03 August 2007

Gregory of Nyssa on Peace

Today's reading from Celebrating the Seasons is an extract from Gregory of Nyssa's work, On Christian Perfection.

'Christian Perfection' is a concept that is very much part of Methodist tradition and one which many other Protestants found difficult to accept in Wesley's time. I'm of the view (although not everyone agrees with me) that Wesley waivered on what 'Christian Perfection' meant and whether or not it was achievable in this life. Wesley almost certainly would have read Gregory of Nyssa's work. Gregory's view of 'Christian Perfection' seems very different from much of current Protestant tradition.

For those who argue that 'peace' was not at the heart of early Christian tradition, I think this extract is evidence that they are wrong. I was particularly struck how Gregory seems to equate salvation with the death of hostility - expressed hostility as well as 'spiritual' hostility. Gregory exhorts followers of Christ to 'become peace' in order to 'be true to the name of Christ we bear.'

Gregory writes:
'Christ is our peace, for he has made both one.' Since Christ is our peace, we may call ourselves true Christians only if our lives express Christ by our own peace. As the apostle Paul has said: 'Christ has brought hostility to an end.' So it is incumbent upon us not to allow that hostility to be resuscitated in us in any way at all; we must proclaim its death absolutely. God has destroyed it in a marvellous way for our salvation. Thus it is important that we do not allow ourselves to become resentful or to nurse grudges because these things will threaten the well-being of our souls. We must not stir to life by our evil actions the very thing that is better left dead in us.

But because we bear the name of Christ who is peace, we too are called upon to secure the end of all hostility. In this way what we believe with our minds will be professed in our lives. Christ destroyed the dividing wall and brought the two sides together himself, thus making peace. We too, then, should not only seek to be reconciled with those who attack us externally, we should also be actively seeking to reconcile the warring factions that rage within us, so that flesh and spirit are no longer in constant opposition. Then, with our minds stable and our flesh subject to the divine law, we will be refashioned into a unified creature, into men and women of peace. When the two have been made one, we shall experience peace within ourselves.

Peace may be defined as a harmony between opposing factions. When, therefore, the civil war in our nature has been brought to an end and we are at peace within ourselves, then we ourselves will become peace. Only then can we be true to the name of Christ that we bear.

No comments: