the arc lie type. Much influenced by the teachings of Greek philosophers, Basil sees vision as a dynamic activity of the senses and a spiritual aid* since it leads the viewer beyond the external appearance and on to the perception of invisible truth, thus forming a critical link between the philosophical theory of participation and the lateT defense of the place of icons in liturgy and devotional prayer,"*
Basil, however, does not have painted images in mind in his treatise, and he prefaces this discussion with a traditional insistence that God is ultimately invisible and ineffable, a Spirit Lhat must be worshiped in spirit and in truth. In his earlier writings against the neo-Arian Eunomius (ca, 363—364 C,l), who claimed that knowledge of God was possible, Basil insists on God's incomprehensibility and defends a metaphorical or allegorical reading of the theophanies in Scripture against a reading of Scripture that would take the anthropomorphic descriptions of God literally (which Etinomius probably did not actually do}.11
Correspondingly, in his refutation of Eunomius, Basil's brother, Gregory of Nyssa, addresses the problem of names applied to the deity and their source as well as their validity. Gregory argues that the mind might Supply terms, but that ultimately God's essence is incomprehensible, and that the only true descriptions of God are in terms of negative constructs (for example, "pretemporal," 'incorporeal,11 "imperishable,'* or "un generate"). Elaborating on the unknowability of God and human incapacity to give name or description to this ultimate reality, lie asserts; "For this inability to give expression to such unutterable things, while it reflects upon the poverty of our own nature, affords an evidence of God's glory> teaching us as it does, in the words of the Apostle, that the Only name naturally appropriate to God is to believe God 'above every name' [ Phil 2:9 . That God transcends every effort of thought, and is far beyond any circumscribing by a name, constitutes a proof to us of this ineffable majesty,"12
Gregory's friend Gregory of Nazianzus was of the same mind, insisting that God was beyond expression and impossible even to conceive because of the "darkness of this world and the thick covering of the flesh'1 that serve as an obstacle to the complete understanding of the truth, not merely to the ignorant and careless but also to Lhose who "are highly exalted and who love God " Gregory denies that even "higher natures" and "purer intelligences'1 (he presumably means angels) are able to perceive fully, but, "because they are illumined with all his light, I they] may possibly see, if aot the whole, at any rate more perfectly and distinctly than we do ... in proportion to their rank"" Thus, the appearances to Abraham or the visions of Isaiah, Ezekiel, or even Paul (when he was caught up into the third heaven; 2 Cor 12:2-4) are partial and provisional glimpses of an indescribable mystery. In another place, Gregory speaks of the Son as the perfect image of the Father, the "pure seal
,uiJ his most unerring impress" by way of exptaining lesus' statement rh,u Lwhocver luíseen me has seen the Father" ílohn 14:9), But, he insista, ijil' kind of seeing mean! ¡n ;his test \s mental, not sensible, pereeption.+
ln what may ha ve been his Lasl work, probable written in lIu- 39Üs, Gregory oí Nyssa proposed Moses as an exemplar oí how a mystical theologian approachcs ihe infinite by consistently removing concepta, analogie-n, or infi.iphor-, ih.it woyld describe (or circumscribe) God rhe soul seeking perfection must be on a journey that has an unattain-■.ihk-jím.l], .nilJ ^4-l |he journey itself is thc piogress that thc soul makes toward perfeeiion. The anahigy fur ifiih .lHmijIul: irannccndence .Li-<l infinity oí < ¡^ul. and lur Moses' story, becomes the figure of the soul slrmng to see what ii cannot see, yet driven by that very desire, making gradual pnigreM Mward s[ii:i:u.L^ enl ightenment th.it comes from d es i t -in^ what is beyond attainmenL Fhus Moses "shone with glory. And although Lifted up through such lofty erperiences, be ls unsatisfied and desircs more, 13-i■ i11 thirsts Inr that with whtch he constantly tilled him self to capacity, and he jsks to attain Lf he had nevef partaken, l>eseechirig God appearto him, not according t.>':i¡s capacity to p,ir take, but accordinp k? God's true bdng,"And, ci ing the te\t of
33:2(i (""Vúj can not see my face____ind live"). Gregory explains that this does mil mean that thc sight oí Gods face causes death, but rather rM^li theexpectation that Ciodcan be krtOwn is a miSunderstanding deadly to íhe souh u"l'his Being Godl i-. inaccesible lo 1cnowledge. II ili-.'n the lifc-giving nature transcends knowledge, that which is perceived lci tainly is not Life." (¡regory conciudes by asserting :ha: the Divine by its. very na tu re is infinite, enclosed b) no boundary, and transcends all cha raelerist ies.11
Vnunid the same time (ca. 3ti6- 387 l:.e:.,ljii_1 in somewhat the same context aJrbough in his particular style, fohn Chrysoslom pieached five sermons ¿1 Antioch on the sub;ect of the incomprehensible nature <it" Gud>also .L^.iinsi the nco-Arian position th.it it is possible to know God as well (rod knows God. In these homilies, John bh^ Ennootius for arrogantly insisting :h,n Gods nature could be apprehended through human reason, and he defends the absolute ineflability of í iod and the mystery oí God's being ]ohn elabórales his arguments ith careful attention to the scriptural appearances nf God t j íhe patriarchs .irul prophets, but especially to the visions of Is^ÍlíIi, Daniel, and Ezekiek Hl-out ih;n these levis emphasize the unapproachable glory of Gods unbearable i^i human eyes. Isaiah, for example, cries out in fear at the visión, l vL'kÍL'1 fellon his face, and Daniel terrified. Bui,even these, according U> lohn, were not íi<.w.í,i\ ^■i^i^■■jls Mt í ¡lh.;divine l^enm- huí only Gods self-rcvelation in .i form ili.it tht- sis onary could receive wilhin the limtts of mortal life. Citing 1 íimothy, lohn affirms lIl.il God " ellsi n li i ppn tachable light, whom no one has ever seen o r ea n see"
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