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Gregory Nazianzen the Theologian Panegyric on Caesarius (Oration VII), Complete

Translated by Ch. Browne and J. Swallow.

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The date of this Oration is probably the spring of a.d. 369. It is placed by S. Jerome first among S. Gregory's Orations. Caesarius, the Saint's younger brother, was born probably about a.d. 330. Educated in his early years at home, he studied later in the schools of Alexandria, where he attained great proficiency in mathematics, astronomy, and, especially, in medicine. On his return from Alexandria, he was offered by the Emperor Constantius, in response to a public petition, an honourable and lucrative post at Byzantium, but was prevailed upon by Gregory to return with him to Nazianzus. After a while he went back to Byzantium, and, on the accession of Julian, was pressed to retain his appointment at court, and did so, in spite of Gregory's reproaches, until Julian, who had long been trying to win him from Christianity, at last invited him to a public discussion. Caesarius, in spite of the specious arguments of the Emperor, gained the day, but, having now distinctly declared himself a Christian, could no longer remain at court. On the death of Julian, he was esteemed and promoted by successive Emperors, until he received from Valens the office of treasurer of Bithynia. The exact character of this office and its rank are still undecided by historical writers, some of whom attribute to him other offices not mentioned by S. Gregory, which most probably were filled by a namesake. On the 11th of October a.d. 368 the city of Nicaea was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake and Caesarius miraculously escaped with his life. Impressed by his escape, he received Holy Baptism, and formed plans for retiring from office and (as it seems) devoting himself to a life of ascetic discipline, which were dissipated by his early and sudden death.

1. It may be, my friends, my brethren, my fathers (ye who are dear to me in reality as well as in name) that you think that I, who am about to pay the sad tribute of lamentation to him who has departed, am eager to undertake the task, and shall, as most men delight to do, speak at great length and in eloquent style. And so some of you, who have had like sorrows to bear, are prepared to join in my mourning and lamentation, in order to bewail your own griefs in mine, and learn to feel pain at the afflictions of a friend, while others are looking to feast their ears in the enjoyment of my words. For they suppose that I must needs make my misfortune an occasion for display—as was once my wont, when possessed of a superabundance of earthly things, and ambitious, above all, of oratorical renown—before I looked up to Him Who is the true and highest Word, and gave all up to God, from Whom all things come, and took God for all in all. Now pray do not think this of me, if you wish to think of me aright. For I am neither going to lament for him who is gone more than is good—as I should not approve of such conduct even in others—nor am I going to praise him beyond due measure. Albeit that language is a dear and especially proper tribute to one gifted with it, and eulogy to one who was exceedingly fond of my words—aye, not only a tribute, but a debt, the most just of all debts. But even in my tears and admiration I must respect the law which regards such matters: nor is this alien to our philosophy; for he says The memory of the just is accompanied with eulogies, [2933] and also, Let tears fall down over the dead, and begin to lament, as if thou hadst suffered great harm thyself: [2934] removing us equally from insensibility and immoderation. I shall proceed then, not only to exhibit the weakness of human nature, but also to put you in mind of the dignity of the soul, and, giving such consolation as is due to those who are in sorrow, transfer our grief, from that which concerns the flesh and temporal things, to those things which are spiritual and eternal.

[2933] Prov. x. 7 (LXX.).

[2934] Ecclus. xxxviii. 16.

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