Gregory Nazianzen: The gates of hell are opened, and death is destroyed, and the old Adam is put aside, and the New is fulfilled Sunday, Apr 12 2015 


I will stand upon my watch (Hab. 2:1), saith the venerable Habakkuk; and I will take my post beside him today on the authority and observation which was given me of the Spirit; and I will look forth, and will observe what shall be said to me.

Well, I have taken my stand, and looked forth; and behold a man riding on the clouds and he is very high, and his countenance is as the countenance of Angel (Judg. 13:6), and his vesture as the brightness of piercing lightning; and he lifts his hand toward the East, and cries with a loud voice.

His voice is like the voice of a trumpet; and round about Him is as it were a multitude of the Heavenly Host; and he saith:

Today is salvation come unto the world, to that which is visible, and to that which is invisible.  Christ is risen from the dead, rise ye with Him.  Christ is returned again to Himself, return ye.  Christ is freed from the tomb, be ye freed from the bond of sin.

The gates of hell are opened, and death is destroyed, and the old Adam is put aside, and the New is fulfilled; if any man be in Christ he is a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17); be ye renewed.

Thus he speaks; and the rest sing out, as they did before when Christ was manifested to us by His birth on earth, their glory to God in the highest, on earth, peace, goodwill among men. And with them I also utter the same words among you.

And would that I might receive a voice that should rank with the Angel’s, and should sound through all the ends of the earth. The Lord’s Passover, the Passover, and again I say the Passover to the honour of the Trinity. This is to us a Feast of feasts and a Solemnity of solemnities as far exalted above all others.

[…] Today’s is more beautiful and more illustrious than yesterday’s; inasmuch as yesterday’s light was a forerunner of the rising of the Great Light, and as it were a kind of rejoicing in preparation for the Festival; but today we are celebrating the Resurrection itself, no longer as an object of expectation, but as having already come to pass, and gathering the whole world unto itself.

Let then different persons bring forth different fruits and offer different offerings at this season, smaller or greater…such spiritual offerings as are dear to God…as each may have power.

For scarcely Angels themselves could offer gifts worthy of its rank, those first and intellectual and pure beings, who are also eye-witnesses of the Glory That is on high; if even these can attain the full strain of praise.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 45, 1-2.

Gregory Nazianzen: Holding Communion with God, Associated with the Purest Light Thursday, Jan 30 2014 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenIn the eastern calendar, January 30th is the Synaxis of The Three Hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, & John Chrysostom.

In praising Athanasius, I shall be praising virtue….  Again, in praising virtue, I shall be praising God, who gives virtue to men and lifts them up, or lifts them up again, to Himself by the enlightenment which is akin to Himself (1 John 1:5).

For many and great as are our blessings—none can say how many and how great—which we have and shall have from God, this is the greatest and kindliest of all, our inclination and relationship to Him.

For God is to intelligible things what the sun is to the things of sense.  The one lightens the visible, the other the invisible, world.  The one makes our bodily eyes to see the sun, the other makes our intellectual natures to see God.

And, as that, which bestows on the things which see and are seen the power of seeing and being seen, is itself the most beautiful of visible things; so God, who creates, for those who think, and that which is thought of, the power of thinking and being thought of, is Himself the highest of the objects of thought, in Whom every desire finds its bourne, beyond Whom it can no further go.

For not even the most philosophic, the most piercing, the most curious intellect has, or can ever have, a more exalted object.  For this is the utmost of things desirable, and they who arrive at it find an entire rest from speculation.

Whoever has been permitted to escape by reason and contemplation from matter and this fleshly cloud or veil (whichever it should be called) and to hold communion with God, and be associated, as far as man’s nature can attain, with the purest Light, blessed is he, both from his ascent from hence, and for his deification there, which is conferred by true philosophy, and by rising superior to the dualism of matter, through the unity which is perceived in the Trinity.

And whosoever has been depraved by being knit to the flesh, and so far oppressed by the clay that he cannot look at the rays of truth, nor rise above things below, though he is born from above, and called to things above, I hold him to be miserable in his blindness, even though he may abound in things of this world;

and all the more, because he is the sport of his abundance, and is persuaded by it that something else is beautiful instead of that which is really beautiful, reaping, as the poor fruit of his poor opinion, the sentence of darkness, or the seeing Him to be fire, Whom he did not recognize as light.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 21 (on the Great Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria), 1-2.

