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Body and DesireGregory of Nyssa's Ascetical Theology$
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Raphael A. Cadenhead

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780520297968

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520297968.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 05 July 2022

A Worldly Life of Desire

A Worldly Life of Desire

Marriage, Children, Money, and Sex

(p.75) 4 A Worldly Life of Desire
Body and Desire

Raphael A. Cadenhead

University of California Press

Chapter 4 is the first chapter in part B of the book, “The Ascetical and Eschatological Mixture of Male and Female,” which considers the significance of two major life-events—the death of two of his siblings, first Basil and then Macrina—on Gregory’s theological and philosophical reflections. Part B also highlights the doctrinal controversies with which Gregory contended as Bishop of Nyssa. Chapter 4 examines Gregory’s ascetical theology during the middle period of his literary career. It begins with a recapitulation of the nexus of associations that arose out of the early phase to chart their train of development in the middle period. Particular focus is given to Gregory’s application (and adaptation) of Plato’s account of “mixed pleasures,” which he uses to characterize human life after the fall. This leads to an analysis of the sufferings of the ascetic life that Gregory portrays as a necessary counterweight to the pursuit of worldly pleasure. Whereas the De virginitate presents the life of virginity as an ascetic release from the worldly burdens associated with the conjugal life, Gregory in the middle period highlights the sufferings inherent in lifelong celibacy (such as loneliness). What then follows is a discussion of the male/female hierarchy in marriage, which Gregory appears to support on the basis of biblical authority and his contempt for worldly manifestations of “womanish” vice.

Keywords:   procreation, fecundity, mixed pleasures, marriage, celibacy, childrearing, sexual vice

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