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Gregory of Nyssa’s View of the Church

Status Quaestionis
  • José R. Villar
Part of the Pathways for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue book series (PEID)

Abstract

It is generally accepted that the Fathers did not have a systematic ecclesiology or collective understanding of the Church.1 The Fathers sketch out a general outline de Ecclesia in an existential sense, based on their experience of the Church and the custody of the doctrines of the faith. Their thought amounts to an incipient theological reflection on the Church, scattered among their writings on other concerns and interests, particularly Trinitarian and Christological ones. The ecclesiology of the Cappadocian Fathers is characterized above all by being a Christology with ecclesiastical reflections—a Christology that develops into an ecclesiology.

Keywords

Human Nature Perfect Image Virtuous Life Divine Life Earthly Life 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Cf. Pierre-Thomas Camelot, “Die Lehre von der Kirche: Väterzeit bis ausschließlich Augustinus,” in Handbuch der Dogmengeschichte, vol. 3, ed. Michael Schmaus et al. (Herder: Freiburg, 1970);Google Scholar
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  3. 3.
    David L. Balás, “Deification,” in The Brill Dictionary of Gregory of Nyssa, ed. Lucas F. Mateo-Seco and Giulio Maspero (Leiden: Brill, 2009), 210–13.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Among the Cappadocians, Gregory is “the ecclesiologist par excellence”; Konstantinos Scouteris, “The Unity and the Catholicity of the Church According to Saint Gregory of Nyssa, and Its Ecumenical Significance,” in Einheit und Katholizität der Kirche: Forscher aus dem Osten und Westen Europas an den Quellen des gemeinsamen Glaubens, ed. Theresia Hainthaler et al. (Innsbruck: Pro Oriente-Tyrolia, 2009), 173.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    Cf. Drobner, “Ecclesiology,” 250–51: the very title Ecclesiastes indicates that he teaches the correct ecclesiastical behavior (ἐκκλησιαστικὴ πολιτεία) to achieve the virtuous life. In Ecclesiastes, Christ speaks as the Church’s guide ((ὁ μεγάλος καθηγεμών, ὁ ἀληθινὸς ἐκκλησιαστής) to its members (τοῖς ἐκκλησιάζουσιν) (In Ecclesiasten homiliae [Eccl] 1: GNO V, 279, 4–281, 2; 2: 299, 3–9). Gregory understands the phrase “I am Ecclesiastes” (Eccles. 1:12) to be Jesus’s affirmation that “I am the Good Shepherd” (In ascensionem Christi Oratio [Ascens]: GNO IX, 324, 1–7). Christ is the mystagogue who leads to God (Eccl 5: GNO V, 353, 11 s.), who joins scattered humankind in one Church (Eccl 2: GNO V, 298, 5–9). Cf. Hubertus Drobner, “Verwendung und Bedeutung des Buches Ecclesiastes,” in Gregory of Nyssa: Homilies on Ecclesiastes, ed. Stuart George Hall (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1993), 367–70.Google Scholar
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    This is the view of John M. Shea, The Church According to St. Gregory of Nissa’s Homilies on the Canticle of Canticles (Baltimore: Pont. Univ. Gregoriana, 1968), 123. Cf. the study of Cant byGoogle Scholar
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  9. 19.
    Cf. the beginning of De hominis opificio [Op hom]: only man is the image of God; the universe was created in the perspective of man. On Gregory’s theory of a double creation—in the beginning (ἐν ἀρχῇ) and the six days of creation (Apologia in Hexaemeron [Hex]: PG 44, 72)—see Hans Urs von Balthasar, Présence et Pensée: Essai sur la Philosophie religieuse de Grégoire de Nysse (Paris: Beauchesne, 1942), 52, n. 5. Cf. Infant: GNO III/2, 77, 15–22; 79, 23; Op hom: PG 44, 198B; 200AC; 206AB; Cant: GNO VI, 458, 7; Eun I : GNO I, 82, 21; De virginitate [Virg]: GNO VIII/1, 297, 24.Google Scholar
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    Op hom: PG 44, 185BC; 140BC. This creation is the intentional preexistence of the whole of humanity in the divine mind, not the preexistence of an ideal archetypal man; cf. Jean Daniélou, Le IV siècle: Grégoire de Nysse et son milieu (Paris: Institut Catholique de Paris, 1960), 62.Google Scholar
