In Section 8 of St. Gregory the Theologian’s Oration38, he continues to discuss how mediocre the mind is for the task of understanding the nature of God. Despite the fact that we are capable of knowing that God is without limit, even the way we understand limitlessness is inadequate. Not only are we limited by our minds and our experiences, but language itself is incapable of describing the totality of our experience, let alone the nature of God.
This last admonition is extremely important. Allowing ourselves to admit that language, while an incredibly useful tool, is not capable of adequately describing the world in which we live and our experience of the world removes the temptation that modern man has so enthusiastically embraced: if language is so limited, how can we possibly be masters of our world? This allows us to begin a path towards humility, which is the only way we can begin to comprehend all that God does for us.
Part of this humility is the admission that the Gospel not only should be preached in as many languages as possible, but needs to be. Every language is used by God to reveal Himself to humanity. Every language has its own unique ways that it communicates the reality of God. If we insist upon one translation, one language or even two or three, we severely limit not only ourselves, but who we believe God can be.
Just a quick example: Malachai 4:2 gives Christ the title Sun of Righteousness. In English (not the traditional “Scriptural” languages of Greek and Hebrew) Sun is a homophone with Son, revealing that the title properly belongs to Christ, the Son of God — the Son of Righteousness.
Having, then, the humility that even language is incapable of describing the nature of God, we can begin to make a critical distinction about the way we talk about God. In Section 8 of Oration 38, St. Gregory uses the words “theology” and “economy” to describe this distinction.
In other words, while it is impossible for us to understand the nature of God, we can begin to discuss the activities of God. This, then, is the proper way to approach God — not through philosophy, mental exercises or a rational preconception, but, rather, the collective experience of the Church.
For example, in the Church’s experience, God is One and is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. There really is no rational way to explain this reality. It just is (another reason why God revealed His name to be O ΩΝ — “the one who is”). One can begin to see why insisting that God is a Divine Simplicity leads to heresy — it denies the Church’s experience of God.
Thus, if we humbly accept the reality that we cannot comprehend the nature of God but that we can experience the activities of God and that the record of this experience exists in His Church, we can begin to understand the magnitude of what happened in a cave in Bethlehem two millennia ago. We can begin to understand why it is we cry aloud: Christ is Born! Glorify Him!