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On the Life And Works of St Gregory of Nyssa

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Chapter I.--A Sketch of the Life of S. Gregory of Nyssa.

In the roll of the Nicene Fathers there is no more honoured name than that of Gregory of Nyssa. Besides the praises of his great brother Basil and of his equally great friend Gregory Nazianzen, the sanctity of his life, his theological learning, and his strenuous advocacy of the faith embodied in the Nicene clauses, have received the praises of Jerome, Socrates, Theodoret, and many other Christian writers. Indeed such was the estimation in which he was held that some did not hesitate to call him the Father of Fathers' as well as the Star of Nyssa' [4] ."

Gregory of Nyssa was equally fortunate in his country, the name he bore, and the family which produced him. He was a native of Cappadocia, and was born most probably at Caesarea, the capital, about a.d. 335 or 336. No province of the Roman Empire had in those early ages received more eminent Christian bishops than Cappadocia and the adjoining district of Pontus.

In the previous century the great prelate Firmilian, the disciple and friend of Origen, who visited him at his See, had held the Bishopric of Caesarea. In the same age another saint, Gregory Thaumaturgus, a friend also and disciple of Origen, was bishop of Neo-Caesarea in Pontus. During the same century, too, no less than four other Gregories shed more or less lustre on bishoprics in that country. The family of Gregory of Nyssa was one of considerable wealth and distinction, and one also conspicuously Christian.

During the Diocletian persecution his grandparents had fled for safety to the mountainous region of Pontus, where they endured great hardships and privations. It is said that his maternal grandfather, whose name is unknown, eventually lost both life and property. After a retirement of some few years the family appear to have returned and settled at Caesarea in Cappadocia, or else at Neo-Caesarea in Pontus, for there is some uncertainty in the account.

Gregory's father, Basil, who gave his name to his eldest son, was known as a rhetorician. He died at a comparatively early age, leaving a family of ten children, five of whom were boys and five girls, under the care of their grandmother Macrina and mother Emmelia. Both of these illustrious ladies were distinguished for the earnestness and strictness of their Christian principles, to which the latter added the charm of great personal beauty.

[4] O ton Pateron Pater; ;ho ton Nussaeon phoster, Council. Nic. II. Act. VI. Edition of Labbe, p. 477.--Nicephor. Callist. H. E. xi. 19.

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