Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Son . . . saved me . . . like a good physician he stooped to my festering wounds (St Gregory of Nazianzen)

St Gregory and St Basil, from Michael Goltz Iconography (HERE)

Today we give God thanks for St Basil the Great (330-379) and St Gregory Nazianzen (330-389), early Christian leaders from Cappadocia, an area of what we now call Turkey. They became friends at school, and although they had a longing for the monastic life of prayer, both became bishops who, in a period of doctrinal struggle and confusion, at great personal cost, defended the truth about Jesus being fully divine and fully human. Gregory presided over the Council of Constantinople, the second ecumenical council to which we owe the completion of the Creed we say every Sunday at Mass, as well as the affirmation of the divinity of the Holy Spirit. These “Cappadocian Fathers” are honoured by the Church in both East and West

Here is St Gregory waxing lyrical on John 3:13-17:

To speak of the Godhead is, I know, like crossing the ocean on a raft, or like flying to the stars with wings of narrow span. Even heavenly beings are unable to speak of God’s decrees or of his government of the world. But enlighten my mind and loosen my tongue, Spirit of God, and I will sound aloud the trumpet of truth, so that all who are united to God may rejoice with their whole heart.

There is one eternal God, uncaused and uncircumscribed by any being existing before him or yet to be. He is infinite, and all time is in his hands. He is the mighty Father of one mighty and noble Son. In no way does the birth of this Son resemble human birth, for God is spirit. The Word of God is another divine Person, but not another Godhead. He is the living seal of the Father, the only son of the only God. He is equal to the Father, so that although the Father always remains wholly the Father, the Son is the creator and ruler of the world and is the Father’s power and wisdom.

Let us praise the Son first of all, venerating the blood that expiated our sins. He lost nothing of his divinity when he saved me, when like a good physician he stooped to my festering wounds. He was a mortal man, but he was also God. He was of the race of David, but Adam’s creator. He who has no body clothed himself with flesh. He had a mother, but she was a virgin. He who is without bounds bound himself with the cords of our humanity. He, was victim and high priest-yet he was God. He offered up his blood and cleansed the whole world. He was lifted up on the cross, but it was sin that was nailed to it. He became as one among the dead, but he rose from the dead, raising to life also many who had died before him. On the one hand, there was the poverty of his humanity; on the other, the riches of his divinity. Do not let what is human in the Son permit you wrongfully to detract from what is divine. For the sake of the divine, hold in the greatest honor the humanity which the immortal Son took upon himself for love of you.

My soul, why do you hold back? Sing praise to the Holy Spirit as well, lest your words tear asunder what is not separated by nature. Let us tremble before the great Spirit who also is God, through whom we have come to know God, who transforms us into God. He is the omnipotent bestower of diverse gifts and the giver of life both in heaven and on earth. He is the divine strength, proceeding from the Father and subject to no power. He is not the Son, for there is only one Son, but he shares equally in the glory of the Godhead.

In the one God are three pulsations that move the world. Through them I became a new and different person when I came out of the font, where my death was buried, into the light-a man restored to life from the dead. If God cleansed me so completely, then I must worship him with my whole being.


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