Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 05: 25.01.61 The Great Catechism Part 5

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Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 05: 25.01.61 The Great Catechism Part 5

TOPIC: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 05 (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 25.01.61 The Great Catechism Part 5

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Chapter XXXVI.

For common sense as well as the teaching of Scripture shows that it is impossible for one who has not thoroughly cleansed himself from all the stains arising from evil to be admitted amongst the heavenly company. This is a thing which, though little in itself, is the beginning and foundation of great blessings. I call it little on account of the facility of the means of amendment. For what difficulty is there in this matter? viz. to believe that God is everywhere, and that being in all things He is also present with those who call upon Him for His life-supporting power, and that, thus present, He does that which properly belongs to Him to do. Now, the work properly belonging to the Divine energy is the salvation of those who need it; and this salvation proves effectualhyperlink by means of the cleansing in the water; and he that has been so cleansed will participate in Purity; and true Purity is Deity. You see, then, how small a thing it is in its beginning, and how easily effected; I mean, faith and water; the first residing within the will, the latter being the nursery companion of the life of man. But as to the blessing which springs from these two things, oh! how great and how wonderful it is, that it should imply relationship with Deity itself!

Chapter XXXVII.

But since the human being is a twofold creature, compounded of soul and body, it is necessary that the saved should lay hold ofhyperlink the Author of the new life through both their component parts. Accordingly, the soul being fused into Him through faith derives from that the means and occasion of salvation; for the act of union with the life implies a fellowship with the life. But the body comes into fellowship and blending with the Author of our salvation in another way. For as they who owing to some act of treachery have taken poison, allay its deadly influence by means of some other drug (for it is necessary that the antidote should enter the human vitals in the same way as the deadly poison, in order to secure, through them, that the effect of the remedy may be distributed through the entire system), in like manner we, who have tasted the solvent of our naturehyperlink , necessarily need something that may combine what has been so dissolved, so that such an antidote entering within us may, by its own counter-influence, undo the mischief introduced into the body by the poison. What, then, is this remedy to be? Nothing else than that very Body which has been shown to be superior to death, and has been the First-fruits of our life. For, in the manner that, as the Apostle sayshyperlink , a little leaven assimilates to itself the whole lump, so in like manner that body to which immortality has been given it by God, when it is in ours, translates and transmutes the whole into itself. For as by the admixture of a poisonous liquid with a wholesome one the whole drought is deprived of its deadly effect, so too the immortal Body, by being within that which receives it, changes the whole to its own nature. Yet in no other way can anything enter within the body but by being transfused through the vitals by eating and drinking. It is, therefore, incumbent on the body to admit this life-producing power in the one way that its constitution makes possible. And since that Body only which was the receptacle of the Deity received this grace of immortality, and since it has been shown that in no other way was it possible for our body to become immortal, but by participating in incorruption through its fellowship with that immortal Body, it will be necessary to consider how it was possible that that one Body, being for ever portioned to so many myriads of the faithful throughout the whole world, enters through that portion, whole into each individual, and yet remains whole in itself. In order, therefore, that our faith, with eyes fixed on logical probability, may harbour no doubt on the subject before us, it is fitting to make a slight digression in our argument, to consider the physiology of the body. Who is there that does not know that our bodily frame, taken by itself, possesses no life in its own proper subsistence, but that it is by the influx of a force or power from without that it holds itself together and continues in existence, and by a ceaseless motion that it draws to itself what it wants, and repels what is superfluous? When a leathern bottle is full of some liquid, and then the contents leak out at the bottom, it would not retain the contour of its full bulk unless there entered? at the top something else to fill up the vacuum; and thus a person, seeing the circumference of this bottle swollen to its full size, would know that this circumference did not really belong to the object which he sees, but that what was being poured in, by being in it, gave shape and roundness to the bulk. In the same way the mere framework of our body possesses nothing belonging to itself that is cognizable by us, to hold it together, but remains in existence owing to a force that is introduced into