gregory of nyssa

The heavens accommodate contrary motions, and these motions give rise to unmoving, static laws (Inscriptions of the Psalms I 3 [440 – 441]); heavy bodies are borne downward and light bodies upward, and simple causes bring about complex effects (Soul and Resurrection [25 – 28]). Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Latin Gregorius Nyssenus, (born c. 335, Caesarea, in Cappadocia, Asia Minor [now Kayseri, Turkey]—died c. 394; feast day March 9), philosophical theologian and mystic, leader of the orthodox party in the 4th-century Christian controversies over the doctrine of the Trinity. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. A notable emphasis of Gregory’s teaching is the principle that the spiritual life is not one of static perfection but of constant progress. Of no other organism can that be said. Centuries after his death, the Seventh Ecumenical Council (787) rendered Nyssen as the “father of fathers,” named alongside Basil of Caesarea and John Chrysostom. Gregory of Nyssa was born about 335 C.E. Consequently there is no problem of how an immaterial God could have created a material world, for the world isn’t material at all (Against Eunomius II [949]; Work of the Six Days [69]; Making of Man 24 [212 – 213]; Soul and Resurrection [124]). As a youth, he was at best a lukewarm Christian. If … Up to this point intellectual development is characterized by the rigorous application of the rational criterion of consistency. First, because the human nous is created in the image of God, it possesses a certain “dignity of royalty” (to tes basileias axioma) that is lacking in the rest of creation. In fact, in his famous discussion of the postulate of immortality Kant argues that the process of moral perfection is limitless and that if “ought” implies “can” it must be possible for humans to engage in an unending pursuit of perfection (Critique of Practical Reason Dialectic IV; cf. 34 [85]). . Gregory of Nazianzus was a brilliant orator, best known for his five “theological orations,” which succinctly summarized the Cappadocian consensus. Letter to Xenodorus). Cambridge: Philadelphia Patristic Foundation, 1984. Similarly, the relevant auditory metaphor is silence, not speech (Ecclesiastes VII [732]). Groundwork II – III); and that similarity will only become more obvious when the ways in which Gregory applies these ideas are explored within the context of his philosophy of history. Along with Basil and fellow-Cappadocian and friend Gregory of Nazianzus (c.… This idea forms the core of Gregory’s epistemology and ethics, which will be summarized below. Nevertheless, if that were the whole story–if we were left with God’s utter incomprehensibility and nothing more–then Gregory’s theology would be a very much stunted exposition of Christianity. This procedure is obviously predicated on the imperative of integrating Scripture into the entire matrix of worldly knowledge. And in fact that is precisely what Gregory argues concerning the human nous (a word that is traditionally translated “mind” but which by the fourth century CE had submerged its intellectual connotations into the religious idea of its separateness from the physical world). Indeed, Gregory deploys, once again, his characteristic insistence on the unexpected unity of opposites, this time in the Church’s sacraments–life through death, justification through sin, blessing through curse, glory through disgrace, strength through weakness, and so forth–to argue for Christ’s continued, miraculous presence in his Church (Song of Songs VIII [948 – 949], XIII [1045 – 1052]). Besides, the ultimate good, which is God, is infinitely attractive. Duties of right tend to deal with externals and, as “thou shalt nots,” can be completely fulfilled. we know not what” (Essay II xxiii 3). 2 Pages. It was followed by many more works, the most significant being On the Work of the Six Days, Gregory’s account of the creation of the world; On the Making of Man, his account of the creation of humankind; The Great Catechism, the most systematic statement of Gregory’s philosophy of history; On the Soul and the Resurrection, a dialogue with Macrina detailing Gregory’s eschatology; Biblical commentaries on the life of Moses, the inscriptions of the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, the Beatitudes, and the Lord’s Prayer; theological works on Trinitarian and Christological doctrine; and shorter ascetic and moral treatises. The treatise is simply talking about the salvation of Christians— not universalism. In 375, however, Gregory was accused of maladministration by the provincial governor as part of the Arianizing campaign of the Roman emperor Valens (an attempt to force the church to accept the views of the heretic Arius, who denied the divinity of Christ). 12). Moses, as Gregory interprets him, is one of those who crave ever more intimate communion with God. And the differences between duties of right and of virtue are similar to the distinctions Gregory draws between moderation and infinite perfection and between the Old and the New Law. )—especially as “updated” and systematized by Plotinus (204 – 270 CE)–Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE), and the Stoics. His last public appearance was at a council at Constantinople. Arianism arose out of the need to make sense of the apparently conflicting Biblical depictions of Christ. At one time he portrays philosophy, like Moses’ stepmother, as barren (Life of Moses II 10 – 12 [329]), and, like the Egyptian whom Moses killed, as something to be striven against (Life of Moses 13 – 18 [329 – 332]). But philosophy in his day was almost wholly associated with paganism. As noted above, the Father is always transcendent; and at the other extreme, the Holy Spirit is God’s glory (Song of Songs VI [1117]): it “manifests [the Son’s] energy” (Great Catechism 2 [17]) in the world. At this stage there is no longer any reliance on the physical senses; indeed, as has been seen, at this level sight and hearing shut down. Now God is of supreme worth. Gregory of Nyssa was a Christian bishop and saint. Gregory of Nyssa was born about 335 C.E. Yet beginning with the Church councils, the Trinity gradually came to be understood differently, as three distinctions to be made within God’s inner nature itself. St. Gregory of Nyssa. . For God, being dependent on nothing, governs the universe through the free exercise of will; and the nous is created in God’s image (Making of Man 4 [136]). Platonic and Christian inspiration combine in Gregory’s ascetic and mystical writings, which have been influential in the devotional traditions of the Eastern Orthodox Church and (indirectly) of the Western church. The created nature of Christ could be derived by an analysis of the very concept of God, Eunomius argued; for it is God’s essential nature to be unbegotten, whereas Christ is confessed to be “begotten of the Father.” If this sort of argument were allowed to stand, what was to become the orthodox faith–the faith enunciated at Nicaea in 325 CE that Christ was literally “of the same substance” with the Father–would be radically transformed. And just as Gregory bases his indirect argument for the existence of God’s energies on the unexpected order of natural phenomena, so here he argues that because the components of a living body are observed to behave in a manner “contrary to [their] nature”–air being harnessed to produce sound, water impelled to move upward, and so forth–we may infer the existence of a nous imposing its will upon recalcitrant matter through its energies (Soul and Resurrection [33 – 40]). The principal defender of Arianism at the time, Eunomius of Cyzicus (c. 325 – c. 394), argued that the Arian doctrine could even be derived from the very concept of God, as will be seen below. St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church 500 De Haro Street San Francisco, CA 94107. It is the second Person of the Trinity who is the most interesting because it provides Gregory with the conceptual apparatus to explain God’s operation in history, for the point at which the second Person enters the world becomes the point in time in which God is more intimately present to the world than before. Updates? It is but a short step to the conclusion that a physical object is nothing more than the convergence of its qualities. Gregory takes numerous ideas from the Judaeo-Christian, particularly Philonian-Origenist, tradition and from the pagan Middle Platonist and Neoplatonist schools, digests them into a very original synthesis and in expounding that synthesis develops ideas that anticipate later Byzantine thinkers such as the Pseudo-Dionysius and Gregory Palamas. Date of birth unknown; died after 385 or 386. In Gregory’s words, For although this last form of God’s presence amongst us is not the same as that former presence, still his existence amongst us equally both then and now is evidenced: now he rules in us in order to hold together that nature in being; then he was transfused in our nature, in order that our nature might by this transfusion of the divine become itself divine–being rescued from death and put beyond the reach of the tyranny of the Adversary. In other words, for Gregory as for his intellectual ancestor Origen, everyone–even Satan himself (Great Catechism 26 [68 – 69])–will eventually be saved. [1581] Since, my friend, you ask me a question in your letter, I think that it is incumbent upon me to answer you in their proper order upon all the points connected with it. . The process of becoming ever closer to God does not cease at physical death (which is, after all, just one among many passing events punctuating human existence), but continues forever. Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Latin Gregorius Nyssenus, (born c. 335, Caesarea, in Cappadocia, Asia Minor [now Kayseri, Turkey]—died c. 394; feast day March 9), philosophical theologian and mystic, leader of the orthodox party in the 4th-century Christian controversies over the doctrine of the Trinity. First, Gregory insists that God exists in God’s energeiai just as much as in God’s nature (Against Eunomius I 17 [313], cf. Gregory was present at the final defeat of Arianism in the Council of Constantinople of 381. After all, in the Beatitudes Christ promises, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matt. Answer: Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335–c. A central idea in Gregory’s writing is the distinction between the transcendent nature and immanent energies of God, and much of his thought is a working out of the implications of that idea in other areas–notably, the world, humanity, history, knowledge, and