(42) What is the meaning of the expression, “The dove returned a second time to him about evening, having in her mouth a leaf and a thin branch of olive?” (#Ge 8:11). All these separate points are selected and approved signs-the returning, the returning about evening, the having an olive-leaf and a thin branch of that tree, and oil, and the having it in her mouth; but yet every one of these signs can be examined with a certainty beyond certainty, for the return is distinct from its previous return, for that one bore with it an announcement of nature being wholly corrupted and rebellious, and being wholly destroyed by the deluge, that is to say, by great ignorance and insolence; but this second return brings the news of the world beginning to repent, but to find repentance is not an easy task, but is a difficult and laborious business. And it is on this account that the dove arrived in the evening, having passed the whole day from morning to evening in its visitations; in word, indeed, examining places, but in fact investigating the different parts of nature itself by continual visitation, and seeing them all clearly from beginning to end, for the evening is the indication of the end. The third sign, again, is its bringing a leaf; but a leaf is a small part of a tree, still it does not exist without a tree. And the beginning of displaying repentance is somewhat corresponding to this, since the beginning of correction has some slight indications about it, which we may call a leaf, by which it appears to receive guardianship, but can easily be shaken off; so that the hope shall in that case not be great of attaining the desired improvement, which is typified by the leaf of no other tree but of the olive alone, and oil is the material of light. For wickedness, as I have said before, is profound darkness, but virtue is luminous brilliancy, and repentance is the beginning of light. But you must not yet suppose that the beginning of repentance is only visible in branches just germinating and beginning to look green, but that it exists too while they are still dry, and while the seminal principle is dry and quiescent. And it is on this account that the fifth sign is shown, that, namely, of the dove when it comes bearing a slender branch. And the sixth sign is that this slender branch was in its mouth, for the number six is the first perfect number, since virtue bears in its mouth, that is to say in its conversation, the seeds of wisdom and justice, or, in one word, of honesty of the soul; and not only bears this, but gives some portion of participation in it even to the foolish, by drawing up water for their souls, and irrigating them with the desire of repentance for their sins.