St. Gregory of Nyssa (330 – 395)
The Resurrection Promises the Restoration of Paradise
The resurrection promises us the restoration of the fallen to their ancient state; for the grace we look for is a certain return to the first life, bringing back again to Paradise him who was cast out from it. If then, the life of those restored is closely related to that of the angels, it is clear that the life before the transgression was a kind of angelic life, and hence also our return to the ancient condition of life is compared to the angels.
~ On the Making of Man XVII.2. In A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Vol. V. Ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Christian Literature Company, 1893, p. 407A.
Man the Microcosm
Man is a little world in himself and contains within himself all the elements which make up the universe.
~ On the Soul and the Resurrection. In A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Vol. V. Ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Christian Literature Company, 1893, p. 433A.
In the Image of God
The fact of being created in the image of God means that humanity, right from the moment of creation, was endowed with a royal character…. The godhead is wisdom and logos [reason and meaning]; in yourself too you see intelligence and thought, images of the original intelligence and thought…. God is love and source of love: the divine Creator has drawn this feature on our faces too.
~ “On the Creation of Man,” 44:136-137. In The Roots of Christian Mysticism. Oliver Clement. New City Press, 1995, p. 80.
Woman in the Image of God
Woman is in the image of God equally with man. The sexes are of equal worth. Their virtues are equal, their struggles are equal… Would a man be able to compete with a woman who lives her life to its fullness?
~ “Let us make man in our image and likeness, second discourse,” (PG 44:276) In The Roots of Christian Mysticism. By Oliver Clement. New City Press, 1995, p. 292.
All that is God’s Good Resides in Man
He who created human beings in order to make them share in his own fullness so disposed their nature that it contains the principle of all that is good, and each of these dispositions draws them to desire the corresponding divine attribute. So God could not have deprived them of the best and most precious of his attributes, self-determination, freedom.
~ Catechetical Orations, 45:24 In The Roots of Christian Mysticism. Oliver Clement. New City Press, 1995, p. 81.
Nature is Also in the Image of God
It is not in a part of human nature that the image of God is found, but nature in its totality is the image of God.
~ “On the Creation of Man,” 44:185. :24 In The Roots of Christian Mysticism. Oliver Clement. New City Press, 1995, p. 83.
The Visible as Springboard for Spiritual Contemplation
When someone whose mind is but partially developed sees something clothed in some semblance of beauty, he believes that this thing is beautiful in its own nature. But someone who has purified the eyes of his soul and is trained to see beautiful things… makes use of the visible as a springboard to rise to the contemplation of the spiritual.
~ On Virginity (PG 46:364). In The Roots of Christian Mysticism. By Oliver Clement. New City Press, 1995, p. 218.
How all Creation Becomes One Body
Since He is in all, He takes into Himself all who are united with Him by the participation of His body; He makes them all members of His body, in such wise that the many members are but one body. Having thus united us with Himself and Himself with us, and having become one with us in all things, He makes His own all that is ours. But the greatest of all our goods is submission to God, which brings all creation into harmony…. Thus all creation becomes one body, all are grafted one upon the other, and Christ speaks of the submission of His body to the Father as His own submission.
~ In Illud: Tunc ipse filius subjicietur, PG, XL,1317. Quoted in Emile Mersch, the Whole Christ (London: Denis Dobson, 1938), p. 315.
The Great Catechism
Belief in God rests on the art and wisdom displayed in the order of the world: the belief in the Unity of God, on the perfection that must belong to Him in respect of power, goodness, wisdom, etc.
~ The Great Catechism, Prologue to Ch. 1. In A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Vol. V. Ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Christian Literature Company, 1983, p. 471.
Creation as Evidence of the Creator
For when he considers the universe, can anyone be so simple minded as not to believe that the Divine is present in everything, pervading, embracing, and penetrating it? For all things depend upon Him Who is, and nothing can exist which does not have its being in Him Who is.
