CUA Christian Culture(s) in the Patristic Age (Presentation Link)

For my presentation today at Catholic University of America’s conference on “Christian Culture and Cultures in the Patristic Age,” I’ve created with the Greek and English text of the poem I’ll be discussing (Gregory of Nazianzus’ poem 1.1.11, On the Incarnation). I’m particularly exited to show off the capabilities of hypothes.is, an excellent annotation tool.

You may find the demo site here: https://gregory.equul.us.

Dr. Poulos

This past Wednesday (April 10, 2019), I successfully defended my dissertation entitled, “Callimachus and Callimacheanism in the Poetry of Gregory of Nazianzus.” Here’s the abstract:

In this study, I analyze the poetics of Gregory of Nazianzus (ca. 330–390 AD), who was one of the first Christian poets writing in Greek to leave an extensive corpus of poetry (about 17,000 lines). Gregory work is striking not only for its breadth but also for its wide variety of themes and metrical schemes. As my focal point, I have chosen Gregory’s reception and adaptation of the poetry and poetics of Callimachus of Cyrene (ca. 290–230 BC). Callimachus was the first poet in the western tradition to enunciate an aesthetic and came to typify for subsequent authors an approach to poetry that privileged finely-wrought, compressed, and erudite compositions. I argue that for Gregory, Callimachus’ works are more than simply one more source to exploit for nice turns of phrase; rather, Callimachus pervasively shapes Gregory’s entire approach to poetic composition. This is seen not only in Gregory’s allusions to Callimachean works, which are numerous and occur quite frequently in programmatic contexts, but also in features of Gregory’s work like poikilia (variety) and a strong authorial persona that have their best precedent in Callimachus’ variegated oeuvre.

In chapter one, I survey Callimachus’ reception in the second and third centuries AD. By examining the three most extensive works of hexametric didactic extant from this period (Dionysius’ Periegesis, Oppian’s Halieutica, and ps.-Oppian’s Cynegetica), I argue that Callimachus is a uniquely useful influence for probing how later poets create their poetic personae and enunciate their own aesthetic. Chapters 2–5 treat Gregory’s poetry. I have organized them around four traits that scholars have consistently associated with Callimachean poetry: originality, fineness (λεπτότης), erudition, and self-awareness. In chapter two, I show how Gregory adapts the untrodden path motif found in the prologue to Callimachus’ Aetia. I contend that Gregory’s formal experimentation should be regarded as a deliberate embrace of Callimachean polyeideia. Chapter three has as its subject Gregory’s poetic style. I show that for Gregory, Callimachus typifies the concise and technically capable poet, as Gregory consistently advocates for concise speech through allusions to Callimachus’ works. In the fourth chapter, I attend to Gregory’s erudition. His self-proclaimed mastery of both pagan and Christian literature is a foundational aspect of his poetic persona. Though the patent didactic intent in some of Gregory’s verse is at odds with Callimachus’ practice, I argue that when Gregory deploys erudition for polemical and cultural ends he fits neatly within the tradition of Alexandrian didactic. In chapter five, I consider Gregory’s poetic self-awareness. I argue that, following Callimachean precedent, Gregory created sequences of multiple poems thematically linked by ring-compositions and self-allusions. I conclude that Gregory edited his poems much more extensively than has previously been recognized. My work illuminates on the one hand how pervasively Callimachus shapes Gregory’s approach to poetic composition. Yet I have also identified a number of significant ways in which Gregory consciously departs from his Callimachean model.

The defense was by far the least stressful major milestone of the process; it was for me a stimulating hour and a half discussion about Gregory’s poetry and ways I can strengthen my work going forward. Celebrating with friends and family has been extremely gratifying, to say the least. Here’s a picture of me with my wife and children:

I find it rather strange that I haven’t blogged more about Gregory, as I have now written some 75,000 words on his verse. But when I look back over the past two years, it’s not surprising. Since April, 2017 (when the proposal was approved), I or my wife has:

  • moved twice
  • bought a house
  • given birth to our second child
  • written a 250 pp. dissertation
  • presented two conference papers
  • organized a conference session
  • traveled to Germany and to Brazil

In short, it’s been quite a busy time! I’m exceedingly grateful for the support of my wife and sister, for the nurturing yet stimulating intellectual community of CUA, and most of all to the one, e quo et per quem et ad quem omnia.

