Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 05: 25.01.00a Gregory of Nyssa, His life

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Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 05: 25.01.00a Gregory of Nyssa, His life

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William Moore. M.a., Rector of Appleton, Late Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford; And Henry Austin Wilson, M.a., Fellow and Librarian of Magdalen College, Oxford.

The Life and Writings of Gregory of Nyssa


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 theoIogical 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'hyperlink ."

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.

All the sons and daughters appear to have been of high character, but it is only of four sons and one daughter that we have any special record. The daughter, called Macrina, from her grandmother, was the angel in the house of this illustrious family. She shared with her grandmother and mother the care and education of all its younger members. Nor was there one of them who did not owe to her religious influence their settlement in the faith and consistency of Christian conduct.

This admirable woman had been betrothed in early life, but her intended husband died of fever. She permitted herself to contract no other alliance, but regarded herself as still united to her betrothed in the other world. She devoted herself to a religious life, and eventually, with her mother Emmelia, established a female conventual society on the family-property in Pontus, at a place called Annesi, on the banks of the river Iris.

It was owing to her persuasions that her brother Basil also gave up the worldly life, and retired to lead the devout life in a wild spot in the immediate neighbourhood of Annesi. Here for a while he was an hermit, and here he persuaded his friend Gregory Nazianzen to join him. They studied together the works of Origen, and published a selection of extracts from his Commentaries, which they called "Philocalia." By the suggestions of a friend Basil enlarged his idea, and converted his hermit's seclusion into a monastery, which eventually became the centre of many others which sprung up in that district.

His inclination for the monastic life had been greatly influenced by his acquaintance with the Egyptian monks, who had impressed him with the value of their system as an aid to a life of religious devotion. He had visited also the hermit saints of Syria and Arabia, and learnt from them the practice of a severe asceticism, which both injured his health and shortened his days.

Gregory of Nyssa was the third son, and one of the youngest of the family. He had an elder brother, Nectarius, who followed the profession of their father, and became rhetorician, and like him died early. He had also a younger brother, Peter, who became bishop of Sebaste.

Besides the uncertainty as to the year and place of his birth it is not known where he received his education. From the weakness of his health and delicacy of his constitution, it was most probably at home. It is interesting, in the case of one so highly educated, to know who, in consequence of his father's early death, took charge of his merely intellectual bringing up: and his own words do not leave us in any doubt that, so far as he had a teacher, it was Basil, his senior by several years. He constantly speaks of him as the revered `Master:' to take but one instance, he says in his Hexaemeron (ad init.) that all that will be striking in that work will be due to Basil, what is inferior will be the `pupil's.' Even in the matter of style, he says in a letter written in early life to Libanius that though he enjoyed his brother's society but a short time yet Basil was the author of his oratory (logou): and it is safe to conclude that he was introduced to all that Athens had to teach, perhaps even to medicine, by Basil: for Basil had been at Athens. On the other hand we can have no difficulty in crediting his mother, of whom he always spoke with the tenderest affection, and his admirable sister Macrina, with the care of his religious teaching. Indeed few could be more fortunate than Gregory in the influences of home. If, as there is every reason to believe, the grandmother Macrina survived Gregory's early childhood, then, like Timothy, he was blest with the religious instruction of another Lois and Eunice.

In this chain of female relationship it is difficult to say which link is worthier of note, grandmother, mother, or daughter. Of the first, Basil, who attributes his early religious impressions to his grandmother, tells us that as a child she taught him a Creed, which had been drawn up for the use of the Church of Neo-Caesarea by Gregory Thaumaturgus. This Creed, it is said, was revealed to the Saint in a vision. It has been translated by Bishop Bull in his "Fidei Nicaenae Defensio." In its language and spirit it anticipates the Creed of Constantinople.

Certain it is that Gregory had not the benefit of a residence at Athens, or of foreign travel. It might have given him a strength of character and width of experience, in which he was certainly deficient. His shy and retiring disposition induced him to remain at home without choosing a profession, living on his share of the paternal property, and educating himself by a discipline of his own.

He remained for years unbaptized. And this is a very noticeable circumstance which meets us in the lives of many eminent Saints and Bishops of the Church. They either delayed baptism themselves, or it was delayed for them. Indeed there are instances of Bishops baptized and consecrated the same day.

Gregory's first inclination or impulse to make a public profession of Christianity is said to have been due to a remarkable dream or vision.

His mother Emmelia, at her retreat at Annesi, urgently entreated him to be present and take part in a religious ceremony in honour of the Forty Christian Martyrs. He had gone unwillingly, and wearied with his journey and the length of the service, which lasted far into the night, he lay down and fell asleep in the garden. He dreamed that the Martyrs appeared to him and, reproaching him for his indifference, beat him with rods. On awaking he was filled with remorse, and hastened to amend his past neglect by earnest entreaties for mercy and forgiveness. Under the influence of the terror which his dream inspired he consented to undertake the office of reader in the Church, which of course implied a profession of Christianity. But some unfitness, and, perhaps, that love of eloquence which clung to him to the last, soon led him to give up the office, and adopt the profession of a rhetorician or advocate. For this desertion of a sacred for a secular employment he is taken severely to task by his brother Basil and his friend Gregory Nazianzen. The latter does not hesitate to charge him with being influenced, not by conscientious scruples, but by vanity and desire of public display, a charge not altogether consistent with his character.