~ Quoted in Andrew Linzey, Compassion for Animals: Readings and Prayers, SPCK Publ., London, 1988, pg. 8.
Traversing Time and Space to Know God
For how can our understanding, traversing the diastemic (i.e., the vast separation caused by time-space) extension, comprehend the unextended nature? The inquiry, proceeding through temporal sequence by analysis, goes on to the antecedents of that which has been discovered. Even if diligent research were to traverse all that is known, it would discover no mechanism by which to traverse the very conception of time (Gr.: aion) itself, being unable to stand outside of itself and to surpass time which is the presupposition for all existents… So when language (reason or discourse, i.e., Logos) arrives at that which is beyond language, it is time to be silent (Eccles. 3:7), and to marvel at the wonder of this ineffable power, uninterpreted and forbidden to the understanding, realizing that it was only of the works of God and not of God himself that even the great ones (prophets) spoke: “Who shall declare the powers of the Lord?” (Psalm 105:2), and “I will narrate all thy works” (Psalm 9:2), and “Generations and generations shall praise thy works” (Psalm 144:4). Of these works they speak and of these they relate the details; to declare events which have happened, they lend their voices. But when discourse comes to that which concerns him who is above all conception, they prescribe utter silence. For they say, “For the majesty of the glory of His holiness there is no limit (Psalm 144:1-5). Ah! How marvelous! How the discourse fears to approach the vicinity of the knowledge of God’s nature! So much so, that it does not seek to comprehend even some of the external phenomena that we can apprehend about God. For the text does not say: “The “ousia” of God has no limits,” judging it too presumptuous to make even such a statement about the concept (of the ousia of God), but devotes the discourse merely to marveling at the magnificence in the glory that is seen around God.
~ In Ecclesiasen VII, Gregorii Nysseni Opera, Vol. V, pp 412-418, as quoted in The Human Presence: Ecological Spirituality in the Age of the Spirit, translation by Mar Paulos Gregorios, Amity House Press, Amity, NY, 1989, p. 58.
A brother of St. Basil, a monk and eventually a bishop, he served in the remote and obscure diocese of Nyssa near the Armenian border. There he composed inspired works on the ascetical life and the true Church of Christ. He describes human purpose as one of consecrating, even as transfiguring, creation into its full cosmological potential. He was given the titles of “Pillar of Orthodoxy” and “Father of the Fathers” by the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD. Gregory, an ardent student of Origen, is the first person to use the term, “the eternal now,” to describe our experience of God creating the cosmos with the human at the center. He sees the world as created in grace, and so nature is always infused with an interior spiritual supernature. Gregory also introduces into theology the concept of the infinitude of God and describes its consequences. Humanity and the whole cosmos participate in this infinity. In this scheme God is perfection freed from finite limits and made dynamic rather than static. Therefore he sees perfection in God as the infinite advance in the good, and as a never-ending process. His ecological significance encompasses all this but lies particularly in his ability to discern human spirituality extended beyond the realm of the individual soul and to see humanity and all creation as intertwined with each person having responsibility for the entire cosmos. He ardently affirms the spiritual value of nature and all things of this earth even though they reside in a subordinate position to the kingdom of God.
Perception of God Through Nature
The one who gazes on the physical universe and perceives the wisdom which is reflected in the beauty of created realities, can reason from the visible to the invisible beauty, the Source of Wisdom, whose influence established the nature of all reality. So also can one who looks upon this new universe of creation which is the Church see in it the one Who is all in all, and thus be led by our faith from things which are intelligible and understandable to a knowledge of the One who is beyond all knowledge.
~ Quoted in Epiphany Journal, Fall, 1985, p. 84.
How the Church Recreates the World
The establishment of the Church is a re-creation of the world. In the Church there is a new heaven… Here too there is a new firmament, which is, as Paul tells us, faith in Christ. A new earth is formed… Man is created once again, for by his rebirth from on high, he is renewed according to the image of his Creator. There is also a new light, of which He speaks: “You are the light of the world.”
