An Advent Reading from St. Gregory of Nyssa

The Great Little King

St. Gregory of Nyssa
Just as a craftsman in ordinary life makes a thing in a shape suitable for its intended use, so the Master Craftsman has fashioned our nature to be a fitting instrument for the exercise of sovereignty over the universe, by providing it with spiritual gifts and a bodily shape for a king.

The soul’s exalted and royal nature is shown to be far removed from submissiveness by the fact that it is free and independent and acknowledges no master – it has been provided with its own unchallenged power of choice. What is more characteristic of a king than this?

Those who paint portraits of rulers in ordinary life copy the details of their form and underline their kingly importance by dressing them in purple so that the portrait is as that of a king by it composition. In the same way, human nature by virtue of its likeness to the King of All, who created it to rule others, is seen to be a living portrait of him – the portrait has a part in the title and importance of its Master.

It is not dressed up in purple nor does it show its importance by a scepter or a crown – the Original does not have these either – but it is clothed in virtue, which is in truth the most royal of all garments, instead of a purple robe. It relies on the blessedness of immortality instead of a scepter. In place of a kingly crown it is adorned with the garland of righteousness.

Thus the accoutrements of kingship show it to be in all respects an accurate copy of the form of the Original.