Gregory of Nazianzus, St.
GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS, ST.
Bishop of Constantinople (381), Father and Doctor of the Church, called "the Theologian" in the Eastern Church; b. Arianzus, near Nazianzus in Cappadocia, c. 330; d. Arianzus, c. 390.
Career. Gregory was born of well-to-do parents on the family estate in southwest Cappadocia. His father, Gregory Nazianzen the Elder, had been a member of the sect of the Hypsistarians, whose beliefs were an amalgam of Jewish and pagan Gnostic elements, but had been converted to Catholic Christianity under the influence of his wife, Norma, a Christian born of Christian parents. At the time of Gregory's birth, Gregory the Elder was bishop of the nearby city of Nazianzus. An earlier date of birth (c. 325) alleged by baronius and others (Acta Sanctorum ) was based on the erroneous view that celibacy was universal for the episcopacy at this time. A brother, Caesarius, and a sister, Gorgonia, were born later.
Gregory received his early education at Caesarea, the capital and metropolitan city of the Province of Cappadocia, where basil of caesarea was a fellow pupil. He continued his studies at Caesarea in Palestine, made famous as a Christian center by both origen and eusebius of caesarea, and continued his literary studies in Alexandria before journeying to Athens.
The voyage was a decisive spiritual event in his life. When he was involved in a near shipwreck, the imminent presence of death, especially in the absence of Baptism (he was still a catechumen), had a profound effect on his already devout nature, and he vowed to dedicate the rest of his life to God (Carm. 2.1.1:307–338;2.1.11:124–210). At Athens Gregory pursued his rhetorical studies under the pagan rhetors Himerius and Prohaeresius. There he met Basil again and cemented the intimate friendship that was to have so deep an effect on his life, to both his advantage and his disadvantage. Among his contemporaries were also julian, the later apostate and emperor, and gregory of nyssa. The idea of a monastic vocation was already taking shape in Gregory's mind when (c. 357 or 358) he departed after approximately eight years of study to return to Nazianzus by way of Constantinople.
Baptism and Priesthood. In Cappadocia he received Baptism, which he had probably delayed in order to receive it from his father's hands. For a time he put aside his inclinations to monastic solitude and yielded to the importunities of family and friends to practice rhetoric in his native city, but presently he withdrew to join Basil in his monastic venture on the river Iris in Pontus. There he assisted his friend in the composition of his monastic rules, and it was probably at that time that he and Basil edited the Philokalia, an anthology of the sayings of Origen. He was also influential in enlisting Gregory of Nyssa in the venture.
Yielding to his father's entreaties, especially that of failing health, he returned to Nazianzus and received ordination during the Christmas season of 362, but almost at once he regretted the step and withdrew; he was not persuaded to return until Easter, at which time he preached the apologetical oration On His Flight (Orat. 2). The next ten years were spent in assisting his father in both ecclesiastical affairs and family business matters. Both father and son played an influential role in the ecclesiastical
politics of the province, including the election of Basil of Caesarea to the metropolitan see in 370 (Epistolae 41). Earlier he had been successful in persuading his brother, Caesarius, to resign his position in Constantinople under Julian and to return home (Epistolae 7). Following the Emperor's death, Gregory preached two invectives against him (Orat. 4 and 5). The sudden death of Caesarius (c. 369) after his return to the imperial service under Jovian affected Gregory deeply and also involved the family in serious financial difficulties (Carm. 2.1.11:365–380).
An administrative action by Emperor Valens in 372 was to have disastrous results for Gregory; it divided the Province of Cappadocia into two. Anthimus, the bishop of the new capital city of Tyana, claimed metropolitan rights over the newly created Province of Cappadocia Secunda, and a dispute over territorial jurisdiction arose between him and Basil. The latter, seeking to strengthen his position, erected a new suffragan see at Sasima, a mere posting station of the imperial road system, and prevailed upon Gregory, much against his will and better judgment, to accept consecration as its bishop. Gregory did so, but never took possession of the see; and Anthimus made it quite clear that he was ready to have recourse to violence if necessary to prevent any such attempt. The result of the affair was a rift in the friendship of Gregory and Basil, and the old intimacy was never restored.
