GREGORY
of 
NYSSA
(330-395)


ed. J. McDonough, Gregorii Nysseni opera, vol. 5 (Leiden, Brill 1962), pp. 24-175.  Engl. tr. L. Dysinger, O.S.B. The complete English text of this work is available in:   Gregory of Nyssa’s Treatise on the Inscriptions of the Psalms, tr. Ronald E. Heine, (Oxford: OUP-Clarendon, 1995). 


On The INSCRIPTIONS of the PSALMS
PART I, ch. 3, 17

ΓΡΗΓΟΡΙΟΥ ΕΠΙΣΚΟΠΟΥ ΝΥΣΣΗΣ ΕΙΣ ΤΑΣ ΕΠΙΓΡΑΘΑΣ ΤΩΝ ΨΑΛΜΩΝ

WE will now consider how [the Psalter makes two difficult things]  easy to attain and sweet: namely,  [first,] that difficult and serious persuit which is life lived in accordance with  virtue; and [second] that enigmatic teaching of ineffable and difficult mysteries which consists of doctrine concerning the divine nature (theologia).

... σκοπήσωμεν τὴν ἐπίνοιαν, δι' ἧς οὕτω σκληράν τε καὶ σύντονον οὖσαν τὴν κατ' ἀρετὴν πολιτείαν τήν τε τῶν μυστηρίων αἰνιγματώδη διδασκαλίαν καὶ τὴν ἀπόρρητόν τε καὶ κεκρυμμένην δυσεφίκτοις θεωρήμασι θεολογίαν οὕτως εὔληπτόν τε καὶ γλυκεῖαν ἐποίησεν,

(18)WHAT could be the inner purpose of that unutterable divine pleasure which the great David has poured over these lessons, rendering their teaching so easy for human nature to accept? 

Τίς οὖν ἡ ἐπίνοια τῆς ἀφράστου ταύτης καὶ θείας ἡδονῆς, ἣν κατέχεε τῶν διδαγμάτων ὁ μέγας Δαβίδ, δι' ἧς οὕτω γέγονεν εὐπαράδεκτον τῇ φύσει τῶν ἀνθρώπων τὸ μάθημα;

On the one hand it could be said that it is obvious to everyone why we take pleasure in meditating on them.

πρόχειρον μὲν ἴσως παντὶ τὸ εἰπεῖν τὴν αἰτίαν, καθ' ἣν ἐν ἡδονῇ τὴν ἐν τούτοις μελέτην ποιούμεθα·

For it could be maintained that [action of] chanting these words is what enables us to take pleasure in elaborating them. 

τὸ γὰρ μελῳδεῖν τὰ ῥήματα εἴποι τις ἂν αἴτιον εἶναι τοῦ μεθ' ἡδονῆς περὶ τούτων διεξιέναι.

   
But even if this is true, I say we should not disregard what is less apparent. ἐγὼ δὲ κἂν ἀληθὲς ᾖ τοῦτο, φημὶ δεῖν μὴ παριδεῖν ἀθεώρητον.

For the philosophy that comes from chanting  hints at something more than what most people imagine.

ἔοικε γὰρ μεῖζόν τι ἢ κατὰ τὴν τῶν πολλῶν διάνοιαν ὑποσημαίνειν ἡ διὰ τῆς μελῳδίας φιλοσοφία.

What, then, do I mean? τί οὖν ἐστιν ὃ φημί;
   
(19) ONCE I heard a wise person elaborate an idea about our nature. ἤκουσά τινος τῶν σοφῶν τὸν περὶ τῆς φύσεως ἡμῶν διεξιόντος λόγον,

HE said that each human being is a miniature universe,

ὅτι μικρός τις κόσμος ἐστὶν ὁ ἄνθρωπος

having within himself everything that is in the great universe.

πάντα ἔχων ἐν ἑαυτῷ τὰ τοῦ μεγάλου κόσμου.