Gregory Nazianzen: Let Us Purify Ourselves and Receive the Elementary Initiation of the Word Wednesday, Jan 8 2014 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenWherefore we must purify ourselves first, and then approach this converse with the Pure;

unless we would have the same experience as Israel (Exod. 34:30), who could not endure the glory of the face of Moses, and therefore asked for a veil (2 Cor. 3:7),

or like the Centurion (Matt. 8:8) would seek for healing, but would not, through a praiseworthy fear, receive the Healer into his house.

Let each one of us also – as long as he is still uncleansed, and is a Centurion still, commanding many in wickedness, and serving in the army of Cæsar, the World-ruler of those who are being dragged down – speak thus: “I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof.”

Let each one look upon Jesus, though he be little of stature like Zaccheus (Luke 19:3) of old, and climb up on the top of the sycamore tree by mortifying his members which are upon the earth (Col. 3:5).

Let each one rise above the body of humiliation. Then he shall receive the Word, and it shall be said to him, This day is salvation come to this house (Luke 19:9).

Then let him lay hold on the salvation, and bring forth fruit more perfectly, scattering and pouring forth rightly that which as a publican he wrongly gathered.

For the same Word is on the one hand terrible through its nature to those who are unworthy, and on the other, through its loving kindness, can be received by those who are thus prepared.

These are they who have driven out the unclean and worldly spirit from their souls, and have swept and adorned their own souls by self-examination […], who, besides fleeing from evil, practise virtue, making Christ entirely, or at any rate to the greatest extent possible, to dwell within them.

This they do so that the power of evil cannot meet with any empty place to fill it again with himself, and make the last state of that man worse than the first, by the greater energy of his assault, and the greater strength and impregnability of the fortress.

Having guarded our soul with every care, and having appointed goings up in our heart (Ps. 84:5), and broken up our fallow ground (Jer. 4:3), and sown unto righteousness (Prov. 11:18), as David and Solomon and Jeremiah bid us, let us enlighten ourselves with the light of knowledge, and then let us speak of the Wisdom of God that hath been hid in a mystery (2 Cor. 2:6), and enlighten others.

Meanwhile let us purify ourselves, and receive the elementary initiation of the Word, that we may do ourselves the utmost good, making ourselves godlike, and receiving the Word at His coming; and not only so, but holding Him fast and shewing Him to others.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 39 (on the Holy Lights), 9-10. Another extract from this Oration can be read here….

Gregory Nazianzen: God Became Man to Raise Our Flesh, Recover His Image, Remodel Man, and Make Us All One in Christ Wednesday, Nov 20 2013 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenThis is my fear, this day and night accompanies me, and will not let me breathe: on one side the glory, on the other the place of correction.

The former I long for till I can say, “My soul fainteth for Thy salvation” (Ps. 119:81). From the latter I shrink back shuddering.

Yet I am not afraid that this body of mine should utterly perish in dissolution and corruption.

Rather, I am afraid that the glorious creature of God (for glorious it is if upright, just as it is dishonourable if sinful) in which is reason, morality, and hope, should be condemned to the same dishonour as the brutes, and be no better after death….

Would that I might mortify my members that are upon the earth (Col. 3:5).

Would that I might spend my all upon the spirit, walking in the way that is narrow and trodden by few, not that which is broad and easy (Matt. 7:13).

For glorious and great are its consequences, and our hope is greater than our desert.

What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? (Ps. 8:5).  What is this new mystery which concerns me?

I am small and great, lowly and exalted, mortal and immortal, earthly and heavenly.

I share one condition with the lower world, the other with God; one with the flesh, the other with the spirit.

I must be buried with Christ, arise with Christ, be joint heir with Christ, become the son of God, yea, God Himself.

See whither our argument has carried us in its progress.  I almost own myself indebted to the disaster which has inspired me with such thoughts, and made me more enamoured of my departure hence.

This is the purpose of the great mystery for us.

This is the purpose for us of God, Who for us was made man and became poor (2 Cor. 8:9), to raise our flesh and recover His image (Luke 15:9; 1 Cor. 15:49), and remodel man (Col. 3:10).

He did this so that we might all be made one in Christ (Gal. 3:28), who was perfectly made in all of us all that He Himself is (1 Cor. 15:28);

that we might no longer be male and female, barbarian, Scythian, bond or free (Col. 3:1), which are badges of the flesh, but might bear in ourselves only the stamp of God.

