I’m still working on St. Beatus’ commentary on the Book of Revelation, as you can see. This is one of the bits of the commentary which don’t seem to come from any known patristic or medieval source other than Beatus’ own head. Since he lived up in the mountains of Asturias, I think we can assume that winter imagery was something he could really understand!
The “man” in this passage is the Church in normal life on Earth made up of sinful people, as opposed to the supernatural dimension of the Body of Christ, the spotless Bride. St. Beatus constantly moves back and forth between both, because he really wants Christians (especially fellow clergy) to shape up and become what God means them to be. In this image, the eyes of the earthly Body are the bishops and his hands are the priests.
We also give another example. What does this man (of whom we have spoken) do if the winter season and ‘ice-chills’ (1) and snowy drifts should snow him in, in the middle of his journey?
The ‘hardworking peasant’ (2) customarily carries a striker piece of iron, which they popularly call a “fire-maker”; he also has flint, which he strikes against the iron; he has a tinder “dinner”, upon which the flashing sparks catch fire. He will chop wood, pile it up, and light the fire under it; and when it will begin to burn, out of many different regions, one after another in groups, come those who long to get warm. And all receive burning branches from the same fire, and arrange themselves to make their own fires, even if it were the most huge army; and they live in the snow with the fire which he has lit, they who could have died without fire.
Behold, thus is the Divine Scripture. In the Law is hidden the fire of the Holy Spirit, as in a flint rock.
And perhaps someone would say accusingly, ‘Do you compare the Law to a flint rock?’
You listen to the Lord chiding, through Ezekiel the Prophet of Judea: Son of man, I send thee… to a rebellious people that hath revolted from me… For whom I have made thy face hard like flint and like adamant.” [Ez. 2:3, 3:9] What besides knowledge was in his face? What was his hard face besides the Law, where the Holy Spirit lies hidden, in which they could have known Him? What is in the striker but the Gospel we can receive?
About which the Lord says of those following and overcoming in Him, through this John, “And he who shall keep My works unto the end, I will give him power over the nations, and he shall rule them with a
rod of iron, and as the vessel of a potter they shall be broken. As I have received from my Father.” [Rev. 2:26-28]
What does flint do without a striker? What does the Law do without the Gospel? Isn’t it winter? Isn’t it ice-cold? Of which cold, the Lord says, “And because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall
grow cold.” [Mt. 24:12]
Truly the tinder upon which the same fire of the Holy Spirit is struck by those two things, and set on fire from that tinder, is the man — where fire (the Holy Spirit) — through the hands of the Church
that we call priests — make this fire kindle, upon the Law and the Gospel.
Of which fire the Lord says, “I come to send fire upon the earth, and what do I will but that it be kindled?”[Lk. 12:49] Behold, the Lord wills to kindle it. But the eye without a pupil does not will that through the flint of the Law, and the iron of the Gospel, and the tinder of the Body joined into one. And the swollen hand cannot take up any of them; and the fire hidden in the letters never strikes sparks with no sound of preaching, nor does the fire of the Holy Spirit catch, nor the poker of preaching hit the wood or thorns of sin to burn them to ash. And in the wintertime of this world, they all die without this fire, who with this fire could have lived forever.
(1) “glaciali frigore” — Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book 9.
(2) “industria rusticana”:
Virgil, Georgics, 1. No, atually this is Jerome, Dialogus contra Luciferianos [aka Altercatio Luciferiani], 22. (PL 23, 185, 5 – 186, 26.) (CCSL 79B: 55, 806 – 59, 867.) I messed up in copying over the reference from the prologue to Book 2.