« Prev A remarkable and original reply to these… Next »

§3. A remarkable and original reply to these utterances, and a demonstration of the power of the Crucified, and of the fact that this subjection was of the Human Nature, not that which the Only-Begotten has from the Father. Also an explanation of the figure of the Cross, and of the appellation “Christ,” and an account of the good gifts bestowed on the Human Nature by the Godhead which was commingled with it.

Well, such is his accusation. But I think it necessary in the first place to go briefly, by way of summary, over the points that he urges, and then to proceed to correct by my argument what he has said, that those who are judging the truth may find it easy to remember the indictment against us, which we have to answer, and that we may be able to dispose of each of the charges in regular order. He says that we are ashamed of the Cross of Christ, and slander the saints, and say that a man has “emptied himself” to become man, and suppose that the Lord had the “form of a servant” before His presence by the Incarnation, and ascribe our redemption to a man, and speak in our doctrine of two Christs and two Lords, or, if we do not do this, then we deny that the Only-begotten was Lord and Christ before the Passion. So that we may avoid this blasphemy, he will have us confess that the essence of the Son has been made, on the ground that the Apostle Peter by his own voice establishes such a doctrine. This is the substance of the accusation; for all that he has been at the trouble of saying by way of abuse of ourselves, I will pass by in silence, as being not at all to the point. It may be that this rhetorical stroke of phrases framed according to some artificial 176theory is the ordinary habit of those who play the rhetorician, an invention to swell the bulk of their indictment. Let our sophist then use his art to display his insolence, and vaunt his strength in reproaches against us, showing off his strokes in the intervals of the contest; let him call us foolish, call us of all men most reckless, of all men most miserable, full of confusion and absurdity, and make light of us at his good pleasure in any way he likes, and we will bear it; for to a reasonable man disgrace lies, not in hearing one who abuses him, but in making retort to what he says. There may even be some good in his expenditure of breath against us; for it may be that while he occupies his railing tongue in denouncing us he will at all events make some truce in his conflict against God. So let him take his fill of insolence as he likes: none will reply to him. For if a man has foul and loathsome breath, by reason of bodily disorder, or of some pestilential and malignant disease, he would not rouse any healthy person to emulate his misfortune so that one should choose, by himself acquiring disease, to repay, in the same evil kind, the unpleasantness of the man’s ill odour. Such men our common nature bids us to pity, not to imitate. And so let us pass by everything of this kind which by mockery, indignation, provocation, and abuse, he has assiduously mixed up with his argument, and examine only his arguments as they concern the doctrinal points at issue. We shall begin again, then, from the beginning, and meet each of his charges in turn.

