This is true perfection.


“This is true perfection: not to avoid a wicked life because like slaves we servilely fear punishment, nor to do good because we hope for rewards, as if cashing in on the virtuous life by some business-like and contractual arrangement. On the contrary, disregarding all those things for which we hope and which have been reserved by promise, we regard falling from God’s friendship as the only thing dreadful and we consider becoming God’s friend the only thing worthy of honor and desire. This, as I have said, is the perfection of life.”

– Gregory of Nyssa, Life of Moses,
4th century

4 thoughts on “This is true perfection.

  1. I’ve always been puzzled by the line in in Matthew about being perfect. Gregory’s words provide a new take on it, especially since the context that the phrase is found in is about love in its theological / paradoxical meaning–loving freely, indiscriminately, without expecting a return. So, as Father Freeman argues regularly, it’s not moral perfection that God demands but the completeness of Love.

    Side note: I just looked up some language discussions related to this passage. The word in Greek that Matthew used generally refers to a goal, aiming at something important, movement towards completion. And the first verb, commonly translated as a polite command, “be” or “be ye,” is really a future tense form, “you will be.” But probably you’ve heard this before. Still, it helped me to get a broader view.

    On the other hand, Thinking more about Gregory’s phrases “falling from God’s friendship” and ” becoming God’s friend,” I start to get get confused again. Or puzzled. Another example of the limitations of language; it can be a barrier as well as a bridge. But I am inspired by the quotations that you post. Inspired to think, especially.

    Also, I love the photographs and writings about your grandchildren, Gretchen.. they truly are uplifting.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Albert, I was looking for another quote from St. Gregory when I ran across this post, and your comments about the limits of language. That topic is freshly on my mind from some of my reading recently about language and linguistics, and adding to the “conversation” I’m having with myself, or with various writers and thinkers.

    The idea of “completeness of love,” brings us always to the Holy Trinity, a trinity of love. I read once that the “attitude” of each of the Persons is “relinquishment,” but when I read about the Trinity to any extent, as, for example, here on the OCA site:, I think that that word is inadequate, as it hints at something we humans know as giving up our will, when the Father, Son and Holy Spirit always have the same will. But in the way that the Son is ever-begotten, perhaps the way that the three Persons are ever in agreement, ever the same, is ever-relinquishment…. I only stick with this question in hopes of getting a clue as to how we fallen humans can do any of this! But there again, it’s probably not through intellectual comprehension, but in prayer, that we will “get” any of it.

    Thank you for listening, and especially for that phrase “completeness of love,” as the perfection that we seek.


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