Sermon: Gregory of Nyssa

Once the Devil was walking along with one of his cohorts. They saw a man ahead of them pick up something shiny. “What did he find?” asked the cohort. “A piece of the truth,” the Devil replied. “Doesn’t it bother you that he found a piece of the truth?” asked the cohort. “No,” said the Devil, “I will see to it that he makes an idol out of it.”

You have heard of the Council of Nicea. It took place in the year 325. It was there that the Nicene Creed was established. To us today, the discussion may sound a bit tedious, but in them, the participants were in fact looking for the truth.

For example, there was the discussion over the nature of Jesus. We know that many heresies sprung up around this topic, but perhaps the greatest was Arianism. What it all came down to was literally one iota. The word homoousios (spelled) means “of the same substance,” whereas the word homoiousios (spelled) – only one iota difference – means “of a similar substance” – that was Arianism, because they did not believe that Jesus was of the same substance as God. They lost and so we’re all homoousians now. I know you’re excited to know that, but it was important to settle that out.

In the 391 at that the First Council of Constantinople, a part of the discussion was on the nature of the Holy Trinity, and the discussions most influential participants were the The Cappadocian Fathers: Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa – our saint for today. Today, when we speak of the Holy Trinity, we are discussing the understanding that has been handed down to us from this council and specifically, these three.

For us, those discussions, arguments (some of them being quite heated – St. Nicholas became so angry at Arian that he slapped him!) may seem tedious, but they were significant to the faith and how we understand God. The discussions in the church today do not carry the same weight that these earlier theologians worked out, but we still find those pieces of what is considered “truth”; however, like in that story of the devil, we sometimes create idols out of them. We discover what we believe to be the right answer, the right way, and then we add a litmus test to it and anyone who fails our test is a heretic. Instead of seeing God, we see our idol (something we setup in place of God); however, I think our saint, Gregory of Nyssa, would have seen something even more important than nailing down all these “truths,” because even in his great wisdom, he was still in awe of God. He writes, “Concepts create idols; only wonder comprehends anything. People kill one another over idols. Wonder makes us fall to our knees.”

I think this is one of the greatest failings of Christianity today: we define ourselves over what we believe and what we do not believe, when instead, we should be so caught up in the glory of God and who He is that we literally cannot get up off our knees for the wonder of Him.

For a while, stop seeing what you think is right or wrong, stop seeing who you think is right or wrong, and see God for who He is and then see Him in all these issues and people that you believe bring discord. You may discover that the wonder of God eclipses each and every one of them, making them so insignificant as to not be worth a single hard word.

Today, I’ll close with a prayer from Brennan Manning: “Dear Lord, grant me the grace of wonder.  Surprise me, amaze me, awe me in every crevice of Your universe.  Delight me to see how Your Christ plays in ten thousand places, lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not His, to the Father through features of men’s faces.  Each day enrapture me with Your marvelous things without number.  I do not ask to see the reason for it all; I ask only to share the wonder of it all.” Amen. (Ragamuffin Gospel, p. 105)

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