Monday, September 28, 2015

Why St. Neophytos the Recluse Wrote His "Hexaemeron" ("Six-Days of Creation")

In his introduction to his Interpretation of the Hexaemeron, St. Neophytos the Recluse (+ 1215) explains the following reason as to why he undertook this work:

It seems good to tell as to what caused me to reach the decision to write this book. When I was enlightened by some divine sunrise from above and I turned far away from the vanities of life, and my feet were led along the straight path and way of peace, so as to follow the monastic life, I secretly left my parents and my seven siblings, both male and female, and I arrived at a certain holy monastery. There it happened that I heard the prophetic words which say: "In the beginning God created heaven and earth," and all the words which follow these. And as I listened I was amazed because I had never heard these words before, for I was illiterate and did not even know the alphabet, being a child of eighteen years of age.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

St. Gregory of Nyssa on the Beginning of Creation

By St. Gregory of Nyssa

(On the Making of Man, Chs. 23-24)

XXIII. That he who confesses the beginning of the world's existence must necessarily also agree as to its end.

1. But if some one, beholding the present course of the world, by which intervals of time are marked, going on in a certain order, should say that it is not possible that the predicted stoppage of these moving things should take place, such a man clearly also does not believe that in the beginning the heaven and the earth were made by God; for he who admits a beginning of motion surely does not doubt as to its also having an end; and he who does not allow its end, does not admit its beginning either; but as it is by believing that we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, as the apostle says, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear , we must use the same faith as to the word of God when He foretells the necessary stoppage of existing things.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

That the Human Body is Made Suitable for the Use of Reason

By St. Gregory of Nyssa

(On the Making of Man, Chs. 8-10)

But man's form is upright, and extends aloft towards heaven, and looks upwards, and these are marks of sovereignty which show his royal dignity. For the fact that man alone among existing things is such as this, while all others bow their bodies downwards, clearly points to the difference of dignity between those which stoop beneath his sway and that power which rises above them, for all the rest have the foremost limbs of their bodies in the form of feet, because that which stoops needs something to support it, but in the formation of man these limbs were made hands, for the upright body found one base, supporting its position securely on two feet, sufficient for its needs.

Especially do these ministering hands adapt themselves to the requirements of the reason: indeed if one were to say that the ministration of hands is a special property of the rational nature, he would not be entirely wrong; and that not only because his thought turns to the common and obvious fact that we signify our reasoning by means of the natural employment of our hands in written characters. It is true that this fact, that we speak by writing, and, in a certain way, converse by the aid of our hands, preserving sounds by the forms of the alphabet, is not unconnected with the endowment of reason; but I am referring to something else when I say that the hands co-operate with the bidding of reason....

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Why Man is Destitute of Natural Weapons and Covering

By St. Gregory of Nyssa

(On the Making of Man, Ch. 7)

1. But what means the uprightness of his figure? And why is it that those powers which aid life do not naturally belong to his body? But man is brought into life bare of natural covering, an unarmed and poor being, destitute of all things useful, worthy, according to appearances, of pity rather than of admiration, not armed with prominent horns or sharp claws, nor with hoofs nor with teeth, nor possessing by nature any deadly venom in a sting—things such as most animals have in their own power for defense against those who do them harm. His body is not protected with a covering of hair. And yet possibly it was to be expected that he who was promoted to rule over the rest of the creatures should be defended by nature with arms of his own so that he might not need assistance from others for his own security. Now, however, the lion, the boar, the tiger, the leopard, and all the like have natural power sufficient for their safety; and the bull has his horn, the hare his speed, the deer his leap and the certainty of his sight, and another beast has bulk, others a proboscis, the birds have their wings, and the bee her sting, and generally in all there is some protective power implanted by nature. But man alone of all is slower than the beasts that are swift of foot, smaller than those that are of great bulk, more defenseless than those that are protected by natural arms; and how, one will say, has such a being obtained the sovereignty over all things?