Here it is usual to place the marriage of Gregory with Theosebeia, said to have been a sister of Gregory Nazianzen. Certainly the tradition of Gregory's marriage received such credit as to be made in after times a proof of the non-celibacy of the Bishops of his age. But it rests mainly on two passages, which taken separately are not in the least conclusive. The first is the ninety-fifth letter of Gregory Nazianzen, written to console for a certain loss by death, i.e. of "Theosebeia, the fairest, the most lustrous even amidst such beauty of the adelfoi; Theosebeia, the true priestess, the yokefellow and the equal of a priest." J. Rupp has well pointed out that the expression `yokefellow' (suzugon), which has been insisted as meaning `wife,' may, especially in the language of Gregory Nazianzen, be equivalent to adelfoi. He sees in this Theosebeia `a sister of the Cappadocian brothers.' The second passage is contained in the third cap. of Gregory's treatise On Virginity. Gregory there complains that he is "cut off by a kind of gulf from this glory of virginity" (parqenia). The whole passage should be consulted. Of course its significance depends on the meaning given to parqenia. Rupp asserts that more and more towards the end of the century this word acquired a technical meaning derived from the purely ideal side, i.e. virginity of soul: and that Gregory is alluding to the same thing that his friend had not long before blamed him for, the keeping of a school for rhetoric, where his object had been merely worldly reputation, and the truly ascetic career had been marred (at the time he wrote). Certainly the terrible indictment of marriage in the third capof this treatise comes ill from one whose wife not only must have been still living, but possessed the virtues sketched in the letter of Gregory Nazianzen: while the allusions at the end of it to the law-courts and their revelations appear much more like the professional reminiscence of a rhetorician who must have been familiar with them, than the personal complaint of one who had cause to depreciate marriage. The powerful words of Basil, de Virgin. I. 610, a. b., also favour the above view of the meaning of parqenia: and Gregory elsewhere distinctly calls celibacy parqenia tou= swmato, and regards it as a means only to this higher parqeni/a (III. 131). But the two passages above, when combined, may have led to the tradition of Gregory's marriage. Nicephorus Callistus, for example, who first makes mention of it, must have put upon parqenia the interpretation of his own time (thirteenth century,) i.e. that of continence. Finally, those who adopt this tradition have still to account for the fact that no allusion to Theosebeia as his wife, and no letter to her, is to be found in Gregory's numerous writings. It is noteworthy that the Benedictine editors of Gregory Nazianzen(ad Epist. 95) also take the above view.

His final recovery and conversion to the Faith, of which he was always after so strenuous an asserter, was due to her who, all things considered, was the master spirit of the family. By the powerful persuasions of his sister Macrina, at length, after much struggle, he altered entirely his way of life, severed himself from all secular occupations, and retired to his brother's monastery in the solitudes of Pontus, a beautiful spot, and where, as we have seen, his mother and sister had established, in the immediate neighbourhood, a similar association for women.

Here, then, Gregory was settled for several years, and devoted himself to the study of the Scripture and the works of his master Origen. Here, too, his love of natural scenery was deepened so as to find afterwards constant and adequate expression. For in his writings we have in large measure that sentiment of delight in the beauty of nature of which, even when it was felt, the traces are so few and far between in the whole range of Greek literature. A notable instance is the following from the Letter to Adelphus, written long afterwards:-"The gifts bestowed upon the spot by Nature, who beautifies the earth with an impromptu grace, are such as these: below, the river Halys makes the place fair to look upon with his banks, and glides like a golden ribbon through their deep purple, reddening his current with the soil he washes down. Above, a mountain densely overgrown with wood stretches, with its long ridge, covered at all points with the foliage of oaks, more worthy of finding some Homer to sing its praises than that Ithacan Neritus which the poet calls `far-seen with quivering leaves.' But the natural growth of wood as it comes down the hill-side meets at the foot the plantations of human husbandry. For forthwith vines, spread out over the slopes and swellings and hollows at the mountain's base, cover with their colour, like a green mantle, all the lower ground: and the season also was now adding to their beauty with a display of magnificent grape-clusters." Another is from the treatise On Infants' Early Deaths:-"Nay look only at an ear of corn, at the germinating of some plant, at a ripe bunch of grapes, at the beauty of early autumn whether in fruit or flower, at the grass springing unbidden, at the mountain reaching up with its summit to the height of the ether, at the springs of the lower ground bursting from its flanks in streams like milk, and running in rivers through the glens, at the sea receiving those streams from every direction and yet remaining within its limits with waves edged by the stretches of beach, and never stepping beyond those fixed boundaries: and how can the eye of reason fail to find in them all that our education for Realities requires?" The treatise On Virginity was the fruit of this life in Basil'sonastery.

Henceforward the fortunes of Gregory are more closely linked with those of his great brother Basil.

About a.d. 365 Basil was summoned from his retirement to act as coadjutor to Euseblus, the Metropolitan of Caesarea in Cappadocia, and aid him in repelling the assaults of the Arian faction on the Faith. In these assaults the Arians were greatly encouraged and assisted by the proclivities of the Emperor Valens. After some few years of strenuous and successful resistance, and the endurance of great persecution from the Emperor and his Court, a persecution which indeed pursued him through life, Basil is called by the popular voice, on the death of Eusebius, a.d. 370, to succeed him in the See. His election is vehemently opposed, but after much turmoil is at length accomplished.

To strengthen himself in his position, and surround himself with defenders of the orthodox Faith, he obliges his brother Gregory, in spite of his emphatic protest, to undertake the Bishopric of Nyssahyperlink , a small town in the west of Cappadocia. When a friend expressed his surprise that he had chosen so obscure a place for such a man as Gregory, he replied, that he did not desire his brother to receive distinction from the name of his See, but rather to confer distinction upon it.

It was with the same feeling, and by the exercise of a like masterful will, that he forced upon his friend Gregory Nazianzen the Bishopric of a still more obscure and unimportant place, called Sasima. But Gregory highly resented the nomination, which unhappily led to a lifelong estrangement.

It was about this time, too, that a quarrel had arisen between Basil and their uncle, another Gregory, one of the Cappadocian Bishops. And here Gregory of Nyssa gave a striking proof of the extreme simplicity and unreflectiveness of his character, which without guileful intent yet led him into guile. Without sufficient consideration he was induced to practise a deceit which was as irreconcileable with Christian principle as with common sense. In his endeavours to set his brother and uncle at one, when previous efforts had been in vain, he had recourse to an extraordinary method. He forged a letter, as if from their uncle, to Basil, earnestly entreating reconciliation. The inevitable discovery of course only widened the breach, and drew down on Gregory his brother's indignant condemnation, The reconciliation, however, which Gregory hoped for, was afterwards brought about.

Nor was this the only occasion on which Gregory needed Basil's advice and reproof, and protection from the consequences of his inexperienced zeal. After he had become Bishop of Nyssa, with a view to render assistance to his brother he promoted the summoning of Synods. But Basil's wider experience told him that no good would come of such assemblies under existing circumstances. Besides which he had reason to believe that Gregory would be made the tool of factious and designing men. He therefore discouraged the attempt. At another time Basil had to interpose his authority to prevent his brother joining in a mission to Rome to invite the interference of Pope Damasus and the Western Bishops in the settlement of the troubles at Antioch in consequence of the disputed election to the See. Basil had himself experience of the futility of such application to Rome, from the want of sympathy in the Pope and the Western Bishops with the troubles in the East. Nor would he, by such application, give a handle for Rome's assertion of supremacy, and encroachment on the independence of the Eastern Church. The Bishopric of Nyssa was indeed to Gregory no bed of roses. Sad was the contrast to one of his genre spirit, more fitted for studious retirement and monastic calm than for controversies which did not end with the pen, between the peaceful leisure of his retreat in Pontus and the troubles and antagonisms of his present position. The enthusiasm of his faith on the subject of the Trinity and the Incarnation brought upon him the full weight of Arian and Sabellian hostility, aggravated as it was by the patronage of the Emperor. In fact his whole life at Nyssa was a series of persecutions.

A charge of uncanonical irregularity in his ordination is brought up against him by certain Arian Bishops, and he is summoned to appear and answer them at a Synod at Ancyra. To this was added the vexation of a prosecution by Demosthenes, the Emperor's chef de cuisine, on a charge of defalcation in the Church funds.

A band of soldiers is sent to fetch him to the Synod. The fatigue of the journey, and the rough treatment of his conductors, together with anxiety of mind, produce a fever which prevents his attendance. His brother Basil comes to his assistance. He summons another Synod of orthodox Cappadocian Bishops, who dictate in their joint names a courteous letter, apologising for Gregory's absence from the Synod of Ancyra, and proving the falsehood of the charge of embezzlement. At the same time he writes to solicit the interest of Astorgus, a person of considerable influence at the Court, to save his brother from the indignity of being dragged before a secular tribunal.

Apparently the application was unsuccessful. Demosthenes now obtains the holding another Synod at Gregory's own See of Nyssa, where he is summoned to answer the same charges. Gregory refuses to attend. He is consequently pronounced contumacious, and deposed from his Bishopric. His deposition is followed immediately by a decree of banishment from the Emperor, a.d. 376. He retires to Seleucia. But his banishment did not secure him from the malice and persecution of his enemies. He is obliged frequently to shift his quarters, and is subjected to much bodily discomfort and suffering. From the consoling answers of his friend Gregory of Nazianzen (for his own letters are lost), we learn the crushing effects of all these troubles upon his gentle and sensitive spirit, and the deep despondency into which he had fallen.

At length there is a happier turn of affairs. The Emperor Valens is killed, a.d. 378, and with him Arianism `vanished in the crash of Hadrianople.' He is succeeded by Gratian, the friend and disciple of St. Ambrose. The banished orthodox Bishops are restored to their Sees, and Gregory returns to Nyssa. Inhyperlink one of his letters, most probably to his brother Basil, he gives a graphic description of the popular triumph with which his return was greeted.

But the joy of his restoration is overshadowed by domestic sorrows. His great brother, to whom he owed so much, soon after dies, ere he is 50 years of age, worn out by his unparalleled toils and the severity of his ascetic life. Gregory celebrated his death in a sincere panegyric. Its high-flown style is explained by the rhetorical fashion of the time. The same year another sorrow awaits him. After a separation of many years he revisits his sister Macrina, at her convent in Pontus, but only to find her on her death-bed. We have an interesting and graphic account of the scene between Gregory and his dying sister. To the last this admirable woman appears as the great teacher of her family. She supplies her brother with arguments for, and confirms his faith in, the resurrection of the dead; and almost reproves him for the distress he felt at her departure, bidding him, with St. Paul, not to sorrow as those who had no hope. After her decease an inmate of the convent, named Vestiana, brought to Gregory a ring, in which was a piece of the true Cross, and an iron cross, both of which were found on the body when laying it out. One Gregory retained himself, the other he gave to Vestiana. He buried his sister in the chapel at Annesi, in which her parents and her brother Naucratius slept.

From henceforth the labours of Gregory have a far more extended range. He steps into the place vacated by the death of Basil, and takes foremost rank among the defenders of the Faith of Nicaea. He is not, however, without trouble still from the heretical party. Certain Galatians had been busy in sowing the seeds of their heresy among his own people. He is subjected, too, to great annoyance from the disturbances which arose out of the wish of the people of Ibera in Pontus to have him as their Bishop. In that early age of the Church election to a Bishopric, if not dependent on the popular voice, at least called forth the expression of much popular feeling, like a contested election amongst ourselves. This often led to breaches of the peace, which required military intervention to suppress them, as it appears to have done on this occasion.

But the reputation of Gregory is now so advanced, and the weight of his authority as an eminent teacher so generally acknowledged, that we find him as one of the Prelates at the Synod of Antioch assembled for the purpose of healing the long-continued schisms in that distracted See. By the same Synod Gregory is chosen to visit and endeavour to reform the Churches of Arabia and Babylon, which had fallen into a very corrupt and degraded state. He gives a lamentable account of their condition, as being beyond all his powers of reformation. On this same journey he visits Jerusalem and its sacred scenes: it has been conjectured that the Apollinarian heresy drew him thither. Of the Church of Jerusalem he can give no better account than of those he had already visited. He expresses himself as greatly scandalized at the conduct of the Pilgrims who visited the Holy City on the plea of religion. Writing to three ladies, whom he had known at Jerusalem, he takes occasion, from what he had witnessed there, to speak of the uselessness of pilgrimages as any aids to reverence and faith, and denounces in the strongest terms the moral dangers to which all pilgrims, especially women, are exposed.

This letter is so condemnatory of what was a common and authorized practice of the medival Church thathyperlink Divines of the Latin communion have eudeavoured, but in vain, to deny its authenticity.

The name and character of Gregory had now reached the Imperial Court, where Theo-dosius had lately succeeded to the Eastern Empire. As a proof of the esteem in which he was then held, it is said that in his recent journey to Babylon and the Holy Land he travelled with carriages provided for him by the Emperor.

Still greater distinction awaits him. He is one of the hundred and fifty Bishops summoned by Theodosius to the second (Ecumenical Council, that of Constantinople, a.d. 381. To the assembled Fathers he brings anhyperlink instalment of his treatise against the Eunomian heresy, which he had written in defence of his brother Basil's positions, on the subject of the Trinity and the Incarnation. This he first read to his friend Gregory Nazianzen, Jerome, and others. Such was the influence he exercised in the Council that it is said, though this is very doubtful, that the explanatory clauses added to the Nicene Creed are due to him. Certain, however, it is that he delivered the inaugural address, which is not extant; further that he preached the funeral oration, which has been preserved, on the death of Meletius, of Antioch, the first President of the Council, who died at Constantinople; also that he preached at the enthronement of Gregory Nazianzen in the capital. This oration has perished.

Shortly before the close of the Council, by a Constitution of the Emperor, issued from Heraclea, Gregory is nominated as one of the Bishops who were to be regarded as the central authorities of Catholic Communion. In other words, the primacy of Rome or Alexandria in the East was to be replaced by that of other Sees, especially Constantinople. Helladius of Csarea was to be Gregory's colleague in his province. The connexion led to a misunderstanding. As to the grounds of this there is much uncertainty. The account of it is entirely derived from Gregory himself in his Letter to Flavian, and from his great namesake. Possibly there were faults on both sides.

We do not read of Gregory being at the Synod, a.d. 382, which followed the great Council of Constantinople. But we find him present at the Synod held the following year.

This same year we have proof of the continued esteem and favour shown him by the Imperial Court. He is chosen to pronounce the funeral oration on the infant Princess Palcheria. And not long after that also on the death of the Empress Flaccilla, or Placidia, herself. This last was a magnificent eulogy, but one, according to Tillemont, even surpassed by that of Theodoret. This admirable and holy woman, a saint of the Eastern Church, fully warranted all the praise that could be bestowed upon her. If her husband Theodosius did not owe his conversion to Christianity to her example and influence, he certainly did his adherence to the true Faith. It is one of the subjects of Gregory's praise of her that by her persuasion the Emperor refused to give an interview to the `rationalist of the fourth century,' Eunomius.

Scarcely anything is known of the latter years of Gregory of Nyssa's life. The last record we have of him is that he was present at a Synod of Constantinople, summoned a.d. 394, by Rufinus, the powerful prfect of the East, under the presidency of Nectarius. The rival claims to the See of Bostra in Arabia had to be then settled; but perhaps the chief reason for summoning this assembly was to glorify the consecration of Rufinus' new Church in the suburbs. It was there that Gregory delivered the sermon which was probably his last, wrongly entitled `On his Ordination.' His words, which heighten the effect of others then preached, are humbly compared to the blue circles painted on the new walls as a foil to the gilded dome above. "The whole breathes a calmer and more peaceful spirit; the deep sorrow over heretics who forfeit the blessings of the Spirit changes only here and there into the flashes of a short-lived indignation." (J. Rupp.)

The prophecy of Basil had come true. Nyssa was ennobled by the name of its bishop appearing on the roll of this Synod, between those of the Metropolitans of Csarea and Iconium. Even in outward rank he is equal to the highest. The character of Gregory could not be more justly drawn than in the words ofTillemont (IX. p. 269). "Autant en effet, qu'on pent juger de lui par ses ecrits, c'etoit un esprit doux, bon, facile, qui avec beaucoup d'elevation et de lumiere, avoit neanmois beaucoup de simplicite et de candent, qui aimoit plus le repos que l'action, et le travail du cabinet que le tumulte des affaires, qui avec cela etoit sans faste, dispose a estimer et a loner los autres et a se mettre a dessons d'eux. Mais quoiqu' il ne cher-chat que le repos, nous avons vu que son zele pour sos freres l'avoit souvent engagee a de grands travaux, et que Dieu avait honore sa simplicite en le faisant regarder comme le maitre, le docteur, le pacificateur et l'arbitre des eglises."

His death (probably 395) is commemorated by the Greek Church on January 10, by the Latin on March 9.

Chapter II-His General Character as a Theologian.

"The first who sought to establish by rational considerations the whole complex of orthodox doctrines." So Ueberweg (History of Philosophy, p. 326) of Gregory of Nyssa. This marks the transition from ante-Nicene times. Then, at all events in the hands of Origen, philosophy was identical with theology. Now, that there is a `complex of orthodox doctrines' to defend, philosophy becomes the handmaid of theology. Gregory, in this respect, has done the most important service of any of the writers of the Church in the fourth century. He treats each single philosophical view only as a help to grasp the formul of faith; and the truth of that view consists with him only in its adaptability to that end. Notwithstanding strong speculative leanings he does not defend orthodoxy either in the fashion of the Alexandrian school or in the fashion of some in modern times, who put forth a system of philosophy to which the dogmas of the Faith are to be accommodated.

If this be true, the question as to his attitude towards Plato, which is one of the first that suggests itself, is settled. Against polytheism he does indeed seek to defend Christianity by connecting it apologetically with Plato's system. This we cannot be surprised at, considering that the definitions of the doctrines of the Catholic Church were formed in the very place where the last considerable effort of Platonism was made; but he by no means makes the New Life in any way dependent on this system of philosophy. "We cannot speculate," he says (De Anim. et Resurrect.) ..."we must leave the Platonic car." But still when he is convinced that Plato will confirm doctrine he will, even in polemic treatises, adopt his view; for instance, he seeks to grasp the truth of the Trinity from the Platonic account of our internal consciousness, i.e. yuxh\,logj, nou; because such a proof from consciousness is, to Gregory, the surest and most reliable.

The "rational considerations," then, by which Gregory would have established Christian doctrine are not necessarily drawn from the philosophy of the time: nor, further, does he seek to rationalize entirely all religious truth. In fact he resigns the hope of comprehending the Incarnation and all the great articles. This is the very thing that distinguishes the Catholic from the Eunomian. "Receiving the fact we leave untampered with the manner of the creation of the Universe, as altogether secret and inexplicablehyperlink ." With a turn resembling the view of Tertullian, he comes back to the conclusion that for us after all Religious Truth consists in mystery. "The Church possesses the means of demonstrating these things: or rather, she has faith, which is surer than demonstrationhyperlink ." He developes the truth of the Resurrection as much by the fulfilment of God's promises as by metaphysics: and it has been considered as one of the proofs that the treatise What is being `in the image of God'? is not his that this subordination of philosophical proof to the witness of the Holy Spirit is not preserved in it.

Nevertheless there was a large field, larger even than in the next century, in which rationalizing was not only allowable, but was even required of him. In this there are three questions which Gregory has treated with particular fulness and originality.

They are:-

1. Evil;

2. The relation between the ideal and the actual Man;

3. Spirit.

I. He takes, to begin with, Origen's view of evil. Virtue and Vice are not opposed to each other as two Existencies: but as Being is opposed to not-Being. Vice exists only as an absence. But how did this arise?

In answering this question he seems sometimes to come very near Manicheism, and his writings must be read very carefully, in order to avoid fixing upon him the groundless charge that he leaves evil in too near connexion with Matter. But the passageshyperlink which give rise to this charge consist of comparisons found in his homilies and meditations; just as a modern theologian might in such works make the Devil the same as Sin and Death. The only imperfection in his view is that he is unablehyperlink to regard evil as not only suffered but even permitted by God. But this imperfection is inseparable from his time: for Manicheism was too near and its opposition too little overcome for such a view to be possible for him; he could not see that it is the only one able thoroughly to resist Dualism.

Evil with Gregory is to be found in the spontaneous proclivity of the soul towards Matter: but not in Matter itself. Matter, therefore, in his eschatology is not to be burnt up and annihilated: only soul and body have to be refined, as gold (this is a striking comparison) is refined. He is very clear upon the relations between the three factors, body, matter, and evil. He represents the mind as the mirror of the Archetypal Beauty: then below the mind comes body (fuvsi which is connected with mind and pervaded by it, and when thus trans-figured and beautified by it becomes itself the mirror of this mirror: and then this body in its turn influences and combines Matter. The Beauty of the Supreme Being thus penetrates all things: and as long as the lower holds on to the higher all is well. But if a rupture occurs anywhere, then Matter, receiving no longer influence from above, reveals its own deformity, and imparts something of it to body and, through that, to mind: for matter is in itself `a shapeless unorganized thinghyperlink .' Thus the mind loses the image of God. But evil began when the rupture was made: and what caused that? When and how did the mind become separated from God?

Gregory answers this question by laying it down as a principle, that everything created is subject to change. The Uncreate Being is changeless, but Creation, since its very beginning was owing to a change, i.e. a calling of the non-existent into existence, is liable to alter. Gregory deals here with angelic equally as with human nature, and with all the powers in both, especially with the will, whose virtual freedom he assumes throughout. That, too, was created; therefore that, too, could change.

It was possible, therefore, that, first, one of the created spirits, and, as it actually happened, he who was entrusted with the supervision of the earth, should choose to turn his eyes away from the Good; he thus looked at a lower good; and so began to be envious and to have paqh. All evil followed in a chain from this beginning; according to the principle that the beginning of anything is the cause of all tha follows in its train.

So the Devil fell: and the proclivity to evil was introduced into the spiritual world. Man, however, still looked to God and was filled with blessings (this is the `ideal man' of Gregory). But as when the flame has got hold of a wick one cannot dim its light by means of the flame itself, but only by mixing water with the oil in the wick, so the Enemy effected the weakening of God's blessings in man by cunningly mixing wickedness in his will, as he had mixed it in his own. From first to last, then, evil lies in the proaivresi; in nothing else.

God knew what would happen and suffered it, that He might not destroy our freedom, the inalienable heritage of reason and therefore a portion of His image in us.hyperlink He `gave scope to evil for a nobler end.' Gregory calls it a piece of "little mindedness" to argue from evil either the weakness or the wickedness of God.

II. His remarks on the relation between the ideal and the actual Man are very interesting. It is usual with the other Fathers, in speaking of man's original perfection, to take the moment of the first man's residence in Paradise, and to regard the whole of human nature as there represented by the first two human beings. Gregory is far removed from this way of looking at the matter. With him human perfection is the `idea' of humanity: he sees already in the bodily-created Adam the fallen man. The present man is not to be distinguished from that bodily Adam; both fall below the ideal type. Gregory seems to put the Fall beyond and before the beginning of history. `Under the form of narrative Moses places before us mere doctrinehyperlink .' The locus classicus about the idea and the reality of human nature is On the Making of Man,I.p.88f He sketches both in a masterly way. He speaks of the division of the human race into male and female as a `device' (epitexnij), implying that it was not the first `organization' (kataskeuh). He hints that the irrational element was actually provided by the Creator, Who foresaw the Fall and the Redemption, for man to sin in; as if man immediately upon the creation of the perfect humanity became a mixed nature (spirit and flesh), and his fall was not a mere accident, but a necessary consequence of this mixed nature. Adam must have fallen: there was no perfect humanity in Paradise. In man's mixed nature of spirit and flesh nutrition is the basis of his sensation, and sensation is the basis of his thought; and so it was inevitable that sin through this lower yet vital side of man should enter in. So ingrained is the spirit with the flesh in the whole history of actual humanity that all the varieties of all the souls that ever have lived or ever shall, arise from this very mixture; i.e. from the varying degrees of either factor in each. But as Gregory's view here touches, though in striking contrast, on Origen's, more will be said about it in the next chapter.

It follows from this that Gregory, as Clement and Basil before him, did not look upon Original Sin as the accidental or extraordinary thing which it was afterwards regarded. `From a man who is a sinner and subject to passion of course is engendered a man who is a sinner and subject to passion: sin being in a manner born with him, and growing with his growth, and not dying with it.' And yet he says elsewhere, "An infant who is just born is not culpable, nor does it merit punishment; just as he who has been baptized has no account to give of his past sins, since they are forgiven," and he calls infants a0po/nhroi, `not having in the least admitted the disease into their soul.' But these two views can of course be reconciled; the infant at the moment of its physical birth starts with sins forgotten, just as at the moment of its spiritual birth it starts with sins forgiven. No tual sin has been committed. But then its nature has lost the a0paqei/a; the inevitable weakness of its ancestry is in it.

III. `Spirit.' Speaking of the soul, Gregory asks, `How can that which is incomposite be dissolved?' i.e. the soul is spirit, and spirit is incomposite and therefore indestructible.

But care must be taken not to infer too much from this his favourite expression 'spirit' in connexion with the soul. `God is spirit' too; and we are inclined to forget that this is no more than a negative definition, and to imagine the human spirit of equal prerogative with Deity. Gregory gives no encouragement to this; he distinctly teaches that, though the soul is incomposite, it is not in the least independent of time and space, as the Deity is.


In Illud, Attende tibi ipsi.


In Illud, Destruam horrea, etc.


In Illud, Quod Deus non est auctor malorum.


In Principium Proverbiorum


De Fide.


In Illud, In principio erat Verbum


Contra Sabellianos et Arium et Anomoeos

Class (ii) will include

I. and II.

De Jejunio.


De gratiarum actione.


In Divites.


In famem et siccitatem


Adversus beatos.


De invidia.


In Sanctum Baptismum.


In Ebriosos.


De humilitate.


Quod rebus mundanis ashoerendum non sit, et de incendio extra ecclesiam facto.


Ad adolescentes, de legendis libris Gentilium.

The Panegyric (iii) are


In martyrem Julittam.


In Barlaam martyrem.


In Gordium martyrem.


In sanctos quadraginta martyres.


In fact he almost entirely drops the old Platonic division of the Universe into Intelligible (spiritual) and Sensible, which helps to keep up this confusion between human and divine `spirit,' and adopts the Christian division of Creator and Created.This difference betweenCreator and Created is further figured by him as that betweenThe result of this is that the Spirit-world itself has been divided into Uncreate and Created.

With regard, then, to this created Spirit-world we find that Gregory, as Basil, teaches that it existed, i.e. it had been created, before the work of the Six Days began. `God made all that is, at once' (aqrowj). This is only his translation of the verse, `In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth;' the material for `heaven' and `earth,' i.e. spirits and chaos, was made in a moment, but God had not yet spoken the successive Words of creation. The souls of men, then, existed from the very beginning of creation, and in a determinate number; for this is a necessary consequence of the `simultaneous creation.' This was the case with the Angels too, the other portion of the created Spirit-world. Gregory has treated the subject of the Angels very fully. He considers that they are perfect: but their perfection too is contingent: it depends on the grace of God and their own wills; the angels are free, and therefore changeable. Their will necessarily moves towards something: at their first creation the Beautiful alone solicited them. Man `a little lower than the Angels' was perfect too; deathless, passionless, contemplative. `The true and perfect soul is single in its nature, intellectual, immaterialhyperlink .' He was `as the Angels' and if he fell, Lucifer fell too. Gregory will not say, as Origen did, that human souls had a body when first created: rather, as we have seen, he implies the contrary; and he came to be considered the champion that fought the doctrine of the pre-existence of embodied souls. He seems to have been influenced by Methodius' objections to Origen's view. But his magnificent idea of the first man gives way at once to something more Scriptural and at the same time more scientific; and his ideal becomes a downright forecast of Realism.

Taking, however, the human soul as it is, he still continues, we often find, to compare it with God. In his great treatise On the Soul and the Resurrection, he rests a great deal on the parallel between the relation of man to his body, and that of God to the world.-`The soul is as a cord drawn out of mud; God draws to Himself what is His own.'-He calls the human spirit `an influx of the divine in-breathing' (Adv. Apolim.c. 12). Anger and desire do not belong to the essence of the soul, he says: they are only among its varying states. The soul, then, as separable from matter, is like God. But this likeness does not extend to the point of identity. Incomprehensible, immortal, it is not uncreated. The distinction between the Creator and the Created cannot be obliterated. The attributes Of the Creator set down above, i.e. that He is infinite, changeless, contradictionless, and so always good, &c., can be applied only catachrestically to some men, in that they resemble their Maker as a copy resembles its original: but still, in this connexion, Gregory does speak of those `who do not need any cleansing at allhyperlink ,' and the context forces us to apply these words to men. There is no irony, to him or to any Father of the fourth century, in the words, `They that are whole need not a physician.' Although in the treatise On Virginity, where he is describing the development of his own moral and religious life, he is very far from applying them to himself, he nevertheless seems to recognize the fact that since Christianity began there are those to whom they might apply.

There is also need of a certain amount of `rational considerations' in advancing a Defence and a Theory of Christianity. He makes this according to the special requirements of the time in his Oratio Catechelica. His reasonings do not seem to us always convincing; but the presence of a living Hellenism and Judaism in the world required them. These two phnomena also explain what appears to us a great weakness in this work: namely, that he treats Hellenism as if it were all speculation; Judaism as if it were all facts. These two religions were too near and too practically opposed to each other for him to see, as we can now, by the aid of a sort of science of religions, that every religion has its idea, and every religion has its facts. He and all the first Apologists, with the spectacle of these two apparently opposite systems before them, thought that, in arriving at the True Religion as well, all could be done by considering facts; or all could be done by speculation. Gregory chose the latter method. A Dogmatic in the modern sense, in which both the idea and the facts of Christianity flow into one, could not have been expected of him. The Oratio Catethetica is a mere philosophy of Christianity in detail written in the philosophic language of the time. Not only does he refrain from using the historic proofs, i.e. of prophecy and type (except very sparingly and only to meet an adversary), but his defence is insufficient from another point of view also; he hardly uses the moral proofs either; he wanders persistently in metaphysics.

If he does not lean enough on these two classes of proofs, at all events that he does not lean entirely on either, may be considered as a guarantee of his excellence as a theologian pure and simple. But he is on the other hand very far from attempting a philosophic construction of Christianity, as we have seen. Though akin to modern theologians in many things, he is unlike those of them who would construct an a priori Christianity, in which the relationship of one part to another is so close that all stands or falls together. Philosophic deduction is with him only `a kind of instruction' used in his apologetic works. On occasion he shows a clear perception of the historic principle. "The supernatural character of the Gospel miracles bears witness to their divine originhyperlink ." He points, as Origen did, to the continued possession of miraculous powers in the Church. Again, as regards moral proof, there had been so much attempted that way by the Neo-Platonists that such proof could not have exactly the same degree of weight attributed to it that it has now, at least by an adherent of the newer Hellenism. Philostratus, Porphyry, Iamblichus had all tried to attract attention to the holy lives of heathen sages. Yet to these, rough sketches as they were, the Christian did oppose the Lives of the Saints: notably Gregory himself in the Life of Gregory Thaumaturgus: as Origen before him (c. Celsum, passim) had shewn in detail the difference in kind of Christian holiness.

His treatment of the Sacraments in the Oratio Catechetica is noteworthy. On Baptism he is very complete: it will be sufficient to notice here the peculiar proof he offers that the Holy Spirit is actually given in Baptism. It is the same proof, to start with, as that which establishes that God came in the flesh when Christ came. Miracles prove this; (he is not wanting here in the sense of the importance of History). If, then, we are persuaded that God is here, we must allow also that truth is here: for truth is the mark of Deity. When, therefore, God has said that He will come in a particular way, if called in a particular way, this must be true. He is so called in Baptism: therefore He comes. (The vital importance of the doctrine of the Trinity, upon which Gregory laboured for so many years, thus all comes from Baptism.) Gregory would not confine the entire force of Baptism to the one ritual act. A resurrection to a new immortal life is begun in Baptism, but owing to the weakness of nature this complete effect is separated into stages or parts. With regard to the necessity of Baptism for salvation, he says he does not know if the Angels receive the souls of the unbaptized; but he rather intimates that they wander in the air seeking rest, and entreat in vain like the Rich Man. To him who wilfully defers it he says, `You are out of paradise, O Catechumen!'


1 O twn Paterwn Pathr; o twn Nussaewn fwsthr, Council. Nic. II. Act. VI. Edition of Labbe, p. 477.-Nicephor. Callist H.E. xi.19.

2 Now Nirse.

3 Epist. III. (Zacagni's collection).

4 Notably Bellarmine: Gretser, the Jesuit, against the Calvinist Molino.

5 See Note I to the Introductory Letter to the Treatise.

6 Cp. Or. Cat. c. xi.

7 In verba `faciamus hominem,

0' I. p. 140.

8 De Perf. Christiani Forma, III. p. 294, he calls the `Prince of darkness

0' the author of sin and death: In Christi Resurrect. III. p. 386, he calls Satan `the heart of the earth:

0' and p. 387 identifies him with sin. `And so the real wisdom visits that arrogant heart of the earth, so that the thought great in wickedness should vanish, and the darkness should be lightened, &c


9 As expressed by S. Thomas Aquinas Summ. I. Qu. xix. Art. 9, Deo nec nolente, nec volente, sed permittente .... Deus neque vult fieri, neque vult non fieri, sed vult permittere mala fieri.

10 De Virginit. c. xi.

11 On Infants' early Deaths, III. p. 336.

12 Or. Cat. c. viii. D.

13 On the Making of Man, c. xiv.

14 Or. Cat. c. xxvi.

15 Or. Cat. c. iii.