Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 05: 25.01.60 The Great Catechism Part 4

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Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 05: 25.01.60 The Great Catechism Part 4

TOPIC: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 05 (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 25.01.60 The Great Catechism Part 4

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Chapter XXXII.

What other objection is alleged by our adversaries? This; that (to take the preferable viewhyperlink ) it was altogether needless that that transcendent Being should submit to the experience of death, but He might independently of this, through the superabundance of His power, have wrought with ease His purpose; still, if for some ineffable reason or other it was absolutely necessary that so it should be, at least He ought not to have been subjected to the contumely of such an ignominious kind of death. What death, they ask, could be more ignominious than that by crucifixion? What answer can we make to this? Why, that the death is rendered necessary by the birth, and that He Who had determined once for all to share the nature of man must pass through all the peculiar conditions of that nature. Seeing, then, that the life of man is determined between two boundaries, had He, after having passed the one, not touched the other that follows, His proposed design would have remained only half fulfilled, from His not having touched that second condition of our nature. Perhaps, however, one who exactly understands the mystery would be justified rather in saying that, instead of the death occurring in consequence of the birth, the birth on the contrary was accepted by Him for the sake of the death; for He Who lives for ever did not sink down into the conditions of a bodily birth from any need to live, but to call us back from death to life. Since, then, there was needed a lifting up from death for the whole of our nature, He stretches forth a hand as it were to prostrate man, and stooping down to our dead corpse He came so far within the grasp of death as to touch a state of deadness, and then in His own body to bestow on our nature the principle of the resurrection, raising as He did by His power along with Himself the whole man. For since from no other source than from the concrete lump of our naturehyperlink had come that flesh, which was the receptacle of the Godhead and in the resurrection was raised up together with that Godhead, therefore just in the same way as, in the instance of this body of ours, the operation of one of the organs of sense is felt at once by the whole system, as one with that member, so also the resurrection principle of this Member, as though the whole of mankind was a single living being, passes through the entire race, being imparted from the Member to the whole by virtue of the continuity and oneness of the nature. What, then, is there beyond the bounds of probability in what this Revelation teaches us; viz. that He Who stands upright stoops to one who has fallen, in order to lift him up from his prostrate condition? And as to the Cross, whether it possesses some other and deeper meaning, those who are skilled in mysticism may explain; but, however that may be, the traditional teaching which has reached us is as follows. Since all things in the Gospel, both deeds and words, have a sublime and heavenly meaning, and there is nothing in it which is not such, that is, which does not exhibit a complete mingling of the human with the Divine, where the utterance exerted and the deeds enacted are human but the secret sense represents the Divine, it would follow that in this particular as well as in the rest we must not regard only the one element and overlook the other; but in the fact of this death we must contemplate the human feature, while in the manner of it we must be anxious to find the Divinehyperlink . For since it is the property of the Godhead to pervade all things, and to extend itself through the length and breadth of the substance of existence in every part-for nothing would continue to be if it remained not within the existent; and that which is this existent properly and primarily is the Divine Being, Whose existence in the world the continuance of all things that are forces us to believe in,-this is the very thing we learn from the figure of the Cross; it is divided into four parts, so that there are the projections, four in number, from the central point where the whole converges upon itself; because He Who at the hour of His pre-arranged death was stretched upon it is He Who binds together all things into Himself, and by Himself brings to one harmonious agreement the diverse natures of actual existences. For in these existences there is the idea either of something above, or of something below, or else the thought passes to the confines sideways. If, therefore, you take into your consideration the system of things above the heavens or of things below the earth, or of things at the boundaries of the universe on either side, everywhere the presence of Deity anticipates your thought as the sole observable power that in every part of existing things holds in a state of being all those things. Now whether we ought to call this Existence Deity, or Mind, or Power, or Wisdom, or any other lofty term which might be better able to express Him Who is above all, our argument has no quarrel with the appellation or name or form of phrase used. Since, then, all creation looks to Him, and is about and around Him, and through Him is coherent with itself, things above being through Him conjoined to things below and things lateral to themselves, it was right that not by hearing only we should be conducted to the full understanding of the Deity, but that sight also should be our teacher in these sublime subjects for thought; and it is from sight that the mighty Paul starts when he initiateshyperlink the people of Ephesus in the mysteries, and imbues them through his instructions with the power of knowing what is that "depth and height and breadth and length." In fact he designates each projection of the Cross by its proper appellation. The upper part he calls height, the lower depth, and the side extensions breadth and length; and in another passagehyperlink he makes his thought still clearer to the Philippians, to whom be says, "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth." In that passage he includes in one appellation the centre and projecting armshyperlink , calling "things in earth" all that is in the middle between things in heaven and things under the earth. Such is the lesson we learn in regard to the mystery of the Cross. And the subsequent events which the narrative contains follow so appropriately that, as even unbelievers must admit, there is nothing in them adverse to the proper conceptions of the Deity. That He did not abide in death, that the wounds which His body had received from the iron of the nails and spear offered no impediment to His rising again, that after His resurrection He showed Himself as He pleased to His disciples, that when He wished to be present with them He was in their midst without being seen, as needing no entrance through open doors, and that He strengthened the disciples by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and that He promised to be amongst them, and that no partition wall should intervene between them and Him, and that to the sight He ascended to Heaven while to the mind He was everywhere; all these, and whatever like facts the history of Him comprises, need no assistance from arguments to show that they are signs of deity and of a sublime and supereminent power. With regard to them therefore I do not deem it necessary to go into any detail, inasmuch as their description of itself shows the supernatural character. But since the dispensation of the washing (whether we choose to call it baptism, or illumination, or regeneration; for we make the name no subject of controversy) is a part of our revealed doctrines, it may be as well to enter on a short discussion of this as well.