Gr. naz. Hymn Virg. (carm. 1.2.1a 107–116)

Below you find my poetic translation of an excerpt from the Hymn Virg. of Gregory of Nazianzus (carm. 1.2.1a 107–116), where he narrates the creation of Eve:

Πλευρὴν ἐκ λαγόνων μούνην ἕλε, τήν ῥα γυναῖκα
Δειμάμενος, καὶ φίλτρον ἐνὶ στέρνοισι κεράσσας,
Ἀμφοτέροις ἐφέηκεν ἐπἀλλήλοισι φέρεσθαι·
Οὐ πᾶσοὐδἐπὶ πάντας, ὅρον δἐπέθηκε πόθοισιν, [110]
Ὅν ῥα γάμον καλέουσ’, ὕλης ἀμέτροιο χαλινὸν,
Ὡς μὴ μαιμώωσα, καὶ ἄσχετα μαργαίνουσα,
Προφρονέως ἀγεληδὸν ἐπἀλλήλοισιν ἰόντων,1
Ῥήξειεν μερόπων ἱερὸν γένος ἐκ φιλότητος
Ἀζυγέος, πολέμους δὲ καὶ ἔχθεα πᾶσιν ὀρίνῃ [115]
Οἶστρος ἀσημάντοισι φορεύμενος ἀφραδίῃσιν.

He took the rib from Adam’s side and made
the wife. He mixed desire in their breasts
and bid them bear themselves to one another,
but not at all without discrimination.
He placed a limit on their loves, what we
call marriage, bridle for unmeasured matter,
lest it go mad, convulsing endlessly,
like animals that read’ly mate in herds,
and wreck the holy race of men through love
unbounded, lest desire unrestrained
should raise up wars and senseless quarrels for all.

  1. It is not clear how to construe this line; it may be corrupt.

Cappadocian Ekphrases of Anger

Basil’s Homily 10 is devoted to combatting anger, and theme Gregory took up later even more extensively in his carm. 1.2.25 Adv. iram. As Oberhaus has noted,1 the parallels between Gregory’s poem and Basil’s homily are particularly strong in the respective ekphrases of an angry person (Gr. Naz. Adv. iram 85-110 and Basil Hom. 10.2). I offer here the Greek text and my English translations of both passages.

From Basil’s 10th Homily

Ὀφθαλμοὶ μὲν γὰρ ἐκείνοις οἱ οἰκεῖοί τε καὶ συνήθεις ἠγνόηνται· παράφορον δὲ τὸ ὄμμα, καὶ πῦρ ἤδη βλέπει. Καὶ παραθήγει τὸν ὀδόντα κατὰ τῶν συῶν τοὺς ὁμόσε χωροῦντας. Πρόσωπον πελιδνὸν καὶ ὕφαιμον· ὄγκος τοῦ σώματος ἐξοιδαίνων· φλέβες διαῤῥηγνύμεναι, ὑπὸ τῆς ἔνδοθεν ζάλης κλονουμένου (357) τοῦ πνεύματος. Φωνὴ τραχεῖα, καὶ ὑπερτεινομένη, καὶ λόγος ἄναρθρος καὶ εἰκῆ προεκπίπτων, οὐ κατὰ μέρος, οὐδὲ εὐτάκτως, οὐδὲ εὐσήμως προϊών.2

For their normal and customary visage becomes unrecognizable. The eye goes askance with a fiery blaze and they sharpen their teeth like boars that advance on one another. The face becomes livid and bloodshot; the whole girth of the body swells; veins nearly break from the internal squall, while the breathing rushes wildly. The voice becomes exceedingly high and tense, while speech becomes inarticulate and falls forth to no end, proceeding without proportion, measure, or seemliness. (Basil of Caesarea, Hom. 10.2 PG 31.356–57)

