2013/January 2014 - Vol. 71
Wonder of Christ
Origen (185-254 AD)
Of all the marvelous and splendid things about the Son of God there
is one that utterly transcends the limits of human wonder and is beyond
the capacity of our weak mortal intelligence to think of or understand,
When, therefore, we see in him some things so human that they appear in
no way to differ from the common frailty of mortals, and some things so
divine that they are appropriate to nothing else but the ...nature of deity,
the human understanding with its narrow limits is baffled, and struck with
amazement at so mighty a wonder knows not which way to turn, what to hold
to, or whither to betake itself.
How this mighty power of the divine majesty, the very Word of the Father,
and the very Wisdom of God, in which were created "all things visible and
can be believed to have existed within the compass of that man who appeared
Yes, and how the wisdom of God can have entered into a woman's womb and
been born as a child and uttered noises like those of crying children
And further, how it was that he was troubled, as we are told, in the hour
of death, as he himself confesses when he says, "My soul is sorrowful even
And how at the last he was led to that death which is considered by men
to be the most shameful of all-even though on the third day he rose again.
If it thinks of God, it sees a man; if it thinks of a man, it beholds
one returning from the dead with spoils after vanquishing the kingdom of
For this reason we must pursue our contemplation with all fear and reverence,
as we seek to prove how the reality of each nature exists in one and the
same person, in such a way that nothing unworthy or unfitting may be thought
to reside in that divine and ineffable existence, nor on the other hand
may the events of his life be supposed to be the illusions caused by deceptive
But to utter these things in human ears and to explain them by words
far exceeds the powers we possess either in our mortal worth or in mind
and speech. I think indeed that it transcends the capacity even of the
holy apostles; nay more, perhaps the explanation of this mystery lies beyond
the reach of the whole creation of heavenly things
Against Heresies, 4,25]
Great Little King
by Gregory of Nyssa,
Just as a craftsman in ordinary life makes a thing in a shape suitable
for its intended use, so the Master Craftsman has fashioned our nature
to be a fitting instrument for the exercise of sovereignty over the universe,
by providing it with spiritual gifts and a bodily shape for a king.
The soul's exalted and royal nature is shown to be far removed from
submissiveness by the fact that it is free and independent and acknowledges
no master – it has been provided with its own unchallenged power of choice.
What is more characteristic of a king than this?
Those who paint portraits of rulers in ordinary life copy the details
of their form and underline their kingly importance by dressing them in
purple so that the portrait is as that of a king by it composition. In
the same way, human nature by virtue of its likeness to the King of All,
who created it to rule others, is seen to be a living portrait of him –
the portrait has a part in the title and importance of its Master.
It is not dressed up in purple nor does it show its importance by a
septer or a crown – the Original does not have these either – but it is
clothed in virtue, which is in truth the most royal of all garments, instead
of a purple robe. It relies on the blessedness of immortality instead of
a scepter. In place of a kingly crown it is adorned with the garland of
Thus the acoutrements of kingship show it to be in all respects an accurate
copy of the form of the Original.
Creation of Man, 4 [PGG44, 136].
Ruler of All - 6th century icon
Origen of Alexandria
(185-254 AD) was a Bible scholar and philospher based in Alexandria, Egypt
and later in Caesarea in Palestine.
lived during a turbulent time of barbarian invasians, periodic persecutions,
and rampant Gnostic heresy. The death of his father as a Christian martyr
deeply affected him. The Christian historian Eusebius tells us that Origen
was only seventeen when he took over as headmaster of the Christian Catechetical
School at Alexandria. He was a prolific writer of homilies, scripture commentaries,
the persecution of Decius in 250, Origen was imprisoned and underwent appalling
tortue. After his release he died at the age of 69 in 254.
Gregory of Nyssa
of Nyssa (330-395 AD) was born in Caesarea, the capital of Cappadocia (in
present day Turkey) around 330 AD. He came from a large Christian family
– four brothers and five sisters. Gregory became a professional orator
like his father, married, and settled down to the life of a Christian layman.
Basil, his eldest brother who became a bishop (who earned the title "Basil
the Great"), and his friend Gregory of Nazianzus persuaded him to dedicate
his life to the work of the gospel and the defense of the Christian faith.
Gregory became a married priest around 362 and was later ordained as a
bishop. Along with Basil and fellow-Cappadocian Gregory of Nazianzus (c.
329-391), Gregory of Nyssa forms the third of a trio of Christian thinkers,
collectively known as the Cappadocians, who established the main lines
of orthodoxy in the Christian East.