Chapter XXXIII.

For when they have heard from us something to this effect-that when the mortal passes into life it follows necessarily that, as that first birth leads only to the existence of mortality, another birth should be discovered, a birth which neither begins nor ends with corruption, but one which conducts the person begotten to an immortal existence, in order that, as what is begotten of a mortal birth has necessarily a mortal subsistence, so from a birth which admits not corruption that which is born may be superior to the corruption of death; when, I say, they have heard this and the like from us, and are besides instructed as to the process,-namely that it is prayer and the invocation of heavenly grace, and water, and faith, by which the mystery of regeneration is accomplished,-they still remain incredulous and have an eye only for the outward and visible, as if that which is operated corporeallyhyperlink concurred not with the fulfilment of God's promise. How, they ask, can prayer and the invocation of Divine power over the water be the foundation of life in those who have been thus initiated? In reply to them, unless they be of a very obstinate disposition, one single consideration suffices to bring them to an acquiescence in our doctrine. For let us in our turn ask them about that process of the carnal generation which every one can notice. How does that something which is cast for the beginnings of the formation of a living being become a Man? In that case, most certainly, there is no method whatever that can discover for us, by any possible reasoning, even the probable truth. For what correlation is there between the definition of man and the quality observable in that something? Man, when once he is put together, is a reasoning and intellectual being, capable of thought and knowledge; but that something is to be observed only in its quality of humidity, and the mind grasps nothing in it beyond that which is seen by the sense of sight. The reply, therefore, which we might expect to receive from those whom we questioned as to how it is credible that a man is compounded from that humid element, is the very reply which we make when questioned about the regeneration that takes place through the water. Now in that other case any one so questioned has this reply ready at hand, that that element becomes a man by a Divine power, wanting which, the element is motionless and inoperative. If, therefore, in that instance the subordinate matter does not make the man, but the Divine power changes that visible thing into a man's nature, it would be utterly unfair for them, when in the one case they testify to such power in God, in this other department to suppose that the Deity is too weak to accomplish His will. What is there common, they ask, between water and life? What is there common, we ask them in return, between humidity and God's image? In that case there is no paradox if, God so willing, what is humid changes into the most rare creaturehyperlink . Equally, then, in this case we assert that there is nothing strange when the presence of a Divine influence transforms what is born with a corruptible nature into a state of incorruption.

