St. Gregory Nazianzen
On the Submission of the Son to the Father
(Parts V and VI in the Fourth Theological Oration
(the Second on the Son) in Vol VII, NPNF (2nd))
V. Take, in the next place, the subjection by which you subject
the Son to the Father. What, you say, is He not now subject, or must He,
if He is God, be subject to God?20 You are fashioning your argument as
if it concerned some robber, or some hostile deity. But look at it in this
manner: that as for my sake He was called a curse,21 Who destroyed my curse;
and sin,22 who taketh away the sin of the world; and became a new Adam23
to take the place of the old, just so He makes my disobedience His own
as Head of the whole body. As long then as I am disobedient and rebellious,
both by denial of God and by my passions, so long Christ also is called
disobedient on my account. But when all things shall be subdued unto Him
on the one hand by acknowledgment of Him, and on the other by a reformation,
then He Himself also will have fulfilled His submission, bringing me whom
He has saved to God. For this, according to my view, is the subjection
of Christ; namely, the fulfilling of the Father's Will. But as the Son
subjects all to the Father, so does the Father to the Son; the One by His
Work, the Other by His good pleasure, as we have already said. And thus
He Who subjects presents to God that which he has subjected, making our
condition His own. Of the same kind, it appears to me, is the expression,
"My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"24 It was not He who was forsaken
either by the Father, or by His own Godhead, as some have thought, as if
It were afraid of the Passion, and therefore withdrew Itself from Him in
His Sufferings (for who compelled Him either to be born on earth at all,
or to be lifted up on the Cross?) But as I said, He was in His own Person
representing us. For we were the forsaken and despised before, but now
by the Sufferings of Him Who could not suffer, we were taken up and saved.
Similarly, He makes His own our folly and our transgressions; and says
what follows in the Psalm, for it is very evident that the Twenty-first25
Psalm refers to Christ.
VI. The same consideration applies to another passage, "He learnt obedience
by the things which He suffered,"26 and to His "strong crying and tears,"
and His "Entreaties," and His "being heard," and His" Reverence," all of
which He wonderfully wrought out, like a drama whose plot was devised on
our behalf. For in His character of the Word He was neither obedient nor
disobedient. For such expressions belong to servants, and inferiors, and
the one applies to the better sort of them, while the other belongs to
those who deserve punishment. But, in the character of the Form of a Servant,
He condescends to His fellow servants, nay, to His servants, and takes
upon Him a strange form, bearing all me and mine in Himself, that in Himself
He may exhaust the bad, as fire does wax, or as the sun does the mists
of earth; and that I may partake of His nature by the blending. Thus He
honours obedience by His action, and proves it experimentally by His Passion.
For to possess the disposition is not enough, just as it would not be enough
for us, unless we also proved it by our acts; for action is the proof of
And perhaps it would not be wrong to assume this also, that by the art27
of His love for man He gauges our obedience, and measures all by comparison
with His own Sufferings, so that He may know our condition by His own,
and how much is demanded of us, and how much we yield, taking into the
account, along with our environment, our weakness also. For if the Light
shining through the veil28 upon the darkness, that is upon this life, was
persecuted by the other darkness (I mean, the Evil One and the Tempter),
how much more will the darkness be persecuted, as being weaker than it?
And what marvel is it, that though He entirely escaped, we have been, at
any rate in part, overtaken? For it is a more wonderful thing that He should
have been chased than that we should have been captured;-at least to the
minds of all who reason aright on the subject. I will add yet another passage
to those I have mentioned, because I think that it clearly tends to the
same sense. I mean "In that He hath suffered being tempted, He is able
to succour them that are tempted."29 But God will be all in all in the
time of restitution; not in the sense that the Father alone will Be; and
the Son be wholly resolved into Him, like a torch into a great pyre, from
which it was reft away for a little space, and then put back (for I would
not have even the Sabellians injured30 by such an expression); but the
entire Godhead when we shall be no longer divided (as we now are by movements
and passions), and containing nothing at all of God, or very little, but
shall be entirely like.
20 S. Gregory would here shew that the subjection of Christ
of which S. Paul speaks in the passage quoted, is that of the Head of the
Church, representing the members of His body. Cf. S. Ambrose, de Fide V.
vi., quoted by Petavius, de Trin. III. v. 2.
21 Gal. iii. 13.
22 2 Cor. v. 21.
23 1 Cor. xv. 45.
24 Ps. xxii. 1.
25 I. e. Ps. xxii. A. V.
26 Heb. v. 8, etc.
27 Leuvenclavius translates "The art of this lovingkindness
28 The Benedictines render, "In darkness, that is, in
this life, because of the veil of the body."
29 Heb. ii. 18.
30 The Benedictines take para fqeire/sqwsan in an active
sense: "I would not let even the Sabellians wrest such an expression."