Gregory remained at Nazianzus, assisting his father in discharging his episcopal functions; and after his father's death in 374, he continued to do so for a time while declining to accept the see himself and petitioning for a successor to be appointed. When it became evident that none was forthcoming, since Nazianzus lay under the jurisdiction of Tyana, Gregory attempted to bring matters to a head by withdrawing to the shrine of St. Thecla at Seleucia in Isauria. [For an interesting account of the archeological excavations of this shrine and monastic community see R. Devreesse, Le Patriarcat d' Antioche (Paris 1945) 144–145.]
Constantinople. Gregory remained in Isauria from 375 until shortly after the death of Emperor Valens in the Battle of Adrianople (Aug. 9, 378). Sometime between that time and January 379, Gregory answered a summons to discharge the episcopal functions for the tiny Nicene minority in the capital city of Constantinople, which had long been without a bishop. The immediate occasion of the summons was, in all probability, the edict of Gratian (autumn 378) confirming earlier steps toward toleration, taken shortly before his death by Valens under the pressure of the Gothic menace, that assured free assembly to all Christian factions. Gregory himself alluded vaguely to the summons as coming from many of the faithful and their shepherds, i.e., the bishops (Carm. 2.1.11:595–598). It is not improbable that these bishops represented the adherents of Meletius of Antioch and that they included Basil, who, anticipating a Nicene victory with the change in regime, desired to see someone sympathetic to their cause ultimately installed at Constantinople. Whatever the motive in the minds of the bishops, there was only one in the mind of Gregory, the restoration of the Nicene faith in the city of Constantine, where he arrived sometime before the death of Basil (Jan. 1, 379).
The nearly three years spent at Constantinople were to be the most eventful, and personally the most heart-rending, of his life. Upon his arrival Gregory rallied the tiny group of adherents to the Nicene Creed in a small House, located outside the city's walls, that had been converted into a church, the Anastasia, or church of the Resurrection. From the Arian majority under their bishop Demophilus, the Nicenes encountered bitter opposition that reached violence. Further trouble arose from an unforeseen quarter. Maximus, a self-proclaimed Cynic philosopher, actually a crude adventurer acting in connivance with Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, first ingratiated himself as a disciple of Gregory, then had himself stealthily consecrated (380) with the aid of bishops secretly dispatched from Egypt by Peter. Peter apparently preferred to see someone indebted to himself in the capital rather than someone favorable to the See of Antioch, Alexandria's age-old rival. Not only the Nicenes, but also the Arians and pagans, united to expel Maximus, whose pretensions were likewise rejected by Emperor Theodosius I and Pope Damasus. Theodosius himself returned to the city in November 380 and restored the cathedral church of the Holy Apostles and the other churches to Gregory, who refused formal installation.
Shortly thereafter the emperor summoned the bishops of the East to a general council that convened at Constantinople in May 381, although the Macedonian and Egyptian bishops failed to appear. It was presided over by Meletius of Antioch, and its first act was the formal election and installation of Gregory as bishop of the see. This was followed shortly by the unexpected death of Meletius, whose funeral sermon was delivered by Gregory of Nyssa. The death of Meletius proved most untimely, for it plunged the council, now under the presidency of Gregory, into bitter controversy over the succession at Antioch. Gregory ardently urged the recognition of the rival claimant Paulinus, in the hope that it would bring an end to the meletian schism that had so long strained relations between East and West. He failed to prevail, however, and Flavian was elected, thus prolonging the controversy. At this crucial juncture occurred the longdelayed arrival of the Egyptian and Macedonian bishops. They promptly challenged the validity of Gregory's own installation as a violation of the 15th canon of Nicaea, which forbade translation of bishops. Rather than press his claims and see the Church rent asunder by still further schism, Gregory chose voluntarily to resign the see, an act of self-sacrifice that more than any other attests the greatness of his moral stature and spirit.
The Macedonian bishops acted under instructions from Pope Damasus (Dam., Epistolae 5), who was following the established, if misguided, Roman policy in the East to support Alexandria and suspect the Meletians. Nectarius of Constantinople succeeded to the see, and Gregory retired to Nazianzus, where he acted as bishop until he finally found a successor in Eulalius (383). His last years were spent upon his estate at Arianzus in literary composition and spiritual direction of the local monastic community. Upon his death he bequeathed his property to the bishopric.
Writings. Orations are the literary productions upon which Gregory's principal claim to fame is founded. Forty-four in number (Orat. 35 is spurious), they were published soon after his death and represent only a fragment of the number actually composed and delivered. Best known are the five Theological Orations (Orat. 27–31) preached at Constantinople. They represent not only a classic exposition of the Nicene Creed, but also a further precision of Trinitarian doctrine. In his development of the personal properties (ἰδιότηιες) as distinctive characters of the three Divine Persons (unoriginate for the Father, begottenness for the Son, procession for the Holy Spirit), Gregory also insisted, against the Macedonian heresy, on the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Oration 27 serves as an introduction to the entire group; 28 investigates the existence and nature of the Divine; 29 deals with the oneness of the Trinity; 30 establishes, against the Arians, the true doctrine concerning the Son; and 31, that of the Holy Spirit. The oration on his flight (Orat. 2) appears to have been rewritten during his lifetime and constitutes a treatise on the priesthood that influenced both john chrysostom in his Six Books on the Priesthood and, in Latin translation, gregory i's Pastoral Rule. Gregory's panegyrical orations are artistically more perfect and give freer scope to his rhetorical style, which has been approvingly characterized by E. Norden as a "restrained Asianism" (Die antike Kunstprosa, 564). A good example of this class is the Oration on the Holy Lights for Epiphany (Orat. 39). Rightly esteemed also are the funeral orations, which are at the same time valuable sources for biographical material (Orat. 7 on Caesarius, 8 on Gorgonia, 18 on his father, and 43 on Basil). In these he followed classic models for the Epitaphios Logos, but with Christian adaptations. Poignantly moving is his Final Farewell in 381 (Orat. 42). In all the orations, whether acting as dogmatic theologian, exegete, moralist, spiritual director, or pastor, he remains always the rhetorician.
Letters and Poetry. Gregory's letters were published for the most part during his own lifetime at the request of Nicobulus, grandson of his sister, Gorgonia, and many were written during his retirement with that intent in mind. Of the 244 published by J. P. Migne (Patrologia Graeca [1857–66] 37) three are spurious (42 is by Gregory the Elder; 241, by Basil; 243, by Gregory Thaumaturgus). Published separately is one to Basil with his reply. Epistles 51 and 54 set forth his theory of epistolary style: brevity, clarity, charm, and simplicity. Epistles 101 and 102 are refutations of apollinarianism; 101 was adopted as a doctrinal statement by the Council of chalcedon (451) in testimony to the fact that Gregory's christology, with its emphasis on the union of the two natures in one Christ, anticipated the later teaching on the hypostatic union.
The poetry (Patrologia Graeca 37–38) comprises more than 16,000 lines. It is topically divided in the Migne edition into two books: 1, theological, and 2, historical; and each book is divided into two sections, with further subdivisions in the sections. The books and sections are usually cited accordingly. Thus the Carmen de vita sua is Carm. 2.1.11. Among the spurious poems, besides Christus Patiens, are 1.1.28; 1.2.18, 20, 23, 32, and 39; 2.2.8; and Epitaph 129 (1.1.37). Dubious are 1.1.31 to 35; 1.2.3, and 19; and 2.1.99. Rhythmical poems are1.1.32 and 1.2.3.
So vast a production, most of it composed between 381 and 390, would automatically give rise to doubts about its artistic merit. The verdict of B. Wyss is a just one. Gregory's productions are not great poetry, but humanistic versifying; yet in particular passages, especially those touched with originality, we encounter, if not great artistry, certainly genuine talent. Most important and most interesting of the entire corpus is the Carmen de vita sua (Carm. 2.1.11). Here his originality appears in his deft combination of literary forms. Treating his departure from the See of Constantinople as tantamount to his demise (lines 11 and 1919), Gregory adopts the form of a consolatory address (558–589), directed here to his orphaned (spiritual) children of Constantinople, as the basic framework of the poem. He incorporates into it an apology for that demission, maintaining that the canons were not violated and that his resignation was voluntary. He also inserted two lengthy digressions, one didactic (1146–1257), cast in the Christian literary form of The Two Ways, and the other an invective against Maximus (736–938). The presence of the consolation is detected in the triple temporal division: introduction (1–50), dealing with the present; main body (51–1918), treating of the past; and conclusion (1919–49), concerned with the future. In the topical development of the main body Gregory discusses his ancestry (51–68); birth (69–81); nature (82–92); training (93–111); education (112–211); conduct (212–262); and deeds (263–1918). The apology concludes with the formal consolation (1919–22) and a final prayer (1947–49); it is characterized by outbursts of grief and protest scattered throughout. The apology itself receives a separate proem (40–50) and conclusion (1923–33). It serves as the norm for selection and emphasis in the topic on his deeds and sets the tone for certain passages with its own rhetorical features (e.g., anticipation of objections, appeal to judges). The two topics are harmoniously united since it is the apology that constitutes the principal element of the consolation (558–561); it is not confined to the brief formal statement (1919–22). The result is an apologetical autobiography constituting an important advance in the development of the autobiographical genre. The poem reveals with striking impact the personality of the author: sensitive, producing the elegiac tone of his finest lines, and passionate, as seen in the four great enthusiasms that successively dominated his life—literature, monasticism, restoration of the faith, harmony in the Church.
Influence. Gregory's theological productions proved a profound force in the East. His works are found in Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopian, Armenian, Slavonic, and Arabic versions. He was considered not only "the Theologian" but also "the Christian Demosthenes"; and in due time scholia began to be composed on his writings. Among the important ones are those of Elias of Crete (tenth century). For the Byzantines, Gregory was a model of style. In the West he enjoyed high prestige because of the laudatory notice accorded him in De viris illustribus by his former pupil St. jerome; but his influence was limited to the translation of nine of the orations by Rufinus (Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum [Vienna 1866–] 46). Rediscovered in the Renaissance, a large selection of Gregory's poetry appeared in volume three of the Poetae Christiani Veteres of Aldus Manutius (Venice 1504). The first attempt at a complete edition was that made by Protestant scholars at Basel in 1550; this was superseded by the Opera Omnia of J. Billius, with important commentaries (Paris 1609–11), which was in turn superseded by the Benedictine edition (Paris 1778–1840) that is reprinted in Migne. The breadth of Gregory's appeal is seen best in the diversity of his admirers; they included Erasmus, Melanchthon, Gibbon, and J. H. Newman. His relics repose in St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, in the Capella Gregoriana, beneath the altar of Madonna dell Soccorso (Our Lady of Help).
Feast: May 9 in the West; Jan. 25 in the East; commemorated again with St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great on Jan. 30, the "Feast of Greek Letters."
