The grasp of faith : union and knowledge in Gregory of Nyssa, with particular reference to the Commentarius in Canticum Canticorum.
Scholars of Gregory of Nyssa have consistently noted the centrality of
irio-rLs in his thought. However, there has been to date no sustained examination
of this central role. This thesis proposes to fill this gap in Gregorian scholarship
and in doing so to uncover largely overlooked dimensions of his thought
Gregory uses the term irLcrrt in a variety of ways, but there is only one
technical and exalted sense of the term which plays the central role identified by
scholars. It is this reserved use alone which is the concern of this study.
Chapter One presents the status quastionis regarding Gregorian irLari and
suggests what lines of research might profitably follow upon or correct the work
already done on the topic in question. Chapters Two and Three then take up the
task of stabilizing the sense of Gregory's reserved use of 1TLaTLç. Taking the term
&aVoLa as a lexical lens, Chapter Two describes Gregory's understanding of the
mind, with particular attention to its discursive and non-discursive functions in the
context of grace. This examination allows one to see the technical function of
irkrri at the apex of apophatic, epistemological ascents, mediating divine union
and passing on to &avoLa something of what it has grasped of the Ungraspable.
Whilst Gregorian TrLcrrLç is rather idiosyncratic, the designation of a mediating
faculty of union has clear parallels in the generally Neoplatonic esprit du temps
Gregorian irLori is firmly grounded in his widely acknowledged
apophaticism. However, a close examination of the dynamics of ir[crri uncovers
a largely undetected dimension of his thought: complimentary to the apophatic, yet
quite distinct from the kataphatic, I have termed this dimension 'logophatic' and
explore this theme in Chapters Five and Six.
The great bulk of Gregorian scholarship has exalted Gregory as a proponent
of a 'mysticism of darkness'. Chapter Seven contends that this over-simplification
is in need of redress and demonstrates that Gregory's 'darkness-mysticism' is tied
to quite specific exegetical and epistemological concerns and that he propounds no
less a mysticism of light.