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in The Life of Moses and Commentary on the Song of Songs In Gregory’s discourse on spiritual development in The Life of Moses and Commentary on the Song of Songs we find several images of women, whose symbolic meaning is in some cases positive, in others negative. The "female" symbolizes the lower, irrational, part of the human soul, and vice, while the "male", in contrast, represents rationality and virtue. Parallel with these images the "female" has a positive value when her capacity for protecting fragile life and supporting its growth comes to the fore. Her opposite here is the symbolically "male" destroyer, the Devil. The different evaluation of "female" (or "male") in the two cases depends on whether the discussed quality is part of God’s image or not. In many places our analysis disagrees with the one submitted in the studies by Verna E. F. Harrison.
The doctrine that God’s Incarnation made possible the restoration of God’s image in humans forms the basis of the ascetic teaching of the Greek Christian tradition. It is so also for Gregory of Nyssa in his Life of Moses where he discusses the life of virtue. This stream of thought provides the work with a substantial unity and it emerges in key places: theophany in the burning bush when Moses received the vocation to restore the image of God in him; manna, the miraculous bread from heaven; the theophany on Mount Sinai with the vision of the heavenly tabernacle. The breaking and renewing of the Tables of the Law corresponds with what happened with human nature: damaged by the First Fall, but with the Incarnation renewed into its pristine shining beauty. This idea culminates at the end of the work when Moses dies: the paradoxical circumstances of his death confirm that he fulfilled his vocation.
Gregory of Nyssa’s allegorical exegesis in the Life of Moses II,1–18 is extremely coherent and well‑structured. There is one main idea – the development of human rationality. This is expressed in three images demonstrating its gradual growth and final sovereignty: the baby boy threatened with death, a Hebrew fighting with an Egyptian, and a shepherd tending sheep. A supporting stream of images speaks about the changing role of profane culture in this process (the ark and Pharaoh’s daughter, the Hebrew and the Egyptian, and Moses at the water sources in Madiam). The passage ends with the image of the sovereign rule of reason as the basic prerequisite for any further spiritual development.
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