Christopher Beeley gives a fine summary and exposition of Gregory’s key orations. Beeley argues that Knowledge of God is a two-fold dialectic of purification and illumination. Our knowledge of God is intimately rooted in who God is. In the sense of God’s grandeur, he cannot be fully known or mastered (95). God isn’t different from us in degree, but kind. He is fully beyond time and space (Or. 2.5; 76).
Gregory’s epistemology: anything that can be understood, and all language, is mentally ‘embodied,’ so that we are incapable of transcending the corporeality of our knowing (99-100). This is the negative way of saying we know God. The positive is by the concept of “illumination.” God’s being/light overflows and fills us. This is a dynamic process in which we grow.
Jesus Christ: The Son of God
Gregory’s Christology is connected to the theosis tradition (116ff). As Beeley notes, “We have been created in a state of dynamic movement towards God” (118). Gregory is primarily interested in the dynamic economy of Christ’s divinity. Beeley has a fine explanation of Kenotic Christology: Kenosis and condescension are relative, not absolute terms. They describe the shape of Christ’s assumption (127).
The Holy Spirit
Like his Christology, the Holy Spirit is soteriological in character. Since the Holy Spirit deifies and is not deifies, then he is God, full stop. Gregory is drawing upon Origen’s Spirit-Letter dichotomy (166).
The Spirit is involved in the self-revelation of the Trinity. “The sequential self-revelation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit reflects an increase in the power and intensity of that revelation, so that each successive stage prepares the recipients for the next one” (171).
Gregory is more interested in the theology of the divine economy than he is in consubstantiality. “Economy” refers to God’s governance. Monarchia of God the Father: Gregory anchors each person in the unique role of God the father as source and cause (204). It is the ground of the divine unity. In response to Meyendorff, Beeley notes that the first principle of the Trinity is not simply “personhood” but hypostasis + divine essence (212).
The book is top-notch scholarship. While it can’t stand alone as a text on St Gregory, if read in conjunction with McGuckin it will give the student a firm foundation in Patristic studies.
4 thoughts on “In Your Light We See Light”
Beeley’s book “Unity of Christ” is excellent also, if you haven’t read it. The revisionist chapters on Origen, Eusebius of Caesarea and Athanasius are gold.
I’ve read it. I was surprised at some of his suggestions on Athanasius and Origen.
Yes, the Monarchy is Hypostatic and essential, in a sense, as the essence of the Son and the Holy Spirit is generated (timelessly) by the Father, as St. Athanasius and others phrase it. Fr. John Romanides made this point against St. Sergius-style “personalist” theology.
Pingback: A Patristic Linkstorm | The Tents of Shem