it. Now this power or force both is, and is called, nourishment. But it is not the same in all bodies that require aliment, but to each of them has been assigned a food adapted to its condition by Him who governs Nature. Some animals feed on roots which they dig up. Of others grass is the food, of others different kinds of flesh, but for man above all things bread; and, in order to continue and preserve the moisture of his body, drink, not simply water, but water frequently sweetened with wine, to join forces with our internal heat. He, therefore, who thinks of these things, thinks by implicationhyperlink of the particular bulk of our body. For those things by being within me became my blood and flesh, the corresponding nutriment by its power of adaptation being changed into the form of my body. With these distinctions we must return to the consideration of the question before us. The question was, how can that one Body of Christ vivify the whole of mankind, all, that is, in whomsoever there is Faith, and yet, though divided amongst all, be itself not diminished? Perhaps, then, we are now not far from the probable explanation. If the subsistence of every body depends on nourishment, and this is eating and drinking, and in the case of our eating there is bread and in the case of our drinking water sweetened with wine, and if, as was explained at the beginning, the Word of God, Who is both God and the Word, coalesced with man's nature, and when He came in a body such as ours did not innovate on man's physical constitution so as to make it other than it was, but secured continuance for His own body by the customary and proper means, and controlled its subsistence by meat and drink, the former of which was bread,-just, then, as in the case of ourselves, as has been repeatedly said already, if a person sees bread he also, in a kind of way, looks on a human body, for by the bread being within it the bread becomes it, so also, in that other case, the body into which God entered, by partaking of the nourishment of bread, was, in a certain measure, the same with it; that nourishment, as we have said, changing itself into the nature of the body. For that which is peculiar to all flesh is acknowledged also in the case of that flesh, namely, that that Body too was maintained by bread; which Body also by the indwelling of God the Word was transmuted to the dignity of Godhead. Rightly, then, do we believe that now also the bread which is consecrated by the Word of God is changed into the Body of God the Word. For that Body was once, by implication, bread, but has been consecrated by the inhabitation of the Word that tabernacled in the flesh. Therefore, from the same cause as that by which the bread that was transformed in that Body was changed to a Divine potency, a similar result takes place now. For as in that case, too, the grace of the Word used to make holy the Body, the substance of which came of the bread, and in a manner was itself bread, so also in this case the bread, as says the Apostlehyperlink , "is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer"; not that it advances by the process of eatinghyperlink to the stage of passing into the body of the Word, but it is at once changed into the body by means of the Word, as the Word itself said, "This is My Body." Seeing, too, that all flesh is nourished by what is moist (for without this combination our earthly part would not continue to live), just as we support by food which is firm and solid the solid part of our body, in like manner we supplement the moist part from the kindred element; and this, when within us, by its faculty of being transmitted, is changed to blood, and especially if through the wine it receives the faculty of being transmuted into heat. Since, then, that God-containing flesh partook for its substance and support of this particular nourishment also, and since the God who was manifested infused Himself into perishable humanity for this purpose, viz. that by this communion with Deity mankind might at the same time be deified, for this end it is that, by dispensation of His grace, He disseminates Himself in every believer through that flesh, whose substance comes from bread and wine, blending Himself with the bodies of believers, to secure that, by this union with the immortal, man, too, may be a sharer in incorruption. He gives these gifts by virtue of the benediction through which He transelementshyperlink the natural quality of these visible things to that immortal thing.

Chapter XXXVIII.

There is now, I think, wanting in these remarks no answer to inquiries concerning the Gospel mystery, except that on Faithhyperlink ; which we give briefly in the present treatise. For those who require a more elaborate account we have already published it in other works of ours, in which we have explained the subject with all the earnestness and accuracy in our power. In those treatises we have both foughthyperlink controversially with our opponents, and also have taken private consultation with ourselves as to the questions which have been brought against us. But in the present discussion we have thought it as well only to say just so much on the subject of faith as is involved in the language of the Gospel, namely, that one who is begotten by the spiritual regeneration may know who it is that begets him, and what sort of creature he becomes. For it is only this form of generation which has in it the power to become what it chooses to be.

