Texts on Epektasis


Canticum canticorum (homiliae 15) Gregorii Nysseni opera, vol. 6,ed H Langerbeck,. (Brill ,Leiden 1960) TLG 2017 032



ETERNAL straining forward (Phil 3:13) towards God
forgetting what lies behind and straining forward (ἐπεκτεινόμενος), to what lies ahead,



HOMILY 12 on the SONG


     The soul looking towards God is raised to this sublime height as we have observed earlier.  It does not know as it ought, as Paul says [1Cor 8.2], nor does the soul estimate itself to have comprehended, but runs to what lies beyond, stretching forward (epekteinousa) to what is before [Phil 3.13].

Πρὸς τοσοῦτον δὲ μέγεθος ἐπαρθεῖσα διὰ τῶν θεωρηθέντων ἡμῖν ἡ πρὸς τὸν θεὸν ὁρῶσα ψυχὴ  Οὔπω, καθώς φησιν ὁ  Παῦλος, οὕτως ἔγνω καθὼς δεῖ γνῶναι, οὐδὲ λογίζεται ἑαυτὴν κατειληφέναι, ἀλλ' ἔτι πρὸς τὸ ὑπερκείμενον τρέχει  Τοῖς ἔμπροσθεν ἑαυτὴν ἐπεκτείνουσα.

    The Song offers these words of the bride: “Upon the handles of the lock.  I opened to my beloved.”  And she adds, “My beloved was gone. My soul went forth at his word” [5.5-6].  The bride teaches us here that the only way for comprehending that power transcending all understanding is

 ἡ γὰρ ἀκολουθία τῶν ἐφεξῆς λόγων ταῦτα νοεῖν περὶ αὐτῆς ὑποτίθεται· Ἐπὶ χεῖρας τοῦ κλείθρου ἤνοιξα ἐγὼ τῷ ἀδελφιδῷ μου, καὶ ἐπήγαγεν ὅτι Ἀδελφιδός μου παρῆλθεν, ἡ ψυχή μου ἐξῆλθεν ἐν λόγῳ αὐτοῦ. διδάσκει γὰρ διὰ τούτων ἡμᾶς ὅτι ἐπὶ τῆς πάντα νοῦν ὑπερεχούσης δυνάμεως εἷς καταλήψεώς ἐστι τρόπος

 never to remain in any notion of him, but always striving to move forward and never stand still. . . [J.352.6-17] [...]

οὐ τὸ στῆναι περὶ τὸ κατειλημμένον ἀλλὰ τὸ ἀεὶ ζητοῦντα τὸ πλεῖον τοῦ καταληφθέντος μὴ ἵστασθαι.

Let us recapitulate the sense of the text. ̓ Αλλ' ἐπαναλάβωμεν πάλιν ἀνακεφαλαιωσάμενοι τὴν τῶν εἰρημένων διάνοιαν·

The soul which looks to God

ἡ πρὸς τὸν θεὸν ὁρῶσα ψυχὴ

 and conceives that good longing for incorruptible beauty

καὶ τὸν ἀγαθὸν ἐκεῖνον πόθον τοῦ ἀφθάρτου κάλλους ἀναλαμβάνουσα

always has a new desire for the transcendent,

and it is never dulled by sated longing

 ἀεὶ νέαν τὴν πρὸς τὸ ὑπερκείμενον ἐπιθυμίαν ἔχει

οὐδέποτε κόρῳ τὸν πόθον ἀμβλύνουσα.

Such a soul constantly stretches forth (epekteinomene) to what lies before, διὰ τοῦτο πάντοτε τοῖς ἔμπροσθεν ἐπεκτεινομένη

never ceasing to go out from her present stage

οὐ παύεται καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ ἐν ᾧ ἐστιν ἐξιοῦσα

to what lies ahead. 

καὶ πρὸς τὸ ἐνδότερον εἰσδυομένη

Anything great and marvelous always seems inferior in comparison to what succeeds it, since what the bride has found seems more beautiful than her earlier discoveries. 

ἐν ᾧ οὔπω ἐγένετο καὶ τὸ πάντοτε θαυμαστὸν αὐτῇ καὶ μέγα φαινόμενον κατώτερον ποιουμένη τοῦ ἐφεξῆς διὰ τὸ περικαλλέστερον πάντως εἶναι τοῦ προκατειλημμένου τὸ ἀεὶ εὑρισκόμενον,

Thus Paul died each day (1Cor 15.13), because at all times he partook of a new life, being dead to the past and forgetful of previous things.  J.366.10-23

καθὼς καὶ ὁ  Παῦλος καθ' ἡμέραν ἀπέθνῃσκεν, ἐπειδὴ πάντοτε πρὸς καινήν τινα μετῄει ζωὴν νεκρὸς ἀεὶ τῷ παρῳχηκότι γινόμενος καὶ λήθην τῶν προδιηνυσμένων ποιούμενος.


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