December 2010 - Vol. 45.

.The wonderful exchange
By Gregory Nazianzen

The Son of God himself, who is before all ages, 
the invisible, the incomprehensible, the bodiless,
 the beginning from the beginning,
 the light from the light, 
source of life and immortality, 
image of the archetype, 
immovable seal, 
unchangeable image, 
the Father's definition and Word, 
he it is who came to his own image and took to himself flesh for the sake of our flesh. 

Then he united himself with an intelligent soul for my soul's sake, purifying like by like. He took to himself all that is human, except sin. He was conceived by the Virgin who was first purified in body and soul by the Spirit. It was necessary both that childbearing be honored and that virginity be honored still more highly. 

He came forth as God with what he had taken to himself. Out of two contraries, flesh and spirit, he made one. The Spirit conferred the godhead on the flesh that received it. 

He who enriches others becomes poor. He took to himself the poverty of my flesh so that I might obtain the riches of his godhead. He who is full empties himself. He emptied himself of his godhead for a brief time so that I might share in his fulness. 

What is this wealth of goodness? What is this mystery that touches me? I received the divine image and I did not keep it. He receives my flesh to save the image and grant immortality to the flesh. This, his second communion with us, is far more marvellous than the first. 

It was necessary that holiness be conferred on man through the humanity God took to himself. In this way, conquering the tyrant by force, he freed us and led us back to himself through his Son, the mediator. The Son brought this about to the honor of the Father to whom, in all things, he is seen to defer. 

The good shepherd, who lays down his life for his sheep, set out after the strayed sheep, on the mountains and hills on which you used to sacrifice. When he found the stray sheep he carried it on those same shoulders that bore the wood of the cross, and brought it back with him to the life above. The brightest of all lights follows the lamp that goes before him. The Word follows the voice in the wilderness. The bridegroom follows the friend of the bridegroom who is making ready for God a special people, cleansing them with water in anticipation of the Spirit.

We needed an incarnate God who would die that we might live. We died with him that we might be cleansed. We rose again with him because we died with him. We were glorified with him because we rose again with him.
Gregory of Nazianzen (330-389), also know as Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory the Theologian, was a 4th century bishop (330-389) who came from a family of distinguished church leaders and teachers. While studying in Athens, he became a close friend of Basil the Great, who was also studying there at the time. They returned to their native Cappadocia (now Eastern Turkey) to serve the Lord. Basil became a monk and Gregory, who preferred a life of solitude, was forcibly persuaded by his father to be ordained a presbyter so he could assist in the care of the local Christians in Cappadocia. Gregory described his father’s decision as an “act of tyranny” because Gregory wanted to live a solitary life as an ascetic monk. With Basil’s wise counsel, Gregory nonetheless embraced the life of priestly service. 

During the Arian controversy when many teachers contested the full divinity of Christ, both Gregory and Basil took up the pen in defense of the true doctrine of Christ’s divinity. In 381 he presided over the First Ecumenical Council of Constantinople which completed the creed that is commonly called today the Nicene Creed. He taught with such clarity and depth that he became known simply as “the theologian.” During his time as bishop of Constantinople, Gregory encountered fierce opposition from the Arians, but his sermons on the Trinity and the Incarnation won him increasing respect and renown, and even Jerome came in from his desert to hear him.  After a period of troubling work, Gregory resigned and retired to the solitude of the desert, spending his last years contentedly in study, writing, and ascetical practices.



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