Chapter XXXIV.

But they ask for proof of this presence of the Deity when invoked for the sanctification of the baptismal processhyperlink . Let the person who requires this evidence recall to mind the result of our inquiries further back. The reasoning by which we established that the power which was manifested to us through the flesh was really a Divine power, is the defence of that which we now say. For when it has been shown that He Who was manifested in the flesh, and then exhibited His nature by the miracles which He wrought, was God, it is also at the same time shown that He is present in that process, as often as He is invoked. For, as of everything that exists there is some peculiarity which indicates its nature, so truth is the distinctive peculiarity of the Divine nature. Well, then, He has promised that He will always be present with those that call upon Him, that He is in the midst of those that believe, that He remains among them collectively and has special intercourse with each one. We can no longer, then, need any other proof of the presence of the Deity in the things that are done in Baptism, believing as we do that He is God by reason of the miracles which He wrought, and knowing as we do that it is the peculiarity of the Godhead to be free from any touch of falsehood, and confidently holding as we do that the thing promised was involved in the truthfulness of its announcement. The invocation by prayer, then, which precedes this Divine Dispensation constitutes an abundance of proof that what is effected is done by God. For if in the case of that other kind of man-formation the impulses of the parents, even though they do not invoke the Deity, yet by the power of God, as we have before said, mould the embryo, and if this power is withheld their eagerness is ineffectual and useless, how much more will the object be accomplished in that spiritual mode of generation, where both God has promised that He will be present in the process and, as we have believed, has put power from Himself into the work, and, besides, our own will is bent upon that object; supposing, that is, that the aid which comes through prayer has at the same time been duly called in? For as they who pray God that the sun may shine on them in no way blunt the promptitude of that which is actually going to take place, yet no one will say that the zeal of those who thus pray is useless on the ground that they pray God for what must happen, in the same way they who, resting on the truthfulness of His promise, are firmly persuaded that His grace is surely present in those who are regenerate in this mystical Dispensation, either themselves makehyperlink an actual addition to that grace, or at all events do not cause the existing grace to miscarry. For that the grace is there is a matter of faith, on account of Him Who has promised to give it being Divine; while the testimony as to His Divinity comes through the Miracleshyperlink . Thus, then, that the Deity is present in all the baptismal processhyperlink admits of no question.

