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Gregory of Nyssa: Life of Moses > Mar. 27: Par. 1-10

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message 1: by Nemo (last edited Mar 27, 2018 06:18PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1400 comments

I do this, not moved to it by some unconsidered impulse, but to humor the delights of a beloved child.

Since the letter which you recently sent requested us to furnish you with some counsel concerning the perfect life, I thought it only proper to answer your request. Although there may be nothing useful for you in my words, perhaps this example of ready obedience will not be wholly unprofitable to you. For if we who have been appointed to the position of fathers over so many souls consider it proper here in our old age to accept a commission from youth, how much more suitable is it, inasmuch as we have taught you, a young man, to obey voluntarily, that the right action of ready obedience be confirmed in you

If Gregory of Nyssa were alive today, he would probably receive thousands of email requests from people all over the world everyday. Would he accept them all in the spirit of love and humility as he did this youth?


message 2: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1400 comments

No Good has a limit in its own nature but is limited by the presence of its opposite, as life is limited by death and light by darkness.... Just as the end of life is the beginning of death, so also stopping in the race of virtue marks the beginning of the race of evil



message 3: by Rex (new)

Rex | 15 comments I'll try to join this one. I've been meaning to read it start to finish for some time.


message 4: by David (new)

David If Gregory of Nyssa were alive today, he would probably receive thousands of email requests from people all over the world everyday. Would he accept them all in the spirit of love and humility as he did this youth?

Haha, that's a fantastic question!

It seems he took seriously his duty to teach. So from what we know of his character, I imagine he would make himself available. At the same time, he would get thousands of emails probably. He lived in a culture with less literacy, so less people could write and ask such questions. Now he could get emails, tweets, etc. He might retreat to the desert...


message 5: by David (new)

David I love these quotes:

In the case of virtue, what we have learned form the Apostle that its one limit of perfection is the fact that it has no limit (5)

Since then, it has not been demonstrated that there is any limit to virtue except evil, and since the Divine does not admit of an opposite, we hold the divine nature to be unlimited and infinite. Certainly, whoever pursues true virtue participates in nothing other than God, because he himself is absolute virtue. Since, then, those who know what is good by nature desire participation in it, and since this good has no limit, the participant's desire itself necessarily has no stopping place but stretches out with the limitless" (7)

The one limit of virtue is the absence of a limit (8)

I grew up being taught that just getting to heaven was the point. You were either in or out. There was some talk of treasures in heaven, rewards or something. Yet it seemed very static - you're in heaven, with God. The end.

Gregory's teaching opens my eyes - if God is infinite, limitless, and we are becoming Christlike (who, as trinity, is God) then we will never get there. We will never become God though we participate in divinity through the Spirit. So heaven is an eternal progression that never ends towards God. That kind of blows my mind...

These quotes also point to another corrective I've learned not just from Gregory but others. I think a lot of Christians see God as sort of arbitrary - God just commands things. Gregory, like many argues God is good (absolute virtue). God could not command otherwise than what God is, and God is good, loving, etc. Perhaps this means that anyone who pursues good and virtue is pursuing God (though they may not realize it). All good is from God and a world without God, totally without God, is also without good and beauty and thus becomes hell.


message 6: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 317 comments David wrote: "Perhaps this means that anyone who pursues good and virtue is pursuing God (though they may not realize it). All good is from God and a world without God, totally without God, is also without good and beauty and thus becomes hell."

I agree. After all, the definition of Hell is the absence of God. If God is all good, then the absence of good is hell.


message 7: by Kerstin (last edited Mar 28, 2018 09:04AM) (new)

Kerstin | 317 comments For that divine Apostle, great and lofty in understanding, ever running the course of virtue, never ceased straining toward those
things that are still to come. Coming to a stop in the race was not safe for him. Why? Because no Good has a limit in its own nature but is limited by the presence of its opposite as life is limited by death and light by darkness. ... perfection is not marked off by limits: The one limit of virtue is the absence of a limit.


Gregory is touching upon a few things here:

1) Perfection is a continuous exercise, what in the spiritual life is called continuous conversion. We are all wounded by Original Sin, and even though he doesn't specifically mention it, it is certainly implied. If Adam had protected the Garden, the snake would never have never entered.
2) The definitions of sin or vice can be expressed by the absence of the good, the beautiful, the virtuous. There is nothing beautiful in a lie, or virtuous in greed, etc.
3) I love how he expresses that God is limitless perfection. The Good can never be hemmed in. How uplifting! It also brings to light how enslaving sin is for it is vice that sets limits not virtues.


message 8: by Rex (new)

Rex | 15 comments Just yesterday I came to my priest with concerns about the spiritual life, and one of the things he asked me was, "What would Gregory of Nyssa say?" I've read quite a few of St Gregory's other short works, but after reading the introduction of this, I'm hopeful I'll be able to answer that question more completely by Pentecost.

I find one of the loveliest ideas in Gregory's work this idea of epektasis: that in matters of virtue and bliss we may enjoy infinite progress into God. That alone has the potential to completely revolutionize how we conceive of our sanctification before and after death.

"For the perfection of human nature consists perhaps in its very growth in goodness."


message 9: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments David wrote: "These quotes also point to another corrective I've learned not just from Gregory but others. I think a lot of Christians see God as sort of arbitrary - God just commands things. Gregory, like many argues God is good (absolute virtue)."

