Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Pelosi contra Gregory of Nyssa

It's interesting how life comes at you from multiple directions sometimes. This weekend in our RCIA class the fiancee of one of the inquirers suggested that he had been taught that the soul exists before the body, quoting Jeremiah 1:5 "before you were formed in the womb I knew you" as a basis for his understanding. Trying to explain God's existence outside of time became a rather interesting experience in explaining something one knows he cannot ever fully understand himself.

Now, and if you know me you won't be surprised, that poor attempt at an answer has been gnawing at me ever since. So tonight I sat down with my Logos and determined to read up on the whole issue. After digging through Origen, Tertullian and Irenaeus I came across the following from St. Gregory of Nyssa, from his On the Making of Man. It's amazing how well it contrasts with Nancy Pelosi's recent attempt at patristic research.

But just as we say that in wheat, or in any other grain, the whole form of the plant is potentially included—the leaves, the stalk, the joints, the grain, the beard—and do not say in our account of its nature that any of these things has pre-existence, or comes into being before the others, but that the power abiding in the seed is manifested in a certain natural order, not by any means that another nature is infused into it—in the same way we suppose the human germ to possess the potentiality of its nature, sown with it at the first start of its existence, and that it is unfolded and manifested by a natural sequence as it proceeds to its perfect state, not employing anything external to itself as a stepping-stone to perfection, but itself advancing its own self in due course to the perfect state; so that it is not true to say either that the soul exists before the body, or that the body exists without the soul, but that there is one beginning of both, which according to the heavenly view was laid as their foundation in the original will of God; according to the other, came into existence on the occasion of generation.
He says it, without surprise, far better than I ever did.