Chapter XXXV

But the descent into the water, and the trine immersion of the person in it, involves another mystery. For since the method of our salvation was made effectual not so much by His precepts in the way of teachinghyperlink as by the deeds of Him Who has realized an actual fellowship with man, and has effected life as a living fact, so that by means of the flesh which He has assumed, and at the same time deifiedhyperlink , everything kindred and related may be saved along with it, it was necessary that some means should be devised by which there might be, in the baptismal process, a kind of affinity and likeness between him who follows and Him Who leads the way. Needful, therefore, is it to see what features are to be observed in the Author of our life, in order that the imitation on the part of those that follow may be regulated, as the Apostle says, after the pattern of the Captain of our salvationhyperlink . For, as it is they who are actually drilled into measured and orderly movements in arms by skilled drill-masters, who are advanced to dexterity in handling their weapons by what they see with their eyes, whereas he who does not practise what is shown him remains devoid of such dexterity, in the same way it is imperative on all those who have an equally earnest desire for the Good as He has, to be followers by the path of an exact imitation of Him Who leads the way to salvation, and to carry into action what He has shown them. It is, in fact, impossible for persons to reach the same goal unless they travel by the same ways. For as persons who are at a loss how to thread the turns of mazes, when they happen to fall in with some one who has experience of them, get to the end of those various misleading turnings in the chambers by following him behind, which they could not do, did they not follow him their leader step by step, so too, I pray you mark, the labyrinth of this our life cannot be threaded by the faculties of human nature unless a man pursues that same path as He did Who, though once in it, yet got beyond the difficulties which hemmed Him in. I apply this figure of a labyrinth to that prison of death, which is without an egresshyperlink and environs the wretched race of mankind. What, then, have we beheld in the case of the Captain of our salvation? A three days' state of death and then life again. Now some sort of resemblance in us to such things has to be planned. What, then, is the plan by which in us too a resemblance to that which took place in Him is completed? Everything that is affected by death has its proper and natural place, and that is the earth in which it is laid and hidden. Now earth and water have much mutual affinity. Alone of the elements they have weight and gravitate downwards; they mutually abide in each other; they are mutually confined. Seeing, then, the death of the Author of our life subjected Him to burial in earth and was in accord with our common nature, the imitation which we enact of that death is expressed in the neighbouring element. And as He, that Man from abovehyperlink , having taken deadness on Himself, after His being deposited in the earth, returned back to life the third day, so every one who is knitted to Him by virtue of his bodily form, looking forward to the same successful issue, I mean this arriving at life by having, instead of earth, water poured on himhyperlink , and so submitting to that element, has represented for him in the three movements the three-days-delayed grace of the resurrection. Something like this has been said in what has gone before, namely, that by the Divine providence death has been introduced as a dispensation into the nature of man, so that, sin having flowed away at the dissolution of the union of soul and body, man, through the resurrection, might be refashioned, sound, passionless, stainless, and removed from any touch of evil. In the case however of the Author of our Salvation this dispensation of death reached its fulfilment, having entirely accomplished its special purpose. For in His death, not only were things that once were one put asunder, but also things that had been disunited were again brought together; so that in this dissolution of things that had naturally grown together, I mean, the soul and body, our nature might be purified, and this return to union of these severed elements might secure freedom from the contamination of any foreign admixture. But as regards those who follow this Leader, their nature does not admit of an exact and entire imitation, but it receives now as much as it is capable of receiving, while it reserves the remainder for the time that comes after. In what, then, does this imitation consist? It consists in the effecting the suppression of that admixture of sin, in the figure of mortification that is given by the water, not certainly a complete effacement, but a kind of break in the continuity of the evil, two things concurring to this removal of sin-the penitence of the transgressor and his imitation of the death. By these two things the man is in a measure freed from his congenital tendency to evil; by his penitence he advances to a hatred of and averseness from sin, and by his death he works out the suppression of the evil. But had it been possible for him in his imitation to undergo a complete dying, the result would be not imitation but identity; and the evil of our nature would so entirely vanish that, as the Apostle says, "he would die unto sin once for allhyperlink ." But since, as has been said, we only so far imitate the transcendent Power as the poverty of our nature is capable of, by having the water thrice poured on us and ascending again up from the water, we enact that saving burial and resurrection which took place on the third day, with this thought in our mind, that as we have power over the water both to be in it and arise out of it, so He too, Who has the universe at His sovereign disposal, immersed Himself in death, as we in the water, to returnhyperlink to His own blessedness. If, therefore, one looks to that which is in reason, and judges of the results according to the power inherent in either party, one will discover no disproportion in these results, each in proportion to the measure of his natural power working out the effects that are within his reach. For, as it is in the power of man, if he is so disposed, to touch the water and yet be safe, with infinitely greater ease may death be handled by the Divine Power so as to be in it and yet not to be changed by it injuriously. Observe, then, that it is necessary for us to rehearse beforehand in the water the grace of the resurrection, to the intent that we may understand that, as far as facility goes, it is the same thing for us to be baptized with water and to rise again from death. But as in matters that concern our life here, there are some which take precedence of others, as being those without which the result could not be achieved, although if the beginning be compared with the end, the beginning so contrasted will seem of no account (for what equality, for instance, is there between the man and that which is laid as a foundation for the constitution of his animal being? And yet if that had never been, neither would this be which we see), in like manner that which happens in the great resurrection, essentially vaster though it be, has its beginnings and its causes here; it is not, in fact, possible that that should take place, unless this had gone before; I mean, that without the laver of regeneration it is impossible for the man to be in the resurrection; but in saying this I do not regard the mere remoulding and refashioning of our composite body; for towards this it is absolutely necessary that human nature should advance, being constrained thereto by its own laws according to the dispensation of Him Who has so ordained, whether it have received the grace of the laver, or whether it remains without that initiation: but I am thinking of the restoration to a blessed and divine condition, separated from all shame and sorrow. For not everything that is granted in the resurrection a return to existence will return to the same kind of life. There is a wide interval between those who have been purified, and those who still need purification. For those in whose life-time here the purification by the laver has preceded, there is a restoration to a kindred state. Now, to the pure, freedom from passion is that kindred state, and that in this freedom from passion blessedness consists, admits of no dispute. But as for those whose weaknesses have become inveteratehyperlink , and to whom no purgation of their defilement has been applied, no mystic water, no invocation of the Divine power, no amendment by repentance, it is absolutely necessary that they should come to be in something proper to their case,-just as the furnace is the proper thing for gold alloyed with dross,-in order that, the vice which has been mixed up in them being melted away after long succeeding ages, their nature may be restored pure again to God. Since, then, there is a cleansing virtue in fire and water, they who by the mystic water have washed away the defilement of their sin have no further need of the other form of purification, while they who have not been admitted to that form of purgation must needs be purified by fire.


