Thursday, March 22, 2012

Gregory of Nazianzus on "traveling through every stage and faculty of the life of Christ"

"A little later on you will see Jesus submitting to be purified in the River Jordan for my purification, or rather, sanctifying the waters by his purification (for indeed he had no need of purification who takes away the sin of the world) and the heavens cleft asunder, and witness borne to him by the Spirit that is of one nature with him; you shall see him tempted and conquering and served by angels, and healing every sickness and every disease, and giving life to the dead (O that he would give life to you who are dead because of your heresy), and driving out demons, sometimes himself, sometimes by his disciples; and feeding vast multitudes with a few loaves; and walking dryshod upon seas; and being betrayed and crucified, and crucifying with himself my sin; offered as a Lamb, and offering as a Priest; as a man buried in the grave, and as God rising again; and then ascending, and to come again in his own glory. Why what a multitude of high festivals there are in each of the mysteries of the Christ; all of which have one completion, namely, my perfection and return to the first condition of Adam.

"Now then I pray you accept his conception, and leap before him; if not like John from the womb, yet like David, because of the resting of the Ark. Revere the enrollment on account of which you were written in heaven, and adore the birth by which you were loosed from the chains of your birth, and honor little Bethlehem, which has led you back to paradise; and worship the manger through which you, being without sense, were fed by the Word. Know as Isaiah bids you, your owner, like the ox, and like the ass your Master's crib; if you be one of those who are pure and lawful food, and who chew the cud of the word and are fit for sacrifice. Or if you are one of those who are as yet unclean and uneatable and unfit for sacrifice, and of the gentile portion, run with the Star, and bear your gifts with the Magi, gold and frankincense and myrrh, as to a King, and to God, and to One who is dead for you. With shepherds glorify him; with angels join in chorus; with archangels sing hymns. Let this festival be common to the powers in heaven and to the powers upon earth. For I am persuaded that the heavenly hosts join in our exultation and keep high festival with us today . . . because they love men, and they love God just like those whom David introduces after the passion ascending with Christ and coming to meet him, and bidding one another to lift up the gates.

"One thing connected with the birth of Christ I would have you hate: the murder of the infants by Herod. Or rather you must venerate this too, the sacrifice of the same age as Christ, slain before the offering of the new victim. If he flees into Egypt, joyfully become a companion of his exile. It is a grand thing to share the exile of the persecuted Christ. If he tarry long in Egypt, call him out of Egypt by a reverent worship of him there. Travel without fault through every stage and faculty of the life of Christ. Be purified; be circumcised; strip off the veil which has covered you from your birth. After this teach in the temple, and drive out the sacrilegious traders. Submit to be stoned if need be, for well I know you shall be hidden from those who cast the stones; you shall escape even through the midst of them, like God. If you be brought before Herod, answer not for the most part. He will respect your silence more than most people's long speeches. If you be scourged, ask for what they leave out. Taste gall for the taste's sake; drink vinegar; seek for spittings; accept blows, be crowned with thorns, that is, with the hardness of the godly life; put on the purple robe, take the reed in hand, and receive mock worship from those who mock at the truth; lastly, be crucified with him, and share his death and burial gladly, that you may rise with him, and be glorified with him and reign with him. Look at and be looked at by the great God, who in Trinity is worshiped and glorified, and whom we declare to be now set forth as clearly before you as the chains of our flesh allow, in Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be the glory for ever. Amen."

--Gregory of Nazianzus, On the Theophany, or Birthday of Christ (Oration 38)

1 comment:

  1. A brilliant quote from St Gregory. You may be interested in some of the work my colleague and I have been doing over at Lupus-Cain. (At the forefront of our research is the question of Christ's participation in human nature, and the human participation in Christ's nature.)