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    Cf. Léopold Malevez, “L’Église dans le Christ: Étude de théologie historique et théorique,” Recherches de Science Religieuse 25 (1935): 260–80.Google Scholar
  12. 26.
    Cf. Malevez, “L’Église dans le Christ,” 273–74. The importance that Gregory gives to the mysteries of the life of Christ, which are exclusive to his humanity, delegitimizes the idea of “collective incarnation” in Gregory; cf. Adolf Harnack, Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte, vol. 2 (Tübinguen: Mohr, 1909), 166. Cf.Google Scholar
  13. Lucas F. Mateo-Seco, “La vida de Cristo en la Oratio Catechetica Magna,” in Communio et sacramentum, ed. José R. Villar (Pamplona: Ed. Universidad de Navarra, 2003), 179–200.Google Scholar
  14. 30.
    Eun I: GNO I, 209, 8–14; Eun I: GNO I, 180, 10; Eun II: GNO I, 288, 6; 288, 15; Eun III: GNO II, 100, 18; 190, 2–3; Antirrh: GNO III/1, 230, 29. Cf. Lucas F. Mateo-Seco, “Obrazy obrazu (Rodzaju 1, 26 i Kolosan 1, 15) u sw. Grzegorza z Nyssy,” Vox Patrum 26 (2006): 367–81;Google Scholar
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  16. 34.
    Cf., for example, Cant 7: GNO VI, 256, 17–18. Gregory often quotes 1 Corinthians 12:12, 27; 15:28; Ephesians 1:22; 4:11–13, 15; 5:23; cf. Lexicon Gregorianum, vol. 3: Worterbuch zu den Schriften Gregors von Nyssa, ed. Friedhelm Mann (Leiden: Brill, 1999–2010), 114; Hubertus Drobner, Bibelindex zu den Werken Gregor von Nyssa (Paderborn: Selbstverlag, 1988).Google Scholar
  17. 35.
    Cant 13: GNO VI, 391, 11–15; cf. Reinhard M. Hübner, Die Einheit des Leibes bei Gregor von Nyssa: Untersuchungen zur Ursprung der “physischen Erlosung-slehre” (Leiden: Brill, 1974).Google Scholar
  18. 37.
    Perf: GNO VIII/1, 197–98, 4. Cf. Jean Daniélou, “Conspiration (σύμπνοια),” in L’être et le temps chez Grégoire de Nysse (Leiden: Brill, 1970), 51–74.Google Scholar
  19. 48.
    Cf. Jean Daniélou, Platonisme et théologie mystique: Doctrine spirituelle de saint Grégoire de Nysse (Paris: Aubier, 1944), 34.Google Scholar
  20. 66.
    After crossing the Jordan, the faithful are fed with the body and blood of Christ: his body is food that gives strength to the soul, and his blood is a drink that gives cheer to the heart (Bapt: GNO X/2, 362; Ascens: GNO IX, 324). Cf. Gregorio Celada, “La catequesis sacramental y bautismal de Gregorio de Nisa,” La Ciencia Tomista 101 (1974): 565–665;Google Scholar
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  23. Walther Völker, Gregorio di Nissa, filosofo e mistico (Milán: Vita e Pensiero, 1993), 194–98, 241–47.Google Scholar
  24. 68.
    The verbs used to describe the changes wrought in the bread imply a profound transformation: μεταποιέω, μετατίθημι, and above all μεταστοιχειόω, which should be translated as “alter,” “transfer,” and “change the nature of the elements” (cf. Geoffrey William Hugo Lampe, A Patristic Greek Lexicon [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961], 959–62).Google Scholar
  25. 70.
    Cf. Raymond Winling, “La résurrection du Christ comme principe explicatif et comme élément structurant dans la ‘Discours catéchetique’ de Gregoire de Nysse,” Studia Patristica 22 (1983): 74–80.Google Scholar
  26. 84.
    In Tunc et ipse, Gregory comments on 1 Corinthians 15:28 in the context of the unity that is consummated in heaven: He who is in the Father, by uniting all men to himself in a single body, carries out in his own person the union of humanity to God. Cf. Giulio Maspero, La Trinità e l’uomo: l’Ad Ablabium di Gregorio di Nissa (Rome: Città Nuova, 2004), 174.Google Scholar
  27. 94.
    Mort: GNO IX, 66. Cf. Lucas F. Mateo, “La unidad y la gloria: Jn 17, 21–23 en el pensamiento de Gregorio de Nisa,” in Signum et testimonium, ed. Juan Chapa (Pamplona: Ed. Universidad de Navarra, 2003), 179–200.Google Scholar

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© José R. Villar 2016

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  • José R. Villar

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