De Sacramentis 1.1.26

1.1.26 “Whether from the elements themselves those things were made which were made for their adornment.” The previous chapter may have left the reader (as it did me) with the impression that, in speaking of flying things, fish, and beasts, cattle, and creeping things as “ornaments” of the air, waters, and earth, respectively, Hugh meant their respective places of habitation. This, in any event, would seem to be most in keeping with a more Hebraic understanding of the text and cosmos. Hugh begins the present chapter, however, referring to these things as “adornments of the elements.” This is perhaps a too-physicalist reading of Genesis, but by the same stroke, it is not so bad as a Genesis-interpretation of the physical elements of air, water, and earth: these elements are not indifferent but rather ordered towards, and thus find the perfection of their being in, the living creatures which they help to comprise.

The question of the chapter is whether these creatures which adorn the elements were also made out of the elements they are respectively associated with (i.e., were birds made out of air, fish out of water, etc.?). Hugh insists that the land animals were made from the earth, allows that the sea creatures could have been made from the water, but denies that birds could have been made from the air, the reason being that “air did not possess, so to speak, such corporeity that the bodies of living things, which require solid matter, might be created from it,” whereas “the nature of waters was more akin to the earth and had more corporeity, and on this account was more adapted for forming bodies.” As one might expect, however, Hugh’s real interest in these matters is as fodder for further sacramental reflection (see next chapter).


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