From Gregory Adv. iram

εἴ σοί τις ὦπται τῶν ἁλόντων τῷ πάθει, [85]
οἶδας σαφῶς φημι, καὶ γράψει λόγος.
ἔσοπτρον ἐχρῆν ἑστάναι χολουμένοις,
ὡς ἂν βλέποντες, ἀλλὰ τὴν αὐτῶν ὕβριν
μικρὸν χαλῷεν, τοῦ πάθους ἐξ ὄψεως,
κατηγόρῳ σιγῶντι κάμπτοντες φρένα. [90]
καὶ τόδἔστηκαὐτὸς ὑβριστὴς σὸς,
ἐν κατόψει σαυτὸν, εἰ σχολὴν ἄγοις.
πάθος γὰρ οἷς ἓν, κοινὰ καὶ συμπτώματα.
ὕφαιμον ὄμμα, καὶ θέσεις διάστροφοι,
τρίχες συώδεις, καὶ γένυς διάβροχος, [95]
ὡχρὰ παρειὰ, νεκρότητος ἔμφασις·
ἄλλων ἐρυθρὰ, καὶ μολιβδώδης τινῶν·
ὅπως ἂν, οἶμαι, καί τινα χρώσας τύχοι
βακχιώδης καὶ κάκιστος ζωγράφος·
αὐχὴν διοιδῶν, ἀγκυλούμεναι φλέβες, [100]
πνοὴ λόγον κόπτουσα καὶ πυκνουμένη,
λυσσῶδες ἄσθμα, καὶ φρύαγμἀσχημονοῦν,
μυκτὴρ πλατύς τε καὶ πνέων ὅλην ὕβριν.
κρότοι τε χειρῶν, καὶ ποδῶν ἐξάλματα,
κύψεις, στροφαὶ, γέλωτες, ἱδρῶτες, κόποι· [105]
τίνος κοποῦντος; οὐδενὸς, πλὴν δαίμονος.
νεύσεις ἄνω τε καὶ κάτω, λόγου δίχα,
γνάθοι φυσώμεναί τε καὶ ψοφούμεναι,
ὡς δή τις αὐλοῖς3· παιομένη τε δακτύλοις
χεὶρ ἀπειλή4 καὶ ψόφων προοίμιον. [110)

If you should see one caught in passion’s grip [85]
you know quite clearly what it is I say
and what my poem shall at once describe.
One ought to place a mirror before the angry,
that they may see and after just a bit
of rage, the passion glimpsed, restrain their soul
before their figure’s silent accusation. [90]
Or if you find yourself at ease, your foe
may serve the same end as the polished glass,
for one disease has symptoms shared by all:
The eyes are shot with blood and out of place,
the hair is bristling, jaws are wet with spit; [95]
The cheeks are pale— the very look of death.
some parts red, and some a leaden blue
as though the face had got its hues from painters
who knew no skill but only how to drink.
The neck swells; veins distend and curve away. [100]
The breath then cuts and strangles off the speech;
the breathing’s manic; thence, unseemly snorts.
The nose grows broad, replete with insolence.
The hands and feet begin to leap and spring;
they stoop and strain, turn, mock and sweat. [105]
and who’s to blame? none but this demon foe.
Their jaws move up and down without a word;
their cheeks inflate, emitting senseless sounds
as flutists’ do. The hands, balled into fists,5
become a threat and precursor of more. [110] (Gr. Naz. adv. iram 85–110)6

Bibliography

Crimi, C. 2018. “Nazianzenica XXII. Variazioni sull’ira in Gregorio (carm. I.2.25; or. 18).” In Cipolla, P.B.ed., Metodo e passione. Atti dell’incontro di studi in onore di Giuseppina Basta Donzelli, 131–44. Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert.

Geffcken, J. 1909. Kynika und Verwandtes. Heidelberg: C. Winters Universitätsbuchhandlung.

Oberhaus, M. 1991. Gregor von Nazianz. Gegen den Zorn : (carmen 1, 2, 25) : Einleitung und Kommentar. Paderborn: Schöningh.

Wagner, S.M.M. 1950. Basil the Great. Ascetical Works. Fathers of the Church 9. Catholic University of America Press. doi:10.2307/j.ctt32b2kz.


  1. Oberhaus 1991 ad loc.

  2. To my knowledge, the best text remains the Maurist edition, reprinted in PG 31 coll. 353-372, which I have cited here. The homily has been rendered into English in Wagner 1950.

  3. P Caillau ἅλως (contra metrum) : codd. ἄλλος : ἀσκός Oberhaus.

    I have adopted the conjecture of Crimi 2018 136.

  4. codd. ἀπειλεῖ : ἀπειλή susp. Oberhaus

  5. The sense of παιομένη δακτύλοις is obscure. I have followed the paraphrase Geffcken 1909 30, who interprets the phrase as a circumlocution for “balled fists.” Oberhaus 1991 ad loc. rejects this in favor of menacing hand gestures. See also discussion in Crimi 2018.