Chapter XXXIX.

For, while all things else that are born are subject to the impulse of those that beget them, the spiritual birth is dependent on the power of him who is being born. Seeing, then, that herelies the hazard, namely, that he should not miss what is for his advantage, when to every one a free choice is thus open, it were well, I think, for him who is moved towards the begetting of himself, to determine by previous reasoning what kind of father is for his advantage, and of what element it is better for him that his nature should consist. For, as we have said, it is in the power of such a child as this to choose its parents. Since, then, there is a twofold division of existences, into created and uncreated, and since the uncreated world possesses within itself immutability and immobility, while the created is liable to change and alteration, of which will he, who with calculation and deliberation is to choose what is for his benefit, prefer to be the offspring; of that which is always found in a state of change, or of that which possesses a nature that is changeless, steadfast, and ever consistent and unvarying in goodness? Now there have been delivered to us in the Gospel three Persons and names through whom the generation or birth of believers takes place, and he who is begotten by this Trinity is equally begotten of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost-for thus does the Gospel speak of the Spirit, that "that which is born of Spirit is spirithyperlink ," and it is "in Christhyperlink " that Paul begets, and the Father is the "Father of all;" here, then, I beg, let the mind of the hearer be sober in its choice, lest it make itself the offspring of some inconstant nature, when it has it in its power to make the steadfast and unalterable nature the founder of its life. For according to the disposition of heart in one who comes to the Dispensation will that which is begotten in him exhibit its power; so that he who confesses that the Holy Trinity is uncreate enters on the steadfast unalterable life; while another, who through a mistaken conception sees only a created nature in the Trinity and then is baptized in that, has again been born into the shifting and alterable life. For that which is born is of necessity of one kindred with that which begets. Which, then, offers the greater advantage; to enter on the unchangeable life, or to be again tossed about by thewaves of this lifetime of uncertainty and change? Well, since it is evident to any one of the least understanding that what is stable is far more valuable than what is unstable, what is perfect than what is deficient, what needs not than what needs, and what has no further to advance, but ever abides in the perfection of all that is good, than what climbs by progressive toil, it is incumbent upon every one, at least upon every one who is possessed of sense, to make an absolute choice of one or other of these two conditions, either to believe that the Holy Trinity belongs to the uncreated world, and so through the spiritual birth to make It the foundation of his own life, or, if he thinks that the Son or the Holy Ghost is external to the being of the first, the true, the good, God, I mean, of the Father, not to include these Persons in the belief which he takes upon him at the moment of his new birth, lest he unconsciously make himself over to that imperfect naturehyperlink which itself needs some one to make it good, and in a manner bring himself back again to something of the same nature as his own by thus removing his faithhyperlink from that higher world. For whoever has bound himself to any created thing forgets that, as from the Deity, he has no longer hope of salvation. For all creation, owing to the whole equally proceeding from non-existence into being, has an intimate connection with itself; and as in the bodily organization all the limbs have a natural and mutual coherence, though some have a downward, some an upward direction, so the world of created things is, viewed as the creation, in oneness with itself, and the differences in us, as regards abundance or deficiency, in no wise disjoint it from this natural coherence with itself. For in things which equally imply the idea of a previous non-existence, though there be a difference between them in other respects, as regards this point we discover no variation of nature. If, then, man, who is himself a created being, thinks that the Spirit and the Only-begotten Godhyperlink are likewise created, the hope which he entertains of a change to a better state will be a vain one; for he only returns to himselfhyperlink . What happens then is on a par with the surmises of Nicodemus; he, when instructed by our Lord as to the necessity of being born from above, because he could not yet comprehend the meaning of the mystery, had his thoughts drawn back to his mother's wombhyperlink . So that if a man does not conduct himself towards the uncreated nature, but to that which is kindred to, and equally in bondage with, himself, he is of the birth which is from below, and not of that which is from above. But the Gospel tells us that the birth of the saved is from above.

Chapter XL.

