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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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The Death of Siblings

The Death of Siblings

(p.88) 5 The Death of Siblings
Body and Desire

Raphael A. Cadenhead

University of California Press

Chapter 5 considers the impact of the death of two of Gregory’s siblings, Basil and Macrina, on his ascetical theology. It begins with an analysis of the much-disputed question of the restoration of human genitalia in Gregory’s account of the general resurrection. The author argues that there are two rival anthropologies at play (one based on Genesis 1:27a–b, the other on Genesis 2), which offer different perspectives on the eschatological finality of sexual differentiation. Looking at Gregory’s writings diachronically reveals why these two anthropologies came into contact with each other during the middle phase of his literary career and why they do not reach a point of resolution or synthesis in his theorization on the restoration of human genitalia. These discussions of embodied difference prepare the way for a consideration of their spiritual and moral associations. By drawing attention to the neglected figure of Naucratius, one of Gregory’s brothers, who “overcame” his “manhood” to make advancements in the moral life, the author argues that male virility, for Gregory, needs to be renounced in the moral life just as much as female passion. Both male and female characteristics, which are deeply embedded in the fallen state of humanity, need to be chastened and transformed through the bodily disciplines of the ascetic life.

Keywords:   Basil of Caesarea, Macrina, procreation, fecundity, resurrection, Naucratius, sexual morphology, sexual differentiation, male virility

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