The Cherubim and the Turning Sword
35. "God placed Cherubim and a flaming sword that moves" —this could be said in the one word "movable"—"to guard the way to the tree of life." 152. Those who translate the Hebrew words in Scripture say that "Cherubim" means in Latin "the fullness of knowledge." 153. The flaming movable sword means temporal punishments, because times move in their continual variety. It is called "flaming," because every tribulation burns somehow or other. But it is one thing to be burned until consumed, another to be burned until purified. For the Apostle also says, "Who is scandalized and I am not burning?" 154. This passion was further purifying him, because it came from charity. And those tribulations that the just suffer pertain to that flaming sword, "because gold and silver are tried in fire, and worthy men in the furnace of humiliation." 155. And again, "The kiln tests the vessels of the potter, and the trial of tribulation just men." 156. As the Apostle says, "God chastises him whom he loves and scourges every son he receives," 157. and, "Knowing that tribulation develops patience, but patience the proof." 158. Hence, we read, and we hear, and we should believe, that the fullness of knowledge and the flaming sword guard the tree of life. No one can come to the tree of life except by these two ways, that is, by the endurance of troubles and the fullness of knowledge.
36. The endurance of troubles must be borne in this life by almost all who make their way toward the tree of life. The fullness of knowledge, however, seems to come to very few, so that not all who arrive at the tree of life come by way of the fullness of knowledge, although all experience the endurance____________________