Monday, October 28, 2013

Gregory of Nyssa

Humans are needy creatures. Indeed we are needy precisely because we are creatures. "Dependent, rational animals," MacIntyre calls us. While Gregory doesn't deny our being created, he does see our neediness as putting a question mark over the conviction that humans are made in the image of a needless God. How can we be made in the image of God when we get hungry and require food for sustenance?

Gregory, in his treatise on the making of man, puts this down to our falleness, but says that in the age to come we will be like the angels, and thus no longer have any need for food. Hunger, it seems, is part of the groaning of creation, but in the new creation we will feast on the bread of life and never go hungry again.

I'm not sure if Gregory is right or wrong here, but I want to say that he's wrong. The resurrected Jesus ate fish. Was he hungry? Did he eat it simply for pleasure? Gregory seems to be saying that the needs and appetites we experience now are just a shadow, a slightly embarrassing indication of our commonality with beasts that we will eventually transcend. Should we, like Gregory, long for the day when we no longer go hungry because we no longer need food, or should we long for the day when we will no longer go hungry because the abundance of God's creation will not be exploited and hoarded by the few but will be accessible to all? "Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price."

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