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Figure 16.

The ranks of the heavenly host surrounding the baptism of Christ. Venetian, late sixteenth century. (The Governing Body, Christ Church, Oxford)

Figure 16.

The ranks of the heavenly host surrounding the baptism of Christ. Venetian, late sixteenth century. (The Governing Body, Christ Church, Oxford)

garb of the understanding."[93] Symbols are thus all-important; the paradox, the mystery, the sign, the sacrament—these are the ways in which God can be known. The precise images demand their own explication: "Why," the author asks, "does the Word of God seem to honor the depiction of fire above all others?"[94] He is thinking of the imagery of the seraphim, and answers that this is the most appropriate way in which to show that the intelligent beings of Heaven are like the Deity; the image of fire reflects the characteristics of the Deity. The language is the language of resemblance:

heavenly beings resemble the divine and are imitators of God.[95] But ultimately God remains a mystery, to

[93] Letter 9 (trans. Luibheid and Rorem, 281-83).

[94] Celestial Hierarchy 328c (trans. Luibheid and Rorem, 183).

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