  6. In translating Gregory’s verse, I have chosen to employ English iambic pentameter to render both iambic trimeter and dactylic hexameter, as iambic pentameter is the primary meter of both English epic (Milton) and drama (Shakespeare). I differentiate between the two by permitting more archaic forms in English when rendering hexameter, since the diction of hexametric poetry, particularly in Gregory’s day, was much more removed from contemporary speech than that of iambic trimeter.

Gr. naz. Adv. iram 15–25

Below you’ll find nice Homeric simile in Gregory’s long iambic poem against anger (carm. 1.2.25). I treat this in the dissertation, and post my poetic rendering here. The text comes from PG 37, though I’ve consulted the readings of Oberhaus 1991.

δεῖ δ’, ὡς ἔοικε, μή τι μαλθακὸν λέγειν, [15]
κακοῦ τοσούτου τῷ λόγῳ προκειμένου·
ἀλλὡς πυρὸς βρέμοντος ἀγρίαν φλόγα,
πηδῶντος, αἰθύσσοντος ἐντινάγμασι
πολλοῖς, ἄνω ῥέοντος ἐμψύχῳ φορᾷ,
λάβρως ἀεὶ τὰ πρόσθεν οἰκειουμένου, [20]
ὕδωρ, κόνιν πέμποντας εὐνάσαι βίᾳ·
θῆρα λόχμης ἐκφανέντα συσκίου,
φρίσσοντα, πῦρ βλέποντα, ἐξαφρούμενον,
μάχης ἐρῶντα, καὶ φόνων καὶ πτωμάτων,
λόγχαις, κυνηγοῖς, σφενδόναις καταιχμάσαι [25]

For one must, as is meet, avoid all languor, [15]
when such an ill is set before one’s reason,
and quench, like those that dirt and water cast
against a fire that belches wild flame,
and leaps and jumps with numerous shakes,
and climbs aloft with motion from within
greedily making all that was its own; [20]
or slay, as hunters take the wild beast
with spears and slings, when it appears from deep
within the shadowed grove, with eyes ablaze
and hair erect, foam oozing from its mouth,
lusting for battle, corpses and their death. [25]

Bibliography

Oberhaus, M. 1991. Gregor von Nazianz. Gegen den Zorn : (carmen 1, 2, 25) : Einleitung und Kommentar. Paderborn: Schöningh.

Gregory of Nazianzus, On Christmas

This Christmas, I read through Gregory of Nazianzus’ 38th Oration, On the Theophany.  It is wondrously beautiful.  Gregory’s theology and language meld into one lovely, harmonious whole.  I hope reading through this oration becomes a Christmas tradition!  I’ve worked up a little poem to share here.  It is a verse rendition of the beginning of the oration.  I’m not a particularly good poet, but hopefully enough of Gregory comes through to make it enjoyable.  Fr. Aidan posted an English translation of the entire oration here, which you may also view at New Advent.

Theophany I

The Christ is born, rejoice! The Christ of Hea’en,
All ye, come meet the Christ and sing to God,
Thou Plenitude of Earth. Yet I must name
the both: let hea’ens and earth be glad
and make much cheer, Uranic Splendor came,
assumed our terran shame, and in flesh lay.
O man, rejoice in fear, in joy rejoice!
In fear for sin, in joy for hope of him:
The Christ-child borne of Virgin womb and shame!
O Eve’n Daughters, those of Adam’s race,
do now take up your virgin pur’ty, O
that ye be little Mary’s, full of Christ within.
Who shan’t praise him, the Chosen One who comes
of the beginning? Who shall not raise his voice
to him in whom our being finds finality? 
 
 

Here is the Greek.  For my fellow hellenists, much of the language in this oration is pretty simple.  It gets difficult and theologically complicated at points, but a good bit is not all that difficult.  My way of saying, this is recommended reading! The Greek text of the oration may be found here.

Χριστὸς γεννᾶται, δοξάσατε· Χριστὸς ἐξ οὐρανῶν, ἀπαντήσατε· Χριστὸς ἐπὶ γῆς, ὑψώθητε. ᾌσατε τῷ Κυρίῳ, πᾶσα ἡ γῆ· καὶ, ἵν ̓ ἀμφότερα συνελὼν εἴπω, Εὐφραινέσθωσαν οἱ οὐρανοὶ, καὶ ἀγαλλιάσθω ἡ γῆ, διὰ τὸν ἐπουράνιον, εἶτα ἐπίγειον. Χριστὸς ἐν σαρκὶ, τρόμῳ καὶ χαρᾷ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε· τρόμῳ, διὰ τὴν ἁμαρτίαν· χαρᾷ, διὰ τὴν ἐλπίδα. Χριστὸς ἐκ Παρθένου· γυναῖκες παρθενεύετε, ἵνα Χριστοῦ γένησθε μητέρες. Τίς οὐ προσκυνεῖ τὸν ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς; τίς οὐ δοξάζει τὸν τελευταῖον;