And the ordered array of the  universe

ἡ δὲ τοῦ παντὸς διακόσμησις

is a musical harmony both richly-complex and diverse

ἁρμονία τίς ἐστι μουσικὴ πολυειδῶς καὶ ποικίλως

in tune with itself both in order[ed melody] and in rhythm

κατά τινα τάξιν καὶ ῥυθμὸν πρὸς ἑαυτὴν ἡρμοσμένη

and is in concord with itself

καὶ ἑαυτῇ συνᾴδουσα

and is never distracted from this symphon[ic accord]

καὶ μηδέποτε τῆς συμφωνίας ταύτης διασπωμένη,

even though we may contemplate essential differences in its various component.

εἰ καὶ πολλή τις ἐν  [31] τοῖς καθ' ἕκαστον ἡ τῶν ὄντων διαφορὰ θεωρεῖται.

 

 THE MUSIC of the UNIVERSE;
=
of the SPHERES AND of the SELF  

 

FOR just as [the musician] artistically plucks the strings with a pick, thus bringing forth melody in a rich variety of notes (for there would be no melody if all the strings sounded the same note),

οἷον γὰρ ἐπὶ τοῦ πλήκτρου γίνεται τοῦ τεχνικῶς ἁπτομένου τῶν τόνων καὶ τὸ μέλος ἐν τῇ ποικιλίᾳ τῶν φθόγγων προάγοντος, ὡς εἴγε μονοειδής τις ἐν πᾶσιν ὁ φθόγγος ἦν, οὐδ' ἂν συνέστη πάντως τὸ μέλος·

so in the same way the temperament [attunement  / krasis] of the universe, which is composed of the richly-diverse, particular things we contemplate - [this temperament] plucks itself by means of an ordered and unchangeable rhythm; and in this way it creates a harmony of [all] the parts in relation to the whole, and sings this all-encompassing harmony in everything [that exists]

οὕτως καὶ ἡ τοῦ παντὸς κρᾶσις ἐν ποικίλοις τῶν καθ' ἕκαστον ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ θεωρουμένων διά τινος τεταγμένου τε καὶ ἀπαραβάτου ῥυθμοῦ αὐτὴ ἑαυτῆς ἁπτομένη καὶ τὴν τῶν μερῶν πρὸς τὸ ὅλον εὐαρμοστίαν ἐργαζομένη τὴν παναρμόνιον ταύτην ἐν τῷ παντὶ μουσουργεῖ μελῳδίαν,

IT is this [harmony] that the innermost self (nous) hears without employing the sense of hearing. 

ἧς ἀκροατὴς ὁ νοῦς γίνεται κατ' οὐδὲν τῇ ἀκοῇ ταύτῃ συγχρώμενος,

Rather, by stretching upwards and rising above our fleshly organs of sense, IT LISTENS TO THE HYMNODY OF THE HEAVENS.  ἀλλ' ὑπερκύπτων τὰ τῆς σαρκὸς αἰσθητήρια καὶ ἄνω γενόμενος, οὕτως ἐπαίει τῆς τῶν οὐρανῶν ὑμνῳδίας.

 

 

I BELIEVE that this is also how the great David was listening when he contemplated the artistic and wisdom-filled movements of the heavens, thereby hearing the heavens declare the glory of the God who accomplishes these things in them .

ὥς μοι δοκεῖ καὶ ὁ μέγας ἀκηκοέναι Δαβίδ, ὅτε διὰ τῆς θεωρουμένης αὐτοῖς τεχνικῆς τε καὶ πανσόφου κινήσεως, τὴν δόξαν τοῦ ἐν αὐτοῖς ταῦτα ἐνεργοῦντος θεοῦ διηγουμένων ἐπηκροάσατο.

    (20) For this is truly a hymn to God's inaccessible and inexpressible glory; and it is produced by this very rhythm: namely, the unison of all creation with itself through the blending together of opposites.

̓Αληθῶς γὰρ τῆς ἀνεφίκτου τε καὶ ἀφράστου θεοῦ δόξης ὕμνος ἐστὶ τῷ τοιούτῳ ῥυθμῷ προαγόμενος ἡ τῆς κτίσεως πάσης πρὸς ἑαυτὴν συνῳδία διὰ τῶν ἐναντίων συγκεκραμένη.

    For rest and motion are opposed to each other. [...] Thus while, on the one hand, everything pertaining to heaven is in perpetual movement, either revolving together in circular orbit[s], or moving in the opposite direction as planets do;

 ἐναντίως γὰρ ἔχει πρὸς ἄλληλα στάσις καὶ κίνησις, [...] κινεῖται μὲν γὰρ τὰ κατ' οὐρανὸν ἀεὶ πάντα ἢ τῷ ἀπλανεῖ συμπεριπολοῦντα κύκλῳ ἢ κατὰ τὸ ἐναντίον διὰ τῶν πλανητῶν ἀνελισσόμενα.

nevertheless,  the sequence and interrelationships [between these heavenly movements] remains stable, never changing from what it is now into something new: staying rather as it is and continuing the same. 

ἕστηκε δὲ πάντοτε καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς ταυτότητος μένει ὁ ἐν τούτοις εἱρμὸς  οὐδέποτε ἀπὸ τοῦ ἐν ᾧ ἐστιν ἐφ' ἕτερόν τι καινὸν  [32] μεθιστάμενος,  ἀλλ' ἀεὶ ὡσαύτως ἔχων καὶ ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ διαμένων.

Thus the combination of what is at rest with what is moved, occurring constantly in an ordered and unalterable melody, is a musical harmony which creates a blended and ineffable hymn of the power that directs all things. ἡ τοίνυν τοῦ ἑστῶτος πρὸς τὸ κινούμενον σύνοδος ἐν τεταγμένῃ τινὶ καὶ ἀπαραβάτῳ γινομένη διὰ παντὸς εὐαρμοστίᾳ μουσική τίς ἐστιν ἁρμονία σύγκρατον καὶ θεσπεσίαν τῆς τὸ πᾶν διακρατούσης δυνάμεως ὑμνῳδίαν ἀποτελοῦσα.

(21) I BELIEVE that the great David having heard this [ineffable hymn], said in one of the psalms that all the other heavenly powers praise God: [namely,] the starlight, the sun and the moon, the heavens of heavens, and the water above the heavens.  For in one place he speaks of water and then sequentially of all the things creation contains. (Ps 148:2-4)

ἧς μοι δοκεῖ καὶ ὁ μέγας Δαβὶδ ἐν ἀκροάσει γενόμενος εἰπεῖν ἔν τινι τῶν ψαλμῶν, ὅτι αἰνοῦσι τὸν θεὸν αἵ τε ἄλλαι δυνάμεις αἱ κατ' οὐρανὸν πᾶσαι καὶ τὸ ἀστρῷον φῶς, ὅ τε ἥλιος καὶ ἡ σελήνη καὶ οἱ τῶν οὐρανῶν οὐρανοὶ καὶ τὸ ὑπερουράνιον ὕδωρ, ὅτι ποτὲ τὸ ὕδωρ λέγει, καὶ τὰ ἑξῆς πάντα ὅσα ἡ κτίσις ἔχει.

For the empathy and sympathy of all things with one another, orchestrated in an orderly and sequential way within the universe is the primordial, archetypal, and true music.

 ἡ γὰρ τῶν πάντων πρὸς ἄλληλα σύμπνοιά τε καὶ συμπάθεια τάξει καὶ κόσμῳ καὶ ἀκολουθίᾳ διοικουμένη ἡ πρώτη τε καὶ ἀρχέτυπος καὶ ἀληθής ἐστι μουσική·

This is the music the conductor of all things skillfully strikes up through wisdom's silent word in this constantly-recurring motion. (cf. Ps. 18: 2-5) ἣν ὁ τοῦ παντὸς ἁρμοστὴς τῷ ἀρρήτῳ τῆς σοφίας λόγῳ διὰ τῶν ἀεὶ γινομένων [ἐν σοφίᾳ] τεχνικῶς ἀνακρούεται.

