On the Firmament. 

    1. WE have now recounted the works of the first day, or rather of one day. 
Far be it from me indeed, to take from it the privilege it enjoys of having 
been for the Creator a day apart, a day which is not counted in the same order 
as the others. Our discussion yesterday treated of the works of this day, and 
divided the narrative so as to give you food for your souls in the morning, 
and joy in the evening. To-day we pass on to the wonders of the second day. 
And here I do not wish to speak of the narrator's talent, but of the grace of 
Scripture, for the narrative is so naturally told that it pleases and delights 
all the friends of truth. It is this charm of truth which the Psalmist 
expresses so emphatically when he says, "How sweet are thy words unto my 
taste. yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth."  Yesterday then, as far as we 
were able, we delighted our souls by conversing about the oracles of God, and 
now to-day we are met together again on the second day to contemplate the 
wonders of the second day. 

    I know that many artisans, belonging to mechanical trades, are crowding 
around me. A day's labour hardly suffices to maintain them; therefore I am 
compelled to abridge my discourse, so as not to keep them too long from their 
work. What shall I say to them? The time which you lend to God is not lost: he 
will return it to you with large interest. Whatever difficulties may trouble 
you the Lord will disperse them. To those who have preferred spiritual 
welfare, He will give health of body, keenness of mind, success in business, 
and unbroken prosperity. And, even if in this life our efforts should not 
realise our hopes, the teachings of the Holy Spirit are none the less a rich 
treasure for the ages to come Deliver your heart, then, from the cares of this 
life and give close heed to my words. Of what avail will it be to you if you 
are here in the body, and your heart is anxious about your earthly treasure? 

    2. And God said "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and 
let it divide the waters from the waters."  Yesterday we heard God's decree, 
"Let there be light." To-day it is, "Let there be a firmament." There appears 
to be something more in this. The word is not limited to a simple command. It 
lays down the reason necessitating the structure of the firmament: it is, it 
is said, to separate the waters from the waters. And first let us ask how God 
speaks? Is it in our manner? Does His intelligence receive an impression from 
objects, and, after having conceived them,   make them known by particular 
signs appropriate to each of them? Has He consequently recourse to the organs 
of voice to convey His thoughts? Is He obliged to strike the air by the 
articulate movements of the voice, to unveil the thought hidden in His heart? 
Would it not seem like an idle fable to say that God should need such a 
circuitous method to manifest His thoughts? And is it not more conformable 
with true religion   to say, that the divine will and the first impetus of 
divine intelligence are the Word of God? It is He whom Scripture vaguely 
represents, to show us that God has not only 
wished to create the world, but to create it with the help of a co-operator. 
Scripture might continue the history as it is begun: In the beginning God 
created the heaven and the earth; afterwards He created light, then He created 
the firmament. But, by making God command and speak, the Scripture tacitly 
shows us Him to Whom this order and these words are addressed.  It is not 
that it grudges us the knowledge of the truth, but that it may kindle our 
desire by showing us some trace and indication of the mystery. We seize with 
delight, and carefully keep, the fruit of laborious efforts, whilst a 
possession easily attained is despised.  Such is the road and the course 
which Scripture follows to lead us to the idea of the Only begotten. And 
certainly, God's immaterial nature had no need of the material language of 
voice, since His very thoughts could be transmitted to His fellow-worker. What 
need then of speech, for those Who by thought alone could communicate their 
counsels to each other? Voice was made for hearing, and hearing for voice. 
Where there is neither air, nor tongue, nor ear, nor that winding canal which 
carries sounds to the seat of sensation in the head, there is no need for 
words thoughts of the soul are sufficient to transmit the will. As I said 
then, this language is only a wise and ingenious contrivance to set our minds 
seeking the Person to whom the words are addressed. 