By Him and for Him we were made (Rom. 11:36), and have so far received our form and model from Him, that we are recognized by it alone.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 7, 22-23 (Panegyric on His Brother S. Cæsarius).

Gregory Nazianzen: I Await the Transformation of the Heavens, the Transfiguration of the Earth, the Renovation of the Universe Saturday, Nov 9 2013 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenI believe the words of the wise.

I believe that every fair and God-beloved soul, when it has been set free from the bonds of the body, departs hence, and at once enjoys a sense and perception of the blessings which await it.

It enjoys this inasmuch as that which darkened it has been purged away, or laid aside—I know not how else to term it.

And it feels a wondrous pleasure and exultation, and goes rejoicing to meet its Lord.

For it has escaped, as it were, from the grievous poison of life here, and has shaken off the fetters which bound it and held down the wings of the mind.

And so it enters on the enjoyment of the bliss laid up for it, of which it has even now some conception.

Then, a little later, it receives its kindred flesh, which once shared in its pursuits of things above, from the earth which both gave and had been entrusted with it.

And, in some way known to God, who knit them together and dissolved them, the soul enters with the flesh upon the inheritance of the glory there.

And, as it shared, through their close union, in its hardships, so also it bestows upon it a portion of its joys, gathering it up entirely into itself, and becoming with it one in spirit and in mind and in God, the mortal and mutable being swallowed up of life.

Hear at least how the inspired Ezekiel discourses of the knitting together of bones and sinews (Ezek. 37:3).

Hear how after him Saint Paul speaks of the earthly tabernacle, and the house not made with hands, the one to be dissolved, the other laid up in heave.

Hear how Paul alleges absence from the body to be presence with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:1, 6; Phil. 1:23), and bewailing his life in it as an exile, and therefore longing for and hastening to his release.

Why am I faint-hearted in my hopes?  Why behave like a mere creature of a day?

I await the voice of the Archangel (1 Thess. 4:16), the last trumpet (1 Cor. 15:52), the transformation of the heavens, the transfiguration of the earth, the liberation of the elements, the renovation of the universe (2 Pet. 3:10).

Then shall I see Cæsarius himself, no longer in exile, no longer laid upon a bier, no longer the object of mourning and pity, but brilliant, glorious, heavenly.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 7, 21 (Panegyric on His Brother S. Cæsarius).

Gregory Nazianzen: “When Jesus had Finished these Sayings, He Departed from Galilee…” Monday, Jul 29 2013 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenJesus Who chose the fishermen, Himself also uses a net, and moves from place to place.

Why?  Not only that He may gain more of those who love God by His visitation; but also, as it seems to me, that He may hallow more places.

To the Jews He becomes as a Jew that He may gain the Jews; to them that are under the Law as under the Law, that He may redeem them that are under the Law; to the weak as weak, that He may save the weak.

He is made all things to all men that He may gain all.  Why do I say, All things to all men?  For even that which Paul could not endure to say of himself I find that the Saviour suffered.

[…] Not only does He take to Himself all monstrous and vile names, but even that which is most monstrous of all, even very sin and very curse; not that He is such, but He is called so.

For how can He be sin, Who sets us free from sin; and how can He be a curse, Who redeems us from the curse of the Law?

It is so that He may carry His display of humility even to this extent, and form us to that humility which is the producer of exaltation.

As I said then, He is made a Fisherman; He condescends to all; He casts the net; He endures all things, that He may draw up the fish from the depths, that is, Man who is swimming in the unsettled and bitter waves of life.

Therefore now also, when He had finished these sayings He departed from Galilee and came into the coasts of Judea beyond Jordan; He dwells well in Galilee, in order that the people which sat in darkness may see great Light.

He moves to Judea in order that He may persuade people to rise up from the Letter and to follow the Spirit.

He teaches, now on a mountain; now He discourses on a plain; now He passes over into a ship; now He rebukes the surges.

And perhaps He goes to sleep, in order that He may bless sleep also; perhaps He is tired that He may hallow weariness also; perhaps He weeps that He may make tears blessed.

