Saint Gregory of Nyssa on the character of changes of physical elements in nature and in the holy Eucharistic Gifts


Abstract Introduction St. Gregory On The Character Of Changes Of Physical Elements In Nature Analysis Of The Verbs ‘ΜΕΤΑΠΟΙΈΩ’ And ‘ἈΛΛΟΙΌΩ’ And Their Derivatives Usage Analysis Of Use Of The Verb ‘ΜΕΤΑΣΤΟΙΧΕΙΌΩ’ And Its Derivatives Analysis Of Terminology Used To Describe Resurrected Bodies Conclusions  



This paper considers terminology used by St. Gregory of Nyssa to describe matter and changes of its elements in the created world, human body, and the main Sacrament of the Church. A comparative analysis has shown a typical use of derivatives from the verbs “μεταστοιχειόω” or “ἀναστοιχειόω” to describe changes in the Eucharistic Gift’s nature and changes in material nature of the resurrected body. These verbs, which were hardly known to ancient philosophy, highlight the concept of fundamental renewing of creatures and underline the reality of change in the nature of the Eucharistic Gifts as St. Gregory’s most important concept. Definition of the nature of a material object is given as the object’s “logos” which is not always identical to and manifested through the set of the external characteristics of the object. This is especially true for the main Sacrament of the Church.

Key words: nature, natural properties, logos, human body, Eucharistic Gifts, renewal of creation, moral change, changes in material nature.


Analyzing modern scientific publications on St. Gregory’s theological heritage, it becomes clear that there has not been made a special research on the comparative analysis of the character of changes of physical elements in nature and in the holy Eucharistic Gifts. Saint Gregory in his Oratio Catechetica Magna XXXVII used the verbs ‘metastoicheióo’ and ‘metapoiéo’ to describe what happens in the Eucharistic bread. Here and in parallel texts, St. Gregory speaks in the language which we might call ‘Eucharistic realism’.

Since St. Gregory with his strong personality always had great freedom when accepting or rejecting the philosophical ideas of his predecessors, it is difficult to speak of Gregory’s philosophical heritage. His main concepts always come from the Scripture and the Church’s theological heritage.

R. Winling in his edition of the Discours Catéchétique says: ‘The verb métapoieô is used with different meaning in the Discours Catéchétique, ch. XXXIII, the seed is transformed by divine power into a human being; ch. XXXVII, the body of Christ transforms the body of the believer into its own substance; ch. XXXVII during the eucharistical celebration the bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ; ch. XL, the Baptism gives a moral change. Each time God’s intervention is mentioned’.1

In the same chapter, R. Winling remarks, playing down the importance of the bread’s ‘transformation’:

‘However he does not mean what will later be called transubstantiation, that is, a transformation of the substance with permanence of the accidents. Gregory does not think along Aristotle’s categories, he is reasoning partially along metaphors of biblical origin’.2

We actually disagree with this statement and shall try to show in this study that it would be rather accurate to say that St. Gregory has actually laid down a good part of the foundation for the theory which was later elaborated and called in the West ‘transubstantiation’. It is obvious that St. Gregory, following the Scripture’s texts both on the Eucharist, the Resurrection of the Lord, and the resurrection of bodies, is oriented towards «realism» that calls for matter’s ‘transformation’, both in the Eucharistic Gifts and the resurrected body. There are no detailed studies on the nature of this transformation in the works of St. Gregory of Nyssa. Looking at notes of the existing editions of Oratio Catechetica Magna, from J. H. Srawley’s edition3 to R. Winling’s one, all of them mark the importance of the verbs ‘metapoieo’ and ‘metastoicheióo’ while not insisting on them, and no one guides the reader to other existing studies from the perspective of natural elements. The same happens with Lucas F. Mateo-Seco’s article ‘Eucharist’ in The Brill Dictionary on St. Gregory.4

If we wish to study how St. Gregory understood these changes from the point of view of matter, we should undertake a philological analysis of the terms ‘metapoiéo’, ‘metastoicheióo’ and other ones used to describe natural changes, in order to establish the variety of uses and meanings this concepts have in St. Gregory’s works. Following the TLG5 and the Patrologia Graeca we have tried to compare the uses of most frequent terms among Gregory and his predecessors.

