He shows by proofs drawn from nature itself, that the law which his opponents lay down; viz., that the one born ought to be of one substance with the one who bears, fails to hold good in many cases.
It would be tedious and almost childish to speak further on this subject. But still in order to refute that folly and madness of yours, in which you maintain that the one born ought to be of one substance with the one who bears, i.e., that nothing can produce something of a different nature to itself, I will bring forward some instances of earthly things, to convince you that many creatures are produced from things of a different nature. Not that it is possible or right to make any comparison in such a case as this: but that you may not doubt the possibility of that happening in the case of the holy Nativity, which as you see takes place in these frail earthly things. Bees, tiniest of creatures though they are, are yet so clever and cunning that we read that they can be produced and spring from things of an entirely different nature. For as they are creatures of marvellous intelligence, and well endowed not merely with sense but with foresight, they are produced from the gathered flowers of plants. What greater instance do you think can be produced and quoted? Living creatures are produced from inanimate: sensate from insensate. 2607 What artificer, what architect was there? Who formed their bodies? Who breathed in their souls? Who gave them articulate sounds by which to converse with each other? Who fashioned and arranged these harmonies of their feet, the cunning of their mouths, the neatness of their wings? Their powers, wrath, foresight, movements, calmness, harmony, differences, wars, peace, arrangements, contrivances, business, government, all those things indeed which they have in common with men—from whose teaching, or whose gift did they receive them? from whose implanting or instruction? Did they gain this through generation? or learn it in their mothers womb or from her flesh? They never were in the womb, and had no experience of generation. It was only that flowers which they culled were brought into the hive and from this by a marvellous contrivance bees issued forth. 2608 Then the womb of the mother imparted nothing to the offspring: nor are bees produced from bees. They are but their artificers, not their authors. From the blossoms of plants living creatures proceed. What is there akin in plants and animals? I fancy then that you see who is the contriver of those things. Go now and inquire whether the Lord could bring about that in the case of His own nativity, which you see that He procured in the case of these tiniest of creatures. Perhaps it is needless after this to add anything further. But still let us add in support of the argument what may not be necessary to prove the point. We see how the air is suddenly darkened, and the earth filled with locusts. Show me their seed—their birth—their mothers. For, as you see, they proceed thence, whence they have their birth. Assert in all these cases that the one who is born must be of one substance with the one who bears. And in these assertions you will be shown to be as silly, as you are wild in your denial of the Nativity of the Lord. And what next? Do even you think that we must go on any further? But still we will add something else. There is no doubt that basilisks are produced from the eggs of the birds which in Egypt they call the Ibis. What is there of kindred or relationship between a bird and a serpent? Why is the thing born not of one substance with that which bears it? And yet those who bear are not the authors of all these things, nor do those who are born understand them: but they result from secret causes, and from some inexplicable and manifold law of nature which produces them. And you are bringing as objections to His Nativity your petty assertions from earthly notions, while you cannot explain the origin of those things, which are produced by His bidding and command, whose will does everything, whose sway causes everything: whom nothing can oppose or resist; and whose will is sufficient for everything which can possibly be done.
Ex inanimis ex insensibilibus sensibilia nascuntur (Petschenig). The text of Gazæus has ex atomis animalia nascuntur.607:2608
Cf. Virgils Georgics IV. Rufinus, on the Apostles Creed (c. xi.) gives the same illustration of the Incarnation, and cf. with the passage in the text S. Basil Hom. in Hexaem, IX. ii.