Gregory_of_NyssaThat the manifold wisdom of God may be made known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places through the Church, according to the eternal purpose, which he made, in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him (Ephesians 3:10-12).

It is indeed through the Church that the heavenly powers discover the manifold wisdom of God that accomplished great wonders by contrary means: how life resulted from death, righteousness from sin, a blessing from a curse, glory from disgrace, power from weakness.

In earlier times the heavenly powers were aware only of the simple, unqualified wisdom of God working wonders in a manner appropriate to its nature.

There was nothing complex in what they saw when in its mighty power the Godhead created the universe by a simple act of will, bringing the natural world into being and endowing all things with the great beauty that springs from the source of all beauty.

Now, however, through the Church, they have been clearly shown this manifold kind of wisdom which consists in the combination of opposites.

They have learned how the Word became flesh; how life mingled with death; how Christ healed our wounds by his own bruises; and how by the weakness of the Cross he overcame the power of the adversary.

They have learned how the Invisible was revealed in flesh; how he re­deemed captives, being himself both the Redeemer and the price, since he gave himself up to death to pay our ransom; how he also entered the realm of death without abandoning life, and became a servant without ceasing to be a king.

All these and similar things contained in the manifold and not simple works of Wisdom the friends of the Bridegroom learned through the Church, and were fascinated to perceive in the mystery yet another mark of the divine Wisdom.

Indeed, if it is not too bold a thing to say, perhaps in gazing at the beauty of the Bridegroom reflected in the bride, they beheld with wonder that which is invisible and incomprehensible to all created beings.

For God, whom no one has ever seen, as John says, or can see, as Paul testifies, has made the Church his body, and by the addition of those who are saved he builds it up in love until we all attain full maturity, measured by nothing less than the full stature of Christ.

If then the Church is the body of Christ, and Christ is the body’s head who impresses his own features on its face, this may explain why the friends of the Bridegroom were fascinated to see the Church, since through her they beheld more clearly the invisible Bridegroom.

Just as one cannot look straight at the sun but can see its brilliance reflected on water, so they too see the Sun of Righteousness in the clear mirror of the Church, in which they contemplate him through his reflection.

Gregory of Nyssa (c 335 – after 394): On the Song of Songs, 8 (Jaeger, 6:254-7); from the Monastic Office of Vigils for Thursday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time, Year 1.

Advertisements