Saint Gregory of Nyssa
Gregory of Nyssa

He was a younger brother of Basil the Great, and a good friend of Gregory Nazianzus.
He become bishop of Nyssa in 372. Was present at the Second Ecumenical Council where he was a defender of the Nicene Creed.

Gregory described the ideal of human perfection as constant progress in virtue and godliness. In his theology, God himself has always been perfect and has never changed, and never will. Humanity fell from grace in the Garden of Eden, but rather than return to an unchanging state, humanity's goal is to become more and more perfect, more like God, even though humanity will never understand, much less attain, God's transcendence.

This idea has had a profound influence on the Eastern Orthodox teaching regarding theosis or "divinization".

Saint Gregory
the Theologian
Gregory the Theologian

He is also known as Gregory of Nazianzus. He was born in 329 in Arianzus, a village of the second district of Cappadocia, not far from Nazianzus.

After their studies at Athens, Gregory became Basil's fellow ascetic, living the monastic life together with him for a time in the hermitages of Pontus. His father ordained him presbyter of the Church of Nazianzus, and St. Basil consecrated him Bishop of Sasima. He was elected Archbishop of Constantinople by the Second Ecumenical Council, which assembled there in 381.

He wrote both prose and poems in every type of meter. Because of the beauty of his writings, he is considered to have surpassed the Greek writers of antiquity, and because of his God-inspired theological thought, he received the surname "Theologian."

How was Man Created?

Man is the highest creation of God on earth.
God said, “Let us make man in Our image, after our likeness; and let him have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air… and over all the earth… So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him.” (Gen. 1:26-27)

Adam and Eve were created by God after all the other created beings and in a different way. They were created by the direct involvement and action of God from elements already created. This indicates not only the outstanding position of the human being in the whole of the creation, but also a special relationship to God. Only the human being combines both material and spiritual elements.

Man was a distinct creation having a higher purpose than the rest of creation. We are called to exercise dominion over all creatures on earth (cf. Gen. 1:28), i.e. to be stewards (oikonomoi) of God's material world, caring for it, maintaining it in its integrity and perfecting it by opening it up to God through our own deification.

Presence of God’s image in man testifies to a reflection of the very attributes of God in man’s spiritual nature. God formed man of the dust of the earth, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (Gen 2:7). Body and soul were formed at the same time.

Saint Theodorete:
God created all other creatures with His word but Man He created with His own hands... Showing the greater care God had for man than other creatures.

Saint Basil the Great:
If you consider nature alone, man is nothing and has no value; but if you regard the honor with which he has been created, man is something great…

Man is created in the
image and likeness of God

The presence of God’s image in man testifies to a reflection of the very attributes of God in man’s spiritual nature. The first man was not deified at the time of his creation, but he was created for deification. Man was a distinct creation with a higher purpose on earth that the rest of creation. He was made to “live in Him,” to “glorify Him,” to perfect himself in “His likeness,” and to be the chief “priest of all earthly creation.”

Saint Gregory of Nyssa:
This is the same as to say He made human nature participant in all good; for in the Deity is the fulness of good, and this is His image, then the image finds its resemblance to the Archetype in being fulfilled with all good.

Most of our Church Fathers teach that there is a difference between the image of God and His likeness. The image is the very nature of the soul. The likeness comes from the moral perfecting of humankind in virtue and sanctity as he acquires the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We receive the image of God with our existence. But, we must acquire the likeness given this possibility from God. For us to become in the likeness of God depends on our free will.

Image of God

We can grow to become like God. This is our purpose. To become morally perfected in virtue and sanctity through the acquirement of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. God wants us to glorify Him and to be faithful in our union with Him. We have innate within us a striving to move towards Him, to acknowledge Him as the Creator, to glorify Him, finally to rejoice in union with Him. We are called to perfect ourselves and to guard our likeness with God and restore it.

God also made us as his chief priests and to offer a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God on the behalf of all those born on earth. We are to unite all of creation with God and thus keep the whole chain of earthly creatures in a harmonious bond and order.

A man may know the number of the stars in the heavens, and the names of all the fish in the sea… A man may know all the thoughts of men and fortell their destinies and reveal every mystery that the earth holds in its inner recesses… If he has not the fear of God his knowledge is of as much use as a water in a sieve.
                                                     Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic


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