02 January 2010

Goodness must be poured out and sent beyond Itself

Today is the feast of Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory of Nazianzen. Below are words from Saint Gregory of Nazianzen and his “Oratio XXXVIII.” It is a marvelous reflection on creation and the Creator; and the Word becoming man and the significance of that great and eternal event. In this oration the word “Festival” appears, which is understood as the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Saint Gregory presided over the Second Ecumenical Council which was the council that gave the Church the Nicene Creed. Both Saint Basil and Saint Gregory are revered as Doctors of the Church.

The Goodness of God cannot be satisfied alone by Self-contemplation because Good must be poured out and sent beyond Itself to multiply the objects of Its beneficence, for this was essential to the highest Goodness. Thus God first conceived the angelic and heavenly powers. This conception was a work fulfilled by His Word and perfected by His Spirit. Thus were created these beings of light as the ministers of the Primary Splendor.

Are we to conceive of them as intelligent spirits, or as Fire of an immaterial and incorruptible kind, or as some other nature approaching this as near as may be? I should like to say that they were incapable of movement in the direction of evil, and susceptible only of the movement of good, as being about God, and illumined with the first rays from God -- for earthly beings have but the second illumination.

I am, however, inclined to think that these spirits are not truly incorruptible, but only difficult to corrupt. I think of Lucifer, the bringer of light, who turned to darkness through his pride, and the apostate hosts who are subject to him, creators of evil by their revolt against good and our inciters.

After creating the world of heavenly spirits, He gave being to the world of thought. Then when His first creation was in good order, He then conceived a visible and material world, of earth and sky and all that is contained therein. Each part is commendable for its elegance, but more beautiful is its harmony, order and the calm that reigns over everything. Each reality beautifully agrees with the other, and all with the whole, tending to the perfect completion of the world as a unit.

With the creation of the material world, God shows that He could call into being, not only a nature akin to Himself, but also one altogether alien to Himself. For akin to Deity are those natures which are intellectual, and only to be comprehended by mind; but all of which sense can take cognizance are utterly alien to It; and of these the furthest removed are all those which are entirely destitute of soul and of power of motion. I hear you say: What has all this to do with us? We are here to talk about the Festival, and the reasons for our being here today. Yes, this is what I am about to do, although I have begun at a somewhat previous point, being compelled to do so by love, and by the needs of my argument.

Mind, then, and sense, thus distinguished from each other, had remained within their own boundaries, and bore in themselves the magnificence of the Creator-Word, silent praisers and thrilling heralds of His mighty work. Not yet was there any mingling of both, nor any mixtures of these opposites, tokens of a greater Wisdom and Generosity in the creation of natures; nor as yet were the whole riches of Goodness made known.

But then the Word condescended to show in a living visible and invisible dimension, created man; and taking a body from already existing matter, and placing in it a Breath taken from Himself which the Word knew to be an intelligent soul and the Image of God. God placed man on earth; a new angel, a mingled worshipper, fully initiated into the visible creation, but only partially into the intellectual; a king of all upon earth, but subject to the King above; earthly and heavenly; temporal and yet immortal, visible and yet intellectual, half-way between greatness and lowliness; in one person combining spirit and flesh; spirit, because of the favor bestowed on him; flesh, because of the height to which he had been raised; the one that he might continue to live and praise his Benefactor, the other that he might suffer, and by suffering be put in remembrance, and corrected if he became proud of his greatness. A living creature trained here, and then moved elsewhere; and, to complete the mystery, deified by its inclination to God.

For to this, I think, tends that the Light of Truth which we here possess but in measure, that we should both see and experience the Splendor of God, which is worthy of Him Who made us, and will remake us again after a loftier fashion.