ContentsLetters on the Apollinarian Controversy Introduction To Nectarius, Bishop of Constantinople. (Ep. CCII.) To Cledonius the Priest Against Apollinarius. (Ep. CI.) Against Apollinarius; The Second Letter to Cledonius. (Ep. CII.) Epistle 125. To Olympius. Correspondence with Saint Basil the Great, Archbishop of Cæsarea Epistle 1. To Basil His Comrade. Epistle 2. Epistle 4. Epistle 5. Epistle 6. Epistle 8. Epistle 19. Epistle 16. To Eusebius, Bishop of Cæsarea. Epistle 17. To Eusebius, Archbishop of Cæsarea. Epistle 18. To Eusebius of Cæsarea. Epistle 40. To the Great Basil. Epistle 41. To the People of Cæsarea, in His Father's Name. Epistle 43. To the Bishops. Epistle 42. To Eusebius, Bishop of Samosata. Epistle 45. To Basil. Epistle 46. To Basil. Epistle 47. To Basil. Epistle 48. To Basil. Epistle 49. To Basil. (The Praises of Quiet.) Epistle 50. To Basil. Epistle 58. To Basil. Epistle 59. To Basil. Epistle 60. To Basil. Miscellaneous Letters 1. Letters to His Brother Cæsarius Ep. VII. Ep. XIV. and XXIII. Ep. XXIII. Ep. XX. 2. To S. Gregory of Nyssa Ep. I. Ep. LXXII. Ep. LXXIII. Ep. LXXIV. Ep. LXXVI. Ep. LXXXI. Ep. CLXXXII. Ep. CXCVII. A Letter of Condolence on the Death of His Sister Theosebia. 3. To Eusebius Bishop of Samosata Ep. XLII. Ep. XLIV. Ep. LXIV. Ep. LXV. Ep. LXVI. 4. To Sophronius, Prefect of Constantinople Ep. XXI. Ep. XXII. Ep. XXIX. Ep. XXXVII. Ep. XXXIX. Ep. XCIII. Ep. CXXXV. 5. To Amphilochius the Younger Ep. IX. Ep. XIII. Ep. XXV. Ep. XXVI. Ep. XXVII. Ep. XXVIII. Ep. LXII. Ep. LXIII. To Amphilochius the Elder. Ep. CLXXI. To Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium. Ep. CLXXXIV. 6. To Nectarius Archbishop of Constantinople Ep. LXXXVIII. Ep. XCI. Ep. CLI. Ep. CLXXXV. Ep. CLXXXVI. Ep. CCII. 7. To Theodore, Bishop of Tyana Ep. LXXVII. Ep. CXV. Ep. CXXI. Ep. CXXII. Ep. CXXIII. Ep. CXXIV. Ep. CLII. Ep. CLIII. To Bosporius, Bishop of Colonia. Ep. CLVII. To Theodore, Archbishop of Tyana. Ep. CLXIII. Ep. CLXXXIII. Ep. CXXXIX. 8. To Nicobulus Ep. XII. (About A.D. 365). Ep. LI. Ep. LII. Ep. LIII. Ep. LIV. Ep. LV. 9. To Olympius Ep. CIV. Ep. CV. Ep. CVI. Ep. CXXV. Ep. CXXVI. Ep. CXXXI. Ep. CXL. Ep. CXLI. Ep. CXLII. Ep. CXLIII. Ep. CXLIV. Ep. CXLV. To Verianus. To Olympius. Ep. CXLVI. Ep. CLIV.
Letters on the Apollinarian Controversy.
The circumstances which called forth the two letters to Cledonius have already been described in the first section of the General Prolegomena, and it will not be necessary here to add much to what was there said. In the letter to Nectarius, his own successor on the throne of Constantinople, written about a.d. 383, and sometimes reckoned as Orat. XLVI., S. Gregory gives extracts from a work of Apollinarius himself, but without mentioning the title of the book. In this treatise the fundamental errors of the heresy (see Proleg. c. 1, p. 172) are laid down. Apollinarius, according to S. Gregory, declares that the Son of God was from all eternity clothed with a human body, and not from the time of His conception only by the Blessed Virgin; but that this humanity of God is without human mind, the place of which was supplied by the Godhead of the Only-begotten. And he goes even further and ascribes passibility and mortality to the very Godhead of Christ. Therefore S. Gregory earnestly protests against any toleration being granted to these heretics, or even permission to hold their assemblies; for, he says, toleration or permission would certainly be regarded by them as a condonation of their doctrinal position, and a condemnation of that of the Church. Dr. Ullman, however, thinks that while S. Gregory was certainly speaking the truth in saying that he had in his hands a pamphlet by Apollinarius, yet that he, perhaps unconsciously, exaggerated the heretical character of its contents, pushing its statements to consequences which Apollinarius would have repudiated. The one purpose of the latter was, in Dr. Ullman's view, to safeguard the doctrine of the Unity of Christ; and he thought that the orthodox expression of Two Whole and Perfect Natures tended to a Nestorian division of the Person of Christ; and so he used language which certainly seemed to confound the natures, or at any rate to make the Incarnation imperfect, inasmuch as a Christ in Whom the human mind is absent, and its place filled up by the Godhead of the Son, cannot be said to be perfect Man. But while Epiphanius mentions these extravagances of the heresy, and does so with a lingering feeling of regret for the lapse of so good a man whose services in the past had been of so much value to the Church, yet, in the spirit common to Ecclesiastical authorities of the time, he would rather ascribe them to an expansion of Apollinarius» teaching by his younger disciples who did not really understand what Apollinarius himself meant.
Olympius, to whom the last of this series is addressed, was Governor of Cappadocia Secunda in a.d. 382. He was a man for whom S. Gregory had a very high esteem, and with whom he was upon terms of close friendship, as will be seen from other letters of Gregory to him in another division of this Selection. The occasion of the present letter was the necessity to appeal to the secular power for aid to punish a sect of Apollinarians at Nazianzus, who had ventured to take advantage of S. Gregory's absence at the Baths of Xanxaris to procure the consecration of a Bishop of their own way of thinking. Technically the See was vacant, but the administration had been committed to Gregory by the Bishops of the Province, and though he, foreseeing some such attempt on the part of the heretics, had been very earnest in pressing upon the Metropolitan and his Comprovincials the necessity of filling this throne by a canonical election, yet he was by no means prepared to hand over the authority, with which he had been invested, to an irregularly elected and uncanonically consecrated heretic.
To Nectarius, Bishop of Constantinople. (Ep. CCII.)
The Care of God, which throughout the time before us guarded the Churches, seems to have utterly forsaken this present life. And my soul is immersed to such a degree by calamities that the private sufferings of my own life hardly seem to be worth reckoning among evils (though they are so numerous and great, that if they befell anyone else I should think them unbearable); but I can only look at the common sufferings of the Churches; for if at the present crisis some pains be not taken to find a remedy for them, things will gradually get into an altogether desperate condition. Those who follow the heresy of Arius or Eudoxius (I cannot say who stirred them up to this folly) are making a display of their disease, as if they had attained some degree of confidence by collecting congregations as if by permission. And they of the Macedonian party have reached such a pitch of folly that they are arrogating to themselves the name of Bishops, and are wandering about our districts babbling of Eleusius as to their ordinations. Our bosom evil, Eunomius, is no longer content with merely existing; but unless he can draw away everyone with him to his ruinous heresy, he thinks himself an injured man. All this, however, is endurable. The most grievous item of all in the woes of the Church is the boldness of the Apollinarians, whom your Holiness has overlooked, I know not how, when providing themselves with authority to hold meetings on an equality with myself. However, you being, as you are, thoroughly instructed by the grace of God in the Divine Mysteries on all points, are well informed, not only as to the advocacy of the true faith, but also as to all those arguments which have been devised by the heretics against the sound faith; and yet perhaps it will not be unseasonable that your Excellency should hear from my littleness that a pamphlet by Apollinarius has come into my hands, the contents of which surpass all heretical pravity. For he asserts that the Flesh which the Only-begotten Son assumed in the Incarnation for the remodelling of our nature was no new acquisition, but that that carnal nature was in the Son from the beginning. And he puts forward as a witness to this monstrous assertion a garbled quotation from the Gospels, namely, No man has Ascended up into Heaven save He which came down from Heaven, even the Son of Man which is in Heaven. John 3:13 As though even before He came down He was the Son of Man, and when He came down He brought with Him that Flesh, which it appears He had in Heaven, as though it had existed before the ages, and been joined with His Essence. For he alleges another saying of an Apostle, which he cuts off from the whole body of its context, that The Second Man is the Lord from Heaven. 1Corinthians 15:47 Then he assumes that that Man who came down from above is without a mind, but that the Godhead of the Only-begotten fulfils the function of mind, and is the third part of this human composite, inasmuch as soul and body are in it on its human side, but not mind, the place of which is taken by God the Word. This is not yet the most serious part of it; that which is most terrible of all is that he declares that the Only-begotten God, the Judge of all, the Prince of Life, the Destroyer of Death, is mortal, and underwent the Passion in His proper Godhead; and that in the three days» death of His body, His Godhead also was put to death with His body, and thus was raised again from the dead by the Father. It would be tedious to go through all the other propositions which he adds to these monstrous absurdities. Now, if they who hold such views have authority to meet, your Wisdom approved in Christ must see that, inasmuch as we do not approve their views, any permission of assembly granted to them is nothing less than a declaration that their view is thought more true than ours. For if they are permitted to teach their view as godly men, and with all confidence to preach their doctrine, it is manifest that the doctrine of the Church has been condemned, as though the truth were on their side. For nature does not admit of two contrary doctrines on the same subject being both true. How then could your noble and lofty mind submit to suspend your usual courage in regard to the correction of so great an evil? But even though there is no precedent for such a course, let your inimitable perfection in virtue stand up at a crisis like the present, and teach our most pious Emperor, that no gain will come from his zeal for the Church on other points if he allows such an evil to gain strength from freedom of speech for the subversion of sound faith.
To Cledonius the Priest Against Apollinarius. (Ep. CI.)
To our most reverend and God-beloved brother and fellow priest Cledonius, Gregory, greeting in the Lord.
