Thursday, November 03, 2005

St. Gregory of Nyssa's On the Creation of Man

Reflecting on the life of Rosa Parks and her courageous stance against organized bigotry, I have been thinking much about the source of our human dignity. St. Gregory of Nyssa in this beautiful treatise on man's creation reminds us why we care about what she did. It would make very little, if any, sense if there were no theology of human dignity undergirding it. Let these words enter your soul, as a quiet meditation:

That the Nature of Man is More Precious Than All the Visible Creation

1. But it is right that we should not leave this point without consideration, that while the world, great as it is, and its parts, are laid as an elemental foundation for the formation of the universe, the creation is, so to say, made offhand by the Divine power, existing at once on His command, while counsel precedes the making of man; and that which is to be is fore-shown by the Maker in verbal description, and of what kind it is fitting that it should be, and to what archetype it is fitting that it should bear a likeness, and for what it shall be made, and what its operation shall be when it is made, and of what it shall be the ruler, wall these things the saying examines beforehand, so that he has a rank assigned him before his genesis, and possesses rule over the things that are before his coming into being; for it says, "God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and the beasts of the earth, and the fowls of the heaven, and the cattle, and all the earth10 "

2. O marvellous! a sun is made, and no counsel precedes; a heaven likewise; and to these no single thing in creation is equal. So great a wonder is formed by a word alone, and the saying indicates neither when, nor how, nor any such detail. So too in all particular cases, the aether, the stars, the intermediate air, the sea, the earth, the animals, the plants,-all are brought into being with a word, while only to the making of man does the Maker of all draw near with circumspection, so as to prepare beforehand for him material for his formation, and to liken his form to an archetypal beauty, and, setting before him a mark for which he is to come into being, to make for him a nature appropriate and allied to the operations, and suitable for the object in hand.

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