Prof. Jaroslav Skira (Regis College) - Trinity & Church to 1054AD Syllabus



Note: The full electronic versions of most of the texts can be found at Early Church Fathers (CCEL). These readings are adapted from the translations found at this site.

Week 8. The Cappadocians
Basil the Great, Gregory Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, Macrina.

Textbook/Course-Pack Reading:
- Photocopies handed out in class.

Some Study Guidelines / Questions:
1. Remember to read the text historically-critically (i.e. in terms of an "exegesis").
2. 1. How is the human composition of Christ described (i.e. what are the elements that make a person fully human)?
2. How is the union of the human and divine in the Word described? Note carefully the words they use.
3. How do the Cappadocians describe the suffering of Christ? Does God suffer? (Are they patripassionists?)
4. How to they describe Mary and her motherhood?
5. Look for and note the places where they convey the doctrine of theopoiesis; communion of properties.
6. What is their pneumatology? Does they use language similar to the council of Nicea?





Basil of Caesarea [the Great] (+379)

To the Sozopolitans (Letter 261)

1. You write that there are those among you who are trying to destroy the saving incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, and, so far as they can, are overthrowing the grace of the great mystery unrevealed from everlasting, but manifested in his own times [see Rom 16.25-26], when the Lord, when he had gone thorough all things pertaining to the cure of the human race, bestowed on all of us the grace of his own sojourn among us. For he helped his own creation, first through the patriarchs, whose lives were set forth as examples to all willing to follow the footsteps of the saints, and with zeal like theirs to reach the perfection of good works. Next for relief he gave the Law, ordaining it by angels in the hand of Moses; then the prophets, foretelling the salvation to come; judges, kings, and righteous men, doing great works, with a mighty a hand. After all these in the last days he was himself manifested in the flesh, "made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of children" [Gal 4.4-5].

2. If, then, the sojourn of the Lord in flesh has never taken place, the Redeemer paid not the fine to death on our behalf, nor through himself destroyed death's reign. For if what was reigned over by death was not that which was assumed by the Lord, death would not have ceased working his own ends, nor would the sufferings of the God-bearing flesh have been our gain; he would not have killed sin in the flesh, we who had died in Adam should not have been made alive in Christ; the fallen to pieces would not have been framed again; the shattered would not have been set up again; that which by the serpent's trick had been estranged from God would never have been made once more his own. All these benefits are undone by those that assert that it was with a heavenly body that the Lord came among us. And if the God-bearing flesh was not ordained to be assumed of the lump of Adam, what need was there of the Holy Virgin? But who has the strength now once again to renew by the help of sophistical arguments and, of course, by scriptural evidence, that old dogma of Valentinus, now long ago silenced? For this impious doctrine of the seeming is no novelty. It was started long ago by the feeble-minded Valentinus, who, after tearing off a few of the Apostle's statements, constructed for himself this impious fabrication, asserting that the Lord assumed the "form of a servant," [cf. Paul's kenosis] and not the servant himself, and that he was made in the "likeness," but that actual humanity was not assumed by him. Similar sentiments are expressed by these men who can only be pitied for bringing new troubles upon you.

3.a. As to the statement that human feelings are transmitted to the actual godhead, it is one made by men who preserve no order in their thoughts, and are ignorant that there is a distinction between the feelings of flesh, of flesh endowed with soul, and of soul using a body. It is the property of flesh to undergo division, diminution, dissolution; of flesh endowed with soul to feel weariness, pain, hunger, thirst, and to be overcome by sleep; of soul using body to feel grief, heaviness, anxiety, and such like. Of these some are natural and necessary to every living creature; others come of evil will, and are superinduced because of life's lacking proper discipline and training for virtue. Hence it is evident that our Lord assumed the natural affections to establish his real incarnation, and not by way of an imaginary process, and that all the affections derived from evil that besmirch the purity of our life. He rejected as unworthy of his unsullied godhead. It is on this account that he is said to have been "made in the likeness of flesh of sin," (ROM 8.3) not, as these men hold, in likeness of flesh, but of flesh of sin. It follows that he took our flesh with its natural afflictions, but "did not sin" (see 1 Pet 2.22). Just as the death which is in the flesh, transmitted to us through Adam, was swallowed up by the godhead, so was the sin taken away by the righteousness which is in Christ Jesus, so that in the resurrection we receive back the flesh neither liable to death nor subject to sin.


Basil of Caesarea, On the Holy Spirit

9.22. Let us now investigate what are our common conceptions concerning the Spirit, as well those which have been gathered by us from Holy Scripture concerning It as those which we have received from the unwritten tradition of the Fathers. First of all we ask, who on hearing the titles of the Spirit is not lifted up in soul, who does not raise his conception to the supreme nature? It is called "Spirit of God," "Spirit of truth which proceeds from the Father," "right Spirit," "a leading Spirit." Its proper and peculiar title is "Holy Spirit;" which is a name specially appropriate to everything that is incorporeal, purely immaterial, and indivisible. So our Lord, when teaching the woman who thought God to be an object of local worship that the incorporeal is incomprehensible, said "God is a spirit." On our hearing, then, of a spirit, it is impossible to form the idea of a nature circumscribed, subject to change and variation, or at all like the creature. We are compelled to advance in our conceptions to the highest, and to think of an intelligent essence, in power infinite, in magnitude unlimited, unmeasured by times or ages, generous of It's good gifts, to whom turn all things needing sanctification, after whom reach all things that live in virtue, as being watered by It's inspiration and helped on toward their natural and proper end; perfecting all other things, but Itself in nothing lacking; living not as needing restoration, but as Supplier of life; not growing by additions; but straightway full, self-established, omnipresent, origin of sanctification, light perceptible to the mind, supplying, as it were, through Itself, illumination to every faculty in the search for truth; by nature un-approachable, apprehended by reason of goodness, filling all things with Its power, but communicated only to the worthy; not shared in one measure, but distributing Its energy according to "the proportion of faith;" in essence simple, in powers various, wholly present in each and being wholly everywhere; impassively divided, shared without loss of ceasing to be entire, after the likeness of the sunbeam, whose kindly light falls on him who enjoys it as though it shone for him alone, yet illumines land and sea and mingles with the air. So, too, is the Spirit to every one who receives it, as though given to him alone, and yet It sends forth grace sufficient and full for all mankind, and is enjoyed by all who share It, according to the capacity, not of Its power, but of their nature. …

