XXXIV. (180) And the fruit were almonds, which is a fruit of a different character from any other. For in most fruit, such as grapes, olives, and apples, the seed and the eatable part differ from one another, and being different are separated as to their position, for the eatable part is outside, and the seed is shut up within; but in the case of this fruit the seed and the eatable part are the same, both of them being comprised in one species, and their position is one and the same, being without strongly protected and fortified with a twofold fence, consisting partly of a very thick bark, and partly of what appears in no respect short of a wooden case, (181) by which perfect virtue is figuratively indicated. For as in the almond the beginning and the end are the same, the beginning as far as it is seed, and the end as far as it is fruit; so also is it the case with the virtues; for each one of them is at the same time both beginning and end, a beginning, because it proceeds not from any other power, but from itself; and an end, because the life in accordance with nature hastens towards it. (182) This is one reason; and another is also mentioned, more clear and emphatic than the former; for the part of the almond which looks like bark is bitter, but that which lies inside the bark, like a wooden case, is very hard and impenetrable, so that the fruit, being enclosed in these two coverings, is not very easily to be got at. (183) This is an emblem of the soul which is inclined to the practice of meditation, from which he thinks it is proper to turn it to virtue by showing it that it is necessary first of all to encounter danger. But labour is a bitter, and distasteful, and harsh thing, from which good is produced, for the sake of which one must not yield to effeminate indolence; (184) for he who seeks to avoid labour is also avoiding good. And he, again, who encounters what is disagreeable to be borne with fortitude and manly perseverance, is taking the best road to happiness; for it is not the nature of virtue to abide with those who are given up to delicacy and luxury, and who have become effeminate in their souls, and whose bodies are enervated by the incessant luxury which they practise every day; but it is subdued by such conduct, and determined to change its abode, having first of all arranged its departure so as to depart to, and abide with, the ruler of right reason. (185) But, if I must tell the truth, the most sacred company of prudence, and temperance, and courage, and justice seeks the society of those who practise virtue, and of those who admire a life of austerity and rigid duty, devoting themselves to fortitude and self-denial, with wise economy and abstinence; by means of which virtues the most powerful of all the principles within us, namely, reason, improves and attains to a state of perfect health and vigour, overthrowing the violent attacks of the body, which the moderate use of wine, and epicurism, and licentiousness, and other insatiable appetites excite against it, engendering a fulness of flesh which is the direct enemy of shrewdness and wisdom. (186) Moreover, it is said, that of all the trees that are accustomed to blossom in the spring, the almond is the first to flourish, bringing as it were good tidings of abundance of fruit; and that afterwards it is the last to lose its leaves, extending the yearly old age of its verdure to the longest period; in each of which particulars it is an emblem of the tribe of the priesthood, as Moses intimates under the figure of this tree that this tribe shall be the first of the whole human race to flourish, and likewise the last; as long as it shall please God to liken our life to the revolutions of the spring, destroying covetousness that most treacherous of passions, and the fountain of all unhappiness.