January 24, 2014

Man and His Worth According to St. Gregory the Theologian

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

The ancient Greeks dealt with the problem of man. Alkmaion of Kroton said, as preserved by Theophrastos: "It is said that man differs from other animals because he has intelligence, while the others have senses but not intelligence". Menander's saying is also well known: "How graceful man is when he is a man".

The Holy Fathers studied extensively man and his worth as created in the image of God. St. Gregory the Theologian, to confine myself to him, is very expressive. In one of his sermons he says:

"What is this new mystery about me? I am small and great, humble and noble, mortal and immortal, earthly and heavenly". The first are of this world, while the second are of God, the first are attributes of the flesh, the second attributes of the Spirit. And he concludes by describing the purpose of man's existence, which shows his ontology and inner objective: "I must be buried together with Christ, be risen with Christ, inherit with Christ, become a son of God, this God".

In another sermon, St. Gregory the Theologian, after discussing man's creation, which followed the creation of angels and of the perceptible world, so as to be a kind of second world, a great one in his smallness, he then talks about man, as created by God:

"Another angel, pilgrim, combination, overseer of the visible creation, partaker of the invisible, king over earth, under the King of heaven, earthly and heavenly, temporal and eternal, visible and invisible, a measure of humbleness, spirit and flesh together".

He then gives another definition which is the summary of the entire Orthodox Anthropology and Christology and Soteriology. Man is "an animal residing here but transferring elsewhere, and the end of this mystery is to move towards God." That is, man resides on earth but moves elsewhere and the end of this mystery is for him to become God by grace. And, as he says subsequently, the dim gleam of truth he finds here on earth leads to the vision of God's brightness.