by Laurie Gudim
The Feast Day of Gregory of Nyssa
Today we celebrate Gregory of Nyssa, one of the Cappadocian Fathers, those guys who engineered and shepherded through the Council of Constantinople in 381 the understanding of the Trinity which we affirm in the Nicene Creed. I’m not sure this is the accomplishment for which Gregory would have wanted to be remembered, though. He was tagging along on the shirttails of his big brother, Basil the Great.
Gregory himself was a contemplative and a writer of theology and philosophy. He loved the ideas of Origen, who believed that creation is intrinsically good and beloved of God. He was steeped and centered in a personal relationship with God.
And the passage from the Gospel of John that we read today in celebration of his feast day is a much more intimate description of the nature of the Trinity. It is from Jesus himself, speaking to his disciples before he was arrested and taken away to be crucified.
Jesus says, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” And a little later he adds, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”
I really cherish the image of God and Jesus making their home with me – out of love and for the purpose of love. They choose me as I choose them. In fact my act of choosing them springs from them, from their love of me, and it is fueled by the Holy Spirit.
We tend to think of ourselves as complete, full persons who can choose God or not – a God who is Other, a huge, mysterious “not-us”. But while God is all that, God is also the very flavor of creation. God is in everything. God is such a part of us that we cannot lift a finger without lifting God as well. Our job is to recognize that fact.
When as an artist I create things, I know that most of what comes through my brush is not from the conscious part of myself that I identify as “me”. It comes from some other place. My usual job is to shape it into what it most wants to be. It’s mainly cosmetics.
Sometimes, though, I find myself digging in my heels. Then I have to look at what has caused me to back away from the expression coming through me. And often, when I quiet my personal objections and look and listen, I discover that there is a deeper impulse at work, one that opens me to astounding new understandings. Then I begin to work with the energy – and it works me.
We can hold on to our sense of separateness and individuality – but that holds us out of and apart from life. It shuts us down. Abundance cannot come to us through the small aperture of our ego awareness. It is in our slavery to God that we are most ourselves.
Giving ourselves over to that slavery frees us entirely. We begin to burn with the light that God gave us, the light peculiarly our own. The projects that spring from the uncovering of this light are of God, who is working in and through us. And as such they are fueled by the very love and creativity that they engender. Right in the middle of our personhood is this necessary dependence.
God and Christ make their homes with us. God’s nature permeates our nature, as Christ suffuses us, and visa versa, in a freely flowing exchange of Spirit – all the time. God is right there in the flame that is our essence. God is the Word behind our word – the Spirit that ignites us – present in and necessary to who we are.
Where in your life do you see the manifestation of God’s presence within you and, through you, to the world? Have you recognized how the holy Trinity makes their home with you?
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.