10.24.a. But we must proceed to attack our opponents, in the endeavour to confute those "oppositions" advanced against us which are derived from "knowledge falsely so-called." It is not permissible, they assert, for the Holy Spirit to be ranked with the Father and Son, on account of the difference of His nature and the inferiority of His dignity. Against them it is right to reply in the words of the apostles, "We ought to obey God rather than men," For if our Lord, when enjoining the baptism of salvation, charged His disciples to baptize all nations in the name "of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost," not disdaining fellowship with Him, and these men allege that we must not rank Him with the Father and the Son, is it not clear that they openly withstand the commandment of God? If they deny that coordination of this kind is declaratory of any fellowship and conjunction, let them tell us why it behoves us to hold this opinion, and what more intimate mode of conjunction they have. If the Lord did not indeed conjoin the Spirit with the Father anti Himself in baptism, do not let them lay the blame of conjunction upon us, for we neither hold nor say anything different. If on the contrary the Spirit is there conjoined with the Father and the Son, and no one is so shameless as to say anything else, then let them not lay blame on us for following the words of Scripture.

25.58. It is, however, asked by our opponents, how it is that Scripture nowhere describes the Spirit as glorified together with the Father and the Son, but carefully avoids the use of the expression "with the Spirit," while it everywhere prefers to ascribe glory "in Him" as being the fitter phrase. I should, for my own part, deny that the word in [or by] implies lower dignity than the word "with;" I should maintain on the contrary that, rightly understood, it leads us up to the highest possible meaning. This is the case where, as we have observed, it often stands instead of with; as for instance, "I will go into your house in burnt offerings," instead of with burnt offerings and "he brought them forth also by silver and gold," that is to say with silver and gold and "you go not forth in our armies" instead of with our armies, and innumerable similar passages. In short I should very much like to learn from this newfangled philosophy what kind of glory the Apostle ascribed by the word in, according to the interpretation which our opponents proffer as derived from Scripture, for I have nowhere found the formula "To Thee, O Father, be honour and glory, through Your only begotten Son, by [or in] the Holy Ghost,"-a form which to our opponents comes, so to say, as naturally as the air they breathe. You may indeed find each of these clauses separately, but they will nowhere be able to show them to us arranged in this conjunction. If, then, they want exact conformity to what is written, let them give us exact references. If, on the other hand, they make concession to custom, they must not make us an exception to such a privilege.

25.59. As we find both expressions in use among the faithful, we use both; in the belief that full glory is equally given to the Spirit by both. The mouths, how, ever, of revilers of the truth may best be stopped by the preposition which, while it has the same meaning as that of the Scriptures, is not so wieldy a weapon for our opponents, (indeed it is now an object of their attack) and is used instead of the conjunction and. For to say "Paul and Silvanus and Timothy" is precisely the same thing as to say Paul with Timothy and Silvanus; for the connexion of the names is, preserved by either mode of expression. The Lord says "The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost." If I say the Father and the Son with the Holy Ghost shall I make, any difference in the sense? Of the connexion of names by means of the conjunction and the instances are many. We read "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost," and again "I beseech you for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit." Now if we wish to use with instead of and, what difference shall we have made? I do not see; unless any one according to hard and fast grammatical rules might prefer the conjunction as copulative and making the union stronger, and reject the preposition as of inferior force. …

25.60. As compared with "in," there is this difference, that while "with" sets forth the mutual conjunction of the parties associated, -as, for example, of those who sail with, or dwell with, or do anything else in common, "in" shows their relation to that matter in which they happen to be acting. For we no sooner hear the words "sail in" or "dwell in" than we form the idea of the boat or the house. Such is the distinction between these words in ordinary usage; and laborious investigation might discover further illustrations. I have no time to examine into the nature of the syllables. Since then it has been shown that "with" most clearly gives the sense of conjunction, let it be declared, if you will, to be under safe-conduct, and cease to wage your savage and truceless war against it. Nevertheless, though the word is naturally thus auspicious, yet if any one likes, in the ascription of praise, to couple the names by the syllable "and," and to give glory, as we have taught in the Gospel, in the formula of baptism, Father and Son and Holy Ghost, be it so: no one will make any objection. On these conditions, if you will, let us come to terms. But our foes would rather surrender their tongues than accept this word. …


Gregory of Nyssa (+394)

Catechetical Oration

23. What, then, was it likely that the master of the slave would choose to receive in his stead? It is possible in the way of inference to make a guess as to his wishes in the matter, if, that is, the manifest indications of what we are seeking for should come into our hands. He then, who, as we before stated in the beginning of this treatise, shut his eyes to the good in his envy of humanity in its happy condition, he who generated in himself the murky cloud of wickedness, he who suffered from the disease of the love of rule, that primary and fundamental cause of propension to the bad and the mother, so to speak, of all the wickedness that follows,--what would he accept in exchange for the thing which he held, but something, to be sure, higher and better, in the way of ransom, that thus, by receiving a gain in the exchange, he might foster the more his own special passion of pride? Now unquestionably in not one of those who had lived in history from the beginning of the world had he been conscious of any such circumstance as he observed to surround him who then manifested himself, i.e. conception without carnal connection, birth without impurity, motherhood with virginity, [and other miracles in the Scriptures]. ... Therefore it was that the deity was covered with the flesh, in order, that is, to secure that he, by looking upon something well known and kindred to himself, might have no fears in approaching that supereminent power; and might yet by perceiving that power, showing as it did, yet only gradually, more and more splendour in the miracles, deem what was seen an object of desire rather than of fear. Thus, you see how goodness was conjoined with justice, and how wisdom was not divorced from them. For to have devised that the divine power should have been containable in the envelopment of a body, to the end that the dispensation in our behalf might not be thwarted through any fear inspired by the deity actually appearing, affords a demonstration of all these qualities at once-goodness, wisdom, justice. His choosing to save humanity is a testimony of his goodness; his making the redemption of the captive a matter of exchange exhibits his justice, while the invention whereby he enabled the Enemy to apprehend that of which he was before incapable, is a manifestation of supreme wisdom.

