Vol. 3, Chapter X (Cont’d) – Gregory of Nyssa


I. S. Gregorius Nyssenus: Opera omnia, quae reperiri potuerunt, Gr. et Lat., nunc primum e mss. codd. edita, stud. Front. Ducaei (Fronto le Duc, a learned Jesuit). Paris, 1615, 2 vols. fol. To be added to this. Appendix Gregorii ex ed. Jac. Gretseri, Par. 1618, fol.; and the Antirrhetoricus adv. Apollinar., first edited by L. Al. Zacagni, Collectanea monum. vet. eccl. Graec. et Lat. Rom. 1698, and in Gallandi, Bibliotheca, tom. vi. Later editions of the Opera by Aeg. Morél, Par. 1638, 3 vols. fol. (“moins belle que cello de 1615, mais plus ample et plus commode … peu correcte,” according to Brunet); by Migne, Petit-Montrouge (Par.), 1858, 3 vols.; and by Franc. Oehler, Halis Saxonum, 1865 sqq. (Tom. i. continens libros dogmaticos, but only in the Greek original.) Oehler has also commenced an edition of select treatises of Gregory of Nyasa in the original with a German version. The Benedictines of St. Maur had prepared the critical apparatus for an edition of Gregory, but it was scattered during the French Revolution. Angelo Mai, in the Nov. Patrum Biblioth. tom. iv. Pars i. pp. 1-53 (Rom. 1847), has edited a few writings of Gregory unknown before, viz., a sermon Adversus Arium et Sabellium, a sermon De Spiritu Sancto adv. Macedonianos, and a fragment De processione Spiritus S. a Filio (doubtful).

II. Lives in the Acta Sanctorum, and in Butler, sub Mart. 9. Tillemont: Mém. tom. ix. p. 561 sqq. Schröckh: Part xiv. pp. 1-147. Jul. Rupp: Gregors des Bischofs von Nyssa Leben und Meinungen. Leipz. 1834 (unsatisfactory). W. Möller: Gregorii Nyss. doctrina de hominis natura, etc. Halis, 1854, and article in Herzog’s Encykl. vol. v. p. 354 sqq.

Böhringer: Kirchengesch. in Biogr., new ed., vol. viii. 1876. G Herrmann: Greg. Nyss. Sententiae de salute adipiscenda. Halle, 1875. T. Bergades: De universo et de anima hominis doctrina Gregor. Nyss. Leipz., 1876. W. Möller, in Herzog,2 v. 396-404. E. Venables, in Smith and Wace, ii. 761-768. A. Paumier, in Lichtenberger, 723-725. On his doctrine of the Trinity and the Person of Christ, see especially Baur and Dorner. On his doctrine of the apokatastasis and relation to Origen, see Möller, G. Herrmann, and Bergades. l.c. Farrar: “Lives of the Fathers,” (1889), ii. 56-83.

Gregory of Nyssa was a younger brother of Basil, and the third son of his parents. Of his honorable descent he made no account. Blood, wealth, and splendor, says he, we should leave to the friends of the world; the Christian’s lineage is his affinity with the divine, his fatherland is virtue, his freedom is the sonship of God. He was weakly and timid, and born not so much for practical life, as for study and speculation. He formed his mind chiefly upon the writings of Origen, and under the direction of his brother, whom he calls his father and preceptor. Further than this his early life is unknown.

After spending a short time as a rhetorician he broke away from the world, retired into solitude in Pontus, and became enamored of the ascetic life.

Quite in the spirit of the then widely-spread tendency towards the monastic life, he, though himself married, commends virginity in a special work, as a higher grade of perfection, and depicts the happiness of one who is raised above the incumbrances and snares of marriage, and thus, as he thinks, restored to the original state of man in Paradise. “From all the evils of marriage,” he says, “virginity is free; it has no lost children, no lost husband to bemoan; it is always with its Bridegroom, and delights in its devout exercises, and, when death comes, it is not separated from him, but united with him forever.” The essence of spiritual virginity, however, in his opinion, by no means consists merely in the small matter of sensual abstinence, but in the purity of the whole life. Virginity is to him the true philosophy, the perfect freedom. The purpose of asceticism in general he considered to be not the affliction of the body — which is only a means — but the easiest possible motion of the spiritual functions.

His brother Basil, in 372, called him against his will from his learned ease into his own vicinity as bishop of Nyssa, an inconsiderable town of Cappadocia. He thought it better that the place should receive its honor from his brother, than that his brother should receive his honor from his place. And so it turned out. As Gregory labored zealously for the Nicene faith, he drew the hatred of the Arians, who succeeded in deposing him at a synod in 376, and driving him into exile. But two years later, when the emperor Valens died and Gratian revoked the sentences of banishment, Gregory recovered his bishopric.

Now other trials came upon him. His brothers and sisters died in rapid succession. He delivered a eulogy upon Basil, whom he greatly venerated, and he described the life and death of his beautiful and noble sister Macrina, who, after the death of her betrothed, that she might remain true to him, chose single life, and afterwards retired with her mother into seclusion, and exerted great influence over her brothers.

Into her mouth he put his theological instructions on the soul, death, resurrection, and final restoration. She died in the arms of Gregory, with this prayer: “Thou, O God, hast taken from me the fear of death. Thou hast granted me, that the end of this life should be the beginning of true life. Thou givest our bodies in their time to the sleep of death, and awakest them again from sleep with the last trumpet …. Thou hast delivered us from the curse and from sin by Thyself becoming both for us; Thou hast bruised the head of the serpent, hast broken open the gates of hell, hast overcome him who had the power of death, and hast opened to us the way to, resurrection. For the ruin of the enemy and the security of our life, Thou hast put upon those who feared Thee a sign, the sign of Thy holy cross, O eternal God, to whom I am betrothed from the womb, whom my soul has loved with all its might, to whom I have dedicated, from my youth up till now, my flesh and my soul. Oh! send to me an angel of light, to lead me to the place of refreshment, where is the water of peace, in the bosom of the holy fathers. Thou who hast broken the flaming sword, and bringest back to Paradise the man who is crucified with Thee and flees to Thy mercy. Remember me also in Thy kingdom!… Forgive me what in word, deed, or thought, I have done amiss! Blameless and without spot may my soul be received into Thy hands, as a burnt-offering before Thee!”