St. Gregory On The Character Of Changes Of Physical Elements In Nature

In St. Gregory’s opinion, God’s creative act during the world’s formation instantaneously (ἐν ἀκαρεῖ) created all of the material cosmos’s primary elements and the ‘essence of each creature’ (ἡ ἐκάστου τῶν ὅντων οὐσία).6 The material world, as opposed to the spiritual world of creation, is characterized by ‘τὸ φυσικὸν εἶδος’ and ‘τὸ σχῆμα’. Both terms reflect the physical structure of the material world without which it cannot actually exist. All objects of the material world are also characterized by qualities or properties (αἱ ποιότητες) whose union is a necessary condition for the start of this or that being.7

St. Gregory indicates the Church’s acceptance of Hellenic philosophical teachings on the four main elements, ‘which compose the world’ (τέσσαρα στοιχεῖα γνωρίζομεν, ἀφ’ὧν ὁ κόσμος ἔχει τὴν σύστασιν).8 For the uneducated listeners he does not even hesitate to list the names of the elements: fire, air, earth, and water.

The changes taking place in the organized universe are subject to laws established by the Creator. One of these laws, which St. Gregory pays attention to, is the law of ceaseless rotation of the elements. All things in the material world are subject to constant change and transformation, nothing created can be considered immutable and unchangeable (ἄτρεπτόν τε καὶ ἀναλλοίωτον).9

The property of invariability belongs only to the Creator, whose existence is supported by He Himself. The whole of creation in its animated and unanimated parts cannot exist without support from the outside, without addition of some foreign substance.10 No created essence can be sustained by itself, since its being started as a creative act of change from nothing.11

Here St. Gregory introduces the concept of an ‘alterative force’ (ἡ τρεπτὴ δύναμις), which of course has close parallels in ancient philosophy and Christian theological thought.12 Nevertheless, according to the TLG electronic database, this particular expression is quite a rare combination of words. Closest to it is the statement of Plotinus on a ‘forming power’ applied to matter (δύναμις τρεπτικὴ τῆς ὕλης).13

The above mentioned power creates a circular, constant change of all earthly nature followed by the transformation of nature’s elements into one another. By the Saint’s figurative expression this changing force (μεταβλητικήν τε καὶ ἀλλοιωτικὴν δύναμιν) performs a circular path on the four elements.14 St. Gregory describes processes of earth’s transition into water15 and water into earth16 trying to prove that the idea of the element’s ​​changing from one to another is not inconsistent.

In the Saint’s opinion, in the conversion of each element into another one must see ‘the beginning of that one into which the first one was permuted and the recovery of the second into the original one’.17

Arguing that each element has its own set of characteristic properties (ποιότητα),18 which so to say fills the passive underlying matter (δι’ ἧς συμπληροῦται τὸ ὑποκείμενον),19 St. Gregory asserts that some of the properties and qualities separate elements among themselves and others pave the way for their interaction. For example, the qualities of coldness and moisture, in the words of St. Gregory, compile water’s nature (συμπληρωτικὸν τῆς τοῦ ὕδατος φύσεως). The quality of coldness also belongs to earth, so it is concluded that ‘due to the quality of coldness in earth, there is water in earth and earth in water’.20

The very nature of elements is practically identified by the Saint with the set of qualities or properties typical for it. So, speaking of the possible revival of water in the earth, he maintains that moisture connecting to coldness, by itself fully completes the nature of water (τῆς δὲ ὑγρότητος τῆς ἐκ τοῦ ψυχροῦ συνισταμένης καὶ ὅλην τὴν τοῦ ὕδατος φύσιν ἐν ἑαυτῇ τελειούσης).21 On the contrary, dryness and weightiness he acknowledges being inherent to earth (τὸ γὰρ ξηρὸν καὶ βαρὺ ἴδιον ἂν εἴη τῆς περὶ τὴν γῆν θεωρουμένης ποιότητος), and these qualities inherits steam burned in the atmosphere (εἰς ὅπερ ἐκκαυθεὶς ὁ ἀτμὸς μετεποιήθη),22 thus having a potential for becoming earth.

At one point St. Gregory says that water turned into earth assumes just ‘a similar nature’ (τὴν ὁμοειδῆ φύσιν καταλαμβάνει).23 Yet elsewhere the Saint admits the element’s changing nature to full identity with other elements. For example, in describing the human body’s process of digestion, the Saint notes that in whichever part of the body was the assimilated food, it ‘becomes what that part of the body is by its nature’ (ἐκεῖνο γίνεται, ὃ τὸ ὑποκείμενον κατὰ φύσιν ἐστὶν).24 Also ‘anything sticking to some object, whatever it is by nature, changes to that nature (πρὸς ἐκείνην ἠλλοιώθη τὴν φύσιν)25 and turns earth in earth, sand in sand, stone in stone, everything in all’. In other words, ‘what is taken turns into that which takes over it’ (πρὸς τὸ ἐπικρατοῦν μετετέθη).26

Similarly is described in Apologia in hexaemeron the process of water’s recovery ‘to its own nature’ (τῇ ἰδίᾳ φύσει ἀποκαθίσταται).27 Due to the circular process of incessant transformations and restorations the entire world’s matter ‘is held in the arrangement (ἐπὶ τοῦ αὐτοῦ μέτρου), which was originally established for every creature by the Creator’s wisdom in the universe’s adornment’.28

This is the second law of which St. Gregory speaks in detail, discussing the changes inherent to the material world. The law of matter conservation acts, according to his teachings, in living and nonliving nature. Ever-changing matter, being altered in its quality, remains the same in number. For example, steam’s thin and indivisible volume, although not keeping its moist quality, by necessity ‘should not change into nothing neither becomes something irrecoverable’.29 And all moisture, being in fire changes the quality of its parts, becoming from something moist something dry, but not becoming eliminated altogether ‘οὐκ εἰς τὸ παντελὲς ἀφανίζεται’.30

These two laws are expressed together in the statement that «in creatures there are neither additions nor diminutions (μήτε αὐξήσεως, μήτε κολοβώσεως),31 but always each certainly remains in its own measure», even when the nature of creatures seems to be variable and completely assimilating into another, modifying each thing into something else.

According to researchers, the very concept of the created object’s nature (φύσις) is one of the central ontological notions of Saint Gregory. According to Johannes Zahhuber the term can denote a real object as well as its essence, understood as a complex of properties which make up the object’s natural essence.32 Nature as essence is characterised by a certain defining formula or the logos of nature ‘λόγος τῆς φύσεως’.33

However, in our view, a careful study of the Saint’s Eucharistic texts gives reason to clarify the difference between natural properties and the logos which are almost equated in the above-cited study. Although Johannes Zahhuber notes the differences in object’s nature and its essential qualities from random properties, yet the article does not discuss St. Gregory’s concept of nature in a sacramentological aspect.34

To describe the changes occurring in natural elements and objects, St. Gregory uses several ancient Greek verbs and their derivatives. Most often for this purpose he uses derivatives of the verb ‘ἀλλοιόω’ (18 times in his Apologia in Hexameron). Second in frequency come the derivatives from the verb ‘μεταβάλλω’ (14 times). It is no accident that the name of the force that changes natural objects has two epithets derived from the two most commonly used verbs (μεταβλητικήν τε καὶ ἀλλοιωτικὴν δύναμιν).35 Much less often in various places in his Apologia in Hexameron the Saint used derivatives of the verbs ‘μεταποιέω’ (3), ‘τρέπω’ (2), ‘μετατίθημι’ (2), «μεταβαίνω» (4).

Analysis of the verbs usage context used in the Apologia in hexaemeron and in all of St. Gregory’s works gives reason to conclude that the Saint most often employed them generally and not as fixed terms with a clear range of theological meanings. Nevertheless, we were able to note some tendencies in the use of above mentioned verbs and their derivatives in the textual heritage of St. Gregory. If most of the mentioned verbs have a wide array of meanings, indicating changes without specific preferences, the verb μεταποιέω was noticed to have a priority range of characteristic meanings.

Analysis Of The Verbs ‘ΜΕΤΑΠΟΙΈΩ’ AND ‘ἈΛΛΟΙΌΩ’ And Their Derivatives Usage

For our chosen forms ‘μεταποίησισ, μεταποίησιν, μεταποίε»‘ – analysis of St. Gregory’s chosen works conducted by the TLG electronic database has shown that out of nineteen cases, the use of the verb itself or its derivative occurred four times to describe natural facts of change, physical or chemical processes. In four more cases, the verb is used to describe simply general ‘changes’. In other eleven cases of the term’s use it refers to the grace-filled change of human nature, human life, and the human body from corruption to incorruption. Four of these cases touch the deification of human nature that was assimilated by the Savior Himself. Three cases touch the change our nature experiences during the sacrament of baptism, two- the change in human nature due to ascetic feats and life by the commandments. Another case touches the change our body will go through at the world’s end.

Thus, in most of St. Gregory’s cases, the term refers not to some simple change in nature, but to changes in nature and human nature occurring as a result of the Incarnation in two of its closely related aspects: the incarnation of God and deification of man, effectuated in the Church through sacraments and ascetical doing.

Twice the term is used in the Oratio catechetica in relation to Eucharistic Elements as they become Holy Communion, when St. Gregory says that ‘the bread, sanctified by God’s Word, changes (μεταποιεῖσθαι) into the Body of God the Word’,36 ‘not by eating and drinking entering the Body of the Word, but precisely changing (ἀλλ’ εὐθὺς πρὸς τὸ σῶμα τοῦ Λόγου μεταποιούμενος) into the Body of the Word’.37

Once in the same work the verb is employed to describe the effect of Christ’s Holy Body on the body of the communicant: ‘the immortal Body upon entering the receiver changes his very nature’ (πρὸς τὴν ἑαυτοῦ φύσιν καὶ τὸ πᾶν μετεποίησεν).38

And finally, one time the derivative of the verb is used to describe human nature’s change to Divine Dignity in the Incarnation: ‘τὸ δὲ σῶμα τῇ ἐνοικήσει τοῦ Θεοῦ Λόγου πρὸς τὴν θεϊκὴν ἀξίαν μετεποιήθη’.39

Describing the Eucharist sacrament in the aforementioned Oratio catechetica St. Gregory uses other terms also, mentioning twice the change of eaten food into body and blood by an alternative force ‘διὰ τῆς ἀλλοιωτικῆς δυνάμεως’.40 In contrast to the above term, the latter term is used only twice to describe the natural digestion process. The first is used in this essay to describe the natural process only in one place – where it is mentioned the transformation (μεταποίησιν)41 of wine into blood in that same process of natural digestion.

However, except for predominant use of various derivatives of the verb ‘μεταποιέω’ in describing the Eucharist Sacrament, we encounter a new term that is never used by St. Gregory to describe nature’s natural processes in the whole body of his writings. This is the participle of the verb ‘μεταστοιχειόω’, which is used at the end of the section dedicated to the Holy Eucharist to describe the changing nature of the Eucharistic bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.42

In contrast to the above natural processes where a change of an object’s essential properties is identified by the Saint with a change in its nature, we can say that in the Eucharist sacrament the exact opposite occurs. The Saint speaks of the change of the material Gifts nature, while maintaining all of their manifested properties. The natural properties as perceived by sight and taste (τῶν φαινομένων) remain unchanged, yet the nature (ἡ φύσις) of the proposed substance during the sacrament undergoes a qualitative change. This simple observation allows us to clarify St. Gregory’s definition of nature as the logos of the material object not always identifiable and displayable through its external characteristic properties.

In the same place the saint says that Christ namely ‘through the flesh’ (διὰ τῆς σαρκὸς) communicates Himself to all believers ‘blending with their bodies so that through union with the Immortal man also can partake of incorruption’.43 Thus Holy Communion brings an abundance of spiritual gifts with spiritual properties, meanwhile closely connected with specific and renewed physical properties.

Analysis Of Use Of The Verb ‘ΜΕΤΑΣΤΟΙΧΕΙΌΩ’ And Its Derivatives

Analysis of use of the verb ‘μεταστοιχειόω’ and its derivatives in the works of St. Gregory has showed that the term is used mainly to describe Christ’s transfiguration of human nature, assumed by Him and becoming His, as well as to describe the transformation of man’s nature in the Church as the Body of Christ, in its sacraments (10 times). In addition, the same term is used to describe the change of visible matter into the Body and Blood of the Lord in the Eucharist sacrament. Four times the term is used by the Saint in an eschatological perspective to describe the changes that all of human nature (or just the body) will undergo is the resurrection of the dead. The term is used twice to describe the change of the whole material world at the world’s end. And finally, the term is used once to indicate a Christian’s mind change from carnal to spiritual state through suspension of thinking in a worldly way so as to hear God’s word.

In all cases of this term’s application, the conversion from carnal to spiritual is addressed, the qualitative change in the world of matter and human body under the influence of divine power, or directly as a result of the Personality of the Son of God in the Incarnation.

In the Lampe patristic dictionary translates the verb ‘μεταστοιχειόω’ as: ‘to change the elementary nature of, transform’.44 Thus, the holy fathers use this term to describe a fundamental change in nature: from corruptible to incorruptible, from mortal to immortal that is all made possible by special Divine intervention. These are all cases to which the term ‘καινοτομέω’ (renew) can be applied.

It seems no accident that the term ‘μεταστοιχειόω’, hardly known to ancient philosophy, was used extensively in the New Testament age by the Church Holy Fathers. The notion of a being’s radical transformation was alien to pagan consciousness, even to the most exalted representatives of the philosophic mind. Only the New Testament revelation gave grounds to speak about a qualitative renewal of creation, freeing it from the despair of decay and death.

From pre-Christian era authors, according to philological dictionaries45 and the TLG electronic database, only Philo of Alexandria used the term ‘μεταστοιχειόω’ in his writings, in particular to describe the biblical miracle of turning a snake into a staff.46 Thus, the term being based in the biblical world view, the term’s gradually flourished in the writings of Christian theologians.

In patristic literature, the term ‘μεταστοιχειόω’ was first used in the 3rd century AD by St. Methodius of Olympus. Thus, St. Methodius speaks of an angel-like transformation of bodies (τὴν ἰσάγγελον μεταστοιχείωσιν τῶν σωμάτων) in the age to come, and in which by God’s word, they neither marry nor are given in marriage (Mt. 22:30).47

Of all Church Fathers the primacy of the considered term’s use belongs to St. Cyril of Alexandria, who uses it in his works 62 times. This church father was often accused by representatives of Protestant theology to have an extremely physical and realistic representation of Divine Economy, so it is unexpected to see that the second greatest use of the term ‘μεταστοιχειόω’ belongs to St. Gregory of Nyssa, who is traditionally associated with the modification of Platonic tradition in course with the Church’s theological heritage. However, as was noted above, the use of the term ‘μεταστοιχειόω’ by the holy hierarch always has an undoubtedly realistic, physical tone.

Analysis Of Terminology Used To Describe Resurrected Bodies

Resurrection was understood by the Saint to be ‘restoration of the fallen to their original state’,48 the restoration of the physical ‘vessel to its pristine beauty’ (πρὸς τὸ ἐξ ἀρχῆς κάλλος ἀναστοιχειώσει τὸ σκεῦος).49 To describe changes in the human body’s substance upon resurrection, St. Gregory uses all of the above terms, as well as derivatives of the verbs ‘ἀλλάσσω’ – change, exchange; ‘μετατίθημι’ – bring change, transform; ‘ἀποκαθίστημι’ – to restore, return to its former condition; ‘ἀναστοιχειόω’ – restore, recreate. By analogy with the history of ‘μεταστοιχειόω’ use, the latter verb and its derivatives were practically not used in Antiquity literature with the importance attached to it in the Christian era. It was from the Church Fathers that the term receives the meaning associated with concepts of restoration and connection, while with pagan philosophers it only had the opposite meaning of decomposition (dissolve, resolve into original elements).50

Resurrection of the dead is associated by the Saint with particular action of God’s divine providence, which arranged the mystery of death and resurrection for ‘total elimination of evil in all creatures’, so that ‘in all would shine again the godlike beauty (τὸ θεοειδὲς κάλλος), in the image of which we were created at the beginning’.51 Beauty in the image of God image is bounded by St. Gregory with the concepts of light, purity, incorruptibility, and life.

A characteristic feature of the Saint’s word usage is that in general comments about changes in physical nature at resurrection he uses different verbs and their derivatives, yet in a more detailed description of these changes St. Gregory always uses the derivatives of ‘μεταστοιχειόω’ or ‘αναστοιχειόω’. For example, noting that resurrection as a transition to ‘heavenly delight, royal dignity, joy that has no end’ means ‘the change of the corruptible to the incorruptible’ (πρὸς τὸ ἄφθαρτον), the Saint uses the collocation ‘μεταστοιχείωσις φύσεως’.52

Also in the work De mortuis, noting that after resurrection ‘there is no weight in the body’, the Saint notes that bodies transfigured by God’s power into a more perfect state ‘πρὸς τὴν θειοτέραν μεταστοιχειωθέντες’53 will have lightness, with qualities resembling ethereal nature.

And finally, in his work Contra Eunomium, commenting Apostle Peter’s words: ‘God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ’ (Acts. 2:36) and discussing human nature’s change in Christ, the Saint writes about its deification in the Savior as the ‘adoption of man in Christ’. Here again is used the participle of ‘μεταστοιχειόω’: ‘Τὴν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου πρὸς τὸν Χριστὸν μεταστοιχείωσιν ποίησιν ὀνομάζων’.54

The only exception is the use of the verb ‘συμμετατίθημι’ (move, remove along)55 in the same work,56 yet firstly, here the verb is not used to describe the body’s change but rather of its properties, and secondly, this term has entirely Christian origin in its theological-philosophical use (according to A Greek-English Lexicon and the TLG base).57


This study has clarified St. Gregory’s definition of a material object’s nature as its logos not always identifiable and manifested through the object’s set of external characteristic properties. This is particularly relevant to the main sacrament of the Church – the Holy Eucharist.

For a description of material and spiritual changes in the Eucharistic Gifts St. Gregory uses terms of purely Biblical – holy fathers origin (μεταστοιχειόω) in addition to those that belong to philosophical antiquity heritage (μεταποιέω), as well as verbs and their derivatives that were generally used (ἀλλοιόω). The mixed character of St. Gregory’s terminology reveals his desire to more fully and comprehensively describe the main sacrament of the Church, yet the Saint’s main emphasis is on the grace-filled actual changes in the matter of Eucharistic Elements.

Analysis of the terms usage that describe matter changes in Apologia in hexaemeron and in all of St. Gregory’s works gives reason to conclude that the Saint most often employed them in a nonspecific way, not as fixed terms with a clear range of meaning. However, we were able to note some tendencies in the use of mentioned verbs and their derivatives in the textual heritage of St. Gregory. If most of the mentioned verbs were used in a wide range of values ​​denoting changes of a most different kind without any preferences, then concerning the verb ‘μεταποιέω’ we were able to trace a prioritized range of typical meanings. In most cases for St. Gregory, the term refers not to a simple change in nature, but to changes in the environment and human nature, occurring as a result of Incarnation in two of its closely related aspects: the Incarnation of God and deification of man, effected in the Church through the sacraments and ascetical exercise.

The term ‘μεταστοιχειόω’, hardly known to ancient philosophy, transfers the concept of fundamental renewing of creatures, renewal of whole creation, freeing it from the despair of death and decay, was never employed by St. Gregory to describe natural-environmental changes. In all cases, this term describes the conversion of carnal to spiritual, of a matter qualitative change in the sacraments, elements of the cosmos, and human body under divine power’s influence or as a direct result of the Son of God Personality in The Incarnation.

Even if someone doubts the correctness of interpreting of ‘μεταστοιχειόω’, translated in the patristic dictionary as ‘change of an object’s elementary nature, the change of nature at the most basic level, at its very base’58 as a real physical process he should take into account the usage of μεταποιέω to describe the Eucharist in St. Gregory’s texts. This term that characteristically describes purely natural processes in material nature to denote the Eucharistic change further confirm the vivid degree of the Saint’s teaching on the cardinal change of matter in both purely physical and spiritual, grace-filled aspects.

Perhaps most clearly in the Eucharist doctrine is manifested St. Gregory’s withdrawal as a Christian theologian from Platonic tradition. By St. Gregory’s definition here, the human soul receives the foundation for salvation through faith (διὰ πίστεως)59 and the body should take as an antidote (τὸ ἀλεξιτήριον)60 ‘the Body that proved to be stronger than death and became the beginning of our lives’ (τῆς ζωῆς ἡμῶν κατήρξατο).61 The Saint calls the Body of Christ immortal and granting partakers of divine Gifts incorruptibility and immortality, ‘the life-giving power of the Spirit’ (τὴν ζωοποιὸν δύναμιν τοῦ Πνεύματος),62 which animates the whole of human nature ‘πᾶσαν ζωοποιεῖ τὴν τῶν ἀνθρώπων φύσιν’.63

It is by union with the immortal Body of the risen Christ in the Eucharist sacrament that the Christian receives a promise of his future bodily resurrection. This teaching of St. Gregory particularly opens up in the typical use of derivatives from the verbs ‘μεταστοιχειόω’ or ‘ἀναστοιχειόω’ to describe changes in the Eucharistic Gift’s nature and changes in material nature of the resurrected body.

