Amedeus of Lausanne
From the Fourth Homily on Mary, the Virgin Mother
Human nothingness
All things are hard, says Solomon; man cannot explain them in words.
Leaving aside the way in which a vast forest can spring from one little grain, how the multitudes of humankind proceeded from the seed of Adam and Eve, and countless other things besides, who will explain the nature of the gnat? How does it spread its wings and move its legs? What of its tiny eyes and the shape of its head? How was its body formed, and the proboscis so exceedingly fine that it is sometimes invisible to the eye, yet pierced and hollow so that it can fill with sucked blood the minute body of this speck of life? O man, if your reasoning powers are unequal to examining the gnat, you should blush at searching out higher and harder matters to investigate. If you cannot fathom yourself and the shallows of your own mind, how will you rise to infinite majesty? How could a man who cannot count pronounce on arithmetic? Will he who does not know a point from a line excel at geometry? Could the person unable to emit a sound teach music? Or someone with no idea of movement make a good astronomer? In the same way, he who does not know himself cannot penetrate the depths of God.
For what is human reason compared to the divine? Not so much as a point, or even the fraction of one. For while - to state a remarkable fact - there exists a comparative relation between the eye of the gnat and the vastness of the sky, there is none between human measure and the immensity of God. What part is the finite of the infinite, the measurable of the immeasurable, the moment of eternity? As the result of what multiplication or addition will the creature be comparable to the creator? If you were to project thousands times thousands to infinity, you would have laboured in vain, and not in the remotest degree could you compare human knowledge to the wisdom of God. Hence, if God is contemplated in his essence, the substance of man will not be found, as the prophet testifies, saying: 'All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as a sepulchre and as emptiness.' And as the Lord said to Moses: 'Say this to the sons of Israel: I am has sent me to you'; and in affirming his essential being he deprived all others of essentiality.
Therefore, human insignificance, or rather human nothingness, trust in God, and may your argumentation be very solidly grounded in his almighty wisdom. Let that be your starting-point, your burden and your end. Be assured that those who cleave perfectly to their maker will not be boxed in by the law of nature, but will find firm footing above it with him who created nature. For it was not nature that imposed a law on its author but the author who gave to nature laws of his own choosing; and, when he wishes, he changes these laws, as when he turned water into wine and used clay to make blind eyes see. As also when, holding his own self in his hands, he distributed that self to his disciples to be eaten and drunk, remaining physically whole while spiritually feeding those who were eating. Thus too (and this is relevant to our subject) did he issue through the closed womb of the Virgin.