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Monday, May 9, 2011

St. Gregory Nazianzus, Bishop, Confessor & Doctor

St. Gregory Nazianzus, Bishop, Confessor & Doctor
This Gregory, who is one of the first four Eastern Doctors of the Church, was born about the year 325 in Cappadocia, of a remarkable Christian family. For his father Gregory the Elder, and his mother Nonna, and his brother Caesarius, who became a physician at the imperial court of Constantinople, are all revered in the Eastern Liturgy as Saints. Saint Gregory the Elder was a wealthy magistrate when he was converted to Christianity, and thereafter he was ordained to the priesthood, and finally became Bishop of Nazianzus, which See he ruled for forty-five years, being assisted therein, during the latter years of his life, by his holy son Gregory. To both Caesarius and Gregory he had given the best education available ; and Gregory used it to such purpose that, because of his extraordinary depth of sacred learning, he was afterwards given the honour (which he shareth with the Apostle John) of being called The Divine (that is, The Theologian).

His education was acquired chiefly at Athens, where he became the intimate friend of his fellow-student Saint Basil, with whom likewise, when they had acquired knowledge in divers branches of earthly learning, he gave himself up to learn the things of God. This they did for some years in a monastery, framing their opinions, not out of their own heads, but according to the interpretation arrived at by the wisdom and decision of the ancients ; at which time Gregory assisted Basil to write the famous monastic Rule which the Basilian monks follow. They were both distinguished by power of doctrine and holiness of life ; they were both called to the duty of preaching the Gospel of truth ; and through the gospel they both begat many sons unto Christ. Gregory after a while returned home. He was first made Bishop of Sasima, and afterwards administered the Church at Nazianzus. Then he was called to rule the church of Constantinople. That city, which he found reeking with heresy, he purged, and brought again to the Orthodox Faith. But this, which deserved for him the warmest love of all men, raised up many enemies.

Among the bishops themselves there was a great party against him, and to still their contentions, he, of his own free will gave up his See, saying with the Prophet Jonah : Take me up, and cast me forth ; for I know that for my sake this tempest is upon you. So he went his way back again to Nazianzus, and when he had seen that Eulalius was set over that Church, he gave himself up altogether to think and write concerning the things of God. He wrote much, both in prose and verse, and that with wonderful godliness and eloquence. According to the judgement of learned and holy men, there is nothing in his writings which doth anywhere stray from the line of true godliness and Orthodox truth, and not a single word which any one can justly call in doubt. He was a most vigorous champion of the doctrine of that the Son is of one substance with the Father. During the reign of the Emperor Theodosius he dwelt in the country after the manner of a monk, unceasingly taken up with writing, study, and prayer until in the year 390 or thereabouts, being then in a good old age, he laid down his earthly, to enter on an heavenly life. He is reckoned one of the three Cappadocians (as he and Basil, and Basil’s blood-brother Saint Gregory of Nyssa are jointly called), and by the Eastern Church is named one of the three Holy Hierarchs, which same are himself and Saints Basil and John Chrysostom.
O God, by whose providence blessed Gregory Nazianzus was sent to guide thy people in the way of everlasting salvation : grant we beseech thee, that as we have learned of him the doctrine of life on earth, so we may be found worthy to have him for our advocate in heaven, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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