Both ancient Greek terms reflect the Christian doctrine of matter change at the elementary level under the influence of God’s power in such a way that the matter takes on qualitatively new properties. Unlike the law of circular elements in the transformation of natural processes, the effect of God’s grace leads to restoration of the original harmony and beauty that are closely associated with the gifts of incorruption, lightness, and purity.

The restoration of the human body’s nature to being light and airy ‘τὸ λεπτότερόν τε καὶ ἀερῶδες’,64 following the example of Christ’s risen body, is in St. Gregory’s thoughts the basis for beauty and harmony restoration in the entire material world to primal perfection.65

The desire of many modern theologians to detract the importance of physical change in the components of the Holy Sacrament is often associated with fear of «magic» and fear to lose the moral component of the sacraments and the mystery of man’s salvation, but it is often generated by the lack of faith and ascetic endevour. This lack of faith is a real danger to the Gospel teaching about the reality of Incarnation and leads to a purely moral, Docetic assessment of Divine Economy.

Belittling the ontological status of matter in the universe and process of deification is often due to the psychological fear of God approaching us at, so to speak, the «atomic level», and a loss of ‘personal freedom’ from His closeness and hence the reluctance to recognize the great impact the Heavenly Father has on our lives. It seems that the key to solving such psychological pitfalls is the understanding of the hypostatic-energetic balance dilemma in creation’s transfiguration in the doctrine of individual salvation and understanding salvation to be the mystery of communion between the Personal God and a personal human being.

* * *


Grégoire de Nysse, Discours catéchétique (Sources Chrétiennes 453), Greek text of E. Mühlenberg, ed. and trans. R. Winling (Paris: Editions du Cerf, 2000), p. 317, nt. 4.


Ibid., p. 322, nt. 1.


The Catechetical oration of Gregory of Nyssa. Ed. J.H. Srawley (Cambridge University press, 1903).


The Brill Dictionary of Gregory of Nyssa (Leiden, 2010), pp. 293–7.


Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, University of California Irvine, CA 92697–5550, USA http://www.TLG, (accessed 07. 01. 12).


S. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 44, 72B.


Ibid., PG 44, 80A; in the sensual there is a natural form (eidos) (ἐν δὲ τῷ αἰσθητικῷ καὶ τὸ φυσικὸν εἶδος πάντως ἐστίν, PG 44, 148B). The latter is seen only in the material objects (Ἐκεῖνο δὲ περὶ τὸ ὑλικὸν θεωρεῖται μόνον, ibid., PG 44, 148B). The image and body are interrelated, the image cannot exist without a body (τὸ δέ σχῆμα οὐκ ἄνευ σώματος, PG 44, 80Α). The intellectual creature does not have an eidos (οὐκ εἶδος), no image, no size, no space restrictions, no measure in length, no color, no shape, no quantity, nor anything else perceived under the sky (ibid., PG 44, 81С).


S. Gregory of Nyssa, TLG, Volume 9, page 228, line 9.


S. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 44, 108A.


‘Οὐ γὰρ ἄν τι τούτων φυλαχθείη ἐφ’ ἑαυτοῦ, εἰ μὴ ἡ πρὸς τὸ ἑτερογενὲς ἐπιμιξία διακρατοίη τὴν φύσιν’, S. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 44,108В.


‘ἡ ἄκτιστος φύσις τῆς κινήσεως τῆς κατὰ τροπὴν καὶ μεταβολὴν καὶ ἀλλοίωσίν ἐστιν ἀνεπίδεκτος· πᾶν δὲ τὸ διὰ κτίσεως ὑποστὰν, συγγενῶς πρὸς τὴν ἀλλοίωσιν ἔχει· διότι καὶ αὐτὴ τῆς κτίσεως ἡ ὑπόστασις ἀπὸ ἀλλοιώσεως ἤρξατο τοῦ μὴ ὄντος εἰς τὸ εἶναι θείᾳ δυνάμει μετατεθέντος’, S. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 45, 28СD.


