Doctrine of Resurrection
The text that is summarized is part of the book On the Soul and the Resurrection: St. Gregory of Nyssa by Roth (1993). The story is about the doctrine of St. Gregory of Nyssa, who considers human resurrection as one of the main divine gifts that allow people to live forever. Within the framework of his views, the theologian studied various ideas in detail, and as a result, his own concept of resurrection was developed.
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Gregory of Nyssa considers the empirical unity or contact of soul and body, and its disintegration is regarded as death (Roth, 1993). The body deprived of vital force descends and is involved in the general circulation of matter. Moreover, in the disintegration itself, the particles of the former body retain certain signs or traces of their former belonging to this or that soul. Roth (1993) cites the 103rd Psalm: “You will take away their spirit, and they will die and return to their dust” (p. 104).
However, on the day of resurrection, every soul is recognized. It is the appearance of the body, its internal image, or type. St. Gregory compares the process of such a recovery with seed germination and the development of the human embryo itself. Nevertheless, resurrection is not just the return or reproduction of the present existence. The human composition is restored not in its present but its original state.
The material identity for St. Gregory of Nyssa means the reality of life that should be continued after death. As Roth (1993) remarks, for the saint, resurrection is precisely the identity of appearance, that is, the unity and continuity of individual existence. The thought about the one-to-one and unique connection of soul and body is applied. Roth (1993) cites the Scripture text: “the Lord doesn’t merely say in words that the dead will rise, but He brings about the actual resurrection” (p. 107). Thus, the doctrine and its terms are supported by the Scripture text.
The afterlife of humans, in the understanding of St. Gregory of Nyssa, is the way in which the body composition is cleaned and renewed to resemble a precious metal in a smelting furnace (Roth, 1993). As a result, the renewed body is restored and turns into a unique object.
Therefore, St. Gregory calls death beneficent, and it is a common and constant patristic thought. Death is the payment for sin and, at the same time, healing. By the free movement of the sinful will, the human communicates with the evil, and the bane of vice is mixed with his or her composition. After death, a person breaks up “like a poor vessel,” and his or her body decomposes (Roth, 1993, p. 109). After cleansing from perceived filth through resurrection, the body is again elevated to its original composition.
Therefore, the main point of this doctrine is that death itself turns to be organically associated with resurrection; it is the mysterious and fiery temper of the weakened human composition. Through sins, the psycho-physical duality of human nature is shaken and weakened, causing people to become mortal.
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This outcome partially heals from instability and the wrong deeds. However, only the Resurrection of Christ once again revives human nature and makes revival possible (Roth, 1993). The basic and early Christian intuition in the doctrine of the human is the intuition of embodied unity. Therefore, the true purpose of people can be fully realized only through common resurrection.
Roth, C. P. (1993). On the soul and the resurrection: St. Gregory of Nyssa. New York, NY: St. Vladimir Seminary’s Press.