    3. In the second place, does the firmament that is called heaven differ 
from the firmament that God made in the beginning? Are there two heavens? The 
philosophers, who discuss heaven, would rather lose their tongues than grant 
this. There is only one heaven,  they pretend; and it is of a nature neither 
to admit of a second, nor of a third, nor of several others. The essence of 
the celestial body quite complete constitutes its vast unity. Because, they 
say, every body which has a circular motion is one and finite. And if this 
body is used in the construction of the first heaven, there will be nothing 
left for the creation of a second or a third. Here we see what those imagine 
who put under the Creator's hand uncreated matter; a lie that follows from the 
first fable. But we ask the Greek sages not to mock us before they are agreed 
among themselves. Because there are among them some who say there are infinite 
heavens and worlds.  When grave demonstrations shall have upset their 
foolish system, when the laws of geometry shall have established that, 
according to the nature of heaven, it is impossible that there should be two, 
we shall only laugh the more at this elaborate scientific trifling. These 
learned men see not merely one bubble but several bubbles formed by the same 
cause, and they doubt the power of creative wisdom to bring several heavens 
into being! We find, however, if we raise our eyes towards the omnipotence of 
God, that the strength and grandeur of the heavens differ from the drops of 
water bubbling on the surface of a fountain. How ridiculous, then, is their 
argument of impossibility! As for myself, far from not believing in a second, 
I seek for the third whereon the blessed Paul was found worthy to gaze.  And 
does not the Psalmist in saying "heaven of heavens"  give us an idea of 
their plurality? Is the plurality of heaven stranger than the seven circles 
through which nearly all the philosophers agree that the seven planets 
pass,--circles which they represent to us as placed in connection with each 
other like casks fitting the one into the other? These circles, they say, 
carried away in a direction contrary to that of the world, and striking the 
rather, make sweet and harmonious sounds, unequalled by the sweetest 
melody.  And if we ask them for the witness
of the senses, what do they say? That we, accustomed to this noise from 
our birth, on account of hearing it always, have lost the sense of it; like 
then in smithies with their ears incessantly dinned. If I refuted this 
ingenious frivolity, the untruth of which is evident from the first word, it 
would seem as though I did not know the value of time. and mistrusted the 
intelligence of such an audience. 

    But let me leave the vanity of outsiders to those who are without, and 
return to the theme proper to the Church. If we believe some of those who have 
preceded us, we have not here the creation of a new heaven, but a new account 
of the first. The reason they give is, that the earlier narrative briefly 
described the creation of heaven and earth; while here scripture relates in 
greater detail the manner in which each was created. I, however, since 
Scripture gives to this second heaven another name and its own function, 
maintain that it is different from the heaven which was made at the beginning; 
that it is of a stronger nature and of an especial use to the universe. 

    4. "And God said, let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and 
let it divide the waters front the waters. And God made the firmament, and 
divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were 
above the firmament."   Before laying hold of the meaning of Scripture let 
us try to meet objections from other quarters. We are asked how, if the 
firmament is a spherical body, as it appears to the eye, its convex 
circumference can contain the water which flows and circulates in higher 
regions? What shall we answer? One thing only: because the interior of a body 
presents a perfect concavity it does not necessarily follow that its exterior 
surface is spherical and smoothly rounded. Look at the stone vaults of baths, 
and the structure of buildings of cave form; the dome, which forms the 
interior, does not prevent the roof from having ordinarily a flat surface. Let 
these unfortunate men cease, then, from tormenting us and themselves about the 
impossibility of our retaining water in the higher regions. 

    Now we must say something about the nature of the firmament, and why it 
received the order to hold the middle place between the  waters. Scripture 
constantly makes use of the word firmament to express extraordinary strength. 
"The Lord in firmament and refuge" "I have strengthened the pillars of 
it"  "Praise him in the firmament of his power."  The heathen writers thus 
call a strong body one which is compact and full,  to distinguish it from 
the mathematical body. A mathematical body is a body which exists only in the 
three dimensions, breadths depth, and height. A firm body, on the contrary, 
adds resistance to the dimensions. It is the custom of Scripture to call 
firmament all that is strong and unyielding. It even uses the word to denote 
the condensation of the air: He, it says, who strengthens the thunder.  
Scripture means by the strengthening of the thunder, the strength and 
resistance of the wind, which, enclosed in the hollows of the clouds, produces 
the noise of thunder when it breaks through with violence.  Here then, 
according to me, is a firm substance, capable of retaining the fluid and 
unstable element water; and as, according to the common acceptation, it 
appears that the firmament owes its origin to water, we must not believe that 
it resembles frozen water or any other matter produced by the filtration of 
water; as, for example, rock crystal, which is said to owe its metamorphosis 
to excessive congelation,  or the transparent stone  which forms in 
mines.  This pellucid stone, if one finds it in its natural perfection, 
without cracks inside, or the least spot of corruption, almost rivals the air 
in clearness. We cannot compare the firmament to one of these substances. To 
hold such an opinion about celestial bodies would be childish and foolish; and 
although everything may be in everything, fire in earth, air in water, anti of 
the other elements the one in the other; although none of those which come 
under our senses are pure and without mixture, either with the element which 
serves as a medium for it, or with that which is contrary to it; I, 
nevertheless, dare not affirm that the firmament was formed of one of these 
simple substances, or of a mixture of them, for I am taught by Scripture not 
to allow my imagination to wander too far afield. But do not 
let us forget to remark that, after these divine words "let there be a 
firmament," it is not said "and the firmament was reader" but, "and God made 
the firmament, and divided the waters."  Hear, O ye deaf! See, O ye 
blind!--who, then, is deaf? He who does not hear this startling voice of the 
Holy Spirit. Who is blind? He who does not see such clear proofs of the Only 
begotten.  "Let there be a firmament." It is the voice of the primary and 
principal Cause. "And God made the firmament." Here is a witness to the active 
and creative power of God. 

    5. But let us continue our explanation: "Let it divide the waters froth 
the waters."  The mass of waters, which from all directions flowed over the 
earth, and was suspended in the air, was infinite, so that there was no 
proportion between it and the other elements. Thus, as it has been already 
said, the abyss covered the earth. We give the reason for this abundance of 
water. None of you assuredly will attack our opinion; not even those who have 
the most cultivated minds, and whose piercing eye can penetrate this 
perishable and fleeting nature; you will not accuse me of advancing impossible 
or imaginary theories, nor will you ask me upon what foundation the fluid 
clement rests. By the same reason which makes them attract the earth, heavier 
than water, from the extremities of the world to suspend it in the centre, 
they will grant us without doubt that it is due both to its natural attraction 
downwards and its general equilibrium, that this immense quantity of water 
rests motionless upon the earth.  Therefore the prodigious mass of waters 
was spread around the earth; not in proportion with it and infinitely larger, 
thanks to the foresight of the supreme Artificer, Who, from the beginning, 
foresaw what was to come, and at the first provided all for the future needs 
of the world. But what need was there for this superabundance of water? The 
essence of fire is necessary for the world, not only in the economy of earthly 
produce, but for the completion of the universe; for it would be imperfect  
if the most powerful and the most vital of its elements were lacking.  Now 
fire and water are hostile to and destructive of each other. Fire, if it is 
the stronger, destroys water, and water, if in greater abundance, destroys 
fire. As, therefore, it was necessary to avoid an open struggle between these 
elements, so as not to bring about the dissolution of the universe by the 
total disappearance of one or the other, the sovereign Disposer created such a 
quantity of water that in spite of constant diminution from the effects of 
fire, it could last until the time fixed for the destruction of the world. He 
who planned all with weight and measure, He who, according to the word of Job, 
knows the number of the drops of rain,  knew how long His work would last, 
and for how much consumption of fire He ought to allow. This is the reason of 
the abundance of water at the creation. Further, there is no one so strange to 
life as to need to learn the reason why fire is essential to the world. Not 
only all the arts which support life, the art of weaving, that of shoemaking, 
of architecture, of agriculture, have need of the help of fire, but the 
vegetation of trees, the ripening of fruits, the breeding of land and water 
animals, and their nourishment, all existed from heat from the beginning, and 
have been since maintained by the action of heat. The creation of heat was 
then indispensable for the formation and the preservation of beings, and the 
abundance of waters was no less so in the presence of the constant and 
inevitable consumption by fire. 