Yes, that is something that changes my perspective as well. If God is completely good, that means also that trying to figure out what is really true and helpful will bring you closer to God. Being more open to reality has become more important to me, when I realized this. (Before this I also had this idea that obedience to seemingly arbitrary commands was more important).

Only, I find that talking about God as the 'ultimate good' seems rather impersonal to me. How can the 'absolute good' be a person? It seems so much more an abstract definition to me.


message 10: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments Rex wrote: "I find one of the loveliest ideas in Gregory's work this idea of epektasis: that in matters of virtue and bliss we may enjoy infinite progress into God. That alone has the potential to completely revolutionize how we conceive of our sanctification before and after death.

"For the perfection of human nature consists perhaps in its very growth in goodness.""


This is indeed a wonderful idea. I was just reminded of Romans 13:8 "Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law."
Someone once explained to me, that we will always owe each other more love, since love is something that can always be given more (or something like that).


message 11: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments Nemo wrote: "
I do this, not moved to it by some unconsidered impulse, but to humor the delights of a beloved child.
"


I just love this sentence! I can almost see him smiling about 'the delights of a beloved child'.

But surely, I think he enjoyed the question, as it apparently helped him to formulate some ideas that had been going on in his mind.
I think this kind of human interaction is very valuable.


message 12: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1400 comments Ruth wrote: "Nemo wrote: "
I do this, not moved to it by some unconsidered impulse, but to humor the delights of a beloved child.
"
I just love this sentence! I can almost see him smiling about 'the delights..."


Yes, I do too. :) It also reminds me of similar passages in Augustine's letters. One can almost feel the warmth behind those words.


message 13: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1400 comments Rex wrote: "Just yesterday I came to my priest with concerns about the spiritual life, and one of the things he asked me was, "What would Gregory of Nyssa say?" I've read quite a few of St Gregory's other shor..."

Just out of curiosity, why did he name Gregory of Nyssa of all people?


message 14: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 415 comments Nemo wrote: "Yes, I do too. :) It also reminds me of similar passages in Augustine's letters. One can almost feel the warmth behind those words. "

Yes, I also thought of Augustine. I once read the wonderful little book 'the teacher' which contains a conversation between Augustine and his son on the topic of how we learn things. Their interaction is really wonderful. Augustine also said that he learned a lot from his son, who was 16 at the time (and died shortly after, unfortunately)


message 15: by David (last edited Mar 29, 2018 05:04AM) (new)

David How can the 'absolute good' be a person?

His name is Jesus.

I'm not sure what Gregory would say, though he did hammer out the Church's understanding of the Trinity. I'd say that in my life, and I think in much of church history, the Trinity has been reduced to two things:

*Something to believe, i.e. assent to (We Christians affirm the Trinity whereas Muslims don't)
*Something to get us saved and go to heaven (Because we believe the Trinity, and thus that Jesus died for us, we are saved)

What if understanding God as Trinity changes everything. I've been reckoning with the thought that if Jesus is the human face of God, then we do not define God and try to smoosh Jesus into that definition, instead we allow Jesus to define our view of God (I think I'm loosely following Barth here, though I think this flows from the Trinity). If Jesus is God, our God has a name and a face. The Spirit does not enliven us to move into becoming some abstract good, the Spirit enlivens us to become Christlike.


message 16: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 317 comments "How can the 'absolute good' be a person?

Immediately I had to think of the hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty" ..."God in three persons, blessed Trinity"
http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh064...

Here is the definition/development of the word "person" from wikipedia:
In ancient Rome, the word persona (Latin) or prosopon (πρόσωπον; Greek) originally referred to the masks worn by actors on stage. The various masks represented the various "personae" in the stage play.

The concept of person was further developed during the Trinitarian and Christological debates of the 4th and 5th centuries in contrast to the word nature.[6] During the theological debates, some philosophical tools (concepts) were needed so that the debates could be held on common basis to all theological schools. The purpose of the debate was to establish the relation, similarities and differences between the Λóγος/Verbum and God. The philosophical concept of person arose, taking the word "prosopon" (πρόσωπον) from the Greek theatre. Therefore, Christus (the Λóγος/Verbum) and God were defined as different "persons". This concept was applied later to the Holy Ghost, the angels and to all human beings.

Since then, a number of important changes to the word's meaning and use have taken place, and attempts have been made to redefine the word with varying degrees of adoption and influence.



message 17: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 1400 comments Kerstin wrote: ""How can the 'absolute good' be a person?

Immediately I had to think of the hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty" ..."God in three persons, blessed Trinity"
..."


It sounds like the Trinity is a timely choice for our next group read.


message 18: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 317 comments Nemo wrote: "It sounds like the Trinity is a timely choice for our next group read. "

Not a bad idea :)
There would be some illustrious candidates: St. Augustine, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Hilary of Poitiers, Novatian (though he would be before 325 and the Council of Nicea) ...and I am sure there are others.


message 19: by Rex (new)

Rex | 15 comments Nemo wrote: "Just out of curiosity, why did he name Gregory of Nyssa of all people?"

My priest was aware that St Gregory was one of the first Patristic authors to draw me into the classical Christian tradition.


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