Glory of the Holy Spirit – Gregory of Nyssa

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.

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. 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”.

holy spirit dove gregory nyssa

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. In fact, he gave this glory to his disciples when he said to them: Receive the Holy Spirit. 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.

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 the 7th Sunday in Easter. It is a wonderful selection, interpreting the words of our Lord’s last supper discourse in the Gospel of John, to read in preparation for the great Feast of Pentecost.

Gregory of Nyssa, St.

Gregory of Nyssa was the younger brother of St. Basil the Great and St. Macrina.  Born around 330 AD, Gregory married and spent several years of his life in secular employment before he entered the monastery founded by his elder brother.  He was consecrated Bishop of Nyssa in 371 and fought tirelessly for the Trinitarian faith of Nicaea that was reaffirmed by the great Creed of the Council of Constantinople, which he attended.  In the last few years of his life, he traveled a great deal since he was in great demand as a preacher, teacher, and spiritual writer. 

St. Gregory of Nyssa was a theologian of great depth and originality.  He wrote famous treatises against trinitiarian herietics Eunomius and Apollinarius and instructed new Christians about the Trinity, Incarnation, Redemption and Sacraments in his Catechetical Orations.  But his theological reflections far surpassed controversy and cathechesis–indeed, St. Gregory provides us with the first systematic presentation of Christian doctrine since Origen over 150 years earlier.  

Gregory wrote many reflections and commentaries on Scripture, most notably his Life of Moses and homilies on the Lord’s Prayer, the Song of Songs, and the Beatitudes.  His most important contribution was in the area of spirituality.  While his brother gave eastern monasticism its structure and organization, Gregory provided its heart and mystical vision. For this reason he came to be known as Father of Mysticism.”

St. Gregory of Nyssa died around the year 395 AD and is revered as one of the greatest of the Eastern Church Fathers.  He, his brother Basil and their friend St. Gregory of Nazianzen, are known as the Cappadocian Fathers, from the region in modern Turkey from which they came.  His feast day is March 9th..