St Gregory the Theologian: Are You Being Smoothed into Beauty?

Feast of the Holy Hieromartyr Symeon, Kinsman of the Lord

Gregory_Theologian_Square_2.jpgDISCUSSION OF theology is not for everyone, I tell you, not for everyone—it is no such inexpensive or effortless pursuit. Nor, I would add, is it for every occasion, or every audience, neither are all its aspects open to inquiry. It must be reserved for certain occasions, for certain audiences, and certain limits must be observed. It is not for all people, but only for those who have been tested and have found a sound footing in study, and, more importantly, have undergone, or at the very least are undergoing, purification of body and soul. For one who is not pure to lay hold of pure things is dangerous, just as it is for weak eyes to look at the sun’s brightness. What is the right time? Whenever we are free from the mire and noise without, and our commanding faculty is not confused by illusory, wandering images, leading us, as it were, to mix fine script with ugly scrawling, or sweet-smelling scent with slime. We need actually "to be still" (Ps. 45.11) in order to know God, and when we receive the opportunity, "to judge uprightly" (Ps. 74.3) in theology.

The next step is to take a look at ourselves and to smooth the theologian in us, like a statue, into beauty. But first we must consider: what is the disorder of the tongue that leads us to compete in garrulity? What is this alarming disease, this appetite that can never be sated? Why do we keep our hands bound and our tongues armed? Do we commend hospitality? Do we admire brotherly love, wifely affection, virginity, feeding the poor, singing psalms, nigh-long vigils, penitence? Do we mortify the body with fasting? Do we through prayer, take up our abode with God? Do we subordinate the inferior element in us to the better—I mean the dust to the spirit, as we should if we have returned the right verdict on the alloy of the two which is our nature? Do we make life a meditation of death? Do we establish our mastery over our passions, mindful of the nobility of our second birth? Do we tame our swollen and inflamed tempers? Or our pride which "comes before a fall" (cf. Prov. 16.18), or our unreasonable grief, our crude pleasures, our dirty laughter, our undisciplined eyes, our greedy ears, our immoderate talk, our wandering thoughts, or anything in ourselves which the Evil One can take over from us and use against us, "bringing death through the windows," (Jer. 9.21) as Scripture has it, meaning through the senses?

—St Gregory the Theologian, Oration 27: An Introductory Sermon against the Eunomians

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