For various reasons I’ve been delving into the groups of writers often known as “the church fathers.” Just a little, mind you, since my time (like yours) is limited. But that explains the spate of posts recently referring to people with names like Athanasius and Gregory Nazianzen (which I believe just means “Gregory from the town of Nazianzus” –yes, Wikipedia corroborates). Anyway, it’s part of my personal reading and study, but also very much applies to our current study on Monday nights looking at what Jesus reveals to us about God, ourselves, and life. These writers from the first few hundred years of Christianity often focused on the very truths we’re pursuing in the scriptures together on Monday nights–those central, eternal depths of the core of the gospel. They loved and celebrated things like the mystery of God becoming a man, or how the cross could atone for sin, or what it means that God is three persons in one God.
And they’re full of great quotes. So here’s another passage from Gregory of Nazianzus. In this one he’s discussing some of the very things we were just looking at on Monday night last week, that Jesus surprises us by expressing God in a humble, self-effacing way, even while remaining God–and in fact, while displaying his glory precisely through this humility.
Great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there, where the multitude was greater. If He had stayed in His own eminence, if He had not condescended to infirmity, if He had remained what He was, keeping Himself unapproachable and incomprehensible, a few perhaps would have followed Him (perhaps not even a few, possibly only Moses–and He only so far as to see with difficulty the Back Parts of God)…
But inasmuch as He strips Himself for us, inasmuch as He comes down (and I speak of an emptying, an enfeebling, as it were, a laying aside and a diminishing of His glory), He becomes by this comprehensible.
Pardon me meanwhile that I again suffer a human affection. I am filled with indignation and grief for my Christ (and I would that you might sympathize with me) when I see my Christ dishonored on this account on which He most merited honor.
Is He on this account to be dishonored, tell me, that for you, He was humble?
Is He therefore a Creature, because He cares for the creature?
Is He therefore subject to time, because He watches over those who are subject to time? Nay, He bears all things, he endures all things.
He put up with blows, He bore spitting, He tasted gall for my taste.
And even now He bears to be stoned, not only by those who deal despitefully with Him, but also by ourselves who seem to reverence Him. For to use a body is perhaps the part of those who deal despitefully and stone Him; but pardon, I say again to our infirmity, for I do not willingly stone Him–
But having no other words to use, we use what we have.
You are called the Word, and You are above Word;
You are above Light, yet are named Light;
You are called Fire (not as perceptible to our senses), but because You purge light and worthless matter; a Sword, because you split the worse from the better; a Fan, because You purge the threshing-floor and blow away all that is light and windy and lay up in the silo above all that is weighty and full; an Axe, because You cut down the worthless fig-tree after long patience, and because You cut away the roots of wickedness; the Door, because You bring in; the Way, because we go straight; the Sheep, because You are the Sacrifice; the High Priest, because You are of the Father.