24. But possibly one who has given his attention to the course of the preceding remarks may inquire: "wherein is the power of the deity, wherein is the imperishableness of that divine power, to be traced in the processes you have described?" In order, therefore, to make this also clear, let us take a survey of the sequel of the Gospel mystery, where that power conjoined with love is more especially exhibited. In the first place, then, that the omnipotence of the divine nature should have had strength to descend to the humiliation of humanity, furnishes a clearer proof of that omnipotence than even the greatness and supernatural character of the miracles. For that something pre-eminently great should be wrought out by divine power is, in a manner, in accordance with, and consequent upon the divine nature; nor is it startling to hear it said that the whole of the created world, and all that is understood to be beyond the range of visible things, subsists by the power of God, his will giving it existence according to his good pleasure. But this his descent to the humility of humankind is a kind of superabundant exercise of power, which thus finds no check even in directions which contravene nature. It is the peculiar property of the essence of fire to tend upwards; no one therefore, deems it wonderful in the case of flame to see that natural operation. But should the flame be seen to stream downwards, like heavy bodies, such a fact would be regarded as a miracle; namely, how fire still remains fire, and yet, by this change of direction in its motion, passes out of its nature by being borne downward. In like manner, it is not the vastness of the heavens, and the bright shining of its constellations, and the order of the universe and the unbroken administration over all existence that so manifestly displays the transcendent power of the deity, as this condescension to the weakness of our nature; the way, in fact, in which sublimity, existing in lowliness, is actually seen in lowliness, and yet descends not from its height, and in which deity, entwined as it is with the nature of human beings, becomes this, and yet still is that. For since, as has been said before, it was not in the nature of the opposing power to come in contact with the undiluted presence of God, and to undergo his unclouded manifestation, therefore, in order to secure that the ransom in our behalf might be easily accepted by him who required it, the deity was hidden under the veil of our nature, that so, as with ravenous fish, the hook of the deity might be gulped down along with the bait of flesh, and thus, life being introduced into the house of death, and light shining in darkness, that which is diametrically opposed to light and life might vanish; for it is not in the nature of darkness to remain when light is present, or of death to exist when life is active.


Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius

5.3 ... We on our part assert that even the body in which he underwent his passion, by being mingled with the divine nature, was made by that commixture to be that which the assuming nature is. So far are we from entertaining any low idea concerning the only-begotten God, that if anything belonging to our lowly nature was assumed in his dispensation of love for humanity, we believe that even this was transformed to what is divine and incorruptible; but Eunomius makes the suffering of the cross to be a sign of divergence in essence, in the sense of inferiority, considering, I know not how, the surpassing act of power, by which he was able to perform this, to be an evidence of weakness; failing to perceive the fact that, while nothing which moves according to its own nature is looked upon as surprisingly wonderful, all things that overpass the limitations of their own nature become especially the objects of admiration, and to them every ear is turned, every mind is attentive, in wonder at the marvel. And hence it is that all who preach the word point out the wonderful character of the mystery in this respect,-that "God was manifested in the flesh," that "the Word was made flesh," that "the Light shined in darkness," "the Life tasted death," and all such declarations which the heralds of the faith are wont to make, whereby is increased the marvellous character of him who manifested the superabundance of his power by means external to his own nature. But though they think fit to make this a subject for their insolence, though they make the dispensation of the cross a reason for partitioning off the Son from equality of glory with the Father... .

5.5.a. For we both consider the dispensation in the flesh apart, and regard the divine power in itself. And he [Eunomius], in like manner with ourselves, says that the Word that was in the beginning has been manifested in the flesh: yet no one ever charged him, nor does he charge himself, with preaching "two Words", him who was in the beginning, and him who was made flesh; for he knows, surely, that the Word is identical with the Word, he who appeared in the flesh with him who was with God. But the flesh was not identical with the godhead, till this too was transformed to the godhead, so that of necessity one set of attributes befits God the Word, and a different set of attributes befits the "form of the servant."

5.5.b. If, then, in view of such a confession, he does not reproach himself with the duality of Words, why are we falsely charged with dividing the object of our faith into "two Christs"? We, who say that he who was highly exalted after his passion, was made Lord and Christ by his union with him who is verily Lord and Christ, knowing by what we have learnt that the divine nature is always one and the same, and with the same mode of existence, while the flesh in itself is that which reason and sense apprehend concerning it, but when mixed with the divine no longer remains in its own limitations and properties, but is taken up to that which is overwhelming and transcendent. Our contemplation, however, of the respective properties of the flesh and of the godhead remains free from confusion, so long as each of these is contemplated by itself, as, for example, "the Word was before the ages, but the flesh came into being in the last times"." But one could not reverse this statement, and say that the latter is pretemporal, or that the Word has come into being in the last times. The flesh is of a passible, the Word of an operative nature: and neither is the flesh capable of making the things that are, nor is the power possessed by the godhead capable of suffering. The Word was in the beginning with God, humanity was subject to the trial of death; and neither was the human nature from everlasting, nor the divine nature mortal: and all the rest of the attributes are contemplated in the same way. It is not the human nature that raises up Lazarus, nor is it the power that cannot suffer that weeps for him when he lies in the grave: the tear proceeds from the human, the life from the true life. It is not the human nature that feeds the thousands, nor is it omnipotent might that hastens to the fig-tree. Who is it that is weary with the journey, and who is it that by his word made all the world subsist? What is the brightness of the glory, and what is that was pierced with the nails? What form is it that is buffeted in the passion, and what form is it that is glorified from everlasting? So much as this is clear, (even if one does not follow the argument into detail), that the blows belong to the servant in whom the Lord was, the honours to the Lord whom the servant compassed about, so that by reason of contact and the union of natures the proper attributes of each belong to both, as the Lord receives the stripes of the servant, while the servant is glorified with the honour of the Lord; for this is why the Cross is said to be the Cross of the Lord of glory, and why every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

5.5.c. ... He who, because he is the Lord of glory, despised that which is shame among men, having concealed, as it were, the flame of his life in his bodily nature, by the dispensation of his death, kindled and inflamed it once more by the power of his own godhead, fostering into life that which had been brought to death, having infused with the infinity of his divine power that humble first-fruits of our nature, made it also to be that which he himself was-making the servile form to be Lord, and the man born of Mary to be Christ, and him who was crucified through weakness to be life and power, and making all that is piously conceived to be in God the Word to be also in that which the Word assumed, so that these attributes no longer seem to be in either nature by way of division, but that the perishable nature being, by its commixture with the divine, made anew in conformity with the nature that overwhelms it, participates in the power of the godhead, as if one were to say that mixture makes a drop of vinegar mingled in the deep to be sea, by reason that the natural quality of Ibis liquid does not continue in the infinity of that which overwhelms it.