virtue. His significance has long been recognized in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Roman Catholic branches of Christianity. was to do in the West. The first theophany is the burning bush (Life of Moses II 1 – 116 [297 – 360]). Elsewhere, Gregory explicitly uses the term “energies” to cover those qualities that are immanent in the physical world. Gregory’s position bears a curious resemblance to that of John Locke; for according to Locke we know only the nominal essences of things, not their real essences. James Herbert Srawley [1868-1954], "St Gregory of Nyssa on the Sinlessness of Christ," Journal of Theological Studies 7 No 27 (April 1906): 434-441. Otherwise they are only slaves to their body or to “the world,” over which, originally and by God’s command, he was…, … of Caesarea, his younger brother Gregory of Nyssa, and his lifelong friend Gregory of Nazianzus. So the fact that we find order in nature that we don’t expect may simply be a function of the limitation of our knowledge rather than of the intervention of God in the world. Gregory answers these questions by distinguishing between God’s nature (phusis) and God’s “energies” (energeiai)–the projection of the divine nature into the world, initially creating it and ultimately guiding it to its appointed destination (Beatitudes VI [1269]). Precisely how, in Christ, the divine thus entered into human nature we can never know–any more than we can understand the presence of our own souls to our bodies (Great Catechism 11 [44]).But after the resurrection of Christ, the second Person of the Trinity is no longer just “transfused in our nature,” but now “rules in us.” In other words, the second Person is now immanent in the world in the institution of the Church; for “he who sees the Church sees Christ” (Song of Songs XIII [1048]). The turning point in Gregory’s life came about 379, when both his brother Basil and his sister Macrina died. This critical edition of Gregory’s works is rapidly replacing the much older Migne edition. There are two further characteristics of the human nous according to Gregory. This treatise is popularly cited as the evidence that Gregory of Nyssa was a universalist and proponent of apokatastasis. In all these situations opposites not only fail to annihilate each other, but they even contribute to an overall harmony. Later, he recites with approval the common Christian interpretation of the Israelites’ spoiling of the Egyptians as a lesson to Christians on the importance of appropriating pagan wisdom in explaining Christian doctrine (Life of Moses II 115 [360]). Gregory’s concept of God is born out of the Arian controversy. As Gregory puts it in a colorful metaphor, the process of purgation is like drawing a rope encrusted with dried mud through a small aperture: it’s hard on the rope, but it does come out clean on the other side (Soul and Resurrection [100]). The Biographical Works of Gregory of Nyssa, Proceedings of the Fifth International Colloquium on Gregory of Nyssa, Mainz, 6-10 September, 1982. The Old Law deals with externals–works. Besides controversial replies to heretics, particularly the Arians—in which he formulated the doctrine of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) that emerged as a clear and cogent answer to Arian questioning—he completed Basil’s Hexaëmeron (“Six Days”), sermons on the days of the Creation, with The Creation of Man, and he produced a classic outline of orthodox theology in his Great Catechesis (or Address on Religious Instruction). Gregory of Nyssa was born in Caesarea, the capital of Cappadocia (central Turkey) in about 334, the younger brother of Basil the Great and of Macrina (19 July), and of several other distinguished persons. As will be seen below, for Gregory everything that exists has an inner nature that cannot be known immediately and is knowable only through its energies. One is reminded of Kant’s theory of the transcendental unity of apperception (Critique of Pure Reason, Transcendental Deduction). In the first place it is an analogical one: just as a work of art leads us to infer the existence of an artist, so the artistry displayed in the order of nature suggests the existence of a Creator. But God’s existence is derived from our knowledge of God’s energies, and those energies are in turn known both indirectly and directly. “De Professione Christiana and De Perfectione: A Study of the Ascetical Doctrine of Saint Gregory of Nyssa.”, Ladner, Gerhart D. “The Philosophical Anthropology of Saint Gregory of Nyssa.”, Otis, Brooks. But such an interpretation will not do for two reasons. 3). Consequently human beings have an inherent “dignity of royalty” just by virtue of being human (Making of Man 2 – 4 [132 – 136]). For it means that there is an aspect of the human person that is not of this world. 