The very concept of variability and fluidity of space was constantly discussed by ancient philosophers, but the use of the particular term ‘ἡ τρεπτὴ φύσις’ is mainly Christian. Thus Clement of Alexandria speaks of the changing nature of elements ‘τρεπτὴν ... τὴν τῶν στοιχείων φύσιν’ (S. Clement of Alexandria, TLG, Book 1, chapter 11, section 52, subsection 3, line 3). Origen says that it is not a subject of wonder that the matter, by nature is susceptible of being altered and changed ‘φύσει τρεπτὴν καὶ ἀλλοιωτὴν’ (Origen, TLG, Book 6, section 77, line 7). St. Athanasius defending the uncreated nature of the Son of God refutes the Arian view of His Nature’s variability ‘ὅτι τρεπτῆς ἐστι φύσεως’ (S. Athanasius of Alexandria, TLG, Section 5, subsection 4, line 4).


Plotinus, TLG, Ennead 2, chapter 3, section 17, line 4.


S. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 44,108В.


Ibid., PG 44, 109C.


Ibid., PG 44, 100Α.


‘Ὧν γινομένων, οὐκέτ’ἂν ἡμῖν ἡ εἰς ἄλληλα τῶν στοιχείων ἀλλοίωσις σκάζειν δοκοίη, ἀλλὰ δι’ ἀκολούθου δεσμεῖται ὁ λόγος, τὴν ἑκάστου πρὸς τὸ ἕτερον τροπὴν, γένεσιν ἐκείνου τοῦ εἰς ὃ μετεβλήθη βλέπων, καὶ τὴν ἀπ’ἐκείνου πρὸς τὸ ἐξ ἀρχῆς πάλιν ἀποκατάστασιν’, ibid., PG 44, 113A.


Ibid., PG 44, 108D.


Ibid., PG 44, 108D.


S. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 44, 109B.


Ibid., PG 44, 112A.


Ibid., PG 44, 100Β.


Ibid., PG 44, 100B.


Ibid., PG 44, 105С.


Ibid., PG 44, 105D.


Ibid., PG 44, 105D.


Ibid., PG 44, 95В.


Ibid., PG 44, 95В.


S. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 44, 97D.


Ibid., PG 44, 97D.


Ibid., PG 44, 104В.


The Brill Dictionary of Gregory of Nyssa, p. 616.


S. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 46, 44B, ‘ὁ τῆς φύσεως λόγος’, S. Gregory of Nyssa, TLG, Book 3, chapter 4, section 59, line 7, etc.


The Brill Dictionary of Gregory of Nyssa, pp. 615–20.


S. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 44, 108B.


S. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 45, 96D.


Ibid., PG 45, 97Α.


Ibid., PG 45, 93C.


S. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 45, 96D.


Ibid., PG 45, 96B, 97 AB.


Ibid., PG 45, 97Β.


‘τῆς εὐλογίας δυνάμει πρὸς ἐκεῖνο μεταστοιχειώσας τῶν φαινομένων τὴν φύσιν’, Ibid., PG 45, 97В.




G.W.H. Lampe, A Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961), p. 861.


H.G. Liddle, R. Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford, 1996), p. 1117, ‘μεταστοιχειόω’.


Philo of Alexandria, TLG, Section 83 line 5; TLG, Book 4, fragment 51b, line 11 (51b).


S. Methodius of Olympus, TLG, Oration 2, section 7, line 35.


S. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 44, 188С.


S. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 45, 36Β.


Liddle, Scott, p. 121; Lampe, p. 124.


S. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 46, 536B.


S. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 44, 772C.


S. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 46, 532C.


S. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 45, 708D.


Lampe, p. 1283.


S. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 46, 532D.


Among pagan philosophers this verb was used only by Aspasius (ca. 100–150 A. D.), a Peripatetic philosopher, and strictly in a moral sense, Aspasius, TLG, Page 9, line 20; Page 29, line 30.


Lampe, p. 861.


S. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 45, 93А.


Ibid., PG 45, 93B, another option: ‘τὸ ἀλεξητήριον’, ibid., TLG, Page 37, line 10, 15.


Ibid., PG 45, 93B.


S. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 45, 93С.


Ibid., PG 45, 96B.


S. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 46, 108A.


S. Gregory of Nyssa, PG 46, 877A.

Комментарии для сайта Cackle