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ 

Let not thrift be king: Gregory of Nazianzus on poetry

The semester is over!  To celebrate, I share here a portion of a poem of Gregory’s that I recently translated.  Friends from church held a “Port and Poetry” party: we gathered together and shared poems around a warm fire.  It was a delightful evening!  For our contribution, I read the Greek aloud (iambic trimeter), and my wife read the English.  

The excerpt comes from PG 37.1186, from the Carmina de se ipso.  

English

We waste not our words on outward things,
however they should be; the inward life,
our undivided care, demands our explication.
In mind resides a salvific grace,
a grace, which spurs us on to hea’en,
yet not before the mind hath spake
to tell us, of its one sure desire.
What gain shall ever come from damned-up stream,
or from the sun’s beam, blocked by clouds?
Of such a sort, the sophic mind in silence,
like rose’s grace, concealed by scurr’lous seed.
But when the shattered wind-blown seed shows forth
its bloom, then ye shall see the rose revealed,
adorned on stage for all to love and see.
Had e’er that beauty been borne away,
then Vernal Spring, bereft of grace, would be.
No more we seek to speak, to think, as those
who deem Thrift King in matters of the Word.

Greek

Ἡμῖν δὲ, τοῦ μὲν ἐκτὸς οὐ πολὺς λόγος,
Ὅπως ποθ’ ἕξει· τοῦ δ’ ἔσω λίαν πολύς.
Ἐν νῷ γάρ ἐστιν ἥμιν ἡ σωτηρία,
Πλὴν ἐκλαλουμένῳ τε, καὶ δηλουμένῳ.
Πηγῆς τί κέρδος ἐστὶν ἐμπεφραγμένης;
Τί δ’ ἡλιακῆς ἀκτῖνος, ἣν κρύπτει νέφος;
Τοιοῦτόν ἐστι νοῦς σοφὸς σιγώμενος,
Οἷον ῥόδου τὸ κάλλος, ὃ κάλυξ σκέπει
Οὐκ εὐπρεπές· τὸ τερπνὸν ἐκφαίνει δ’, ὅταν
Αὔραις ῥαγεῖσα τὸν τόκον θεατρίσῃ.
Εἰ δ’ ἦν ἀεὶ τὸ κάλλος ἐσκεπασμένον,
Οὐδ’ ἄν τις ἦρος ἦν χάρις τοῦ τιμίου.
Οὐδὲν πλέον ζητοῦμεν, ὡς οὕτω λαλεῖν,
Ὡς οἳ δοκοῦσιν εὐτελεῖς τὰ τοῦ λόγου.


ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ 

 


Varia

I continue to plug away on a variety of fronts.  Juggling school, work, and church is not always easy, but such is life.  This post is mainly a collection of scattered thoughts and impressions about different things I’ve been working on.

Gregory of Nazianzus. On the Theophany.  I recently finished reading Gregory’s 38th oration, On the Theophany, and enjoyed it immensely.  Gregory’s Greek is not always easy (in fact it seldom is), but it’s immensely rewarding to work through.  His vision of God’s grandeur and beauty is breathtaking, and I look forward to reading more!  If I had time, I’d probably translate some more of the oration, just because I enjoyed it so much, but time pushes me onto other things.

Basil of Caesarea. On the Six Days of Creation.  Instead of reading more Gregory, I decided to read some from St. Basil, as I’ve not yet read anything by the great bishop of Caesarea.  Since I’ve also been thinking about Genesis recently, it seemed like a natural place to turn.  From what I’ve seen so far (admittedly not much), Basil’s Greek seems a bit easier on the whole than Gregory’s, but quite well done nonetheless.  

Plato. Protagoras.  I’m taking a class on Socrates this semester, and for my term paper I’ll be writing on the Protagoras.  It’s a fun dialog, and fun to read.  Watching Plato’s Socrates interact with one of the great intellectuals of the previous generation is quite fun.