2 a. Both slavery and poverty sully the dignity of human beings by degrading them to a station below the purple to which they were rightfully born; and although we may congratulate ourselves on having outlawed slavery, it is important to remember that for Gregory poverty is no different. This intellectual dynamic is paralleled by a moral one, which will be sketched in what follows. Hell is really purgatory; punishment is temporary and remedial. He came from a large Christian family of ten children–five boys and five girls. Ring in the new year with a Britannica Membership,, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy - Biography of Gregory of Nyssa, The Catholic Encyclopedia - Biography of Saint Gregory of Nyssa. Rather than a simple monotheism, Christianity held that God, though unitary, could be understood as also existing as a Trinity of three Persons–a Father, the font of the Godhead; a Son, the Word (John 1:1-5) and Wisdom (Prov. Gregory indeed addresses this problem and argues, strangely, that each particle of the body is stamped with one’s personal identity, and so it will be possible for the nous to eventually recognize and reassemble them all (Making of Man 26 – 27 [224 – 229], Soul and Resurrection [73 – 80]). general audience august 29, 2007. Email: January 10. In the 360s he turned to religious studies and Christian devotion, perhaps even to the monastic life, under Basil’s inspiration and guidance. For most of this period, the brunt of the battle for orthodoxy had been led by Basil; but when he died, and shortly thereafter Gregory’s beloved sister, Gregory felt that the responsibility for defending orthodoxy against the Arian heresy had fallen on his shoulders. Yet it would be a mistake to say, as Cherniss famously does, that “Gregory . When we are speaking of God’s inner nature, all that we can say is what that nature is not (Against Eunomius II [953 – 960, 1101 – 1108], IV 11 [524]). The original creation, in which God makes the human race “in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26) is of the transcendent human nature. The direct method whereby God’s energies are known is by examining our own moral purification. (Against Eunomius II [949]). . 394), or Gregory Nyssen as he is also known, was born in Neocaesarea, Pontus, now known as the Black Sea region of Turkey. Aristotle himself had addressed this problem by postulating the existence of a common sense (On the Soul III 1 – 2). Thus the Israelites were first led through the desert by a cloudy pillar; and finally they arrived at the mountain of divine knowledge, which was wrapped in darkness. In this, he broke with his predecessor Origen, who described the spiritual journey as a progression of increasing illumination, as with the mystic study Scripture which yields ever increasing knowledge of God. Our knowledge may simply be too limited. Now there are several things to notice about this argument. Gregory goes so far as to assert that apart from its energies a nature not only cannot be known, but does not even exist. In 372, his brother Basil ordained him the bishopof Nyssa in Cappa… Thus the resurrection and deification of Christ’s human nature are the prototypes of those to follow. Now Gregory observes that although we ordinarily speak of these immanent qualities as inhering in substances, all we really perceive are the qualities of things, not their substances. Moreover, because, as Gregory of Nazianzus put it, “what was not assumed was not healed” (Letters 101.5), Christ had to touch all aspects of human existence from birth to death (Great Catechism 27 [69 – 72], 32 [77 – 80]). Now Gregory lived at a crossroads in the theological understanding of this doctrine. As Gregory puts it, “Deity is in everything, penetrating it, embracing it, and seated in it” (Great Catechism 25 [65]). In a traditional vein, Gregory takes light to be a symbol of knowledge. In the above citations I have placed page references to the Migne edition (which is still the only complete edition of Gregory’s works) in brackets. But God’s energies are always a force for good. MUNI bus lines 10, 19, 22 and 55 stop within one block. Using the metaphor of a city in which family members come in by various gates but all meet somewhere inside, Gregory’s answer is that this can occur only if we presuppose a transcendent self to which all of one’s experiences are referred (Making of Man 10 [152 – 153]). For his return from death becomes to our mortal race the commencement of our return to immortal life. This is perhaps the most far-reaching theme of Christian ethics. Not only is the earlier model of the Trinity more consistent with Gregory’s view of God as a transcendent nature whose energies are projected into the world; it also adds to it a dynamic and historical dimension that the bare nature-energies distinction fails to capture on its own. Gregory, in what is considered “the most scathing critique of slaveholding in all of antiquity,” attacked the institution as incompatible with humanity’s creation in the image of God [the previous post explains why I see image here synonymous with universal family]. In noting this, Gregory is relying on an argument that had been around since the early Stoics–the argument from design (cf. merely applied Christian names to Plato’s doctrine and called it Christian theology” (The Platonism of Gregory of Nyssa: 62). He appointed his younger brother to the see by which he is now known, and rightly predicted that Gregory would confer more distinction on the obscure town of Nyssa than he would receive from it. The central feature of Gregory’s very sensitive analysis is the sequence of three theophanies that punctuate Moses’ life (Song of Songs XII [1025 – 1028]). Not only that, but several of Gregory’s most important theories bear some resemblance to modern thinkers such