Gregory attended the ecumenical council of Constantinople, and undoubtedly, since he was one of the most eminent theologians of the time, exerted a powerful influence there, and according to a later, but erroneous, tradition, he composed the additions to the Nicene Creed which were there sanctioned. The council intrusted to him, as “one of the pillars of catholic orthodoxy,” a tour of visitation to Arabia and Jerusalem, where disturbances had broken out which threatened a schism. He found Palestine in a sad condition, and therefore dissuaded a Cappadocian abbot, who asked his advice about a pilgrimage of his monks to Jerusalem. “Change of place,” says he, “brings us no nearer God, but where thou art, God can come to thee, if only the inn of thy soul is ready …. It is better to go out of the body and to raise one’s self to the Lord, than to leave Cappadocia to journey to Palestine.” He did not succeed in making peace, and he returned to Cappadocia lamenting that there were in Jerusalem men “who showed a hatred towards their brethren, such as they ought to have only towards the devil, towards sin, and towards the avowed enemies of the Saviour.”

Of his later life we know very little. He was in Constantinople thrice afterwards, in 383, 385, and 394, and he died about the year 395.

The wealth of his intellectual life he deposited in his numerous writings, above all in his controversial doctrinal works: Against Eunomius; Against Apollinaris; On the Deity of the Son and the Holy Ghost; On the difference between ousia and hypostasis in God; and in his catechetical compend of the Christian faith. The beautiful dialogue with his sister Macrina on the soul and the resurrection has been already mentioned. Besides these he wrote many Homilies, especially on the creation of the world, and of man, on the life of Moses, on the Psalms, on Ecclesiastes, on the Song of Solomon, on the Lord’s Prayer, on the Beatitudes; Eulogies on eminent martyrs and saints (St. Stephen, the Forty Martyrs, Gregory Thaumaturgus, Ephrem, Meletius, his brother Basil); various valuable ascetic tracts; and a biography of his sister Macrina, addressed to the monk Olympios.

Gregory was more a man of thought than of action. He had a fine metaphysical head, and did lasting service in the vindication of the mystery of the Trinity and the incarnation, and in the accurate distinction between essence and hypostasis. Of all the church teachers of the Nicene age he is the nearest to Origen. He not only follows his sometimes utterly extravagant allegorical method of interpretation, but even to a great extent falls in with his dogmatic views. With him, as with Origen, human freedom plays a great part. Both are idealistic, and sometimes, without intending it or knowing it, fall into contradiction with the church doctrine, especially in eschatology. Gregory adopts, for example, the doctrine of the final restoration of all things. The plan of redemption is in his view absolutely universal, and embraces all spiritual beings. Good is the only positive reality; evil is the negative, the non-existent, and must finally abolish itself, because it is not of God. Unbelievers must indeed pass through a second death, in order to be purged from the filthiness of the flesh. But God does not give them up, for they are his property, spiritual natures allied to him. His love, which draws pure souls easily and without pain to itself, becomes a purifying fire to all who cleave to the earthly, till the impure element is driven off. As all comes forth from God, so must all return into him at last.


166. Gregory Nazianzen

I. S. Gregorius Theologus, vulgo Nazianzenus: Opera omnia, Gr. et Lat. opera et studio monachorum S. Benedicti e congreg. S. Mauri (Clemencet). Paris, 1778, tom. i. (containing his orations). This magnificent edition (one of the finest of the Maurian editions of the fathers) was interrupted by the French Revolution, but afterwards resumed, and with a second volume (after papers left by the Maurians) completed by A. B. Caillau, Par. l837-’40, 2 vols. fol. Reprinted in Migne’s Patrolog. Graec. (tom. 35-38), Petit-Montrouge, 1857, in 4 vols. (on the separate editions of his Orationes and Carmina, see Brunet, Man. du libraire, tom. ii. 1728 sq.)

II. Biographical notices in Gregory’s Epistles and Poems, in Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, Rufinus, and Suidas (s. v. Γρηγόριος). Gregorius Presbyter (of uncertain origin, perhaps of Cappadocia in the tenth century): Βίος τοῦ Γρηγορίου (Greek and Latin in Migne’s ed. of the Opera, tom. i. 243-304). G. Hermant: La vie de S. Basile le Grand et celle de S. Gregoire de Nazianz. Par. 1679, 2 vols. Acta Sanctorum, tom. ii. Maji, p. 373 sqq. Bened. Editores: Vita Greg. ex iis potissimum scriptis adornata (in Migne’s ed. tom. i. pp. 147-242). Tillemont: Mémoires, tom. ix. pp. 305-560, 692-731. Le Clerc: Bibliothèque Universelle, tom. xviii. pp. 1-128. W. Cave: Lives of the Fathers, vol. iii. pp. 1-90 (ed. Oxf. 1840). Schröckh: Part xiii. pp. 275-466. Carl Ullmann: Gregorius von Nazianz, der Theologe. Ein Beitrag zur Kirchen- und Dogmengeschichte des 4ten Jahrhunderts. Darmstadt, 1825. (One of the best historical monographs by a theologian of kindred spirit.) Comp. also the articles of Hefele in Wetzer und Welte’s Kirchenlexikon, vol. iv. 736 ff., and Gass in Herzog’s Encykl. vol. v. 349.

A. Grenier: La vie et les poésies de saint Grégoire de Nazianze. Paris, 1858. Böhringer: K. G. in Biogr., new ed., vol. viii. 1876. Abbé A. Benoît: Vie de saint Grégoire de Nazianze. Paris, 1877. J. R. Newman: Church of the Fathers, pp. 116-145, 551. Dabas: La femme au quatrième siècle dans les poésies de Grég. de Naz. Bordeaux, 1868. H. W. Watkins, in Smith and Wace, ii. 741-761. W. Gass, in Herzog,2 v. 392-396. A. Paumier, in Lichtenberger, v., 716-722. On his christology, see Neander, Baur and especially Dorner. His views on future punishment have been discussed by Farrar, and Pusey (see vol. ii. 612). Farrar:: “Lives of the Fathers,” i. 491-582.

Gregory Nazianzen, or Gregory the Theologian, is the third in the Cappadocian triad; inferior to his bosom friend Basil as a church ruler, and to his namesake of Nyssa as a speculative thinker, but superior to both as an orator. With them he exhibits the flower of Greek theology in close union with the Nicene faith, and was one of the champions of orthodoxy, though with a mind open to free speculation. His life, with its alternations of high station, monastic seclusion, love of severe studies, enthusiasm for poetry, nature, and friendship, possesses a romantic charm. He was “by inclination and fortune tossed between the silence of a contemplative life and the tumult of church administration, unsatisfied with either, neither a thinker nor a poet, but, according to his youthful desire, an orator, who, though often bombastic and dry, labored as powerfully for the victory of orthodoxy as for true practical Christianity.”

Gregory Nazianzen was born about 330, a year before the emperor Julian, either at Nazianzum, a market-town in the south-western part of Cappadocia, where his father was bishop, or in the neighboring village of Arianzus.

In the formation of his religious character his mother Nonna, one of the noblest Christian women of antiquity, exerted a deep and wholesome influence. By her prayers and her holy life she brought about the conversion of her husband from the sect of the Hypsistarians, who, without positive faith, worshipped simply a supreme being; and she consecrated her son, as Hannah consecrated Samuel, even before his birth; to the service of God. “She was,” as Gregory describes her, “a wife according to the mind of Solomon; in all things subject to her husband according to the laws of marriage, not ashamed to be his teacher and his leader in true religion. She solved the difficult problem of uniting a higher culture, especially in knowledge of divine things and strict exercise of devotion, with the practical care of her household. If she was active in her house, she seemed to know nothing of the exercises of religion; if she occupied herself with God and his worship, she seemed to be a stranger to every earthly occupation: she was whole in everything. Experiences had instilled into her unbounded confidence in the effects of believing prayer; therefore she was most diligent in supplications, and by prayer overcame even the deepest feelings of grief over her own and others’ sufferings. She had by this means attained such control over her spirit, that in every sorrow she encountered, she never uttered a plaintive tone before she had thanked God.” He especially celebrates also her extraordinary liberality and self-denying love for the poor and the sick. But it seems to be not in perfect harmony with this, that he relates of her: “Towards heathen women she was so intolerant, that she never offered her mouth or hand to them in salutation. She ate no salt with those who came from the unhallowed altars of idols. Pagan temples she did not look at, much less would she have stepped upon their ground; and she was as far from visiting the theatre.” Of course her piety moved entirely in the spirit of that time, bore the stamp of ascetic legalism rather than of evangelical freedom, and adhered rigidly to certain outward forms. Significant also is her great reverence for sacred things. “She did not venture to turn her back upon the holy table, or to spit upon the floor of the church.” Her death was worthy of a holy life. At a great age, in the church which her husband had built almost entirely with his own means, she died, holding fast with one hand to the altar and raising the other imploringly to heaven, with the words: “Be gracious to me, O Christ, my King!” Amidst universal sorrow, especially among the widows and orphans whose comfort and help she had been, she was laid to rest by the side of her husband near the graves of the martyrs. Her affectionate son says in one of the poems in which he extols her piety and her blessed end: “Bewail, O mortals, the mortal race; but when one dies, like Nonna, praying, then weep I not.”

Gregory was early instructed in the Holy Scriptures and in the rudiments of science. He soon conceived a special predilection for the study of oratory, and through the influence of his mother, strengthened by a dream, he determined on the celibate life, that he might devote himself without distraction to the kingdom of God. Like the other church teachers of this period, he also gave this condition the preference, and extolled it in orations and poems, though without denying the usefulness and divine appointment of marriage. His father, and his friend Gregory of Nyssa were among the few bishops who lived in wedlock.

From his native town he went for his further education to Caesarea in Cappadocia, where he probably already made a preliminary acquaintance with Basil; then to Caesarea in Palestine, where there were at that time celebrated schools of eloquence; thence to Alexandria, where his revered Athanasius wore the supreme dignity of the church; and finally to Athens, which still maintained its ancient renown as the seat of Grecian science and art. Upon the voyage thither he survived a fearful storm, which threw him into the greatest mental anguish, especially because, though educated a Christian, he, according to a not unusual custom of that time, had not yet received holy baptism, which was to him the condition of salvation. His deliverance he ascribed partly to the intercession of his parents, who had intimation of his peril by presentiments and dreams, and he took it as a second consecration to the spiritual office.

In Athens he formed or strengthened the bond of that beautiful Christian friendship with Basil, of which we have already spoken in the life of Basil. They were, as Gregory says, as it were only one soul animating two bodies. He became acquainted also with the prince Julian, who was at that time studying there, but felt wholly repelled by him, and said of him with prophetic foresight: “What evil is the Roman empire here educating for itself!” He was afterwards a bitter antagonist of Julian, and wrote two invective discourses against him after his death, which are inspired, however, more by the fire of passion than by pure enthusiasm for Christianity, and which were intended to expose him to universal ignominy as a horrible monument of enmity to Christianity and of the retributive judgment of God.

Friends wished him to settle in Athens as a teacher of eloquence, but he left there in his thirtieth year, and returned through Constantinople, where he took with him his brother Caesarius, a distinguished physician, to his native city and his parents’ house. At this time his baptism took place. With his whole soul he now threw himself into a strict ascetic life. He renounced innocent enjoyments, even to music, because they flatter the senses. “His food was bread and salt, his drink water, his bed the bare ground, his garment of coarse, rough cloth. Labor filled the day; praying, singing, and holy contemplation, a great part of the night. His earlier life, which was anything but loose, only not so very strict, seemed to him reprehensible; his former laughing now cost him many tears. Silence and quiet meditation were law and pleasure to him.” Nothing but love to his parents restrained him from entire seclusion, and induced him, contrary to talent and inclination, to assist his father in the management of his household and his property.

But he soon followed his powerful bent toward the contemplative life of solitude, and spent a short time with Basil in a quiet district of Pontus in prayer, spiritual contemplations, and manual labors. “Who will transport me,” he afterwards wrote to his friend concerning this visit, “back to those former days, in which I revelled with thee in privations? For voluntary poverty is after all far more honorable than enforced enjoyment. Who will give me back those songs and vigils? who, those risings to God in prayer, that unearthly, incorporeal life, that fellowship and that spiritual harmony of brothers raised by thee to a God-like life? who, the ardent searching of the Holy Scriptures, and the light which, under the guidance of the Spirit, we found therein?” Then he mentions the lesser enjoyments of the beauties of surrounding nature.

On a visit to his parents’ house, Gregory against his will, and even without his previous knowledge, was ordained presbyter by his father before the assembled congregation on a feast day of the year 361. Such forced elections and ordinations, though very offensive to our taste, were at that time frequent, especially upon the urgent wish of the people, whose voice in many instances proved to be indeed the voice of God. Basil also, and Augustine, were ordained presbyters, Athanasius and Ambrose bishops, against their will. Gregory fled soon after, it is true, to his friend in Pontus, but out of regard to his aged parents and the pressing call of the church, he returned to Nazianzum towards Easter in 362, and delivered his first pulpit discourse, in which he justified himself in his conduct, and said: “It has its advantage to hold back a little from the call of God, as Moses, and after him Jeremiah, did on account of their age; but it has also its advantage to come forward readily, when God calls, like Aaron and Isaiah; provided both be done with a devout spirit, the one on account of inherent weakness, the other in reliance upon the strength of him who calls.” His enemies accused him of haughty contempt of the priestly office; but he gave as the most important reason of his flight, that he did not consider himself worthy to preside over a flock, and to undertake the care of immortal souls, especially in such stormy times.

Basil, who, as metropolitan, to strengthen the catholic interest against Arianism, set about the establishment of new bishoprics in the small towns of Cappadocia, intrusted to his young friend one such charge in Sasima, a poor market town at the junction of three highways, destitute of water, verdure, and society, frequented only by rude wagoners, and at the time an apple of discord between him and his opponent, the bishop Anthimus of Tyana. A very strange way of showing friendship, unjustifiable even by the supposition that Basil wished to exercise the humility and self-denial of Gregory. No wonder that, though a bishopric in itself was of no account to Gregory, this act deeply wounded his sense of honor, and produced a temporary alienation between him and Basil. At the combined request of his friend and his aged father, he suffered himself indeed to be consecrated to the new office; but it is very doubtful whether he ever went to Sasima. At all events we soon afterwards find him in his solitude, and then again, in 372, assistant of his father in Nazianzum. In a remarkable discourse delivered in the presence of his father in 372, he represented to the congregation his peculiar fluctuation between an innate love of the contemplative life of seclusion and the call of the Spirit to public labor.

“Come to my help,” said he to his hearers, “for I am almost torn asunder by my inward longing and by the Spirit. The longing urges me to flight, to solitude in the mountains, to quietude of soul and body, to withdrawal of spirit from all sensuous things, and to retirement into myself, that I may commune undisturbed with God, and be wholly penetrated by the rays of His Spirit …. But the other, the Spirit, would lead me into the midst of life, to serve the common weal, and by furthering others to further myself, to spread light, and to present to God a people for His possession, a holy people, a royal priesthood (Tit_2:14; 1Pe_2:9), and His image again purified in many. For as a whole garden is more than a plant, and the whole heaven with all its beauties is more glorious than a star, and the whole body more excellent than one member, so also before God the whole well-instructed church is better than one well-ordered person, and a man must in general look not only on his own things, but also on the things of others. So Christ did, who, though He might have remained in His own dignity and divine glory, not only humbled Himself to the form of a servant, but also, despising all shame, endured the death of the cross, that by His suffering He might blot out sin, and by His death destroy death.”

Thus he stood a faithful helper by the side of his venerable and universally beloved father, who reached the age of almost an hundred years, and had exercised the priestly office for forty-five; and on the death of his father, in 374, he delivered a masterly funeral oration, which Basil attended. “There is,” said he in this discourse, turning to his still living mother, “only one life, to behold the (divine) life; there is only one death — sin; for this is the corruption of the soul. But all else, for the sake of which many exert themselves, is a dream which decoys us from the true; it is a treacherous phantom of the soul. When we think so, O my mother, then we shall not boast of life, nor dread death. For whatsoever evil we yet endure, if we press out of it to true life, if we, delivered from every change, from every vortex, from all satiety, from all vassalage to evil, shall there be with eternal, no longer changeable things, as small lights circling around the great.”

A short time after he had been invested with the vacant bishopric, he retired again, in 375, to his beloved solitude, and this time be went to Seleucia in Isauria, to the vicinity of a church dedicated to St. Thecla.

There the painful intelligence reached him of the death of his beloved Basil, a.d. 379. On this occasion be wrote to Basil’s brother, Gregory of Nyssa: “Thus also was it reserved for me still in this unhappy life to hear of the death of Basil and the departure of this holy soul, which is gone out from us, only to go in to the Lord, after having already prepared itself for this through its whole life.” He was at that time bodily and mentally very much depressed. In a letter to the rhetorician Eudoxius he wrote: “You ask, how it fares with me. Very badly. I no longer have Basil; I no longer have Caesarius; my spiritual brother, and my bodily brother. I can say with David, my father and my mother have forsaken me. My body is sickly, age is coming over my head, cares become more and more complicated, duties overwhelm me, friends are unfaithful, the church is without capable pastors, good declines, evil stalks naked. The ship is going in the night, a light nowhere, Christ asleep. What is to be done? O, there is to me but one escape from this evil case: death. But the hereafter would be terrible to me, if I had to judge of it by the present state.”

But Providence had appointed him yet a great work and in exalted position in the Eastern capital of the empire. In the year 379 he was called to the pastoral charge by the orthodox church in Constantinople, which, under the oppressive reign of Arianism, was reduced to a feeble handful; and he was exhorted by several worthy bishops to accept the call. He made his appearance unexpectedly. With his insignificant form bowed by disease, his miserable dress, and his simple, secluded mode of life, he at first entirely disappointed the splendor-loving people of the capital, and was much mocked and persecuted. But in spite of all he succeeded, by his powerful eloquence and faithful labor, in building up the little church in faith and in Christian life, and helped the Nicene doctrine again to victory. In memory of this success his little domestic chapel was afterwards changed into a magnificent church, and named Anastasia, the Church of the Resurrection.

People of all classes crowded to his discourses, which were mainly devoted to the vindication of the Godhead of Christ and to the Trinity, and at the same time earnestly inculcated a holy walk befitting the true faith. Even the famous Jerome, at that time already fifty years old, came from Syria to Constantinople to hear these discourses, and took private instruction of Gregory in the interpretation of Scripture. He gratefully calls him his preceptor and catechist.

The victory of the Nicene faith, which Gregory had thus inwardly promoted in the imperial city, was outwardly completed by the celebrated edict of the new emperor Theodosius, in February, 380. When the emperor, on the 24th of December of that year, entered Constantinople, he deposed the Arian bishop, Demophilus, with all his clergy, and transferred the cathedral church to Gregory with the words: “This temple God by our hand intrusts to thee as a reward for thy pains.” The people tumultuously demanded him for bishop, but he decidedly refused. And in fact he was not yet released from his bishopric of Nazianzum or Sasima (though upon the latter he had never formally entered); he could be released only by a synod.

When Theodosius, for the formal settlement of the theological controversies, called the renowned ecumenical council in May, 381, Gregory was elected by this council itself bishop of Constantinople, and, amidst great festivities, was inducted into the office. In virtue of this dignity he held for a time the presidency of the council.

When the Egyptian and Macedonian bishops arrived, they disputed the validity of his election, because, according to the fifteenth canon of the council of Nice, he could not be transferred from his bishopric of Sasima to another; though their real reason was, that the election had been made without them, and that Gregory would probably be distasteful to them as a bold preacher of righteousness. This deeply wounded him. He was soon disgusted, too, with the operations of party passions in the council, and resigned with the following remarkable declaration:

“Whatever this assembly may hereafter determine concerning me, I would fain raise your mind beforehand to something far higher: I pray you now, be one, and join yourselves in love! Must we always be only derided as infallible, and be animated only by one thing, the spirit of strife? Give each other the hand fraternally. But I will be a second Jonah. I will give myself for the salvation of our ship (the church), though I am innocent of the storm. Let the lot fall upon me, and cast me into the sea. A hospitable fish of the deep will receive me. This shall be the beginning of your harmony. I reluctantly ascended the episcopal chair, and gladly I now come down. Even my weak body advises me this. One debt only have I to pay: death; this I owe to God. But, O my Trinity! for Thy sake only am I sad. Shalt Thou have an able man, bold and zealous to vindicate Thee? Farewell, and remember my labors and my pains.”

In the celebrated valedictory which he delivered before the assembled bishops, he gives account of his administration; depicts the former humiliation and the present triumph of the Nicene faith in Constantinople, and his own part in this great change, for which he begs repose as his only reward; exhorts his hearers to harmony and love; and then takes leave of Constantinople and in particular of his beloved church, with this address:

“And now, farewell, my Anastasia, who bearest a so holy name; thou hast exalted again our faith, which once was despised; thou, our common field of victory, thou new Shiloh, where we first established again the ark of the covenant, after it had been carried about for forty years on our wandering in the wilderness.”

Though this voluntary resignation of so high a post proceeded in part from sensitiveness and irritation, it is still an honorable testimony to the character of Gregory in contrast with the many clergy of his time who shrank from no intrigues and by-ways to get possession of such dignities. He left Constantinople in June, 381, and spent the remaining years of his life mostly in solitude on his paternal estate of Arianzus in the vicinity of Nazianzum, in religious exercises and literary pursuits. Yet he continued to operate through numerous epistles upon the affairs of the church, and took active interest in the welfare and sufferings of the men around him. The nearer death approached, the more he endeavored to prepare himself for it by contemplation and rigid ascetic practice, that he “might be, and might more and more become, in truth a pure mirror of God and of divine things; might already in hope enjoy the treasures of the future world; might walk with the angels; might already forsake the earth, while yet walking upon it; and might be transported into higher regions by the Spirit.” In his poems he describes himself, living solitary in the clefts of the rocks among the beasts, going about without shoes, content with one rough garment, and sleeping upon the ground covered with a sack. He died in 390 or 391; the particular circumstances of his death being now unknown. His bones were afterwards brought to Constantinople; and they are now shown at Rome and Venice.

In one of his plaintive songs from his religious retreat, after lamenting the factions of the church, the loss of youth, health, strength, parents, and friends, and his gloomy and homeless condition, Gregory thus gives touching expression to his faith in Christ as the last and only comforter:

“Thy will be done, O Lord! That day shall spring,

When at thy word, this clay shall reappear.

No death I dread, but that which sin will bring;

No fire or flood without thy wrath I fear;

For Thou, O Christ, my King, art fatherland to me.

My wealth, and might, and rest; my all I find in Thee.”

Among the works of Gregory stand pre-eminent his five Theological Orations in defence of the Nicene doctrine against the Eunomians and Macedonians, which he delivered in Constantinople, and which won for him the honorary title of the Theologian (in the narrower sense, i.e., vindicator of the deity of the Logos). His other orations (forty-five in all) are devoted to the memory of distinguished martyrs, friends, and kindred, to the ecclesiastical festivals, and to public events or his own fortunes. Two of them are bitter attacks on Julian after his death. They are not founded on particular texts, and have no strictly logical order and connection.

He is the greatest orator of the Greek church, with the exception perhaps of Chrysostom; but his oratory often degenerates into arts of persuasion, and is full of labored ornamentation and rhetorical extravagances, which are in the spirit of his age, but in violation of healthful, natural taste.

As a poet he holds a subordinate, though respectable place. He wrote poetry only in his later life, and wrote it not from native impulse, as the bird sings among the branches, but in the strain of moral reflection, upon his own life, or upon doctrinal and moral themes. Many of his orations are poetical, many of his poems are prosaic. Not one of his odes or hymns passed into use in the church. Yet some of his smaller pieces, apothegms, epigrams, and epitaphs, are very beautiful, and betray noble affections, deep feeling, and a high order of talent and cultivation.

We have, finally, two hundred and forty-two (or 244) Epistles from Gregory, which are important to the history of the time, and in some cases very graceful and interesting.


167. Didymus of Alexandria

I. Didymi Alexandrini Opera omnia: accedunt S. Amphilochii et Nectarii scripta quae supersunt Graece, accurante et denuo recognoscente J. P. Migne. Petit-Montrouge (Paris), 1858. (Tom. xxxix. of the Patrologia Graeca.)

II. Hieronymus: De viris illustr. c. 109, and Prooem. in Hoseam. Scattered accounts in Rufinus, Palladius, Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret. Tillemont: Mémoires, x. 164. Fabricius: Bibl. Gr. tom. ix. 269 sqq. ed. Harless (also in Migne’s ed. of the Opera, pp. 131-140). Schröckh: Church History, vii. 74-87. Güricke: De schola Alexandrina. Hal. 1824.

Didymus, the last great teacher of the Alexandrian catechetical school, and a faithful follower of Origen, was born probably at Alexandria about the year 309. Though he became in his fourth year entirely blind, and for this reason has been surnamed Caecus, yet by extraordinary industry he gained comprehensive and thorough knowledge in philosophy, rhetoric, and mathematics. He learned to write by means of wooden tablets in which the characters were engraved; and he became so familiar with the Holy Scriptures by listening to the church lessons, that he knew them almost all by heart.

Athanasius nominated him teacher in the theological school, where he zealously labored for nearly sixty years. Even men like Jerome, Rufinus, Palladius, and Isidore, sat at his feet with admiration. He was moreover an enthusiastic advocate of ascetic life, and stood in high esteem with the Egyptian anchorites; with St. Anthony in particular, who congratulated him, that, though blind to the perishable world of sense, he was endowed with the eye of an angel to behold the mysteries of God. He died at a great age, in universal favor, in 395.

Didymus was thoroughly orthodox in the doctrine of the Trinity, and a discerning opponent of the Arians, but at the same time a great venerator of Origen, and a participant of his peculiar views concerning the pre-existence of souls, and probably concerning final restoration. For this reason he was long after his death condemned with intolerant zeal by several general councils.

We have from him a book On the Holy Ghost, translated by Jerome into Latin, in which he advocates, with much discrimination, and in simple, biblical style, the consubstantiality of the Spirit with the Father, against the Semi-Arians and Pneumatomachi of his time; and three books on the Trinity, in the Greek original. He wrote also a brief treatise against the Manichaeans. Of his numerous exegetical works we have a commentary on the Catholic Epistles, and large fragments, in part uncertain, of commentaries on the Psalms, Job, Proverbs, and some Pauline Epistles.


168. Cyril of Jerusalem

I. S. Cyrilus, archiepisc. Hierosolymitanus: Opera quae exstant omnia, etc., cura et studio Ant. Aug. Touttaei (Touttée), presb. et monachi Bened. e congreg. S. Mauri. Paris, 1720. 1 vol. fol. (edited after Touttée’s death by the Benedictine D. Prud. Maranus. Comp. therewith Sal. Deyling: Cyrillus Hieros. a corruptelis Touttaei aliorumque purgatus. Lips. 1728). Reprint, Venice, 1763. A new ed. by Migne, Petit-Montrouge, 1857 (Patrol. Gr. tom. xxxiii., which contains also the writings of Apollinaris of Laodicea, Diodor of Tarsus, and others). The Catecheses of Cyril have also been several times edited separately, and translated into modern languages. Engl. transl. in the Oxford Library of the Fathers, vol. ii. Oxf. 1839.

II. Epiphanius: Haer. lx. 20; lxxiii. 23, 27, 37. Hieronymus: De viris illustr. c. 112. Socrates: H. E. ii. 40, 42, 45; iii. 20. Sozomen: iv. 5, 17, 20, 22, 25. Theodoret: H. E. ii. 26, 27; iii. 14; v. 8. The Dissertationes Cyrillianae de vita et scriptis S. Cyr. etc. in the Benedictine edition of the Opera, and in Migne’s reprint, pp. 31-822. The Acta Sanctorum, and Butler, sub mense Martii 18. Tillemont: tom. viii. pp. 428-439, 779-787. Also the accounts in the well-known patristic works of Dupin, Ceillier, Cave, Fabricius. Schröckh: Part xii. pp. 369-476. J. H. Newman: Preface to the Oxford transl. of Cyril in the “Library of the Fathers” (1839). E. Venables, in Smith and Wace, i. 760-763. C. Burk, in Herzog,2 iii. 416-418.

Cyrilus, presbyter and, after 350, bishop of Jerusalem, was extensively involved during his public life in the Arian controversies. His metropolitan, Acacius of Caesarea, an Arian, who had elevated him to the episcopal chair, fell out with him over the Nicene faith and on a question of jurisdiction, and deposed him at a council in 357. His deposition was confirmed by an Arian council at Constantinople in 360.

After the death of the emperor Constantius he was restored to his bishopric in 361, and in 363 his embittered adversary, Acacius, converted to the orthodox faith. When Julian encouraged the Jews to rebuild the temple, Cyril is said to have predicted the miscarriage of the undertaking from the prophecies of Daniel and of Christ, and he was justified by the result. Under the Arian emperor Valens he was again deposed and banished, with all the other orthodox bishops, till he finally, under Theodosius, was permitted to return to Jerusalem in 379, to devote himself undisturbed to the supervision and restoration of his sadly distracted church until his death.

He attended the ecumenical council in Constantinople in 381, which confirmed him in his office, and gave him the great praise of having suffered much from the Arians for the faith. He died in 386, with his title to office and his orthodoxy universally acknowledged, clear of all the suspicions which many had gathered from his friendship with Semi-Arian bishops during his first exile.

From Cyril we have an important theological work, complete, in the Greek original: his twenty-three Catecheses. The work consists of connected religious lectures or homilies, which he delivered while presbyter about the year 347, in preparing a class of catechumens for baptism. It follows that form of the Apostles’ Creed or the Rule of Faith which was then in use in the churches of Palestine and which agrees in all essential points with the Roman; it supports the various articles with passages of Scripture, and defends them against the heretical perversions of his time. The last five, called the Mystagogic Catecheses, are addressed to newly baptized persons, and are of importance in the doctrine of the sacraments and the history of liturgy. In these he explains the ceremonies then customary at baptism: Exorcism, the putting off of garments, anointing, the short confession, triple immersion, confirmation by the anointing oil; also the nature and ritual of the holy Supper, in which he sees a mystical vital union of believers with Christ, and concerning which he uses terms verging at least upon the doctrine of transubstantiation. In connection with this he gives us a full account of the earliest eucharistic liturgy, which coincides in all essential points with such other liturgical remains of the Eastern church, as the Apostolic Constitutions and the Liturgy of St. James.

The Catecheses of Cyril are the first example of a popular compend of religion; for the catechetical work of Gregory of Nyssa (λόγος κατηξητικὸς ὁ μέγας) is designed not so much for catechumens, as for catechists and those intending to become teachers.

Besides several homilies and tracts of very doubtful genuineness, a homily on the healing of the cripple at Bethesda and a remarkable letter to the emperor Constantius of the year 351, are also ascribed to Cyril. In the letter he relates to the emperor the miraculous appearance of a luminous cross extending from Golgotha to a point over the mount of Olives (mentioned also by Socrates, Sozomen, and others), and calls upon him to praise the “consubstantial Trinity.”


169. Epiphanius

I. S. Epiphanius: Opera omnia, Gr. et Lat., Dionysius Petavius ex veteribus libris recensuit, Latine vertit et animadversionibus illustravit. Paris, 1622, 2 vols. fol. The same edition reprinted with additions at Cologne (or rather at Leipsic), 1682, and by J. P. Migne Petit-Montrouge, 1858, in 3 vols. (tom. xli.-xliii. of Migne’s Patrologia Graeca). The Πανάριον or Panaria of Epiphanius, together with his Anacephalaeosis, with the Latin version of both by Petavius, has also been separately edited by Fr. Oehler, as tom. ii. and iii. of his Corpus haereseologicum, Berol. 1859-’61. (Part second of tom. iii. contains the Animadversiones of Petavius, and A. Jahn’s Symbolae ad emendanda et illustranda S. Epiphanii Panaria.)

II. Hieronymus: De viris illustr. c. 114, and in several of his Epistles relating to the Origenistic controversies, Epp. 66 sqq. ed. Vallarsi. Socrates: Hist. Eccl. l. vi. c. 10-14. Sozomen: H. E. viii. 11-15. Old biographies, full of fables, see in Migne’s edition, tom. i., and in Petav. ii. 318 sqq. The Vita Epiph. in the Acta Sanctorum for May, tom. iii. die 12, pp. 36-49 (also reprinted in Migne’s ed. tom. i.). Tillemont: Mémoires, tom. x. pp. 484-521, and the notes, pp. 802-809. Fr. Arm. Gervaise: L’histoire et la vie de saint Epiphane. Par. 1738. Fabricius: Biblioth. Graeca ed. Harless, tom. viii. p. 255 sqq. (also reprinted in Migne’s ed. of Epiph. i. 1 sqq.). W. Cave: Lives of the Fathers, iii. 207-236 (new Oxf. ed.). Schröckh: Th. x. 3 ff. R. Adelb. Lipsius: Zur Quellenkritik des Epiphanies. Wien, 1865. (A critical analysis of the older history of heresies, in Epiph. haer. 13-57, with special reference to the Gnostic systems.)

Epiphanius, who achieved his great fame mainly by his learned and intolerant zeal for orthodoxy, was born near Eleutheropolis in Palestine, between 310 and 320, and died at sea, at a very advanced age, on his way back from Constantinople to Cyprus, in 403. According to an uncertain, though not improbable tradition, he was the son of poor Jewish parents, and was educated by a rich Jewish lawyer, until in his sixteenth year he embraced the Christian religion, — the first example, after St. Paul, of a learned Jewish convert and the only example among the ancient fathers; for all the other fathers were either born of Christian parents, or converted from heathenism.

He spent several years in severe ascetic exercises among the hermits of Egypt, and then became abbot of a convent near Eleutheropolis. In connection with his teacher and friend Hilarion he labored zealously for the spread of monasticism in Palestine.

In the year 367 he was unanimously elected by the people and the monks bishop of Salamis (Constantia), the capital of the island of Cyprus. Here he wrote his works against the heretics, and took active part in the doctrinal controversies of his age. He made it his principal business to destroy the influence of the arch-heretic Origen, for whom he had contracted a thorough hatred from the anchorites of Egypt. On this mission he travelled in his old age to Palestine and Constantinople, and died in the same year in which Chrysostom was deposed and banished, an innocent sacrifice on the opposite side in the violent Origenistic controversies.

Epiphanius was revered even by his cotemporaries as a saint and as a patriarch of orthodoxy. Once as he passed through the streets of Jerusalem in company with bishop John, mothers brought their children to him that he might bless them, and the people crowded around him to kiss his feet and to touch the hem of his garment. After his death his name was surrounded by a halo of miraculous legends. He was a man of earnest, monastic piety, and of sincere but illiberal zeal for orthodoxy. His good nature easily allowed him to be used as an instrument for the passions of others, and his zeal was not according to knowledge. He is the patriarch of heresy-hunters. He identified Christianity with monastic piety and ecclesiastical orthodoxy and considered it the great mission of his life to pursue the thousand-headed hydra of heresy into all its hiding places. Occasionally, however, his fiery zeal consumed what was subsequently considered an essential part of piety and orthodoxy. Sharing the primitive Christian abhorrence of images, he destroyed a picture of Christ or some saint in a village church in Palestine; and at times he violated ecclesiastical order.

The learning of Epiphanius was extensive, but ill digested. He understood five languages: Hebrew, Syriac, Egyptian, Greek, and a little Latin. Jerome, who himself knew but three languages, though he knew these far better than Epiphanius, called him the Five-tongued, and Rufinus reproachfully says of him that he considered it his sacred duty as a wandering preacher to slander the great Origen in all languages and nations. He was lacking in knowledge of the world and of men, in sound judgment, and in critical discernment. He was possessed of a boundless credulity, now almost proverbial, causing innumerable errors and contradictions in his writings. His style is entirely destitute of beauty or elegance.

Still his works are of considerable value as a storehouse of the history of ancient heresies and of patristic polemics. They are the following:

1. The Anchor, a defence of Christian doctrine, especially of the doctrines of the Trinity, the incarnation, and the resurrection; in one hundred and twenty-one chapters. He composed this treatise a.d. 373, at the entreaty of clergymen and monks, as a stay for those who are tossed about upon the sea by heretics and devils. In it he gives two creeds, a shorter and a longer, which show that the addition made by the second ecumenical council to the Nicene symbol, in respect to the doctrine of the Holy Ghost and of the church, had already been several years in use in the church. For the shorter symbol, which, according to Epiphanius, had to be said at baptism by every orthodox catechumen in the East, from the council of Nicaea to the tenth year of Valentinian and Valens (a.d. 373), is precisely the same as the Constantinopolitan; and the longer is even more specific against Apollinarianism and Macedonianism, in the article concerning the Holy Ghost. Both contain the anathemas of the Nicene Creed; the longer giving them in an extended form.

2. The Panarium, or Medicine-chest, which contains antidotes for the poison of all heresies. This is his chief work, composed between the years 374 and 377, in answer to solicitations from many quarters. And it is the chief hereseological work of the ancient church. It is more extensive than any of the similar works of Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Hippolytus before it, and of Philastrius (or Philastrus), Augustine, Theodoret, pseudo-Tertullian, pseudo-Jerome, and the author of Praedestinatus, after it. Epiphanius brought together, with the diligence of an unwearied compiler, but without logical or chronological arrangement, everything he could learn from written or oral sources concerning heretics from the beginning of the world down to his time. But his main concern is the antidote to heresy, the doctrinal refutations, in which he believed himself to be doing God and the church great service, and which, with all their narrowness and passion, contain many good thoughts and solid arguments. He improperly extends the conception of heresy over the field of all religion; whereas heresy is simply a perversion or caricature of Christian truth, and lives only upon the Christian religion. He describes and refutes no less than eighty heresies, twenty of them preceding the time of Christ. The pre-Christian heresies are: Barbarism, from Adam to the flood; Scythism; Hellenism (idolatry proper, with various schools of philosophy); Samaritanism (including four different sects); and Judaism (subdivided into seven parties: Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, Hemerobaptists, Osseans, Nazarenes, and Herodians). Among the Christian heresies, of which Simon Magus, according to ancient tradition, figures as patriarch, the different schools of Gnosticism (which may be easily reduced to about a dozen) occupy the principal space. With the sixty-fourth heresy Epiphanius begins the war upon the Origenists, Arians, Photinians, Marcellians, Semi-Arians, Pneumatomachians, Antidikomarianites, and other heretics of his age. In the earlier heresies he made large use, without proper acknowledgment, of the well-known works of Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Hippolytus, and other written sources and oral traditions. In the latter sections he could draw more on his own observation and experience.

3. The Anacephalaeosis is simply an abridgment of the Panarion, with a somewhat different order.

This is the proper place to add a few words upon similar works of the post-Nicene age.

About the same time, or shortly after Epiphanius (380), Philastrius or Philastrus, bishop of Brixia (Brescia), wrote his Liber de haeresibus (in 156 chapters). He was still more liberal with the name of heresy, extending it to one hundred and fifty-six systems, twenty-eight before Christ, and a hundred and twenty-eight after. He includes peculiar opinions on all sorts of subjects: Haeresis de stellis coelo affixis, haeresis de peccato Cain, haeresis de Psalterii inequalitate, haeresis de animalibus quatuor in prophetis, haeresis de Septuaginta interpretibus, haeresis de Melchisedech sacerdote, haeresis de uxoribus, et concubinis Salomonis!

He was followed by St. Augustine, who in the last years of his life wrote a brief compend on eighty-eight heresies, commencing with the Simonians and ending with the Pelagians.

The unknown author of the book called Praedestinatus added two more heretical parties, the Nestorians and the Predestinarians, to Augustine’s list; but the Predestinarians are probably a mere invention of the writer for the purpose of caricaturing and exposing the heresy of an absolute predestination to good and to evil.

4. In addition to those anti-heretical works, we have from Epiphanius a biblical archeological treatise on the Measures and Weights of the Scriptures, and another on the Twelve Gems on the breastplate of Aaron, with an allegorical interpretation of their names.

A Commentary of Epiphanius on the Song of Songs was published in a Latin translation by Foggini in 1750 at Rome. Other works ascribed to him are lost, or of doubtful origin.