I desire to learn what is this fashion of innovation in things Concerning the Church, which allows anyone who likes, or the passerby, as the Bible says, to tear asunder the flock that has been well led, and to plunder it by larcenous attacks, or rather by piratical and fallacious teachings. For if our present assailants had any ground for condemning us in regard of the faith, it would not have been right for them, even in that case, to have ventured on such a course without giving us notice. They ought rather to have first persuaded us, or to have been willing to be persuaded by us (if at least any account is to be taken of us as fearing God, labouring for the faith, and helping the Church), and then, if at all, to innovate; but then perhaps there would be an excuse for their outrageous conduct. But since our faith has been proclaimed, both in writing and without writing, here and in distant parts, in times of danger and of safety, how comes it that some make such attempts, and that others keep silence?
The most grievous part of it is not (though this too is shocking) that the men instil their own heresy into simpler souls by means of those who are worse; but that they also tell lies about us and say that we share their opinions and sentiments; thus baiting their hooks, and by this cloak villainously fulfilling their will, and making our simplicity, which looked upon them as brothers and not as foes, into a support of their wickedness. And not only so, but they also assert, as I am told, that they have been received by the Western Synod, by which they were formerly condemned, as is well known to everyone. If, however, those who hold the views of Apollinarius have either now or formerly been received, let them prove it and we will be content. For it is evident that they can only have been so received as assenting to the Orthodox Faith, for this were an impossibility on any other terms. And they can surely prove it, either by the minutes of the Synod, or by Letters of Communion, for this is the regular custom of Synods. But if it is mere words, and an invention of their own, devised for the sake of appearances and to give them weight with the multitude through the credit of the persons, teach them to hold their tongues, and confute them; for we believe that such a task is well suited to your manner of life and orthodoxy. Do not let the men deceive themselves and others with the assertion that the Man of the Lord, as they call Him, Who is rather our Lord and God, is without human mind. For we do not sever the Man from the Godhead, but we lay down as a dogma the Unity and Identity of Person, Who of old was not Man but God, and the Only Son before all ages, unmingled with body or anything corporeal; but Who in these last days has assumed Manhood also for our salvation; passible in His Flesh, impassible in His Godhead; circumscript in the body, uncircumscript in the Spirit; at once earthly and heavenly, tangible and intangible, comprehensible and incomprehensible; that by One and the Same Person, Who was perfect Man and also God, the entire humanity fallen through sin might be created anew.
If anyone does not believe that Holy Mary is the Mother of God, he is severed from the Godhead. If anyone should assert that He passed through the Virgin as through a channel, and was not at once divinely and humanly formed in her (divinely, because without the intervention of a man; humanly, because in accordance with the laws of gestation), he is in like manner godless. If any assert that the Manhood was formed and afterward was clothed with the Godhead, he too is to be condemned. For this were not a Generation of God, but a shirking of generation. If any introduce the notion of Two Sons, one of God the Father, the other of the Mother, and discredits the Unity and Identity, may he lose his part in the adoption promised to those who believe aright. For God and Man are two natures, as also soul and body are; but there are not two Sons or two Gods. For neither in this life are there two manhoods; though Paul speaks in some such language of the inner and outer man. And (if I am to speak concisely) the Saviour is made of elements which are distinct from one another (for the invisible is not the same with the visible, nor the timeless with that which is subject to time), yet He is not two Persons. God forbid! For both natures are one by the combination, the Deity being made Man, and the Manhood deified or however one should express it. And I say different Elements, because it is the reverse of what is the case in the Trinity; for There we acknowledge different Persons so as not to confound the persons; but not different Elements, for the Three are One and the same in Godhead.
If any should say that it wrought in Him by grace as in a Prophet, but was not and is not united with Him in Essence – let him be empty of the Higher Energy, or rather full of the opposite. If any worship not the Crucified, let him be Anathema and be numbered among the Deicides. If any assert that He was made perfect by works, or that after His Baptism, or after His Resurrection from the dead, He was counted worthy of an adoptive Sonship, like those whom the Greeks interpolate as added to the ranks of the gods, let him be anathema. For that which has a beginning or a progress or is made perfect, is not God, although the expressions may be used of His gradual manifestation. If any assert that He has now put off His holy flesh, and that His Godhead is stripped of the body, and deny that He is now with His body and will come again with it, let him not see the glory of His Coming. For where is His body now, if not with Him Who assumed it? For it is not laid by in the sun, according to the babble of the Manichæans, that it should be honoured by a dishonour; nor was it poured forth into the air and dissolved, as is the nature of a voice or the flow of an odour, or the course of a lightning flash that never stands. Where in that case were His being handled after the Resurrection, or His being seen hereafter by them that pierced Him, for Godhead is in its nature invisible. Nay; He will come with His body – so I have learned – such as He was seen by His Disciples in the Mount, or as he showed Himself for a moment, when his Godhead overpowered the carnality. And as we say this to disarm suspicion, so we write the other to correct the novel teaching. If anyone assert that His flesh came down from heaven, and is not from hence, nor of us though above us, let him be anathema. For the words, The Second Man is the Lord from Heaven; 1Corinthians 15:47 and, As is the Heavenly, such are they that are Heavenly; and, No man has ascended up into Heaven save He which came down from Heaven, even the Son of Man which is in Heaven; John 3:13 and the like, are to be understood as said on account of the Union with the heavenly; just as that All Things were made by Christ, John 1:3 and that Christ dwells in your hearts Ephesians 3:17 is said, not of the visible nature which belongs to God, but of what is perceived by the mind, the names being mingled like the natures, and flowing into one another, according to the law of their intimate union.
If anyone has put his trust in Him as a Man without a human mind, he is really bereft of mind, and quite unworthy of salvation. For that which He has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved. If only half Adam fell, then that which Christ assumes and saves may be half also; but if the whole of his nature fell, it must be united to the whole nature of Him that was begotten, and so be saved as a whole. Let them not, then, begrudge us our complete salvation, or clothe the Saviour only with bones and nerves and the portraiture of humanity. For if His Manhood is without soul, even the Arians admit this, that they may attribute His Passion to the Godhead, as that which gives motion to the body is also that which suffers. But if He has a soul, and yet is without a mind, how is He man, for man is not a mindless animal? And this would necessarily involve that while His form and tabernacle was human, His soul should be that of a horse or an ox, or some other of the brute creation. This, then, would be what He saves; and I have been deceived by the Truth, and led to boast of an honour which had been bestowed upon another. But if His Manhood is intellectual and nor without mind, let them cease to be thus really mindless. But, says such an one, the Godhead took the place of the human intellect. How does this touch me? For Godhead joined to flesh alone is not man, nor to soul alone, nor to both apart from intellect, which is the most essential part of man. Keep then the whole man, and mingle Godhead therewith, that you may benefit me in my completeness. But, he asserts, He could not contain Two perfect Natures. Not if you only look at Him in a bodily fashion. For a bushel measure will not hold two bushels, nor will the space of one body hold two or more bodies. But if you will look at what is mental and incorporeal, remember that I in my one personality can contain soul and reason and mind and the Holy Spirit; and before me this world, by which I mean the system of things visible and invisible, contained Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. For such is the nature of intellectual Existences, that they can mingle with one another and with bodies, incorporeally and invisibly. For many sounds are comprehended by one ear; and the eyes of many are occupied by the same visible objects, and the smell by odours; nor are the senses narrowed by each other, or crowded out, nor the objects of sense diminished by the multitude of the perceptions. But where is there mind of man or angel so perfect in comparison of the Godhead that the presence of the greater must crowd out the other? The light is nothing compared with the sun, nor a little damp compared with a river, that we must first do away with the lesser, and take the light from a house, or the moisture from the earth, to enable it to contain the greater and more perfect. For how shall one thing contain two completenesses, either the house, the sunbeam and the sun, or the earth, the moisture and the river? Here is matter for inquiry; for indeed the question is worthy of much consideration. Do they not know, then, that what is perfect by comparison with one thing may be imperfect by comparison with another, as a hill compared with a mountain, or a grain of mustard seed with a bean or any other of the larger seeds, although it may be called larger than any of the same kind? Or, if you like, an Angel compared with God, or a man with an Angel. So our mind is perfect and commanding, but only in respect of soul and body; not absolutely perfect; and a servant and a subject of God, not a sharer of His Princedom and honour. So Moses was a God to Pharaoh, Exodus 7:1 but a servant of God, Numbers 12:7 as it is written; and the stars which illumine the night are hidden by the Sun, so much that you could not even know of their existence by daylight; and a little torch brought near a great blaze is neither destroyed, nor seen, nor extinguished; but is all one blaze, the bigger one prevailing over the other.
But, it may be said, our mind is subject to condemnation. What then of our flesh? Is that not subject to condemnation? You must therefore either set aside the latter on account of sin, or admit the former on account of salvation. If He assumed the worse that He might sanctify it by His incarnation, may He not assume the better that it may be sanctified by His becoming Man? If the clay was leavened and has become a new lump, O you wise men, shall not the Image be leavened and mingled with God, being deified by His Godhead? And I will add this also: If the mind was utterly rejected, as prone to sin and subject to damnation, and for this reason He assumed a body but left out the mind, then there is an excuse for them who sin with the mind; for the witness of God – according to you – has shown the impossibility of healing it. Let me state the greater results. You, my good sir, dishonour my mind (you a Sarcolater, if I am an Anthropolater ) that you may tie God down to the Flesh, since He cannot be otherwise tied; and therefore you take away the wall of partition. But what is my theory, who am but an ignorant man, and no Philosopher. Mind is mingled with mind, as nearer and more closely related, and through it with flesh, being a Mediator between God and carnality.
