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Contemplating the Mystery

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Inspired by this post by Cameron Cloud on Basil the Great and the Trinity in worship, I thought I would contribute a couple of devotional and instructional passages by Basil’s contemporary and good friend, Gregory of Nazianzus (also known as Gregory the Theologian):

“From  the day whereon I renounced the things of the world to consecrate my soul to luminous and heavenly contemplation, when the supreme intelligence carried me hence and set me down far from all that pertains to the flesh, to hide me in the secret places of the heavenly tabernacle; from that day my eyes have been blinded by the light of the Trinity, whose brightness surpasses all that the mind can conceive; far from a throne high exalted the Trinity pours upon all, the ineffable radiance common to the three.” (From a poem in Greek)

“No sooner do I conceive of the One than I am illuminated by the Splendor of the Three; no sooner do I distinguish Them than I am carried back to the One.  When I think of any One of the Three I think of Him as the Whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking of escapes me.  I cannot grasp the greatness of That One so as to attribute a greater greatness to the Rest.  When I contemplate the Three together, I see but one torch, and cannot divide or measure out the Undivided Light. (Orations, 40.41, On Holy Baptism)

How often in our society to we actually think, write, and pray like this?  In a sense, these thoughts can be seen as an extension of this earlier post on Anselm, and the idea of God being too small for too many.  This is yet one more example why I highly recommend the church fathers.   Any thoughts on these beautiful passages?


  1. Thanks for these excellent quotes! You will also find similar outpourings of the soul in puritan literature.

  2. Yvonne Wittrock says:

    Yes, these words inspire me. The height and depth of God, revealed to us in His Holy Trinitarian nature lifts my soul from the ordinary gray fog of life to bask in His marvelous light. Yvonne

  3. Nephos says:

    What a wonderful balance of theology and heart-felt worship! These guys demonstrate that true worship can engage both the mind and the heart – avoiding two extremes found in our day.

    Great quotes. (Thanks for the link, btw!)

  4. MJ says:

    Gregory the Theologian is fantastic. If only more of us would catch glimpses of the glorious splendour of the majesty of the all-holy and glorious Trinity. How contemplation of His glory can lift our hearts in ways nothing else can!

    Thank you, also, for pulling out two of his mystical passages; sometimes he is thought of simply as a dogmatic theologian who produced the synthesis of the Theological Orations, which is only part of the picture. The entirety of his dogmatic theology is illumined by his life as an ascetic and mystic.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This life of the most Holy Trinity is re echoed in numberless and various ways by the creatures that issue from God� s hands.

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