, ,

St. Hilary continues to expound upon the simile that the happy man is like the tree next to the waters:

But the leaf of this tree shall not fall off. There is no ground for wonder that its leaves do not fall off, seeing that its fruits will not drop to the ground, either because they are forced off by ripeness, or shaken off by external violence, but it will yield them, distributing them by an act of reasoned service. Now the spiritual significance of the leaves is made clear by a comparison based upon material objects. We see that leaves are made to sprout round the fruits about which they cluster, for the express purpose of protecting them, and of forming a kind of fence to the young and tender shoots. What the leaves signify, then, is the teaching of God’s words in which the promised fruits are clothed. For it is these words that kindly shade our hopes, that shield and protect them from the rough winds of this world. These leaves, then, that is the words of God, shall not fall: ‘for the Lord Himself has said: Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away (Matt 24:35)’, for of the words that have been spoken by God not one shall fail or fall.

Note how St. Hilary continues to insist upon the free will of the happy man — his fruit cannot be coerced to fall by either time (forced off by ripeness) or external forces (being shaken off). The fruit is only given when the man chooses to yield them. Note also how St. Hilary insists that it is God who not only allows for this free will, but that God is actively protecting it.

God, the Great Poet (I refer here to the fact that the verb “to make” in Greek is the same root as the word poet) created through words: “Let there be light” (Gen 1:3). It was through words that God imbued humanity with His image and likeness: “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen 1:23). Since, as St. Hilary points out, Christ Himself has declared that His words will never pass away, He will never allow anything to coerce or force the free will of humanity to be destroyed.

Indeed, it is our hope and faith as Christians that this eternal Word, which has become man, gone to the Cross and the Tomb, resurrected on the third day, ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father in glory has gone to such extreme lengths to protect that image and likeness that the glory and eternity that is the Word of God is our ultimate destiny as we ever endeavor — to exercise that free will — to fulfill our potential to be like Him.