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Excerpts from 'Devotional Classics' edited by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith Gregory of Nyssa (331-396) Introduction to the Author Gregory of Nyssa was one of the great 'father' of the Church. He lived in the fourth century, a time when the persecution of the Christians was coming to an end. Gregory was one of the three Greek Cappadocian fathers (the other two were Gregory's brother, St. Basil and their mutual friend, Greory of Nazianzus) He has been called 'one of the most powerful and most original thinkers ever known in the history of the Church. His writings had a great influence on the spirituality of the Eastern church. He was well versed in Greek philosophy, notable Platonism and Stoicism, but the basis of his thought was rooted in the Bible. Gregory believed that the main use of the Bible was not for historical reflection but rather for growth in virtue. He and the other church fathers used the Bible and its characters to teach us how to grow closer to God, how to 'elevate' the soul to God. He saw the spiritual life as a race in which we, like St. Paul, 'forget...what lies behind and strain..forward to what lies ahead' (Phil. 3:13) The followig excerpts are taken from Gregory's most famous work, The Life of Moses. It was written in response to requests for guidance in living the virtuous life. For Gregory, perfection is discovered in continual striving - a perpetual progress rooted in the infinite grace of God. Excerpts from 'The Life of Moses' 1. The Divine Race While you are competing admirable 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, my dear brother, to increase your speed. 2. Ever Running the Course of Virtue The perfection of everything which can be measured by the senses is marked off by certain boundaries. However, virtue has as its limit of perfection, no limit. For the Apostle Paul, great and lofty in understanding, ever running the course of virtue, never ceased straining toward those things that are still to come. Coming to a stop in the race was not safe for him. Why? because dose not have a limit in it's nature, except that it is limited by it's opposite, al life is limited by death and light by darkness. Every good thing usually ends whit those things which are perceived to be contrary to the good. 3. Stopping the Race Just as the end of life is the beginning of death, so also stopping in the race of virtue marks the beginning of the race of evil. Those who pursue virtue (godly living) participates in nothing other than the things of God. The who desire to pursue the road to virtue will find that there are no stopping off places no rest areas. 4. The Unattainable Commandment Although perfection is unattainable in our life, that does not mean we cease to strive and pursue it. The Lord commands us 'be perfect; just as your heavenly Father is perfect'. We are still required to obey the command and it is in the striving, in the constant pursuing that we become more obedient. 5. The Attainable Perfection The perfection of human nature consists perhaps in its very growth in goodness. Our perfection is a matter of growth in goodness and this growth n goodness is attainable. So strive for it. 6. Becoming God's Friend Since the goal of the virtuous way of life is the very thing we have been seeking, it is time for you, noble friend, to be know by God and to become His friend. This is true perfection: not to avoid a wicked life because like slaves we fear punishment, nor to do good because we hope for rewards, as if cashing in on the virtuous life by some business-like arrangement. On the contrary, disregarding all those things of which we hope and which have been reserved by promise, we regard falling from God's friendship as the only thing dreadful and we consider becoming God's friend the only thing worthy of honor and desire. This, as I have said, is the perfection of life. Read: Philippians 3:12-21 Reflection 1. Gregory of Nyssa compares the spiritual journey to a race. Using that metaphor, what kind of race has your spiritual journey been? A sprint? A marathon? An obstacle course? A downhill coast? An uphill climb? 2. Think of some people who have cheered you on your spiritual journey. How did they 'exhort, urge, and encourage' you? 3. Does Gregory believe that it is possible to be perfect? Why or why not? 4. Which Bible characters have been beacons of light for you? How has the stories of their lives helped you? 5. Paul says that he has not attained perfection or been made perfect yet, but he presses on to take hold of something. For what does Paul strive? For what are you earnestly striving (what are your goals and desires in life?) 6. This week cheer someone on in his or her spiritual journey. Send a letter, give that person a call, e-mail them or drop by for a visit. Simple encourage them to keep running the race. 7. Chart out one or two areas in your life where you would like to see growth. Share your desires and intentions with a friend who can help you grow through the grace of accountability. 8. Do a study on one of the heroes of the faith (Moses, Esther, Ruth, Abraham, etc). Let hat persons life of courage, faith and failure redeemed become an inspiration for you. 9. Gregory says that true perfection consists of becoming a friend of God. This week strengthen your friendship with God by spending time with Him, sharing more and more of your life, your hopes and failures and allowing God to love you as a cherished friend.

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