5.5.d. This is our doctrine, which does not, as Eunomius charges against it, preach a plurality of Christs, but the union of the human with the divinity, and which calls by the name of "making" the transmutation of the mortal to the immortal, of the servant to the Lord, of sin to righteousness, of the curse to the blessing, of the human to Christ. What further have our slanderers left to say, to show that we preach "two Christs" in our doctrine, if we refuse to say that he who was in the beginning from the Father uncreatedly Lord, and Christ, and the Word, and God, was "made," and declare that the blessed Peter was pointing briefly and incidentally to the mystery of the Incarnation, according to the meaning now explained, that the nature which was crucified through weakness has itself also, as we have said, become, by the overwhelming power of him who dwells in it, that which the Indweller himself is in fact and in name, even Christ and Lord?

6.2.a. And although we make these remarks in passing, the parenthetic addition seems, perhaps, not less important than the main question before us. For since, when St. Peter says, "God made him Lord and Christ (Act 2.36)," and again, when the Apostle Paul says to the Hebrews that God made him a priest (Heb 5.5), Eunomius catches at the word "made" as being applicable to his pre-temporal existence, and thinks thereby to establish his doctrine that the Lord is a thing made, let him now listen to Paul when he says, "he made him to be sin for us, who knew not sin" (2 Cor 5.21). If he refers the word "made," which is used of the Lord in the passages from the Epistle to the Hebrews, and from the words of Peter, to the pretemporal idea, he might fairly refer the word in that passage which says that God made him to be sin, to the first existence of his essence, and try to show by this, as in the case of his other testimonies, that he was "made", so as to refer the word "made" to the essence, acting consistently with himself, and to discern sin in that essence. But if he shrinks from this by reason of its manifest absurdity, and argues that, by saying, "he made him to be sin," the Apostle indicates the dispensation of the last times, let him persuade himself by the same train of reasoning that the word "made" refers to that dispensation in the other passages also.

6.2.b. [Paul] while he everywhere proclaims the combination of the human with the divine, he none the less discerns in each its proper nature, in the sense that while the human weakness is changed for the better by its communion with the imperishable, the divine power, on the other hand, is not abased by its contact with the lowly form of nature. When therefore he says, "he spared not his own Son," he contrasts the true Son with the other sons, begotten, or exalted, or adopted (those, I mean, who were brought into being at his command), marking the specialty of nature by the addition of "own." And, to the end that no one should connect the suffering of the cross with the imperishable nature, he gives in other words a fairly distinct correction of such an error, when he calls him "mediator between God and humanity [cf. 1. Tim 2.5]" and "humanity," and "God," that, from the fact that both are predicated of the one Being, the fit conception might be entertained concerning each nature-concerning the divine nature, impassibility, concerning the human nature, the dispensation of the passion.

6.2.c. As his thought, then, divides that which in love to humanity was made one, but is distinguished in idea, he uses, when he is proclaiming that nature which transcends and surpasses all intelligence, the more exalted order of names, calling him "God over all (ROM 9.5)," "the great God (Titus 2.13)," "the power" of God, and "the wisdom" of God (1 Cor 1.24), and the like; but when he is alluding to all that experience of suffering which, by reason of our weakness, was necessarily assumed with our nature, he gives to the union of the natures that name which is derived from ours, and calls him human, not by this word placing him whom he is setting forth to us on a common level with the rest of nature, but so that orthodoxy is protected as regards each nature, in the sense that the human nature is glorified by his assumption of it, and the divine is not polluted by its condescension, but makes the human element subject to sufferings, while working, through its divine power, the resurrection of that which suffered. And thus the experience of death is not referred to him who had communion in our passible nature by reason of the union with him of the human, while at the same time the exalted and divine names descend to the human, so that he who was manifested upon the cross is called even "the Lord of glory" (1 Cor 1.28), since the majesty implied in these names is transmitted from the divine to the human by the commixture of its nature with that nature which is lowly.

6.2.d. For this cause he describes him in varied and different language, at one time as him who came down from heaven, at another time as him who was born of woman, as God from eternity, and man in the last days; thus too the only-begotten God is held to be impassible, and Christ to be capable of suffering; nor does his discourse speak falsely in these opposing statements, as it adapts in its conceptions to each nature the terms that belong to it. If then these are the doctrines which we have learnt from inspired teaching, how do we refer the cause of our salvation to an ordinary human? and if we declare the word "made" employed by the blessed Peter to have regard not to the pre-temporal existence, but to the new dispensation of the incarnation, what has this to do with the charge against us? For this great Apostle says that that which was seen in the form of the servant has been made, by being assumed, to be that which he who assumed it was in his own nature. Moreover, in the Epistle to the Hebrews we may learn the same truth from Paul, when he says that Jesus was made an apostle and High Priest by God, "being faithful to God who made him" (Heb 3.1). ... For in that passage too, in giving the name of High Priest to him who made with his own blood the priestly propitiation for our sins, he does not by the word "made" declare the first existence of the Only-begotten, but says "made" with the intention of representing that grace which is commonly spoken of in connection with the appointment of priests. For Jesus, the great High Priest (as Zechariah 3.1 says ), who offered up his own lamb, that is, his own Body, for the sin of the world; who, by reason of the children that are partakers of flesh and blood, himself also in like manner took part with them in blood (not in that he was in the beginning, being the Word and God, and being in the form of God, and equal with God, but in that he emptied himself in the form of the servant, and offered an oblation and sacrifice for us), he, I say, became a High Priest many generations later, after the order of Melchisedech [Heb 7.21].