    (22) And so, if the ordered array of the whole universe is a musical harmony ‘whose artisan and creator is God’, (Heb. 11:10) as the apostle says; and if [each] human being is a miniature universe, created as a copy of the composer of the universe, (cf. Ger. 1: 26-7)  

εἰ οὖν ὁ διάκοσμος ὅλος μουσική τις ἁρμονία ἐστίν,Ἧς τεχνίτης καὶ δημιουργὸς ὁ θεός, καθώς φησιν ὁ ἀπόστολος, μικρὸς δὲ κόσμος ὁ ἄνθρωπος, ὁ δὲ αὐτὸς οὗτος καὶ μίμημα τοῦ ἁρμοσαμένου τὸν κόσμον πεποίηται,

then what reason knows [to be true] of the whole universe, this, it probably also sees in  in the miniature: for part of the whole is of the same kind in everything as the whole.

 ὅπερ ἐπὶ τοῦ μεγάλου κόσμου οἶδεν ὁ λόγος, τοῦτο κατὰ τὸ εἰκὸς καὶ ἐν τῷ μικρῷ βλέπει· τὸ γὰρ μέρος τοῦ ὅλου ὁμογενές ἐστι πάντως τῷ ὅλῳ.

[...] and so all the music everywhere [in the universe] can be contemplated that miniature universe which is human nature [...]  [...] οὕτω καὶ ἐν τῷ μικρῷ κόσμῳ, τῇ ἀνθρωπίνῃ λέγω φύσει, πᾶσα ἡ ἐν τῷ παντὶ θεωρουμένη μουσικὴ[...]
   (23) Since everything that accords with nature is loved by nature, and since the music within us has been shown to accord with nature, for this reason the great David mixed singing together with philosophy concerning the virtues, thereby, as it were, pouring the pleasure of honey over these exalted doctrines. By means of this [song - i.e. the Psalter] nature thus in a sense contemplates  itself  and heals itself. For the proper rhythm of life is a healing of nature; and this it is that  that I believe singing mysteriously symbolizes. Επεὶ οὖν πᾶν τὸ κατὰ φύσιν φίλον τῇ φύσει, ἀπεδείχθη δὲ κατὰ φύσιν ἡμῖν οὖσα ἡ μουσική, τούτου χάριν ὁ μέγας Δαβὶδ τῇ περὶ τῶν ἀρετῶν φιλοσοφίᾳ τὴν μελῳδίαν κατέμιξεν, οἷόν τινα μέλιτος ἡδονὴν τῶν ὑψηλῶν καταχέας δογμάτων, δι' ἧς ἑαυτὴν ἀναθεωρεῖ τρόπον τινὰ καὶ θεραπεύει ἡ φύσις. θεραπεία γὰρ φύσεώς ἐστιν ἡ τῆς ζωῆς εὐρυθμία, ἥν μοι δοκεῖ συμβουλεύειν δι' αἰνιγμάτων ἡ μελῳδία.
   (24) And so it is that [sacred] history attributes to David the successful accomplishment of this divine music. Once when Saul was deranged and out of his mind [David] came to him and healed him by quieting his passions [with music], so that Saul's understanding returned to him in a way that accorded with nature. (Cf. I Kg 3.16: 23 lXX)   ὅθεν καὶ τὰ κατορθώματα τῆς θείας ταύτης μουσικῆς προσμαρτυρεῖ τῷ Δαβὶδ ἡ ἱστορία· ὅτι παράφορόν ποτε καταλαβὼν τὸν Σαοὺλ καὶ ἐξεστηκότα τῆς διανοίας οὕτως ἐξιάσατο κατεπᾴδων τοῦ πάθους, ὥστε αὐτῷ πάλιν πρὸς τὸ κατὰ φύσιν ἐπανελθεῖν τὴν διάνοιαν. 

