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An Introduction to the Orations of St Gregory the Theologian

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17 Pages


I.

S. Gregory Nazianzen, called by the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus "The Great," and universally known as "The Theologian" or "The Divine," a title which he shares with S. John the Evangelist [and St Symeon the New Theologian - {Elpenor's note}] alone among the Fathers of the Church, was, like the great Basil of Caesarea and his brother Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa, by birth a Cappadocian. He was born at Arianzus, a country estate belonging to his father, in the neighbourhood of Nazianzus.

This latter, sometimes called Nazianzum, is a place quite unknown to early writers, and derives all its importance from its connection with our Saint. The Romans seem to have called it Diocaesarea. This would place it in the south-western portion of the district called Cappadocia Secunda, a sub-division of the Province, which had previously included the whole country of Cappadocia under the Prefect of Caesarea. The Emperor Valens made the division for financial purposes about a.d. 371, and assigned Tyana as its civil Metropolis, and, as we shall see, thereby caused an ecclesiastical quarrel which had considerable effect on the life of S. Gregory. Tyana was situated at no great distance south and east of Nazianzus, which place is usually identified with some interesting ruins about eighteen miles south-east of Ak Serai, on a rocky platform at the foot of the mountains called Hassan Dagh. Amongst other ruined buildings here are the remains of three Byzantine churches of great age, but more recent than the rest of the town.

His father, who bore the same name with himself, had originally belonged to an obscure sect called Hypsistarians or Hypsistians, of whom we know little except what we learn from Gregory of Nazianzus and his namesake of Nyssa. They seem to have held a sort of syncretist doctrine, containing elements derived from heathen, Christian, and Jewish sources. They were very strict monotheists, rejecting both polytheism and the doctrine of the Trinity, and worshipping the One Supreme Being under the names of The Most High and The Almighty, and the emblems of Fire and Light, but with no external cultus; for they rejected sacrifice and every outward form of worship, holding adoration to be an exclusively interior and spiritual act. With singular inconsistency, however, they adopted the observance of the Jewish Sabbath, and the Levitical prohibition of certain kinds of food. They were but few in number, and their influence was insignificant even in Cappadocia, which was the headquarters of sect. [2525] From this form of error the elder Gregory was converted by the influence of his wife, Nonna; and soon after his conversion was consecrated to the bishopric of Nazianzus.

[2525] ek duoin enantiotatoin sunkekramenes, hellenikes te kai nomikes terateias; hon amphoteron ta mere phugon, ek meron sunetethe. Tes men gar ta eidola kai tas thusias apopempomenoi, timosi to pur kai ta luchna; tes de to sabbaton aidoumenoi kai ta peri ta bromata estin ha mikrologian, ten peritomen atimazousin.—Or. xviii. 5.

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Reference address : http://www.elpenor.org/gregory-nazianzen/orations-introduction.asp