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Gregory Nazianzen the Theologian Funeral Oration on St Basil the Great (Oration XLIII), Complete

Translated by Ch. Browne and J. Swallow.

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2. These are the reasons which have urged me to speak, and to address myself to this contest. And at my late appearance, long after his praises have been set forth by so many, who have publicly and privately done him honour, let no one be surprised. Yea, may I be pardoned by that divine soul, the object of my constant reverence! And as, when he was amongst us, he constantly corrected me in many points, according to the rights of a friend and the still higher law; for I am not ashamed to say this, for he was a standard of virtue to us all; so now, looking down upon me from above, he will treat me with indulgence. I ask pardon too of any here who are among his warmest admirers, if indeed anyone can be warmer than another, and we are not all abreast in our zeal for his good fame. For it is not contempt which has caused me to fall short of what might have been expected of me: nor have I been so regardless of the claims of virtue or of friendship; nor have I thought that to praise him befitted any other more than me. No! my first reason was, that I shrunk from this task, for I will say the truth, as priests [4398] do, who approach their sacred duties before being cleansed both in voice and mind. In the second place, I remind you, though you know it well, of the task [4399] in which I was engaged on behalf of the true doctrine, which had been properly forced upon me, and had carried me from home, according, as I suppose, to the will of God, and certainly according to the judgment of our noble champion of the truth, the breath of whose life was pious doctrine alone, such as promotes the salvation of the whole world. As for my bodily health, I ought not, perhaps, to dare to mention it, when my subject is a man so doughty in his conquest of the body, even before his removal hence, and who maintained that no powers of the soul should suffer hindrance from this our fetter. [4400] So much for my defence. I do not think I need labour it further, in speaking of him to you who know so clearly my affairs. I must now proceed with my eulogy, commending myself to his God, in order that my commendations may not prove an insult to the man, and that I may not lag far behind all others; even though we all equally fall as far short of his due, as those who look upon the heavens or the rays of the Sun.

[4398] As priests, or, more generally, "as those who approach our temples." In the E. there were lavers at the entrance to the churches for the ablutions of intending worshippers.

[4399] Of the task, i.e., of restoring the orthodox faith in Constantinople.

[4400] Fetter, i.e., the body.

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