Bibliography: Editions: CPG 3010–3125. Patrologia Graeca ed. j. p. migne (Paris 1857–66) 35–38. SC (1969–) vols. 149, 208, 247, 250, 270, 284, 309, 318, 358 with French translation and extensive bibliographies. CCSG (Corpus Nazianzenum 1– ; 1988–) vols. 20, 27, 28, 34, 36, 37, 38, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45 Arabic, Armenian, Georgian and Syriac versions and studies. Fontes Christiani (1996) vols. 22 and 75 with German translation. Cambridge Medieval Classics (1996) vol. 6 with English translation. Poemata Arcana (Oxford 1997) with English translation. English translations: NPNF 2nd series (1894), vol. 7. LCC (1954) vol. 3. SVC (1991), vol. 13. Literature: r. r. ruether, Gregory of Nazianzus: Rhetor and Philosopher (Oxford 1969). f. trisoglio, San Gregorio de Nazianzo in un quarantennio di studi, 1925–1965 (Turin 1974); Gregorio di Nazianzo: Il teologo (Milan 1996). d. f. winslow, The Dynamics of Salvation: A Study in Gregory of Nazianzus, PMS 7 (Cambridge 1979). g. a. kennedy, Greek Rhetoric under Christian Emperors (Princeton 1983); A New History of Classical Rhetoric (Princeton 1994); Classical Rhetoric and Its Christian and Secular Tradition from Ancient to Modern Times (Chapel Hill 1999). f. w. norris, Faith Gives Fullness to Reason: The Five Theological Orations of Gregory Nazianzen, SVC 13 (Leiden 1991). Holy Cross Conference on Gregory the Theologian, Greek Orthodox Theological Review 39 (1994). a. meredith, The Cappadocians (Crestwood 1995). k. demoen, Pagan and Biblical Exempla in Gregory Nazianzen: A Study in Rhetoric and Hermeneutics, CCLP 2 (Turnhout 1996); j. p. egan, "αἴτοζ/author, αἰτια/cause, ἀρχή/origin: Synonyms in Selected Texts of Gregory Nazianzen," Studia Patristica 32 (Louvain 1997) 102–107; b. e. daley, "Building a New City: The Cappadocian Fathers and the Rhetoric of Philanthropy," Journal of Early Christian Studies 7 (1999) 431–461. Acta sanctorum May 2:366–457. s. le nain de tillemont, Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire ecclésiastique des six premiers siècles (Paris 1693–1712) v.9, indispensable. j. quasten, Patrology (Westminster, Maryland 1950–) 3:236–254, bibliog. and eds. p. gallay, La Vie de Saint Grégoire de Nazianze (Lyon 1943); Langue et style de S. Grégoire de Nazianze dans sa correspondance (Paris 1933). f. lefherz, Studien zu Gregor von Nazianz (Bonn 1958), very valuable. Select Orations and Select Letters of Saint Gregory of Nazianzen, tr. c. g. browne and j. r. swallow (A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. p. schaff and h. wace [New York 1890–1900] 2d ser. 7; 1894). j. h. newman, Historical Sketches 3 v. (London 1872–73), v.2. m. guignet, Les Procédés épistolaires de Saint Grégoire de Nazianze (Paris 1911); Saint Grégoire de Nazianze et la Rhétorique (Paris 1911). m. m. hausermeury, Prosopographie zu den Schriften Gregors von Nazianz (Bonn 1960). b. wyss, Museum Helveticum 6 (1949) 177–210. e. norden, Die antike Kunstprosa, 2 v. (3d ed. Leipzig 1915–18). j. plagnieux, Saint Grégoire de Nazianze théologien (Paris 1952). j. mossay, Questions liturgiques et paroissiales (Louvain 1921–) 4 (1964) 320–329. s. giet, Sasimes, une méprise de Saint Basile (Paris 1941). g. misch, A History of Autobiography in Antiquity, tr. e. w. dickes, 2 v. (London 1950) 2:600–624. l. f. m. de jonge, De S. Gregorii Nazianzeni carminibus (Amsterdam 1910). j. t. cummings, "Towards a Critical Edition of the Carmen de vita sua, " Studia Patristica (Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur 1965). h. werhahn, "Dubia und Spuria unter den Gedichten G. von N.," ibid. ; ed., Synkrisis Bion (Wiesbaden 1953), in Gr. f. boulenger, ed. and tr., Discours funèbres (Paris 1908). a. j. mason, ed., The Five Theological Orations (Cambridge, Eng. 1899). r. keydell, "Die literarhistorische Stellung der Gedichte G. von N.," Atti del VIII Congresso internazionale di Studi Bizantini (Rome 1953). h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie,. ed. f. cabrol, h. leclercq, and h. i. marrou (Paris 1907–53) 6.2: 1667–1711. k. weitzmann, Greek Mythology in Byzantine Art (Princeton 1951). p. gallay, ed. and tr., Les Lettres, v.1 (Paris 1964).
[j. t. cummings/
k. b. steinhauser]