This Lent I am reading again part of St Gregory’s Morals on Job. I thought I would share a few of his words of wisdom on this Friday in Lent. The saint wonders why God allowed the holy man Job to be so afflicted with evils while the ungodly prosper. Hear his answer and pay particular attention to the role of eternal retribution, both for the good and the evil:
“While blessed Job is undergoing such losses in his substance, and grieving over the death of so many children whereby he is smitten, while he is suffering such numberless wounds, while he scrapes the running humour with a potsherd, whilst, running down in a state of corruption, he sat himself upon a dunghill, it is good to consider how it is that Almighty God, as though in unconcern, afflicts so grievously those, whom He looks upon as so dear to Him for all eternity.
“But, now, while I view the wounds and the torments of blessed Job, I suddenly call back my mind’s eye to John (the Baptist), and I reflect not without the greatest astonishment, that he, being filled with the Spirit of prophecy within his mother’s womb, and who, if I may say so, before his birth, was born again, he that was the friend of the Bridegroom, [John 3, 29] he than whom none hath arisen greater among those born of women, [Matt. 11, 11] he that was so great a Prophet, that he was even more than a Prophet, he is cast into prison by wicked men, and beheaded, for the dancing of a damsel, and a man of such severe virtue dies for the merriment of the vile! Do we imagine there was aught in his life which that most contemptible death was to wipe off? When, then, did he sin even in meat, whose food was but locusts and wild honey? How did he offend even by the quality of his clothing, the covering of whose body was of camel’s hair? How could he transgress in his behaviour, who never went out from the desert? How did the guilt of a talkative tongue defile him, who was parted far from mankind? When did even a fault of silence attach to him, who so vehemently charged those that came to him? O generation, of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? [Matt. 3, 7]
“How is it then, that Job is distinguished above other men by the testimony of God, and yet by his plagues is brought down even to a dunghill? How is it that John is commended by the voice of God, and yet for the words of a drunkard suffers death as the prize of dancing? How is it, that Almighty God so utterly disregards in this present state of being those whom He chose so exaltedly before the worlds, saving this, which is plain to the religious sense of the faithful, that it is for this reason He thus presses them below, because He sees how to recompense them on high? And He casts them down without to the level of things contemptible, because He leads them on within to the height of things incomprehensible. From hence then let everyone collect what those will have to suffer There, that are condemned by Him, if here He thus torments those whom He loves, or how they shall be smitten, who are destined to be convicted at the Judgment, if their life is sunk so low, who are commended by witness of the Judge Himself.”
Taken from St Gregory, Morals on Job, Book 3, 11.