on the Apokatastasis

Based on: Christ in Glory, Bodleian Antiphoner  MS Don A 11, fol. 003 v., c. 1360, (Image Modified)

Oratio Catechetica - The Great Catechism ch. 26, NPNF 5 , Tr. Roberts, Alexander and Donaldson,   p. 495 GREEK TEXT: The catechetical oration of Gregory of Nyssa, ed. J. Srawley ( Cambridge University Press, 1903) 

 STILL, in his examination of the amount of justice and wisdom discoverable in this Dispensation a person is, perhaps, induced to entertain the thought that it was by means of a certain amount of deceit that God carried out this scheme on our behalf. For that not by pure Deity alone, but by Deity veiled in human nature,

̓Αλλ' ἴσως τις ἐν τῇ τῆς δικαιοσύνης τε καὶ σοφίας ἐξετάσει τῆς κατὰ τὴν οἰκονομίαν ταύτην θεωρουμένης ἐνάγεται πρὸς τὸ νομίσαι ἀπάτην τινὰ τὴν τοιαύτην μέθοδον ἐπινενοῆσθαι ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν τῷ θεῷ· τὸ γὰρ μὴ γυμνῇ τῇ θεότητι, ἀλλ' ὑπὸ τῆς ἀνθρωπίνης φύσεως κεκαλυμμένῃ,

God, without the knowledge of His enemy, got within the lines of him who had man in his power, is in some measure a fraud and a surprise; seeing that it is the peculiar way with those who want to deceive to divert in another direction the expectations of their intended victims, and then to effect something quite different from what these latter expected. ἀγνοηθέντα παρὰ τοῦ ἐχθροῦ, τὸν θεὸν ἐντὸς τοῦ κρατοῦντος γενέσθαι ἀπάτη τίς ἐστι τρόπον τινὰ καὶ παραλογισμός, ἐπείπερ ἴδιον τῶν ἀπατώντων ἐστὶ τὸ πρὸς ἕτερον τὰς τῶν ἐπιβουλευομένων ἐλπίδας τρέπειν καὶ ἄλλο παρὰ τὸ ἐλπισθὲν κατεργάζεσθαι.

But he who has regard for truth will agree that the essential qualities of justice and wisdom are before all things these; viz. of justice, to give to every one according to his due; of wisdom, not to pervert justice, and yet at the same time not to dissociate the benevolent aim of the love of mankind from the verdict of justice, but skillfully to combine both these requisites together, in regard to justice returning the due recompense, in regard to kindness not swerving from the aim of that love of man.

 ἀλλ' ὁ πρὸς τὴν ἀλήθειαν βλέπων πάντων μάλιστα καὶ τοῦτο τῆς δικαιοσύνης τε καὶ τῆς σοφίας εἶναι συνθήσεται. δικαίου μὲν γάρ ἐστι τὸ κατ' ἀξίαν ἑκάστῳ νέμειν, σοφοῦ δὲ τὸ μήτε παρατρέπειν τὸ δίκαιον, μήτε τὸν ἀγαθὸν τῆς φιλανθρωπίας σκοπὸν ἀποχωρίζειν τῆς κατὰ τὸ δίκαιον κρίσεως, ἀλλὰ συνάπτειν ἀλλήλοις εὐμηχάνως ἀμφότερα, τῇ μὲν δικαιοσύνῃ τὸ κατ' ἀξίαν ἀντιδιδόντα, τῇ δὲ ἀγαθότητι τοῦ σκοποῦ τῆς φιλανθρωπίας οὐκ ἐξιστάμενον.  

Let us see, then, whether these two qualities are not to be observed in that which took place. That repayment, adequate to the debt, by which the deceiver was in his turn deceived, exhibits the justice of the dealing, while the object aimed at is a testimony to the goodness of Him who effected it. It is, indeed, the property of justice to assign to every one those particular results of which he has sunk already the foundations and the causes, just as the earth returns its harvests according to the kinds of seeds thrown into it; while it is the property of wisdom, in its very manner of giving equivalent returns, not to depart from the kinder course. 

σκοπήσωμεν τοίνυν εἰ μὴ τὰ δύο ταῦτα τοῖς γεγονόσιν ἐνθεωρεῖται. ἡ μὲν γὰρ τοῦ κατ' ἀξίαν ἀντίδοσις, δι' ἧς ὁ ἀπατεὼν ἀνταπατᾶται, τὸ δίκαιον δείκνυσιν, ὁ δὲ σκοπὸς τοῦ γιγνομένου μαρτυρία τῆς τοῦ ἐνεργοῦντος ἀγαθότητος γίγνεται. ἴδιον μὲν γὰρ τῆς δικαιοσύνης τὸ ἐκεῖνα νέμειν ἑκάστῳ, ὧν τις τὰς ἀρχὰς καὶ τὰς αἰτίας προκατεβάλετο, ὥσπερ ἡ γῆ κατὰ τὰ γένη τῶν καταβληθέντων σπερμάτων καὶ τοὺς καρποὺς ἀντιδίδωσιν·  

Two persons may both mix poison with food, one with the design of taking life, the other with the design of saving that life; the one using it as a poison, the other only as an antidote to poison; and in no way does the manner of the cure adopted spoil the aim and purpose of the benefit intended; for although a mixture of poison with the food may be effected by both of these persons alike, yet looking at their intention we are indignant with the one and approve the other; so in this instance, by the reasonable rule of justice, he who practised deception receives in return that very treatment, the seeds of which he had himself sown of his own free will. 

σοφίας δὲ τὸ ἐν τῷ τρόπῳ τῆς τῶν ὁμοίων ἀντιδόσεως μὴ ἐκπεσεῖν τοῦ βελτίονος. ὥσπερ γὰρ τῷ ἐδέσματι ὁμοίως παραμίγνυσι τὸ φάρμακον καὶ ὁ ἐπιβουλεύων καὶ ὁ τὸν ἐπιβουλευθέντα ἰώμενος· ἀλλ' ὁ μὲν τὸ δηλητήριον, ὁ δὲ τοῦ δηλητηρίου ἀλεξητήριον, καὶ οὐδὲν ὁ τρόπος τῆς θεραπείας τὸν σκοπὸν τῆς εὐεργεσίας διελυμήνατο· εἰ γὰρ καὶ παρ' ἀμφοτέρων φαρμάκου μίξις ἐν τροφῇ γίγνεται, ἀλλὰ πρὸς τὸν σκοπὸν ἀποβλέψαντες τὸν μὲν ἐπαινοῦμεν, τῷ δὲ χαλεπαίνομεν· οὕτω καὶ ἐνταῦθα τῷ μὲν κατὰ τὸ δίκαιον λόγῳ ἐκεῖνα ὁ ἀπατεὼν ἀντιλαμβάνει, ὧν τὰ σπέρματα διὰ τῆς ἰδίας προαιρέσεως κατεβάλετο·

He who first deceived man by the bait of sensual pleasure is himself deceived by the presentment of the human form. But as regards the aim and purpose of what took place, a change in the direction of the nobler is involved; for whereas he, the enemy, effected his deception for the ruin of our nature, He Who is at once the just, and good, and wise one, used His device, in which there was deception, for the salvation of him who had perished, and thus not only conferred benefit on the lost one, but on him, too, who had wrought our ruin. 

 ἀπατᾶται γὰρ καὶ αὐτὸς τῷ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου προβλήματι ὁ προαπατήσας τὸν ἄνθρωπον τῷ τῆς ἡδονῆς δελεάσματι· ὁ δὲ σκοπὸς τῶν γιγνομένων ἐπὶ τὸ κρεῖττον τὴν παραλλαγὴν ἔχει. ὁ μὲν γὰρ ἐπὶ διαφθορᾷ τῆς φύσεως τὴν ἀπάτην ἐνήργησεν, ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ἅμα καὶ ἀγαθὸς καὶ σοφὸς ἐπὶ σωτηρίᾳ τοῦ καταφθαρέντος τῇ ἐπινοίᾳ τῆς ἀπάτης ἐχρήσατο, οὐ μόνον τὸν ἀπολωλότα διὰ τούτων εὐεργετῶν, ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτὸν τὸν τὴν ἀπώλειαν καθ' ἡμῶν ἐνεργήσαντα.

For from this approximation death to life, of darkness to light, of corruption to incorruption, there is effected an obliteration of what is worse, and a passing away of it into nothing, while benefit is conferred on him who is freed from those evils. For it is as when some worthless material has been mixed with gold, and the gold-refiners burn up the foreign and refuse part in the consuming fire, and so restore the more precious substance to its natural lustre: (not that the separation is effected without difficulty, for it takes time for the fire by its melting force to cause the baser matter to disappear; but for all that, this melting away of the actual thing that was embedded in it to the injury of its beauty is a kind of healing of the gold.)

 ἐκ γὰρ τοῦ προσεγγίσαι τῇ ζωῇ μὲν τὸν θάνατον, τῷ φωτὶ δὲ τὸ σκότος, τῇ ἀφθαρσίᾳ δὲ τὴν φθοράν, ἀφανισμὸς μὲν τοῦ χείρονος γίγνεται καὶ εἰς τὸ μὴ ὂν μεταχώρησις, ὠφέλεια δὲ τοῦ ἀπὸ τούτων καθαιρομένου. καθάπερ γάρ, ἀτιμοτέρας ὕλης τῷ χρυσῷ καταμιχθείσης, τῇ διὰ τοῦ πυρὸς δαπάνῃ τὸ ἀλλότριόν τε καὶ ἀπόβλητον οἱ θεραπευταὶ τοῦ χρυσίου καταναλώσαντες πάλιν ἐπανάγουσι πρὸς τὴν κατὰ φύσιν λαμπηδόνα τὴν προτιμοτέραν ὕλην· οὐκ ἄπονος μέντοι γίνεται ἡ διάκρισις, χρόνῳ τοῦ πυρὸς τῇ ἀναλωτικῇ δυνάμει τὸ νόθον ἐξαφανίζοντος, πλὴν ἀλλὰ θεραπεία τίς ἐστι τοῦ χρυσίου τὸ ἐκτακῆναι αὐτὸ τὸ ἐπὶ λύμῃ τοῦ κάλλους ἐγκείμενον·  

 In the same way when death, and corruption, and darkness, and every other offshoot of evil had grown into the nature of the author of evil, the approach of the Divine power, acting like fire [Mal. iii. 2, Mal. iii. 3] , and making that unnatural accretion to disappear, thus by purgation of the evil becomes a blessing to that nature, though the separation is agonizing. 

κατὰ τὸν αὐτὸν τρόπον, θανάτου καὶ φθορᾶς καὶ σκότους καὶ εἴ τι κακίας ἔκγονον τῷ εὑρετῇ τοῦ κακοῦ περιφυέντων, ὁ προσεγγισμὸς τῆς θείας δυνάμεως πυρὸς δίκην ἀφανισμὸν τοῦ παρὰ φύσιν κατεργασάμενος εὐεργετεῖ τῇ καθάρσει τὴν φύσιν, κἂν ἐπίπονος ἡ διάκρισις ᾖ. οὐκοῦν οὐδ'

Therefore even the adversary himself will not be likely to dispute that what took place was both just and salutary, that is, if he shall have attained to a perception of the benefit. 

 ἂν παρ' αὐτοῦ τοῦ ἀντικειμένου μὴ εἶναι δίκαιόν τε καὶ σωτήριον τὸ γεγονὸς ἀμφιβάλοιτο, εἴπερ εἰς αἴσθησιν τῆς εὐεργεσίας ἔλθοι.  

For it is now as with those who for their cure are subjected to the knife and the cautery; they are angry with the doctors, and wince with the pain of the incision; but if recovery of health be the result of this treatment, and the pain of the cautery passes away, they will feel grateful to those who have wrought this cure upon them. 

νυνὶ γὰρ καθάπερ οἱ ἐπὶ θεραπείᾳ τεμνόμενοί τε καὶ καιόμενοι χαλεπαίνουσι τοῖς θεραπεύουσι, τῇ ὀδύνῃ τῆς τομῆς δριμυσσόμενοι, εἰ δὲ τὸ ὑγιαίνειν διὰ τούτων προσγένοιτο καὶ ἡ τῆς καύσεως ἀλγηδὼν παρέλθοι, χάριν εἴσονται τοῖς τὴν θεραπείαν ἐπ' αὐτῶν ἐνεργήσασι·  

In like manner, when, after long periods of time, the evil of our nature, which now is mixed up with it and has grown with its growth, has been expelled, and when there has been a restoration [apokatastasis] of those who are now lying in Sin to their primal state, a harmony of thanksgiving will arise from all creation , as well from those who in the process of the purgation have suffered chastisement, as from those who needed not any purgation at all. 

κατὰ τὸν αὐτὸν τρόπον ταῖς μακραῖς περιόδοις ἐξαιρεθέντος τοῦ κακοῦ τῆς φύσεως, τοῦ νῦν αὐτῇ καταμιχθέντος καὶ συμφυέντος, ἐπειδὰν ἡ εἰς τὸ ἀρχαῖον ἀποκατάστασις τῶν νῦν ἐν κακίᾳ κειμένων γένηται, ὁμόφωνος ἡ εὐχαριστία παρὰ πάσης ἔσται τῆς κτίσεως, καὶ τῶν ἐν τῇ καθάρσει κεκολασμένων καὶ τῶν μηδὲ τὴν ἀρχὴν ἐπιδεηθέντων καθάρσεως.  

These and the like benefits the great mystery of the Divine incarnation bestows. For in those points in which He was mingled with humanity, passing as He did through all the accidents proper to human nature, such as birth, rearing, growing up, and advancing even to the taste of death, He accomplished all the results before mentioned, freeing both man from evil, and healing even the introducer of evil himself. For the chastisement, however painful, of moral disease is a healing of its weakness.

ταῦτα καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα παραδίδωσι τὸ μέγα μυστήριον τῆς θείας ἐνανθρωπήσεως. δι' ὧν γὰρ κατεμίχθη τῇ ἀνθρωπότητι, διὰ πάντων τῶν τῆς φύσεως ἰδιωμάτων γενόμενος, γενέσεώς τε καὶ ἀνατροφῆς καὶ αὐξήσεως, καὶ μέχρι τῆς τοῦ θανάτου πείρας διεξελθών, τὰ προειρημένα πάντα κατείργασται, τόν τε ἄνθρωπον τῆς κακίας ἐλευθερῶν καὶ αὐτὸν τὸν τῆς κακίας εὑρετὴν ἰώμενος. ἴασις γάρ ἐστιν ἀρρωστίας ἡ τοῦ νοσήματος κάθαρσις, κἂν ἐπίπονος ᾖ.


tr. by Richard McCambly

Ecclesiastes 296.18: The soul existed right from the beginning; it had been purified in the past and will appear in the future. God, who fashioned the human body, will show the resurrection at the proper time, for that which comes after the resurrection was indeed fashioned first. The resurrection is nothing other than the restoration (apokatastasis) of all things to their original state.


On Virginity 416.12 (S.C.#119, p.417): If such then is the meaning of this discovering of the looked for object, the restoration (apokatastasis; cf. Presence..., p.58) in its primitive stage of the divine image actually hidden by the flesh's squalor, we become that which the first man had in his first life. What was it then? He was naked, deprived of all covering of the tunics of skin and looked upon God's face with freedom.


Life of Moses 154.17 (Malherbe & Ferguson, p.73): Perhaps someone, taking his departure from the fact that after three days of distress in darkness the Egyptians did not share in the light, might be led to perceive the final restoration (apokatastasis) which is expected to take place later in the kingdom of heaven of those who have suffered condemnation in Gehenna.


Pulcheria 472.9: Therefore, evil which is rooted in us does not endure forever; by a providential foresight times dissolves the vessel in a better type of death in order to renew humanity from this implanted evil and that evil not be mingled at life's restoration (to apokataste bio) as was the case at the beginning [cf. Acts 3.21].





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