16 April 2008

True Perfection

This reading from Gregory of Nyssa is paired up with Exodus 33:1-23 (Moses' request to see God's glory and him actually being permitted to see God's back) in the breviary For All the Saints. In case you get nervous at Gregory's praise of Moses' "perfection," just keep reading to see how the church father explains such "perfection."
What more trustworthy witness of the fact that Moses did attain the perfection which was possible would be found than the divine voice which said to him: I have known you more than all others? It is also shown in the fact that he is named the "friend of God" by God himself, and by preferring to perish with all the rest if the Divine One did not through his good will forgive their errors, he stayed God's wrath against the Israelites. God averted judgment so as not to grieve his friend. All such things are a clear testimony and demonstration of the fact that the life of Moses did ascend the highest mount of perfection.

Since the goal of the virtuous way of life was the very thing we have been seeking, and this goal has been found in what we have said, it is time for you, noble friend, to look to that example and, by transferring to your own life what is contemplated through spiritual interpretation of the things spoken literally, to be known by God and to become his friend. This is true perfection: not to avoid a wicked life because like slaves we servilely fear punishment, nor to do good because we hope for rewards, as if cashing in on the virtuous life by some business-like and contractual arrangement. On the contrary, disregarding all those things for 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. (The Life of Moses; cited in For All the Saints, vol. III, p. 1162-1163)
As Jesus said in John 15:15: "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you."

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