« Prev Gregory proceeds to discuss the relative force of… Next »

§3. Gregory proceeds to discuss the relative force of the unnameable name of the Holy Trinity and the mutual relation of the Persons, and moreover the unknowable character of the essence, and the condescension on His part towards us, His generation of the Virgin, and His second coming, the resurrection from the dead and future retribution.

What then means that unnameable name concerning which the Lord said, “Baptizing them into the name,” and did not add the actual significant term which “the name” indicates? We have concerning it this notion, that all things that exist in the creation are defined by means of their several names. Thus whenever a man speaks of “heaven” he directs the notion of the hearer to the created object indicated by this name, and he who mentions “man” or some animal, at once by the mention of the name impresses upon the hearer the form of the creature, and in the same way all other things, by means of the names imposed upon them, are depicted in the heart of him who by hearing receives the appellation imposed upon the thing. The uncreated Nature alone, which we acknowledge in the Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Spirit, surpasses all significance of names. For this cause the Word, when He spoke of “the name” in delivering the Faith, did not add what it is,—for how could a name be found for that which is above every name?—but gave authority that whatever name our intelligence by pious effort be enabled to discover to indicate the transcendent Nature, that name should be applied alike to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, whether it be “the Good” or “the Incorruptible,” whatever name each may think proper to be employed to indicate the undefiled Nature of Godhead. And by this deliverance the Word seems to me to lay down for us this law, that we are to be persuaded that the Divine Essence is ineffable and incomprehensible: for it is plain that the title of Father does not present to us the Essence, but only indicates the relation to the Son. It follows, then, that if it were possible for human nature to be taught the essence of God, He “Who will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth260260    1 Tim. ii. 4.” would not have suppressed the knowledge upon this matter. But as it is, by saying nothing concerning the Divine Essence, He showed that the knowledge thereof is beyond our power, while when we have learnt that of which we are capable, we stand in no need of the knowledge beyond our capacity, as we have in the profession of faith in the doctrine delivered to us what suffices for our salvation. For to learn that He is the absolutely existent, together with Whom, by the relative force of the term, there is also declared the majesty of the Son, is the fullest teaching of godliness; the Son, as has been said, implying in close union with Himself the Spirit of Life and Truth, inasmuch as He is Himself Life and Truth.

These distinctions being thus established, while we anathematize all heretical fancies in the sphere of divine doctrines, we believe, even as we were taught by the voice of the Lord, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, acknowledging together with this faith also the dispensation that has been set on foot on behalf of men 104by the Lord of the creation. For He “being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant261261    Phil. ii. 6.,” and being incarnate in the Holy Virgin redeemed us from death “in which we were held,” “sold under sin262262    Or, “in which we were held by sin, being sold.” The reference is to Rom. vii. 7 and 14, but with the variation of ὑπὸ τῆς ἁμαρτίας, for ὑπὸ τὴν ἁμαρτίαν, and a change in the order of the words.,” giving as the ransom for the deliverance of our souls His precious blood which He poured out by His Cross, and having through Himself made clear for us the path of the resurrection263263    A similar phrase is to be found in Book V. With both may be compared the language of the Eucharistic Prayer in the Liturgy of S. Basil (where the context corresponds to some extent with that of either passage in S. Gregory):—καὶ ἀναστὰς τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ, καὶ ὁδοποιήσας πάσῃ σαρκὶ τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν ἀνάστασιν, κ.τ.λ. from the dead, shall come in His own time in the glory of the Father to judge every soul in righteousness, when “all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth, they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation264264    S. John v. 29.” But that the pernicious heresy that is now being sown broadcast by Eunomius may not, by falling upon the mind of some of the simpler sort and being left without investigation, do harm to guileless faith, we are constrained to set forth the profession which they circulate and to strive to expose the mischief of their teaching.

« Prev Gregory proceeds to discuss the relative force of… Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection