"Dazzling Darkness": The Mystical or Theophanic Theology of St Gregory of Nyssa, Philip Kariatlis

Abstract: The upsurge of interest in the writings of St Gregory of Nyssa, the youngest of the so-called Cappadocian fathers in the twentieth century, occasioned re-thinking of the saint's vision of the mystical life, traditionally portrayed simply as an ascent from initial luminosity to increasing impenetrable darkness. Already, his unexpected phrase, "dazzling darkness" foind in his treatise, The Life of Moses - arguably the most comprehensive presentation of his theophanic theology - dictates a far more nuanced approach to his mystical theology. This paper presents St Gregory's understanding of the spiritual journey and encounter with God brining to the fore the comprehensive and synthetic dimensions of the darkness texts including both their apophatic and cataphatic elements. It also highlights the Christo-soteriological framework of the tretise. The paper concludes by highlighting the importance of the Nyssen's quite unique understanding of the 'darkness' metaphor for theology today, one which allows for the real possibility of a vision and encounter with God without his in any way compromising his inexhaustibility.

Bio: Philip Kariatlis is Academic Secretary and Lecturer in Theology at St Andrew's Greek Orthodox Theological College. He received his Doctor of Theology degree from the Sydney College of Divinity having examined the notion of koinonia in Orthodox ecclesiology as both gift and goal. He has recently published a book entitled The Church as Communion: the Gift and Goal of Koinonia (2011). His research interest lies in Church doctrine, specifically its existential and salvific character. He translated the doctoral dissertation of Archbishop Stylianos (Harkianakis) The Infallibility of the Church in Orthodox Theology (2008) and has written in several peer reviewed journals within Australia and abroad.