    6. Survey creation; you will see the power of heat reigning over all that 
is born and perishes. On account of it comes all the water spread over the 
earth, as well as that which is beyond our sight and is dispersed  in the 
depths of the earth. On account of it are abundance of fountains, springs or 
wells, courses of rivers, both mountain torrents and ever flowing streams, for 
the storing of moisture in many and various reservoirs. From the East, from 
the winter solstice flows the Indus, the greatest river of the earth, 
according to geographers. From the middle of the East proceed the Bactrus,  
the Choaspes,  and the Araxes,  from which the Tanais  detaches itself 
to fall into the Palus-Maeotis.  Add to these the Phasis  which descends 
from Mount Caucasus, and countless other rivers, which, from northern regions, 
flow into the Euxine Sea. From 
the warm countries of the West, from the foot of the Pyrenees, arise the 
Tartessus  and the Ister,  of which the one discharges itself into the sea 
beyond the Pillars and the other, after flowing through Europe, fails into 
Euxine Sea. Is there any need to enumerate those which the Ripaean 
mountains  pour forth in the heart of Scythia, the Rhone,  and so many 
other rivers, all navigable, which after having watered the countries of the 
western Gauls and of Celts and of the neighbouring barbarians, flow into the 
Western sea? And others from the higher regions of the South flow through 
Ethiopia. to discharge themselves some into our sea, others into inaccessible 
seas, the Aegon  the Nyses, the Chremetes,  and above all the Nile, which 
is not of the character of a river when, like a sea, it inundates Egypt. Thus 
the habitable part of our earth is surrounded by water, linked together by 
vast seas and irrigated by countless perennial rivers, thanks to the ineffable 
wisdom of Him Who ordered all to prevent this rival clement to fire from being 
entirely destroyed. 

    However, a time will come, when all shall be consumed by fire; as Isaiah 
says of the God of the universe in these words, "That saith to the deep, Be 
dry, and I will dry up thy rivers."  Reject then the foolish wisdom of this 
world,  and receive with me the more simple but infallible doctrine of 

   7. Therefore we read: "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, 
and let it divide life waters front the waters." have said what the word 
firmament in Scripture means. It is not in reality a firm and solid substance 
which has weight and resistance; this name would otherwise have better suited 
the earth. But, as the substance of superincumbent bodies is light, without 
consistency, and cannot be grasped by any one of our senses, it is in 
comparison with these pure and imperceptible substances that the firmament has 
received its name. Imagine a place fit to divide the moisture, sending it, if 
pure and filtered, into higher regions, and making it fall, if it is dense and 
earthy; to the end that by the gradual withdrawal of the moist particles the 
same temperature may be preserved from the beginning to the end. You do not 
believe in this prodigious quantity of water; but you do not take into account 
the prodigious quantity of heat, less considerable no doubt in bulk, but 
exceedingly powerful nevertheless, if you consider it as destructive of 
moisture. It attracts surrounding moisture, as the melon shows us, and 
consumes it as quickly when attracted, as the flame of the lamp draws to it 
the fuel supplied by the wick and burns it up. Who doubts that the rather is 
an ardent fire?  If an impassable limit had not been assigned to it by the 
Creator, what would prevent it from setting on fire and consuming all that is 
near it, and absorbing sit the moisture from existing things? The aerial 
waters which veil the heavens with vapours that are sent forth by rivers, 
fountains, marshes, lakes, and seas, prevent the aether from invading and 
burning up the universe. Thus we see even this sun, in the summer season, dry 
up in a moment a damp and marshy country, and make it perfectly arid. What has 
become of all the water? Let these masters of omniscience tell us. Is it not 
plain to every one that it has risen in vapour, and has been consumed by the 
heat of the sun? They say, none the less, that even the sun is without heat. 
What time they lose in words! And see what proof they Jean upon to resist what 
is perfectly plain. Its colour is white, and neither reddish nor yellow. It is 
not then fiery by nature, and its heat results, they say, from the velocity of 
its rotation.  What do they gain? That the sun does not seem to absorb 
moisture? I do not, however, reject this statement, although it is false, 
because it helps my argument. I said that the consumption of heat required 
this prodigious quantity of water. That the sun owes its heat to its nature, 
or that heat results from its action, makes no difference, provided that it 
produces the same effects upon the same matter. If you kindle fire by rubbing 
two pieces of wood together, or if you light them by holding them to a flame, 
you will have absolutely the same effect. Besides, we see that the great 
wisdom of Him who governs all, makes the sun travel 
from one region to another, for fear that, if it remained always in the same 
place, its excessive heat would destroy the order of the universe. Now it 
passes into southern regions about the time of the winter solstice, now it 
returns to the sign of the equinox; from thence it betakes itself to northern 
regions during the summer solstice, and keeps up by this imperceptible passage 
a pleasant temperature throughout all the world. 

    Let the learned people see if they do not disagree among themselves. The 
water which the sun consumes is, they say, what prevents the sea from rising 
and flooding the rivers; the warmth of the sun leaves behind the salts and the 
bitterness of the waters, and absorbs from them the pure and drinkable 
particles,  thanks to the singular virtue of this planet in attracting all 
that is light and in allowing to fall, like mud and sediment, all which is 
thick and earthy. From thence come the bitterness, the salt taste and the 
power of withering and drying up which are characteristic of the sea. While as 
is notorious, they hold these views, they shift their ground and say that 
moisture cannot be lessened by the sun.  

    8. "And God called the firmament heaven."  The nature of right belongs 
to another, and the firmament only shares it on account of its resemblance to 
heaven. We often find the visible region called heaven, on account of the 
density and continuity of the air within our ken, and deriving its name 
"heaven" from the word which means to see.  It is of it that Scripture says, 
"The fowl of the air,"  "Fowl that may fly . . . in the open firmament of 
heave;"  and, elsewhere, "They mount up to heaven."  Moses, blessing the 
tribe of Joseph, desires for it the fruits and the dews of heaven, of the suns 
of summer and the conjunctions of the moon, and blessings from the tops of the 
mountains and from the everlasting hills,"  in one word, from all which 
fertilises the earth. In the curses on Israel it is said, "And thy heaven that 
is over thy head shall be brass."  What does this mean? It threatens him 
with a complete drought, with an absence of the aerial waters which cause the 
fruits of the earth to be brought forth and to grow. 

    Since, then, Scripture says that the dew or the rain fails from heaven, we 
understand that it is from those waters which have been ordered to occupy the 
higher regions. When the exhalations from the earth, gathered together in the 
heights of the air, are condensed under the pressure of the wind, this aerial 
moisture diffuses itself in vaporous and light clouds; then mingling again, it 
forms drops which fall, dragged down by their own weight; and this is the 
origin of rain. When water beaten by the violence of the wind, changes into 
foam, and passing through excessive cold quite freezes, it breaks the cloud, 
and falls as snow.  Yon can thus account for all the moist substances that 
the air suspends over our heads. 

    And do not let any one compare with the inquisitive discussions of 
philosophers upon the heavens, the simple and inartificial character of the 
utterances of the Spirit; as the beauty of chaste women surpasses that of a 
harlot,  so our arguments are superior to those of our opponents. They only 
seek to persuade by forced reasoning. With us truth presents itself naked anti 
without artifice. But why torment ourselves to refute the errors of 
philosophers, when it is sufficient to produce their mutually contradictory 
books, and, as quiet spectators, to watch the war?  For those thinkers are 
not less numerous, nor less celebrated, nor more sober in speech in fighting 
their adversaries, who say that the universe is being consumed by fire, and 
that from the seeds which remain in the ashes of the burnt world all is being 
brought to life again. Hence in the world there is destruction and 
palingenesis to infinity.  All, equally far from the truth, find each on 
their side by-ways which lead them to error. 

    9. But as far as concerns the separation of the waters I am obliged to 
contest the 
opinion of certain writers in the Church  who, under the shadow of high and 
sublime conceptions, have launched out into metaphor, and have only seen in 
the waters a figure to denote spiritual and incorporeal powers. In the higher 
regions, above the firmament, dwell the better; in the lower regions, earth 
and matter are the dwelling place of the malignant. So, say they, God is 
praised by the waters that are above the heaven, that is to say, by the good 
powers, the purity of whose soul makes them worthy to sing the praises of God. 
And the waters which are under the heaven represent the wicked spirits, who 
from their natural height have fallen into the abyss of evil. Turbulent, 
seditious, agitated by the tumultuous waves of passion, they have received the 
name of sea, because of the instability and the inconstancy of their 
movements.  Let us reject these theories as dreams and old women's tales. 
Let us understand that by water water is meant; for the dividing of the waters 
by the firmament let us accept the reason which has been given us. Although, 
however, waters above the heaven are invited to give glory to the Lord of the 
Universe, do not let us think of them as intelligent beings; the heavens are 
not alive because they "declare the glory of God," nor the firmament a 
sensible being because it "sheweth His handiwork."  And if they tell you 
that the heavens mean contemplative powers, anti the firmament active powers 
which produce good, we admire the theory as ingenious without being able to  
acknowledge the truth of it. For thus dew, the frost, cold and heat, which in 
Daniel are ordered to praise the Creator of all things,  will be intelligent 
and invisible natures. But this is only a figure, accepted as such by 
enlightened minds, to complete the glory of the Creator. Besides, the waters 
above the heavens, these waters privileged by the virtue which they possess in 
themselves, are not the only waters to celebrate the praises of God. "Praise 
the Lord from the earth, ye dragons and all deeps."  s Thus the singer of 
the Psalms does not reject the deeps which our inventors of allegories rank in 
the divisions of evil; he admits them to the universal choir of creation, and 
the deeps sing in their language a harmonious hymn to the glory of the 

    10. "And God saw that it was good."  God does not judge of the beauty of 
His work  by the charm of the eyes, and He does not form the same idea of 
beauty that we do. What He esteems beautiful is that which presents in its 
perfection all the fitness  of art, and that which tends to the usefulness 
of its end. He, then, who proposed to Himself a manifest design in His works, 
approved each one of them, as fulfilling its end in accordance with His 
creative purpose. A hand, an eye, or any portion of a statue lying  apart from 
the rest, would look beautiful to no one. But if each be restored to its own 
place, the beauty of proportion, until now almost unperceived, would strike 
even the most uncultivated. But the artist, before uniting the parts of his 
work, distinguishes and recognises the beauty of each of them, thinking of the 
object that he has in view. It is thus that Scripture depicts to us the 
Supreme Artist, praising each one of His works; soon. when His work is 
complete, He will accord well deserved praise to the whole together. Let me 
here end my discourse on the second day, to allow my industrious hearers to 
examine what they have just heard. May their memory retain it for the profit 
of their soul; may they by careful meditation inwardly digest and benefit by 
what I say. As for those who live by their work, let me allow them to attend 
all day to their business, so that they may come, with a soul free from 
anxiety, to the banquet of my discourse in the evening. May God who, after 
having made such great things, put such weak words in my mouth, grant you the 
intelligence of His truth, so that you may raise yourselves from visible 
things to the invisible Being, and that the grandeur and beauty of creatures 
may give you a just idea of the Creator. For the visible things of Him from 
the creation of the world are clearly seen, and His power and divinity are 
eternal.  Thus earth, air, sky, water, day, night, all visible things, 
remind us of who is our Benefactor. We shall not therefore give occasion to 
sin, we shall not give place to the enemy within us, if by unbroken 
recollection we keep God ever dwelling in our hearts, to Whom be all glory and 
all adoration, now and for ever, world without end. Amen.