as John Locke and Immanuel Kant (though through what channels of transmission, if any, is unclear–perhaps John Scotus Eriugena (c. 810 – c. 877), who quotes him extensively, and the Cambridge Platonists of the seventeenth century). All we really know of substances are their attributes, which constitute their nominal essences (Essay II xxxi 6 – 10, III iii 15 – 19). He is venerated as a saint in Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, Lutheranism, and Anglicanism. In this vein it is significant that, when discussing the spiritual senses, Gregory most often appeals, not to the “higher” senses of sight and hearing, but to the more intimate senses of smell, taste, and touch as metaphors by which to describe them (cf. Because God is an infinite being, the desire to know God is an infinite process; but in Gregory’s eyes this really makes it much more satisfying than some static Beatific Vision. Gregory was raised in a very pious (and large) Christian family of ten children; his grandmother Macrina the Elder, his mother Emily, his father Basil the Elder, his sisters Macrina the Younger and Theosebia, and his brothers Basil the Great and Peter of Sebaste have all been recognized as saints. As Gregory of Nyssa teaches, all that we give is in gratitude for God’s gifts to us. Thus, Gregory endorses Origen’s (First Principles I 6.3, II 10.4 – 10.8, III 6.5 – 6.6) much-maligned theories of remedial punishment and universal salvation (Great Catechism 8 [36 – 37], 26 [69], 35 [92]; Making of Man 21 – 22 [201 – 205]; Soul and Resurrection [97 – 105, 152, 157 – 160]). Thus when it comes to a more profound understanding of God, the relevant visual metaphor is darkness, not light. However, what Gregory has in mind seems to be something more specific. All services live-streamed on Facebook Indeed, one might question whether the second makes any sense at all in light of the typical Byzantine insistence on the incomprehensibility of God’s inner nature: if God’s nature is incomprehensible, how can we say it is both three and one–unless by doing so we wish to emphasize God’s very incomprehensibility? of Nyssa," in Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century, (ed.) He received a good education and taught rhetoric at one point. Omissions? The burning issue at the time was the Arian heresy, which by then had entered its last and most logically rigorous phase. . But Gregory’s true position seems to lie between these two extremes: philosophy is useful if properly “circumcised,” that is, culled of any “foreskin” alien to the spirit of Christianity (Life of Moses II 39 – 40 [337]). In 381 he took part in the General (second ecumenical) Council at Constantinople and was recognized by the emperor Theodosius as one of the leaders of the orthodox communion in Cappadocia, along with Basil’s successor at Caesarea. Anthony Meredith presents a diverse range of Gregory's writings: his contribution to the debates of the period about the nature of God in argument with a form of extreme Arianism his discussion of the nature and If it can be shown that God exists, it follows necessarily in Gregory’s mind that God has a nature. 8:22-31) of God, incarnated as Jesus Christ; and a Holy Spirit, who is sent into the world by the Father. For that there are laws of nature is nothing surprising: to have anything at all, from cosmos to quark, is to have order. Against the latter, he appeals, once again, to the “dignity of royalty” theme–that poverty is inconsistent with the rulership bestowed on humankind at its creation (On Compassion for the Poor [477]). Like Philo (Creation of the World 3.13), Gregory does not take literally the temporal sequence depicted therein; rather, he envisions creation as having taken place all at once (Work of the Six Days [69 – 72, 76]). This leads him to expand the nature-energies distinction into a general cosmological principle, to apply it particularly to human nature, which he conceives as having been created in God’s image, and to rear a theory of unending intellectual and moral perfectibility on the premise that the purpose of human life is literally to become like the infinite nature of God. Again, Gregory distinguishes between the Old Law and the New Law, which is built on the Old but goes beyond it (Beatitudes VI [1273 – 1276]). in Cappadocia (in present-day Turkey). Prior to the era of the ecumenical councils, the first of which was Nicaea, discussed above, the Trinity tended to be viewed as three stages in the outflow of God into the world, with the Father as its source and the Holy Spirit as its termination. Duties of virtue, on the other hand, tend to deal with the will and, as “thou shalts,” can never be completely fulfilled. Gregory of Nyssa Indeed, the only figure in Greco-Roman antiquity who is usually thought of as condemning slavery as such and even endorsing … Dustin Bruce, The First Abolitionist: Gregory of Nyssa on Slavery But that more than anything else is what makes us like God. On Pilgrimages. Yet the nous is also extended throughout the body by its energies, which constitute our ordinary psychological experiences (Making of Man 15 [176 – 177]; Soul and Resurrection [41 – 44]). Saints venerated in Cappadocia, a region in central Asia Minor intellectual development characterized... 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