mercredi 2 janvier 2013

Saint GRÉGOIRE de NAZIANZE, évêque, confesseur et Docteur de l'Église



BENOÎT XVI



AUDIENCE GÉNÉRALE



Salle Paul VI



Mercredi 8 août 2007



Saint Grégoire de Nazianze


Chers frères et sœurs!

Mercredi dernier, j'ai parlé d'un grand maître de la foi, le Père de l'Eglise saint Basile. Aujourd'hui, je voudrais parler de son ami Grégoire de Nazianze, lui aussi, comme Basile, originaire de Cappadoce. Illustre théologien, orateur et défenseur de la foi chrétienne au IV siècle, il fut célèbre pour son éloquence et avait également, en tant que poète, une âme raffinée et sensible.

Grégoire naquit au sein d'une noble famille. Sa mère le consacra à Dieu dès sa naissance qui eut lieu autour de l'an 330. Après une première éducation familiale, il fréquenta les écoles les plus célèbres de son temps: il fut d'abord à Césarée de Cappadoce, où il se lia d'amitié avec Basile, futur Evêque de cette ville, puis il séjourna dans d'autres métropoles du monde antique, comme Alexandrie d'Egypte et surtout Athènes, où il rencontra de nouveau Basile (cf. Oratio 43, 14-24: SC 384, 146-180). En réévoquant son amitié avec lui, Grégoire écrira plus tard: "Alors, non seulement je me sentais empli de vénération pour mon grand Basile, pour ses mœurs sérieuses et la maturité et la sagesse de ses écrits, mais j'en encourageais également d'autres, qui ne le connaissaient pas encore, à en faire autant... Nous étions guidés par le même désir de savoir... Telle était notre compétition: non pas qui était le premier, mais qui permettait à l'autre de l'être. On aurait dit que nous avions une unique âme et un seul corps" (Oratio 43, 16.20: SC 384, 154-156.164). Ce sont des paroles qui sont un peu l'autoportrait de cette noble âme. Mais l'on peut également imaginer que cet homme, qui était fortement projeté au-delà des valeurs terrestres, a beaucoup souffert pour les choses de ce monde.

De retour chez lui, Grégoire reçut le Baptême et s'orienta vers la vie monastique: la solitude, la méditation philosophique et spirituelle le fascinaient: "Rien ne me semble plus grand que cela: faire taire ses sens, sortir de la chair du monde, se recueillir en soi, ne plus s'occuper des choses humaines, sinon celles strictement nécessaires; parler avec soi-même et avec Dieu, conduire une vie qui transcende les choses visibles; porter dans l'âme des images divines toujours pures, sans y mêler les formes terrestres et erronées, être véritablement le reflet immaculé de Dieu et des choses divines, et le devenir toujours plus, en puisant la lumière à la lumière...; jouir, dans l'espérance présente, du bien à venir et converser avec les anges; avoir déjà quitté la terre, tout en restant sur terre, transporté vers le haut par l'esprit" (Oratio, 2, 7: SC 247, 96).

Comme il le confie dans son autobiographie (cf. Carmina [historica] 2, 1, 11 de vita sua 340-349: PG 37, 1053), il reçut l'ordination sacerdotale avec une certaine réticence, car il savait qu'il aurait dû faire ensuite le Pasteur, s'occuper des autres, de leurs affaires, et donc ne plus se recueillir ainsi dans la pure méditation: toutefois, il accepta ensuite cette vocation, et accomplit le ministère pastoral en pleine obéissance acceptant, comme cela lui arrivait souvent dans la vie, d'être porté par la Providence là où il ne voulait pas aller. (cf. Jn 21, 18). En 371, son ami Basile, Evêque de Césarée, contre la volonté de Grégoire lui-même, voulut le consacrer Evêque de Sasimes, une petite ville ayant une importance stratégique en Cappadoce. Toutefois, en raison de diverses difficultés, il n'en prit jamais possession et demeura en revanche dans la ville de Nazianze.

Vers 379, Grégoire fut appelé à Constantinople, la capitale, pour guider la petite communauté catholique fidèle au Concile de Nicée et à la foi trinitaire. La majorité adhérait au contraire à l'arianisme, qui était "politiquement correct" et considéré comme politiquement utile par les empereurs. Ainsi, il se trouva dans une situation de minorité, entouré d'hostilité. Dans la petite église de l'Anastasis, il prononça cinq Discours théologiques (Orationes 27-31: SC 250, 70-343) précisément pour défendre et rendre également intelligible la foi trinitaire. Il s'agit de discours demeurés célèbres en raison de la sûreté de la doctrine, de l'habilité du raisonnement, qui fait réellement comprendre qu'il s'agit bien de la logique divine. Et la splendeur de la forme également les rend aujourd'hui fascinants. Grégoire reçut, en raison de ces discours, l'appellation de "théologien". Ainsi, il fut appelé par l'Eglise orthodoxe le "théologien". Et cela parce que pour lui, la théologie n'est pas une réflexion purement humaine, et encore moins le fruit uniquement de spéculations complexes, mais parce qu'elle découle d'une vie de prière et de sainteté, d'un dialogue assidu avec Dieu. Et précisément ainsi, elle fait apparaître à notre raison la réalité de Dieu, le mystère trinitaire. Dans le silence de la contemplation, mêlé de stupeur face aux merveilles du mystère révélé, l'âme accueille la beauté et la gloire divine.

Alors qu'il participait au second Concile œcuménique de 381, Grégoire fut élu Evêque de Constantinople et assura la présidence du Concile. Mais très vite, une forte opposition se déchaîna contre lui, jusqu'à devenir insoutenable. Pour une âme aussi sensible, ces inimitiés étaient insupportables. Il se répétait ce que Grégoire avait déjà dénoncé auparavant à travers des paroles implorantes: "Nous avons divisé le Christ, nous qui aimions tant Dieu et le Christ! Nous nous sommes mentis les uns aux autres à cause de la Vérité, nous avons nourri des sentiments de haine à cause de l'Amour, nous nous sommes divisés les uns les autres!" (Oratio 6, 3: SC 405, 128). On en arriva ainsi, dans un climat de tension, à sa démission. Dans la cathédrale bondée, Grégoire prononça un discours d'adieu d'un grand effet et d'une grande dignité (cf. Oratio 42: SC 384, 48-114). Il concluait son intervention implorante par ces paroles: "Adieu, grande ville aimée du Christ... Mes fils, je vous en supplie, conservez le dépôt [de la foi] qui vous a été confié (cf. 1 Tm 6, 20), souvenez-vous de mes souffrances (cf. Col 4, 18). Que la grâce de notre Seigneur Jésus Christ soit avec vous tous" (cf. Oratio 42, 27: SC 384, 112-114).

Il retourna à Nazianze et, pendant deux ans environ, il se consacra au soin pastoral de cette communauté chrétienne. Puis, il se retira définitivement dans la solitude, dans la proche Arianze, sa terre natale, où il consacra à l'étude et à la vie ascétique. Au cours de cette période, il composa la plus grande partie de son œuvre poétique, surtout autobiographique: le De vita sua, une relecture en vers de son chemin humain et spirituel, le chemin exemplaire d'un chrétien qui souffre, d'un homme d'une grande intériorité dans un monde chargé de conflits. C'est un homme qui nous fait ressentir le primat de Dieu, et qui nous parle donc également à nous, à notre monde: sans Dieu, l'homme perd sa grandeur, sans Dieu, le véritable humanisme n'existe pas. Ecoutons donc cette voix et cherchons à connaître nous aussi le visage de Dieu. Dans l'une de ses poésies, il avait écrit, en s'adressant à Dieu: "Sois clément, Toi, l'Au-Delà de tous" (Carmina [dogmatica] 1, 1, 29: PG 37, 508). Et, en 390, Dieu accueillait dans ses bras ce fidèle serviteur qui, avec une intelligence aiguë, l'avait défendu dans ses écrits et qui, avec tant d'amour, l'avait chanté dans ses poésies.

* * *

J’accueille avec plaisir les pèlerins francophones, particulièrement les membres du pèlerinage organisé par les Chanoines réguliers de Saint-Augustin, le groupe de Mende ainsi que les pèlerins venus d’Égypte. Que le Seigneur vous aide à grandir dans une connaissance authentique de sa personne pour que vous puissiez en vivre et en témoigner parmi vos frères! Avec ma Bénédiction apostolique.

© Copyright 2007 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana




BENOÎT XVI



AUDIENCE GÉNÉRALE



Salle Paul VI



Mercredi 22 août 2007



Saint Grégoire de Nazianze


Chers frères et sœurs,

Dans le cadre des portraits des grands Pères et Docteurs de l'Eglise que je cherche à offrir dans ces catéchèses, j'ai parlé la dernière fois de saint Grégoire de Nazianze, Evêque du IV siècle, et je voudrais aujourd'hui encore compléter ce portrait d'un grand maître. Nous chercherons aujourd'hui à recueillir certains de ses enseignements. En réfléchissant sur la mission que Dieu lui avait confiée, saint Grégoire de Nazianze concluait: "J'ai été créé pour m'élever jusqu'à Dieu à travers mes actions" (Oratio 14, 6 de pauperum amore: PG 35, 865). De fait, il plaça son talent d'écrivain et d'orateur au service de Dieu et de l'Eglise. Il rédigea de multiples discours, diverses homélies et panégyriques, de nombreuses lettres et œuvres poétiques (près de 18.000 vers!): une activité vraiment prodigieuse. Il avait compris que telle était la mission que Dieu lui avait confiée: "Serviteur de la Parole, j'adhère au ministère de la Parole; que jamais je ne néglige ce bien. Cette vocation je l'apprécie et je la considère, j'en tire plus de joie que de toutes les autres choses mises ensemble" (Oratio 6, 5: SC 405, 134; cf. également Oratio 4, 10).

Grégoire de Nazianze était un homme doux, et au cours de sa vie il chercha toujours à accomplir une oeuvre de paix dans l'Eglise de son temps, lacérée par les discordes et les hérésies. Avec audace évangélique, il s'efforça de surmonter sa timidité pour proclamer la vérité de la foi. Il ressentait profondément le désir de s'approcher de Dieu, de s'unir à Lui. C'est ce qu'il exprime lui-même dans l'une de ses poésies, où il écrit: parmi les "grands flots de la mer de la vie, / agitée ici et là par des vents impétueux, / ... / une seule chose m'était chère, constituait ma richesse, / mon réconfort et l'oubli des peines, / la lumière de la Sainte Trinité" (Carmina [historica] 2, 1, 15: PG 37, 1250sq.).

Grégoire fit resplendir la lumière de la Trinité, en défendant la foi proclamée par le Concile de Nicée: un seul Dieu en trois personnes égales et distinctes - le Père, le Fils et l'Esprit Saint -, "triple lumière qui en une unique / splendeur se rassemble" (Hymne vespéral: Carmina [historica] 2, 1, 32: PG 37, 512). Dans le sillage de saint Paul (1 Co 8, 6), Grégoire affirme ensuite, "pour nous il y a un Dieu, le Père, dont tout procède; un Seigneur, Jésus Christ, à travers qui tout est; et un Esprit Saint en qui tout est" (Oratio 39, 12: SC 358, 172).

Grégoire a profondément souligné la pleine humanité du Christ: pour racheter l'homme dans sa totalité, corps, âme et esprit, le Christ assuma toutes les composantes de la nature humaine, autrement l'homme n'aurait pas été sauvé. Contre l'hérésie d'Apollinaire, qui soutenait que Jésus Christ n'avait pas assumé une âme rationnelle, Grégoire affronte le problème à la lumière du mystère du salut: "Ce qui n'a pas été assumé, n'a pas été guéri" (Ep 101, 32: SC 208, 50), et si le Christ n'avait pas été "doté d'une intelligence rationnelle, comment aurait-il pu être homme?" (Ep 101, 34: SC 208, 50). C'était précisément notre intelligence, notre raison qui avait et qui a besoin de la relation, de la rencontre avec Dieu dans le Christ. En devenant homme, le Christ nous a donné la possibilité de devenir, à notre tour, comme Lui. Grégoire de Nazianze exhorte: "Cherchons à être comme le Christ, car le Christ est lui aussi devenu comme nous: cherchons à devenir des dieux grâce à Lui, du moment que Lui-même, par notre intermédiaire, est devenu homme. Il assuma le pire, pour nous faire don du meilleur" (Oratio 1, 5: SC 247, 78).

Marie, qui a donné la nature humaine au Christ, est la véritable Mère de Dieu (Theotókos: cf Ep. 101, 16: SC 208, 42, et en vue de sa très haute mission elle a été "pré-purifiée" (Oratio 38, 13: SC 358, 132, comme une sorte de lointain prélude du dogme de l'Immaculée Conception). Marie est proposée comme modèle aux chrétiens, en particulier aux vierges, et comme secours à invoquer dans les nécessités (cf. Oratio 24, 11: SC 282, 60-64).

Grégoire nous rappelle que, comme personnes humaines, nous devons être solidaires les uns des autres. Il écrit: ""Nous sommes tous un dans le Seigneur" (cf. Rm 12, 5), riches et pauvres, esclaves et personnes libres, personnes saines et malades; et la tête dont tout dérive est unique: Jésus Christ. Et, comme le font les membres d'un seul corps, que chacun s'occupe de chacun, et tous de tous". Ensuite, en faisant référence aux malades et aux personnes en difficulté, il conclut: "C'est notre unique salut pour notre chair et notre âme: la charité envers eux" (Oratio 14, 8 de pauperum amore: PG 35, 868ab). Grégoire souligne que l'homme doit imiter la bonté et l'amour de Dieu, et il recommande donc: "Si tu es sain et riche, soulage les besoins de celui qui est malade et pauvre; si tu n'es pas tombé, secours celui qui a chuté et qui vit dans la souffrance; si tu es heureux, console celui qui est triste; si tu as de la chance, aide celui qui est poursuivi par le mauvais sort. Donne à Dieu une preuve de reconnaissance, car tu es l'un de ceux qui peuvent faire du bien, et non de ceux qui ont besoin d'en recevoir... Sois riche non seulement de biens, mais également de piété; pas seulement d'or, mais de vertus, ou mieux, uniquement de celle-ci. Dépasse la réputation de ton prochain en te montrant meilleur que tous; fais toi Dieu pour le malheureux, en imitant la miséricorde de Dieu" (Oratio 14, 26 de pauperum amore: PG 35, 892bc).

Grégoire nous enseigne tout d'abord l'importance et la nécessité de la prière. Il affirme qu'il "est nécessaire de se rappeler de Dieu plus souvent que l'on respire" (Oratio 27, 4: PG 250, 78), car la prière est la rencontre de la soif de Dieu avec notre soif. Dieu a soif que nous ayons soif de Lui (cf. Oratio 40, 27: SC 358, 260). Dans la prière nous devons tourner notre coeur vers Dieu, pour nous remettre à Lui comme offrande à purifier et à transformer. Dans la prière nous voyons tout à la lumière du Christ, nous ôtons nos masques et nous nous plongeons dans la vérité et dans l'écoute de Dieu, en nourrissant le feu de l'amour.

Dans une poésie, qui est en même temps une méditation sur le but de la vie et une invocation implicite à Dieu, Grégoire écrit: "Tu as une tâche, mon âme, / une grande tâche si tu le veux. / Scrute-toi sérieusement, / ton être, ton destin; / d'où tu viens et où tu devras aller; / cherche à savoir si la vie que tu vis est vie / ou s'il y a quelque chose de plus. / Tu as une tâche, mon âme, / purifie donc ta vie: / considère, je te prie, Dieu et ses mystères, / recherche ce qu'il y avait avant cet univers / et ce qu'il est pour toi, / d'où il vient, et quel sera son destin. / Voilà ta tâche, /mon âme, / purifie donc ta vie" (Carmina [historica] 2, 1, 78: PG 37, 1425-1426). Le saint Evêque demande sans cesse de l'aide au Christ, pour être relevé et reprendre le chemin: "J'ai été déçu, ô mon Christ, / en raison de ma trop grande présomption: / des hauteurs je suis tombé profondément bas. / Mais relève-moi à nouveau à présent, car je vois / que j'ai été trompé par ma propre personne; / si je crois à nouveau trop en moi, / je tomberai immédiatement, et la chute sera fatale" (Carmina [historica] 2, 1, 67: PG 37, 1408).

Grégoire a donc ressenti le besoin de s'approcher de Dieu pour surmonter la lassitude de son propre moi. Il a fait l'expérience de l'élan de l'âme, de la vivacité d'un esprit sensible et de l'instabilité du bonheur éphémère. Pour lui, dans le drame d'une vie sur laquelle pesait la conscience de sa propre faiblesse et de sa propre misère, l'expérience de l'amour de Dieu l'a toujours emporté. Ame, tu as une tâche - nous dit saint Grégoire à nous aussi - , la tâche de trouver la véritable lumière, de trouver la véritable élévation de ta vie. Et ta vie est de rencontrer Dieu, qui a soif de notre soif.

***

Je salue cordialement les pèlerins francophones présents ce matin, en particulier les pèlerins du diocèse d’Obala, au Cameroun, les appelant, à l’exemple de saint Grégoire de Nazianze, à trouver dans l’écoute de la Parole de Dieu et dans la charité envers les pauvres la volonté de servir toujours davantage le Christ et l’Église.

© Copyright 2007 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana



Saints Basile et saint Grégoire

Évêques et docteurs de l'Eglise

Depuis la réforme du calendrier par Paul VI, en célébrant ensemble saint Basile le Grand, évêque de Césarée et saint Grégoire de Nazianze, évêque de Sazimes puis patriarche de Constantinople, l’Eglise veut souligner la vertu de leur amitié exemplaire.

Saint Basile de Césarée et saint Grégoire de Nazianze naquirent en Cappadoce, vers 330, l’un à Césarée de Cappadoce et l’autre à Arianze ; tous les deux appartenaient à des familles éminemment chrétiennes puisque le premier, fils et petit-fils de saintes, était le frère de saint Grégoire de Nysse, de saint Pierre de Sébaste et de sainte Macrine la Jeune, tandis que le second était le fils de Grégoire l’Ancien, évêque de Nazianze. Les deux amis qui avaient reçu une solide éducation, se rencontrèrent à l’école de Césarée mais ne lièrent indéfectiblement qu’à l’école d’Athènes quand Basile revint de l’école de Constantinople et Grégoire de celle d’Alexandrie. Ensemble, ils furent moines, près de Néo-Césarée, dans le Pont, où ils composèrent ensemble la Philocalie et écrivirent deux règles monastiques.

Basile fut élu évêque de Césarée (370), en même temps qu’il était fait métropolite de Cappadoce et exarque du Pont ; quand il créa de nouveaux sièges épiscopaux, il fit confier à Grégoire qu’il consacra, celui de Sazimes (371). En 379, Grégoire fut désigné pour réorganiser l’Eglise de Constantinople dont il fut nommé patriarche par l’empereur Théodose I° et confirmé par le concile de 381 ; la légitimité de sa nomination étant contestée, il démissionna et, après avoir un temps administré le diocèse de Nazianze, il se retira dans sa propriété d’Arianze où il mourut en 390.

Quant à saint Basile, son activité comme prêtre, apôtre de la charité et prince de l’Eglise, lui a procuré de son vivant le surnom de Grand. Une importance particulière s’attache à sa lutte victorieuse contre l’arianisme si puissant sous le règne de l’empereur Valens. l’Empereur ne put porter atteinte qu’à la position extérieure de saint Basile en partageant la Cappadoce en deux provinces (371), ce qui amenait aussi le partage de la province métropolitaine (une cinquantaine d’évêchés suffragants). Pour assurer de façon durable l’orthodoxie mise en péril en Orient, saint Basile chercha, par l’entremise de saint Athanase et par une prise directe de contact avec le pape Damase, à nouer de meilleures relations et à obtenir une politique unanime des évêques d’Orient et d’Occident. L’obstacle principal à l’union souhaité entre les épiscopats d’Orient et d’Occident était le schisme mélécien d’Antioche ; les tentatives de saint Basile pour obtenir la reconnaissance de Mélèce en Occident demeurèrent sans résultat puisque le Pape ne voulait pas abandonner Paulin. Basile fut moins comme un spéculatif qu’un évêque d’abord attaché à l’exploitation pratique et pastorale des vérités de la foi.



SAINT GRÉGOIRE de NAZIANZE

Évêque, Docteur de l'Église

(312-389)

La mère de saint Grégoire dut la naissance de ce fils à ses prières et à ses larmes. Elle se chargea elle-même de sa première éducation et lui apprit à lire, à comprendre et à aimer les Saintes Écritures. L'enfant devint digne de sa sainte mère, et demeura pur au milieu des séductions.

"Un jour, raconte-t-il lui-même, j'aperçus près de moi deux vierges d'une majesté surhumaine. On aurait dit deux soeurs. La simplicité et la modestie de leurs vêtements, plus blancs que la neige, faisaient toute leur parure. A leur vue, je tressaillis d'un transport céleste. "Nous sommes la Tempérance et la Chasteté, me dirent-elles; nous siégeons auprès du Christ-Roi. Donne-toi tout à nous, cher fils, accepte notre joug, nous t'introduirons un jour dans les splendeurs de l'immortelle Trinité." La voie de Grégoire était tracée: il la suivit sans faiblir toute sa vie.

Il s'embarqua pour Athènes, afin de compléter ses études. Dieu mit sur le chemin de Grégoire, dans la ville des arts antiques, une âme grande comme la sienne, saint Basile. Qui dira la beauté et la force de cette amitié, dont le but unique était la vertu! "Nous ne connaissions que deux chemins, raconte Grégoire, celui de l'église et celui des écoles." La vertu s'accorde bien avec la science; partout où l'on voulait parler de deux jeunes gens accomplis, on nommait Basile et Grégoire.

Revenus dans leur patrie, ils se conservèrent toujours cette affection pure et dévouée qui avait sauvegardé leur jeunesse, et qui désormais fortifiera leur âge mûr et consolera leur vieillesse. Rien de plus suave, de plus édifiant que la correspondance de ces deux grands hommes, frères d'abord dans l'étude, puis dans la solitude de la vie monastique et enfin dans les luttes de l'épiscopat.

A la mort de son père, qui était devenu évêque de Nazianze, Grégoire lui succède; mais, au bout de deux ans, son amour de la solitude l'emporte, et il va se réfugier dans un monastère. Bientôt on le réclame pour le siège patriarcal de Constantinople. Il résiste: "Jusqu'à quand, lui dit-on, préférerez-vous votre repos au bien de l'Église?" Grégoire est ému; il craint de résister à la Volonté divine et se dirige vers la capitale de l'empire, dont il devient le patriarche légitime. Là, sa mansuétude triomphe des plus endurcis, il fait l'admiration de ses ennemis, et il mérite, avec le nom de Père de son peuple, le nom glorieux de Théologien, que l'Église a consacré. Avant de mourir, Grégoire se retira à Nazianze, où sa vie s'acheva dans la pratique de l'oraison, du jeûne et du travail.

Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, Tours, Mame, 1950.

SOURCE : http://magnificat.ca/cal/fr/saints/saint_gregoire_de_nazianze.html


Saint Grégoire de Nazianze

Patriarche de Constantinople, docteur de l'Eglise (✝ 390)

Basile de Césarée et Grégoire de Nazianze sont tous deux nés en Cappadoce. Basile dans une famille de dix enfants qui deviendront presque tous des saints. Saint Grégoire est né dans le foyer d'un juif converti qui deviendra évêque. Ils se rencontrent à Athènes, lors de leurs études, et désormais ils se lient d'une grande amitié. La même foi et le même désir de perfection animent les deux étudiants. De retour en Cappadoce, ils font des projets monastiques, mais l'Eglise a besoin d'évêques dynamiques en cette période troublée par les hérésies. Basile devient évêque de Césarée.

Grégoire, évêque de Nazianze, le siège épiscopal de son père, puis de Constantinople. La forte personnalité de Basile en fait un évêque de premier plan qui défend la foi trinitaire. Il rédige également des règles monastiques, qui sont encore en vigueur dans les monastères "basiliens". Saint Grégoire est plus fragile. Chassé de Constantinople, il finira solitaire, composant d'admirables poèmes que la liturgie utilise encore.

Mémoire des saints Basile le Grand et Grégoire de Naziance, évêques et docteurs de l’Église. Basile, évêque de Césarée en Cappadoce, appelé Grand pour sa doctrine et sa sagesse, enseigna aux moines la méditation des Écritures, le labeur de l’obéissance et la charité fraternelle. Il organisa leur vie par des règles qu’il avait lui-même rédigées. Par ses écrits excellents, il instruisit les fidèles et se distingua par son souci pastoral des pauvres et des malades. Il mourut le premier janvier 379. Grégoire, son ami, évêque successivement de Sasimes, de Constantinople et de Naziance, défendit avec beaucoup d’ardeur la divinité du Verbe, ce qui lui valut d’être appelé le Théologien. Il mourut le 25 janvier 370. L’Église se réjouit de célébrer la mémoire conjointe de si grands docteurs.

Martyrologe romain

SOURCE : http://nominis.cef.fr/contenus/saint/356/Saint-Gregoire-de-Nazianze.html

Saint Grégoire de Nazianze

Naissance:

Deux hypothèses ont été proposées au sujet de la chronologie de sa carrière. L'historiographie ancienne et la tradition byzantine rapportée par la Souda (Suidae Lexicon, éd. A. ADLER, Leipzig, 1928, p. 541-543), font état de son grand âge; il serait mort nonagénaire en 390. Les historiens modernes et l'hagiographie récente adoptent une chronologie plus brève et placent sa naissance vers 325/329. Cette chronologie courte s'appuie sur le postulat selon lequel Grégoire aurait eu approximativement le même âge que S. Basile et sur l'interprétation de plusieurs textes poétiques et ambigus. Cette hypothèse explique mal les nombreuses allusions que Grégoire fait à son grand âge, dès l'époque de son ordination sacerdotale (Or. 2, 12). D'autre part, il dit formellement que sa mère, Nonna, était quinquagénaire en 325. La biographie longue est notamment défendue par le bollandiste Daniel Papebroch (Acta Sanctorum, Maii t. 2, p. 370D - 371F).

Études:

Grégoire est intentionnellement discret sur la période de ses études (De vita sua, v. 108 et 211-212), et l'on ignore combien d'années il y a consacrées. Il étudia à Césarée de Cappadoce, à Césarée de Palestine et à Alexandrie. En Palestine, il fut, selon Saint Jérôme (De viris illustribus, 113), élève de Thespesius et condisciple d'Euzoius, futur évêque arien de Césarée. A-t-il été l'auditeur de S. Cyrille de Jérusalem, dans cette dernière ville, en 348 ou 349? Cela expliquerait l'importance des réminiscences de la VIe et de la IXe Catéchèses de Cyrille dans l'Or. 28 (BERNARDI, Prédication, p. 185; SINKO, De traditione, I, 12-18). Fut-il élève de Libanius à Antioche, comme l'affirme Socrate (Hist. eccl., IV, 26)? C'est possible. D'Alexandrie, il gagna Athènes avec une hâte qu'il fait remarquer sans l'expliquer en racontant les détails de cette traversée mouvementée. Il ne fut pas étudiant pendant toute la durée de son séjour dans les écoles d'Athènes. Il y enseigna. Lorsque Basile de Césarée vint à Athènes comme étudiant, Grégoire l'accueillit et l'introduisit dans les milieux athéniens. Il partageait les goûts de Basile pour la vie religieuse et il décida de suivre lui aussi une vocation de type monastique mal précisé; on ignore à quel moment, entre 354/355 et 363, il renonça à la carrière profane et rentra au pays.

Carrière religieuse en Cappadoce:

Les Invectives contre Julien (Or. 4 et 5), composées sans doute vers 364, selon M. Regali, sont des polémiques contre l'hellénisme à l'antique, que des lettrés païens encouragés par l'empereur Julien (361-363) remettaient à la mode. Ordonné prêtre sous le règne de Julien ou de Valens (365-378), il composa à cette occasion un traité sur le sacerdoce (Or. 2). Sa carrière sacerdotale puis épiscopale en Cappadoce jusqu'en 374 est celle d'un ecclésiastique jouant le rôle de notable en même temps qu'il partage les charges pastorales de son vieux père, dans la bourgade montagnarde de Nazianze à l'écart des grands centres. Il évoque dans ses écrits des réactions monastiques défavorables aux positions doctrinales de son père, des divergences théologiques sollicitant le clergé divisé entre nicéens et neo-nicéens d'une part, et entre diverses tendances dérivées de l'arianisme d'autre part; il intervient avec son père dans l'élection de S. Basile comme évêque de Césarée, mais quand Basile l'a fait sacrer évêque de Sasimes, il lui reproche d'avoir abusé de lui et de manquer d'égards à son âge. En effet, il néglige obstinément de s'installer à Sasimes, bourg qu'il dit peu plaisant. Les raisons administratives et ecclésiastiques qui l'avaient amené là ne dissimulent guère des questions doctrinales et personnelles sous-jacentes. Grégoire resta à Nazianze comme auxiliaire de son père jusqu'à la mort de ce dernier, survenue en 374; comme on tardait à donner un successeur à son père, Grégoire, faisant valoir son âge, se retira à Séleucie de Pisidie.

Séjour à Constantinople:

En 379, la communauté nicéenne de Constantinople fit appel à lui; les ariens de tendances diverses étaient majoritaires dans la capitale. Il organisa les services religieux dans une maison particulière, l'Anastasia, qui devint plus tard l'église Ste-Anastasie. Lorsque Théodose Ier, favorable aux nicéens orthodoxes, insalla ceux-ci dans les églises officielles, Grégoire hésita à se laisser introniser à la Grande Église par le pouvoir civil, mais il fut comme plébiscité par le peuple et le clergé quelques jours après le 24 nov. 380. En 381, le 1er concile de Constantinople valida les fonctions d'évêque de Constantinople qu'il exerçait. Mais des dissensions éclatèrent entre les évêques d'Orient et d'Occident, on remit en question la légitimité des fonctions de Grégoire. En fait la question du rôle ecclésiastique du siège de la Nouvelle Rome dans la chrétienté et celle de la légitimité politique de l'orthodoxie étaient posées; Grégoire renonça à la présidence du concile en même temps qu'au trône épiscopal et regagna Nazianze.

Les dernières années en Cappadoce:

De retour à Nazianze, il y administra l'église locale en attendant qu'on lui donne un titulaire dans la personne d'un de ses parents, Eulalios. Retiré dans son domaine d'Arianze, avec l'intention de limiter son ministère aux activités littéraires, Grégoire y mourut et y fut inhumé, en 390.

SOURCE : http://nazianzos.fltr.ucl.ac.be/002BiosEF.htm


Homélies de saint Grégoire de Nazianze (BnF MS grec 510), folio 355
. Ier concile oecuménique de Constantinople (381), 879-882, Biblothèque nationale de France

St Grégoire de Nazianze, évêque, confesseur et docteur

Mort le 25 janvier 379/380. Les Byzantins font mémoire de lui ce jour là. Les martyrologes occidentaux le mentionnent au 9 mai. Sa fête se répandit au XVIe siècle.

St Pie V en fit une fête double.

Leçons des Matines avant 1960

Quatrième leçon. Grégoire, noble Cappadocien, qui fut surnommé le Théologien à cause de sa science profonde des lettres divines, naquit à Nazianze, dans la Cappadoce. Instruit à Athènes dans toutes sortes de sciences, en même temps que saint Basile le Grand, il s’appliqua ensuite à l’étude de l’Écriture sainte. Les deux amis s’y exercèrent durant quelques années dans un monastère, ayant pour méthode d’interpréter les livres sacrés, non selon les lumières de leur esprit propre, mais selon le raisonnement et l’autorité des anciens. Tandis qu’ils florissaient par leur science et la sainteté de leur vie, ils furent appelés à la charge de prêcher la vérité évangélique, et enfantèrent à Jésus-Christ un grand nombre d’âmes.

Cinquième leçon. Grégoire, étant retourné chez lui, fut d’abord créé Évêque de Sasime ; il administra ensuite l’Église de Nazianze. Appelé plus tard à Constantinople pour en gouverner l’Église, il purgea cette ville des hérésies dont elle était infectée, et la ramena à la foi catholique ; mais son zèle, qui aurait dû lui concilier la profonde affection de tous, lui attira l’envie d’un grand nombre. Un grave dissentiment s’étant élevé à son sujet entre les Évêques, il renonça spontanément à l’épiscopat, s’appliquant ces paroles d’un Prophète : « Si c’est à cause de moi que cette tempête s’est élevée, jetez-moi dans la mer, afin que vous cessiez d’être agités par l’orage ». Grégoire revint donc à Nazianze, et ayant fait donner le gouvernement de cette Église à Eulalius, il se livra tout entier à la contemplation des choses divines et à la composition d’ouvrages théologiques.

Sixième leçon. Il écrivit beaucoup, et en prose, et en vers, avec une piété et une éloquence admirables ; il a mérité cet éloge, au jugement d’hommes doctes et saints, que l’on ne trouve dans ses écrits rien qui ne soit conforme aux règles de la vraie piété et de la foi catholique, rien qui puisse être contesté raisonnablement. Il fut le ferme et zélé défenseur de la consubstantialité du Fils. De même qu’il n’était inférieur à personne pour la sainteté de sa vie, il surpassait tous les autres par la gravité de son style. Occupé à la lecture, l’étude et fa composition, il vécut dans la solitude de la campagne à la manière d’un moine ; enfin, accablé de vieillesse, il passa à ta vie bienheureuse du ciel, sous l’empire de Théodose.


Dom Guéranger, l’Année Liturgique

Aux côtés d’Athanase, un second Docteur de l’Église se présente pour faire hommage de son génie et de son éloquence à Jésus ressuscité. C’est Grégoire de Nazianze, l’ami et l’émule de Basile, l’orateur insigne, le poète qui, dans la plus étonnante fécondité, a su joindre l’énergie à l’élégance ; celui qui entre tous les Grégoires a mérité et obtenu le grand nom de Théologien par la sûreté de sa doctrine, l’élévation de s’a pensée, la, splendeur de son exposition. La sainte Église le voit avec bonheur étinceler en ces jours sur le Cycle ; car nul n’a parlé avec plus de magnificence que lui du mystère de la Pâque. On en peut juger par le début de son deuxième discours pour cette auguste solennité. Écoutons.

« Je me tiendrai en observation comme la sentinelle », nous dit l’admirable prophète Habacuc ; et mot aujourd’hui, à son exemple, éclairé par l’Esprit-Saint, je fais aussi le guet, j’observe le spectacle qui se découvre à moi, j’écoute les paroles qui vont retentir. Et tandis que debout je considère, je vois assis sur les nuées un personnage dont les traits sont ceux d’un Ange, et dont le vêtement est éblouissant comme l’éclair. Sa voix retentit comme la trompette, et les rangs pressés de l’armée céleste l’environnent ; et il dit : « Ce jour est le jour du salut pour le monde visible et pour le monde invisible. Le Christ se lève d’entre les morts, vous aussi levez-vous. Le Christ reprend possession de lui-même, imitez-le. Le Christ s’élance du sépulcre, arrachez-vous aux liens du péché. Les portes de l’enfer sont ouvertes, la mort est écrasée, le vieil Adam est anéanti, et un autre lui est substitué : vous qui faites partie de la création nouvelle dans le Christ, soyez renouvelés. »

« C’est ainsi qu’il parlait, et les autres Anges répétaient ce qu’ils chantèrent au jour où le Christ nous apparut dans sa naissance terrestre : Gloire à Dieu au plus haut des deux, et sur la terre paix aux hommes de bonne volonté ! A moi maintenant de parler sur toutes ces merveilles : que n’ai-je la voix des Anges, une voix capable de retentir jusqu’aux confins de la terre !

« La Pâque du Seigneur ! La Pâque ! Encore la Pâque, en l’honneur de la Trinité ! C’est la fête des fêtes, la solennité des solennités, qui l’emporte sur toutes les autres autant que le soleil sur les étoiles. Dès hier combien fut auguste la journée, avec ses robes blanches et ses nombreux néophytes portant des flambeaux ! Nous avions double Fonction, publique et particulière ; toutes les classes d’hommes, des magistrats et des dignitaires en grand nombre, dans cette nuit illuminée de mille feux ; mais aujourd’hui combien ces allégresses et ces grandeurs sont dépassées ! Hier n’était que l’aurore de la grande lumière qui s’est levée aujourd’hui ; la joie que l’on ressentait n’était qu’un prélude de celle que l’on éprouve en ce moment ; car en ce jour c’est la résurrection elle-même que nous célébrons, non plus seulement espérée, mais accomplie, et s’étendant au monde entier [1]. »

Ainsi préludait à la harangue sacrée le sublime orateur, le poète divin qui ne fit que passer sur le siège de Constantinople. Homme de retraite et de contemplation, les agitations du siècle usèrent vite son courage ; la bassesse et la méchanceté des hommes froissèrent son noble cœur ; et laissant à un autre le dangereux honneur d’occuper un trône si disputé, il s’envola de nouveau vers sa chère solitude, où il aimait tant à goûter Dieu et les saintes lettres. Il avait pu, dans son rapide passage, malgré tant de traverses, raffermir pour longtemps la foi ébranlée dans la capitale de l’empire, et tracer un sillon de lumière qui n’était pas effacé, lorsque Jean Chrysostome vint s’asseoir sur cette chaire de Byzance où tant d’épreuves l’attendaient à son tour.

L’Église grecque, dans ses Menées, consacre à la mémoire de saint Grégoire de Nazianze les plus magnifiques éloges. Nous en empruntons quelques traits.

(die xxv januarii.) Célébrons par nos louanges le prince des pontifes, le grand docteur de l’Église du Christ, celui dont la voix est semblable au plus riche concert, à la harpe la plus mélodieuse, à la lyre la plus habile et la plus suave. Disons-lui : Salut, ô abîme de la grâce divine ! Salut, docteur aux pensées sublimes et célestes, Grégoire, Père des Pères ! Par quels hymnes et quels cantiques pourrons-nous te célébrer, nomme égal aux Anges, toi qui as vécu sur la terre au-dessus de l’humanité ? Tu fus le héraut de la divine parole, l’ami de la chaste Vierge, le compagnon des Apôtres sur leur trône, l’honneur des martyrs et des saints, l’adorateur de l’éternelle Trinité, ô pontife très saint.

Fidèles rassemblés pour sa fête, célébrons dans nos chants spirituels le prince des pontifes, la gloire des patriarches, l’interprète des plus profonds enseignements du Christ, l’intelligence la plus sublime. Disons-lui : Salut, source de la théologie, fleuve de la sagesse, initiateur aux connaissances divines ! Salut, astre lumineux qui éclaires le monde entier par ta doctrine ! Salut, ô puissant défenseur de la piété, adversaire généreux de l’impiété.

Tu as su éviter dans ta sagesse les périls et les embûches de la chair, ô Grégoire notre père ; sur un char conduit par les quatre vertus, tu es monté par le milieu du ciel, et tu t’es envolé vers l’ineffable beauté. Elle t’enivre maintenant de délices, et tu implores pour nos âmes la miséricorde et la paix.

Ouvrant ta bouche à la parole de Dieu, tu as attiré l’Esprit de sagesse, et rempli de la grâce, tu as fait retentir les dogmes divins, ô Grégoire trois fois heureux ! Placé aux rangs des Puissances angéliques, tu as prêché la triple et indivisible Lumière ; éclairés par ta divine doctrine, nous adorons la Trinité, nous confessons en elle une seule divinité, afin d’obtenir le salut de nos âmes !

O Grégoire inspiré de Dieu, ta langue enflammée a consumé les formules captieuses des hérétiques ennemis du Seigneur. Tu as paru comme une bouche divine, exposant dans l’Esprit-Saint les grandeurs de Dieu ; dans tes écrits tu nous as manifesté la puissance et la substance même de la Trinité mystérieuse et impénétrable. Comme un triple soleil tu as éclairé ce monde terrestre ; et maintenant tu intercèdes sans relâche pour nos âmes.

Salut, ô fleuve de Dieu, toujours rempli des eaux de la grâce ! Tu baignes la cité du Christ roi, et tu la réjouis par ta parole et tes enseignements divins : torrent de délices, mer sans fond, gardien fidèle et juste de la doctrine, défenseur courageux de la Trinité, organe de l’Esprit-Saint, génie attentif et vigilant, langue harmonieuse , interprète des mystères les plus profonds de l’Écriture, supplie maintenant le Christ de répandre sur nous s’a grande miséricorde.

Tu t’es élevé sur la montagne des vertus, ayant abdiqué les choses de la terre, étant devenu étranger aux œuvres de mort ; tu as reçu les tables écrites de la main de Dieu, et le dogme de ta très pure théologie, et tu nous enseignes les mystères célestes, ô Grégoire rempli ’de sagesse.

La Sagesse de Dieu a eu ton amour, tu as recherché la beauté de sa parole, et tu l’as estimée au-dessus de tout ce qui charme les hommes sur la terre ; c’est pourquoi le Seigneur a orné ta tête d’une couronne de grâces, ô Bienheureux, et t’ayant mis à part, il t’a choisi pour être le Théologien.

Afin que ton âme s’éclairât tout entière des rayons de l’auguste Trinité , tu l’as polie, ô Père, la rendant sans tache par ta noble profession de toutes les vertus, et semblable à un miroir nouveau et préparé avec le plus grand soin ; alors la réfraction du divin éclat t’a fait paraître semblable à un Dieu.

Tu as paru comme un nouveau Samuel donné de Dieu ; avant d’être conçu tu fus donné à Dieu, ô bienheureux ! La prudence et la continence ont été ta parure, et, orné de la robe sacrée des pontifes, tu as été établi, ô Père, comme le médiateur entre le Créateur et la créature.

Tu as approché tes lèvres vénérables de la coupe qui contient la sagesse, ô Grégoire notre père ! tu as aspiré les eaux divines de la théologie, et tu les as fait couler avec abondance sur les fidèles ; tu as arrêté le torrent pernicieux de l’hérésie, ce torrent qui roule le blasphème. L’Esprit-Saint a trouvé en toi un pasteur gouvernant avec sainteté, repoussant et soulevant contre lui les audacieuses fureurs des impies, semblables aux violents orages des vents sur la mer ; un pasteur prêchant la Trinité dans l’unité de substance.

Brebis de la sainte Église, célébrons dans nos divins cantiques la lyre de l’Esprit-Saint, la faux des hérésies, les délices des orthodoxes, un second disciple reposant sur la poitrine de Jésus, le contemplateur du Verbe, le patriarche rempli de sagesse. Disons-lui : Tu es un bon pasteur, ô Grégoire ! tu t’es livré pour nous, comme le Christ notre maître, et maintenant tu tressailles d’allégresse avec Paul, et tu intercèdes pour nos âmes.

Nous vous saluons, ô Grégoire, docteur immortel, vous à qui l’Orient et l’Occident ont décerné de concert le titre de Théologien par excellence ! Illuminé des rayons de la glorieuse Trinité, vous nous en avez manifesté les splendeurs, autant que notre œil mortel les peut entrevoir à travers le nuage de cette vie. En vous s’est accomplie cette parole : « Heureux ceux qui ont le cœur pur, parce qu’ils verront Dieu [2] ! » La pureté de votre âme l’avait préparée à recevoir la lumière divine, et votre plume inspirée a su rendre une partie de ce que votre âme avait goûté. Obtenez-nous, ô grand Docteur, le don de la foi, qui met la créature en rapport avec Dieu, et le don de l’intelligence, qui lui fait entendre ce qu’elle croit. Tous vos labeurs eurent pour but de prémunir les fidèles contre les séductions de l’hérésie, en faisant luire à leurs yeux les dogmes divins dans toute leur magnificence ; rendez-nous attentifs, afin que nous évitions les pièges de Terreur, et ouvrez notre œil à la lumière ineffable des mystères, à cette lumière qui, comme dit saint Pierre, est pour nous « semblable à une lampe « allumée dans un lieu obscur, jusqu’à ce que le « jour commence à briller, et que l’étoile du ma- »tin se lève dans nos cœurs [3] ».

En ces temps où l’Orient, si longtemps en proie à la triste immobilité de l’erreur séculaire et de la servitude, semble à la veille d’une crise qui doit modifier profondément ses destinées, tandis qu’une politique profane songe à exploiter au profit de l’ambition humaine les changements qui se préparent, souvenez-vous, ô Grégoire, de l’infortunée Byzance. Demain peut-être les puissances du monde se la disputeront comme une proie. O vous qui fûtes un moment son pasteur, vous dont le souvenir n’est pas encore effacé de sa mémoire, arrachez-la à l’esprit de schisme et d’erreur. Elle n’est tombée sous le joug de l’infidèle qu’en punition de sa révolte contre le vicaire du Christ. Bientôt ce joug sera brisé ; obtenez, ô Grégoire, qu’en même temps celui de l’erreur et du schisme, plus dangereux et plus humiliant encore, se rompe et soit anéanti pour jamais. Déjà un mouvement de retour se manifeste ; des provinces entières s’ébranlent et semblent vouloir jeter un regard d’espérance vers la mère commune des Églises, qui leur ouvre ses bras. O Grégoire ! Du haut du ciel, aidez à la réconciliation. L’Orient et l’Occident vous honorent comme l’un des plus sublimes organes de la vérité divine ; par vos prières, obtenez que l’Orient et l’Occident soient encore une fois réunis dans un même bercail, sous un même pasteur, avant que l’Agneau immolé et ressuscité d’entre les morts redescende du ciel pour séparer l’ivraie du bon grain, et pour emmener avec lui dans sa gloire l’Église son épouse et notre mère, hors du sein de laquelle il n’y a pas de salut.

Aidez-nous, en ces jours, à contempler les grandeurs de notre divin Ressuscité ; faites-nous tressaillir d’un saint enthousiasme dans cette Pâque qui vous inondait de ses joies, et vous inspirait les sublimes accents que nous venons d’entendre. Ce Christ, sorti triomphant du tombeau, vous l’avez aimé dès vos plus tendres années, et dans votre vieillesse son amour faisait encore battre votre cœur. Priez, afin que, nous aussi, nous lui demeurions fidèles, que ses divins mystères ravissent toujours nos âmes, que cette Pâque demeure toujours en nous, que le renouvellement qu’elle nous a apporté persévère dans notre vie, qu’à ses retours successifs elle nous retrouve attentifs et vigilants pour l’accueillir avec une ardeur toute nouvelle, jusqu’à ce que la Pâque éternelle nous accueille et nous ouvre ses allégresses sans fin.

[1] Oratio II in sanctum Pascha.

[2] Matth. v, 8.

[3] II Petr. I, 19.

Bhx Cardinal Schuster, Liber Sacramentorum

Grégoire le Théologien, comme l’appellent les Grecs à cause de l’excellence de son génie, avait une âme douce et une nature éminemment poétique ; à l’humilité et à l’amour de la paix il sacrifia la chaire même de Constantinople pour se retirer à la campagne et y mener une vie de moine. Sa fête ne fut pas introduite dans le calendrier avant 1505, quand les études des humanistes et la culture grecque de la Renaissance firent mieux apprécier ses mérites. La messe est entièrement du Commun des Docteurs, avec l’épître Iustus qui s’adapte mieux au caractère mystique du Saint.

Si, en effet, luttant et souffrant avec une énergique constance, il arriva, au bout de quelques années, à ramener la ville de Constantinople à la foi de Nicée, ce fut entièrement l’œuvre de son zèle vraiment divin, car, par nature, Grégoire était l’homme qui avait le plus horreur des positions difficiles et des luttes. Il le montra bien quand, créé contre sa volonté évoque de Sasime par saint Basile, il ne sut pas s’adapter à cette charge difficile et, après quelque temps, revint dans sa patrie. La passion de Grégoire était la vie contemplative et la discipline monastique, à laquelle il demeura fermement attaché jusqu’à la fin de ses jours (+ 389 ou 390). Pour faire connaître aux lecteurs le genre du génie de saint Grégoire de Nazianze, voici sa biographie faite par lui-même :

EPITAPHION (Carm. XXX)
CVR • CARNEIS • LAQVEIS • TV • ME • PATER • IMPLICVISTI ?

CVR • SVBSVM • VITAE • HVIC • QVAE • MIHI • BELLA • MOVET

DIVINO • PATRE • SVM • GENITVS • SANCTAQVE • PARENTE

HAEC • MIHI • LVX • VITAE • NAMQVE • PRECANTE • DATA • EST

ORAVIT • SVMMOQVE • DEO • ME • VOVIT • ET • ORTVS

EST • MIHI • PER • SOMNVM • VIRGINITATIS • AMOR

ISTA • QVIDEM • CHRISTI • POST • AT • SVBIERE • PROCELLAE

RAPTA • MIHI • BONA • SVNT • FRACTA - DOLORE • CARO

PASTORES • SENSI • QVALES • VIX • CREDERET • VLLVS

ORBATVSQUE • ABII • PROLE • MALISQVE • GRAVIS

GREGORII • HAEC • VITA • EST • AT • CHRISTI • POSTERA • CVRAE

QVI • VITAE - DATOR • EST • EXPRIMAT • ISTA • LAPIS

Pourquoi, ô divin Père, me trouve-je embarrassé dans les lacs de la chair ? Pourquoi suis-je contraint de supporter cette vie qui fait la guerre à mon esprit ? Je naquis d’un père qui fut pourtant un saint évêque, et vertueuse fut aussi ma mère, aux prières de qui je dus de venir au monde. Celle-ci me consacra aussitôt à Dieu, et, dans une vision nocturne, l’amour de la virginité me fut inspiré. Jusqu’ici tout fut don du Christ. Survinrent ensuite les luttes, je fus privé de mes biens, et la douleur brisa mon corps. J’eus à connaître de tels pasteurs qu’on ne pourrait pas même en imaginer d’autres ; mais je m’en allai (de Constantinople) privé de mes enfants, et accablé de peine. Telle a été jusqu’à présent la vie de Grégoire. De l’avenir, que le Christ, qui donne la vie, prenne soin. A cette pierre d’exprimer ces choses.

On dit qu’un ancien oratoire, près du monastère de Sainte-Marie in Campa Marzio, était consacré, à Rome, à la mémoire de saint Grégoire de Nazianze. Bien plus, la tradition locale des moniales voulait que celles-ci, venant de Constantinople à Rome au temps du pape Zacharie, eussent apporté avec elles et déposé en ce lieu le corps du saint docteur, à qui elles auraient pour cette raison dédié l’oratoire. Cette assertion n’est cependant pas très acceptable, car, dans la biographie de Léon III, le Liber Pontificalis fait déjà mention de quelques dons offerts in oratorio sancti Gregorii quod ponitur in Campo Martis [4] ; nous savons d’autre part que les reliques de saint Grégoire de Nazianze furent transférées de la Cappadoce à la basilique des Apôtres à Constantinople seulement vers le milieu du Xe siècle, alors que les moniales s’étaient établies dans l’antique Champ-de-Mars à Rome depuis deux cents ans au moins.

[4] Lib. Pontif. Ed. Duchesne, II, p. 25.

Dom Pius Parsch, le Guide dans l’année liturgique

La sainte amitié.

Saint Grégoire. — Jour de mort : 9 mai 390. Tombeau : Au Xe siècle, son corps fut transporté dans l’Apostoleion, à Constantinople. Vie : Grégoire le Théologien (c’est ainsi que les Grecs le nomment) naquit en 329. à Nazianze, en Cappadoce. Il fut une des « trois lumières » de Cappadoce. Sa mère, sainte Nonna, posa les assises de sa sainteté future. Pour sa formation intellectuelle, il visita les écoles les plus célèbres de son temps, celles de Césarée, d’Alexandrie et d’Athènes. Dans cette dernière ville, il noua avec saint Basile une amitié devenue historique. En 381, il célébrait encore cette amitié avec un enthousiasme juvénile. En 360, il reçut le baptême et vécut ensuite pendant quelque temps dans la solitude. En 372, il reçut la consécration épiscopale des mains de saint Basile. Son père, Grégoire, évêque de Nazianze, insista pour qu’il l’aidât dans le ministère des âmes. En 379, il fut appelé au siège de Constantinople. Mais, en raison des nombreuses difficultés qu’il rencontra, il retourna à la solitude tant désirée. Il se consacra entièrement à la vie contemplative. Sa vie se caractérise par une alternance entre la vie contemplative et le ministère des âmes. Tous nos désirs vont vers la solitude, mais les besoins du temps le rappellent sans cesse à la vie active ; il doit prendre part au mouvement religieux d’alors. Ce qui lui valut ses succès, ce fut son éloquence entraînante. Il fut, sans conteste, l’un des meilleurs orateurs de l’antiquité chrétienne. Ses écrits lui ont valu le titre d’honneur de docteur de l’Église.

Pratique : Nous devons, nous aussi, concilier harmonieusement les deux aspects de la vie religieuse ; la vie de piété et de contemplation qui recherche la solitude, et la vie active, adonnée à la charité et au zèle des âmes, qui convient aux besoins de notre temps. La messe est tirée du commun des docteurs (In medio). Saint Grégoire est vraiment « la lumière placée sur le chandelier, qui brille pour tous ceux qui sont dans la maison (l’Église) » (Évangile). Il fut rempli de « l’Esprit de sagesse et de science » (Int. Ép.). La leçon (Justus) convient : mieux au caractère contemplatif du saint que celle du commun.


St. Gregory Nazianzen

St Gregory Nazianzen was by nature a gentle man and by genius and training a scholar, but throughout his life he was involved in controversies, disputes and misunderstanding in which his sensitive and essentially reasonable temperament suffered much, and not only from his ostensible ‘enemies.’ Nevertheless he has been declared a Doctor of the Church, and he won for himself the title ‘the Theologian’; he is an outstanding example of those saints whose lives, as far as immediate results go, seem a series of disappointments and ill-success, yet who with the passage of time are seen increasingly to be great both in themselves and in their work.

Gregory was born at Arianzus in Cappadocia into a family of saints; his father was bishop of Nazianzus–in that place and time a married clergy was the normal rule. He was educated in Cappadocia, in Palestine, at Alexandria, and then went on to spend some ten years studying in Athens. It was during this time that he became a close friend of St Basil. When he was thirty Gregory left Athens and joined St Basil in a life of retreat, prayer and study which foreshadowed the pattern of monastic life both in the east and in the west.

Gregory then went home to help his aging father, who in a manner not uncommon at the time almost forcibly ordained him. Shocked deeply at the task that had been forced on his own profound sense of unworthiness, Gregory fled to Basil, but soon returned, and wrote a treatise, an apology for his flight. Gregory was one of those who could touch nothing without leaving on it the seal of a mind of exceptional power and fineness: this treatise is a study of the priesthood which has been a source of inspiration to such as St Gregory the Great, and is still to all who deeply consider the subject today.

After a period of troubled work at Nazianzus, during which his friendship with St Basil was marred by his own inability to be belligerent where the things of the church were concerned, he spent five peaceful years in retirement from the affairs of church government. He was then invited to go to Constantinople, where most of the churches were given over to the Arian heresy. Here the popular method of solving religious disputes was by fighting in the streets or by what was even more distasteful to such a person–intrigue. Gregory went, with many misgivings.

His lack of pomp made him personally unpopular, the Arian rabble set out to annoy him, and friends whom he trusted betrayed him. Yet his famous sermons on the Trinity won him and the church increasing respect and renown, and even St Jerome came in from his desert to hear him. He was made bishop of Constantinople, but the opposition was so noisy that Gregory insisted on resigning. As soon as he could he went into retirement, spending his last years contentedly in study, writing and mortification.



Homélies de saint Grégoire de Nazianze (BnF MS grec 510), folio 440. 
Songe de Constantin et bataille du pont Milvius, 879-882, Biblothèque nationale de France

ST. GREGORY NAZIANZEN.

DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH

GREGORY was born of saintly parents, and was the chosen friend of St. Basil. They studied together at Athens, turned at the same time from the fairest worldly prospects, and for some years lived together in seclusion, self-discipline, and toil. Gregory was raised, almost by force, to the priesthood; and was in time made Bishop of Nazianzum by St. Basil, who had become Archbishop of Caesarea. When he was fifty years old, he was chosen, for his rare gifts and his conciliatory disposition, to be Patriarch of Constantinople, then distracted and laid waste by Arian and other heretics. In that city he labored with wonderful success. The Arians were so irritated at the decay of their heresy that they pursued the Saint with outrage, calumny, and violence, and at length resolved to take away his life. For this purpose they chose a resolute young man, who readily undertook the sacrilegious commission. But God did not allow him to carry it out. He was touched with remorse, and cast himself at the Saint's feet, avowing his sinful intent. St. Gregory at once forgave him, treated him with all kindness, and received him amongst his friends, to the wonder and edification of the whole city, and to the confusion of the heretics, whose crime had served only as a foil to the virtue of the Saint. St. Jerome boasts that he had sat at his feet, and calls him his master and his catechist in Holy Scripture. But his lowliness, his austerities, the insignificance of his person, and above all his very success, drew down on him the hatred of the enemies of the Faith. He was persecuted by the magistrates, stoned by the rabble, and thwarted and deserted even by his brother bishops. During the second General Council, he resigned his see, hoping thus to restore peace to the tormented city, and retired to his native town, where he died A.D. 390, He was a graceful poet, a preacher at once eloquent and solid ; and as a champion of the Faith so well equipped, so strenuous, and so exact, that he is called St. Gregory the Theologian.

REFLECTION.-"We must overcome our enemies," said St. Gregory, by gentleness; win them over by forbearance. Let them be punished by their own conscience, not by our wrath. Let us not at once wither the fig-tree, from which a more skilful gardener may yet entice fruit."

INTERCESSORY PRAYER: Today, ask Saint Gregory to pray for the theologians and priests that teach the Catholic faith in the spoken and written word.


St. Gregory of Nazianzus

Doctor of the Church, born at Arianzus, in Asia Minor, c. 325; died at the same place, 389. He was son — one of three children — of Gregory, Bishop of Nazianzus (329-374), in the southwest of Cappadocia, and of Nonna, a daughter of Christian parents. The saint's father was originally a member of the heretical sect of the Hypsistarii, or Hypsistiani, and was converted to Catholicity by the influence of his pious wife. His two sons, who seem to have been born between the dates of their father's priestly ordination and episcopal consecration, were sent to a famous school at Caesarea, capital of Cappadocia, and educated by Carterius, probably the same one who was afterwards tutor of St. John Chrysostom. Here commenced the friendship between Basil and Gregory which intimately affected both their lives, as well as the development of the theology of their age. From Caesarea in Cappadocia Gregory proceeded to Caesarea in Palestine, where he studied rhetoric under Thespesius; and thence to Alexandria, of which Athanasius was then bishop, through at the time in exile. Setting out by sea fromAlexandria to Athens, Gregory was all but lost in a great storm, and some of his biographers infer — though the fact is not certain — that when in danger of death he and his companions received the rite of baptism. He hadcertainly not been baptized in infancy, though dedicated to God by his pious mother; but there is some authority for believing that he received the sacrament, not on his voyage to Athens, but on his return to Nazianzus some years later. At Athens Gregory and Basil, who had parted at Caesarea, met again, renewed their youthful friendship, and studied rhetoric together under the famous teachers Himerius and Proaeresius. Among their fellow students was Julian, afterwards known as the Apostate, whose real character Gregory asserts that he had even then discerned and thoroughly distrusted him. The saint's studies at Athens (which Basil left before his friend) extended over some ten years; and when he departed in 356 for his native province, visitingConstantinople on his way home, he was about thirty years of age.


Arrived at Nazianzus, where his parents were now advanced in age, Gregory, who had by this time firmly resolved to devote his life and talents to God, anxiously considered the plan of his future career. To a young man of his high attainments a distinguished secular career was open, either that of a lawyer or of a professor of rhetoric; but his yearnings were for the monastic or ascetic life, though this did not seem compatible either with the Scripture studies in which he was deeply interested, or with his filial duties at home. As was natural, he consulted his beloved friend Basil in his perplexity as to his future; and he has left us in his own writings an extremely interesting narrative of their intercourse at this time, and of their common resolve (based on somewhat different motives, according to the decided differences in their characters) to quit the world for the service of God alone. Basil retired to Pontus to lead the life of a hermit; but finding that Gregory could not join him there, came and settled first at Tiberina (near Gregory's own home), then at Neocæsarea, in Pontus, where he lived in holy seclusion for some years, and gathered round him a brotherhood of cenobites, among whom his friend Gregory was for a time included. After a sojourn here for two or three years, during which Gregory edited, with Basil some of the exegetical works of Origen, and also helped his friend in the compilation of his famous rules, Gregory returned to Nazianzus, leaving with regret the peaceful hermitage where he and Basil (as he recalled in their subsequent correspondence) had spent such a pleasant time in the labour both of hands and of heads. On his return home Gregory was instrumental in bringing back to orthodoxy his father who, perhaps partly in ignorance, had subscribed the heretical creed of Rimini; and the aged bishop, desiring his son's presence and support, overruled his scrupulous shrinking from the priesthood, and forced him to acceptordination (probably at Christmas, 361). Wounded and grieved at the pressure put upon him, Gregory fled back to his solitude, and to the company of St. Basil; but after some weeks' reflection returned to Nazianzus, where he preached his first sermon on Easter Sunday, and afterward wrote the remarkable apologetic oration, which is really a treatise on the priestly office, the foundation of Chrysostom's "De Sacerdotio", of Gregory the Great's"Cura Pastoris", and of countless subsequent writings on the same subject.

During the next few years Gregory's life at Nazianzus was saddened by the deaths of his brother Caesarius and his sister Gorgonia, at whose funerals he preached two of his most eloquent orations, which are still extant. About this time Basil was made bishop of Caesarea and Metropolitan of Cappadocia, and soon afterwards theEmperor Valens, who was jealous of Basil's influence, divided Cappadocia into two provinces. Basil continued to claim ecclesiastical jurisdiction, as before, over the whole province, but this was disputed by Anthimus, Bishop ofTyana, the chief city of New Cappadocia. To strengthen his position Basil founded a new see at Sasima, resolved to have Gregory as its first bishop, and accordingly had him consecrated, though greatly against his will.Gregory, however, was set against Sasima from the first; he thought himself utterly unsuited to the place, and the place to him; and it was not long before he abandoned his diocese and returned to Nazianzus as coadjutor to his father. This episode in Gregory's life was unhappily the cause of an estrangement between Basil and himself which was never altogether removed; and there is no extant record of any correspondence between them subsequent to Gregory's leaving Sasima. Meanwhile he occupied himself sedulously with his duties as coadjutor to his aged father, who died early in 374, his wife Nonna soon following him to the grave. Gregory, who was now left without family ties, devoted to the poor the large fortune which he had inherited, keeping for himself only a small piece of land at Arianzus. He continued to administer the diocese for about two years, refusing, however, to become the bishop, and continually urging the appointment of a successor to his father. At the end of 375 he withdrew to a monastery at Seleuci, living there in solitude for some three years, and preparing (though he knewit not) for what was to be the crowning work of his life. About the end of this period Basil died. Gregory's own state of health prevented his being present either at the deathbed or funeral; but he wrote a letter of condolence to Basil's brother, Gregory of Nyssa, and composed twelve beautiful memorial poems or epitaphs to his departed friend.

Three weeks after Basil's death, Theodosius was advanced by the Emperor Gratian to the dignity of Emperor of the East. Constantinople, the seat of his empire, had been for the space of about thirty years (since the death of the saintly and martyred Bishop Paul) practically given over too Arianism, with an Arian prelate, Demophilus,enthroned at St. Sophia's. The remnant of persecuted Catholics, without either church or pastor, applied toGregory to come and place himself at their head and organize their scattered forces; and many bishopssupported the demand. After much hesitation he gave his consent, proceeded to Constantinople early in the year 379, and began his mission in a private house which he describes as "the new Shiloh where the Ark was fixed", and as "an Anastasia, the scene of the resurrection of the faith". Not only the faithful Catholics, but manyheretics gathered in the humble chapel of the Anastasia, attracted by Gregory's sanctity, learning and eloquence; and it was in this chapel that he delivered the five wonderful discourses on the faith of Nicaea — unfolding thedoctrine of the Trinity while safeguarding the Unity of the Godhead — which gained for him, alone of all Christianteachers except the Apostle St. John, the special title of Theologus or the Divine. He also delivered at this time the eloquent panegyrics on St. Cyprian, St. Athanasius, and the Machabees, which are among his finest oratorical works. Meanwhile he found himself exposed to persecution of every kind from without, and was actually attacked in his own chapel, whilst baptizing his Easter neophytes, by a hostile mob of Arians from St. Sophia's, among them being Arian monks and infuriated women. He was saddened, too, by dissensions among his own little flock, some of whom openly charged him with holding Tritheistic errors. St. Jerome became about this time his pupil and disciple, and tells us in glowing language how much he owed to his erudite and eloquent teacher. Gregorywas consoled by the approval of Peter, Patriarch of Constantinople (Duchesne's opinion, that the patriarch was from the first jealous or suspicious of the Cappadocian bishop's influence in Constantinople, does not seem sufficiently supported by evidence), and Peter appears to have been desirous to see him appointed to thebishopric of the capital of the East. Gregory, however, unfortunately allowed himself to be imposed upon by a plausible adventurer called Hero, or Maximus, who came to Constantinople from Alexandria in the guise (long hair, white robe, and staff) of a Cynic, and professed to be a convert to Christianity, and an ardent admirer ofGregory's sermons. Gregory entertained him hospitably, gave him his complete confidence, and pronounced a public panegyric on him in his presence. Maximus's intrigues to obtain the bishopric for himself found support in various quarters, including Alexandria, which the patriarch Peter, for what reason precisely it is not known, had turned against Gregory; and certain Egyptian bishops deputed by Peter, suddenly, and at night, consecrated andenthroned Maximus as Catholic Bishop of Constantinople, while Gregory was confined to bed by illness. Gregory'sfriends, however, rallied round him, and Maximus had to fly from Constantinople. The Emperor Theodosius, to whom he had recourse, refused to recognize any bishop other than Gregory, and Maximus retired in disgrace to Alexandria.

Theodosius received Christian baptism early in 380, at Thessalonica, and immediately addressed an edict to his subjects at Constantinople, commanding them to adhere to the faith taught by St. Peter, and professed by theRoman pontiff, which alone deserved to be called Catholic. In November, the emperor entered the city and called on Demophilus, the Arian bishop, to subscribe to the Nicene creed: but he refused to do so, and was banished from Constantinople. Theodosius determined that Gregory should be bishop of the new Catholic see, and himself accompanied him to St. Sophia's, where he was enthroned in presence of an immense crowd, who manifested their feelings by hand-clappings and other signs of joy. Constantinople was now restored to Catholic unity; the emperor, by a new edict, gave back all the churches to Catholic use; Arians and other heretics were forbidden to hold public assemblies; and the name of Catholic was restricted to adherents of the orthodox and Catholic faith.

Gregory had hardly settled down to the work of administration of the Diocese of Constantinople, whenTheodosius carried out his long-cherished purpose of summoning thither a general council of the Eastern Church. One hundred and fifty bishops met in council, in May, 381, the object of the assembly being, as Socrates plainly states, to confirm the faith of Nicaea, and to appoint a bishop for Constantinople (see THE FIRST COUNCIL OF CONSTANTINOPLE). Among the bishops present were thirty-six holding semi-Arian or Macedonian opinions; and neither the arguments of the orthodox prelates nor the eloquence of Gregory, who preached at Pentecost, in St. Sophia's, on the subject of the Holy Spirit, availed to persuade them to sign the orthodox creed. As to the appointment of the bishopric, the confirmation of Gregory to the see could only be a matter of form. Theorthodox bishops were all in favor, and the objection (urged by the Egyptian and Macedonian prelates who joined the council later) that his translation from one see to another was in opposition to a canon of the Nicene councilwas obviously unfounded. The fact was well known that Gregory had never, after his forced consecration at the instance of Basil, entered into possession of the See of Sasima, and that he had later exercised his episcopalfunctions at Nazianzus, not as bishop of that diocese, but merely as coadjutor of his father. Gregory succeededMeletius as president of the council, which found itself at once called on to deal with the difficult question of appointing a successor to the deceased bishop. There had been an understanding between the two orthodoxparties at Antioch, of which Meletius and Paulinus had been respectively bishops that the survivor of either should succeed as sole bishop. Paulinus, however, was a prelate of Western origin and creation, and the Eastern bishopsassembled at Constantinople declined to recognize him. In vain did Gregory urge, for the sake of peace, the retention of Paulinus in the see for the remainder of his life, already fare advanced; the Fathers of the councilrefused to listen to his advice, and resolved that Meletius should be succeeded by an Oriental priest. "It was in the East that Christ was born", was one of the arguments they put forward; and Gregory's retort, "Yes, and it was in the East that he was put to death", did not shake their decision. Flavian, a priest of Antioch, was electedto the vacant see; and Gregory, who relates that the only result of his appeal was "a cry like that of a flock of jackdaws" while the younger members of the council "attacked him like a swarm of wasps", quitted the council, and left also his official residence, close to the church of the Holy Apostles.

Gregory had now come to the conclusion that not only the opposition and disappointment which he had met with in the council, but also his continued state of ill-health, justified, and indeed necessitated, his resignation of theSee of Constantinople, which he had held for only a few months. He appeared again before the council, intimated that he was ready to be another Jonas to pacify the troubled waves, and that all he desired was rest from his labours, and leisure to prepare for death. The Fathers made no protest against this announcement, which some among them doubtless heard with secret satisfaction; and Gregory at once sought and obtained from the emperor permission to resign his see. In June, 381, he preached a farewell sermon before the council and in presence of an overflowing congregation. The peroration of this discourse is of singular and touching beauty, and unsurpassed even among his many eloquent orations. Very soon after its delivery he left Constantinople(Nectarius, a native of Cilicia, being chosen to succeed him in the bishopric), and retired to his old home atNazianzus. His two extant letters addressed to Nectarius at his time are noteworthy as affording evidence, by their spirit and tone, that he was actuated by no other feelings than those of interested goodwill towards thediocese of which he was resigning the care, and towards his successor in the episcopal charge. On his return toNazianzus, Gregory found the Church there in a miserable condition, being overrun with the erroneous teaching of Apollinaris the Younger, who had seceded from the Catholic communion a few years previously, and died shortly after Gregory himself. Gregory's anxiety was now to find a learned and zealous bishop who would be able to stem the flood of heresy which was threatening to overwhelm the Christian Church in that place. All his efforts were at first unsuccessful, and he consented at length with much reluctance to take over the administration of the diocese himself. He combated for a time, with his usual eloquence and as much energy as remained to him, the false teaching of the adversaries of the Church; but he felt himself too broken in health to continue the active work of the episcopate, and wrote to the Archbishop of Tyana urgently appealing to him to provide for the appointment of another bishop. His request was granted, and his cousin Eulalius, a priest of holy life to whom he was much attached, was duly appointed to the See of Nazianzus. This was toward the end of the year 383, andGregory, happy in seeing the care of the diocese entrusted to a man after his own heart, immediately withdrew to Arianzus, the scene of his birth and his childhood, where he spent the remaining years of his life in retirement, and in the literary labours, which were so much more congenial to his character than the harassing work ofecclesiastical administration in those stormy and troubled times.

Looking back on Gregory's career, it is difficult not to feel that from the day when he was compelled to acceptpriestly orders, until that which saw him return from Constantinople to Nazianzus to end his life in retirement and obscurity, he seemed constantly to be placed, through no initiative of his own, in positions apparently unsuited to his disposition and temperament, and not really calculated to call for the exercise of the most remarkable and attractive qualities of his mind and heart. Affectionate and tender by nature, of highly sensitive temperament, simple and humble, lively and cheerful by disposition, yet liable to despondency and irritability, constitutionally timid, and somewhat deficient, as it seemed, both in decision of character and in self-control, he was veryhuman, very lovable, very gifted — yet not, one might be inclined to think, naturally adapted to play the remarkable part which he did during the period preceding and following the opening of the Council of Constantinople. He entered on his difficult and arduous work in that city within a few months of the death ofBasil, the beloved friend of his youth; and Newman, in his appreciation of Gregory's character and career, suggests the striking thought that it was his friend's lofty and heroic spirit which had entered into him, andinspired him to take the active and important part which fell to his lot in the work of re-establishing the orthodoxand Catholic faith in the eastern capital of the empire. It did, in truth, seem to be rather with the firmness and intrepidity, the high resolve and unflinching perseverance, characteristic of Basil, than in his own propercharacter, that of a gentle, fastidious, retiring, timorous, peace-loving saint and scholar, that he sounded the war-trumpet during those anxious and turbulent months, in the very stronghold and headquarters of militantheresy, utterly regardless to the actual and pressing danger to his safety, and even his life which never ceased to menace him. "May we together receive", he said at the conclusion of the wonderful discourse which he pronounced on his departed friend, on his return to Asia from Constantinople, "the reward of the warfare which we have waged, which we have endured." It is impossible to doubt, reading the intimate details which he has himself given us of his long friendship with, and deep admiration of, Basil, that the spirit of his early and well-loved friend had to a great extent moulded and informed his own sensitive and impressionable personality and that it was this, under God, which nerved and inspired him, after a life of what seemed, externally, one almost of failure, to co-operate in the mighty task of overthrowing the monstrous heresy which had so long devastated the greater part of Christendom, and bringing about at length the pacification of the Eastern Church.

During the six years of life which remained to him after his final retirement to his birth-place, Gregory composed, in all probability, the greater part of the copious poetical works which have come down to us. These include a valuable autobiographical poem of nearly 2000 lines, which forms, of course, one of the most important sources of information for the facts of his life; about a hundred other shorter poems relating to his past career; and a large number of epitaphs, epigrams, and epistles to well-known people of the day. Many of his later personal poems refer to the continuous illness and severe sufferings, both physical and spiritual, which assailed him during his last years, and doubtless assisted to perfect him in those saintly qualities which had never been wanting to him, rudely shaken though he had been by the trails and buffetings of his life. In the tiny plot of ground atArianzus, all (as has already been said) that remained to him of his rich inheritance, he wrote and meditated, as he tells, by a fountain near which there was a shady walk, his favourite resort. Here, too, he received occasional visits from intimate friends, as well as sometimes from strangers attracted to his retreat by his reputation forsanctity and learning; and here he peacefully breathed his last. The exact date of his death is unknown, but from a passage in Jerome (De Script. Eccl.) it may be assigned, with tolerable certainty, to the year 389 or 390.

Some account must now be given of Gregory's voluminous writings, and of his reputation as an orator and atheologian, on which, more than on anything else, rests his fame as one of the greatest lights of the Eastern Church. His works naturally fall under three heads, namely his poems, his epistles, and his orations. Much, though by no means all, of what he wrote has been preserved, and has been frequently published, the editio princeps of the poems being the Aldine (1504), while the first edition of his collected works appeared in Paris in 1609-11. The Bodleian catalogue contains more than thirty folio pages enumerating various editions of Gregory'sworks, of which the best and most complete are the Benedictine edition (two folio volumes, begun in 1778, finished in 1840), and the edition of Migne (four volumes XXXV - XXXVIII, in P.G., Paris, 1857 - 1862).

Poetical compositions

These, as already stated, comprise autobiographical verses, epigrams, epitaphs and epistles. The epigrams have been translated by Thomas Drant (London, 1568), the epitaphs by Boyd (London, 1826), while other poems have been gracefully and charmingly paraphrased by Newman in his "Church of the Fathers". Jerome and Suidas say that Gregory wrote more than 30,000 verses; if this is not an exaggeration, fully two-thirds of them have been lost. Very different estimates have been formed of the value of his poetry, the greater part of which was written in advanced years, and perhaps rather as a relaxation from the cares and troubles of life than as a serious pursuit. Delicate, graphic, and flowing as are many of his verses, and giving ample evidence of the cultured andgifted intellect which produced them, they cannot be held to parallel (the comparison would be an unfair one, had not many of them been written expressly to supersede and take the place of the work of heathen writers) the great creations of the classic Greek poets. Yet Villemain, no mean critic, places the poems in the front rank ofGregory's compositions, and thinks so highly of them that he maintains that the writer ought to be called, pre-eminently, not so much the theologian of the East as "the poet of Eastern Christendom".

Prose epistles

These, by common consent, belong to the finest literary productions of Gregory's age. All that are extant are finished compositions; and that the writer excelled in this kind of composition is shown from one of them (Ep. ccix, to Nicobulus) in which he enlarges with admirable good sense on the rules by which all letter-writers should be guided. It was at the request of Nicobulus, who believed, and rightly, that these letters contained much of permanent interest and value, that Gregory prepared and edited the collection containing the greater number of them which has come down to us. Many of them are perfect models of epistolary style — short, clear, couched in admirably chosen language, and in turn witty and profound, playful, affectionate and acute.

Orations

Both in his own time, and by the general verdict of posterity, Gregory was recognized as one of the very foremost orators who have ever adorned the Christian Church. Trained in the finest rhetorical schools of his age, he did more than justice to his distinguished teachers; and while boasting or vainglory was foreign to his nature, he frankly acknowledged his consciousness of his remarkable oratorical gifts, and his satisfaction at having been enabled to cultivate them fully in his youth. Basil and Gregory, it has been said, were the pioneers of Christianeloquence, modeled on, and inspired by, the noble and sustained oratory of Demosthenes and Cicero, and calculated to move and impress the most cultured and critical audiences of the age. Only comparatively few of the numerous orations delivered by Gregory have been preserved to us, consisting of discourses spoken by him on widely different occasions, but all marked by the same lofty qualities. Faults they have, of course: lengthy digressions, excessive ornament, strained antithesis, laboured metaphors, and occasional over-violence of invective. But their merits are far greater than their defects, and no one can read them without being struck by the noble phraseology, perfect command of the purest Greek, high imaginative powers, lucidity and incisivenessof thought, fiery zeal and transparent sincerity of intention, by which they are distinguished. Hardly any ofGregory's extant sermons are direct expositions of Scripture, and they have for this reason been adverselycriticized. Bossuet, however, points out with perfect truth that many of these discourses are really nothing but skillful interweaving of Scriptural texts, a profound knowledge of which is evident from every line of them.

Gregory's claims to rank as one of the greatest theologians of the early Church are based, apart from hisreputation among his contemporaries, and the verdict of history in his regard, chiefly on the five great "Theological Discourses" which he delivered at Constantinople in the course of the year 380. In estimating the scope and value of these famous utterances, it is necessary to remember what was the religious condition ofConstantinople when Gregory, at the urgent instance of Basil, of many other bishops, and of the sorely-triedCatholics of the Eastern capital, went thither to undertake the spiritual charge of the faithful. It was less as anadministrator, or an organizer, than as a man of saintly life and of oratorical gifts famous throughout the Eastern Church, that Gregory was asked, and consented, to undertake his difficult mission; and he had to exercise thosegifts in combating not one but numerous heresies which had been dividing and desolating Constantinople for many years. Arianism in every form and degree, incipient, moderate, and extreme, was of course the great enemy, but Gregory had also to wage war against the Apollinarian teaching, which denied the humanity of Christ, as well as against the contrary tendency — later developed into Nestorianism — which distinguished between theSon of Mary and the Son of God as two distinct and separate personalities.

A saint first, and a theologian afterwards, Gregory in one of his early sermons at the Anastasia insisted on the principle of reverence in treating of the mysteries of faith (a principle entirely ignored by his Arian opponents), and also on the purity of life and example which all who dealt with these high matters must show forth if their teaching was to be effectual. In the first and second of the five discourses he develops these two principles at some length, urging in language of wonderful beauty and force the necessity for all who would know God aright to lead a supernatural life, and to approach so sublime a study with a mind pure and free from sin. The third discourse (on the Son) is devoted to a defence of the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity, and a demonstration of its consonance with the primitive doctrine of the Unity of God. The eternal existence of the Son and Spirit are insisted on, together with their dependence on the Father as origin or principle; and the Divinity of the Son is argued from Scripture against the Arians, whose misunderstanding of various Scripture texts is exposed and confuted. In the fourth discourse, on the same subject, the union of the Godhead and Manhood in ChristIncarnate is set forth and luminously proved from Scripture and reason. The fifth and final discourse (on the Holy Spirit) is directed partly against the Macedonian heresy, which denied altogether the Divinity of the Holy Ghost, and also against those who reduced the Third Person of the Trinity to a mere impersonal energy of the Father.Gregory, in reply to the contention that the Divinity of the Spirit is not expressed in Scripture, quotes andcomments on several passages which teach the doctrine by implication, adding that the full manifestation of this great truth was intended to be gradual, following on the revelation of the Divinity of the Son. It is to be noted that Gregory nowhere formulates the doctrine of the Double Procession, although in his luminous exposition of the Trinitarian doctrine there are many passages which seem to anticipate the fuller teaching of the Quicumque vult. No summary, not even a faithful verbal translation, can give any adequate idea of the combined subtlety and lucidity of thought, and rare beauty of expression, of these wonderful discourses, in which, as one of hisFrench critics truly observes, Gregory "has summed up and closed the controversy of a whole century". The best evidence of their value and power lies in the fact that for fourteen centuries they have been a mine whence the greatest theologians of Christendom have drawn treasures of wisdom to illustrate and support their own teaching on the deepest mysteries of the Catholic Faith.

Sources

Acta SS.; Lives prefixed to MIGNE, P.G. (1857) XXXV, 147-303; Lives of the Saints collected from Authentick Records (1729), II; BARONIUS, De Vita Greg. Nazianz. (Rome, 1760); DUCHESNE, Hist. Eccl., ed. BRIGHT (Oxford, 1893), 195, 201, etc.; ULLMAN, Gregorius v. Nazianz der Theologe (Gotha, 1867), tr. COX (Londone, 1851); BENOIT, Saint Greg. de Nazianze (Paris, 1876); BAUDUER, Vie de S. Greg. de Nazianze (Lyons, 1827); WATKINS in Dict. Christ. Biog., s.v. Gregorius Nazianzenus; FLEURY, Hist. Ecclesiastique (Paris, 1840), II, Bk. XVIII; DE BROGLIE, L'église et l'Empire Romain au IV siecle (Paris, 1866), V; NEWMAN, The arians of the Fourth Century (London, 1854), 214-227; IDEM, Church of the Fathers in Historical Sketches; BRIGHT, The Age of the Fathers (London, 1903), I, 408-461; PUSEY, The Councils of the Church A.D. 31 - A.D. 381 (Oxford, 1857), 276-323; HORE, Eighteen Centuries of the Orthodox Greek Church (London, 1899), 162, 164, 168, etc; TILLEMONT, Mem. Hist. Eccles., IX; MASON, Five Theolog. Discourses of Greg. of Nazianz. (Cambridge, 1899).

Hunter-Blair, Oswald. "St. Gregory of Nazianzus." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company,1910. 9 May 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07010b.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Mike Humphrey.


Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

SOURCE : http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07010b.htm

ST GREGORY NAZIANZEN, B. C., DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH—328-389 A D.

Feast: January 2

From his own works, and other monuments of that age. See Gregory of Caesarea, who writ his life in 940; Hermant, Tillemont, t. ix., Ceillier, t. vii.; also the life of this saint, compiled from his works by Baronius, published by Alberici, in an appendix to the life and letters of that cardinal, in 1759, t. ii.]

St Gregory who, from his profound skill in sacred learning, is surnamed the Theologian, was a native of Arianzum, an obscure village in the territory of Nazianzum, a small town in Cappadocia not far from Caesarea His parents are both honoured in the calendars of the church: his father on the 1st of January and his mother Nonna on the 5th of August. She drew down the blessing of heaven upon her family by most bountiful and continual alms-deeds, in which she knew one of the greatest advantages of riches to consist; yet, to satisfy the obligation of justice which she owed to her children, she by her prudent economy improved at the same time their patrimony. The greatest part of her time she devoted to holy prayer; and her respect and attention to the least thing which regarded religion is not to be expressed. His father, whose name also was Gregory, was from his infancy a worshipper of false gods, but of the sect called the Hipsistarii, on account of the profession they made of adoring the Most High God. The prayers and tears of Nonna at length obtained of God the conversion of her husband, whose integrity in the discharge of the chief magistracy of his town and the practice of strict moral virtue prepared him for such a change. His son has left us the most edifying detail of his humility, holy zeal, and other virtues.[1] He had three children, Gorgonia, Gregory, and Caesarius, who was the youngest. Gregory was the fruit of the most earnest prayers of his mother who, upon his birth, offered him to God for the service of his church. His virtuous parents gave him the strongest impressions of piety in his tender age; and his chief study, from his very infancy, was to know God by the help of pious books, in the reading whereof he was very assiduous.

Having acquired grammar-learning in the schools of his own country, and being formed to piety by domestic examples, he was sent to Caesarea, in Palestine, where the study of eloquence flourished. He pursued the same studies some time at Alexandria, and there embarked for Athens in November. The vessel was beaten by a furious storm during twenty days, without any hopes either for the ship or passengers; all which time he lay upon the deck, bemoaning the danger of his soul on account of his not having been as yet baptized, imploring the divine mercy with many tears and loud groans, and frequently renewing his promise of devoting himself entirely to God in case he survived the danger. God was pleased to hear his prayer: the tempest ceased and the vessel arrived safe at Rhodes, and soon after at Aegina, an island near Athens. He had passed through Caesarea of Cappadocia in his road to Palestine; and making some stay there to improve himself under the great masters of that city, had contracted an acquaintance with the great St. Basil, which he cultivated at Athens, whither that saint followed him soon after. The intimacy between these two saints became from that time the most perfect model of holy friendship, and nothing can be more tender than the epitaph which St. Gregory composed upon his friend. Whilst they pursued their studies together, they shunned the company of those scholars who sought too much after liberty, and conversed only with the diligent and virtuous. They avoided all feasting and vain entertainments; and were acquainted only with two streets, one that led to the church and the other to the schools. Riches they despised and accounted as thorns, employing their allowance in supplying themselves with bare necessaries for an abstemious and slender subsistence, and disposing of the remainder in behalf of the poor. Envy had no place in them; sincere love made each of them esteem his companion's honour and advantage as his own; they were to each other a mutual spur to all good, and by a holy emulation neither of them would be outdone by the other in fasting, prayer, or the exercise of any virtue. Saint Basil left Athens first. The progress which St. Gregory made here in eloquence, philosophy, and the sacred studies appears by the high reputation which he acquired, and by the monuments which he has left behind him. But his greatest happiness and praise was, that he always made the love and fear of God his principal affair, to which he referred his studies and all his endeavours. In 355 Julian, afterwards emperor, came to Athens, where he spent some months with St. Basil and St. Gregory in the study of profane literature and the holy scriptures. St. Gregory then prognosticated what a mischief the empire was breeding up in that monster—from the levity of his carriage, the rolling and wandering of his eyes, the fierceness of his looks, the tossing of his head, the shrugging up of his shoulders, his uneven gait, his loud and unseasonable laughter, his rash and incoherent discourse—the indications of an unsettled and arrogant mind.[2] The year following, our saint left Athens for Nazianzum and took Constantinople in his way. Here he found his brother Gesarius arrived not long before from Alexandria, where he had accomplished himself in all the polite learning of that age and applied himself particularly to physic. The Emperor Constantius honoured him with his favour and made him his chief physician. His generosity appeared I in this station by his practice of physic, even among the rich, without the inducement of either fee or reward. He was also a father to the poor, on whom he bestowed the greatest part of his income. Gregory was importuned by many to make his appearance at the bar, or at least to teach rhetoric, as that which would afford him the best means to display talents and raise his fortune in the world. But he answered that he totally devoted himself to the service of God.

The first thing he did after his return to Nazianzum was to fulfil his engagement of consecrating himself entirely to God by receiving baptism at the hands of his father. This he did without reserve: "I have," says he,[3] "given all I have to him from whom I received it, and have taken him alone for my whole possession. I have consecrated to him my goods, my glory, my health, my tongue, and talents. All the fruit I have received from these advantages has been the happiness of despising them for Christ's sake." From that moment never was man more dead to ambition, riches, pleasures, or reputation. He entertained no secret affection for the things of this world, but trampled under his feet all its pride and perishable goods; finding no ardour, no relish, no pleasure but in God and in heavenly things. His diet was coarse bread, with salt and water.[4] He lay upon the ground; wore nothing but what was coarse and vile. He worked hard all day, spent a considerable part of the night in singing the praises of God, or in contemplation.[5] With riches he contemned also profane eloquence, on which he had bestowed so much pains, making an entire sacrifice of it to Jesus Christ. His classics and books of profane oratory he abandoned to the worms and moths.[6] He regarded the greatest honours as vain dreams, which only deceive men, and dreaded the precipices down which ambition drags its inconsiderate slaves. Nothing appeared to him comparable to the life which a man leads who is dead to himself and his sensual inclinations; who lives as it were out of the world, and has no other conversation but with God.[7] However, he for some time took upon him the care of his father's household and the management of his affairs. He was afflicted with several sharp fits of sickness, caused by his extreme austerities and continual tears, which often did not suffer him to sleep.[8] He rejoiced in his distempers, because in them he found the best opportunities of mortification and self-denial.[9] The immoderate laughter, which his cheerful disposition had made him subject to in his youth, was afterwards the subject of his tears. He obtained so complete a conquest over the passion of anger as to prevent all indeliberate motions of it, and became totally indifferent in regard to all that before was most dear to him. His generous liberality to the poor made him always as destitute of earthly goods as the poorest, and his estate was common to all who were in necessity, as a port is to all at sea.[10] Never does there seem to have been a greater lover of retirement and silence. He laments the excesses into which talkativeness draws men, and the miserable itch that prevails in most people to become teachers of others.[11]

It was his most earnest desire to disengage himself from the converse of men and the world, that he might more freely enjoy that of heaven. He accordingly, in 358, joined St. Basil in the solitude into which he had retreated, situate near the river Iris, in Pontus. Here, watching, fasting, prayer, studying the holy scriptures, singing psalms, and manual labour employed their whole time. As to their exposition of the divine oracles, they were guided in this not by their own lights and particular way of thinking, but, as Rufinus writes,[12] by the interpretation which the ancient fathers and doctors of the church had delivered concerning them. But this solitude Gregory enjoyed only just long enough to be enamoured of its sweetness, being soon recalled back by his father, then above eighty, to assist him in the government of his flock. To draw the greater succour from him he ordained him priest by force and when he least expected it. This was performed in the church on some great festival, and probably on Christmas Day in 361. He knew the sentiments of his son with regard to that charge, and his invincible reluctance on several accounts, which was the reason of his taking this method. The saint accordingly speaks of his ordination as a kind of tyranny which he knew not well how to digest; in which sentiments he flew into the deserts of Pontus and sought relief in the company of his dear friend St. Basil, by whom he had been lately importuned to return. Many censured this his flight, ascribing it to pride, obstinacy, and the like motives. Gregory likewise, himself, reflecting at leisure on his own conduct and the punishment of the prophet Jonas for disobeying the command of God, came to a resolution to go back to Nazianzum; where, after a ten weeks' absence, he appeared again on Easter Day, and there preached his first sermon on that great festival. This was soon after followed by another, which is extant, under the title of his apology for his flight.

In this discourse St. Gregory extols the unanimity of that church in faith and their mutual concord; but towards the end of the reign of Julian, an unfortunate division happened in it, which is mentioned by the saint in his first invective against that apostate prince.[13] The bishop, his father, hoping to gain certain persons to the church by condescension, admitted certain writing which had been drawn up by the secret favourers of Arianism in ambiguous and artful terms. This unwary condescension of the elder Gregory gave offence to the more zealous part of his flock, and especially to the monks, who refused thereupon to communicate with him. Our saint discharged his duty so well in this critical affair that he united the flock with their pastor without the least concession in favour of the error of those by whom his father had been tricked into a subscription against his intention and design, his faith being entirely pure. On the occasion of this joyful reunion our saint pronounced an elegant discourse.[14] Soon after the death of Julian he composed his two invective orations against that apostate. He imitates the severity which the prophets frequently made use of in their censure of wicked kings; but his design was to defend the church against the pagans by unmasking the injustice, impiety, and hypocrisy of its capital persecutor. The saint's younger brother, Caesarius, had lived in the court of Julian, highly honoured by that emperor for his learning and skill in physic. St. Gregory pressed him to forsake the family of an apostate prince, in which he could not live without being betrayed into many temptations and snares.[15] And so it happened; for Julian, after many caresses, assailed him by inveigling speeches, and at length, by a warm disputation in favour of idolatry. Caesarius answered him that he was a Christian, and such he was resolved always to remain. However, apprehensive of the dangers in which he lived, he soon after chose rather to resign his post than to run the hazard of his faith and a good conscience. He therefore left the court, though the emperor endeavoured earnestly to detain him. After the miserable death of the apostate, he appeared again with distinction in the courts of Jovian and Valens, and was made by the latter , or treasurer of the imperial rents, which office was but a step to higher dignities. In the discharge of this employment of Bithynia he happened to be at Nice in the great earthquake, which swallowed up the chief part of that city in 360. The treasurer, with some few others, escaped by being preserved through a wonderful providence in certain hollow parts of the ruins. St. Gregory improved this opportunity to urge him again to quit the world and its honours, and to consecrate to God alone a life for which he was indebted to him on so many accounts.[16] Gesarius, moved by so awakening an accident, listened to his advice and took a resolution to renounce the world; but returning home, fell sick and died in the fervour of his sacrifice, about the beginning of the year 368, leaving his whole estate to the poor.[17] He is named in the Roman Martyrology on the 25th of February. St. Gregory, extolling his virtue, says that whilst he enjoyed the honours of the world he looked upon the advantage of being a Christian as the first of his dignities and the most glorious of all his titles, reckoning all the rest dross and dung. He was buried at Nazianzum, and our saint pronounced his funeral panegyric, as he also did that of his holy sister Gorgonia, who died soon after. He extols her humility; her prayer often continued whole nights with tears; her modesty, prudence, patience, resignation, zeal, respect for the ministers of God and for holy places; her liberality to them and great charity to the poor; her penance, extraordinary care of the education of her children, &c. He mentions as miraculous her being cured of a palsy by praying at the foot of the altar, and her recovery after great wounds and bruises which she had received by a fall from her chariot.

In 372 Cappadocia was divided by the emperor into two provinces, and Tyana made the capital of that which was called the second. Anthimus, bishop of that city, pretended hence to an archiepiscopal jurisdiction over the second Cappadocia. St. Basil, the Metropolitan of Cappadocia, maintained that the civil division of the province had not infringed his jurisdiction, though he afterwards, for the sake of peace, yielded the second Cappadocia to the see of Tyana. He appointed our saint Bishop of Sasima, a small town in that division. Gregory stood out a long time, but at length submitted, overcome by the authority of his father and the influence of his friend. He accordingly received the episcopal consecration from the hands of St. Basil, at Caesarea, about the middle of the year 372. But he repaired to Nazianzum to wait a favourable opportunity of taking possession of his church of Sasima, which never happened; for Anthimus, who had in his interest the new governor, and was master of all the avenues and roads to that town, would by no means admit him. Basil reproached his friend with sloth; but St. Gregory answered him that he was not disposed to fight for a church.[18] He, however, charged himself with the government of that of Nazianzum under his father till his death, which happened the year following. St. Gregory pronounced his funeral panegyric in presence of St. Basil and of his mother, St. Nonna, who died shortly after. Holy solitude had been the constant object of his most earnest desires, and he had only waited the death of his father entirely to bury himself in it. Nevertheless, yielding to the importunities of others and to the necessities of the church of Nazianzum, he consented to continue his care of it till the neighbouring bishops could provide it with a pastor. But seeing this affair protracted, and finding himself afflicted with various distempers, he left that city and withdrew to Seleucia, the metropolis of Isauria, in 375, where he continued five years. The death of St. Basil, in 379, was to him a sensible affliction, and he then composed twelve epigrams or epitaphs to his memory; and some years after pronounced his panegyric at Caesarea, namely, in 381 or 382. The unhappy death of the persecuting emperor Valens, in 378, restored peace to the church. The Catholic pastors sought means to make up the breaches which heresy had made in many places. For this end they held several assemblies and sent zealous and learned men into the provinces in which the tyrant had made the greatest havoc. The church of Constantinople was of all others in the most desolate and abandoned condition, having groaned during forty years under the tyranny of the Arians, and the few Catholics who remained there having been long without a pastor and even without a church wherein to assemble. They, being well acquainted with our saint's merit, importuned him to come to their assistance, and were backed by several bishops, desirous that his learning, eloquence, and piety might restore that church to its splendour. But such were the pleasures he enjoyed in his beloved retirement at Seleucia, and in his thorough disengagement from the world, that for some time these united solicitations made little or no impression on him. They had, however, at length their desired effect. His body bent with age, his head bald, his countenance extenuated with tears and austerities, his poor garb, and his extreme poverty made but a mean appearance at Constantinople; and no wonder that he was at first ill received in that polite and proud city. The Arians pursued him with calumnies, raillieries, and insults. The prefects and governors added their persecutions to the fury of the populace, all which concurred to acquire him the glorious title of confessor. He lodged first in the house of certain relations, where the Catholics first assembled to hear him. He soon after converted it into a church and gave it the name of Anastasia, or the Resurrection, because the Catholic faith, which in that city had been hitherto oppressed, here seemed to be raised, as it were, from the dead. Sozomen relates that this name was confirmed to it by a miraculous raising to life of a woman then with child, who was killed by falling from a gallery in it, but returned to life by the prayers of the congregation.[19] Another circumstance afterwards confirmed in this church the same name. During the reign of the Emperor Leo the Thracian, about the year 460, the body of St. Anastasia, virgin and martyr, was brought from Sirmich to Constantinople and laid in this place, as is recorded by Theodorus the Reader.[20] But this church is not to be confounded with another of the same name, which was in the hands of the Novatians under Constantius and Julian the Apostate.[21]

In this small church Nazianzen preached, and every day assembled his little flock, which increased daily. The Arians and Apollinarists, joined with other sects, not content to defame and calumniate him, had recourse to violence on his person. They pelted him with stones as he went along the streets, and dragged him before the civil magistrates as a malefactor, charging him with tumult and sedition. But he comforted himself on reflecting that though they were the stronger party he had the better cause; though they possessed the churches, God was with him; if they had the populace on their side, the angels were on his, to guard him. St. Jerome coming out of the deserts of Syria to Constantinople became the disciple and scholar of St. Gregory, and one of those who studied the holy scripture under him, of which that great doctor glories in his writings. Our holy pastor, being a lover of solitude, seldom went abroad or made any visits, except such as were indispensable; and the time that was not employed in the discharge of his functions he devoted to prayer and meditation, spending a considerable part of the night in those holy exercises. His diet was herbs and a little salt with bread. His cheeks were furrowed with the tears which he shed, and he daily prostrated himself before God to implore his light and mercy upon his people. His profound learning, his faculty of forming the most noble conceptions of things, and the admirable perspicuity, elegance, and propriety with which he explained them, charmed all who heard him. The Catholics flocked to his discourses as men parching with thirst eagerly go to the spring to quench it. Heretics and pagans resorted to them, admiring his erudition and charmed with his eloquence. The fruits of his sermons were every day sensible; his flock became in a short time very numerous, and he purged the people of that poison which had corrupted their hearts for many years. St. Gregory heard, with blushing and confusion, the applause and acclamations with which his discourses were received; and his fear of this danger made him speak in public with a certain timidity and reluctance. He scorned to flatter the great ones, and directed his discourses to explain and corroborate the Catholic faith and reform the manners of the people. He taught them that the way to salvation was not to be ever disputing about matters of religion (an abuse that was grown to a great height at that time in Constantinople), but to keep the commandments,[22] to give alms, to exercise hospitality, to visit and serve the sick, to pray, sigh, and weep; to mortify the senses, repress anger, watch over the tongue, and subject the body to the spirit. The envy of the devil and of his instruments could not bear the success of his labours, and by exciting trouble found means to interrupt them. Maximus, a native of Alexandria, a cynic philosopher, but withal a Christian, full of the impudence and pride of that sect, came to Constantinople; and under an hypocritical exterior disguised a heart full of envy, ambition, covetousness, and gluttony. He imposed on several, and for some time on St. Gregory himself, who pronounced an enlogium of this man in 379, now extant, under the title of the Eulogium of the Philosopher Hero; but St. Jerome assures us that instead of Hero we ought to read Maximus. This wolf in sheep's clothing having gained one of the priests of the city, and some partizans among the laity, procured himself to be ordained Bishop of Constantinople in a clandestine manner, by certain Egyptian bishops who lately arrived on that intent. The irregularity of this proceeding stirred up all the world against the usurper. Pope Damasus writ to testify his affliction on that occasion, and called the election null. The Emperor Theodosius the Great, then at Thessalonica, rejected Maximus with indignation; and coming to Constantinople, proposed to Demophilus, the Arian bishop, either to receive the Nicene faith or to leave the city; and upon his preferring the latter, his majesty, embracing St. Gregory, assured him that the Catholics of Constantinople demanded him for their bishop, and that their choice was most agreeable to his own desires. Theodosius, within a few days after his arrival, drove the Arians out of all the churches in the city and put the saint in possession of the Church of St. Sophia, upon which all the other churches of the city depended. Here the clamours of the people were so vehement that Gregory might be their bishop that all was in confusion till the saint prevailed upon them to drop that subject and to join in praise and thanksgiving to the ever blessed Trinity for restoring among them the profession of the true faith. The emperor highly commended the modesty of the saint. But a council was necessary to declare the see vacant and the promotion of the Arian Demophilus and of the cynic Maximus void and null. A synod of all the East was then meeting at Constantinople, in which St. Meletius, Patriarch of Antioch, presided. He being the great friend and admirer of Nazianzen, the council took his cause into consideration before all others, declared the election of Maximus null, and established St. Gregory Bishop of Constantinople, without having any regard to his tears and expostulations. St. Meletius dying during the synod, St. Gregory presided in the latter sessions. To put an end to the schism between Meletius and Paulinus at Antioch, it had been agreed that the survivor should remain in sole possession of that see. This Nazianzen urged; but the oriental bishops were unwilling to own for patriarch one whom they had opposed. They therefore took great offence at this most just and prudent remonstrance, and entered into a conspiracy with his enemies against him. The saint, who had only consented to his election through the importunity of others, was most ready to relinquish his new dignity. This his enemies sought to deprive him of, together with his life, on which they made several attempts. Once, in particular, they hired a ruffian to assassinate him. But the villain, touched with remorse, repaired to the saint with many tears, wringing his hands, beating his breast, and confessing his black attempt, which he should have put in execution had not Providence interposed. The good bishop replied: "May God forgive you; his gracious preservation obliges me freely to pardon you. Your attempt has now made you mine. One only thing I beg of you, that you forsake your heresy and sincerely give yourself to God." Some warm Catholics complained of his lenity and indulgence towards the Arians, especially those who had shown themselves violent persecutors under the former reigns.

In the meantime the bishops of Egypt and those of Macedonia arriving at the council, though all equally in the interest of Paulinus of Antioch, complained that Gregory's election was uncanonical, it being forbidden by the canons to transfer bishops from one see to another. Nazianzen calmly answered that those canons had lost their force by long disuse: which was most notorious in the East. Nor did they in the least regard his case; for he had never taken possession of the see of Sasima, and only governed that of Nazianzum as vicar under his father. However, seeing a great ferment among the prelates and people, he cried out in the assembly, "If my holding the see of Constantinople gives any disturbance, behold I am very willing, like Jonas, to be cast into the sea to appease the storm, though I did not raise it. If all followed my example, the church would enjoy an uninterrupted tranquillity. This dignity I never desired; I took this charge upon me much against my will. If you think fit, I am most ready to depart; and I will return back to my little cottage, that you may remain here quiet, and the church of God enjoy peace. I only desire that the see may be filled by a person that is capable and willing to defend the faith."[23] He thereupon left the assembly, overjoyed that he had broken his bands. The bishops, whom he left in surprise, but too readily accepted his resignation. The saint went from the council to the palace, and falling on his knees before the emperor and kissing his hand, said, "I am come, sir, to ask neither riches nor honours for myself or friends, nor ornaments for the churches, but licence to retire. Your majesty knows how much against my will I was placed in this chair. I displease even my friends on no other account than because I value nothing but God. I beseech you, and make this my last petition, that among your trophies and triumphs you make this the greatest, that you bring the church to unity and concord." The emperor and those about him were astonished at such a greatness of soul, and he with much difficulty was prevailed on to give his assent. This being obtained, the saint had no more to do than to take his leave of the whole city, which he did in a pathetic discourse, delivered in the metropolitan church before the hundred and fifty fathers of the council and an incredible multitude of the people.[24] He describes the condition in which he had found that church on his first coming to it and that in which he left it, and gives to God his thanks and the honour of the re-establishment of the Catholic faith in that city. He makes a solemn protestation of the disinterestedness of his own conduct during his late administration, not having touched any part of the revenues of the see of Constantinople the whole time. He reproaches the city with the love of shows, luxury, and magnificence, and says he was accused of too great mildness, also of a meanness of spirit, from the lowly appearance he made with respect both to dress and table. He vindicates his behaviour in these regards, saying, "I did not take it to be any part of my duty to vie with consuls, generals, and governors, who know not how to employ their riches otherwise than in pomp and show. Neither did I imagine that the necessary subsistence of the poor was to be applied to the support of luxury, good cheer, a prancing horse, a sumptuous chariot, and a long train of attendants. If I have acted in another manner and have thereby given offence, the fault is already committed and cannot be recalled, but I hope is not unpardonable." He concludes by bidding a moving farewell to his church, to his dear Anastasia, which he calls, in the. language of St. Paul, his glory and his crown; to the cathedral and all the other parishes of the city, to the holy apostles as honoured in the magnificent church (in which Constantius had placed the relics of St. Andrew, St. Luke, and St. Timothy), to the episcopal throne, to the clergy, to the holy monks and the other pious servants of God, to the emperor and all the court with its jealousies, pomp, and ambition, to the East and West divided in his cause, to the tutelar angels of his church, and to the sacred Trinity honoured in that place. He concludes with these words: "My dear children, preserve the depositum of faith, and remember the stones which have been thrown at me because I planted it in your hearts." The saint was most tenderly affected in abandoning his dear flock—his converts especially which he had gained at his first church of Anastasia, as they had already signalized themselves in his service by suffering persecutions with patience for his sake. They followed him weeping, and entreating him to abide with them. He was not insensible to their tears; but motives of greater weight obliged him not to regard them on this occasion. St. Gregory, seeing himself at liberty, rejoiced in his happiness, as he expressed himself some time after to a friend in these words: "What advantages have not I found in the jealousy of my enemies! They have delivered me from the fire of Sodom by drawing me from the dangers of the episcopal charge."[25] This treatment was the recompense with which men rewarded the labours and merit of a saint whom they ought to have sought in the remotest corners of the earth: but that city was not worthy to possess so great and holy a pastor. He had in that short time brought over the chief part of its inhabitants to the Catholic faith, as appears from his works and from St. Ambrose.[26] He had conquered the obstinacy of heretics by meekness and patience, and thought it a sufficient revenge for their former persecutions that he had it in his power to chastise them.[27] The Catholics he induced to show the same moderation towards them, and exhorted them to serve Jesus Christ by taking a Christian revenge of them, the bearing their persecutions with patience and the overcoming evil with good.[28] Besides establishing the purity of faith, he had begun a happy reformation of manners among the people; and much greater fruits were to be expected from his zealous labours. Nectarius, who succeeded him, was a soft man, and by no means equal to such a charge.

Before the election of Nectarius, Gregory left the city and returned to Nazianzum. In that retirement he composed the poem on his own life, particularly dwelling on what he had done at Constantinople to obviate the scandalous slanders which were published against him. He laboured to place a bishop at Nazianzum, but was hindered by the opposition of many of the clergy. Sickness obliged him to withdraw soon after to Arianzum, probably before the end of the year 381. In his solitude he testifies[29] that he regretted the absence of his friends, though he seemed insensible to everything else of this world. To punish himself for superfluous words (though he had never spoken to the disparagement of any neighbour) he, in 382, passed the forty days of Lent in absolute silence. In his desert he never refused spiritual advice to any that resorted to him for it. In his parzenetic poem to St. Olympias he lays down excellent rules for the conduct of married women. Among other precepts, he says, "In the first place, honour God; then respect your husband as the eye of your life, for he is to direct your conduct and actions. Love only him; make him your joy and your comfort. Take care never to give him any occasion of offence or disgust. Yield to him in his anger; comfort and assist him in his pains and afflictions, speaking to him with sweetness and tenderness, and making him prudent and modest remonstrances at seasonable times. It is not by violence and strength that the keepers of lions endeavour to tame them when they see them enraged; but they soothe and caress them, stroking them gently, and speaking with a soft voice. Never let his weaknesses be the subject of your reproaches. It can never be just or allowable for you to treat a person in this manner whom you ought to prefer to the whole world." He prays that this holy woman might become the mother of many children, that there might be the more souls to sing the praises of Jesus Christ.[30] He often repeats this important advice, that everyone begin and end every action by offering his heart and whatever he does to God by a short prayer.[31] For we owe to God all that we are or have; and he accepts and rewards the smallest action, not so much with a view to its importance as to the affection of the heart, which in his poverty gives what it has, and is able to give in return for God's benefits and in acknowledgment of his sovereignty.

St. Gregory had been obliged to govern the vacant see of Nazianzum after the death of his father, leaving the chief care of that church to Cledonius in his absence. But in 382 he procured Eulalias to be ordained bishop of that city, and spent the remainder of his life in retirement near Arianzum, still continuing to aid that church with his advice, though at that time very old and infirm. In this private abode he had a garden, a fountain, and a shady grove, in which he took much delight. Here, in company with certain solitaries, he lived estranged from pleasures and in the practice of bodily mortification, fasting, watching, and praying much on his knees. "I live," says he, "among rocks and with wild beasts, never seeing any fire or using shoes; having only one single garment.[32] I am the outcast and the scorn of men. I lie on straw, clad in sackcloth: my floor is always moist with the tears I shed."[33] In the decline of life he set himself to write pious poems for the edification of such among the faithful as were fond of music and poetry. He had also mind to oppose the poems made use of by the Apollinarist heretics to propagate their errors by such as were orthodox, useful, and religious, as the priest Gregory says in his life. He considered this exercise also as a work of penance, compositions in metre being always more difficult than those in prose. He therein recounts the history of his life and sufferings: he publishes his faults, his weaknesses, and his temptations, enlarging much more on these than on his great actions. He complains of the annoyance of his rebellious flesh, notwithstanding his great age, his ill state of health, and his austerities, acknowledging himself wholly indebted to the divine grace which had always preserved in him the treasure of virginity inviolable. God suffered him to feel these temptations that he might not be exposed to the snares of vanity and pride; and that whilst his soul dwelt in heaven he might be put in mind by the rebellion of the body that he was still on earth in a state of war. His poems are full of cries of ardent love, by which he conjures Jesus Christ to assist him, without whose grace he declares we are only dead carcasses, exhaling the stench of sin, and as incapable of making one step as a bird is of flying without air, or a fish of swimming without water; for he alone makes us see, act, and run.[34] He joined great watchfulness to prayer, especially shunning the conversation and neighbourhood of women,[35] over and above the assiduous maceration of his body. In his letters he gives to others the same advice, of which his own life was a constant example. One instance shall suffice. Sacerdos, a holy priest, was fallen into an unjust persecution through slander. St. Gregory writes to him thus in his third letter: "What evil can happen to us after all this? None, certainly, unless we by our own fault lose God and virtue. Let all other things fall out as it shall please God. He is the master of our life, and knows the reason of everything that befalls us. Let us only fear to do anything unworthy our piety. We have fed the poor, we have served our brethren, we have sung the psalms with cheerfulness. If we are no longer permitted to continue this, let us employ our devotion some other way. Grace is not barren, and opens different ways to heaven. Let us live in retirement; let us occupy ourselves in contemplation; let us purify our souls by the light of God. This perhaps will be no less a sacrifice than anything we can do." These were St. Gregory's occupation from the time of his last retirement till his happy death in 389, or, according to others, in 391. Tillemont gives him only sixty or sixty-one years of age, but he was certainly considerably older. The Latins honour him on the 8th of May. The Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus caused his ashes to be translated from Nazianzum to Constantinople, and to be laid in the Church of the Apostles, which was done with great pomp in 950. They were brought to Rome in the crusades and lie under an altar in the Vatican Church.

This great saint looked upon the smiles and frowns of the world with indifference, because spiritual and heavenly goods wholly engrossed his soul. "Let us never esteem worldly prosperity or adversity as things real or of any moment," said he,[36] "but let us live elsewhere, and raise all our attention to heaven, esteeming sin as the only true evil, and nothing truly good but virtue, which unites us to God."

Endnotes

1 Naz. Or. 19, Carm. 2.

2 Or. 4, p. 121.

3 Or. I p. 32.

4 Carm. 2, p. 31.

5 Carm. 55.

6 Carm. I.

7 Or. 29.

8 Carm. 55.

9 Ep. 69.

10 Carm. 49.

11 Or. 9, 29.

12 Rufin. Hist. lib. ii. c. 9, p. 254

13 Or. 3, p. 53.

14 Or. 12.

15 Ep. 17.

16 Ep. 16.

17 His will was comprised in these words: "I bequeath my whole substance to the poor."

18 Ep. 32.

19 Sozom. Lib. vii. c. 5.

20 Lib. ii. p. 191.

21 Socr. Lib. ii. c. 38.

22 Carm I.

23 Carm. I.

24 Or. 32.

25 Ep. 73.

26 L. de Spir. Sancto.

27 Or. 32.

28 Or. 24.

29 Ep. 73.

30 Quo plures celebrent magni praeconia reais. Nor. t. ii. p. 144.

31 Or. I, p. 1; Or. 9, pp. 152-154, &c.

32 Carm. 5 and 60.

33 Ib. 147

34 Carm. 59.

35 EP. 196, P. 894.

36 EP. 189.

(Taken from Vol. II of "The Lives or the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints" by the Rev. Alban Butler.)

Provided Courtesy of: Eternal Word Television Network, 5817 Old Leeds Road. Irondale, AL 35210

www.ewtn.com

SOURCE : http://www.ewtn.com/library/mary/gregnazi.htm

St. Gregory Nazianzen, Bishop and Confessor, Doctor of the Church

From his own works, and other monuments of that age. See Gregory of Cæsarea, who wrote his life in 940; Hermant, Tillemont, t. 9; Ceillier, t. 7; also the life of this saint compiled from his works by Baronius, published by Alberici, in an appendix to the life and letters of that cardinal, in 1759, t. 2.

A.D. 389.


ST. GREGORY, who, from his profound skill in sacred learning, is surnamed the Theologian, was a native of Arianzum, an obscure village in the territory of Nazianzum, a small town in Cappadocia, not far from Cæsarea. His parents are both honoured in the calendars of the church: his father on the 1st of January, and his mother, Nonna, on the 5th of August. She drew down the blessing of heaven upon her family by most bountiful and continual alms-deeds, in which she knew one of the greatest advantages of riches to consist: yet, to satisfy the obligation of justice which she owed to her children, she, by her prudent economy, improved at the same time their patrimony. The greater part of her time she devoted to holy prayer, and her respect and attention to the least thing which regarded religion is not to be expressed. His father, whose name also was Gregory, was, from his infancy, a worshipper of false gods, but of the sect called the Hipsistarii, on account of the profession they made of adoring the Most High God; though, at the same time, they worshipped fire with the Persians, and observed the Jewish sabbath and distinction of meats. We find no mention of them but in the writings of our saint. The prayers and tears of Nonna at length obtained of God the conversion of her husband, whose integrity in the discharge of the chief magistracy of his town, and the practice of strict moral virtue prepared him for such a change. He was baptised at Nazianzum, about the time of the great council of Nice, having first most carefully prepared himself to receive that holy sacrament in the most fervent dispositions of piety, and to preserve the precious graces which attend it. Not very long after, the sanctity of his life raised him to the episcopal see of Nazianzum, which he held about forty-five years, dying in 374, when he was above ninety years old. 1 His son has left us the most edifying detail of his humility, holy zeal, and other virtues. 2 He had three children, Gorgonia, Gregory, and Cæsarius who was the youngest. Gregory was the fruit of the most earnest prayers of his mother, who, upon his birth, offered him to God for the service of his church. His virtuous parents gave him the strongest impressions of piety in his tender age: and his chief study, from his very infancy, was to know God by the help of pious books, in the reading whereof he was very assiduous. He relates, that, in his youth, he had a mysterious dream, in which he beheld himself caressed by chastity and temperance, under the appearance of two beautiful damsels, as their child; and they invited him to go with them, on the promise of raising him up to the light of the immortal Trinity, if he would put himself under their conduct. He says, that from that time he resolved to serve God in a state of perfect continence. He writes in very strong terms of the strict obligation of vows of chastity, the violation of which he calls death, sacrilege, and perfidy: 3 he is also very large oftentimes upon the excellency and advantages of that holy state. 4

Having acquired grammar-learning in the schools of his own country, and being formed to piety by domestic examples, he was sent to Cæsarea in Palestine, where the study of eloquence flourished. He pursued the same studies some time at Alexandria; and there embarked for Athens in November. The vessel was beaten by a furious storm during twenty days, without any hopes either for the ship or passengers; all which time, he lay upon the deck, bemoaning the danger of his soul, on account of his not having been as yet baptized, imploring the divine mercy with many tears and loud groans, and frequently renewing his promise of devoting himself entirely to God, in case he survived the danger. God was pleased to hear his prayer: the tempest ceased, and the vessel arrived safe at Rhodes, and soon after at Ægina, an island near Athens. He had passed through Cæsarea of Cappadocia in his road to Palestine; and making some stay there to improve himself under the great masters of that city, had contracted an acquaintance with the great St. Basil, which he cultivated at Athens, whither that saint followed him soon after. The intimacy between these two saints became from that time the most perfect model of holy friendship, and nothing can be more tender than the epitaph which St. Gregory composed upon his friend. Whilst they pursued their studies together, they shunned the company of those scholars who sought too much after liberty; and conversed only with the diligent and virtuous. They avoided all feasting and vain entertainments: and were acquainted only with two streets, one that led to the church, and the other to the schools. Riches they despised and accounted as thorns, employing their allowance in supplying themselves with bare necessaries for an abstemious and slender subsistence, and disposing of the remainder in behalf of the poor. Envy had no place in them; sincere love made each of them esteem his companion’s honour and advantage as his own: they were to each other a mutual spur to all good, and by a holy emulation, neither of them would be outdone by the other in fasting, prayer, or the exercise of any virtue. St. Basil left Athens first. The progress which St. Gregory made here in eloquence, philosophy, and sacred studies, appears by the high reputation which he acquired, and by the monuments which he has left behind him. But his greatest happiness and praise was, that he always made the fear and love of God his principal affair, to which he referred his studies and all his endeavours. In 355, Julian, afterwards emperor, came to Athens, where he spent some months with St. Basil and St. Gregory, in the study of profane literature and the holy scriptures. St. Gregory then prognosticated what a mischief the empire was breeding up in that monster, from the levity of his carriage, the rolling and wandering of his eyes, the fierceness of his looks, the tossings of his head, the shrugging up of his shoulders, his uneven gait, his loud and unseasonable laughter, his rash and incoherent discourse; the indications of an unsettled and arrogant mind. 5 The year following our saint left Athens for Nazianzum, and took Constantinople in his way. Here he found his brother Cæsarius, arrived not long before, from Alexandria, where he had accomplished himself in all the polite learning of that age, and applied himself particularly to physic. The emperor Constantius honoured him with his favour, and made him his chief physician. His generosity appeared in this station by his practice of physic, even among the rich, without the inducement of either fee or reward. He was also a father to the poor, on whom he bestowed the greater part of his income. Gregory was importuned by many to make his appearance at the bar, or at least to teach rhetoric, as that which would afford him the best means to display his talents, and raise his fortune in the world. But he answered, that he had totally devoted himself to the service of God.

The first thing he did after his return to Nazianzum was to fulfil his engagement of consecrating himself entirely to God, by receiving baptism at the hands of his father. This he did without reserve: “I have,” says he, 6 “given all I have to him from whom I received it, and have taken him alone for my whole possession. I have consecrated to him my goods, my glory, my health, my tongue and talents. All the fruit I have received from these advantages has been the happiness of despising them for Christ’s sake.” From that moment, never was man more dead to ambition, riches, pleasures, or reputation.—He entertained no secret affection for the things of this world, but trampled under his feet all its pride and perishable goods; finding no ardour, no relish, no pleasure, but in God and in heavenly things. His diet was coarse bread, with salt and water. 7 He lay upon the ground, and wore nothing but what was coarse and vile. He worked hard all day, and spent a considerable part of the night in singing the praises of God, or in contemplation. 8 With riches he contemned also profane eloquence, on which he had bestowed so much pains, making an entire sacrifice of it to Jesus Christ. His classics and books of profane oratory he abandoned to the worms and moths. 9 He regarded the greatest honours as vain dreams, which only deceive men, and dreaded the precipices down which ambition drags its inconsiderate slaves. Nothing appeared to him comparable to the life which a man leads who is dead to himself and his sensual inclinations; who lives as it were out of the world, and has no other conversation but with God. 10 However, he for some time took upon himself the care of his father’s household, and the management of his affairs. He was afflicted with several sharp fits of sickness caused by his extreme austerities and continual tears, which often did not suffer him to sleep. 11 He rejoiced in his distempers, because in them he found the best opportunities of mortification and self-denial. 12 The immoderate laughter, which his cheerful disposition had made him subject to in his youth, was afterwards the subject of his tears. He obtained so complete a conquest over the passion of anger, as to prevent all indeliberate motions of it, and became totally indifferent in regard to all that before was most dear to him. His generous liberality to the poor made him always as destitute of earthly goods as the poorest, and his estate was common to all who were in necessity as a port is to all at sea. 13 Never does there seem to have been a greater lover of retirement and silence. He laments the excesses into which talkativeness draws men, and the miserable itch that prevails in most people to become teachers of others. 14

 It was his most earnest desire to disengage himself from the converse of men and the world, that he might more freely enjoy that of heaven. He accordingly, in 358, joined St. Basil in the solitude into which he had retreated, situate near the river Iris in Pontus. Here watching, fasting, prayer, studying the holy scriptures, singing psalms, and manual labour employed their whole time. As to their exposition of the divine oracles, they were guided in this, not by their own lights and particular way of thinking, but, as Rufinus writes, 15 by the interpretation which the ancient fathers and doctors of the church had delivered concerning them. But this solitude Gregory enjoyed only just long enough to be enamoured of its sweetness, being soon recalled back by his father, then above eighty, to assist him in the government of his flock. To draw the greater succour from him he ordained him priest by force, and when he least expected it. This was performed in the church on some great festival, and probably on Christmas-day, in 361. He knew the sentiments of his son with regard to that charge, and his invincible reluctance on several accounts, which was the reason of his taking this method. The saint accordingly speaks of his ordination as a kind of tyranny which he knew not well how to digest; in which sentiments he fled into the deserts of Pontus and sought relief in the company of his dear friend St. Basil, by whom he had been lately importuned to return. Many censured this his flight, ascribing it to pride, obstinacy, and the like motives.—Gregory likewise himself, reflecting at leisure on his own conduct, and the punishment of the prophet Jonas for disobeying the command of God, came to a resolution to go back to Nazianzum; where, after a ten weeks’ absence, he appeared again on Easter-day, and there preached his first sermon on that great festival. This was soon after followed by another, which is extant under the title of his apology for his flight. It is placed the first amongst his orations on account of the importance of the subject. He treats in it principally on the great dignity, duties, and dangers of the sacerdotal office; on the sanctity requisite to approach the altar and to appear before God, the author of purity; the extreme difficulty of governing the consciences of others, and applying remedies to the different maladies of souls. He insists much on the virtue and learning necessary for the sacred functions, to answer all the exigencies of the faithful, and to confute errors. From these principles he concludes, that he had reason to tremble at the sight of such a burden, and to employ some time in preparing himself for the ministry of the altar by prayer, mortification, and holy meditation. He adds, that, fearing the terrible account which would be demanded of him for the souls committed to his care, should he refuse his labours, he like Jonas returned to the duties belonging to the station to which he was called, in hopes that obedience would support him in it, and be a means to procure him the graces necessary for this purpose.

 In this discourse St. Gregory extols the unanimity of that church in faith and their mutual concord; but towards the end of the reign of Julian an unfortunate division happened in it, which is mentioned by the saint in his first invective against that apostate prince. 16 The bishop, his father, hoping to gain certain persons to the church by condescension, admitted a certain writing which had been drawn up by the secret favourers of Arianism in ambiguous and artful terms. This unwary condescension of the elder Gregory, gave offence to the most zealous part of his flock, and especially to the monks, who refused thereupon to communicate with him. Our saint discharged his duty so well in this critical affair, that he united the flock with their pastor, without the least concession in favour of the error of those by whom his father had been tricked into a subscription against his intention and design, his faith being entirely pure. On the occasion of this joyful reunion, our saint pronounced an elegant discourse. 17 Soon after the death of Julian he composed his two invective orations against that apostate. He imitates the severity which the prophets frequently made use of in their censures of wicked kings; but his design was to defend the church against the Pagans, by unmasking the injustice, impiety, and hypocrisy of its capital persecutor. The saint’s younger brother, Cæsarius, had lived in the court of Julian, highly honoured by that emperor for his learning and skill in physic. St. Gregory pressed him to forsake the family of the apostate prince, in which he could not live without being betrayed into many temptations and snares. 18 And so it happened: for Julian, after many caresses, assailed him by inveigling speeches, and at length by a warm disputation in favour of idolatry. Cæsarius answered him, that he was a Christian, and such he was resolved always to remain. However, apprehensive of the dangers in which he lived, he soon after chose rather to resign his post, than to run the hazard of his faith and a good conscience. He, therefore, left the court, though the emperor endeavoured earnestly to detain him. After the miserable death of the apostate, he appeared again with distinction in the courts of Jovian and Valens, and was made by the latter Comes rerum privatarum, or treasurer of the imperial rents; which office was but a step to higher dignities. In the discharge of this employment of Bithynia, he happened to be at Nice in the great earthquake, which swallowed up the chief part of that city in 368. The treasurer, with some few others escaped, by being preserved through a wonderful providence, in certain hollow parts of the ruins. St. Gregory improved this opportunity to urge him again to quit the world and its honours, and to consecrate to God alone a life for which he was indebted to him on so many accounts. 19 Cæsarius, moved by so awakening an accident listened to this advice, and took a resolution to renounce the world: but returning home, fell sick and died in the fervour of his sacrifice, about the beginning of the year 368, leaving his whole estate to the poor. 20 He is named in the Roman Martyrology on the 25th of February. St. Gregory, extolling his virtue, says that whilst he enjoyed the honours of the world, he looked upon the advantage of being a Christian as the first of his dignities, and the most glorious of all his titles; reckoning all the rest dross and dung. He was buried at Nazianzum, and our saint pronounced his funeral panegyric, as he also did that of his holy sister Gorgonia, who died soon after. He extols her humility; her prayer often continued whole nights with tears; her modesty, prudence, patience, resignation, zeal, respect for the ministers of God and for holy places; her liberality to them and great charity to the poor; her penance, extraordinary care of the education of her children, &c. He mentions, as miraculous, her being cured of a palsy by praying at the foot of the altar; and her recovery after great wounds and bruises which she had received by a fall from her chariot.

In 372, Cappadocia was divided by the emperor into two provinces, and Tyana made the capital of that which was called the second. Anthimus, bishop of that city, pretended hence to an archiepiscopal jurisdiction over the second Cappadocia. St. Basil, the metropolitan of Cappadocia, maintained that the civil division of the province had not infringed his jurisdiction, though he afterwards, for the sake of peace, yielded the second Cappadocia to the see of Tyana. He appointed our saint bishop of Sasima, a small town in that division. Gregory stood out a long time, but at length submitted, overcome by the authority of his father and the influence of his friend. He accordingly received the episcopal consecration from the hands of St. Basil, at Cæsarea, about the middle of the year 372. But he repaired to Nazianzum to wait a favourable opportunity of taking possession of the church of Sasima, which never happened: for Anthimus, who had in his interest the new governor, and was master of all the roads and avenues to that town, would by no means admit him. Basil reproached his friend with sloth: but St. Gregory answered him that he was not disposed to fight for a church. 21 He, however, charged himself with the government of that of Nazianzum under his father till his death, which happened the year following. St. Gregory pronounced his funeral panegyric in the presence of St. Basil and of his mother St. Nonna, who died shortly after. Holy solitude had been the constant object of his most earnest desires, and he had only waited the death of his father, entirely to bury himself in it. Nevertheless, yielding to the importunities of others, and to the necessities of the church of Nazianzum, he consented to continue his care of it till the neighbouring bishops could provide it with a pastor. But seeing this affair protracted, and finding himself afflicted with various distempers, he left that city and withdrew to Seleucia, the metropolis of Isauria, in 375, where he continued five years. The death of St. Basil, in 379, was to him a sensible affliction, and he then composed twelve epigrams or epitaphs to his memory; and some years after pronounced his panegyric at Cæsarea, namely in 381 or 382. The unhappy death of the persecuting emperor Valens, in 378, restored peace to the church. The Catholic pastors sought means to make up the breaches which heresy had made in many places. For this end they held several assemblies, and sent zealous and learned men into those provinces in which the tyrant had made the greatest havoc. The church of Constantinople was of all others in the most desolate and abandoned condition, having groaned during forty years under the tyranny of the Arians, and the few Catholics who remained there having been long without a pastor, and even without a church wherein to assemble. They, being well acquainted with our saint’s merit, importuned him to come to their assistance, and were backed by several bishops, desirous that his learning, eloquence, and piety might restore that church to its splendour. But such were the pleasures he enjoyed in his beloved retirement at Seleucia, and in his thorough disengagement from the world, that, for some time, these united solicitations made little or no impression on him. They had, however, at length, their desired effect. His body bent with age, his head bald, his countenance extenuated with tears and austerities, his poor garb, and his extreme poverty, made but a mean appearance at Constantinople; and no wonder that he was at first ill received in that polite and proud city. The Arians pursued him with calumnies, railleries, and insults. The prefects and governors added their persecutions to the fury of the populace, all which concurred to acquire him the glorious title of confessor. He lodged first in the house of certain relations, where the Catholics first assembled to hear him. He soon after converted it into a church, and gave it the name of Anastasia, or the Resurrection, because the Catholic faith, which in that city had been hitherto oppressed, here seemed to be raised, as it were, from the dead. Sozomen relates that this name was confirmed to it by a miraculous raising to life of a woman then with child, who was killed by falling from a gallery in it, but returned to life by the prayers of the congregation. 22 Another circumstance afterwards confirmed in this church the same name. During the reign of the emperor Leo the Thracian, about the year 460, the body of St. Anastasia, virgin and martyr, was brought from Sirmich to Constantinople, and laid in this place, as is recorded by Theodorus the Reader. 23 But this church is not to be confounded with another of the same name which was in the hands of the Novations under Constantius and Julian the Apostate. 24

In this small church Nazianzen preached, and every day assembled his little flock, which increased daily. The Arians and Apollinarists, joined with other sects, not content to defame and calumniate him, had recourse to violence on his person. They pelted him with stones as he went along the streets, and dragged him before the civil magistrates as a malefactor, charging him with tumult and sedition. But he comforted himself on reflecting, that though they were the stronger party, he had the better cause; though they possessed the churches, God was with him; if they had the populace on their side, the angels were on his, to guard him. St. Jerom coming out of the deserts of Syria to Constantinople, became the disciple and scholar of St. Gregory, and was one of those who studied the holy scripture under him, of which that great doctor glories in his writings. Our holy pastor, being a lover of solitude, seldom went abroad or made any visits, except such as were indispensable; and the time that was not employed in the discharge of his functions he devoted to prayer and meditation, spending a considerable part of the night in those holy exercises. His diet was herbs and a little salt with bread. His cheeks were furrowed with the tears which he shed, and he daily prostrated himself before God to implore his light and mercy upon his people. His profound learning, his faculty of forming the most noble conceptions of things, and the admirable perspicuity, elegance, and propriety with which he explained them, charmed all who heard him. The Catholics flocked to his discourses, as men parching with thirst eagerly go to the spring to quench it. Heretics and Pagans resorted to them, admiring his erudition, and charmed with his eloquence. The fruits of his sermons were every day sensible: his flock became in a short time very numerous, and he purged the people of that poison which had corrupted their hearts for many years. St. Gregory heard, with blushing and confusion, the applause and acclamations with which his discourses were received; and his fear of this danger made him speak in public with a certain timidity and reluctance. He scorned to flatter the great ones, and directed his discourses to explain and corroborate the Catholic faith, and reform the manners of the people. He taught them, that the way to salvation was not to be ever disputing about matters of religion (an abuse that was grown to a great height at that time in Constantinople,) but to keep the commandments, 25 to give alms, to exercise hospitality, to visit and serve the sick, to pray, sigh, and weep; to mortify the senses, repress anger, watch over the tongue, and subject the body to the spirit. The envy of the devil and of his instruments could not bear the success of his labours, and, by exciting troubles, found means to interrupt them. Maximus, a native of Alexandria, a cynic philosopher, but withal a Christian, full of the impudence and pride of that sect, came to Constantinople; and under an hypocritical exterior, disguised a heart full of envy, ambition, covetousness, and gluttony. He imposed on several, and for some time on St. Gregory himself, who pronounced an eulogium of this man, in 379, now extant under the title of the Eulogium of the Philosopher Hero; but St. Jerom assures us, that instead of Hero, we ought to read Maximus. This wolf in sheep’s clothing having gained one of the priests of the city, and some partisans among the laity, procured himself to be ordained bishop of Constantinople, in a clandestine manner, by certain Egyptian bishops who had lately arrived on that intent. The irregularity of this proceeding stirred up all the world against the usurper. Pope Damasus wrote to testify his affliction on that occasion, and called the election null. The Emperor Theodosius the Great, then at Thessalonica, rejected Maximus with indignation; and coming to Constantinople, proposed to Demophilus the Arian bishop, either to receive the Nicene faith, or to leave the city; and upon his preferring the latter, his majesty, embracing St. Gregory, assured him, that the Catholics of Constantinople demanded him for their bishop, and that their choice was most agreeable to his own desires. Theodosius, within a few days after his arrival, drove the Arians out of all the churches in the city, and put the saint in possession of the church of St. Sophia, upon which all the other churches of the city depended. Here the clamours of the people were so vehement that Gregory might be their bishop, that all was in confusion till the saint prevailed upon them to drop that subject, and to join in praise and thanksgiving to the ever blessed Trinity, for restoring among them the profession of the true faith. The emperor highly commended the modesty of the saint. But a council was necessary to declare the see vacant, and the promotion of the Arian Demophilus, and of the cynic Maximus, void and null. A synod of all the East was then meeting at Constantinople, in which St. Meletius, patriarch of Antioch, presided. He being the great friend and admirer of Nazianzen, the council took his cause into consideration before all others, declared the election of Maximus null, and established St. Gregory bishop of Constantinople, without having any regard to his tears and expostulations. St. Meletius dying during the synod, St. Gregory presided in the latter sessions. To put an end to the schism between Meletius and Paulinus, at Antioch, it had been agreed, that the survivor should remain in sole possession of that see. This Nazianzen urged; but the oriental bishops were unwilling to own for a patriarch one whom they had opposed. They therefore took great offence at this most just and prudent remonstrance, and entered into a conspiracy with his enemies against him. The saint, who had only consented to his election through the importunity of others, was most ready to relinquish his new dignity. This his enemies sought to deprive him of, together with his life, on which they made several attempts. Once, in particular, they hired a ruffian to assassinate him. But the villain, touched with remorse, repaired to the saint with many tears, wringing his hands, beating his breast, and confessing his black attempt, which he should have put in execution had not providence interposed. The good bishop replied: “May God forgive you: his gracious preservation obliges me freely to pardon you. Your attempt has now made you mine. One only thing I beg of you, that you forsake your heresy, and sincerely give yourself to God.” Some warm Catholics complained of his lenity and indulgence towards the Arians, especially those who had shown themselves violent persecutors under the former reigns.

In the meantime, the bishops of Egypt and those of Macedonia arriving at the council, though all equally in the interest of Paulinus of Antioch, complained that Gregory’s election was uncanonical, it being forbidden by the canons to transfer bishops from one see to another. Nazianzen calmly answered, that those canons had lost their force by long disuse: which was most notorious in the East. Nor did they in the least regard his case; for he had never taken possession of the see of Sasima, and only governed that of Nazianzum, as vicar under his father. However, seeing a great ferment among the prelates and people, he cried out in the assembly: “If my holding the see of Constantinople give any disturbance, behold I am very willing, like Jonas, to be cast into the sea to appease the storm, though I did not raise it. If all followed my example, the church would enjoy an uninterrupted tranquillity. This dignity I never desired; I took this charge upon me much against my will. If you think fit, I am most ready to depart; and I will return back to my little cottage, that you may remain here quiet, and the Church of God enjoy peace. I only desire that the see may be filled by a person that is capable and willing to defend the faith.” 26 He thereupon left the assembly, overjoyed that he had broken his bands. The bishops, whom he left in surprise, but too readily accepted his resignation. The saint went from the council to the palace, and falling on his knees before the emperor, and, kissing his hand, said: “I am come, sir, to ask neither riches nor honours for myself or friends, nor ornaments for the churches: but license to retire. Your majesty knows how much against my will I was placed in this chair. I displease even my friends on no other account than because I value nothing but God. I beseech you, make this my last petition, that among your trophies and triumphs you make this the greatest, that you bring the church to unity and concord.” The emperor and those about him were astonished at such a greatness of soul, and he with much difficulty was prevailed on to give his assent. This being obtained, the saint had no more to do than to take his leave of the whole city, which he did in a pathetic discourse, delivered in the metropolitan church before the hundred and fifty fathers of the council, and an incredible multitude of people. 27 He describes the condition in which he had found that church on his first coming to it, and that in which he left it; and gives to God his thanks, and the honour of the re-establishment of the Catholic faith in that city. He makes a solemn protestation of the disinterestedness of his own conduct during his late administration; not having touched any part of the revenues of the see of Constantinople the whole time. He reproaches the city with the love of shows, luxury, and magnificence, and says he was accused of too great mildness, also of a meanness of spirit, from the lowly appearance he made with respect both to dress and table. He vindicates his behaviour in these regards, saying: “I did not take it to be any part of my duty to vie with consuls, generals, and governors, who know not how to employ their riches otherwise than in pomp and show. Neither did I imagine, that the necessary subsistence of the poor was to be applied to the support of luxury, good cheer, a prancing horse, a sumptuous chariot, and a long train of attendants. If I have acted in another manner, and have thereby given offence, the fault is already committed, and cannot be recalled; but I hope is not unpardonable.” He concludes, by bidding a moving farewell to his church, to his dear Anastasia, which he calls, in the language of St. Paul, his glory and his crown; to the cathedral and all the other parishes of the city, to the holy apostles as honoured in the magnificent church, (in which Constantius had placed the relics of St. Andrew, St. Luke, and St. Timothy,) to his episcopal throne, to the clergy, to the holy monks, and the other pious servants of God, to the emperor and all the court, with its jealousies, pomp, and ambition, to the East and West divided in his cause, to the tutelar angels of his church, and to the sacred Trinity honoured in that place. He concludes with these words: “My dear children, preserve the depositum of faith, and remember the stones which have been thrown at me, because I planted it in your hearts.” The saint was most tenderly affected in abandoning his dear flock, his converts especially, which he had gained at his first church of Anastasia, as they had already signalized themselves in his service by suffering persecutions with patience for his sake. They followed him weeping, and entreating him to abide with them. He was not insensible to their tears; but motives of greater weight obliged him not to regard them on this occasion. St. Gregory, seeing himself at liberty, rejoiced in his happiness, as he expressed himself sometime after to a friend in these words: “What advantages have not I found in the jealousy of my enemies! They have delivered me from the fire of Sodom, by drawing me from the dangers of the episcopal charge.” 28 This treatment was the recompense with which men rewarded the labours and merit of a saint, whom they ought to have sought in the remotest corners of the earth: but that city was not worthy to possess so great and holy a pastor. He had in that short time brought over the chief part of its inhabitants to the Catholic faith, as appears from his works, and from St. Ambrose. 29 He had conquered the obstinacy of heretics by meekness and patience, and thought it a sufficient revenge for their former persecutions, that he had it in his power to chastise them. 30 The Catholics he induced to show the same moderation towards them, and exhorted them to serve Jesus Christ, by taking a Christian revenge of them, the bearing their persecutions with patience, and the overcoming evil with good. 31 Besides establishing the purity of faith, he had begun a happy reformation of manners among the people; and much greater fruits were to be expected from his zealous labours. Nectarius, who succeeded him, was a soft man, and by no means equal to such a charge. For though he was a Roman senator, and prætor or governor of Constantinople, he was not only a layman, but not yet baptized when elected, and had lived incontinently: which circumstances, joined with the notorious imprudence of some of his actions, suffice to show that Socrates was too lavish in the commendations bestowed on him. “He seems also,” says Tillemont, “to have had no more the gift of speaking than a mute:” and Palladius makes the same observation on his brother Arsacius, who was intruded into the chair of St. Chrysostom. Before St. Gregory had resigned the see of Constantinople he drew up his last will and testament, which is still extant, signed by six bishops and a priest, and written according to the formalities of the Roman law. He confirms it in the donation of his estate, both real and personal, to the church and poor of Nazianzum, except some small annuities for life, which he bequeathed to certain poor friends and servants.

Before the election of Nectarius he left the city, and returned to Nazianzen. In that retirement he composed the poem on his own life, particularly dwelling on what he had done at Constantinople to obviate the scandalous slanders which were published against him. He laboured to place a bishop at Nazianzum, but was hindered by the opposition of many of the clergy. Sickness obliged him to withdraw soon after to Arianzum, probably before the end of the year 381. In his solitude he testifies, 32 that he regretted the absence of his friends, though he seemed insensible to everything else of this world. To punish himself for superfluous words, (though he had never spoken to the disparagement of any neighbour,) he, in 382, passed the forty days of Lent in absolute silence. In his desert he never refused spiritual advice to any that resorted to him for it. In his parænetic poem to St. Olympias he lays down excellent rules for the conduct of married woman. Among other precepts he says: “In the first place, honour God; then respect your husband as the eye of your life; for he is to direct your conduct and actions. Love only him; make him your joy and your comfort. Take care never to give him any occasion of offence or disgust. Yield to him in his anger: comfort and assist him in his pains and afflictions, speaking to him with sweetness and tenderness, and making him prudent and modest remonstrances at seasonable times. It is not by violence and strength that the keepers of lions endeavour to tame them when they see them enraged; but they soothe and caress them, stroking them gently, and speaking with a soft voice. Never let his weaknesses be the subject of your reproaches. It can never be just or allowable for you to treat a person in this manner whom you ought to prefer to the whole world.” He prays that this holy woman might become the mother of many children; that there might be the more souls to sing the praises of Jesus Christ. 33—He often repeats this important advice, that every one begin and end every action by offering his heart and whatever he does to God by a short prayer. 34 For we owe to God all that we are or have; and he accepts and rewards the smallest action, not so much with a view to its importance as to the affection of the heart, which in his poverty gives what it has, and is able to give in return for God’s benefits, and in acknowledgment of his sovereignty.

St. Gregory had been obliged to govern the vacant see of Nazianzum after the death of his father, leaving the chief care of that church to Cledonius in his absence. But in 382, he procured Eulalias to be ordained bishop of that city, and spent the remainder of his life in retirement near Arianzum: still continuing to aid that church with his advice, though at that time very old and infirm. In this private abode he had a garden, a fountain, and a shady grove, in which he took much delight. Here, in company with certain solitaries, he lived estranged from pleasures, and in the practice of bodily mortification, fasting, watching, and praying much on his knees. “I live,” says he, “among rocks and with wild beasts, never seeing any fire, or using shoes; having only one single garment. 35 I am the outcast and the scorn of men. I lie on straw, clad in sackcloth: my floor is always moist with the tears I shed.” 36 In the decline of life he set himself to write pious poems for the edification of such among the faithful as were fond of music and poetry. He had also a mind to oppose the poems made use of by the Apollinarist heretics to propagate their errors, by such as were orthodox, useful, and religious, as the priest Gregory says in his life. He considered this exercised also as a work of penance, compositions in metre being always more difficult than those in prose. He therein recounts the history of his life and sufferings: he publishes his faults, his weaknesses, and his temptations, enlarging much more on these than on his great actions. He complains of the annoyance of his rebellious flesh, notwithstanding his great age, his ill state of health, and his austerities; acknowledging himself wholly indebted to the divine grace which had always preserved in him the treasure of virginity inviolable. God suffered him to feel these temptations that he might not be exposed to the snares of vanity and pride; and that whilst his soul dwelt in heaven, he might be put in mind by the rebellion of the body, that he was still on earth in a state of war. His poems are full of cries of ardent love, by which he conjures Jesus Christ to assist him, without whose grace, he declares we are only dead carcasses exhaling the stench of sin, and as incapable of making one step as a bird is of flying without air, or a fish of swimming without water: for he alone makes us see, act, and run. 37 He joined great watchfulness to prayer, especially shunning the conversation and neighbourhood of women, 38 over and above the assiduous maceration of his body. In his letters, he gives to others the same advice, of which his own life was a constant example. One instance shall suffice. Sacerdos, a holy priest, was fallen into an unjust persecution through slander. St. Gregory writes to him thus in his third letter: “What evil can happen to us after all this? None, certainly, unless we by our own fault lose God and virtue. Let all other things fall out as it shall please God. He is the master of our life, and knows the reason of every thing that befals us. Let us only fear to do anything unworthy our piety. We have fed the poor, we have served our brethren, we have sung the psalms with cheerfulness. If we are no longer permitted to continue this, let us employ our devotion some other way. Grace is not barren, and opens different ways to heaven. Let us live in retirement: let us occupy ourselves in contemplation; let us purify our souls by the light of God. This, perhaps, will be no less a sacrifice than anything we can do.” 39 These were St. Gregory’s occupations from the time of his last retirement till his happy death in 389, or, according to others, in 391. Tillemont gives him only sixty or sixty-one years of age, but he was certainly considerably older. The Latins honour him on the 9th of May. The Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus caused his ashes to be translated from Nazianzum to Constantinople, and to be laid in the church of the apostles: which was done with great pomp in 950. They were brought to Rome in the crusades, and lie under an altar in the Vatican church.

This great saint looked upon the smiles and frowns of the world with indifference, because spiritual and heavenly goods wholly engrossed his soul. “Let us never esteem worldly prosperity or adversity as things real or of any moment,” said he, 40 “but let us live elsewhere, and raise all our attention to heaven, esteeming sin as the only true evil, and nothing truly good but virtue, which unites us to God.” He requires the most perfect disengagement of ourselves from earthly things that we may give ourselves to God without reserve or restriction.—“Let us offer ourselves entire to God,” says he, “that in him we may find ourselves again entire. 41 It is truly great riches to be destitute of earthly goods for his sake who was pleased to suffer poverty for the love of us.” 42 This consecration of ourselves to God is our own infinite interest; but the goodness of God is the motive which ought most strongly to invite us to make it. This St. Gregory was never able to consider without raptures of adoration and astonishment, in which he cried out: 43 “Admire the excess of God’s goodness. He vouchsafes to accept our desires as if they were a thing of great value. He burns with an ardent desire that we vehemently desire and love him; and he receives the petition we put up for his benefits as if this were a benefit to himself, and a favour we did him: he gives with greater joy than it can be to us to receive what he gives. Let us only be careful not to be too indifferent in our requests, or to set too narrow bounds to our desires and pretensions; and let us never ask frivolous things which it would be unworthy of his magnificence to petition him for. There is nothing so great before God which the least among men is not able to offer him, as well as the greatest prince or most profound scholar: give but yourself to him with the most pure and perfect love.”

Note 1. Our saint’s father having been baptized about the time of the council of Nice in 325, and made bishop four years after, some critics have thought his father was bishop when he was born: and it is possible, that in a great scarcity of pastors the law of celibacy might have been legally dispensed with by the bishops on some very extraordinary emergencies: but this was not here the case. The age of our saint, and many circumstances in his life and writings, show clearly that he was born long before his father’s episcopacy, as is demonstrated by Stilting from the very age of his father and mother, &c. The same is proved by Baronius both in his annals and in his life of St. Gregory Nazianzen, published by Alberici at the end of the cardinal’s life and letters at Rome, an. 1759, t. 2. The verses, upon which the contrary opinion is grounded, are so ambiguous that certainly no argument can be drawn from them. In these the father is introduced saying to him: “You have not yet lived so many years as I have spent in sacrifices.”[Greek]. Carm. 1, de vit sua, c. 35, p. 9.

Where [Greek] more properly be understood of the heathenish sacrifices, than of the Christian, which the father had served more years than the son had lived at that time, or than he himself had administered the Christian priesthood. The word [Greek] is also ambiguous, and translated by F. Stilting, “You have not considered,” viz. my great age to respect it, and readily obey me in assisting me to govern my diocess, which you decline. Baronius appeals to these very verses to prove that the saint was born before his father was baptized. See Stilting, (Diss. de ætat. S. Greg. Naz. ante tom. 3, Sept.) who proves that our saint was born between the years 312 and 318, and before the conversion of his father: and he confirms this by many other proofs, even by the formal testimony of our holy doctor himself. (Or. 19.) Dom. Prudentius Marand, who has prepared a new accurate edition of the works of St. Gregory Naz. almost ready for the press, complains that we have very few MS. copies of his poems and letters, and these often faulty, and pretends the first word of these two verses ought to be divided, and a Sigma read in the end, [Greek] scarce, non fere. Our saint commends his father for having always rigorously observed the canons in every point, and in other places evidently asserts the precept of celibacy in the clergy. See Papebroke in append. tom. 7, Maij. p. 656, where he confutes Tillemont, Hermant, &c. and fixes the birth both of St. Basil and St. Gregory Nazianzen between the years 308 and 318. Also Stilting, loc. cit. at sup. [back]

Note 2. Naz. Or. 19, Carm. 2. [back]

Note 3. Carm. 2. [back]

Note 4. Carm. 18, 7, &c. [back]

Note 5. Or. 4, p. 121. [back]

Note 6. Or. 1, p. 32. [back]

Note 7. Carm. 2, p. 31. [back]

Note 8. Carm. 55. [back]

Note 9. Carm. 1. [back]

Note 10. Or. 29. [back]

Note 11. Carm. 55. [back]

Note 12. Ep. 69. [back]

Note 13. Carm. 49. [back]

Note 14. Or. 9, 29. [back]

Note 15. Rufin. Hist. l. 2, c. 9, p. 254. [back]

Note 16. Or. 3, p. 53. [back]

Note 17. Or. 12. [back]

Note 18. Ep. 17. [back]

Note 19. Ep. 16. [back]

Note 20. His will was comprised is these words: “I bequeath my whole substance to the poor.” [back]

Note 21. Ep. 32. [back]

Note 22. Sozom. l. 7, c. 5. [back]

Note 23. L. 2, p. 191. [back]

Note 24. Socr. l. 2, c. 38. [back]

Note 25. Carm. 1. [back]

Note 26. Carm. 1. [back]

Note 27. Or. 32. [back]

Note 28. Ep. 73. [back]

Note 29. L. de Spir. Sancto. [back]

Note 30. Or. 32. [back]

Note 31. Or. 24. [back]

Note 32. Ep. 73. [back]

Note 33. Quo plures celebrent magni præconia regis. Naz. t. 2, p. 144. [back]

Note 34. Or. 1, p. 1; Or. 9, pp. 152, 153, 154, &c. [back]

Note 35. Carm. 5 and 60. [back]

Note 36. Ib. 147. [back]

Note 37. Carm. 59. [back]

Note 38. Ep. 196, p. 894. [back]

Note 39. The writings of St. Gregory consist first, of forty-six genuine orations (the four last of the fifty published in his works being doubtful or spurious) and two discourses to Cledonius against the Apollinarists, which were originally letters. These orations treat of several points of morality, and mysteries of faith: others are written in confutation of heresies, others are panegyrics of martyrs, spoken on their festivals. His writings contain also two hundred and thirty-seven letters, and one hundred and fifty-eight poems, published by the learned Billius. Tollius printed at Utrecht, in 1696, twenty other poems of St. Gregory, called the Cygnean Verses. The indefatigable Muratori, librarian to the Duke of Modena, published, in 1709, two hundred and twenty-seven epigrams of our saint. In the hundred and twenty-first, and hundred and twenty-second he testifies, that his mother obtained his birth by prayer, and that once, when dangerously sick, he was restored to his health by the holy table, that is, the sacrifice of the altar. He teaches and practices the invocation of saints in many places. He relates, that St. Justina begged the Virgin Mary to assist her, a virgin. (Or. 18, pp. 279, 280.) He says, “The souls of the saints know our affairs:” (Ep. 201, p. 898:) and, speaking of St. Athanasius, “That he now beholds from heaven our concernments, and stretches out his hand to those who are fighting for virtue, and so much the more as he is now freed from the bonds of the flesh.” (Or. 24, p. 435.) He prays St. Basil to intercede in heaven for those whom he governed or loved on earth. (Or. 20, pp. 372, 373.) He prays St. Cyprian to assist him. (Or. 18, p. 286.) He reproaches Julian that he refused to honour the bodies of the martyrs which cured distempers, and expelled devils, to whom men paid honours and instituted festivals. Hence Daillé, the Calvinist, accuses this holy doctor of having promoted the honouring of saints by words and example. (De Relig. Cultu. p. 51.) This holy doctor says, that the ashes of St. Cyprian, even to his time, chased away devils, and cured diseases, as those loudly testified who had experienced it. (Or. 18, p. 285.) He inveighs against the heathens that, under Julian the Apostate, they burnt the sepulchres of the martyrs and scattered their relics to the wind, or mingled them with the remains of the basest men, that they might deprive those of the honour due to them. (Or. 4, p. 126.) Julian himself reproaches the Christians, that under their persecutions at Antioch, which they had suffered seven months, they had bethought themselves of no other means of defending themselves, than of sending the old women to pray constantly for a deliverance before the tombs of the martyrs. Odiosam istam severitatem septimum jam mensem perpessi, vota quidem et preces, quò tantis malis eriperemur, ad vetulas dimisimus quæ circum sepulchra mortuorum assiduè versantur. (Julian in Misopog. p. 54.) If the style of St. Basil be the more smooth and easy of the two, that of Nazianzen is the more florid and majestic. He always forms the most noble conceptions of things, and clothes his meaning with delicacy and elegance. His language glows, and the pathos swells so high, that Erasmus was deterred from undertaking to translate his works distinguished by a vivacity in his style, and frequent remote allusions. (Vid. l. 26, ep. 33, p. 1446.) Some esteem St. Gregory the greatest of all orators, whether sacred or profane. (Du Pin, Bibl. p. 655.) Others give the first place among orators to him and St. Basil. It is certain that if he have any fault it is rather an excess of beauties, and a redundancy of figures and flowers. His verses in ease, smoothness, and sublimity, surpass those of all other ecclesiastical writers, and deserve to be read in schools. The best Latin translation of this father’s works is that of the learned abbot of St. Michael’s, Abbè Billi, printed at Paris in 1609 and 1630, in two volumes in folio. Few translators have, in all accomplishments for that difficult province, equalled this great linguist, and judicious editor. This translation, with some amendments, is retained by Dom. Marand and his colleagues in the excellent complete edition which they are preparing of this father’s works. [back]

Note 40. Ep. 189. [back]

Note 41. Or. 40. [back]

Note 42. Ib. [back]

Note 43. Or. 40. [back]

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume V: May. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.

SOURCE : http://www.bartleby.com/210/5/091.html

Gregory Nazianzen B, Doctor (RM)

Born in Arianzus, Cappadocia, c. 329; died in Nazianzus on January 25, 389; Doctor of the Church; feast day formerly May 9 and a second one on June 11 to celebrate the translation of his relics to Rome; in the East his feasts are January 25 and 30.



"Let it be assured that to do no wrong is really superhuman and belongs to God alone."

--Saint Gregory Nazianzen.

Gregory was the eldest son of Saint Nonna and Saint Gregory Nazianzen the Elder, who was a Jew converted by his wife and who was bishop of Nazianzus for 45 years. It is quite obvious that Gregory's family life prepared him for sainthood--both his siblings also became saints: Caesarius of Nazianzen and Gorgonia. He is one of the four great Greek doctors of the Church, and closely associated with two of the 'Cappadocian fathers,' Saint Basil and Basil's brother Gregory of Nyssa, in the final defeat of the Arian heresy.

Gregory studied at Caesarea, where he was introduced to Saint Basil (see above), the rhetorical school at Caesarea in Palestine, and then studied law for ten years at Athens, where fellow pupils included Saint Basil and the future Emperor Julian the Apostate. Gregory returned to Nazianzus when he was about 30 and joined Saint Basil in the beautiful surroundings at Pontus on the Iris River. There he lived in solitude for two years. Their frequent discussions on theology and monasticism bore fruit in the active organization of Basil and the theological depth and penetration of the contemplative Gregory.

Though he would be best suited to continuing the life of solitude, Gregory returned home to help his aged (over 80) father to administer his see and estates. He was ordained against his will by his father in 362, and ran away to Basil at Annesi for ten weeks because he really wanted to be a monk, but returned to his new duties. He wrote an apologia for his action, which would become a classic on the nature and responsibilities of priests.

Meanwhile, Basil had been consecrated metropolitan of Caesarea and, in an effort to fight Arianism, he founded new sees to consolidate his influence as metropolitan. About 372, Gregory was, again unwillingly, consecrated by Saint Basil as bishop of the small, border township of Sasima. It was an unfortunate appointment, for this Arian area was divided by civil strife, and Gregory, a gentle, peace-loving, and private person, was more fitted for the life of a contemplative scholar than that of an active administrator in a hostile environment. He never went to Sasima, refusing to accept the see, which led Basil to accuse him of slackness. Instead, Gregory continued to assist his father as coadjutor, and after his father's death in 374, administered the see until a new bishop was chosen.

It was this appointment to Sasima that broke the friendship between Basil and Gregory. Though they were reconciled later, their friendship never recovered its former warmth. The break was really healed only by Basil's death in 379. Three years later Gregory preached a great panegyric of his friend, invoking memories of their days together in 'golden Athens.'

On his relationship with Saint Basil, Gregory wrote: "Our single object and ambition was virtue, and a life of hope in the blessings that are to come. . . . We followed the guidance of God's law and spurred each other on to virtue. If it is not too boastful to say, we found in each other a standard and rule for discerning right from wrong."

After suffering a breakdown in 375, he lived for five years in a monastery at Seleucia, Isauria. On the death of Emperor Valens and the mitigation of his persecution of the orthodox, a group of bishops invited Gregory to Constantinople to help revitalize the Church in the East by restoring orthodoxy to the Arian-dominated city. Once again Gregory protested. For over 30 years the capital had been dominated by Arians; orthodox believers even lacked a church.

Although the intrigue and violence of Constantinople were utterly repugnant to him, in 379, Gregory accepted the charge of the orthodox community of Constantinople. In spite of his distaste, his evident poverty, and premature old age, the next few years were the most important of his life. In Constantinople his eloquent preaching at the Church of Anastasia (his house that he converted into a church) brought floods of converts, and torrents of abuse and persecution from the Arians and Apollinarians. Arians attacked him with slander, insults, and violence but he persisted in preaching the faith and doctrine of Nicaea.

While he was ill, Maximus made an effort to depose him, but he held fast. His faithfulness was rewarded when, on February 27, 380, the newly baptized Emperor Theodosius decreed that his subjects must be orthodox and that the Arian leaders must submit or leave (they left).

Nevertheless, the Council of Constantinople firmly established and confirmed the conclusions of Nicaea as authentic Christian doctrine. Both in this and in other doctrinal conclusions Gregory played an important part. Gregory was acclaimed archbishop of Constantinople during the council and installed in the basilica of Santa Sophia. A few weeks after his consecration, hostilities arose again, and the validity of his election was questioned at the Council of Constantinople in 381, at which he presided. He resigned his office in the hopes of restoring peace.

He returned to Nazianzus, which was still without a bishop, and administered the see until a successor was appointed. About 384 he retired to an austere private life. He spent his time pursuing his love of study, writing and enjoying his garden with its fountains and shady groves. To these years belong his religious poems and his autobiography. Here in Nazianzus he died.

The tragedy of his life was his promotion to the rank of bishop. Gregory was a man of sensitive, retiring disposition, ill-suited for public life and affairs which he disliked. His sermons and other speeches show him to have been one of the finest orators of his time, and he was a poet as well. His numerous surviving letters throw further light on the character and friends of this attractive personality, as does a long autobiographical poem.

As a writer, however, he stands far above most other Greek Doctors. Gregory is often called "the Theologian" or "the Divine" for the depth and eloquence of his defense of orthodoxy. Among his best known works are his sermons on the Trinity, Five Theological Orations, which were delivered at the Church of Anastasia (the Resurrection); a long poem, De vita sua; letters; and a selection of writings by Origen (compiled with Saint Basil).

His relics were translated first to Constantinople and later to Saint Peter's in Rome (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Davies, Delaney, Farmer, White).

He is portrayed in art as reading with "Wisdom and Chastity" appearing before him (Roeder, White).



Voir aussi : Institut Orientaliste: Centre d'Études sur Grégoire de Nazianze : http://nazianzos.fltr.ucl.ac.be/002Contenu.htm

Oriental Institute: Centre for the Study of Gregory of Nazianzus (C.E.G.N.) : http://nazianzos.fltr.ucl.ac.be/002Contents.htm

http://www.patristique.org/spip.php?page=recherche&recherche=Gr%C3%A9goire+de+Nazianze