The Wonderful Exchange
Gregory Nazianzen was ordained in 372 as the bishop of a small town in Asia Minor. A strong supporter of the Nicene Creed, Gregory confronted the Arian heretics who were threatening to create division in Cappodocia, and in 379, he was asked to go to Constantinople to win it back to Nicene orthodoxy. His persuasive preaching and teaching on the doctrine of the Trinity and the nature of the Holy Spirit were well received and he returned to Nazianzus in 381. Gregory Nazianzen also wrote numerous theological, moral and biographical poems.
The Son of God himself,
who is before all ages,
the invisible, the incomprehensible, the bodiless,
the beginning from the beginning,
the light from the light,
source of life and immortality,
image of the archetype,
the Father's definition and Word.
He it is who came to his own image and took to himself flesh for the sake of our flesh. Then he united himself with an intelligent soul for my soul's sake, purifying like by like. He took to himself all that is human, except sin. He was conceived by the Virgin who was first purified in body and soul by the Spirit. He came forth as God with what he had taken to himself. Out of two contraries -- flesh and spirit -- he made one. The Spirit conferred the godhead on the flesh that received it.
He who enriches others became poor. He took to himself the poverty of my flesh so that I might obtain the riches of his godhead. He who is full empties himself. He emptied himself of his godhead for a brief time so that I might share in his fullness.
What is this wealth of goodness? What is this mystery that touches me? I received the divine image and I did not keep it. He receives my flesh to save the image and grant immortality to the flesh. This, his second communion with us, is far more marvelous that the first.
It was necessary that holiness be conferred on man through the humanity God took to himself. In this way, conquering the tyrant by force, he freed us and led us back to himself through his Son, the mediator. The Son brought this about to the honor of the Father to whom, is all things he is seen to defer.
The good Shepherd, who lays down his life for his sheep, set out after the strayed sheep, on the mountain and hills on which you used to sacrifice. When he found the stray sheep he carried it on those same shoulders that bore the wood of the cross, and brought it back with him to the life above.
The brightest of all lights follows the lamp that goes before him. The Word follows the voice in the wilderness. The bridegroom follows the friend of the bridegroom who is making ready for God a special people, cleansing them with water in anticipation of the Spirit.
We needed an incarnate God who would die that we might live. We died with him in baptism that we might be cleansed. We rose with him because we died with him. We were glorified with him because we rose with him.
Gregory Nazianzen (329-390)
O God, whose Only Begotten Son
has appeared in our very flesh,
grant, we pray, that we may be inwardly transformed
through him whom we recognize as outwardly like ourselves.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.