Further let us see what is their account of the assumption of Manhood, or the assumption of Flesh, as they call it. If it was in order that God, otherwise incomprehensible, might be comprehended, and might converse with men through His Flesh as through a veil, their mask and the drama which they represent is a pretty one, not to say that it was open to Him to converse with us in other ways, as of old, in the burning bush Exodus 3:2 and in the appearance of a man. Genesis 18:5 But if it was that He might destroy the condemnation by sanctifying like by like, then as He needed flesh for the sake of the flesh which had incurred condemnation, and soul for the sake of our soul, so, too, He needed mind for the sake of mind, which not only fell in Adam, but was the first to be affected, as the doctors say of illnesses. For that which received the command was that which failed to keep the command, and that which failed to keep it was that also which dared to transgress; and that which transgressed was that which stood most in need of salvation; and that which needed salvation was that which also He took upon Him. Therefore, Mind was taken upon Him. This has now been demonstrated, whether they like it or no, by, to use their own expression, geometrical and necessary proofs. But you are acting as if, when a man's eye had been injured and his foot had been injured in consequence, you were to attend to the foot and leave the eye uncared for; or as if, when a painter had drawn something badly, you were to alter the picture, but to pass over the artist as if he had succeeded. But if they, overwhelmed by these arguments, take refuge in the proposition that it is possible for God to save man even apart from mind, why, I suppose that it would be possible for Him to do so also apart from flesh by a mere act of will, just as He works all other things, and has wrought them without body. Take away, then, the flesh as well as the mind, that your monstrous folly may be complete. But they are deceived by the latter, and, therefore, they run to the flesh, because they do not know the custom of Scripture. We will teach them this also. For what need is there even to mention to those who know it, the fact that everywhere in Scripture he is called Man, and the Son of Man?
If, however, they rely on the passage, The Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us, John 1:14 and because of this erase the noblest part of Man (as cobblers do the thicker part of skins) that they may join together God and Flesh, it is time for them to say that God is God only of flesh, and not of souls, because it is written, As You have given Him power over all Flesh, and Unto You shall all Flesh come; and Let all Flesh bless His holy Name, meaning every Man. Or, again, they must suppose that our fathers went down into Egypt without bodies and invisible, and that only the Soul of Joseph was imprisoned by Pharaoh, because it is written, They went down into Egypt with threescore and fifteen Souls, Acts 7:14 and The iron entered into his Soul, a thing which could not be bound. They who argue thus do not know that such expressions are used by Synecdoche, declaring the whole by the part, as when Scripture says that the young ravens call upon God, to indicate the whole feathered race; or Pleiades, Hesperus, and Arcturus Job 9:9 are mentioned, instead of all the Stars and His Providence over them.
Moreover, in no other way was it possible for the Love of God toward us to be manifested than by making mention of our flesh, and that for our sake He descended even to our lower part. For that flesh is less precious than soul, everyone who has a spark of sense will acknowledge. And so the passage, The Word was made Flesh, seems to me to be equivalent to that in which it is said that He was made sin, 2Corinthians 5:21 or a curse Galatians 3:13 for us; not that the Lord was transformed into either of these, how could He be? But because by taking them upon Him He took away our sins and bore our iniquities. This, then, is sufficient to say at the present time for the sake of clearness and of being understood by the many. And I write it, not with any desire to compose a treatise, but only to check the progress of deceit; and if it is thought well, I will give a fuller account of these matters at greater length.
But there is a matter which is graver than these, a special point which it is necessary that I should not pass over. I would they were even cut off that trouble you, Galatians 5:12 and would reintroduce a second Judaism, and a second circumcision, and a second system of sacrifices. For if this be done, what hinders Christ also being born again to set them aside, and again being betrayed by Judas, and crucified and buried, and rising again, that all may be fulfilled in the same order, like the Greek system of cycles, in which the same revolutions of the stars bring round the same events? For what the method of selection is, in accordance with which some of the events are to occur and others to be omitted, let these wise men who glory in the multitude of their books show us.
But since, puffed up by their theory of the Trinity, they falsely accuse us of being unsound in the Faith and entice the multitude, it is necessary that people should know that Apollinarius, while granting the Name of Godhead to the Holy Ghost, did not preserve the Power of the Godhead. For to make the Trinity consist of Great, Greater, and Greatest, as of Light, Ray, and Sun, the Spirit and the Son and the Father (as is clearly stated in his writings), is a ladder of Godhead not leading to Heaven, but down from Heaven. But we recognize God the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, and these not as bare titles, dividing inequalities of ranks or of power, but as there is one and the same title, so there is one nature and one substance in the Godhead.
But if anyone who thinks we have spoken rightly on this subject reproaches us with holding communion with heretics, let him prove that we are open to this charge, and we will either convince him or retire. But it is not safe to make any innovation before judgment is given, especially in a matter of such importance, and connected with so great issues. We have protested and continue to protest this before God and men. And not even now, be well assured, should we have written this, if we had not seen that the Church was being torn asunder and divided, among their other tricks, by their present synagogue of vanity. But if anyone when we say and protest this, either from some advantage they will thus gain, or through fear of men, or monstrous littleness of mind, or through some neglect of pastors and governors, or through love of novelty and proneness to innovations, rejects us as unworthy of credit, and attaches himself to such men, and divides the noble body of the Church, he shall bear his judgment, whoever he may be, Galatians 5:10 and shall give account to God in the day of judgment. Matthew 12:36 But if their long books, and their new Psalters, contrary to that of David, and the grace of their metres, are taken for a third Testament, we too will compose Psalms, and will write much in metre. For we also think we have the spirit of God, 1Corinthians 7:40 if indeed this is a gift of the Spirit, and not a human novelty. This I will that thou declare publicly, that we may not be held responsible, as overlooking such an evil, and as though this wicked doctrine received food and strength from our indifference.
Against Apollinarius; The Second Letter to Cledonius. (Ep. CII.)
Forasmuch as many persons have come to your Reverence seeking confirmation of their faith, and therefore you have affectionately asked me to put forth a brief definition and rule of my opinion, I therefore write to your Reverence, what indeed you knew before, that I never have and never can honour anything above the Nicene Faith, that of the Holy Fathers who met there to destroy the Arian heresy; but am, and by God's help ever will be, of that faith; completing in detail that which was incompletely said by them concerning the Holy Ghost; for that question had not then been mooted, namely, that we are to believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are of one Godhead, thus confessing the Spirit also to be God. Receive then to communion those who think and teach thus, as I also do; but those who are otherwise minded refuse, and hold them as strangers to God and the Catholic Church. And since a question has also been mooted concerning the Divine Assumption of humanity, or Incarnation, state this also clearly to all concerning me, that I join in One the Son, who was begotten of the Father, and afterward of the Virgin Mary, and that I do not call Him two Sons, but worship Him as One and the same in undivided Godhead and honour. But if anyone does not assent to this statement, either now or hereafter, he shall give account to God at the day of judgment.
Now, what we object and oppose to their mindless opinion about His Mind is this, to put it shortly; for they are almost alone in the condition which they lay down, as it is through want of mind that they mutilate His mind. But, that they may not accuse us of having once accepted but of now repudiating the faith of their beloved Vitalius which he handed in in writing at the request of the blessed Bishop Damasus of Rome, I will give a short explanation on this point also. For these men, when they are theologizing among their genuine disciples, and those who are initiated into their secrets, like the Manichæans among those whom they call the Elect, expose the full extent of their disease, and scarcely allow flesh at all to the Saviour. But when they are refuted and pressed with the common answers about the Incarnation which the Scripture presents, they confess indeed the orthodox words, but they do violence to the sense; for they acknowledge the Manhood to be neither without soul nor without reason nor without mind, nor imperfect, but they bring in the Godhead to supply the soul and reason and mind, as though It had mingled Itself only with His flesh, and not with the other properties belonging to us men; although His sinlessness was far above us, and was the cleansing of our passions.
Thus, then, they interpret wrongly the words, But we have the Mind of Christ, 1Corinthians 2:16 and very absurdly, when they say that His Godhead is the mind of Christ, and not understanding the passage as we do, namely, that they who have purified their mind by the imitation of the mind which the Saviour took of us, and, as far as may be, have attained conformity with it, are said to have the mind of Christ; just as they might be testified to have the flesh of Christ who have trained their flesh, and in this respect have become of the same body and partakers of Christ; and so he says As we have borne the image of the earth 1Corinthians 15:49 we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. And so they declare that the Perfect Man is not He who was in all points tempted like as we are yet without sin; Hebrews 4:15 but the mixture of God and Flesh. For what, say they, can be more perfect than this?
They play the same trick with the word that describes the Incarnation, viz.: He was made Man, explaining it to mean, not, He was in the human nature with which He surrounded Himself, according to the Scripture, He knew what was in man; John 2:25 but teaching that it means, He consorted and conversed with men, and taking refuge in the expression which says that He was seen on Earth and conversed with Men. Baruch 3:37 And what can anyone contend further? They who take away the Humanity and the Interior Image cleanse by their newly invented mask only our outside, Matthew 23:25–26 and that which is seen; so far in conflict with themselves that at one time, for the sake of the flesh, they explain all the rest in a gross and carnal manner (for it is from hence that they have derived their second Judaism and their silly thousand years delight in paradise, and almost the idea that we shall resume again the same conditions after these same thousand years); and at another time they bring in His flesh as a phantom rather than a reality, as not having been subjected to any of our experiences, not even such as are free from sin; and use for this purpose the apostolic expression, understood and spoken in a sense which is not apostolic, that our Saviour was made in the likeness of Men and found in fashion as a Man, Philippians 2:7 as though by these words was expressed, not the human form, but some delusive phantom and appearance.
Since then these expressions, rightly understood, make for orthodoxy, but wrongly interpreted are heretical, what is there to be surprised at if we received the words of Vitalius in the more orthodox sense; our desire that they should be so meant persuading us, though others are angry at the intention of his writings? This is, I think, the reason why Damasus himself, having been subsequently better informed, and at the same time learning that they hold by their former explanations, excommunicated them and overturned their written confession of faith with an Anathema; as well as because he was vexed at the deceit which he had suffered from them through simplicity.
Since, then, they have been openly convicted of this, let them not be angry, but let them be ashamed of themselves; and let them not slander us, but abase themselves and wipe off from their portals that great and marvellous proclamation and boast of their orthodoxy, meeting all who go in at once with the question and distinction that we must worship, not a God-bearing Man, but a flesh-bearing God. What could be more unreasonable than this, though these new heralds of truth think a great deal of the title? For though it has a certain sophistical grace through the quickness of its antithesis, and a sort of juggling quackery grateful to the uninstructed, yet it is the most absurd of absurdities and the most foolish of follies. For if one were to change the word Man or Flesh into God (the first would please us, the second them), and then were to use this wonderful antithesis, so divinely recognized, what conclusion should we arrive at? That we must worship, not a God-bearing Flesh, but a Man-bearing God. O monstrous absurdity! They proclaim to us today a wisdom hidden ever since the time of Christ – a thing worthy of our tears. For if the faith began thirty years ago, when nearly four hundred years had passed since Christ was manifested, vain all that time will have been our Gospel, and vain our faith; in vain will the Martyrs have borne their witness, and in vain have so many and so great Prelates presided over the people; and Grace is a matter of metres and not of the faith.
And who will not marvel at their learning, in that on their own authority they divide the things of Christ, and assign to His Manhood such sayings as He was born, He was tempted, He was hungry, He was thirsty, He was wearied, He was asleep; but reckon to His Divinity such as these: He was glorified by Angels, He overcame the Tempter, He fed the people in the wilderness, and He fed them in such a manner, and He walked upon the sea; and say on the one hand that the Where have you laid Lazarus? John 11:34 belongs to us, but the loud voice Lazarus, Come Forth and the raising him that had been four days dead, is above our nature; and that while the He was in an Agony, He was crucified, He was buried, belongs to the Veil, on the other hand, He was confident, He rose again, He ascended, belong to the Inner Treasure; and then they accuse us of introducing two natures, separate or conflicting, and of dividing the supernatural and wondrous Union. They ought, either not to do that of which they accuse us, or not to accuse us of that which they do; so at least if they are resolved to be consistent and not to propound at once their own and their opponents» principles. Such is their want of reason; it conflicts both with itself and with the truth to such an extent that they are neither conscious nor ashamed of it when they fall out with themselves. Now, if anyone thinks that we write all this willingly and not upon compulsion, and that we are dissuading from unity, and not doing our utmost to promote it, let him know that he is very much mistaken, and has not made at all a good guess at our desires, for nothing is or ever has been more valuable in our eyes than peace, as the facts themselves prove; though their actions and brawlings against us altogether exclude unanimity.
Epistle 125. To Olympius.
Even hoar hairs have something to learn; and old age, it would seem, cannot in all respects be trusted for wisdom. I at any rate, knowing better than anyone, as I did, the thoughts and the heresy of the Apollinarians, and seeing that their folly was intolerable; yet thinking that I could tame them by patience and soften them by degrees, I let my hopes make me eager to attain this object. But, as it seems, I overlooked the fact that I was making them worse, and injuring the Church by my untimely philosophy. For gentleness does not put bad men out of countenance. And now if it had been possible for me to teach you this myself, I should not have hesitated, you may be sure, even to undertake a journey beyond my strength to throw myself at the feet of your Excellency. But since my illness has brought me too far, and it has become necessary for me to try the hot baths of Xanxaris at the advice of my medical men, I send a letter to represent me. These wicked and utterly abandoned men have dared, in addition to all their other misdeeds, either to summon, or to make a bad use of the passage (I am not prepared to say precisely which) of certain Bishops, deprived by the whole Synod of the Eastern and Western Church; and, in violation of all Imperial Ordinances, and of your commands, to confer the name of Bishop on a certain individual of their own misbelieving and deceitful crew; encouraged to do so, as I believe, by nothing so much as my great infirmity; for I must mention this. If this is to be tolerated, your Excellency will tolerate it, and I too will bear it, as I have often before. But if it is serious, and not to be endured by our most august Emperors, pray punish what has been done – though more mildly than such madness merits.
Correspondence with Saint Basil the Great, Archbishop of Cæsarea
Epistle 1. To Basil His Comrade.
(Perhaps about a.d. 357 or 358; in answer to a letter which is not now extant.)
I have failed, I confess, to keep my promise. I had engaged even at Athens, at the time of our friendship and intimate connection there (for I can find no better word for it), to join you in a life of philosophy. But I failed to keep my promise, not of my own will, but because one law prevailed against another; I mean the law which bids us honour our parents overpowered the law of our friendship and intercourse. Yet I will not fail you altogether, if you will accept this offer. I shall be with you half the time, and half of it you will be with me, that we may have the whole in common, and that our friendship may be on equal terms; and so it will be arranged in such a way that my parents will not be grieved, and yet I shall gain you.
(Written about the same time, in reply to another letter now lost.)
I do not like being joked about Tiberina and its mud and its winters, O my friend, who are so free from mud, and who walk on tiptoe, and trample on the plains. You who have wings and are borne aloft, and fly like the arrows of Abaris, in order that, Cappadocian though you are, you may flee from Cappadocia. Have we done you an injury, because while you are pale and breathing hard and measuring the sun, we are sleek and well fed and not pressed for room? Yet this is your condition. You are luxurious and rich, and go to market. I do not approve of this. Either then cease to reproach us with our mud (for you did not build your city, nor we make our winter), or else for our mud we will bring against you your hucksters, and the rest of the crop of nuisances which infest cities.
(In answer to Ep. XIV., of Basil, about 361.)
You may mock and pull to pieces my affairs, whether in jest or in earnest. This is a matter of no consequence; only laugh, and take your fill of culture, and enjoy my friendship. Everything that comes from you is pleasant to me, no matter what it may be, and how it may look. For I think you are chaffing about things here, not for the sake of chaffing, but that you may draw me to yourself, if I understand you at all; just like people who block up streams in order to draw them into another channel. That is how your sayings always seem to me.
For my part I will admire your Pontus and your Pontic darkness, and your dwelling place so worthy of exile, and the hills over your head, and the wild beasts which test your faith, and your sequestered spot that lies under them...or as I should say your mousehole with the stately names of Abode of Thought, Monastery, School; and your thickets of wild bushes, and crown of precipitous mountains, by which may you be, not crowned but, cloistered; and your limited air; and the sun, for which you long, and can only see as through a chimney, O sunless Cimmerians of Pontus, who are condemned not only to a six months» night, as some are said to be, but who have not even a part of your life out of the shadow, but all your life is one long night, and a real shadow of death, to use a Scripture phrase. And admire your strait and narrow road, leading...I know not if it be to the Kingdom, or to Hades, but for your sake I hope it is the Kingdom...And as for the intervening country, what is your wish? Am I falsely to call it Eden, and the fountain divided into four heads, by which the world is watered, or the dry and waterless wilderness (only what Moses will come to tame it, bringing water out of the rock with his staff)? For all of it which has escaped the rocks is full of gullies; and that which is not a gully is a thicket of thorns; and whatever is above the thorns is a precipice; and the road above that is precipitous, and slopes both ways, exercising the mind of travellers, and calling for gymnastic exercises for safety. And the river rushes roaring down, which to you is a Strymon of Amphipolis for quietness, and there are not so many fishes in it as stones, nor does it flow into a lake, but it dashes into abysses, O my grandiloquent friend and inventor of new names. For it is great and terrible, and overwhelms the psalmody of those who live above it; like the Cataracts and Catadoupa of the Nile, so does it roar you down day and night. It is rough and fordless; and it has only this morsel of kindness about it, that it does not sweep away your dwelling when the torrents and winter storms make it mad. This then is what I think of those Fortunate Islands and of you happy people. And you are not to admire the crescent-shaped curves which strangle rather than cut off the accessible parts of your Highlands, and the strip of mountain ridge that hangs over your heads, and makes your life like that of Tantalus; and the draughty breezes, and the vent-holes of the earth, which refresh your courage when it fails; and your musical birds that sing (but only of famine), and fly about (but only about the desert). No one visits it, you say, except for hunting; you might add, and except to look upon your dead bodies. This is perhaps too long for a letter, but it is too short for a comedy. If you can take my jokes kindly you will do well, but if not, I will send you some more.
(Circa a.d. 361.)
Since you do take my jokes kindly, I send you the rest. My prelude is from Homer.
Come now and change your theme, And sing of the inner adornment.
– Od. viii. 492.
Your roofless and doorless hut, your fireless and smokeless hearth, your walls dried by fire, that we may not be hit by the drops of the mud, condemned like Tantalus thirsting in the midst of waters, and that pitiable feast with nothing to eat, to which we were invited from Cappadocia, not as to a Lotus-eater's poverty, but to a table of Alcinous – we young and miserable survivors of a wreck. For I remember those loaves and the broth (so it was called), yes, and I shall remember them too, and my poor teeth that slipped on your hunks of bread, and then braced themselves up, and pulled themselves as it were out of mud. You yourself will raise these things to a higher strain of tragedy, having learned to talk big through your own sufferings...for if we had not been quickly delivered by that great supporter of the poor – I mean your mother – who appeared opportunely like a harbour to men tossed by a storm, we should long ago have been dead, rather pitied than admired for our faith in Pontus. How shall I pass over that garden which was no garden and had no vegetables, and the Augean dunghill which we cleared out of the house, and with which we filled it up (sc. the garden), when we drew that mountainous wagon, I the vintager, and you the valiant, with our necks and hands, which still bear the traces of our labours. O earth and sun, O air and virtue (for I will indulge a little in tragic tones), not that we might bridge the Hellespont, but that we might level a precipice. If you are not put out by the mention of the circumstances, no more am I; but if you are, how much more was I by the reality. I pass by the rest, through respect for the others from whom I received much enjoyment.
(Written about the same time, in a more serious vein.)
What I wrote before about our stay in Pontus was in joke, not in earnest; what I write now is very much in earnest. O that one would place me as in the month of those former days, Job 29:2 in which I luxuriated with you in hard living; since voluntary pain is more valuable than involuntary delight. O that one would give me back those psalmodies and vigils and those sojournings with God in prayer, and that immaterial, so to speak, and unbodied life. O for the intimacy and one-souledness of the brethren who were by you divinized and exalted: O for the contest and incitement of virtue which we secured by written Rules and Canons; O for the loving labour in the Divine Oracles, and the light we found in them by the guidance of the Holy Ghost. Or, if I may speak of lesser and slighter matters, O for the daily courses and experiences; O for the gatherings of wood, and the cutting of stone; O for the golden plane-tree, more precious than that of Xerxes, under which sat, not a King enfeebled by luxury, but a Monk worn out by hard life, which I planted and Apollos (I mean your honourable self) watered; 1Corinthians 3:6 but God gave the increase to our honour, that a memorial might remain among you of my diligence, as in the Ark we read and believe, did Aaron's rod that budded. Numbers 17:8, 10 To long for all this is very easy, but it is not easy to attain it. But do you come to me, and conspire with me in virtue, and co-operate with me, and aid me by your prayers to keep the profit which we used to get together, that I may not perish little by little, like a shadow as the day draws to its close. I would rather breathe you than the air, and only live while I am with you, either actually in your presence, or virtually by your likeness in your absence.
(Written to S. Basil shortly after his Ordination as Priest, probably toward the end of a.d. 362.)
I approve the beginning of your letter; but what is there of yours that I do not approve? And you are convicted of having written just like me; for I, too, was forced into the rank of the Priesthood, for indeed I never was eager for it. We are to one another, if ever any men were, trustworthy witnesses of our love for a humble and lowly philosophy. But perhaps it would have been better that this had not happened, or I know not what to say, as long as I am in ignorance of the purpose of the Holy Ghost. But since it has come about, we must bear it, at least so it seems clear to me; and especially when we take the times into consideration, which are bringing in upon us so many heretical tongues, and must not put to shame either the hopes of those who have trusted us thus, or our own lives.
(This Epistle should be read in connection with the three addressed to Eusebius of Cæsarea, to which it refers. For the circumstances see General Prolegomena, § 1, p. 194.)
It is a time for prudence and endurance, and that we should not let anyone appear to be of higher courage than ourselves, or let all our labours and toils be in an instant brought to nothing. Why do I write this, and wherefore? Our Bishop Eusebius, very dear to God (for so we must for the future both think and write of him), is very much disposed to agreement and friendship with us; and as fire softens iron, so has time softened him; and I think a letter of appeal and invitation will come to you from him, as he intimated to me, and as many persons who are well acquainted with his affairs assure me. Let us be beforehand with him then, either by going to him, or by writing to him; or rather by first writing and then going; in order that we may not by and by be put to shame by being defeated when it was in our power to secure a victory by being honourably and philosophically beaten, which so many are asking from us. Be persuaded by me then, and come; both on this account and on account of the bad times; for a conspiracy of heretics is assailing the Church; some of them are here now, and are troubling us; and others, rumour says, are coming; and there is reason to fear lest the Word of Truth should be swept away, unless there be stirred up very soon the spirit of a Bezaleel, the wise Master builder of such arguments and dogmas. If you think I ought to go too, to stay with you and travel with you, I will not refuse to do even this.
(We insert here the three letters to Eusebius, which are so closely connected with the above as not to seem out of place.)
Epistle 16. To Eusebius, Bishop of Cæsarea.
Since I am addressing a man who does not love falsehood, and who is the keenest man I know at detecting it in another, however it may be twined in skilful and varied labyrinths; and, moreover, on my own part I will say it, though against the grain I do not like artifice, either, both from my natural constitution, and because God's Word has formed me so. Therefore I write what presents itself to my mind; and I beg you to excuse my plain speaking, or you will wrong the truth by depriving me of my liberty, and forcing me to restrain within myself the pain of my grief, like some secret and malignant disease. I rejoice that I have your respect (for I am a man, as some one has said before), and that I am summoned to Synods and spiritual conferences. But I am troubled at the slight which has been inflicted on my most Reverend brother Basil, and is still inflicted on him by Your Reverence; for I chose him as the companion of my life and words and highest philosophy, and he is so still; and I never had reason to regret my judgment of him. It is more temperate to speak thus of him, that I may not seem to be praising myself in admiring him. You, however, I think, by honouring me and dishonouring him, seem to be acting like a man who should with one hand stroke a man's head, and with the other hand strike him on the face; or while tearing up the foundations of a house should paint the walls and decorate the exterior. If then you will listen to me, this is what you will do, and I claim to be listened to, for this is justice. If you will pay due attention to him, he will do the like by you. And I will follow him as a shadow does the body, being of little worth and inclined to peace. For I am not so mean as to be willing in other respects to philosophize, and to be of the better part, but to overlook a matter which is the end of all our teaching, namely love; especially in regard to a Priest, and one of so high a character, and one whom I know of all my acquaintances to be the best both in life and doctrine and conduct. For my pain shall not obscure the truth.
Epistle 17. To Eusebius, Archbishop of Cæsarea.
I did not write in an insolent spirit, as you complain of my letter, but rather in a spiritual and philosophical one, and as was fitting, unless this too wrongs your most eloquent Gregory. For though you are my Superior in rank, yet you will grant me something of liberty and just freedom of speech. Therefore be kinder to me. But if you regard my letter as coming from a servant, and from one who has not the right even to look you in the face, I will in this instance accept your stripes and not even shed a tear. Will you blame me for this also? That would befit anyone rather than your Reverence. For it is the part of a high-souled man to accept more readily the freedom of a friend than the flattery of an enemy.
Epistle 18. To Eusebius of Cæsarea.
I was never meanly disposed towards your Reverence; do not find me guilty. But after allowing myself a little liberty and boldness, just to relieve and heal my grief, I at once bowed and submitted, and willingly subjected myself to the Canon. What else could I have done, knowing both you and the Law of the Spirit? But if I had been ever so mean and ignoble in my sentiments, yet the present time would not allow such feelings, nor the wild beasts which are rushing on the Church, nor your own courage and manliness, so purely and genuinely fighting for the Church. I will come then, if you wish it, and take part with you in prayers and in conflict, and will serve you, and like cheering boys will stir up the noble athlete by my exhortations.
Epistle 40. To the Great Basil.
(About the middle of the year 370. On the death of Eusebius Basil seems to have formed a desire that his friend Gregory should succeed to the vacant Metropolitanate; and so he wrote to him, without mentioning the death of the Archbishop, to come to him at Cæsarea, representing himself as dangerously ill. Gregory, deeply grieved at the news, set off at once, but had not proceeded far on his way when he learned that Basil was in his usual health, and that the Bishops of the Province were assembling at Cæsarea for the Election of a Metropolitan. He saw through the artifice at once; and thinking that Basil had wished to secure his presence at the Metropolis in order that his influence might bring about his own (Basil's) Election, he wrote him the following indignant letter. Nevertheless both he and his father felt that no one was so well fitted to succeed to the vacant throne; and so Gregory wrote in his father's name the three letters which we have placed next, addressed respectively to the people of Cæsarea, to the Bishops attending the Synod, and to Eusebius Bishop of Samosata.)
Do not be surprized if I say something strange, which has not been said before by anyone. I think you have the reputation of being a steady safe and strong-minded man, but also of being more simple than safe in much that you plan and do. For that which is free from evil is also in proportion slow to suspect evil, as is shown by what has just occurred. You have summoned me to the Metropolis at the moment when a council has been called for the election of a Bishop, and your pretext is very seemly and plausible. You pretend to be very ill, indeed at your last breath, and to long to see me and to bid me a last farewell; I do not know with what object, even what my presence can effect in the matter. I started in great grief at what had happened; for what could be of higher value to me than your life, or more distressing than your departure? And I shed a fountain of tears; and I wailed aloud; and I felt myself now for the first time unphilosophically disposed. What did I leave unperformed of all that befits a funeral? But as soon as I found that the Bishops were assembling at the City, at once I stopped short in my course; and I wondered first that you had not perceived what was proper, or guarded against people's tongues, which are so given to slander the guileless; and secondly that you did not think the same course to be fitting for me as for yourself, though our life and our rule and everything is common to us both, who have been so closely associated by God from the first. Thirdly, for I must say this also, I wondered whether you remembered that such nominations are worthy of the more religious, not of the more powerful, nor of those most in favour with the multitude. For these reasons then I backed water, and held back. Now, if you think as I do, come to this determination, to avoid these public turmoils and evil suspicions. I shall see your Reverence when the matters are settled and time allows, and I shall have more and graver reproaches to address to you.
Epistle 41. To the People of Cæsarea, in His Father's Name.
I am a little shepherd, and preside over a tiny flock, and I am among the least of the servants of the Spirit. But Grace is not narrow, or circumscribed by place. Wherefore let freedom of speech be given even to the small – especially when the subject matter is of such great importance, and one in which all are interested – even to deliberate with men of hoary hairs, who speak with perhaps greater wisdom than the ordinary run of men. You are deliberating on no ordinary or unimportant matter, but on one by which the common interest must necessarily be promoted or injured according to the decision at which you arrive. For our subject matter is the Church, for which Christ died, and the guide who is to present it and lead it to God. For the light of the body is the eye, Matthew 6:22 as we have heard; not only the bodily eye which sees and is seen, but that which contemplates and is contemplated spiritually. But the light of the Church is the Bishop, as is evident to you even without our writing it. As then the straightness or crookedness of the course of the body depends upon the clearness or dulness of the eye, so must the Church necessarily share the peril or safety incurred by the conduct of its Chief. You must then take thought for the whole Church as the Body of Christ, but more especially for your own, which was from the beginning and is now the Mother of almost all the Churches, to which all the Commonwealth looks, like a circle described round a centre, not only because of its orthodoxy proclaimed of old to all, but also because of the grace of unanimity so evidently bestowed upon it by God. You then have summoned us also to your discussion of this matter, and so are acting rightly and canonically. But we are oppressed by age and infirmity, and if we by the strength given us by the Holy Ghost could be present (nothing is incredible to them that believe), this would be best for the common welfare and most pleasant to ourselves, that we might confer something on you, and ourselves have a part of the blessing; but if I should be kept away through weakness, I will give at any rate whatever can be given by one who is absent.
I believe that there are others among you worthy of the Primacy, both because of the greatness of your city, and because it has been governed in times past so excellently and by such great men; but there is one man among you to whom I cannot prefer any, our son well beloved of God, Basil the Priest (I speak before God as my witness); a man of pure life and word, and alone, or almost alone, of all qualified in both respects to stand against the present times, and the prevailing wordiness of the heretics. I write this to men of the priestly and monastic Orders, and also to the dignitaries and councillors, and to the whole people. If you should approve it, and my vote should prevail, being so just and right, and given with God's aid, I am and will be with you in spirit; or rather I have already set my hand to the work and am bold in the Spirit. But if you should not agree with me, but determine something else, and if the matter is to be settled by cliques and relationships, and if the hand of the mob is again to disturb the sincerity of your vote, do what pleases you – I shall stay at home.
Epistle 43. To the Bishops.
(The comprovincial Bishops had notified the elder Gregory of their Synod, but without mentioning its date or purpose or inviting him to take part in it – probably because they knew how strongly he would support the election of Basil, to which they were unfavourable. S. Gregory therefore wrote the following letter in his father's name.)
