Genesis i. 9-10.

June 24, 2010

God also said: Let the waters that are under the heaven be gathered together into one place: and let the dry land appear. And it was so done.  And God called the dry land earth; and the gathering together of the waters he called seas. And God saw that it was good.

9-10. The continuation of the work of distinction.  The third day (i): the gathering of the waters and appearance of dry land.

St. Ambrose: “Let the third day, which arose for us in reading, come forth in speech for us today: that glorious day, which freed the earth from shipwreck, when God said, Let the waters that are under the heaven, be gathered together into one place” (Hexæmeron, III. i. 1.).

a. Distinction by the removal of formlessness.

St. Thomas: “‘Formlessness of matter’ is understood to mean the lack of due distinction, and of a certain perfect beauty.  And following these three names [‘heaven,’ ‘earth’ and ‘water’], Scripture sets forth three instances of formlessness.  For to heaven, the highest body, pertains the formlessness of darkness, since light had its origin in the heavens.  The formlessness of water, the middle body, is denoted by the name of the deep [abyss], since this name denotes a certain disordered vastness of waters, as Augustine says, writing against Faustus.  The formless of heaven is touched on when it is said that the earth was ‘invisible’[1] or void, because it was covered with waters.  In this way, therefore, the highest body was given its form on the first day.  And since time follows the movement of the heavens, and time is the measurement of the motion of the highest body, by giving heaven form in this way the distinction of time was made, namely of night and day.  Now on the second day form was given to the middle body, the water, which received through the firmament a certain distinction and order (even if other things are understood under the name of ‘water,’ as was said above).  And on the third day form was given to the lowest body, the earth, by uncovering it from the waters; and distinction was made in the lowest body, which is said of the land and the sea.  Whence it is sufficiently fitting that, just as Scripture had expressed the formlessness of the earth by saying that the earth was ‘invisible’ or void, so it expresses its forming by saying, and let the dry land appear” (ST. Ia q. lxix. a. i.).

b. How the waters might be gathered together, though they already completely covered the earth.

St. Thomas: “This difficulty is solved in three ways.  The first way is that that the waters were raised to a greater height in the place where they were gathered.  Secondly, it may be said that ‘thinner water, like clouds, covered the earth, and thickened when gathered together.’  The third way says that ‘the earth could have presented some concave parts, into which the waters might flow and be received.’[2] Of these the first seems the more probable” (ST. Ia q. lxix. a. i. ad 2).

c. Concerning the gathering of the waters in general.

St. Bede: “The waters that had filled the whole space between heaven and earth are now led off and gathered in one place, so that the light, whose radiance had for the past two days illuminated the waters, might grow even brighter in the pure air; and so that the earth which had been hidden might appear” (In Principium Genesis I col. 20).

St. Basil: “God did not say, ‘and let the earth appear,’ lest he show it again the same: unformed, foul, mixed with water, not yet clothed with its proper form or power.  Also, lest we attribute the cause of the dryness to the sun, the Creator brought about the dryness of the earth before the generation of the sun” (Hexæmeron, iv. 5.).

St. Augustine: “God did not wish by these words to insert them into the order of created things, as if he had said, Let them be; these things were not to receive such an appearance as heaven had received,  but one lower and weaker, and close to formlessness: so that rather by these words, when it is said, Let the waters be gathered together, and, Let the dry land appear, these two might receive their own most notable appearances, which we can easily understand: and so of the one it is said, let it be gathered; but of the other, let it appear: for water is smoothly flowing, but land firmly fixed” (De Genesi ad litteram, II. xi. 24).

St. Chrysostom: “Did you see, beloved?  The earth was invisible and formless, and was covered with waters as if with a veil; and God stripped it, if I may say so, and showed to us its face, and also gave it its proper name.  And look, the waters also received their name” (Homiliæ in Genesin, v. 3.).

St. Jerome: “It is to be observed that every body of water, whether salt or fresh, is called a “sea” according to the idiom of the Hebrew language” (LHQG).

d. The gathering of waters compared to the Church, as the gathering of people.  Moral exhortation.

St. Ambrose: “Let this water be imitated, and we shall know one gathering of the Lord, that is, one Church.  Gathered here is some water from every valley, from every swamp, from every lake.  Heresy is a valley; paganism is a valley; for God is of the mountains, not of the valleys.  Indeed there is rejoicing in the Church, among the heretics and the pagans weeping and sadness.  Whence it says: He has brought about weeping in the valley.[3] Therefore from every valley he has gathered the Catholic people: now there are no longer many gatherings, but one gathering, one Church.  It is said here: let water be gathered from every valley, and it was made one spiritual gathering, it was made one people …

“He gathered water out of every lake, out of every ditch, so that no one might dig a ditch for his brother to fall into; but that everyone might love each other, all might cherish each other, and sustain their many members as one body; so that we might delight, not in deadly songs and scenic entertainments, which enervate the mind with love affairs, but in the singing of the Church, in the voice harmonious with the praises of God, and in a holy life: and the pleasures of these things consist in watching, not purple hangings or expensive curtains, but this most beautiful structure of the world, this joining together of different elements; the heaven, stretched out like a roof to cover the inhabitants of this world; the earth, given to be worked; the poured out air, the enclosed seas; this people, the instrument of the divine activity, in which the melody of the divine oracle should resound, and the spirit of God work from within; this temple, the shrine of the Trinity, the abode of holiness, the holy Church, in which shine forth the heavenly curtains, of which it is said: Enlarge the place of thy tent, and stretch out the skins [curtains] of thy tabernacles, spare not: lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes.  For thou shalt pass on to the right hand, and to the left: and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and shall inhabit the desolate cities.[4] The Church therefore has curtains by which she exalts the good life, covers sins, overshadows guilt.

“This is the Church that is founded upon the seas, and prepared upon the rivers.[5] For she is strengthened and prepared above you who, clean from the pure fountain, run down into her like flooding rivers, of which it is said: The floods have lifted up, O Lord: the floods have lifted up their voice.  The floods have lifted up their waves, with the noise of many waters. And further: Wonderful are the surges of the sea: wonderful is the Lord on high.[6] These floods are good: for you have drawn them from that full and everlasting fountain, by which you have flowed to Him who says to you: He that believeth in me, as the scripture saith, Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water[7] (Hexæmeron, III. i. 2-3, 5-6.)


[1] The reading of the Septuagint, ἀόρατος.

[2] St. Augustine, De Genesi ad litteram, I. xii. 26.

[3] Ps. lxxxiii. 6-7.  DR: In his heart he hath disposed to ascend by steps, in the vale of tears …

[4] Is. liv. 2-3.  The Latin text is slightly different from the Vulgate/DR.

[5] Ps. xxiii. 2.

[6] Ps. xcii. 3-4.

[7] John vii. 38.

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