Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: Section 1
p. CCXL Book XII.
§1. This twelfth book gives a notable interpretation of the words of the Lord to Mary, “Touch Me not, for I am not yet ascended to My Father.”
But let us see what is the next addition that follows upon this profanity, an addition which is in fact the key of their defence of their doctrine. For those who would degrade the majesty of the glory of the Only-begotten to slavish and grovelling conceptions think that they find the strongest proof of their assertions in the words of the Lord to Mary, which He uttered after His resurrection, and before His ascension into heaven, saying, “Touch Me not, for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go to My brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God 1020 .” The orthodox interpretation of these words, the sense in which we have been accustomed to believe that they were spoken to Mary, is I think manifest to all who have received the faith in truth. Still the discussion of this point shall be given by us in its proper place; but meantime it is worth while to inquire from those who allege against us such phrases as “ascending,” “being seen,” “being recognized by touch,” and moreover “being associated with men by brotherhood,” whether they consider them to be proper to the Divine or to the Human Nature. For if they see in the Godhead the capacity of being seen and touched, of being supported by meat and drink, kinship and brotherhood with men, and all the attributes of corporeal nature, then let them predicate of the Only-begotten God both these and whatsoever else they will, as motive energy and local change, which are peculiar to things circumscribed by a body. But if He by Mary is discoursing with His brethren, and if the Only-begotten has no brethren, (for how, if He had brethren, could the property of being Only-begotten be preserved?) and if the same Person Who said, “God is a Spirit 1021 ,” says to His disciples, “Handle Me 1022 ,” that He may show that while the Human Nature is capable of being handled the Divinity is intangible, and if He Who says, “I go,” indicates local change, while He who contains all things, “in Whom,” as the Apostle says, “all things were created, and in Whom all things consist 1023 ,” has nothing in existent things external to Himself to which removal could take place by any kind of motion, (for motion cannot otherwise be effected than by that which is removed leaving the place in which it is, and occupying another place instead, while that which extends through all, and is in all, and controls all, and is confined by no existent thing, has no place to which to pass, inasmuch as nothing is void of the Divine fulness,) how can these men abandon the belief that such expressions arise from that which is apparent, and apply them to that Nature which is Divine and which surpasseth all understanding, when the Apostle has in his speech to the Athenians plainly forbidden us to imagine any such thing of God, inasmuch as the Divine power is not discoverable by touch 1024 , but by intelligent contemplation and faith? Or, again, whom does He Who did eat before the eyes of His disciples, and promised to go before them into Galilee and there be seen of them,—whom does He reveal Him to be Who should so appear to them? God, Whom no man hath seen or can see 1025 ? or the bodily image, that is, the form of a servant in which God was? If then what has been said plainly proves that the meaning of the phrases alleged refers to that which is visible, expressing shape, and capable of motion, akin to the nature of His disciples, and none of these properties is discernible in Him Who is invisible, incorporeal, intangible, and formless, how do they come to degrade the very Only-begotten God, Who was in the beginning, and is in the Father, to a level with Peter, Andrew, John, and the rest of the Apostles, by calling them the brethren and fellow-servants of the Only-begotten? And yet all their exertions are directed to this aim, to show that in majesty of nature there is as great a distance between p. CCXLI the Father and the dignity, power, and essence of the Only-begotten, as there is between the Only-begotten and humanity. And they press this saying into the support of this meaning, treating the name of the God and Father as being of common significance in respect of the Lord and of His disciples, in the view that no difference in dignity of nature is conceived while He is recognized as God and Father both of Him and of them in a precisely similar manner.
