Monday, February 21, 2011
Bluegrass in St. Gregory of Nyssa
Today I stumbled onto something in Gregory of Nyssa that made my heart leap. I love the Fathers but occasionally their illustrations need some updating because of the gap in time and culture. But today it was different, and only my time in the Bluegrass prepared me for this one.
Our Sunday School is about to jump into a study of Exodus. Besides commenting on the literary meaning of the text, which is extremely important, my goal is also be true to the way the Church and the Fathers read Scripture. Allegory, types, salvation, and moral images were all important for them. Many times it is really hard to communicate this way of reading into modern minds. It helps to follow the Church in her liturgical texts and the way she reads a particular passage and symbols. To accomplish this I try to find as much Patristic commentary on what we are studying, and let it become part of my own heart and understanding.
For Exodus, one source I have picked up is St. Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Moses. It was the first paragraph that made me hear bugles, see big hats, and feel wind and dirt swirl around my face. If I was not ready for St. Gregory before this text, I am now.
Read the following out loud, and vist us in the Bluegrass (I have taken some liberties with the text):
"At horse races the spectators intent on victory shout to their favorites in the contest, even though the horses are eager to run. From the stands they participate in the race with their eyes, thinking to incite the [jockey] to keener effort, at the same time urging the horses on while leaning forward and flailing the air with their outstretched hands instead of with a whip. They do this not because their actions themselves contribute anything to the victory; but in this way, by their good will, they eagerly show in voice and deed their concern for the contestants. I seem to be doing the same thing myself, most valued friend and brother. While you are competing admirably in the divine race along the course of virtue, lightfootedly leaping and straining constantly for the prize of the heavenly calling, I exhort, urge, and encourage you vigorously to increase your speed. I do this, not moved to it by some unconsidered impulse, but to humor the delights of a beloved child."