How sweet and kind you are, and how full of love. You have invited me to the Metropolis, because, as I imagine, you are going to take some counsel about a Bishop. So much I learn from you, though you have not told me either that I am to be present, or why, or when, but have merely announced to me suddenly that you were setting out, as though resolved not to respect me, and as not desirous that I should share your counsels, but rather putting a hindrance in the way of my coming, that you may not meet me even against my will. This is your way of action, and I will put up with the insult, but I will set before you my view and how I feel. Various people will put forward various candidates, each according to his own inclinations and interests, as is usually the case at such times. But I cannot prefer anyone, for my conscience would not allow it, to my dear son and fellow priest Basil. For whom of all my acquaintance do I find more approved in his life, or more powerful in his word, or more furnished altogether with the beauty of virtue? But if you allege weak health against him, I reply that we are choosing not an athlete but a teacher. And at the same time is seen in this case the power of Him that strengthens and supports the weak, if such they be. If you accept this vote I will come and take part, either in spirit or in body. But if you are marching to a foregone conclusion, and faction is to overrule justice, I shall rejoice to have been overlooked. The work must be yours; but pray for me.
Epistle 42. To Eusebius, Bishop of Samosata.
(There still seemed a probability that intrigues and party spirit would carry the day, and so the two Gregories determined to call in the aid of Eusebius of Samosata, though he did not belong to the Province. He had been a conspicuous champion of orthodoxy against the Arian Emperor Valens, and the Gregories hoped much from his presence at the Synod. He responded to their appeal, and undertook the three hundred miles of very difficult travelling to throw in his influence with the cause which they had at heart. He saw, however, that it was necessary that the aged Bishop of Nazianzus, notwithstanding his years and infirmities, should make the effort, and he persuaded him to go. The result was all that could be desired; for Basil was elected by a unanimous vote. The letter, which S. Gregory wrote in his own name to thank him, will be found later on.)
O that I had the wings of a dove, or that my old age could be renewed, that I might be able to go to your charity, and to satisfy the longings that I have to see you, and to tell you the troubles of my soul, and in you to find some comfort for my afflictions. For since the death of the blessed Bishop Eusebius I am not a little afraid lest they who on a former occasion set traps for our Metropolis, and wanted to fill it with heretical tares, should now seize the opportunity, and uproot by their evil teaching the piety which has with so much labour been sown in the hearts of men, and should tear asunder its unity, as they have done in many Churches. As soon as I received letters from the Clergy asking me not to forget them in their present circumstances, I looked round about me, and remembered your love and your right faith and the zeal with which you are ever possessed for the Churches of God; and therefore I sent my beloved Eustathius, my Deacon and helper, to warn your Reverence, and to entreat you, in addition to all your toils for the Churches, to meet me, and both to refresh my old age by your coming, and to establish in the Orthodox Church that piety which is so famous, by giving her with us (if we may be deemed worthy to have a share with you in the good work) a Shepherd according to the will of the Lord, who shall be able to rule His people. For we have a man before our eyes, and you are not unacquainted with him; and if we are permitted to obtain him I know that we shall acquire great boldness towards God, and shall confer a very great benefit upon the people who have called upon our aid. I beg you again and again to put away all delay, and to come to us before the bad weather of the winter sets in.
Epistle 45. To Basil.
(After the Consecration every one thought that Gregory would at once join his friend; and Basil himself much wished for his assistance. But Gregory thought it better to restrain his desire to see his friend until jealousies had time to calm down. So he wrote the following letter to explain the reasons for his staying away at this juncture.)
When I learned that you had been placed on the lofty throne, and that the Spirit had prevailed to publish the candle upon the candlestick, which even before shone with no dim light, I was glad, I confess. Why should I not be, seeing as I did that the commonwealth of the Church was in sorry plight, and needed such a guiding hand? Yet I did not run to you off hand, nor shall I run to you, not even if you ask me yourself. First, in order that I may be careful of your dignity, and that you may not seem to be collecting partisans under the influence of bad taste and hot temper, as your calumniators would say; and secondly that I may make for myself a reputation for stability, and above illwill. When then will you come, perhaps you will ask, and how long will you put it off? As long as God shall bid me, and until the shadow of the present enmity and slander shall have passed away. For the lepers, I well know, will not hold out very long to keep our David out of Jerusalem.
Epistle 46. To Basil.
(The new Archbishop seems not to have been satisfied with the reasons given in Gregory's last letter; so the latter writes again.)
How can any affairs of yours be mere grape-gleanings to me, O dear and sacred friend?
What a word has escaped the fence of your teeth, or how could you dare to say such a thing, if I too may be somewhat daring? How could your mind set it going, or your ink write it, or your paper receive it, O lectures and Athens and virtues and literary labours! You almost make me write a tragedy by what you have written. Do you not know me or yourself, you eye of the world, and great voice and trumpet and palace of learning? Your affairs trifles to Gregory? What then on earth could any one admire, if Gregory admire not you? There is one spring among the seasons, one sun among the stars, and one heaven that embraces all things; and so your voice is unique among all things, if I am capable of judging such things, and not deceived by my affection – and this I do not think to be the case. But if it is because I do not value you according to your worth that you blame me, you must also blame all mankind; for no one else has or will sufficiently admire you, unless it be yourself, and your own eloquence, at least if it were possible to praise oneself, and if such were the custom of our speech. But if you are accusing me of despising you, why not rather of being mad? Or are you vexed because I am acting like a philosopher? Give me leave to say that this and this alone is higher than even your conversation.
Epistle 47. To Basil.
(The division of the civil Province of Cappadocia into two Provinces in the year 372 was followed by ecclesiastical troubles. Anthimus, the Bishop of Tyana, the civil metropolis of the new division of Cappadocia Secunda, maintained that the Ecclesiastical divisions must necessarily follow the civil, and by consequence claimed for himself that the purely civil action of the State had ipso facto elevated him to the dignity of Metropolitan of the new Province; and this pretension was supported by the Bishops of that district, who were as a rule not well disposed towards the great Archbishop. The next three letters are connected with this dispute.)
I hear that you are being troubled by this fresh innovation, and are being worried by some sophistical and not unusual officiousness on the part of those in power; and it is not to be wondered at. For I was not ignorant of their envy, or of the fact that many of those around you are making use of you to further their own interests, and are kindling the spark of meanness. I have no fear of seeing you unphilosophically affected by your troubles, or in any way unworthy of yourself and me. Nay, I think that it is now above all that my Basil will be known, and that the philosophy which all your life you have been collecting will show itself, and will overcome the abuse as with a high wave; and that you will remain unshaken while others are being troubled. If you think it well, I will come myself and perhaps shall be able to give you some assistance by my counsel (if the sea needs water, you do counsel!); but in any case I shall derive benefit, and shall learn philosophy by bearing my part of the abuse.
Epistle 48. To Basil.
(Shortly after the events described above, Basil determined to strengthen his own hands by creating a number of new Bishoprics in the disputed Province, to one of which, Sasima, he consecrated Gregory, very much against the will of the latter, who felt that he had been hardly used, and did not attempt to disguise his reluctance. See Gen. Prolegg. p. 195.)
Do leave off speaking of me as an ill-educated and uncouth and unfriendly man, not even worthy to live, because I have ventured to be conscious of the way in which I have been treated. You yourself would admit that I have not done wrong in any other respect, and my own conscience does not reproach me with having been unkind to you in either great or small matters; and I hope it never may. I only know that I saw that I had been deceived – too late indeed, but I saw it – and I throw the blame on your throne, as having on a sudden lifted you above yourself; and I am weary of being blamed for faults of yours, and of having to make excuses for them to people who know both our former and our present relations. For of all that I have to endure this is the most ridiculous or most pitiable thing, that the same person should have both to suffer the wrong and to bear the blame, and this is my present case. Different people blame me for different things according to the tastes of each, or each man's disposition, or the measure of their ill feeling on my account; but the kindest reproach me with contempt and disdain, and they throw me on one side after making use of me, like the most valueless vessels, or those frames upon which arches are built, which after the building is complete are taken down and cast aside. We will let them be and say what they please; no one shall curb their freedom of speech. And do you, as my reward, pay off those blessed and empty hopes, which you devised against the evil speakers, who accused you of insulting me on pretence of honouring me, as though I were lightminded and easily taken in by such treatment. Now I will plainly speak out the state of my mind, and you must not be angry with me. For I will tell you just what I said at the moment of the suffering, not in a fit of anger or so much in the sense of astonishment at what had happened as to lose my reason or not to know what I said. I will not take up arms, nor will I learn tactics which I did not learn in former times, when the occasion seemed more suitable, as every one was arming and in frenzy (you know the illness of the weak), nor will I face the martial Anthimus, though he be an untimely warrior, being myself unarmed and unwarlike, and thus the more exposed to wounds. Fight with him yourself if you wish (for necessity often makes warriors even of the weak), or look out for some one to fight when he seizes your mules, keeping guard over a defile, and like Amalek of old, barring the way against Israel. Give me before all things quiet. Why should I fight for sucking pigs and fowls, and those not my own, as though for souls and canons? Why should I deprive the Metropolis of the celebrated Sasima, or lay bare and unveil the secret of your mind, when I ought to join in concealing it? Do you then play the man and be strong and draw all parties to your own conclusion, as the rivers do the winter torrents, without regard for friendship or intimacy in good, or for the reputation which such a course will bring you. Give yourself up to the Spirit alone. I shall gain this only from your friendship, that I shall learn not to trust in friends, or to esteem anything more valuable than God.
Epistle 49. To Basil. (The Praises of Quiet.)
You accuse me of laziness and idleness, because I did not accept your Sasima, and because I have not bestirred myself like a Bishop, and do not arm you against each other like a bone thrown into the midst of dogs. My greatest business always is to keep free from business. And to give you an idea of one of my good points, so much do I value freedom from business, that I think I might even be a standard to all men of this kind of magnanimity, and if only all men would imitate me the Churches would have no troubles; nor would the faith, which every one uses as a weapon in his private quarrels, be pulled in pieces.
Epistle 50. To Basil.
(At the request of Anthimus it would appear that S. Gregory wrote to S. Basil a letter, not now extant, proposing a conference between the rival Metropolitans. Basil took umbrage at the well-meant proposal, and wrote a stiff letter to S. Gregory, to which the following is the reply.)
