Saturday, 2 May 2015

Andra Juganaru: The Function of Miracles in the Bioi Written by Gregory of Nyssa

The aim of this paper is to analyze the function of miracles in three hagiographies written by Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of Moses, The Life of Macrina, and The Life of Gregory Thaumaturgus. What types of wonders does he present? The most prominent miracles are of two sorts. Physical healings are mostly events taking place during the saints' lifetime. Macrina cures both her disease and the one of a visitor to her monastery, Moses removes the plagues from Egypt, and Gregory Thaumaturgus performs miraculous healings. Another type of wonders appears in spiritual experiences. Gregory the Wonder-Worker has a vision of Virgin Mary and the Apostle John, Moses sees the true nature of God, and Gregory of Nyssa has a vision which announces the death of Macrina.
What is the function of these accounts? I would argue that, in parallel with the topoi of confirming one's sanctity and of giving him as an example worth to be followed, these wonders have other complex particularities. Gregory supported the work of his brother, Basil of Caesarea, who aimed to order the theological disarray challenging the late fourth-century Church in Cappadocia. Thus, his writings reflect the Christological and Mariological theories promoted by Basil. Moreover, the sanctity of Macrina legitimized the type of asceticism practiced in her monastery and assiduously preached by Basil, in the context of several other competitive ascetic movements. Last but not least, these writings were tools for the foundation and consolidation of the cult of Gregory's kindred saints.

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