Who is praying with “empty phrases”? Jews, Gentiles or secular people? Gregory of Nyssa and Origen on the battalogein in Mt 6,7

R. Hennings (Institut für ev. Theologie und Religionspädagogik der Universität Oldenburg)

Mercredi 5 septembre, 11h15-11h45

Praying in “empty phrases” or “babbling” (battologein in Greek) is the opposite of praying like Jesus wanted his followers to do. He warned his disciples of battologein like Gentiles do. Origen and Gregory of Nyssa explain to their audience in different ways, what battologein means. Origen (de or. XXI) refers to the prayer in Synagogues and the prayers of Gentiles as a kind of praying in a lower degree. Who is praying with a lot of words, in Origen´s eyes, has already lost the unity and simplicity which is adequate for a prayer to the one and only God.

Gregory (hom. I,3) does not refer to Jews and Gentiles, he focusses on the beauty and consistency of speech (logos) necessary for a proper prayer. If a heart is distracted by affections, praying becomes babbling and turns to be senseless or even harmful for the person praying. Both, Origen and Gregory, admonish their hearers not to beg for worldly things but to stretch out for the heavenly goods. Then praying is promising and adequate to the relation between the heavenly father and his children on earth. The study examines differences and similarities between Origen´s and Gregory´s interpretations in respect to the different kinds of exegesis, as Origen writes a treatise and Gregory delivers a homily.

Slavery in the Homilies on the Lord’s Prayer

B. Gripp (Universidade Federal Fluminense, Rio de Janeiro)

Vendredi 7 septembre, 14h30-15h

Slavery is a major theme in the works of ancient Christian writers. In fact, concerns about the internal trinitarian relations, the doctrine of Man and their social thinking display an interest in the institution of slavery. In the first, the precise relations among the persons of the Trinity are a major theme of their thought, in the second they reflect on the singular aspect of man as Image of God and what does this mean regarding slaves and masters, and in the third they react to several of the social problems the institution posed in their society.

This is especially true in the case of Gregory of Nyssa. Indeed, he dedicates two passages in his work to comment on slavery itself, one in his In Ecclesiasten, which has become quite famous even outside of Ancient Christian Studies, and other in De Oratione Domenica. In this paper, we will discuss more in-depth the lesser known passage, which helps us to precise the Nyssen’s thoughts on slavery and on the nature of Man.

In the Fifth Homily on the Lord’s Prayer, commenting the verse Forgive us our debts, as we too forgive our debtors, in which he analyses the disparity of the faults against ourselves compared to ours against God, he sees the parable of the unfaithful servant as an appropriated explanation of this doctrine. Gregory then admonishes his audience not to act harshly against an unfaithful servant, asking them to forgive any sin he may have committed. There follows a discussion on the nature of slavery.

We then proceed to compare this passage with the more famous one of In Ecclesiasten. We conclude that, although they are thematically similar and congruent, they are totally different in terms of composition, precluding any kind of textual dependence. Both texts allow us to understand with more precision what was Gregory’s views on slavery and its underlying philosophical and theological bases.

As a result, we find out that Gregory of Nyssa conceived man as a naturally free creature as a consequence of the imagery of God in himself, and therefore received the lordship over visible creation. Accordingly, the enslavement of men is against the innate liberty of mankind and a result not of any natural propensity to slavery, but of power and custom enshrined in law.

Cult of Saint Gregory of Nyssa in Serbian lands 1459–1800

Anđela Gavrilović (Univerzitet u Beogradu)

Vendredi 7 septembre, 17h-17h30

In our previous research we dedicated our attention to the cult of St. Gregory of  Nyssa in medieval Serbia in the period between 1166/1168 and 1459, at the time of the state’s independence. The subject of this paper represents a continuation of the mentioned investigation and explores the cult of St. Gregory of Nyssa in Serbian lands under the Turkish rule in the period between 1459 and 1800 on the basis of hagiographical and iconographical sources. The above-said chronological framework is, on the one hand, determined by the historical circumstances, that is, the fall of Serbia under the Turkish rule in 1459, while on the other hand, the later chronological point represents the end of Serbian painting in the Byzantine tradition.

After the conquest of Serbian lands Ottomans first recognized Serbian Patriarchate, but they abolished it at the beginning of the second quarter of the 16th century. In 1557 the Serbian Orthodox Church was renewed under the name the Patriarchate of Peć. Within this institution, the cult of Saint Gregory of Nyssa continued to develop, what can be seen in the sources mentioned above. The Patriarchate of Peć was the most important institution of the Serbian people during the enslavement under Turkey, Austria and the Republic of Venice. It gathered all the Serbian people, preserved its medieval tradition, its unity and faith. It was, however, abolished by the Turkish government in 1766.