Origen. On the 76th Psalm Homily 1.  I’ve picked up the Origen stuff again, after a long hiatus.  I’ve resumed transcribing his long first homily on psalm 76, and a few interesting bits have come up.  Origen attacks heretics at several points for neglecting the practical life (πραξεῖς or ἤθη), and instead proceeding directly to speculation on the nature of God.  He’s also brought in his knowledge of Hebrew, mentioning that Zechariah’s name means “remembrance of God.”  I don’t know Hebrew, but from what I can tell that’s pretty close even if it’s not precisely accurate.

I’ve also notice an interesting stylistic tic: he likes to mention several different possible interpretation for a given line of the psalm, and so he’ll say, “and I know another interpretation” or “I have a second interpretation.”  When I put these Greek phrases into the TLG (οἶδα καὶ ἄλλην διήγησιν and ἔχω δὲ καὶ δευτέραν διήγησιν), in first case, the only results are from Origen’s Commentary on Matthew.  The second doesn’t match exactly, but searching for “δευτέραν διήγησιν” brings up matches primarily in 3 authors: Galen, Celsus, and Origen, all working in the late second century or early third (there are a few matches from much later authors).  Stylistic evidence like this aren’t the only grounds on which one judges authorship, but features like this do argue strongly in favor of Origenic authenticity.  

Eusebius of Caesarea. Fragments on Luke.  I contacted Roger Pearse a few months ago and asked if there were any untranslated Greek texts that he was wanting to get into English.  He has graciously commissioned a translation of the fragments on Luke that appear in the PG under Eusebius’ name.  I’ve been working on these slowly, but with some consistency.  They seem to mostly be authentically Eusebian to me.  The author is fond of long, winding, pleonastic sentences, which makes the translator’s job difficult!  He knows Greek philosophy, and this is seen in the exegesis, though it doesn’t dominate.  His exegetical eye is sometimes quite keen: he rightly picks up (what I think is) the jew/gentile distinction in Mt 21:28-31.  Other times, the exegesis is more straightforward: he remarks that the miracles that the apostles performed were important witnesses to the authenticity of their message.  Other times he seems more foreign, like when he creates an elaborate hierarchy of Christians on the basis of the beatitudes.  All in all, useful material I think.  

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ 

A Great Ocean of Being: Gregory Nazianzus on Divinity and Theosis

Intro

Having spent a good deal of time focused myopically on Or. 41:15-16, I decided that I should broaden my knowledge of Gregory of Nazianzus and read from some other orations.  His Greek is difficult in most places, so I proceed slowly, but I stumble often upon passages which are utterly captivating.  Since I already had the Sources Chrétiennes text on hand from my work on Or. 41, I decided to start reading Or. 38 (On the Theophany, or Nativity of Jesus), and have quickly come upon a passage I’d like to share: the first part of 38.7 (PG 36.317).  Gregory himself must have liked the passage, because he used it again in Or. 45, word for word.  In it, Gregory contemplates the nature of divinity itself, and then our own process of theosis, by which we are transformed into gods ourselves, “partaking in the divine nature” as 2 Peter 1:4 puts it.

Naturally, I managed to pick a passage that is full of text critical problems, mostly of ο/ω confusion.  They don’t affect major points of interpretation, but I do note in the Greek text where I’ve opted for a different reading from the SC text.  My translation is quite free, but do look at the Greek if possible: it’s quite lovely I promise!

English

God has always been, is now, and will be forever.  “Is” is the best term, however, for “has been” and “will be” are our own divisions of time, which are due to our mortal nature.  But the One who eternally Is, used this name when he revealed himself to Moses on the mountain. He comprises within himself existence itself, an existence that neither begins nor ends, a great, boundless ocean of being, which effortlessly surpasses any notion of time or natural law.  He is perceived dimly through the mind alone, and even this, though sufficient, is extremely dim.  This perception originates not from the divine being itself, but from those who surround it.  The image in the mind is formed with another’s aid into one coherent perception of reality, which then flees before complete apprehension, skirting off before the idea is fully grasped.  Thus, like a lightning-bolt, which illumines the night sky for but a fleeting moment, so this image surrounds our reasoning faculties with purifying light, but then disappears once more into darkness, leaving our minds completely cleansed. 

It seems to me that, insofar as we can perceive this image, it draws us to itself, for we can neither hope nor strive for something that is entirely beyond perception; but to the extent that the image is utterly beyond us, it invokes our wonder, and as we wonder, our desire increases, and the more we yearn for it, the more we are purified, and this purification makes us glimmer with divinity [1].   With a bit of boldness, I’d even suggest that it is at this stage, once we have been suitably transformed, that God unites himself fully with us, his gods [2], and is known fully to us, and perhaps known to the degree that he now knows us, who “know him even as we are known” (1 Cor 13:12).