6.2.e. For, being what he was, God, and Word, and Life, and Light, and Grace, and Truth, and Lord, and Christ, and every name exalted and divine, he did become, in the humanity assumed by him, who was none of these, all else which the Word was and among the rest did become Lord and Christ, according to the teaching of Peter, and according to the confession of Eunomius;-not in the sense that the godhead [divinity] acquired anything by way of advancement, but (all exalted majesty being contemplated in the divine nature) he thus becomes Lord and Christ, not by arriving at any addition of grace in respect of his godhead (for the nature of the godhead is acknowledged to be lacking in no good), but by bringing the human nature to the participation in the godhead which is signified by the terms "Christ" and "Lord."


Gregory Nazianzen (+390)

To Cledonius the Priest (Against Apollinarius)

... The most grievous part of it is not (though this too is shocking) that the men instil their own heresy into simpler souls by means of those who are worse; but that they also tell lies about us and say that we share their opinions and sentiments; thus baiting their hooks, and by this cloak villainously fulfilling their will, and making our simplicity, which looked upon them as brothers and not as foes, into a support of their wickedness. And not only so, but they also assert, as I am told, that they have been received by the Western Synod, by which they were formerly condemned, as is well known to everyone. If, however, those who hold the views of Apollinarius have either now or formerly been received, let them prove it and we will be content. For it is evident that they can only have been so received as assenting to the orthodox faith, for this were an impossibility on any other terms. And they can surely prove it, either by the minutes of the synod, or by letters of communion, for this is the regular custom of synods. But if it is mere words, and an invention of their own, devised for the sake of appearances and to give them weight with the multitude through the credit of the persons, teach them to hold their tongues, and confute them; for we believe that such a task is well suited to your manner of life and orthodoxy. Do not let the men deceive themselves and others with the assertion that the "man of the Lord," as they call him, who is rather our Lord and God, is without human mind. For we do not sever the humanity from the godhead, but we lay down as a dogma the Unity and Identity of Person, who of old was not Human but God, and the Only Son before all ages, unmingled with body or anything corporeal; but who in these last days has assumed humanity also for our salvation; passible in his flesh, impassible in his godhead [divinity]; circumscript in the body, uncircumscript in the Spirit; at once earthly and heavenly, tangible and intangible, comprehensible and incomprehensible; that by one and the same Person, who was perfect human and also God, the entire humanity fallen through sin might be created anew.

a. If anyone does not believe that Holy Mary is the Mother of God [which will be defined at Ephesus, 431], he is severed from the godhead. If anyone should assert that he passed through the virgin as through a channel, and was not at once divinely and humanly formed in her (divinely, because without the intervention of a man; humanly, because in accordance with the laws of gestation), he is in like manner godless. If any assert that the humanity was formed and afterward was clothed with the godhead, he too is to be condemned. For this were not a generation of God, but a shirking of generation. If any introduce the notion of two Sons, one of God the Father, the other of the Mother, and discredits the unity and identity, may he lose his part in the adoption promised to those who believe aright. For God and Human are two natures, as also soul and body are; but there are not two Sons nor two Gods. For neither in this life are there two manhoods; though Paul speaks in some such language of the inner and outer human. And (if I am to speak concisely) the Saviour is made of elements which are distinct from one another (for the invisible is not the same with the visible, nor the timeless with that which is subject to time), yet he is not two persons. God forbid! For both natures are one by the combination, the deity being made Human, and the Manhood deified or however one should express it. And I say different elements, because it is the reverse of what is the case in the Trinity; for there we acknowledge different persons so as not to confound the persons; but not different elements, for the Three are One and the same in godhead [~homoousios].

b. If any should say that it wrought in him by grace as in a prophet, but was not and is not united with him in essence - let him be empty of the higher energy, or rather full of the opposite. If any worship not the crucified, let him be anathema and be numbered among the deicides [god-murderers]. If any assert that he was made perfect by works, or that after his baptism, or after his resurrection from the dead, he was counted worthy of an adoptive sonship, like those whom the Greeks interpolate as added to the ranks of the gods, let him be anathema. For that which has a beginning or a progress or is made perfect, is not God, although the expressions may be used of his gradual manifestation. If any assert that he has now put off his holy flesh, and that his godhead is stripped of the body, and deny that he is now with his body and will come again with it, let him not see the glory of his coming. For where is his body now, if not with him who assumed it? For it is not laid by in the sun, according to the babble of the Manichaeans, that it should be honoured by a dishonour; nor was it poured forth into the air and dissolved, us is the nature of a voice or the flow of an odour, or the course of a lightning flash that never stands. Where in that case were his being handled after the resurrection, or his being seen hereafter by them that pierced him, for godhead is in its nature invisible. Nay; he will come with his body-so I have learnt-such as he was seen by his disciples in the Mount, or as he showed himself for a moment, when his godhead overpowered the carnality. And as we say this to disarm suspicion, so we write the other to correct the novel teaching. If anyone assert that his flesh came down from heaven, and is not from hence, nor of us though above us, let him be anathema. For the words, "The Second Man is the Lord from heaven"; and, "As is the heavenly, such are they that are heavenly"; and, "No man has ascended up into heaven save he which came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven"; [phrases from Eusebius & others] and the like, are to be understood as said on account of the union with the heavenly; just as that all things were made by Christ, and that Christ dwells in your hearts is said, not of the visible nature which belongs to God, but of what is perceived by the mind, the names being mingled like the natures, and flowing into one another, according to the law of their intimate union [~communion of properties].

