Saint Gregory of Nyssa: New Life in Christ

In an Easter homily reflecting on Psalm 118:24 – ‘this is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it’ – Saint Gregory of Nyssa connected the verse with the idea of the new creation opened up to us on the first Easter morning, the eighth day. In a passage dense with imagery, he then elaborates the stages that the Christian goes through in their journey of salvation, and how the Church nourishes and sustains us during that journey. I was going to comment on each of the aspects of our journey that Saint Gregory mentions in his homily (particularly the role of baptism, with reference to 1 Peter 3:21), but I have decided instead to simply highlight them in the text, and let his rich and fertile imagery take its own course. Gregory’s words are worth reading over and meditating upon several times, such is their clarity and power:

The reign of life has begun, the tyranny of death is ended. A new birth has taken place, a new life has come, a new order of existence has appeared, our very nature has been transformed! This birth is not brought about by human generation, by the will of man, or by the desire of the flesh, but by God.

If you wonder how, I will explain in clear language. Faith is the womb that conceives this new life, baptism the rebirth by which it is brought forth into the light of day. The Church is its nurse; her teachings are its milk, the bread from heaven is its food. It is brought to maturity by the practice of virtue; it is wedded to wisdom; it gives birth to hope. Its home is the kingdom; its rich inheritance the joys of paradise; its end, not death, but the blessed and everlasting life prepared for those who are worthy.

from Oratorio 1 in Christi Ressurectionem (courtesy of Crossroads Initiative)

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