But, as far as what has been already said, the instruction of this Catechism does not seem to me to be yet complete. For we ought, in my opinion, to take into consideration the sequel of this matter; which many of those who come to the grace of baptismhyperlink overlook, being led astray, and self-deceived, and indeed only seemingly, and not really, regenerate. For that change in our life which takes place through regeneration will not be change, if we continue in the state in which we were. I do not see how it is possible to deem one who is still in the same condition, and in whom there has been no change in the distinguishing features of his nature, to be any other than he was, it being palpable to every one that it is for a renovation and change of our nature that the saving birth is received. And yet human nature does not of itself admit of any change in baptism; neither the reason, nor the understanding, nor the scientific faculty, nor any other peculiar characteristic of man is a subject for change. Indeed the change would be for the worse if any one of these properties of our nature were exchanged awayhyperlink for something else. If, then, the birth from above is a definite refashioning of the man, and yet these properties do not admit of change, it is a subject for inquiry what that is in him, by the changing of which the grace of regeneration is perfected. It is evident that when those evil features which mark our nature have been obliterated a change to a better state takes place. If, then, by being "washed," as says the Prophethyperlink , in that mystic bath we become "clean" in our wills and "put away the evil" of our souls, we thus become better men, and are changed to a better state. But if, when the bath has been applied to the body, the soul has not cleansed itself from the stains of its passions and affections, but the life after initiation keeps on a level with the uninitiate life, then, though it may be a bold thing to say, yet I will say it and will not shrink; in these cases the water is but water, for the gift of the Holy Ghost in no ways appears in him who is thus baptismally born; whenever, that is, not only the deformity of angerhyperlink , or the passion of greed, or the unbridled and unseemly thought, with pride, envy, and arrogance, disfigures the Divine image, but the gains, too, of injustice abide with him, and the woman he has procured by adultery still even after that ministers to his pleasures. If these and the like vices, after, as before, surround the life of the baptized, I cannot see in what respects he has been changed; for I observe him the same man as he was before. The man whom he has unjustly treated, the man whom he has falsely accused, the man whom he has forcibly deprived of his property, these, as far as they are concerned, see no change in him though he has been washed in the laver of baptism. They do not hear the cry of Zacchaeus from him as well: "If I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore fourfoldhyperlink ." What they said of him before his baptism, the same they now more fully declare; they call him by the same names, a covetous person, one who is greedy of what belongs to others, one who lives in luxury at the cost of men's calamities. Let such an one, therefore, who remains in the same moral condition as before, and then babbles to himself of the beneficial change he has received from baptism, listen to what Paul says: "If a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himselfhyperlink ." For what you have not become, that you are not. "As many as received Him," thus speaks the Gospel of those who have been born again, "to them gave He power to become the sons of Godhyperlink ." Now the child born of any one is entirely of a kindred nature with his parent. If, then, you have received God, if you have become a child of God, make manifest in your disposition the God that is in you, manifest in yourself Him that begot you. By the same marks whereby we recognize God, must this relationship to God of the son so born be exhibited. "He openeth His hand and filleth every living thing with His good pleasure." "He passeth over transgressions." "He repenteth Him of the evil." "The Lord is good to all, and bringeth not on us His anger every day." "God is a righteous Lord, and there isno injustice in Himhyperlink ;" and all other sayings of the like kind which are scattered for our instruction throughout the Scripture;-if you live amidst such things as these, you are a child of God indeed; but if you continue with the characteristic marks of vice in you, it is in vain that you babble to yourself of your birth from above. Prophecy will speak against you and say, "You are a `son of man,' not a son of the Most High. You `love vanity, and seek after leasing.' Know you not in what way man is `made admirablehyperlink '? In no other way than by becoming holy."

