None can provide complete answers. None have the right to read their understanding of the world into the philosophia of St Gregory.
St. Gregory of Nyssa and the tradition of the Fathers
Research will not produce a real portrait of the Bishop of Nyssa, or any Church Father, without recognizing their belief in Christ Jesus as Incarnate Lord. Cur deus homo? With these facts, we initiate our study of the philosophia of St Gregory. Cherniss; neither any literature like it. Let a question answer the question: how truthful is that record which, deliberately or not, excludes a fundamental component of reality?
Or put another way, is it not only illogical but futile to undertake the study of history without first determining the nature of human existence; and, indeed, the existence of something beyond space and time influencing the course of our history? Such an inquiry compels us to ask more specific questions: metaphysics is unavoidable; hence, further exploration: If there is a God, is He the Creator?
Is He personal? Is the world intelligible without His Providence?
What is His purpose for the creation? Has He revealed Himself to the creature? Do angels and demons exist? Do they influence human life? If such things are part of human experience, how can the historian ignore them? If the historian will not even put these questions, for whatever reason, how true is his account? The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments receive the same treatment e.
London, One is not obliged to accept this point of view. The Fathers understood their mission differently. Paris, , 9. However true his conclusion, it is incomplete, even misleading. San Francisco, , p.
No doubt, too, he spoke to his times. If there is any fault in him, it lies in some of the measures he took to implement his purpose. First, we must put him in patristic context, that is, in the traditio in the Fathers which itself requires reassessment. When we compare him to Plotinus, Philo and Origen, the essential difference between them will become apparent, whereby also some mistaken notions about St Gregory of Nyssa and the source of the Christian Faith to which he and the other Fathers gave uncommon witness.
I am grateful also to Mrs Larissa Vaughn for her painstaking proofreading of the text, and to her husband, Dr George Vaughn, for the laser-printing of the manuscript. In his introduction to A Handbook of Patrology, J. Authors generally fix the limit at the death of St John of Damascus c.
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At all events, they eminently deserve the title of Ecclesiastical Writers. As a science, then, it is part of the History of Ancient Christian Literature, since it excludes from the field of its labors both the canonical writings of the New Testament and all writings that are strictly and entirely heretical. On this latter point, however, most authors exercise a certain tolerance. He intends to follow this method. What are these revealed teachings? The Scriptures distinguish between truth orthodoxy and falsehood in doctrine heterodoxy , affirming thereby that advocates of the latter, whether apostates or sectarians, have no membership in the Church Acts ; I Cor.
PG 46 DA. Ill ad Eust. De Trin. II, 2 PL 10 In truth, then, any man can be a Father of the Church if his life is characterized by holiness and his doctrine by apostolic orthodoxy. Indeed, is Augustine of Hippo, author of the filioque, predestination, irresistible grace, inherited guilt, etc. Fourth, it is the Church, not modern theologians, which determines her spokesmen.
Even the New Covenant rests on the testimony of the Apostles. Again, if there is no infallible and holy Tradition, how do we understand the Scriptures, since there is no way to authoritatively interpret them? And if we have no certainty, it is as if God had never spoken to us. St Athanasius fled to Rome where he inspired the organization of Western monasticism.
The Italian hieromartyr, St Autonomus, became a bishop in Bithynia. St Jerome, the Westerner, built monasteries in Bethlehem. St Gregory the Great lived comfortably in the theological and ascetical atmosphere of Constantinople for six or seven years. Most of the Popes during the seventh century were Greeks. Hymns, such as Christos aneste, are found in the medieval Polish liturgy, etc.
The unity of the Fathers is an oneness of mind, which does not outlaw individual style and personal perception and insight. In other words, the Fathers never conceived the beliefs of the Christian religion to be a subject for academic debate, quarrels in the market place, or casual after-dinner conversation; it does not belong on the college curriculum. God allows only those who are becoming like Him, in body and soul, through grace to approach Him. Dispassion is a condition of soul and body acquired only in the life of Christ, in the Church, wherein dwells the Spirit of God.
Be ye perfect even as God is perfect Blessed are the pure in heart for they see God. Put in other terms, the creation, imitating the Incarnation, is monodual, meaning that everything visible or material intrinsically and directly presupposes the superior spiritual world which upholds it: the two orders of creation united as the two natures in Christ: He is the living mediator between time and eternity 7. Aside from becoming the anti-type of the first man He created, He is also the fulfillment of all the types and antitypes in ancient Israel Moses, the Red Sea, Jericho, etc.
His vision of spiritual realities, the reward of his sanctity, is beyond the comprehension of the unbeliever and the unitiated 9.
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He is what His members will become. What has happened to Him is happening to them.
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No word better summarizes the divine Economy of the Lord than today To that city, that age, that power, they belong and not to this world. The Church is linked to the future, to the Age to Come — the Eighth Day, the everlasting Day, after the seven periods of current history expires — by the Mysteries: especially the Eucharist, sacramentum ogdoadis, the mysterium redemptoris, to use the words of Pope St Gregory the Great. De Spir. Necessarily, a false Christology leads to a false understanding of the Church, the Sacraments, the Scriptures, history and the whole divine scheme of salvation Undoubtedly, his doctrine and his piety will be apostolic; he will have ecclesiastical cultus, even if only locally.
His errors, if any, are errors of logic, formal and lingual errors, implying no loss of the patristic phronema. The Orthodox Church has not. Philosophy was a legacy of the Greeks: the manner in which questions are asked, the certainty the intellect desires.
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Greek philosophy was especially useful in Christian apologetics and polemics. This chapter offers a general description of Christian or patristic philosophia — and equally as important, of the Christian philosopher. The philosophia was an attempt to communicate their encounter. The forms of communication were in the language and symbols of the Jew, in the language and symbols of the Greek and the Romans; and, indeed, as in the case of the African, Syriac or Russian Fathers, often in idiom of their milieu.
This is the Trinity in transcendence. Moreover, the Persons ordinarily act through Their uncreated Energies, which include Grace and Light cf. I Cor. Among Western writers, little is said about them. To illustrate with the words of St Pope Gregory the Great, Longe ergo dissimiliter operatur dissimilia nunquam sibi dissimilis Deus, qui et ubique est, et ubique totus est Hom in Ezech.
II, v, 10 PL 76 B. Put another way, Christ Himself is the mysterion Col.
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This is the Incarnation of the Lord. Consider this Mystery What was the purpose? II, 24 PG 35 A. The Incarnation was necessary in order to restore the creature to fellowship with the Creator, a fellowship lost by our first parents when they hearkened to the counsel of the devil. Verbi Dei. I, 13 NPNF. XI, 2 PL 52 D. I, 19 FC. How is union with Christ and, therefore with God, possible?
Through her the initiated share in the Mystery, the Mystery of our Redemption; or to quote St Cyprian of Carthage — dominicae passionis et nostrae redemptions sacramentum Ep.
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