stumbling, and grant that "you 
may walk honestly as in the day."  Thus shall you shine as the sun in the 
midst of the glory of the saints, and I shall glory in you in the day of 
Christ, to Whom belong all glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.