St.-Gregory-NazianzenWhen I go up eagerly into the Mount (Exodus 24:1)…to enter within the Cloud, and hold converse with God, for so God commands.

If any be an Aaron, let him go up with me, and let him stand near, being ready, if it must be so, to remain outside the Cloud.

[…] But if any be of the multitude, who are unworthy of this height of contemplation, if he be altogether impure let him not approach at all (Exodus 29:14), for it would be dangerous to him.

But if he be at least temporarily purified, let him remain below and listen to the Voice alone, and the trumpet (Exodus 9:16-18) – the bare words of piety – and let him see the Mountain smoking and lightening, a terror at once and a marvel to those who cannot get up.

[…] I was running to lay hold on God, and thus I went up into the Mount, and drew aside the curtain of the Cloud, and entered away from matter and material things, and as far as I could I withdrew within myself.

And then when I looked up, I scarce saw the back parts of God (Exodus 33:23), although I was sheltered by the Rock, the Word that was made flesh for us.

And when I looked a little closer, I saw, not the First and unmingled Nature, known to Itself – to the Trinity, I mean; not That which abideth within the first veil (cf. Exodus 26:31), and is hidden by the Cherubim; but only that Nature, which at last even reaches to us.

And that is, as far as I can learn, the Majesty, or as holy David calls it, the Glory (Psalm 8:1) which is manifested among the creatures, which It has produced and governs.

For these are the “back parts of God”, which He leaves behind Him, as tokens of Himself   like the shadows and reflection of the sun in the water, which shew the sun to our weak eyes, because we cannot look at the sun himself, for by his unmixed light he is too strong for our power of perception.

In this way then shalt thou discourse of God; even wert thou a Moses and a god to Pharaoh (Exodus 4:2); even wert thou caught up like Paul to the Third Heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2),  and hadst heard unspeakable words; even wert thou raised above them both, and exalted to Angelic or Archangelic place and dignity.

For though a thing be all heavenly, or above heaven, and far higher in nature and nearer to God than we, yet it is farther distant from God, and from the complete comprehension of His Nature, than it is lifted above our complex and lowly and earthward sinking composition.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 28, 2-3.

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