He moves from place to place, Who is not contained in any place; the timeless, the bodiless, the uncircumscript, the same Who was and is; Who was both above time, and came under time, and was invisible and is seen.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 37, 1-2 (On the Words of the Gospel “When Jesus Had Finished These Sayings…”—S. Matt. 19:1).

Gregory Nazianzen: The Coming of the Holy Spirit in Tongues of Fire Monday, May 13 2013 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenHe [the Holy Spirit] worked…in the disciples of Christ…on three occasions—before Christ was glorified by the Passion; and after He was glorified by the Resurrection; and after His Ascension….

Now the first of these manifests Him—the healing of the sick and casting out of evil spirits, which could not be apart from the Spirit;

and so does that breathing upon them after the Resurrection, which was clearly a divine inspiration;

and so too the present distribution of the fiery tongues, which we are now commemorating.

But the first manifested Him indistinctly, the second more expressly, this present one more perfectly, since He is no longer present only in energy, but as we may say, substantially, associating with us, and dwelling in us.

[…] And therefore He came after Christ, that a Comforter should not be lacking unto us; but “another Comforter”, that you might acknowledge His co-equality.

For this word “another” marks an “alter ego”, a name of equal Lordship, not of inequality.  For “another” is not said, I know, of different kinds, but of things consubstantial.

And He came in the form of tongues because of His close relation to the Word.  And they were of fire, perhaps because of His purifying power…, or else because of His Substance.  For our God is a consuming fire….

And the tongues were cloven, because of the diversity of gifts. And they sat to signify His royalty and rest among the saints, and because the cherubim are the throne of God.

And it took place in an upper chamber …, because those who should receive it were to ascend and be raised above the earth; for also certain upper chambers are covered with divine waters, by which the praise of God are sung.

And Jesus Himself in an upper chamber gave the communion of the Sacrament to those who were being initiated into the higher mysteries, that thereby might be shown on the one hand that God must come down to us, as I know He did of old to Moses;

and on the other that we must go up to Him, and that so there should come to pass a communion of God with men, by a coalescing of the dignity.

For as long as either remains on its own footing, the one in His glory the other in his lowliness, so long the goodness of God cannot mingle with us, and His loving-kindness is incommunicable, and there is a great gulf between, which cannot be crossed;

and which separates not only the rich man from Lazarus and Abraham’s Bosom which he longs for, but also the created and changing natures from that which is eternal and immutable.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 41 (on Pentecost), 11-12.

Gregory Nazianzen: Yesterday I was Crucified with Him; Today I am Glorified with Him Monday, Apr 1 2013 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenYesterday the Lamb was slain and the door-posts were anointed, and Egypt bewailed her Firstborn, and the Destroyer passed us over, and the Seal was dreadful and reverend, and we were walled in with the Precious Blood.

To-day we have clean escaped from Egypt and from Pharaoh; and there is none to hinder us from keeping a Feast to the Lord our God—the Feast of our Departure; or from celebrating that Feast, not in the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but in the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, carrying with us nothing of ungodly and Egyptian leaven.

Yesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him; yesterday I died with Him; to-day I am quickened with Him; yesterday I was buried with Him; to-day I rise with Him.

But let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us—you will think perhaps that I am going to say gold, or silver, or woven work or transparent and costly stones, the mere passing material of earth, that remains here below, and is for the most part always possessed by bad men, slaves of the world and of the Prince of the world.

Let us offer ourselves, the possession most precious to God, and most fitting; let us give back to the Image what is made after the Image.  Let us recognize our Dignity; let us honour our Archetype; let us know the power of the Mystery, and for what Christ died.

Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us.  Let us become God’s for His sake, since He for ours became Man.

He assumed the worse that He might give us the better; He became poor that we through His poverty might be rich; He took upon Him the form of a servant that we might receive back our liberty;

He came down that we might be exalted; He was tempted that we might conquer; He was dishonoured that He might glorify us; He died that He might save us; He ascended that He might draw to Himself us, who were lying low in the Fall of sin.

Let us give all, offer all, to Him Who gave Himself a Ransom and a Reconciliation for us.  But one can give nothing like oneself, understanding the Mystery, and becoming for His sake all that He became for ours.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 1, 3-5.

Gregory Nazianzen: Christ is the True Light that Lightens Every Man that Comes into the World Sunday, Jan 13 2013 

St.-Gregory-NazianzenThe Holy Day of the Lights…, which we are celebrating to-day, has for its origin the Baptism of my Christ.

He is the true Light that lightens every man that comes into the world, and effects my purification, and assists that light which we received from the beginning from Him from above, but which we darkened and confused by sin.

[…] “The Light shines in darkness”, in this life and in the flesh, and is chased by the darkness, “but is not overtaken by it”.

I mean, it is not overtaken by the adverse power which leaps up in its shamelessness against the visible Adam, but which encounters God and is defeated.

This happens so that we, putting away the darkness, may draw near to the Light, and may then become perfect Light, the children of perfect Light.

See the grace of this Day; see the power of this mystery.

[…] At His birth we duly kept festival, both I, the leader of the Feast, and you, and all that is in the world and above the world.

With the star we ran, and with the magi we worshipped, and with the shepherds we were illuminated, and with the angels we glorified Him.

With Symeon we took Him up in our arms, and with Anna the aged and chaste we made our responsive confession.

[…]  Now, we come to another action of Christ, and another mystery.  I cannot restrain my pleasure; I am rapt into God.

Almost like John I proclaim good tidings; for though I am not a Forerunner, yet am I from the desert.

Christ is illumined, let us shine forth with Him.  Christ is baptized, let us descend with Him that we may also ascend with Him.

[…] John baptizes, Jesus comes to Him…, perhaps to sanctify the Baptist himself, but certainly to bury the whole of the old Adam in the water.

And before this, and for the sake of this, He comes to sanctify Jordan; for as He is spirit and flesh, so He consecrates us by Spirit and water.

[…] But further—Jesus goeth up out of the water…, for with Himself He carries up the world….

He sees the heaven opened which Adam had shut against himself and all his posterity, as the gates of Paradise by the flaming sword.

And the Spirit bears witness to His Godhead, for he descends upon One that is like Him, as does the voice from heaven (for He to Whom the witness is borne came from thence).

He descends like a dove, for He honours the body (for this also was God, through its union with God) by being seen in a bodily form.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 39, 1-2; 14-16.

Benedict XVI: Gregory Nazianzen – “What Has Not Been Assumed Has Not Been Healed” Wednesday, Jan 2 2013 

Pope_Benedictus_XVISt Gregory Nazianzen…wrote: “Nothing seems to me greater than this: to silence one’s senses, to emerge from the flesh of the world, to withdraw into oneself, no longer to be concerned with human things other than what is strictly necessary;

“to converse with oneself and with God, to lead a life that transcends the visible; to bear in one’s soul divine images, ever pure, not mingled with earthly or erroneous forms;

“truly to be a perfect mirror of God and of divine things, and to become so more and more, taking light from light…;

“to enjoy, in the present hope, the future good, and to converse with angels; to have already left the earth even while continuing to dwell on it, borne aloft by the spirit”.

[…] Nazianzen…felt deeply the yearning to draw close to God, to be united with him. He expressed it in one of his poems in which he writes:

“Among the great billows of the sea of life, here and there whipped up by wild winds… one thing alone is dear to me, my only treasure, comfort and oblivion in my struggle, the light of the Blessed Trinity”.

Thus, Gregory made the light of the Trinity shine forth, defending the faith proclaimed at the Council of Nicea: one God in three persons, equal and distinct – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – “a triple light gathered into one splendour”.

Therefore, Gregory says further, in line with St Paul (1 Cor 8: 6): “For us there is one God, the Father, from whom is all; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom is all; and one Holy Spirit, in whom is all”.

Gregory gave great prominence to Christ’s full humanity: to redeem man in the totality of his body, soul and spirit, Christ assumed all the elements of human nature, otherwise man would not have been saved.

Disputing the heresy of Apollinaris, who held that Jesus Christ had not assumed a rational mind, Gregory tackled the problem in the light of the mystery of salvation:

“What has not been assumed has not been healed”, and if Christ had not been “endowed with a rational mind, how could he have been a man?”

It was precisely our mind and our reason that needed and needs the relationship, the encounter with God in Christ.

Having become a man, Christ gave us the possibility of becoming, in turn, like him. Nazianzus exhorted people:

“Let us seek to be like Christ, because Christ also became like us: to become gods through him since he himself, through us, became a man. He took the worst upon himself to make us a gift of the best”.

Benedict XVI (b. 1927): St Gregory Nazianzen (General Audience, 8th August 2007 and 22nd August 2007).

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