The Legacy of the Feminine in the Christology of Origen of Alexandria, Methodius of Olympus, and Gregory of Nyssa

in Vigiliae Christianae
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For Origen of Alexandria, Methodius of Olympus, and Gregory of Nyssa, who, through various networks of connections, fall into a kind of theological and philosophical family tree, virginity is a theological goldmine. These writers conceive of virginity as an all-embracing invitation to participation, a “performance” of Christology in which all Christians share. Origen’s notion of Scripture as the christological body that is literarily touchable introduces us to the encounter with Christ that is mediated through prayerful engagement with Scripture. Methodius of Olympus introduces us to the character Arete in his Symposium as an instantiation of the christological feminine. And, in Gregory of Nyssa’s handling of Macrina’s remains and her legacy, we find an avenue for participation in Christ alongside one who has already traveled a bit farther. These writers thought that renunciation was more than just a way of life open to all Christians; it was the way of life.

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    Ilaria L.E. Ramelli“Christian Soteriology and Christian Platonism: Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Biblical and Philosophical Basis of the Doctrine of Apokatastasis,” Vigiliae Christianae 61 (2007) 353.

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    Patricia Cox Miller“ ‘Pleasure of the Text, Text of Pleasure’: Eros and Language in Origen’s Commentary on the Song of Songs,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 54 (1986) 242. Miller notes Marguerite Harl’s term “les ‘habitudes’ sémantiques” for Logos as interpretive mediator between the reader and the text (Marguerite Harl “Origène et la sémantique du language biblique” Vigiliae Christianae 26 [1972] 173-74).

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    Miller“ ‘Pleasure of the Text Text of Pleasure’ ” 242.

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    Miller“ ‘Pleasure of the Text Text of Pleasure’ ” 242.

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    Miller“ ‘Pleasure of the Text Text of Pleasure’ ” 245.

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    MethodiusSymp. 3.4.1-21 (sc 95:96-8). For the propensity in early scholarship on Methodius to misunderstand this point see Musurillo Methodius 197-98 n. 11.

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    MethodiusSymp. 3.4.8-21 (sc 95:98). Musurillo renders κεχωπημένον as “comprehend” (Methodius 198). I do not translate πρεσβύτατον to sidestep the problem of inserting hierarchy into Methodius’s argument that would color the complex relationship he is forging between Christ and humanity in Adam. It is not clear as to whether Methodius means “chief” or “elder” here since he uses the prefix ἀρχή as well (e.g. ἀρχιπάρθενος).

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    MethodiusSymp. 3.8.1-5 (sc 95:106; acw 27:65).

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    MethodiusSymp. 3.9.1-14 (sc 95:110-13).

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    MethodiusSymp. 4.2.1-5 (sc 95:128-31).

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    Gregory of NyssaDe uita Moysis 1.8-15 in De Vita Moysis ed. H. Musurillo (gno vii.i:4) (Leiden. 1964); sc 1; pg 44:297-430; Abraham J. Malherbe and Everett Ferguson trans. The Life of Moses 1.7 Classics of Western Spirituality (New York. 1978) 31.

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    BoersmaEmbodiment and Virtue115.

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    BoersmaEmbodiment and Virtue124.

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    Morwenna Ludlow“Gregory of Nyssa and the Body: Do Recent Readings Ignore a Development in His Thought?” in Orientalia Clement Origen Athanasius the Cappadocians Chrysostom: Papers Presented at the Fourteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies Held in Oxford 2003ed. Frances Young Studia Patristica 41 (Leuven. 2006) 370.

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    Krueger“Writing” 492.

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