How hotly and like a colt you skip in your letters. Nor do I wonder that when you have just become the property of glory you should wish to show me what you find glory to be, so that you may make yourself more majestic, like those painters who picture the seasons. But, to explain the whole matter about the Bishops, and the letter by which you were annoyed; what was my starting point, and how far I went, and where I stopped, appears to me to be too long a matter for a letter, and to be a subject not so much for an apology as for a history. To explain it to you concisely:– the most noble Anthimus came to us with certain Bishops, whether to visit my Father (this at least was the pretext), or to act as he did act. He sounded me in many ways and on many subjects; dioceses, the marshes of Sasima, my ordination,...flattering, questioning, threatening, pleading, blaming, praising, drawing circles round himself, as though I ought only to look at him and his new Metropolis, as being the greater. Why, I said, do you draw your line to include our city, for we too deem our Church to be really a Mother of Churches, and that too from ancient times? In the end he went away without having gained his object, much out of breath, and reproaching me with Basilism, as if it were a kind of Philipism. Do you think I did you wrong in this? And now look at the letter from me, who, you say, insulted you. They fashioned a Synodal summons to me; and when I declined it and said that the thing was an insult, they then asked as an alternative that through me you should be invited to deliberate upon these matters. This I promised, in order to prevent their first plan being carried out; placing the whole matter in your hands, if you choose to call them together, and where and when. And if I have not injured you in this, tell me where there is room for injury. If you have to learn this from me, I will read you the letter which Anthimus sent me, after invading the marshes, notwithstanding my prohibitions and threats, insulting and reviling me, and as it were singing a song of triumph over my defeat. And what reason is there that I should offend him for your sake and at the same time displease you, as though I were currying favour with him? You ought to have learned this first, my dear friend; and even if it had been so, you should not have insulted me – if only because I am a Priest. But if you are very much disposed to ostentation and quarrelsomeness, and speak as my Superior – as the Metropolitan to an insignificant Suffragan, or even as to a Bishop without a See – I too have a little pride to set against yours. That is very easy to anybody, and is perhaps the most suitable course.
Epistle 58. To Basil.
(An attack had been made in Gregory's presence on the orthodoxy of Basil in respect of the Deity of God the Holy Ghost; and in this letter he gives his friend an account of the way in which he had defended him. Unfortunately Basil was not pleased with the letter, taking it as intended to convey reproach under the guise of friendly sympathy.)
From the first I have taken you, and I take you still, for my guide of life and my teacher of the faith, and for every thing honourable that can be said; and if any one else praises your merits, he is altogether with me, or even behind me, so far am I surpassed by your piety, and so thoroughly am I yours. And no wonder; for the longer the intimacy the greater the experience; and where the experience is more abundant the testimony is more perfect. And if I get any profit in life it is from your friendship and company. This is my disposition in regard to these matters, and I hope always will be. What I now write I write unwillingly, but still I write it. Do not be angry with me, or I shall be very angry myself, if you do not give me credit for both saying and writing it out of goodwill to you.
Many people have condemned us as not firm in our faith; those, I mean, who think and think rightly that we thoroughly agree. Some openly charge us with heresy, others with cowardice; with heresy, those who believe that our language is not sound; with cowardice, they who blame our reserve. I need not report what other people say; I will tell you what has recently happened.
There was a party here at which a great many distinguished friends of ours were present, and among them was a man who wore the name and dress which betoken piety (i.e. a Monk). They had not yet begun to drink, but were talking about us, as often happens at such parties, and made us rather than anything else the subject of their conversation. They admired everything connected with you, and they brought me in as professing the same philosophy; and they spoke of our friendship, and of Athens, and of our conformity of views and feelings on all points. Our Philosopher was annoyed by this. What is this, gentlemen? he said, with a very mighty shout, what liars and flatterers you are. You may praise these men for other reasons if you like, and I will not contradict you; but I cannot concede to you the most important point, their orthodoxy. Basil and Gregory are falsely praised; the former, because his words are a betrayal of the faith, the latter, because his toleration aids the treason.
What is this, said I, O vain man and new Dathan and Abiram in folly? Where do you come from to lay down the law for us? How do you set yourself up as a judge of such great matters? I have just come, he replied, from the festival of the Martyr Eupsychius , (and so it really was), and there I heard the great Basil speak most beautifully and perfectly upon the Godhead of the Father and the Son, as hardly anyone else could speak; but he slurred over the Spirit. And he added a sort of illustration from rivers, which pass by rocks and hollow out sand. As for you my good sir, he said, looking at me, you do now express yourself openly on the Godhead of the Spirit, and he referred to some remarks of mine in speaking of God at a largely attended Synod, as having added in respect of the Spirit that expression which has made a noise, (how long shall we hide the candle under the bushel?) but the other man hints obscurely, and as it were, merely suggests the doctrine, but does not openly speak out the truth; flooding people's ears with more policy than piety, and hiding his duplicity by the power of his eloquence.
It is, I said, because I (living as I do in a corner, and unknown to most men who do not know what I say, and hardly that I speak at all) can philosophize without danger; but his word is of greater weight, because he is better known, both on his own account and on that of his Church. And everything that he says is public, and the war around him is great, as the heretics try to snatch every naked word from Basil's lips, to get him expelled from the Church; because he is almost the only spark of truth left and the vital force, all else around having been destroyed; so that evil may be rooted in the city, and may spread over the whole world as from a centre in that Church. Surely then it is better to use some reserve in the truth, and ourselves to give way a little to circumstances as to a cloud, rather than by the openness of the proclamation to risk its destruction. For no harm will come to us if we recognize the Spirit as God from other phrases which lead to this conclusion (for the truth consists not so much in sound as in sense), but a very great injury would be done to the Church if the truth were driven away in the person of one man. The company present would not receive my economy, as out of date and mocking them; but they shouted me down as practising it rather from cowardice than for reason. It would be much better, they said, to protect our own people by the truth, than by your so-called Economy to weaken them while failing to win over the others. It would be a long business and perhaps unnecessary to tell you all the details of what I said, and of what I heard, and how vexed I was with the opponents, perhaps immoderately and contrary to my own usual temper. But, in fine, I sent them away in the same fashion. But do you O divine and sacred head, instruct me how far I ought to go in setting forth the Deity of the Spirit; and what words I ought to use, and how far to use reserve; that I may be furnished against opponents. For if I, who more than any one else know both you and your opinions, and have often both given and received assurance on this point, still need to be taught the truth of this matter, I shall be of all men the most ignorant and miserable.
Epistle 59. To Basil.
(The reply to Basil's somewhat angry answer to the last.)
This was a case which any wiser man would have foreseen; but I who am very simple and foolish did not fear it in writing to you. My letter grieved you; but in my opinion neither rightly nor justly, but quite unreasonably. And while you did not acknowledge that you were hurt, neither did you conceal it, or if you did it was with great skill, as with a mask, hiding your vexation under an appearance of respect. But as to myself if I acted in this deceitfully or maliciously, I shall be punished not more by your vexation than by the truth itself; but if in simplicity and with my accustomed goodwill, I will lay the blame on my own sins rather than on your temper. But it would have been better to have set this matter straight, rather than to be angry with those who offer you counsel. But you must see to your own affairs, inasmuch as you are quite capable of giving the same advice to others. You may look upon me as very ready, if God will, both to come to you, and to join you in the conflict, and to contribute all that I can. For who would flinch, who would not rather take courage in speaking and contending for the truth under you and by your side?
Epistle 60. To Basil.
(Gregory was not able, owing to the serious illness of his Mother, to carry out the promise at the end of Ep. LIX.; so he writes to explain and excuse himself.)
The Carrying Out of your bidding depends partly on me; but partly, and I venture to think principally, on your Reverence. What depends on me is the good will and eagerness, for I never yet avoided meeting you, but have always sought opportunities, and at the present moment am even more desirous of doing so. What depends on your Holiness is that my affairs be set straight. For I am sitting by my lady Mother, who has for a long time been suffering from illness. And if I could leave her out of danger you might be well assured that I would not deprive myself of the pleasure of going to you. So give me the help of your prayers for her restoration to health, and for my journey to you.
1. Letters to His Brother Cæsarius
(On the death of the Emperor Constantius the undisputed succession devolved on his cousin Julian the Apostate, who at once began to employ all the power of the Empire to discourage, while not absolutely persecuting, Christianity, and to restore the supremacy of the ancient Paganism. One of his first acts was to dismiss all the men who had held high dignities under his predecessor. S. Cæsarius, Gregory's brother, was however to be excepted; Julian, who had perhaps known and esteemed him at Athens, did all that he could to keep him at Court, and to attach him to himself. This caused much anxiety to Gregory and other friends of Cæsarius, who foresaw that Julian would do his utmost to shake the young man's faith, and could not feel sure that he would have courage to resist such assaults. In his trouble Gregory wrote him the following letter. Shortly afterwards the expected attempt was made. S. Cæsarius bravely held his ground against the Emperor, and after declaring his unalterable determination to hold firm to his faith, resigned his office at Court and withdrew to Nazianzus.)
I have had enough to blush for in you; that I was grieved, it is hardly necessary to say to him who of all men knows me best. But, not to speak of my own feelings, or of the distress with which the rumour about you filled me (and let me say also the fear), I should have liked you, had it been possible, to have heard what was said by others, both relations and outsiders, who are any way acquainted with us (Christians I mean, of course,) about you and me; and not only some of them, but everyone in turn alike; for men are always more ready to philosophize about strangers than about their own relations. Such speeches as the following have become a sort of exercise among them: Now a Bishop's son takes service in the army; now he covets exterior power and fame; now he is a slave of money, when the fire is being rekindled for all, and men are running the race for life; and he does not deem the one only glory and safety and wealth to be to stand nobly against the times, and to place himself as far as possible out of reach of every abomination and defilement. How then can the Bishop exhort others not to be carried along with the times, or to be mixed up with idols? How can he rebuke those who do wrong in other ways, seeing his own home takes away his right to speak freely? We have every day to hear this, and even more severe things, some of the speakers perhaps saying them from a motive of friendship, and others with unfriendly feelings. How do you think we feel, and what is the state of mind with which we, men professing to serve God, and to deem the only good to be to look forward to the hopes of the future, hear such things as these? Our venerable Father is very much distressed by all that he hears, which even disgusts him with life. I console and comfort him as best I can, by making myself surety for your mind, and assuring him that you will not continue thus to grieve us. But if our dear Mother were to hear about you (so far we have kept her in the dark by various devices), I think she would be altogether inconsolable; being, as a woman, of a weak mind, and besides unable, through her great piety, to control her feelings on such matters. If then you care at all for yourself and us, try some better and safer course. Our means are certainly enough for an independent life, at least for a man of moderate desires, who is not insatiable in his lust for more. Moreover, I do not see what occasion for your settling down we are to wait for, if we let this one pass. But if you cling to the same opinion, and every thing seems to you of small account in comparison with your own desires, I do not wish to say anything else that may vex you, but this I foretell and protest, that one of two things must happen; either you, remaining a genuine Christian, will be ranked among the lowest, and will be in a position unworthy of yourself and your hopes; or in grasping at honours you will injure yourself in what is more important, and will have a share in the smoke, if not actually in the fire.
