(53) Why does God say, “Sara thy wife shall not be called Sara, but Sarra shall be her name?” (#Ge 17:15). Here again some foolish persons may laugh at the addition of one single letter, that is to say, of a hundred, for in Greek characters the letter r means a hundred; but if they jest in this way they are foolish, as being unwilling to behold the inward merits of things and to cleave to the footsteps of truth; for that element, r, which is here thought of merely as the addition of one letter, is the parent of all harmony, making things great instead of small, general instead of particular, and mortal instead of immortal; since Sara, when called Sara with one r, is interpreted “thy princedom,” but with two r’s, Sarra, “princess.” Let us then be careful, and see how these two names are distinguished from one another. In me wisdom (or prudence), integrity (or temperance), justice, and fortitude have only a prince-like power and are mortal; moreover, when I die they die too. But this wisdom is herself a princess, and justice is a prince too, and each separate one of these virtues is not the principal or princely part in me, but is itself a mistress and a queen, an everlasting monarchy and sovereignty. Do you not now see the magnitude of the gift? By this slight change, God changes the part into the whole, the species into the genus, the corruptible into the incorruptible. And all these things are previously dispensed on account of the impending birth of a more perfect joy than all joys, whose name is Isaac.
(54) Why does he say, “And from her I will give thee children, and I will bless him, and he shall be over the nations, and kings of the nations shall come forth from him?” (#Ge 17:16). It is scarcely proper to inquire why he has said children in the plural number, when he meant their only and beloved son; for the intention of God’s words applies to his offspring, from which nations and kings should arise. This is the literal meaning of the words. But if we look to their more inward sense, when the soul possesses that virtue, small and mortal as it is, which is only particular, she is still barren. But from the time that it acquires a share of the divine and incorruptible virtue, it begins to conceive and to bring forth varieties of nations, namely, of all other holy and sacred persons; for ever one of the everlasting virtues is subject to an immense number of voluntary laws, which bear in themselves a similarity to nations and kingdoms; for virtue and the generations of virtue are royal things, being previously instructed by nature what it is which rejoices in princely power, and has no knowledge of a servile condition.