Sunday, January 01, 2012

Saint Gregory of Nazianzus

Bishop, Greek Father of the Church, and Doctor of the Church

Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (also known as Gregory of Nazianzen; the Christian Demosthenes; the Theologian) a Greek Father of the Church and Doctor of the Church was born in 330 A.D. at Arianzus, Cappadocia, Asia Minor. He is one of the Three Cappadocian Fathers. 

He was the son of Saint Gregory of Nazianzen the Elder and Saint Nonna, as well as brother of Saint Caesarius of Nazianzus, and Saint Gorgonius. His father, had been a Hypsistarian heretic, but was converted to Catholicity and became Bishop of Nazianzus. 

Gregory spent an itinerant youth in search of learning, and he was educated at Caesarea, where he formed a lasting friendship with Saint Basil the Great, and also at Alexandria and Athens. With Basil he lived for a time as a hermit in a secluded part of Pontus at Basil's desert monastery. Returning to Nazianzus, he was ordained by his father around 361. He was a reluctant priest, feeling himself unworthy, and fearing that the responsibility would test his faith. Even so, he assisted his bishop father to prevent an Arian schism in the diocese. He opposed Arianism, and brought its heretical followers back to the fold.

In 373 Saint Basil, then Bishop of Caesarea and Metropolitan of Cappadocia, consecrated Gregory Bishop of Sasima, but Gregory, finding himself incompatible with that see, abandoned it, thereby becoming estranged from Basil. He became Bishop of Caesarea around 370, which put him in conflict with the Arian emperor Valens. The disputes led his friend Basil the Great, then archbishop, to reassign him to a small, out of the way posting at the edge of the archbishopric. 

He was made Archbishop of Constantinople in 381, after the conversion of Emperor Theodosius the Great. He hated the city, despised the violence and slander involved in these disputes, and feared being drawn into politics and corruption, but he worked to bring the Arians back to the faith; for his trouble he was slandered, insulted, beaten up, and a rival "bishop" tried to take over his diocese. That city being almost entirely taken over by Arianism, Gregory met with constant opposition, and resigned his see after a few months. He returned to Nazianzus and devoted himself to suppressing heresy. 

In 383 upon the appointment of his cousin as bishop, he retired to Arianzus to spend his time in literary labors. Renowned in the past as an orator and theologian, he is also famous as a literary genius, his poems, epistles, and orations being among the finest of his age. 

Saint Gregory died on January 25, 390 at Arianzus. His relics are in Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome.

The following was written by Saint Jerome, in his book, Lives of Illustrious Men :

Gregory another bishop

Gregory, bishop of Nazianzen, a most eloquent man, and my instructor in the Scriptures, composed works, amounting in all to thirty thousand lines, among which are On the death of his brother Caesarius, On charity, In praise of the Maccabees, In praise of Cyprian. In praise of Athanasius, In praise of Maximus the philosopher after he had returned from exile. This latter however, some superscribe with the pseudonym of Herona, since there is another work by Gregory, upbraiding this same Maximus, as if one might not praise and upbraid the same person at one thee or another as the occasion may demand. Other works of his are a book in hexameter, containing, A discussion between virginity and marriage, two books Against Eunomius, one book On the Holy Spirit, and one Against the Emperor Julian. He was a follower of Polemon in his style of speaking. Having ordained his successor in the bishopric, during his own life time, he retired to the country where he lived the life of a monk and died, three years or more ago, in the reign of Theodosius.

And finally, below are some quotations from Saint Gregory of Nazianzen:

Let us not esteem worldly prosperity or adversity as things real or of any moment, 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.  -- Saint Gregory Nazianzen

Let us be buried with Christ by Baptism to rise with Him; let us go down with Him to be raised with Him; and let us rise with Him to be glorified with Him.  --Saint Gregory  Nazianzen

Different men have different names, which they owe to their parents or to themselves, that is, to their own  pursuits and achievements. But our great pursuit, the great name we wanted, was to be Christians, to be called Christians. --Saint Gregory Nazianzen

Nothing gives such pleasure to God as the conversion and salvation of men, for whom his every word and every revelation exist. He wants you to become a living force for all mankind, lights shining in the world. You are to be radiant lights as you stand beside Christ, the great light, bathed in the glory of him who is the light of heaven. --Saint Gregory Nazianzen

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