September 23, 2020

Purification in Fire, St. Gregory

On the Eschatology of St Gregory the Theologian

Define : Eschatology – [noun theology]-1 any system of doctrines concerning last, or final, matters, as death, the Judgment, the future state, etc. 2 the branch of theology dealing with such matters.

Troparion, Tone 1: Like a shepherd’s flute, O Father Gregory* your theology vanquished the trumpets of orators,* for searching the depths of the spirit,* beauty of speech was increased in you.* Pray Christ God that our souls may be saved.

Doctor of East & West Catholic Church- St. Gregory has written little that deals with eschatology. He frequently speaks of man’s call to “deification,” and preaches the necessity of ascetic discipline. He summons sinners to repentance but mentions the fate of the unrepentant only in passing. Their greatest punishment will be rejection by God, and this will be a torment and a “shame to the conscience” that will have no end. For just men God is light but for the unjust He is fire, and “this most terrible fire is eternal for the wicked.” Gregory admits that purification can be achieved after death because he writes that sinners “may there be baptized by fire. This is the last baptism, the most difficult and prolonged, which eats up matter as if it were hay and consumes the weight of each sin.” It is probable that he had in mind only the fate of unrepentant Christians because he also writes: “I know a fire which is not purifying, but avenging. The Lord sends it down like rain on every sinner, adding to it brimstone and storms. It was prepared for the devil and his angels and for everyone who does not submit to the Lord, and it burns up the enemies around Him.” However, Gregory adds that “some may prefer to think that this fire is more merciful and worthy of Him who punishes.” Gregory does not agree with the extreme position of the Origenists. (The Eastern Fathers of the 4th Century)

On Origenist Eschatology – Condemned

T]he Orthodox Church is far from the excessive optimism of those who maintain that at the end of time God’s mercy will extend to all of unrighteous humanity and all people, including great sinners, and together with them the devil and his demons will be saved in a lofty form by will of the God. Who is good. Origen expressed this idea in the third century, Origen whose teaching on apokatastasis (“universal restoration”) was condemned in its entirety by an Ecumenical Council as contrary to the teachings of the Fathers of the Church. { Is this where Martin Luther borrowed his theology on sin?}

Gregory of Nazianzus 329 – 390 AD, also known as Gregory the Theologian or Gregory Nazianzen, was a 4th-century Arch-Bishop of Constantinople and theologian. Gregory is a saint in both Eastern and Western Christianity. In the Catholic Church, a Doctor of the Church in both East & West; in the Eastern Catholic Churches, he is revered as one of the Three Holy Hierarchs, Basil & Chrysostom, among him. As a classically trained orator and philosopher he infused Hellenism into the Early Church, establishing the paradigm of Byzantine theologians and church officials. Most recognized by his work on the Trinity.

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