c. If anyone has put his trust in him as a human without a human mind, he is really bereft of mind, and quite unworthy of salvation. For that which he has not assumed he has not healed; but that which is united to his godhead is also saved [~theopoiesis]. If only half Adam fell, then that which Christ assumes and saves may be half also; but if the whole of his nature fell, it must be united to the whole nature of him that was begotten, and so be saved as a whole. Let them not, then, begrudge us our complete salvation, or clothe the Saviour only with bones and nerves and the portraiture of humanity. For if his manhood is without soul, even the Arians admit this, that they may attribute his passion to the godhead, as that which gives motion to the body is also that which suffers. But if he has a soul, and yet is without a mind, how is he human, for humanity is not a mindless animal? And this would necessarily involve that while his form and tabernacle was human, his soul should be that of a horse or an ox, or some other of the brute creation. This, then, would be what he saves; and I have been deceived by the truth, and led to boast of an honour which had been bestowed upon another. But if his manhood is intellectual and nor without mind, let them cease to be thus really mindless. But, says such an one, the godhead took the place of the human intellect. How does this touch me? For godhead joined to flesh alone is not a human being, nor to soul alone, nor to both apart from intellect, which is the most essential part of humans. Keep then the whole human, and mingle godhead therewith, that you may benefit me in my completeness. But, he asserts, he could not contain two perfect natures. Not if you only look at him in a bodily fashion. For a bushel measure will not hold two bushels, nor will the space of one body hold two or more bodies. But if you will look at what is mental and incorporeal, remember that I in my one personality can contain soul and reason and mind and the Holy Spirit; and before me this world, by which I mean the system of things visible and invisible, contained Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For such is the nature of intellectual existences, that they can mingle with one another and with bodies, incorporeally and invisibly. For many sounds are comprehended by one ear; and the eyes of many are occupied by the same visible objects, and the smell by odours; nor are the senses narrowed by each other, or crowded out, nor the objects of sense diminished by the multitude of the perceptions.

d. Further let us see what is their account of the assumption of manhood, or the assumption of flesh, as they call it. If it was in order that God, otherwise incomprehensible, might be comprehended, and might converse with men through his Flesh as through a veil, their mask and the drama which they represent is a pretty one, not to say that it was open to him to converse with us in other ways, as of old, in the burning bush and in the appearance of a human. But if it was that he might destroy the condemnation by sanctifying like by like, then as he needed flesh for the sake of the flesh which had incurred condemnation, and soul for the sake of our soul, so, too, he needed mind for the sake of mind, which not only fell in Adam, but was the first to be affected, as the doctors say of illnesses. For that which received the command was that which failed to keep the command, and that which failed to keep it was that also which dared to transgress; and that which transgressed was that which stood most in need of salvation; and that which needed salvation was that which also he took upon him. Therefore, mind was taken upon him. This has now been demonstrated, whether they like it or not, by, to use their own expression, geometrical and necessary proofs. But you are acting as if, when a human's eye had been injured and his foot had been injured in consequence, you were to attend to the foot and leave the eye uncared for; or as if, when a painter had drown something badly, you were to alter the picture, but to pass over the artist as if he had succeeded. But if they, overwhelmed by these arguments, take refuge in the proposition that it is possible for God to save humans even apart from mind, why, I suppose that it would be possible for him to do so also apart from flesh by a mere act of will, just as he works all other things, and has wrought them without body. Take away, then, the flesh as well as the mind, that your monstrous folly may be complete. But they are deceived by the latter, and, therefore, they run to the flesh, because they do not know the custom of Scripture. We will teach them this also. For what need is there even to mention to those who know it, the fact that everywhere in Scripture he is called man, and the Son of Man?

e. Moreover, in no other way was it possible for the love of God toward us to be manifested than by making mention of our flesh, and that for our sake he descended even to our lower part. For that flesh is less precious than soul, everyone who has a spark of sense will acknowledge. And so the passage, "The Word was made flesh," seems to me to be equivalent to that in which it is said that he was made sin, or a curse for us; not that the Lord was transformed into either of these, how could he be? But because by taking them upon him he took away our sins and bore our iniquities. This, then, is sufficient to say at the present time for the sake of clearness and of being understood by the many. And I write it, not with any desire to compose a treatise, but only to check the progress of deceit; and if it is thought well, I will give a fuller account of these matters at greater length.

f. But there is a matter which is graver than these, a special point which it is necessary that I should not pass over. I would they were even cut off that trouble you, and would reintroduce a second Judaism, and a second circumcision, and a second system of sacrifices. For if this be done, what hinders Christ also being born again to set them aside, and again being betrayed by Judas, and crucified and buried, and rising again, that all may be fulfilled in the same order, like the Greek system of cycles, in which the same revolutions of the stars bring round the same events? For what the method of selection is, in accordance with which some of the events are to occur and others to be omitted, let these wise men who glory in the multitude of their books show us.

g. But since, puffed up by their theory of the Trinity, they falsely accuse us of being unsound in the faith and entice the multitude, it is necessary that people should know that Apollinarius, while granting the Name of godhead to the Holy Spirit, did not preserve the Power of the godhead. For to make the Trinity consist of Great, Greater, and Greatest, as of Light, Ray, and Sun, the Spirit and the Son and the Father (as is clearly stated in his writings), is a ladder of godhead not leading to heaven, but down from heaven. But we recognize God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and these not as bare titles, dividing inequalities of ranks or of power, but as there is one and the same title [epinoiai], so there is one nature and one substance in the godhead.


Gregory Nazianzen, Oration 29 (Third Theological Oration - Concerning the Son)

2. The three most ancient opinions concerning God are Anarchia, Polyarchia, and Monarchia. The first two are the sport of the children of Hellas, and may they continue to be so. For Anarchy is a thing without order; and the Rule of Many is factious, and thus anarchical, and thus disorderly. For both these tend to the same thing, namely disorder; and this to dissolution, for disorder is the first step to dissolution.

But monarchy [= monarchia; not to be confused with monarchianism] is that which we hold in honour. It is, however, a monarchy that is not limited to one person, for it is possible for unity if at variance with itself to come into a condition of plurality; but one which is made of an equality of nature and a union of mind. And an identity of motion, and a convergence of its elements to unity-a thing which is impossible to the created nature-so that though numerically distinct there is no severance of essence. Therefore unity having from all eternity arrived by motion at duality, found its rest in trinity. This is what we mean by Father and Son and Holy Spirit. The Father is the Begetter and the Emitter; without passion of course [v.s. gnostics], and without reference to time, and not in a corporeal manner [v.s. Arians & others]. The Son is the Begotten, and the Holy Spirit the Emission; for I know not how this could be expressed in terms altogether excluding visible things. For we shall not venture to speak of "an overflow of goodness," as one of the Greek philosophers dared to say, as if it were a bowl overflowing. ... Therefore let us confine ourselves within our limits, and speak of the Unbegotten and the Begotten and that which proceeds from the Father, as somewhere God the Word himself said.

18. [On Christ] To give you the explanation in one sentence. What is lofty you are to apply to the godhead, and to that nature in him which is superior to sufferings and incorporeal; but all that is lowly to the composite condition of him who for your sakes made himself of no reputation and was Incarnate-yes, for it is no worse thing to say, was made man, and afterwards was also exalted. The result will be that you will abandon these carnal and grovelling doctrines, and learn to be more sublime, and to ascend with his godhead, and you will not remain permanently among the things of sight, but will rise up with him into the world of thought, and come to know which passages refer to his nature, and which to his assumption of human nature.

29. For he whom you now treat with contempt was once above you. He who is now a human was once the uncompounded. What he was he continued to be; what he was not he took to himself. In the beginning he was, uncaused; for what is the cause of God? But afterwards for a cause he was born. And that came was that you might be saved, who insult him and despise his godhead, because of this, that he took upon him your denser nature, having converse with flesh by means of mind. While his inferior nature, the humanity, became God, because it was united to God, and became one person because the higher nature prevailed in order that I too might be made God so far as God is made human. He was born-but he had been begotten: he was born of a woman-but she was a Virgin. The first is human the second divine. In his human nature he had no father, but also in his divine nature no mother. Both these belong to godhead. He dwelt in the womb - but he was recognized by the prophet, himself still in the womb, leaping before the Word, for whose sake he came into being. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes - but he took off the swathing bands of the grave by his rising again. He was laid in a manger - but he was glorified by angels, and proclaimed by a star, and worshipped by the magi. Why are you offended by that which is presented to your sight, because you will not look at that which is presented to your mind? he was driven into exile into Egypt - but he drove away the Egyptian idols. He had no form nor comeliness in the eyes of the Jews - but to David he is fairer than the children of men. And on the mountain he was bright as the lightning, and became more luminous than the sun, initiating us into the mystery of the future.


Gregory Nazianzen, Oration 30 (Fourth Theological Oration)

3. Next is the fact of his being called Servant [cf. Is.] and serving many well, and that it is a great thing for him to be called the Child of God. For in truth he was in servitude to flesh and to birth and to the conditions of our life with a view to our liberation, and to that of all those whom he has saved, who were in bondage under sin. What greater destiny can befall humanity's humility than that he should be intermingled with God, and by this intermingling should be deified, and that we should be so visited by the Dayspring from on high, that even that Holy Thing that should be born should be called the Son of the Highest (Phil 2.9), and that there should be bestowed upon him a Name which is above every name? And what else can this be than God?-and that every knee should bow to him that was made of no reputation for us, and that mingled the form of God with the form of a servant, and that all the House of Israel should know that God has made him both Lord and Christ? (Acts 2.36) For all this was done by the action of the Begotten, and by the good pleasure of him that begat him.

5. Take, in the next place, the subjection by which you subject the Son to the Father. What, you say, is he not now subject, or must he, if he is God, be subject to God? You are fashioning your argument as if it concerned some robber, or some hostile deity. But look at it in this manner: that as for my sake he was called a curse, who destroyed my curse; and sin, who takes away the sin of the world; and became a new Adam to take the place of the old, just so he makes my disobedience his own as head of the whole body. As long then as I am disobedient and rebellious, both by denial of God and by my passions, so long Christ also is called disobedient on my account. But when all things shall be subdued unto him on the one hand by acknowledgment of him, and on the other by a reformation, then he himself also will have fulfilled his submission, bringing me whom he has saved to God. For this, according to my view, is the subjection of Christ; namely, the fulfilling of the Father's Will. But as the Son subjects all to the Father, so does the Father to the Son; the One by his Work, the Other by his good pleasure, as we have already said. And thus he who subjects presents to God that which he has subjected, making our condition his own. Of the same kind, it appears to me, is the expression, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" [cf. Ps 22.1] It was not he who was forsaken either by the Father, or by his own godhead, as some have thought, as if it were afraid of the passion, and therefore withdrew itself from him in his sufferings (for who compelled him either to be born on earth at all, or to be lifted up on the cross?) But as I said, he was in his own person representing us. For we were the forsaken and despised before, but now by the sufferings of him who could not suffer, we were taken up and saved. Similarly, he makes his own our folly and our transgressions; and says what follows in the Psalm, for it is very evident that the twenty-first Psalm refers to Christ.

6.a. The same consideration applies to another passage, "he learnt obedience by the things which he suffered," (Heb 5.8) and to his "strong crying and tears," and his "entreaties," and his "being heard," and his "reverence," all of which he wonderfully wrought out, like a drama whose plot was devised on our behalf. For in his character of the Word he was neither obedient nor disobedient. For such expressions belong to servants, and inferiors, and the one applies to the better sort of them, while the other belongs to those who deserve punishment. But, in the character of the form of a servant, he condescends to his fellow servants, nay, to his servants, and takes upon him a strange form, bearing all me and mine in himself, that in himself he may exhaust the bad, as fire does wax, or as the sun does the mists of earth; and that I may partake of his nature by the blending. Thus he honours obedience by his action, and proves it experimentally by his passion. For to possess the disposition is not enough, just as it would not be enough for us, unless we also proved it by our acts; for action is the proof of disposition.

6.b. And perhaps it would not be wrong to assume this also, that by the art of his love for humans he gauges our obedience, and measures all by comparison with his own sufferings, so that he may know our condition by his own, and how much is demanded of us, and how much we yield, taking into the account, along with our environment, our weakness also. For if the Light shining through the veil upon the darkness, that is upon this life, was persecuted by the other darkness (I mean, the Evil One and the Tempter), how much more will the darkness be persecuted, as being weaker than it? And what marvel is it, that though he entirely escaped, we have been, at any rate in part, overtaken? For it is a more wonderful thing that he should have been chased than that we should have been captured; - at least to the minds of all who reason aright on the subject. I will add yet another passage to those I have mentioned, because I think that it clearly tends to the same sense. I mean "In that he has suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted" (Heb 2.18). But God will be all in all in the time of restitution; not in the sense that the Father alone will be; and the Son be wholly resolved into him, like a torch into a great pyre, from which it was reft away for a little space, and then put back (for I would not have even the Sabellians injured by such an expression); but the entire godhead when we shall be no longer divided (as we now are by movements and passions), and containing nothing at all of God, or very little, but shall be entirely like.