~ “On the New Creation,” Sermon 13:1049B-1050A. Quoted in Creation Theology, Jose Morales, Scepter Publishers, 2001, p. 100.
Reflection on Dominion
Man was brought into the world last after the creation, not being rejected to the last as worthless, but as one whom it behooved to be king over his subjects at his very birth…. The Maker of All gives him as foundations the instincts of a two-fold organization, blending the Divine with the earthly, that by means of both he may be naturally and properly (to enjoy both) God by means of his more divine nature, and the good things of earth by the sense that is akin to them. … He has a rank assigned to him before his genesis and possesses rule over the things that are before his coming into being.
~ On the Making of Man II.2-III.1. In Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol V. Ed. Philip Schaff. Cosimo, Inc., 2007, p. 390.
Human Nature in the New Creation
We learn from scripture in the account of the first Creation, that first the earth brought forth “the green herb” and that then from this plant, seed was yielded, from which, when it was shed on the ground, the same form of the original plant again sprang up. The Apostle, it is to be observed, declares that this very same thing happens in the Resurrection. And so we learn from him the fact, not only that our humanity will then be changed into something nobler, but also that what we have therein to expect is nothing else than that which was at the beginning.
~ On the Soul and the Resurrection I. In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V, Eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Christian Literature Company, 1893, p. 467.
Made in God’s Image Refers to All of Human Nature
For the name Adam… is not now given to a created object. For created man has no special name; he is universal man, encompassing in himself all of humanity. So then, by this designation of Adam’s universal nature, we are led to understand that divine providence and energy embrace in primordial creation the whole human race. For God’s image is not confined to one part of nature, nor grace to only one individual among those belonging to it…. There is no distinction between man formed at the beginning of the world’s creation, and him who will come at the end: they bear in themselves the same image of God. Consequently, man, made in God’s image, is nature understood as a whole, reflecting the likeness of God. God’s image, proper to Adam’s person, relates to all of humanity, to “universal man.”
~ On the Structure of Man XVI, p. 44, 148C. Quoted in Orthodox Theology: An Introduction, by Vladimir Lossky, SVS Press, 1978, p. 124.
Man as Microcosm of the Universe
There is nothing remarkable in man being in the image and likeness of the universe. For the earth passes away, the sky changes, and all that is contained therein is as transient as that which contains it…. In thinking to exalt human nature through this imposing name…, they did not notice that man has found himself invested at the same time with the qualities of mosquitoes and mice.
~ Quoted in Vladimir Lossky, Orthodox Theology, SVS Press, 1979, pg. 70.
Man Unites the Spiritual and Physical
There is a connection between the physical and the spiritual; God has created both and rules over them. Therefore, nothing in creation is to be rejected, nor is anything excluded from the community of God. This union of spiritual and physical is embodied by God in man.
~ “The Great Catechism,” chapter 6 as quoted by Clarence Glacken in Traces on the Rhodian Shore, Univ. of Calif. Press, 1967, pg. 298.
The Creation Proclaims the Creator
The creation proclaims outright the Creator. For the very heavens, as the Psalmist says, declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1)with their unutterable words. We see the universal harmony in the wondrous sky and on the wondrous earth; how elements essentially opposed to each other are all woven together in an ineffable union to serve one common end, each contributing its particular force to maintain the whole….
We see all this with the piercing eyes of mind, nor can we fail to be taught by means of such a spectacle that a Divine power, working with skill and method, is manifesting itself in this actual world, and, penetrating each portion, combines those portions with the whole and completes the whole by the portions, and encompasses the universe with a single all-controlling force, self-centered, never ceasing from its motion, yet never altering the position which it holds.
~ On the Soul and the Resurrection. In A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Vol. V. Ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Christian Literature Company, 1893, p. 433.