Gregory of Nyssa on Paul and Boxing

Gregory of Nyssa, On the Beatitudes: An English Version with Commentary and Supporting Studies, Proceedings of the Eighth International Colloquium on Gregory of Nyssa, Paderborn, 14-18 September 1998 (Edited by Hubertus R. Drobner and Albert Viciano; Boston: Brill, 2000), 2.3; 35-6.
It seems to me that not everything that is done gently should be considered equally virtuous, if only softness and slowness are indicated by the word. The gentle is not better in races than the speedy, nor in boxing does the slow-moving win the garland against his opponent. If we run for the prize of our upward calling, Paul advises us to increase our speed, saying, ‘Run so as to win’ (1 Cor 9,24). He himself by constantly greater effort would grasp what lay ahead, purposely forgetting what lay behind (cf. Phil 3,14). As a boxer he was quick, for he could spot his opponent’s move, and, firm in his stance, with hands as weapons, he did not fling the armour in his hands about at something empty and insubstantial, but would catch the vulnerable parts of his adversary as he landed the blows on the body itself. Would you like to understand Paul’s skill as a boxer? – look at the wounds of his opponent, look at the bruises of his adversary, look at the marks of piercing on the loser. And surely you recognize the adversary, the one who does his fighting through the flesh, whom he defeats by boxing, tearing him with the claws of chastity; whose parts he puts to death through hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness (cf. 2 Cor 11,27), to whom he attaches the piercing-marks of the Lord (cf. Gal 6,17), and whom he defeats by running, leaving him behind, so that his view may not be obscured by his opponent running ahead.


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