In the period between 1459 and 1800 numerous portraits of St. Gregory of Nyssa are preserved in the wall painting in the Byzantine tradition on the vast territory inhabited by Serbian people. While at the time of Serbia’s independence two iconographic types of portraits of St. Gregory emerged, of which the first one was dominant, in the period between 1459 and 1800 two types of portraits also appeared, but the other latter was much more frequent. Besides, within the other dominant portrait type, in the later period a unique iconographic type of St. Gregory’s portrait did not exist; we find completely different iconographic formulas which enrich the spectrum of St. Gregory’s portraits. The only common trait of these portraits is that he is always depicted as an elder. This paper also deals with the prayers inscribed on the scrolls that St. Gregory is holding in his hands.

The homilies on the Our Father: a turning point for Gregory of Nyssa’s interpretation of human free will (προαίρεσις) and the divine image in man

J. Farrugia (University of Malta)

Mercredi 5 septembre, 14h30-15h

As a preacher Gregory sought to provide sound and clear teaching through his homilies, being these the only form of catechesis available for most of his audience.  Even though his opinion on moral issues is invariable throughout his active years (c.379-c.395), he does change his views on the important matter of free will.  In his earlier Homilies on Ecclesiastes the Nyssen describes free will as God’s image in man, saying it is not subdued to anything and that it is good by nature.  About fifteen years later in his final Homilies on the Song of Songs free will is still portrayed as a power that is not submissive to other forces, but this time he clearly says it is a neutral force, no longer good by nature, but rather more inclined towards evil due to man’s fallen nature. Moreover it assigns the victory to whichever side it takes, which can be equally the side of good or of evil.

Through a detailed analysis of the presentation of free will in the homilies – considering them as a catechetical corpus intended for the edification of his listeners over a span of years – this study seeks to show how Gregory’s transition in thought on this subject occurred in the Homilies on the Lord’s Prayer. This can be proven by keeping in mind the original definition he gave to free will, namely that it is God’s image in man. As long as the Nyssen keeps to this definition free will is considered as something positive because God’s image cannot be related to something that leads to or is contaminated by evil; the moment Gregory separates these two concepts free will is no longer guaranteed to be good. This is what he does in the fifth homily on the Lord’s Prayer, stating that the divine image is found in reason; as for free will, man – in his primordial fall – preferred to be a slave through sin rather than a son through freedom.  Particular attention will be given to the historical circumstances that might have pushed the bishop of Nyssa to come to this conclusion.

La παρρησία: parlare di Dio, parlare con Dio nelle opere di Gregorio di Nissa

Ch. Curzel (Istituto Superiore di Scienze Religiose, Trento)

Mercredi 5 septembre, 10h45-11h15

La προσευχή, cioè l’avvicinarsi a Dio attraverso la preghiera, può avvenire soltanto in uno stato di παρρησία. La παρρησία era un dono prelapsario: nell’Eden l’uomo poteva parlare con Dio liberamente e conoscerlo, avere la libertà di agire (ἐλευθερία) e di parlare (παρρησία), unita alla visione di Dio faccia a faccia. Con il peccato questi doni sono andati perduti; la condizione diastematica non può essere valicata e Dio rimane inconoscibile, invisibile, ineffabile. Gesù Cristo con l’incarnazione ha attuato dall’alto una “intrusione metadiastematica”, riaprendo la strada che da Dio va verso l’uomo; questo non solo dà al tempo e allo spazio una dignità nuova, ma dà anche al linguaggio una possibilità nuova perché, entro i limiti che gli sono propri, possa essere usato per parlare di Dio e parlare con Dio.

Il primo (il “parlare di Dio”) si realizza attraverso l’ἐπίνοια, la capacità razionale di pensare che è dono divino e forza euristica che consente all’uomo di camminare nella scoperta dei nomi di Dio e delle caratteristiche della sua natura. Il secondo (il “parlare con Dio”) si attua attraverso la preghiera, che presuppone la παρρησία. L’attività razionale si muove attraverso pensieri concatenati l’uno all’altro: l’uomo è “condotto per mano” dai concetti “all’intelligenza della gloria indicibile”; la preghiera è invece paragonata alle ali che sono in grado di “attraversare” l’intervallo e di “cogliere” ciò che è per sua natura inafferrabile, come ci ricorda Or. Dom. 2.  Entrambe sono legate alla vita morale, perché chiedono di essere sostenute da una pratica virtuosa che rende possibile il cammino verso Dio e nello stesso tempo ne è la conseguenza.