80 malista men.

81 Cf. Rom. ix. 21: furama is used for the human body often in the Greek Fathers, i. e. Athanasius, Chrysostom, John Damascene: by all of whom Christ is called aparxh tou hmeterou furamatoj. Cf. Gen. ii. 7; Job x. 9: Epictetus also calls the human body phlow komywj pefurauenon

82 en men tw qanatw kaqoran to anqrwpinon, en de tw tropw polupragmonein to qeioteron. This is Krabinger's reading (for en tw aqanatw <\=85_en de tw anqrwpw) on the authority of Theodoret's quotation and two Codd. for the first, and of all his Codd. for the second. Hervetus also seems to have read the same, "in morte quidem quod est humanum intueri, in modo autem perscrutari quod est divinius." Glauber, however, translates the common text, "Man muss bei dem Unsterblichen zwar das Menschliche betrachten, aber bei dem Mensehen auch das Göttliche hervorsuchen:" notwithstanding that he hints his preference for another reading, skopw for this last; cf. just above, "but the secret sense represents the Divine," which would then be parallel to this last sentence.

83 Eph. iii. 18.

84 Philip. ii. 10.

85 keraian. The Fathers were fond of tracing similitudes to the form of the Cross, in nature and art: in the sail-yards of a ship, as here, and in the flight of birds on the wing. This is the reading of Codd. Morell., Reg., and three of Krabinger's: but gaian in the margin of that of J. Vulcobius (Abbot of Belpré) has got into the text of both Paris Editt., though the second asterisks it. Hervetus ("et fastigium") seem to have read kai akran.

86 swmatikwj: with a general reference both to the recipient, the words (the "form"), and the water (the "matter," in the Aristotelian sense). Cf. questions in Private Baptism of Infants: and Hampden's Bampton Lectures, p. 336 n.

87 timiwtaton (timh = "price") zwon. So Plato, Laws, p. 766: "Man, getting right training and a happy organization, is wont to become a most godlike and cultivated creature."

88 twn ginomenwn.

89 poiountai (middle), i. e. by their prayers.

90 h de thj qeothtoj marturia dia twn qaumatwn estin: a noteworthy sentence.

91 twn ginomenwn (cf. above) being understood.

92 ek thj kata didaxhn ufhghsewj. This is what Krabinger finds in three Codd., and Morell and Hervetus have rendered in the Latin. But the editions have diadoxhn. Ufhghsij does not refer to any "preceding" ("praeeunte," Hervetus) teachting; but to "instruction" of any kind, whether "in the way of teaching," or of example, as below.