14. ... They allege, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for us (Heb 7.25). O, how beautiful and mystical and kind. For to intercede does not imply to seek for vengeance, as is most men's way (for in that there would be something of humiliation), but it is to plead for us by reason of his mediatorship, just as the Spirit also is said to make intercession for us. For there is One God, and One Mediator between God and Man, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Tim 2.15). For he still pleads even now as a human for my salvation; for he continues to wear the body which he assumed, until he makes me God by the power of his incarnation; although he is no longer known after the flesh (2 Cor 5.16) - I mean, the passions of the flesh, the same, except sin, as ours. Thus too, we have an Advocate (1 Jn 2.1), Jesus Christ, not indeed prostrating himself for us before the Father, and falling down before him in slavish fashion ... Away with a suspicion so truly slavish and unworthy of the Spirit! For neither is it seemly for the Father to require this, nor for the Son to submit to it; nor is it just to think it of God. But by what he suffered as human, he as the Word and the Counsellor persuades him to be patient. I think this is the meaning of his advocacy.


Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 45

9. And that was that the Word of God himself, who is before all worlds, the invisible, the incomprehensible, the bodiless, the beginning of beginning, the light of light, the source of life and immortality, the image of the archetype, the immovable seal, the unchangeable image, the Father's definition and Word, came to his own image, and took on him flesh for the sake of our flesh, and mingled himself with an intelligent soul for my soul's sake, purifying like by like; and in all points except sin was made human; conceived by the Virgin, who first in body and soul was purified by the Holy Spirit, for it was needful both that child-bearing should be honoured and that virginity should receive a higher honour. He came forth then, as God, with that which he had assumed; one person in two natures, flesh and spirit, of which the latter deified the former. O new commingling; o strange conjunction! the self-existent comes into being, the uncreated is created, that which cannot be contained is contained by the intervention of an intellectual soul mediating between the deity and the corporeality of the flesh. And he who gives riches becomes poor; for he assumes the poverty of my flesh, that I may assume the riches of his godhead. He that is full empties himself; for he empties himself of his glory for a short while, that I may have a share in his fulness. What is the riches of his goodness? What is this mystery that is around me? I had a share in the image and I did not keep it; he partakes of my flesh that he may both save the image and make the flesh immortal. He communicates a second communion, far more marvellous than the first, inasmuch as then he imparted the better nature, but now he himself assumes the worse. This is more godlike than the former action; this is loftier in the eyes of all men of understanding.


Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 5

5.9. What then, say they, is there lacking to the Spirit which prevents His being a Son, for if there were not something lacking He would be a Son? We assert that there is nothing lacking-for God has no deficiency. But the difference of manifestation, if I may so express myself, or rather of their mutual relations one to another, has caused the difference of their Names. For indeed it is not some deficiency in the Son which prevents His being Father (for Sonship is not a deficiency), and yet He is not Father. According to this line of argument there must be some deficiency in the Father, in respect of His not being Son. For the Father is not Son, and yet this is not due to either deficiency or subjection of Essence; but the very fact of being Unbegotten or Begotten, or Proceeding has given the name of Father to the First, of the Son to the Second, and of the Third, Him of Whom we are speaking, of the Holy Ghost that the distinction of the Three Persons may be preserved in the one nature and dignity of the Godhead. For neither is the Son Father, for the Father is One, but He is what the Father is; nor is the Spirit Son because He is of God, for the Only-begotten is One, but He is what the Son is. The Three are One in Godhead, and the One Three in properties; so that neither is the Unity a Sabellian one, nor does the Trinity countenance the present evil distinction.

5.10. What then? Is the Spirit God? Most certainly. Well then, is He Consubstantial? Yes, if He is God. Grant me, says my opponent, that there spring from the same Source One who is a Son, and One who is not a Son, and these of One Substance with the Source, and I admit a God and a God. Nay, if you will grant me that there is another God and another nature of God I will give you the same Trinity with the same name and facts. But since God is One and the Supreme Nature is One, how can I present to you the Likeness? Or will you seek it again in lower regions and in your own surroundings? It is very shameful, and not only shameful, but very foolish, to take from things below a guess at things above, and from a fluctuating nature at the things that are unchanging, and as Isaiah says, to seek the Living among the dead. But yet I will try, for your sake, to give you some assistance for your argument, even from that source. I think I will pass over other points, though I might bring forward many from animal history, some generally known, others only known to a few, of what nature has contrived with wonderful art in connection with the generation of animals. For not only are likes said to beget likes, and things diverse to beget things diverse, but also likes to be begotten by things diverse, and things diverse by likes. And if we may believe the story, there is yet another mode of generation, when an animal is self-consumed and self-begotten. There are also creatures which depart in some sort from their true natures, and undergo change and transformation from one creature into another, by a magnificence of nature. And indeed sometimes in the same species part may be generated and part not; and yet all of one substance; which is more like our present subject. I will just mention one fact of our own nature which every one knows, and then I will pass on to another part of the subject.

5.11. What was Adam? A creature of God. What then was Eve? A fragment of the creature. And what was Seth? The begotten of both. Does it then seem to you that Creature and Fragment and Begotten are the same thing? Of course it does not. But were not these persons consubstantial? Of course they were. Well then, here it is an acknowledged fact that different persons may have the same substance. I say this, not that I would attribute creation or fraction or any property of body to the Godhead (let none of your contenders for a word be down upon me again), but that I may contemplate in these, as on a stage, things which are objects of thought alone. For it is not possible to trace out any image exactly to the whole extent of the truth. But, they say, what is the meaning of all this? For is not the one an offspring, and the other a something else of the One? Did not both Eve and Seth come from the one Adam? And were they both begotten by him? No; but the one was a fragment of him, and the other was begotten by him. And yet the two were one and the same thing; both were human beings; no one will deny that. Will you then give up your contention against the Spirit, that He must be either altogether begotten, or else cannot be consubstantial, or be God; and admit from human examples the possibility of our position? I think it will be well for you, unless you are determined to be very quarrelsome, and to fight against what is proved to demonstration.