[St. Pachomius Library]


Letter to Veranus

Written in the early V Century
Translated by Karen Rae Keck, 1996

Formulas of Spiritual Intelligence

Eucherius to his son in Christ, Veranus, greetings.

I believe that you should study diligently these formulae of spiritual knowledge, which I have compiled and which I send you. The following knowledge is meant to bring the teaching of the divine scriptures easily to mind. Because the letter kills and the spirit gives life [II Cor. 3:6], it is indispensable that we enter the interior of spiritual discourse with a quickening spirit. We remind ourselves and others that, in the future, the whole of scripture will be our [mental] dress; the old, as well as the new, will be the means to allegorical understanding, because as we read in the Old Testament: I will open my mouth in parables; I will speak in old mysteries [Ps. 77(78):2], or again, as it is written in the New Testament, Jesus spoke all these things in parables to the crowds and without parables he would not speak to them [Matt. 13:34]. The heavenly talk of the prophets and the apostles is not to be wondered at; it is brought forth by prayer, not by the usual way that men write. Much will vanish easily if it is gotten readily; great things, which are the true thing, held in the interior, will be brought together, that the blessed sayings of God will be separated from other writings by their worth and type.

The entire worth of heavenly mysteries is not known indiscriminately and randomly, nor is the sacred set before dogs nor pearls before swine [Matt. 7:6], because, in truth, like the silver-plated dove whose posterior parts shine with the radiance of gold [Ps. 67(68):14(13)], so the divine scriptures first shine like silver but glow like gold in their hidden parts. Rightly it is so managed, because the purity of eloquence is hidden altogether from the promiscuous eyes of the crowd, as if it were covered by a garment of modesty. And so, the divine is taken care of by the best stewardship; the scriptures themselves protect the heavenly mysteries by cloaking them, just as divinity itself works in its own mysterious way. Therefore, when in sacred books, one finds the eyes of the Lord, the neck of the Lord, the feet, and even the long-reaching arms of the Lord, written of---that God, God who is invisible, incomprehensible, eternally the same, should be limited in body is far from the universal faith of the church---is sought, just as He is disclosed, through the Holy Spirit, in the exposition of the image.

Here, we find the interior of the Lord's temple, here the holy of holies. The body, therefore, is the sacred scripture, as it has come down to us, as it is in letters, with the soul of moral sense, which is uttered in figures of speech, with the spirit of superior understanding, which names by analogy. How the pattern is found in the three-fold nature of the scriptures! The sanctifying confession of the Trinity preserves us through all things so that our spirit, our mind, and our body are irreproachably one, in the coming and justice of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, whom we serve [I Thes. 5:23].

The wisdom of the world divides its philosophy into three parts: physics, ethics, and logic, that is, natural, moral, and rational. Natural pertains to the causes of nature, which the universe holds; moral pertains to truth, which it sees as custom; rational pertains to the disputes about elevated things that God, who is the Father of all, has proven. Indeed, this differentiation is not dissimilar to our three-fold method of teaching, by which the heavenly scriptures are taught as philosophy, according to history, according to rhetoric, according to analogy, to whose who think otherwise.

History, for this reason, instills in us the truth of deeds or faith in reporting. Rhetoric takes the mind mysteriously back to the correction of life. Analogy leads secretly to the heavenly figures. There are those who think that allegory is thrown in the fourth place in the class of knowledge, and they would confirm this by foreshadowing of future deeds in stories. Here, in truth, are many similar examples made manifest: the heaven which we contemplate here is close to history; the life of the heavenly is close to rhetoric; baptism of water is close to allegory; the angels are close to analogy. It is everywhere: and the waters above the heavens praise the Lord [Ps. 148:4]. All the discipline of our religion emanated from that fountain of increased knowledge: they call the first practice in accordance with understanding, that is, reality and contemplation. One fullfills his real life in the correction of his habits; another steeps himself in contemplation of the heavenly and discussion of divine scripture. Real knowledge, therefore, is spread from various sources. Contemplation, moreover, is derived in two parts, that is, it consists in historical discourse and in understanding spiritual knowledge. But now, let us put forth the clear formulas of spiritual knowledge, which we have promised, putting the usually accepted forms of each name with the associated text of divine reading. Let us pray thus to the Lord that He will open the closed passages of scripture and that we may offer these, by which the hidden may be known to our mind:

  1. Book I: The Members of the Lord
  2. Book II: On Heavenly Objects
  3. Book III: On Earthly Things
  4. Book IV: On the Animals
  5. Book V: On the Various Names and Titles
  6. Book VI: On the Interior Man
  7. Book VII: On the Useful or the Ordinary
  8. Book VIII: On the Various Meanings of Words and Names
  9. Book IX: On Jerusalem and her Enemies
  10. Book X: On Numbers

And so, as he who will present a gift to the Lord, let us, therefore, explicate now these meanings of names and words, in accordance with those which are most justly called allegory.

Translator's note:

St. Eucherius relies, in the main, on the Vulgate for his scriptural references. Because it is based on the Septuagint rather than on the Hebrew text, as the KJV and RSV are, some of the passages read differently.

St. Eucherius frequently notes that some illustration is "in the bad part" or "in a bad part," and he means by this that what is described in the passage is bad. For example, he calls references to the Babylonian captivity or the trials of Job "the bad part."

The St. Pachomius Orthodox Library,  St. Innocent of Alaska, 1999 
Have mercy, O Lord, upon Thy servant, the translator Karen! 
               THE END, AND TO GOD BE THE GLORY!

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