The beginning of his accusation was that we are ashamed of the Cross of Him Who for our sakes underwent the Passion. Surely he does not intend to charge against us also that we preach the doctrine of dissimilarity in essence! Why, it is rather to those who turn aside to this opinion that the reproach belongs of going about to make the Cross a shameful thing. For if by both parties alike the dispensation of the Passion is held as part of the faith, while we hold it necessary to honour, even as the Father is honoured, the God Who was manifested by the Cross, and they find the Passion a hindrance to glorifying the Only-begotten God equally with the Father that begat Him, then our sophist’s charges recoil upon himself, and in the words with which he imagines himself to be accusing us, he is publishing his own doctrinal impiety. For it is clear that the reason why he sets the Father above the Son, and exalts Him with supreme honour, is this,—that in Him is not seen the shame of the Cross: and the reason why he asseverates that the nature of the Son varies in the sense of inferiority is this,—that the reproach of the Cross is referred to Him alone, and does not touch the Father. And let no one think that in saying this I am only following the general drift of his composition, for in going through all the blasphemy of his speech, which is there laboriously brought together, I found, in a passage later than that before us, this very blasphemy clearly expressed in undisguised language; and I propose to set forth, in the orderly course of my own argument, what they have written, which runs thus:—“If,” he says, “he can show that the God Who is over all, Who is the unapproachable Light, was incarnate, or could be incarnate, came under authority, obeyed commands, came under the laws of men, bore the Cross, then let him say that the Light is equal to the Light.” Who then is it who is ashamed of the Cross? he who, even after the Passion, worships the Son equally with the Father, or he who even before the Passion insults Him, not only by ranking Him with the creation, but by maintaining that He is of passible nature, on the ground that He could not have come to experience His sufferings had He not had a nature capable of such sufferings? We on our part assert that even the body in which He underwent His Passion, by being mingled with the Divine Nature, was made by that commixture to be that which the assuming712712    Or “resuming.” Cf. Book II. §8 (sup. p. 113, where see note 7). Nature is. So far are we from entertaining any low idea concerning the Only-begotten God, that if anything belonging to our lowly nature was assumed in His dispensation of love for man, we believe that even this was transformed to what is Divine and incorruptible713713    With S. Gregory’s language here may be compared that of S. Athanasius (Or. adv. Arian. iii. 53), “It was not the Wisdom, quâ Wisdom, that ‘advanced’; but the humanity in the Wisdom that did advance, gradually ascending above the human nature and being made Divine (θεοποιούμενον).”; but Eunomius makes the suffering of the Cross to be a sign of divergence in essence, in the sense of inferiority, considering, I know not how, the surpassing act of power, by which He was able to perform this, to be an evidence of weakness; failing to perceive the fact that, while nothing which moves according to its own nature is looked upon as surprisingly wonderful, all things that overpass the limitations of their own nature become especially the objects of admiration, and to them every ear is turned, every mind is attentive, in wonder at the marvel. And hence it is that all who preach the word point out the wonderful character of the mystery in this respect,—that “God was manifested in the flesh714714    1 Tim. iii. 16, where it would appear that Gregory read θεός; not ὅς.,” that “the Word was made flesh715715    S. John i. 14,” that “the Light shined in darkness716716    S. John i. 5 (not verbally).,” “the Life tasted death,” and all such declarations which the heralds of the faith are wont to make, whereby is increased the marvellous character 177of Him Who manifested the superabundance of His power by means external to his own nature. But though they think fit to make this a subject for their insolence, though they make the dispensation of the Cross a reason for partitioning off the Son from equality of glory with the Father, we believe, as those “who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word717717    S. Luke i. 2” delivered to us by the Holy Scriptures, that the God who was in the beginning, “afterwards”, as Baruch says, “was seen upon the earth, and conversed with men718718    Bar. iii. 37.,” and, becoming a ransom for our death, loosed by His own resurrection the bonds of death, and by Himself made the resurrection a way for all flesh719719    See Note 2, p. 104, sup., and being on the same throne and in the same glory with His own Father, will in the day of judgment give sentence upon those who are judged, according to the desert of the lives they have led. These are the things which we believe concerning Him Who was crucified, and for this cause we cease not to extol Him exceedingly, according to the measure of our powers, that He Who by reason of His unspeakable and unapproachable greatness is not comprehensible by any, save by Himself and the Father and the Holy Spirit, He, I say, was able even to descend to community with our weakness. But they adduce this proof of the Son’s alienation in nature from the Father, that the Lord was manifested by the flesh and by the Cross, arguing on the ground that the Father’s nature remained pure in impassibility, and could not in any way admit of a community which tended to passion, while the Son, by reason of the divergence of His nature by way of humiliation, was not incapable of being brought to experience the flesh and death, seeing that the change of condition was not great, but one which took place in a certain sense from one like state to another state kindred and homogeneous, because the nature of man is created, and the nature of the Only-begotten is created also. Who then is fairly charged with being ashamed of the Cross? he who speaks basely of it720720    Reading αὐτοῦ (for which Oehler cites good ms. authority), for ἑαυτοῦ (the reading of his text, as well as of the Paris editions)., or he who contends for its more exalted aspect? I know not whether our accuser, who thus abases the God Who was made known upon the Cross, has heard the lofty speech of Paul, in what terms and at what length he discourses with his exalted lips concerning that Cross. For he, who was able to make himself known by miracles so many and so great, says, “God forbid that I should glory in anything else, than in the Cross of Christ721721    Gal. vi. 14 (not verbally)..” And to the Corinthians he says that the word of the Cross is “the power of God to them that are in a state of salvation722722    Cf. 1 Cor. i. 18.” To the Ephesians, moreover, he describes by the figure of the Cross the power that controls and holds together the universe, when he expresses a desire that they may be exalted to know the exceeding glory of this power, calling it height, and depth, and breadth, and length723723    Cf. Eph. iii. 18, speaking of the several projections we behold in the figure of the Cross by their proper names, so that he calls the upper part “height,” and that which is below, on the opposite side of the junction, “depth,” while by the name “length and breadth” he indicates the cross-beam projecting to either side, that hereby might be manifested this great mystery, that both things in heaven, and things under the earth, and all the furthest bounds of the things that are, are ruled and sustained by Him Who gave an example of this unspeakable and mighty power in the figure of the Cross. But I think there is no need to contend further with such objections, as I judge it superfluous to be anxious about urging arguments against calumny when even a few words suffice to show the truth. Let us therefore pass on to another charge.

