De Sacramentis 1.1.23

1.1.23 “Why Scripture does not say that those waters which are above heaven were gathered into one place.” This is the second instance thus far—the first being 1.1.20—of Hugh assuming a certain hermeneutical burden of proof when Scripture mentions something in one place and doesn’t mention it in a similar case. The silence in the second situation is assumed to be significant, and what is more, the significance is thought to be a sacramental one. This form of argument from silence is indicative of Hugh’s hermeneutics of excess in general: it is not just the said, but in many cases precisely the un-said that requires and excites comment. There is no principle of parsimony or economy here, such as will later dominate philosophy and theology in, for example, the case of William of Ockham in the fourteenth century and in the hermeneutics of the Reformation in the sixteenth century.

Unlike 1.1.20, however, where Hugh first and somewhat tentatively ventures a numerological interpretation of why Scripture does not record God as praising his work on the second day before moving on to his sacramental interpretation, here Hugh goes directly to the allegorical significance: “Great are the sacraments in all these matters.” He finds it “strange that the waters which are under heaven are gathered together into one place, and that those which are above heaven are not gathered…” What this means, Hugh suggests, is the ungathered waters above us refers to the charity which the Apostle Paul describes in Romans 5:5 as being “poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.” He cites additional passages (all by Paul) to the effect that this divine charity and peace comes to us from “above,” and so the spiritual meaning of the ungathered waters above us is that charity, too, “ought always to be spread out and extended.” The gathering and constraining of the waters under the firmament, however, is symbolic of how “the lower affection of the soul is constrained by a definite law” and so “brought into subjection.”


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