On Which Everything Depends

From Life of Moses (ca. 390)

The truth that shone on Moses through that wonderful illumination was God. And if the light which enlightens the soul of a prophet comes from a thorn bush, that too is not without value for our search… The light instructs us what we must do if we wish to remain within the rays of the true light. If we wish to ascend to so great a height, where the light of truth is seen, we must take off our shoes… The dead and earthly coverings must be removed from the feet of the soul, a covering we acquired in the beginning once we had been denuded through our disobedience to the divine will…

It seems to me that what the great Moses learned in the theophany is simply this, that neither those things grasped by sense, nor those things that the mind can understand, have a real existence. The only reality that truly exists is the one that is above all of them, the cause of all from which everything depends… To be totally independent of all else and, at the same time, to be the sole object of desire; to be participated in by all, yet to be in no way thereby diminished, that is to be the really real and knowledge thereof is the knowledge of the truth.

St. Gregory of Nyssa (ca. 335-395) was a Cappadocian bishop and theologian, a defender of Nicene orthodoxy, famed for his integration of Platonism and the allegorical exegesis of Scripture. His Life of Moses is one of the foundational texts of Christian mysticism, interpreting the narrative of Moses’ life as a pattern for growth in discipleship. His feast is celebrated on January 10 and March 9 on the calendars of different churches.


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