93 the flesh which He has assumed, and at the same time deified. "Un terme chef aux Pères du IVe siècle, de nous déifier" (Denis, Philosophie d'Origène, p. 458). This qeopoihsij or qewsij is more than a metaphor even from the first, "vere fideles vocantur qeoi, non naturâ quidem, sed th omoiwsei, ait Athanasius;" Casaubon, In Epist. ad Eustath. "We become `gods

0' by grasping the Divine power and substance;" Clement, Stromata, iv. That the Platonists had thus used the word of to proj meizona docan anuywqen is clear. Synesius in one of his Hymns says to his soul:-

"Soon cammingled with the Father

Thou shalt dance a `god

0' with God."

just as elsewhere (in Diane, p. 50) he says, "it is not sufficient not to be bad; each must be even a `god.

0'" Cf. also Gregory Thaum. Panegyr Origenis, §142 When we come to the Fathers of the 4th century and later, these words are used more especially of the work of the Holy Spirit upon man. Cf. Cyrill. Alex.: "If to be able to `deify

0' is a greater thing than a creature can do, and if the Spirit does `deify,

0' how can he be created or anything but God, seeing that he `deifies

0'?" "If the Spirit is not God," says Gregory Naz., "let him first be deified, and then let him deify me his equal;" where two things are implied, 1. that the recognized work of the Holy Spirit is to `deify,

0' 2. that this "deification" is not Godhead. It is "the comparative god-making" of Dionysius Areopag. whereby we are "partakers of the Divine nature" (2 Pet. i. 4). On the word as applied to the human nature of our Saviour Himself. Huet (Origeniana, ii. 3, c. 17), in discussing the statement of Origen, in his Commentary on S. Matthew (Tract 27), that "Christ after His resurrection `deified

0' the human nature which He had taken," remarks, "If we take this word so as to make Origen mean that the Word was changed into the human nature, and that the flesh itself was changed into God and made of the same substance as the Word, he will clearly be guilty of that deadly error which Apollinaris brought into the Church (i. e. that the Saviour's soul is not `reasonable,

0' nor His flesh human); or rather of the heresy perpetrated by some sects of the Eutychians, who asserted that the human nature was changed into the Divine after the Resurrection. But if we take him to mean that Christ's human nature, after being divested of weakness after death, assumed a certain Divine quality, we shall be doing Him no wrong." He then quotes a line from Gregory's Iambics:-

"The thing `deifying,

0' and the thing `deified,

0' are one God:"and this is said even of Christ's Incarnation; how ranch more then can it be said of His Resurrection state, as in this passage of the Great Catechism? Huet adds one of Origen's answers to Celsus: "His mortal body and the human soul in Him, by virtue of their junction or rather union aud blending with that (deity), assumed, we assert, qualities of the very greatest kind. ...What incredibility is there in the quality of mortality in the body of Jesus changing, when God so planned and willed it, into an ethereal and Divine" (i. e. the matter, as the receptacle of these qualities, remaining the same)? It is in this sense that Chrysostom can say that "Christ came to us, and took upon Him our nature and deified it;" and Augustine, "your humanity received the name of that deity" (contr. Arian.).

94 Heb. ii. 10; Heb. xii. 2.

95 adiecodon <\=85_frouran. Krabingers excellent reading. Cf. Plato, Phaed. p. 62 B, "We men are in a sort of prison."

96 S. John iii. 31: 1 Cor. xv. 47 (anwqen = ec ouranou).

97 epixeomenoj. This may be pressed to imply that immersion was not absolutely necessary. So below to udwr trij epixeamenoi.

98 efapac. So Rom. vi. 10, "He died unto sin once" (A. V.); i. e. once for all.

99 analuein. Cf. Philip. i. 23 (analusai)

100 oij de prosepwrwqh ta paqh.