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Gregory Nazianzen the Theologian In Defence of His Flight to Pontus and His Return, After His Ordination to the Priesthood, with an Exposition of the Character of the Priestly Office (Oration II), Complete

Translated by Ch. Browne and J. Swallow.

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Introductory Note

It is generally agreed that this oration was not intended for oral delivery. Its object was to explain and defend S. Gregory's recent conduct, which had been severely criticised by his friends at Nazianzus. He had been recalled by his father probably during the year a.d. 361 from Pontus, where he had spent several years in monastic seclusion with his friend S. Basil. His father, not content with his son's presence at home as a support for his declining years, and feeling assured of his fitness for the sacred office, had proceeded, with the loudly expressed approval of the congregation, in spite of Gregory's reluctance, to ordain him to the priesthood on Christmas Day a.d. 361. S. Gregory, even after the lapse of many years, speaks of his ordination as an act of tyranny, and at the time, stung almost to madness, as an ox by a gadfly, rushed away again to Pontus, to bury in its congenial solitude, consoled by an intimate friend's deep sympathy, his wounded feelings. Before long the sense of duty reasserted itself, and he returned to his post at his father's side before Easter a.d. 362. On Easter day he delivered his first Oration before a congregation whose scantiness marked the displeasure with which the people of Nazianzus had viewed his conduct. Accordingly he set himself to supply them in this Oration with a full explanation of the motives which had led to his retirement. At the same time, as the secondary title of the Oration shows, he has supplied an exposition of the obligations and dignity of the Priestly Office which has been drawn upon by all later writers on the subject. S. Chrysostom in his well-known treatise, S. Gregory the Great in his Pastoral Care, and Bossuet in his panegyric on S. Paul, have done little more than summarise the material or develop the considerations contained in this eloquent and elaborate dissertation.

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