It will be necessary to add to what has been said this remaining statement also; viz. that those good things which are held out in the Gospels to those who have led a godly life, are not such as can be precisely described. For how is that possible with things which "eye hath not seen, neither ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of manhyperlink "? Indeed, the sinner's life of torment presents no equivalent to anything that pains the sense here. Even if some one of the punishments in that other world be named in terms that are well known here, the distinction is still not small. When you hear the word fire, you have been taught to think of a fire other than the fire we see, owing to something being added to that fire which in this there is not; for that fire is never quenched, whereas experience has discovered many ways of quenching this; and there is a great difference between a fire which can be extinguished, and one that does not admit of extinction. That fire, therefore, is something other than this. If, again, a person hears the word "worm," let not his thoughts, from the similarity of the term, be carried to the creature here that crawls upon the ground; for the addition that it "dieth not" suggests the thought of another reptile than that known here. Since, then, these things are set before us as to be expected in the life that follows this, being the natural outgrowth according to the righteous judgment of God, in the life of each, of his particular disposition, it must be the part of the wise not to regard the present, but that which follows after, and to lay down the foundations for that unspeakable blessedness during this short and fleeting life, and by a good choice to wean themselves from allexperience of evil, now in their lifetime here, hereafter in their eternal recompensehyperlink .


101 S. John iii. 5.

102 efaptesai. Krabinger prefers this to efepesqai (Paris Edit.),as more suitable to what follows.

103 Gregory seems here to refer to Eve's eating the apple, which introdnced a moral and physical poison into our nature. General Gordon's thoughts ("in Palestine") took the same direction as the whole of this passage; which Fronto Ducaeus (as quoted by Krabinger) would even regard as a proof of transubstantiation.

104 1 Cor. v. 6.

105 dunamei.

106 1 Tim. iv. 5.

107 by the process of eating, dia brwsewj. There is very little authority for kai posewj which follows in some Codd. If Krabinger's text is here correct, Gregory distinctly teaches a transmutation of the elements very like the later transubstantiation: he also distinctly teaches that the words of consecration effect the change. There seems no reason to doubt that the text is correct. The three Latin interpretations, "a verbo transmutatus," "statim a verbo transmutatus," "per verbum mutatus," of Hervetus, Morell, and Zinus, all point to their having found proj to swma dia tou logou metapoioumenoj in the text: and this is the reading of Cod. Reg. (the other reading is proj to swma tou logou). A passage from Justin Mart.,Apol.ii. p. 77, also supports Krabinger's text. Justin says, "so we are taught that that food which has been blessed by the pronouncing of the word that came from Him, which food by changing nouriishes our blood and flesh, is the flesh and blood of that Incarnate Jesus." As to the nature of the change (proj to swma metapoioumenoj), another passage in Gregory (In Baptism. Christi, 370A) should be compared: "The bread again, was for a while common bread, but when the mystic word shall have consecrated it (ierourghoh), it is called, and moreover is,the body of Chist." He says also at the end of this chapter, "He gives these gifts by virtue of the benediction through which He translements (metastoixeiwsaj) the natural quality (fusin) of these visible things to that immortal thing." Harnack does not attempt to weaken the force of these and other passages, but only points out that the idea of this change does not exactly correspond (how could it?) with the mediaeval scholastically-philosophical "transubstantiation." Gregory's belief iis that, just as the Word, when Christ was here in the flesh, rendered holy His body that assimilated bread, which still in a manner remained bread, so now the bread is sanctified by the Word of God and by prayer. "The idea," says Neander, "of the repetition of the consecration of the Logoj had taken hold of his mind." The construction is proiwn (wste) genesqai eij to swma tou logou, "eo progrediens, ut verbi corpus evadat."

108 metastoixeiwsaj. Suicer labours, without success, to show that the word is not equivalent to transelementare or metousiun, but only to substantiam convertere, i.e. to change by an addition of grace into another mode or use. In the passages from Eppiphanius which Suicer adduces for "figure," "mode," as a meaning of stoixeion itself, that word means a sign of the zodiac (as in our Gregory's De Anima et Resurr., it means the moon), only because the heavenly bodies are the elements or first principles as it were of the celestial alphabet. The other meaning of metastoixeioun which he gives, i.e. to unteach, with a view to obscure the literal meaning here, is quite inapplicable. Gregory defines more clearly than Chrysostomom (metarruqmizesqai), Theophylact (metapoieisqai), and John Damascene (metaballesqai), the change that takes place: but all go beyond Theodoret's (Dial. ii), "not changing nature, but adding grace to the nature," which Suicer endeavours to read into this word of Gregory's. It is to be noticed, too, that in Philo the word is used of Xerxes changing in his march one element into another, i.e. earth into water, not the mere use of the one into the use of the other.