And the mode in which they logically maintain their profanity is as follows;—that either by the relative term employed there is expressed community of essence also between the disciples and the Father, or else we must not by this phrase bring even the Lord into communion in the Fathers Nature, and that, even as the fact 1026 that the God over all is named as their God implies that the disciples are His servants so by parity of reasoning, it is acknowledged, by the words in question, that the Son also is the servant of God. Now that the words addressed to Mary are not applicable to the Godhead of the Only-begotten, one may learn from the intention with which they were uttered. For He Who humbled Himself to a level with human littleness, He it is Who spake the words. And what is the meaning of what He then uttered, they may know in all its fulness who by the Spirit search out the depths of the sacred mystery. But as much as comes within our compass we will set down in few words, following the guidance of the Fathers. He Who is by nature Father of existent things, from Whom all things have their birth, has been proclaimed as one, by the sublime utterance of the Apostle. “For there is one God,” he says, “and Father, of Whom are all things 1027 .” Accordingly human nature did not enter into the creation from any other source, nor grow spontaneously in the parents of the race, but it too had for the author of its own constitution none other than the Father of all. And the name of Godhead itself, whether it indicates the authority of oversight or of foresight 1028 , imports a certain relation to humanity. For He Who bestowed on all things that are, the power of being, is the God and overseer of what He has Himself produced. But since, by the wiles of him that sowed in us the tares of disobedience, our nature no longer preserved in itself the impress of the Fathers image, but was transformed into the foul likeness of sin, for this cause it was engrafted by virtue of similarity of will into the evil family of the father of sin: so that the good and true God and Father was no longer the God and Father of him who had been thus outlawed by his own depravity, but instead of Him Who was by Nature God, those were honoured who, as the Apostle says, “by nature were no Gods 1029 ,” and in the place of the Father, he was deemed father who is falsely so called, as the prophet Jeremiah says in his dark saying, “The partridge called, she gathered together what she hatched not 1030 .” Since, then, this was the sum of our calamity, that humanity was exiled from the good Father, and was banished from the Divine oversight and care, for this cause He Who is the Shepherd of the whole rational creation, left in the heights of heaven His unsinning and supramundane flock, and, moved by love, went after the sheep which had gone astray, even our human nature 1031 . For human nature, which alone, according to the similitude in the parable, through vice roamed away from the hundred of rational beings, is, if it be compared with the whole, but an insignificant and infinitesimal part. Since then it was impossible that our life, which had been estranged from God, should of itself return to the high and heavenly place, for this cause, as saith the Apostle, He Who knew no sin is made sin for us 1032 , and frees us from the curse by taking on Him our curse as His own 1033 , and having taken up, and, in the language of the Apostle, “slain” in Himself “the enmity 1034 ” which by means of sin had come between us and God,—(in fact sin was “the enmity”)—and having become what we were, He through Himself again united humanity to God. For having by purity brought into closest relationship with the Father of our nature that new man which is created after God 1035 , in Whom dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily 1036 , He drew with Him into the same grace all the nature that partakes of His body and is akin to Him. And these glad tidings He proclaims through the woman, not to those disciples only, but also to all who up to the present day become disciples of the Word,—the tidings, namely, that man is no longer outlawed, nor cast out of the kingdom of God, but is once more a son, once more in the station assigned to him by his God, inasmuch as along with the first-fruits of humanity the lump also is hallowed 1037 . “For behold,” He says, “I and the children whom God hath given Me 1038 .” He Who for our sakes was partaker of flesh and blood has recovered you, and brought p. CCXLII you back to the place whence ye strayed away, becoming mere flesh and blood by sin 1039 . And