December 2013/January 2014 - Vol. 71

The Wonder of Christ
by 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, namely 

  • 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 invisible," 
  • can be believed to have existed within the compass of that man who appeared in Judaea 
  • 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 unto death" 
  • 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.
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. 

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 death. 

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 fantasies. 

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

[excerpted from Against Heresies, 4,25]

The Great Little King

by Gregory of Nyssa, 335-395 A.D.

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 righteousness.

Thus the acoutrements of kingship show it to be in all respects an accurate copy of the form of the Original.

The Creation of Man, 4 [PGG44, 136].

Christ Ruler of All - 6th century icon

Origen of Alexandria

Origen (185-254 AD) was a Bible scholar and philospher based in Alexandria, Egypt and later in Caesarea in Palestine.

He 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, and treatises. 

Under 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 

Gregory 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.

(c) copyright 2013  Living Bulwark
publishing address: Park Royal Business Centre, 9-17 Park Royal Road, Suite 108, London NW10 7LQ, United Kingdom