Gregory of Nyssa here identifies the glory that Jesus speaks about in the Last Supper discourse of the Gospel of John with the Holy Spirit, the source of Christian unity. He also sees a reference to the Holy Spirit in the Song of Songs when the bridegroom speaks of “my dove, my perfect one.”
When love has entirely cast out fear, and fear has been transformed into love, then the unity brought us by our savior will be fully realized, for all men will be united with one another through their union with the one supreme Good. They will possess the perfection ascribed to the dove, according to our interpretation of the text: One alone is my dove, my perfect one. She is the only child of her mother, her chosen one (Song of Songs 6:9).
Our Lord’s words in the gospel bring out the meaning of this text more clearly. After having conferred all power on his disciples by his blessing, he obtained many other gifts for them by his prayer to the Father. Among these was included the greatest gift of all, which was that they were no longer to be divided in their judgement of what was right and good, for they were all to be united to the one supreme Good.
As the Apostle says, they were to be bound together with the bonds of peace in the unity that comes from the Holy Spirit (cf. Eph. 4:3). They were to be made one body and one spirit by the one hope to which they were all called. We shall do better, however, to quote the sacred words of the gospel itself. I pray, the Lord says, that they all may be one; that as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, so they also may be one in us (John 17:21).
Now the bond that creates this unity is glory. That the Holy Spirit is called glory no one can deny if he thinks carefully about the Lord’s words: The glory you gave to me, I have given to them Jn. 17:22). In fact, he gave this glory to his disciples when he said to them: Receive the Holy Spirit (Jn. 20:22).
Although he had always possessed it, even before the world existed, he himself received this glory when he put on human nature. Then, when his human nature had been glorified by the Spirit, the glory of the Spirit was passed on to all his kin, beginning with his disciples. This is why he said: The glory you gave to me, I have given to them, so that they may be one as we are one. With me in them and you in me, I want them to be perfectly one.
Whoever has grown from infancy to manhood and attained to spiritual maturity possesses the mastery over his passions and the purity that makes it possible for him to receive the glory of the Spirit. He is that perfect dove upon whom the eyes of the bridegroom rest when he says: One alone is my dove, my perfect one.
For more great resources on the Epiphany, visit the Epiphany – Baptism of Christ section of the Crossroads Initiative Library.
For more resources for the Easter Season, see the EASTER section of the Crossroads Initiative Library.
This excerpt on the Glory of the Holy Spirit from St. Gregory of Nyssa’s commentary on the Song of Songs (Hom. 15: Jaeger VI, 466-468) is used in the Roman Catholic Office of Readings for both Saturday of the sixth (6th) week of Easter and, when the Ascension is celebrated on Thursday, the seventh (7th) Sunday in Easter with the biblical reading taken from 1 John 3:18-24. It is a wonderful selection to read in preparation for the great Feast of Pentecost.