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To the Holy Trinity: Images in Nature of the Birth of the Son of God

Moving along in Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, 1,3:

See this delicate vapour which the sea, sweetly touched by the sun, and as impregnated with its heat, sent day and night as of its own power to the heavens, without lessening of its vast womb. It is however the purest of its substance and something of the same nature, but not of the same material, of the waters which are held back. Such, says Solomon, the wisdom which God generates in eternity is a vapour of his all-powerful force a very pure emanation of his glory.

One can hear by this vapour, the heat itself which comes from the sun, from which none can hide, as David says.  That which is, one sees that the Wise seeks by all his comparisons, to make us hear a generation which neither alters nor cuts into his substance, and in the Father and the Son a distinction which does not detract from the unity.

It is this one who is not found among his creatures, and less in his physical creatures: but still he proposes to us the purest in physical nature to draw us to the most unconstrained images possible from the variation which appears in ordinary works.

Consider this burst, this ray, this splendour which comes from the son of the sun: it comes without dispersion, without separating itself, without waiting for the progress of time. All at once, as soon as the sun was formed, its splendour was born and poured out and one could see the beauty of this star. As such, said Solomon, wisdom which came from the womb of God was the delicate vapour, the very pure emanation, the lively gushing of his glory, the burst of his eternal light or as Saint Paul says, it is the resplendent ray of the glory of God and the imprint of his substance. As soon as light was, it broke out: and if the outbreak and splendour of the was not eternal, it is because the sun is no more; and on the other hand, if the light is eternal, its outburst and splendour will be also. Now God is a light where there are no shadows: a light which was not made, eternally subsists by itself and knows neither beginning nor decline.  Thus its outburst, which is his Son, is eternal like him and does not divide his substance. All the rays, to speak in this way, hold to the sun, his outburst never detaches; so without detaching from his Father, the Son of God comes forth eternally; and, to place God without a Son is to place the light without a ray and without splendour.

But let us pass to the other expression of Saint Paul: The Son of God, says the Apostle, is the character and the imprint of the substance of his Father. When a seal is applied in wax, it takes the resemblance and incorporates it, so that they cannot be separated. Consider this well: no facet escapes, and from this everything ends up in the seal from which it took its form. Thus the Son of God has taken all from the Father without taking anything away; he is the perfect image, the imprint, the expression, not of his face, because God does not have one, but as Saint Paul says, of his substance: according to the strength of the original, one can translate, of his person. He carries all the traits; it is why he says, Who has seen me, has seen my Father; and as the Father has life in himself, thus he has given to his Son to have life in himself. As the Father raises the dead and brings them back to life, thus the Son gives life to whom he pleases.  And he not only expresses his father in the effects of his power, he expresses all of his traits, all characteristics natural and personal, so that if one can see the Son without seeing the Father, one will fully see him in his Son.

But who can explain what are these traits and characteristics of the eternal Father which glisten in his Son? That is not of this life: and all which one can say, it is that there is nothing in God accidental, all the Father’s traits which the Son has imprinted in his person are of either the substance or the person of the Father. It is this substantial imprinting that the Father works of all that he is, and it is in making this impression that he generates his Son.

See in the Sage something more delicate. Wisdom eternally conceived in the womb of the Father is a flawless mirror of his majesty and the image of his goodness. An impression of a stamp, or the expression of the resemblance of an image which one cuts with a chisel or makes with colours, are too grossly material for the Son of God.  His nature has something more delicate: and see in the clear waters and in the mirror a new secret for painting or making an image.  There is only to present an object, soon he paints a self-portrait and this admirable painting is not corrupted in any way from the original: it is in some way the same original. Nevertheless neither the original nor the polished mirror where he is wholly imprinted decline. To make this portrait happen, there is no need for time, nor an imperfect sketch: in the same instant he begins and makes it happen, and the design like the end is only one trait.


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