Kyparissiotes: Decade 1.6

January 13, 2011

From John Kyparissiotes, Decades, PG 152, 754 A – 755 A.

Chapter Six. In however many ways symbolic theology is given shape, it is either visual or auditory.

Gregory the Theologian, in his second book On Theology, says:

What would you say of Isaiah, or of Ezekiel who was an eyewitness of very great mysteries, or of the other prophets? For the first of these saw the Lord of Sabaoth sitting on the throne of glory, and encircled and praised and hidden by the sixwinged seraphim, and was himself purged by the live coal, and equipped for his prophetic office (Isa 6:1-7). And the other describes the chariot of God, namely, the cherubim, and the throne upon them, and the firmament over it, and him who showed himself in the firmament, and voices, and forces, and deeds (cf. Ezek ch. 1). And whether this was an appearance by day, only visible to saints, or an unerring vision of the night, or an impression on the mind holding converse with the future as if it were the present, or some other ineffable form of prophecy, I cannot say; the God of the prophets knows, and they know who are thus inspired.

[1.6.1] Gregory of Nazianzus, or. 28.19; PG 36, 52 A-B.

And in his homily On Eutropius, who, when he was found outside of the Church, was arrested and taken away, the divine Chrysostom says:

No one has seen that very thing which God is; therefore, when God is seen, what appears is not what he is, but that which he to whom he appears is able to see…. He does not change his substance, but he fashions the apparition with a view to the diversity of the things to be communicated.

[1.6.2] John Chrysostom, Homilia de capto Eutropio §10; PG 52, 404.

St. Gregory of Nyssa, in his book Against Eunomius that begins, “The first part…,” speaks in this manner:

For at the river Jordan, after the descent of the Holy Spirit, and again in the Jews’ hearing, and at the transfiguration, there came a voice from heaven, teaching men not only to regard the phenomenon as something more than a figure, but also to believe that the beloved Son of God is truly God. Now that voice was fashioned by God in a manner suitable to the hearers’ understanding, in airy substance, and adapted to the language of that time; for God, “who desires that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4), so articulated his words in the air that the hearers might be saved, as our Lord also says to the Jews, when they thought it thundered because the sound took place in the air: “This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes” (John 12:30).

[1.6.3] Gregory of Nyssa, Contra Eunomium, lib. 12b; PG 45, 993 C-D.

From these things it is clear in how many ways symbolic theology is declared by the prophets and other blessed men, namely, in three ways: in a mystery of sight, and in a mystery of sound, and in such a way that the God of the prophets knows.*


* The Latin translator, Torres, has a note on this last sentence: "'In three ways': namely, by the formation of a thing that (a) either falls under the sense of sight or (b) falls under the sense of hearing, or else (c) by an alteration in the meaning of a word so that it signifies something spiritual (e.g., God's 'drunkenness,' his 'sleep,' etc.)." (PG 52, 755 C.)

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