Pope_Benedictus_XVIJanuary 10th is the feast of St Gregory of Nyssa (OrthooxWiki here; Pope Benedixt XVI here and here; Georges Florovsky here).

Gregory of Nyssa had a very lofty concept of human dignity.

Man’s goal, the holy Bishop said, is to liken himself to God, and he reaches this goal first of all through the love, knowledge and practice of the virtues, “bright beams that shine from the divine nature”, in a perpetual movement of adherence to the good like a corridor outstretched before oneself.

In this regard, Gregory uses an effective image already present in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: épekteinómenos (3: 13), that is, “I press on” towards what is greater, towards truth and love.

This vivid expression portrays a profound reality: the perfection we desire to attain is not acquired once and for all; perfection means journeying on, it is continuous readiness to move ahead because we never attain a perfect likeness to God; we are always on our way.

The history of every soul is that of a love which fills every time and at the same time is open to new horizons, for God continually stretches the soul’s possibilities to make it capable of ever greater goods.

God himself, who has sown the seeds of good in us and from whom every initiative of holiness stems, “models the block…, and polishing and cleansing our spirit, forms Christ within us”.

Gregory was anxious to explain: “In fact, this likeness to the Divine is not our work at all; it is not the achievement of any faculty of man; it is the great gift of God bestowed upon our nature at the very moment of our birth”. For the soul, therefore, “it is not a question of knowing something about God but of having God within”.

Moreover, as Gregory perceptively observes, “Divinity is purity, it is liberation from the passions and the removal of every evil: if all these things are in you, God is truly in you”.

When we have God in us, when man loves God, through that reciprocity which belongs to the law of love he wants what God himself wants; hence, he cooperates with God in fashioning the divine image in himself, so that “our spiritual birth is the result of a free choice, and we are in a certain way our own parents, creating ourselves as we ourselves wish to be, and through our will forming ourselves in accordance with the model that we choose”.

To ascend to God, man must be purified. […] In this journey of spiritual ascesis Christ is the Model and Teacher, he shows us the beautiful image of God. Each of us, looking at him, finds ourselves “the painter of our own life”, who has the will to compose the work and the virtues as his colours.

Benedict XVI (b. 1927): St Gregory of Nyssa (General Audience, 5th September 2007.