De Sacramentis 1.1.22

1.1.22 “How the earth brought forth plants” Gen. 1:11 speaks of God calling forth the plants and trees, but of primary interest to Hugh in this chapter, once again, is the natural agency by which God, in this case, watered the earth and so, presumably, made it able to be fruit-bearing. Hugh focuses here on the role of the great abyss, which he characterized in the previous chapter as a mere “receptacle” for the waters under the firmament after they had condensed and descended from above. After receiving the waters, the abyss’s next function was that of operating as a “fountain” by and from which “the waters deep within the bowels of the earth were conducted by hidden channels and passages,” and by which the waters on the surface of the earth were likewise distributed “in all directions by a wonderful and tireless departure from and return to one place in accordance with an eternal law.” So the abyss is first receptacle and afterward fountain. Yet the abyss is only able to act as a fountain and source of water to the extent that it goes on receiving water. Hugh like the medievals generally may have been ignorant of evaporation theory, but he did understand that the source of the earth’s streams, for example, must be replenished from somewhere, somehow, and this in an endless, “tireless” cycle. It is possible that Hugh alludes here to Ecclesiastes 1:7 (Hugh wrote a commentary on Ecclesiastes): “All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again” (KJV). As St. Bonaventure would comment on this passage a century later, “Rivers flow out in a hidden way, but return openly, because they come out through underground passages and springs. So all things move in a circle and are subject to vanity.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s