109 Faith. Cf. Church Catechism; "Faith whereby they steadfastly believe the promises of God made to them in that Sacrament (of Baptism)."

110 suneplakhmen, i. e. against Eunomius, in defence of the equality of the Trinity in the Baptismal symbol Often as Gregory in that treatise opposes Eunomius for placing the essence of Christianity in mere gnwsij and dogmatwn akribeia, as against God's incomprehensibility, and knowledge only by the heart, he had yet spent his whole life in showing the supreme importance of accuracy in the formulas upon which the Faith rested. This helps to give a date for the Great Catechism.

111 S. John iii. 6.

112 1 Cor. iv. 15.

113 imperfect nature: i.e. of a creature (ktistoj); for instance, of a merely human Christ, which himself needs, and therefore cannot give, perfection.

114 removing his faith: i. e. as he would do, if he placed it on beings whom he knew were not of that higher, uncreated, world

115 and the Only-begotten God. One Cod. reads here uion (not qeon), as it is in S John i. 18, though even there "many very ancient authorities" (R.V.) read qeon. The Latin of Hervetus implies an ouk here; "et unigenitum Deum non esse existimant;" and Glauber would retain it, making ktiston = qeon ouk einai. But Krabinger found no ouk in any of his Codd.

116 proj eauton analuwn, as explained above, i. e. eij to omogenej eauton eisagagh.

117 S. John iii. 4.

118 We need not consider this passage about Regeneration as an interpolation, with Aubertin, De Sacram. Eucharist. lib. ii. p. 487, because Gregory has already dealt with Baptism in ch. xxxv.-xxxvi.; and then with the Eucharist: his view of the relation between the two Sacraments, that the Eucharist unites the body, as Baptism the soul to God, quite explains this return to the preliminaries of this double union.

119 upameifqeih. A word almost peculiar to this Gregory.

120 Is. i. 16.

121 to kata ton qumon aisxoj. Quite wrongly the Latin translators, "animi turpitudo," i. e. baseness of mind, which is mentioned just below.

122 S. Luke xix. 8.

123 Gal. vi. 3.

124 S. John i. 12.

125 These quotations are from the LXX. of Ps. cxlv. 16; Ps. ciii 12 (Is. xliii. 25); Joel ii. 13; Ps. vii. 11 (Heb. "God is angry every day "); Ps. xcii. 15.

126 Ps. iv. 2, Ps. iv. 3. In the last verse the LXX. has eqaumastwse; which the Vulgate follows, i. e. "He hath made his Saint wonderful" (the Hebrew implies, "hath wonderfully separated"). That qaumastoutai (three of Krabinger's Codd., and Morell's) is the reading here (omitted in Editt.), is clear from the whole quotation from the LXX. of this Psalm.

127 Is. lxiv. 4; 1 Cor. ii. 9.

128 The section beginning here, which one Cod. (Vulcobius'), used by Hervetus, exhibits, is "evidently the addition of some blundering copyist." P. Morell considers it the portion of a preface to a treatise against Severus, bead of the heretics called Acephali. But Severus was condemned under Justinian, a.d. 536: and the Acephali themselves were no recognized party till after the Council of Ephesus (those who would follow neither S. Cyril, nor John of Damascus, in one meaning of the term, i. e. "headless"), or after the Council of Chalcedon (those who rejected the Henoticon of the Emperor Zeno, addressed to the orthodox and the Monophysites, in the other meaning). It is quoted by Krabinger, none of whose Codd. recognize it.