 

Andrea da Firenze: The Church Militant and Triumphant 1365-68
 Fresco Cappella Spagnuolo, Santa Maria Novella, Florence 

CHAPTER 6

On the inscription, Maleth, - translated in the Septuagint as:  pertaining to the choral dance

 

 

(60) FOR there was once a time when there was [only] one choral dance of [all] reasoning nature[s; and the dance] looked to the one leader of the chorus. 

ἦν γὰρ ὅτε μία τῆς λογικῆς φύσεως ἦν ἡ χοροστασία πρὸς ἕνα βλέπουσα τὸν τοῦ χοροῦ κορυφαῖον,  

and in its movements the dance unfolded [lit unrolled, explicated] in choral harmony what it received from the leader's commands.

καὶ πρὸς τὴν ἐκεῖθεν ἐνδιδομένην αὐτοῦ τῇ κινήσει διὰ τῆς ἐντολῆς ἁρμονίαν τὸν χορὸν ἀνελίσσουσα.

       BUT then the divine unity of the chorus was shattered. 

 ἐπειδὴ δὲ τὴν ἔνθεον ἐκείνην διέλυσε τοῦ χοροῦ συνῳδίαν

     Sin poured the slickness of deceit at the feet of the first human beings who used to sing in the chorus of the angelic powers; and thus it caused the fall, through which human beings were separated from [their] relationship with the angels. 

 παρεμπεσοῦσα ἡ ἁμαρτία καὶ τοῖς ποσὶ τῶν πρώτων ἀνθρώπων τῶν ταῖς ἀγγελικαῖς δυνάμεσι συγχορευόντων τὸν τῆς ἀπάτης ὄλισθον ὑποχέασα πτῶμα ἐποίησεν, ὅθεν διεσπάσθη τῆς πρὸς τοὺς ἀγγέλους συναφείας ὁ ἄνθρωπος,  

Because the fall dissolved [their] partnership, the fallen must now be restored by sweat[-drenched practice] and hard labor. 

τοῦ πτώματος τὴν συμβολὴν διαλύσαντος τούτου χάριν πολλῶν ἱδρώτων χρεία τῷ πεπτωκότι καὶ πόνων,

so that, having conquered and overturned the sentence that the fall imposed, they received [again] the divine dance as a prize of victory over the opponent.

 ἵνα τὸν ἐπικείμενον αὐτοῦ τῷ πτώματι καταγωνισάμενός τε καὶ ἀνατρέψας πάλιν ἀνορθωθῇ, γέρας τῆς κατὰ τοῦ παλαίοντος νίκης τὴν θείαν χοροστασίαν δεξάμενος.

 

 “EPEKTASIS from HOMILY 12
on the SONG of SONGS

Canticum canticorum (homiliae 15) Gregorii Nysseni opera, vol. 6,ed H Langerbeck,. (Brill ,Leiden 196) TLG 2017 032

     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 to always 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.  The soul which looks to God and conceives that desire for incorruptible beauty always has a new desire for the transcendent, and it is never dulled by satiety. 

̓Αλλ' ἐπαναλάβωμεν πάλιν ἀνακεφαλαιωσάμενοι τὴν τῶν εἰρημένων διάνοιαν· ἡ πρὸς τὸν θεὸν ὁρῶσα ψυχὴ καὶ τὸν ἀγαθὸν ἐκεῖνον πόθον τοῦ ἀφθάρτου κάλλους ἀναλαμβάνουσα ἀεὶ νέαν τὴν πρὸς τὸ ὑπερκείμενον ἐπιθυμίαν ἔχει οὐδέποτε κόρῳ τὸν πόθον ἀμβλύνουσα.

Such a soul never ceases to stretch forth (epekteinomene) to what lies before, going out from her present stage to what lies ahead.  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.  διὰ τοῦτο πάντοτε τοῖς ἔμπροσθεν ἐπεκτεινομένη οὐ παύεται καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ ἐν ᾧ ἐστιν ἐξιοῦσα καὶ πρὸς τὸ ἐνδότερον εἰσδυομένη 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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