[1] Grk. καθαῖρον δὲ θεοειδεῖς ἐργάζηται.  We have here a play on words, which evokes both Homer and the Gospels.  θεοειδής is a fairly common term in Homer, and means in the passive sense “godlike in appearance” or “shining like a god.”  Purification, though, reminds us of the beatitude “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt. 5:8), and Gregory no doubt has this in mind too.  Adjectives of this formation in Greek are ambiguous, and can be used in the active or passive sense.  Gregory thus combines the classical and the Christian to describe another New Testament idea, that as we become like God as we behold him (cf. 1 Jn 3:2).  

[2] Cf. Ps. 82:1-6. (81:1-6 LXX).

Greek

θεὸς ἦν μὲν ἀεὶ καὶ ἔστι καὶ ἔσται · μᾶλλον δὲ « ἔστιν » ἀεί. τὸ γὰρ « ἦν » καὶ « ἔσται », τοῦ καθ᾽ἡμᾶς χρόνου τμήματα καὶ τῆς ῥευστῆς φύσεως · ὁ δὲ ὢν ἀεὶ καὶ τοῦτο αὐτὸς ἑαυτὸν ὀνομάζει, τῷ Μωϋσεῖ χρηματίζων ἐπὶ τοῦ ὄρους. ὅλον γὰρ ἐν ἑαυτῷ συλλαβὼν ἔχει τὸ εἶναι, μήτε ἀρξάμενον μήτε παυσόμενον, οἷόν τι πέλαγος οὐσίας ἄπειρον καὶ ἀόριστον, πᾶσαν ὑπερεκπίπτον[1] ἔννοιαν καὶ χρόνου καὶ φύσεως.[2] νῷ μόνῳ σκιαγραφούμενος, καὶ τοῦτο λίαν ἀμυδρῶς καὶ μετρίως, οὐκ ἐκ τῶν κατ᾽ αὐτόν, ἀλλ᾽ ἐκ τῶν περὶ αὐτόν, ἄλλης ἐξ ἄλλου φαντασίας συλλεγομένης εἰς ἕν τι τῆς ἀληθείας ἴνδαλμα, πρὶν κρατηθῆναι φεῦγον καὶ πρὶν νοηθῆναι διαδιδράσκον, τοσαῦτα περιλάμπον[3] ἡμῶν τὸ ἡγεμονικόν, καὶ ταῦτα κεκαθαρμένoν, ὅσα καὶ ὄψιν ἀστραπῆς τάχος οὐχ ἱσταμένης.

ἐμοὶ δοκεῖν, ἵνα τῷ ληπτῷ μὲν ἕλκῃ πρὸς ἑαυτό — τὸ γὰρ τελέως ἄληπτον, ἀνέλπιστον καὶ ἀνεπιχείρητον — τῷ δὲ ἀλήπτῳ θαυμάζηται, θαυμαζόμενον δὲ ποθῆται πλέον, ποθούμενον δὲ καθαίρῃ, καθαῖρον δὲ θεοειδεῖς ἐργάζηται, τοιούτοις δὲ γενομένοις, ὡς οἰκείοις, ἤδη προσομιλῇ — τολμᾷ τι νεανικὸν ὁ λόγος — θεὸς θεοῖς ἑνούμενός τε καὶ γνωριζόμενος, καὶ τοσοῦτον ἴσως ὅσον ἤδη γινώσκει τοῦς γινωσκομένους.  


[1] SC reads ὑπερεκπίπτων.

[2] SC reads ‘,’ instead of ‘.’  This does result in an asyndeton, which is undesirable, but given the almost “hymnic” character of the prose here, I think it may be permitted.  

[3] SC reads περιλάμπων. Update: I’m not sure why, but I marked a difference from the SC text here even though there wasn’t one. Thanks to Gregoris in the comments for catching this. He left some very useful feedback on my textual decisions (arguing in favor of Moreschini’s text), so take a look if you’re interested in technical details.

[4] SC reads κεκαθαρμένων.  

I’ve transcribed this text directly from the SC text, which no doubt means I’ve made some typos.  If you notice something that looks off, let me know in the comments.

ἐν αὐῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