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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

St Gregory of Nyssa Funeral Oration on Meletius, Complete

Translated by W. Moore and H. A. Wilson

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For on that pure heart no gloomy or inky thought was imprinted. In it, too, were the pillars, the steps, the chapters, the lamps, the mercy-seat, the baths, the veils of the entrances. In it was the rod of the priesthood, which budded in the hands of our Saint; and whatever else we have heard the Ark contained [2079] was all held in the soul of that man. But in their stead what is there now? Let description cease. Cloths of pure white linen scarves of silk, abundance of perfumes and spices; the loving munificence of a modest and beautiful lady [2080] . For it must be told, so as to be for a memorial of her [2081] , what she did for that Priest when, without stint, she poured the alabaster box of ointment on his head. But the treasure preserved within, what is it? Bones, now dead, and which even before dissolution had rehearsed their dying, the sad memorials of our affliction. Oh! what a cry like that of old will be heard in Rama, Rachel weeping [2082] , not for her children but for a husband, and admitting not of consolation. Let alone, ye that would console; let alone; force not on us your consolation [2083] . Let the widow indulge the deepness of her grief. Let her feel the loss that has been inflicted on her. Yet she is not without previous practice in separation. In those contests in which our athlete was engaged she had before been trained to bear to be left. Certainly you must remember how a previous sermon to ours related to you the contests of the man; how throughout, even in the very number of his contests, he had maintained the glory of the Holy Trinity, which he ever glorified; for there were three trying attacks that he had to repel. You have heard the whole series of his labours, what he was in the first, what in the middle, and what in the last. I deem it superfluous to repeat what has been so well described. Yet it may not be out of place to add just so much as this. When that Church, so sound in the faith, at the first beheld the man, she saw features truly formed [2084] after the image of God, she saw love welling forth, she saw grace poured around his lips, a consummate perfection of humility beyond which it is impossible to conceive any thing further, a gentleness like that of David, the understanding of Solomon, a goodness like that of Moses, a strictness as of Samuel, a chastity as of Joseph, the skill of a Daniel, a zeal for the faith such as was in the great Elijah, a purity of body like that of the lofty-minded John [2085] , an unsurpassable love as of Paul.

[2079] The above description enumerates the whole furniture of the Tabernacle. According to Heb. ix. 4, all that was actually in the Ark was, the pot of manna, Aaron's rod that budded, and the Tables of the Covenant. See also Exod. xvi. 33; xxv. 37-40

[2080] Flacilla, the wife of the Emperor Theodosius.

[2081] S. Matt. xxvi. 13: S. Mark xiv. 9.

[2082] Jer. xxxi. 15.

[2083] This is from the LXX. of Is. xxii. 4, me katischusete parakalein me epi to suntrimma, k.t.l.: "Nolite contendere ut me consolemini super contritione:" S. Jerome. Ducaeus has rightly restored this, for katischusetai

[2084] prosopon alethos memorphomenon. This is the reading of the best mss. Morell has halieos.

[2085] kata ton hupselon 'Ioannen en te aphthori& 139; tou somatos. Sifanus translates "integritate corporis ornatum." Rupp rejects the idea that the John who "should not die" is here meant: and thinks that the epithet, and aphthoria (= the more technical aphtharsia) point to the monasticism of John the Baptist.

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