Vol 16 (2013), 132 pages
ISBN: 978 0 9806428 4 1 (paperback)
This thesis by Alexander L. Abecina argues that Gregory of Nyssa’s dispute with Eunomius of Cyzicus in Contra Eunomium gave birth to a sacramental view of time.
In Chapter 1, Time and Ontology, Alexander shows that Gregory sees temporal extension … as a fundamental property that distinguishes the creature from the Creator. Further, Nyssen conceives of creaturely temporality in a two-fold manner: temporality that applies to sensible creation and a higher temporality that applies to intelligible creation. For Gregory, time not only acts to veil the Creator from the creature. Through a participatory ascent from sensible to intelligible temporality, time also acts as the very means of creaturely communion with God. The veiling and unveiling function of time gives rise to its sacramental character. Chapter 2, Time, Language and Thought, extends the findings of Chapter 1. Alexander argues that, for Nyssen, words pertain to sensible temporality while thought pertains to intelligible temporality. Words and thought, being temporally diastematic in character, veil the Creator from the creature. Nevertheless, for Gregory, the ascent of sensible to intelligible temporality is mirrored in an ascent from the spoken words to silent thought that also unveils the Creator to the creature. Thus, words and thought possess a sacramental character insofar as they are caught up the ascent of sacramental time into union with God. Chapter 3, Time and Christology, discusses topics such as the divine economy, the divine and human nature of Christ, and the kenosis and deification of Christ. Alexander argues that Nyssen sees the Incarnation as the Sacrament, par excellence, of humanity’s salvation. In this event the Son’s divine nature is veiled in flesh, yet is visible in that same flesh to those who have “clear vision.” This unique event in history, in which the human nature of the Son is properly deified, provides the basis for creaturely temporal ascent into the life of God. Creaturely temporal existence is sacramental, inasmuch as it shares in the unique Christological Sacrament by analogy. In the Epilogue Alexander allows the findings of Chapters 1 to 3 to shed light on Greogory’s understanding of the sacraments of baptism and eucharist. Alexander argues that Gregory’s defense of pro-Nicene sacramental practices, over against Eunomius of Cyzicus, depends upon his sacramental view of time.