L’uomo è ontologicamente simbolico e “linguistico” e per questo può entrare in relazione con se stesso, con gli altri e con Dio. Se «conoscere Dio è non smettere mai di desiderarlo» (Vit. Moys. 2,239), ciò ha una conseguenza espressiva importante: il desiderio deve avere un canale simbolico di espressione, ed esso è la preghiera, possibile solo nella libertà ridonata.

Les Cinq homélies de Grégoire de Nysse sur le Notre Père appartiennent-elles au genre De oratione ?

Ch. Boudignon (Université d’Aix-Marseille ; Centre Paul-Albert Février)

Jeudi 6 septembre, 15h45-16h15

Le propos de mon intervention vise à replacer le texte de Grégoire de Nysse dans le genre du De oratione qui s’inaugure avec Tertullien et Origène, se prolonge avec le De dominica oratione de Cyprien de Carthage et la Lettre à Proba d’Augustin et se termine avec la Brève explication de Maxime le Confesseur. Quelles sont les caractéristiques de ce genre méconnu ? Comment les cinq homélies de Grégoire de Nysse reprennent-elles les éléments spécifiques de ce genre ? Quelle est l’originalité des cinq homélies dans ce genre littéraire ?

“Die Rueckkehr zu sich selbst” als heilende Verwandlung der defizienten Natur des habituellen Menschen in den Homilien Gregors von Nyssa Ueber das Vaterunser

Ch. Apostolopoulos (University of Ioannina)

Vendredi 7 septembre, 16h15-16h45

Wenn die Seele sich von den Emotionen befreie und zu sich selbst wiederkomme (προς εαυτήν επανελθούσα), wird sie imstande sein, ihre eigentliche Natur d.h. ihre Geistigkeit zu schauen und wie in einem Spiegel und Bild durch die eigene Schoenheit das Archetyp zu erblicken: so heisst es exemplarisch in dem Dialog des Nysseners “de anima et resurrectione” (MPG 46, 89c). Diesen Gedanken nimmt Gregor von Nyssa auch in den Homilien Ueber das Vaterunser auf: Die Rueckkehr zu sich selbst ist eins mit dem Gottesverhaeltnis, insofern diese Rueckkehr als eine Ueberwindung des βίος απολαυστικός ( or. V, GNO VII, 2:66,3) bzw.des χοιρώδης βίος ([d.h. eines Lebens, wie es die Schweine fuehren] or.II,GNO VII, 2:27,1) aufgefasst wird.

Letzteres sei merkwuerdigerweise nicht als das vorgefundene Erste,sondern selber schon aus einem Akt der Freiheit (προαίρεσις) hervorgegangen. Dieser Akt ist die Suende als in sich ohnmaechtige Sonderung des Menschen von seinem Selbst und von Gott. Die Rueckkehr zu sich selbst, m.a.W. menschliches Dasein, das zu Selbst (εαυτόν), Tugend und Gott gelangt, laesst sich demnach als Nichtentfremdetsein fassen: Nichtdeterminiertsein  vom modus vivendi der Schlange,zu der wir uebergelaufen sind,der Schlange, “welche Erde frisst,auf der Erde sich windet,auf Brust und Bauch kriecht” und die uns verfuehrt hat, das gleiche zu tun, d.h. uns irdischem Genuss voellig hinzugeben (or.V, GNO VII, 2:65, 21ff.).

In den Homilien Ueber das Vaterunser habe Gregor von Nyssa Ernst gemacht mit der neuplatonisch gedeuteten Erbsuende und der Auffassung der Welt als malum,von dem der Gerechte Abstand nehmen muss ( or.V, GNO VII, 2: 73,7ff.). Denn die menschliche Natur ist momentan nur auf das Materielle allein (προς μόνον το υλικόν: or. I, GNO VII, 2: 11, 3ff.) aufmerksam: “auf dieses richtet sich ihre Eifer, um dieses dreht sich ihr Verlangen; an dieses haengen sie ihre Erinnerung und ihre Hoffnung. Vor lauter Gier nach mehr ist die menschliche Natur schlaf- und ruhelos in bezug auf all das, was nur immer ein Mehr zulaesst: in bezug auf Ehre und Ruhm, in bezug auf Reichtum an Hab und Gut, in bezug auf die Befriedigung krankhaften Zornes. In all diesen Dingen trachtet die Natur auf jede moegliche Weise nach mehr”  (προς το πλέον: ebda.11,10). Das hat als Resultat eine Kriegssituation der Gesetzlosigkeit (ανομία: ebda. 15,19), in der alle sich gegeneinander bekaempfen muessen. In diesem Krieg aller gegen alle fuehrt die falsche Entscheidung, welche –aus αβουλία– die menschliche Natur von ihrem eigentlichen geistigen Selbst und mithin von Gott trennt.