God Is Like An Inaccessible Cliff
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Gregory of Nyssa was born in 335 to a devout aristocratic Christian family in Cappadocia, which had suffered persecution for their faith. Gregory's grandfather was martyred, his parents had their goods confiscated and were exiled for confessing Christ. Three of their sons became bishops: Gregory was elected bishop of Nyssa in 372 and joined his older brothers, Basil of Caesarea and Peter of Sebaste, in their fight against the Arian heresy. Gregory contributed significantly to the Church's understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity and the Nicene Creed.
The feelings that come to a man who stands on a high mountain peak and looks down onto some immense sea are the same feelings that come to me when I look out from the high mountain peak of the Lord’s words into the incomprehensible depths of his thoughts.
When you look at mountains that stand next to the sea, you will often find that they seem to have been cut in half, so that on the side nearest the sea there is a sheer cliff and something dropped from the summit will fall straight into the depths. Someone who looks down from such a peak will become dizzy, and so too I become dizzy when I look down from the high peak of these words of the Lord: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
These words offer the sight of God to those whose hearts have been purified and purged. But look: St John says No-one has seen God. The Apostle Paul’s sublime mind goes further still: What no man has seen and no man can see. This is the slippery and crumbling rock that seems to give the mind no support in the heights. Even the teaching of Moses declared God to be a rock that was so inaccessible that our minds could not even approach it: No one can see the Lord and live.
To see God is to have eternal life – and yet the pillars of our faith, John and Paul and Moses, say that God cannot be seen. Can you understand the dizziness of a soul that contemplates their words? If God is life, whoever does not see God does not see life. If the prophets and the Apostle, inspired by the Holy Spirit, attest that God cannot be seen, does this not wreck all the hopes of man?
It is the Lord who sustains our floundering hope, just as he sustained Peter when he was floundering in the water, and made the waters firm beneath his feet. If the hand of the Word stretches out to us as well, and sets us firm in a new understanding when these speculations have made us lose our balance, we shall be safe from fear, held safe in the guiding hand of the Word. Blessed, he says, are those who possess a pure heart, for they shall see God.
Gregory of Nyssa (335-394)
Almighty God, your Son has opened for us
a new and living way into your presence:
Give us pure hearts and steadfast wills
to worship you in spirit and truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit.
one God, for ever and ever.
Pray with us today's prayer request:
In February 2021, Toliara Diocese in south Madagascar was experiencing a dreadful drought and famine. We prayed for rain and there has been abundant rain. Anglican Aid (Sydney) supplied seeds which were planted. Please pray for a bountiful harvest during the coming month.
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