He says that by us the saints are slandered. Well, if he has heard it himself, let him tell us the words of our defamation: if he thinks we have uttered it to others, let him show the truth of his charge by witnesses: if he demonstrates it from what we have written, let him read the words, and we will bear the blame. But he cannot bring forward anything of the kind: our writings are open for examination to any one who desires it. If it was not said to himself, and he has not heard it from others, and has no proof to offer from our writings, I think he who has to make answer on this point may well hold his peace: silence is surely the fitting answer to an unfounded charge.

The Apostle Peter says, “God made this Jesus, Whom ye crucified, Lord and Christ724724    Acts ii. 36..” We, learning this from him, say that the whole context of the passage tends one way,—the Cross itself, the human name, the indicative turn of the phrase. For the word of the Scripture says that in regard to one person two things were wrought,—by the Jews, the Passion, and by God, honour; not as though one person had suffered and another had been honoured by exaltation: and he further explains this yet more clearly by his words in what follows, “being exalted by the right hand of God.” Who then was “exalted”? He that was lowly, or He that was the Highest? and what else is the lowly, but the Humanity? what else is the Highest, but the Divinity? Surely, God needs not to be exalted, seeing that He is the Highest. It follows, then, that the Apostle’s meaning is 178that the Humanity was exalted: and its exaltation was effected by its becoming Lord and Christ. And this took place after the Passion.725725    It can hardly be supposed that it is intended by S. Gregory that we should understand that, during the years of His life on earth, our Lord’s Humanity was not so united with His Divinity that “the visible man” was then both Lord and Christ. He probably refers more especially to the manifestation of His Messiahship afforded by the Resurrection and Ascension; but he also undoubtedly dwells on the exaltation of the Human Nature after the Passion in terms which would perhaps imply more than he intended to convey. His language on this point may be compared with the more guarded and careful statement of Hooker. (Eccl. Pol. V. lv. 8.) The point of his argument is that S. Peter’s words apply to the Human Nature, not to the Divine. It is not therefore the pre-temporal existence of the Lord which the Apostle indicates by the word “made,” but that change of the lowly to the lofty which was effected “by the right hand of God.” Even by this phrase is declared the mystery of godliness; for he who says “exalted by the right hand of God” manifestly reveals the unspeakable dispensation of this mystery, that the Right Hand of God, that made all things that are, (which is the Lord, by Whom all things were made, and without Whom nothing that is subsists,) Itself raised to Its own height the Man united with It, making Him also to be what It is by nature. Now It is Lord and King: Christ is the King’s name: these things It made Him too. For as He was highly exalted by being in the Highest, so too He became all else,—Immortal in the Immortal, Light in the Light, Incorruptible in the Incorruptible, Invisible in the Invisible, Christ in the Christ, Lord in the Lord. For even in physical combinations. when one of the combined parts exceeds the other in a great degree, the inferior is wont to change completely to that which is more potent. And this we are plainly taught by the voice of the Apostle Peter in his mystic discourse, that the lowly nature of Him Who was crucified through weakness, (and weakness, as we have heard from the Lord, marks the flesh726726    Cf. S. Mark xiv. 38,) that lowly nature, I say, by virtue of its combination with the infinite and boundless element of good, remained no longer in its own measures and properties, but was by the Right Hand of God raised up together with Itself, and became Lord instead of servant, Christ a King instead of a subject, Highest instead of Lowly, God instead of man. What handle then against the saints did he who pretends to give warning against us in defence of the Apostles find in the material of our writings? Let us pass over this charge also in silence; for I think it a mean and unworthy thing to stand up against charges that are false and unfounded. Let us pass on to the more pressing part of his accusation.

« Prev A remarkable and original reply to these… Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection