The Theology of becoming and desire in Gregory of Nyssa

Like Martin Laird said in his study (The Fountain of His lips: Desire and Divine Union in Gregory of Nyssa’s Homilies on the Song of Songs), Gregory’s development of Paul’s insight into a fundamental characteristic of the spiritual life is usually seen as a counterweight to Origen’s view that the fall of the soul was due to satiation or boredom in contemplating God. In turn, Gregory developed his view that the experience of God can never satiate the soul, but causes the growth of the desire for God. While indeed Origen’s ideas may have underlain Gregory’s understanding of epektasis, the latter develops them much further. Grounded in an ontology of desire, the concept of epectasy pervades the Homilies on the Song of Songs. The finite desire is grounded in infinite being and goodness. The more the soul participates in it, the more he recognizes that he transcends her as much as before. Union with God does not satiate his desire but liberates, sustains, and enlarges it. This “constant growth in perfection” has nothing to do with desire, being frustrated or inadequate (given adequate training) to finding and communing with God; it is simply the implication of the union of finite being with an infinite God. And Paul has provided the Scriptural key to it all: after hearing the unutterable mysteries of paradise, Paul still continued to move higher and did not cease to ascend.