so He from Whom we were formerly alienated by our revolt has become our Father and our God. Accordingly in the passage cited above the Lord brings the glad tidings of this benefit. And the words are not a proof of the degradation of the Son, but the glad tidings of our reconciliation to God. For that which has taken place in Christs Humanity is a common boon bestowed on mankind generally. For as when we see in Him the weight of the body, which naturally gravitates to earth, ascending through the air into the heavens, we believe according to the words of the Apostle, that we also “shall be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air 1040 ,” even so, when we hear that the true God and Father has become the God and Father of our First-fruits, we no longer doubt that the same God has become our God and Father too, inasmuch as we have learnt that we shall come to the same place whither Christ has entered for us as our forerunner 1041 . And the fact too that this grace was revealed by means of a woman, itself agrees with the interpretation which we have given. For since, as the Apostle tells us, “the woman, being deceived, was in the transgression 1042 ,” and was by her disobedience foremost in the revolt from God, for this cause she is the first witness of the resurrection, that she might retrieve by her faith in the resurrection the overthrow caused by her disobedience, and that as, by making herself at the beginning a minister and advocate to her husband of the counsels of the serpent, she brought into human life the beginning of evil, and its train of consequences, so, by ministering 1043 to His disciples the words of Him Who slew the rebel dragon, she might become to men the guide to faith, whereby with good reason the first proclamation of death is annulled. It is likely, indeed, that by more diligent students a more profitable explanation of the text may be discovered. But even though none such should be found, I think that every devout reader will agree that the one advanced by our opponents is futile, after comparing it with that which we have brought forward. For the one has been fabricated to destroy the glory of the Only-begotten, and nothing more: but the other includes in its scope the aim of the dispensation concerning man. For it has been shown that it was not the intangible, immutable, and invisible God, but the moving, visible, and tangible nature which is proper to humanity, that gave command to Mary to minister the word to His disciples.
S. John xx. 17CCXL:1021
S. John iv. 24CCXL:1022
S. Luke xxiv. 39.CCXL:1023
Col. 1:16, 17.CCXL:1024
Cf. Acts 17Acts xvii. The precise reference is perhaps to verse 27.CCXL:1025
The reference is perhaps to 1 Tim. vi. 16; but the quotation is not verbal. See also S. John i. 18.CCXLI:1026
The grammar of the passage is simplified if we read τὸ θεὸν αὐτῶν ὀνομασθῆναι, but the sense, retaining Oehlers reading τὸν θεὸν, is probably the same.CCXLI:1027
Cf. 1 Cor. viii. 6.CCXLI:1028
There seems here to be an allusion to the supposed derivation of θεός from θεάομαι, which is also the basis of an argument in the treatise “On Not three Gods,” addressed to Ablabius.CCXLI:1029
Gal. iv. 8.CCXLI:1030
Jer. xvii. 11 (LXX.).CCXLI:1031
Cf. Book IV. §3 (p. 158 sup.). With the general statement may be compared the parallel passage in Book II. §8.CCXLI:1032
Cf. 2 Cor. v. 21CCXLI:1033
Cf. Gal. iii. 13CCXLI:1034
Cf. Eph. ii. 16CCXLI:1035
Cf. Eph. iv. 24CCXLI:1036
Cf. Col. ii. 9CCXLI:1037
Cf. Rom. xi. 16CCXLI:1038
Cf. Heb. 2:13, Isa. 8:18Heb. ii. 13, quoting Is. viii. 18CCXLII:1039
Cf. Heb. ii. 14CCXLII:1040
1 Thess. iv. 16.CCXLII:1041
Cf. Heb. vi. 20CCXLII:1042
1 Tim. ii. 14.CCXLII:1043
Reading διακονήσασα for the διακομίσασα of the Paris ed. and διακομήσασα of Oehlers text, the latter of which is obviously a misprint, but leaves us uncertain as to the reading which Oehler intended to adopt. The reading διακονήσασα answers to the διάκονος γενομένη above, and is to some extent confirmed by διακονήσαι occurring again a few lines further on. S. Gregory, when he has once used an unusual word or expression, very frequently repeats it in the next few sentences.
Next: Then referring to the blasphemy of Eunomius, which had been refuted by the great Basil, where he banished the Only-begotten God to the realm of darkness, and the apology or explanation which Eunomius puts forth for his blasphemy, he shows that his present blasphemy is rendered by his apology worse than his previous one; and herein he very ably discourses of the “true” and the “unapproachable” Light.
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