Ep. XIV. and XXIII.
(Under the Emperor Valens Cæsarius returned to public life and was made Quæstor of Bithynia. While he was in this office the following letters were written to him by his brother on behalf of two cousins, Eulalius, who afterwards succeeded Gregory in the Bishopric of Nazianzus, and with whom Gregory was on terms of intimate friendship, and Amphilochius, who, through the roguery of a partner, had got into some trouble at Constantinople about money matters, and for whom he asks aid and advice. Some however think that this letter is not addressed to his brother (who may have been at Constantinople at the time), but to some other officer of high rank at the Imperial Court. Amphilochius soon after retired from the world, and by a.d. 347 was already bishop of the important See of Iconium. Gregory's letters to him are given later in this division.)
Do a kindness to yourself and to me, of a kind that you will not often have an opportunity of doing, because opportunities for such kindnesses do not often occur. Undertake a most righteous protection of my dear cousins, who are worried more than enough about a property which they bought as suitable for retirement, and capable of providing them with some means of living; but after having completed the purchase they have fallen into many troubles, partly through finding the vendors dishonest, and partly through being plundered and robbed by their neighbours, so that it would be a gain to them to get rid of their acquisition for the price they gave for it, plus the not small sum they have spent on it besides. If, then, you would like to transfer the business to yourself, after examining the contract to see how it may be best and most securely done, this course would be most acceptable both to them and me; but if you would rather not, the next best course would be to oppose yourself to the officiousness and dishonesty of the man, that he may not succeed in gaining one advantage over their want of business habits, either by wronging them if they retain their property, or by inflicting loss upon them if they part with it. I am really ashamed to write to you on such a subject. All the same, since we owe it to them, on account both of their relationship and of their profession (for of whom would one rather take care than of such, or what would one be more ashamed of than of being unwilling to confer such a benefit?) do you either for your own sake, or for mine, or for the sake of the men themselves, or for all these sakes put together, by all means do them this kindness.
Do not be surprized if I ask of you a great favour; for it is from a great man that I am asking it, and the request must be measured by him of whom it is made; for it is equally absurd to ask great things from a small man, and small things from a great man, the one being unseasonable, and the other mean. I therefore present to you with my own hand my most precious son Amphilochius, a man so famous (even beyond his years) for his gentlemanly bearing, that I myself, though an old man, and a Priest, and your friend, would be quite content to be as much esteemed. What wonder is it if he was cheated by a man's pretended friendship, and did not suspect the swindle? For not being himself a rogue, he did not suspect roguery, but thought that correction of language rather than of character was what was wanted, and therefore entered into partnership with him in business. What blame can attach to him for this with honest men? Do not then allow wickedness to get the better of virtue; and do not dishonour my grey hairs, but do honour to my testimony, and add your kindness to my benedictions, which are perhaps of some account with God before Whom we stand.
(In a.d. 368 the City of Nicæa in Bithynia was almost entirely destroyed by a terrible earthquake. Cæsarius lost his house, and his personal escape was almost miraculous. Gregory writes (as also did Basil) to congratulate him on his escape, and profits by the occasion to urge upon him retirement from his secular avocations. Cæsarius soon resolved to follow this advice, and was taking steps to carry this resolution into effect, when he died suddenly, early in a.d. 369, aged only 40. He left the whole of his large property to the poor, but it fell for a time into the hands of designing persons, and Gregory, who was his brother's executor, had much difficulty in recovering it for the purpose for which it had been intended. (See the letter to Sophronius, Prefect of Constantinople on this subject.) He was buried at Nazianzus in the Church of the Martyrs, in a vault which his parents had prepared for themselves. Gregory preached the funeral sermon, which is given in the former part of this volume. These four are the only letters known to have passed between the brothers.)
Even frights are not without use to the wise; or, as I should say, they are very valuable and salutary. For, although we pray that they may not happen, yet when they do they instruct us. For the afflicted soul, as Peter somewhere admirably says, is near to God; and every man who escapes a danger is brought into nearer relation to Him Who preserved him. Let us not then be vexed that we had a share in the calamity, but let us give thanks that we were delivered. And let us not show ourselves one thing to God in the time of peril, and another when the danger is over, but let us resolve, whether at home or abroad, whether in private life or in public office (for I must say this and may not omit it), to follow Him Who has preserved us, and to attach ourselves to His side, thinking little of the little concerns of earth; and let us furnish a tale to those who come after us, great for our glory and the benefit of our soul, and at the same time a very useful lesson to all, that danger is better than security, and that misfortune is preferable to success, at least if before our fears we belonged to the world, but after them we belong to God. Perhaps I seem to you somewhat of a bore, by writing to you so often on the same subject, and you will think my letter a piece not of exhortation but of ostentation, so enough of this. You will know that I desire and wish especially that I might be with you and share your joy at your preservation, and to talk over these matters later on. But since that cannot be, I hope to receive you here as soon as may be, and to celebrate our thanksgiving together.
2. To S. Gregory of Nyssa
(Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa, was a younger brother of Basil the Great. Ordained a Reader at an early age he grew tired of his vocation, and became a professor of Rhetoric. This gave scandal in the Church and occasioned much grief to his friends. Gregory of Nazianzus, wrote him the following letter of remonstrance, which was not without effect, for shortly afterwards he gave up his secular avocation, and retired to the Monastery which his brother Basil had founded in Pontus. Here he spent several years in the study of Holy Scripture and the best Commentators.)
There is one good point in my character, and I will boast myself of one point out of many. I am equally vexed with myself and my friends over a bad plan. Since, then, all are friends and kinsfolk who live according to God, and walk by the same Gospel, why should you not hear from me in plain words what all men are saying in whispers? They do not approve your inglorious glory (to borrow a phrase from your own art), and your gradual descent to the lower life, and your ambition, the worst of demons, according to Euripides. For what has happened to you, O wisest of men, and for what do you condemn yourself, that you have cast away the sacred and delightful books which you used once to read to the people (do not be ashamed to hear this), or have hung them up over the chimney, as men do in winter with rudders and hoes, and have applied yourself to salt and bitter ones, and preferred to be called a Professor of Rhetoric rather than of Christianity? I, thank God, would rather be the latter than the former. Do not, my dear friend, do not let this be longer the case, but, though it is full late, become sober again, and come to yourself once more, and make your apology to the faithful, and to God, and to His Altars and Sacraments, from which you have withdrawn yourself. And do not say to me in proud rhetorical style, What, was I not a Christian when I practised rhetoric? Was I not a believer when I was engaged among the boys? And perhaps you will call God to witness. No, my friend, not as thoroughly as you ought to have been, even if I grant it you in part. What of the offense to others given by your present employment – to others who are prone naturally to evil– and of the opportunity afforded them both to think and to speak the worst of you? Falsely, I grant, but where was the necessity? For a man lives not for himself alone but also for his neighbour; nor is it enough to persuade yourself, you must persuade others also. If you were to practise boxing in public, or to give and receive blows in the theatre, or to writhe and twist yourself shamefully, would you speak of yourself as having a temperate soul? Such an argument does not befit a wise man; it is frivolous to accept it. If you make a change I shall rejoice even now, said one of the Pythagorean philosophers, lamenting the fall of a friend; but, he wrote, if not you are dead to me. But I will not yet say this for your sake. Being a friend, he became an enemy, yet still a friend, as the Tragedy says. But I shall be grieved (to speak gently), if you do neither yourself see what is right, which is the highest method of all, nor will follow the advice of others, which is the next. Thus far my counsel. Forgive me that my friendship for you makes me grieve, and kindles me both on your behalf and on behalf of the whole priestly Order, and I may add on that of all Christians. And if I may pray with you or for you, may God who quickens the dead aid your weakness.
(When S. Gregory was consecrated Bishop of Nyssa the Imperial Throne was occupied by Valens, an ardent Arian, whose mind was bent on the destruction of the Nicene Faith. He appointed, with this object, one Demosthenes, a former clerk of the Imperial Kitchen, to be Vicar of the civil Diocese of Pontus. An old quarrel with Basil had made this man unfriendly to Gregory, and after persecuting him in various small ways for some time he procured, a.d. 275, the summoning of a Synod to enquire into some allegations of irregularity in his consecration, and to try Gregory on some frivolous charges of malversation of Church funds. Gregory was unable to attend this Synod, which met at Ancyra, on account of an attack of pleurisy; and another was summoned to meet at Nyssa itself. Gregory however refused to appear, and was deposed as contumacious. Thereupon Valens banished him, and he seems to have fallen into very low spirits, almost into despondency at the apparent triumph of the heretical party. The three letters which follow throw some light upon his state at this time. They were written in answer to letters of his now lost, and their object was to comfort him in his trouble and to encourage him to take heart again in the hope of a good day coming. This more cheerful tone was justified by the event, for on the death of Valens, a.d. 378, the exiled Bishops were restored by Gratian, and Gregory was replaced in his Episcopal Throne, to the great joy of the faithful of his Diocese.)
Do not let your troubles distress you too much. For the less we grieve over things, the less grievous they are. It is nothing strange that the heretics have thawed, and are taking courage from the springtime, and creeping out of their holes, as you write. They will hiss for a short time, I know, and then will hide themselves again, overcome both by the truth and the times, and all the more so the more we commit the whole matter to God.
As to the subject of your letter, these are my sentiments. I am not angry at being overlooked, but I am glad when I am honoured. The one is my own desert, the other is a proof of your respect. Pray for me. Excuse this short letter, for anyhow, though it is short, it is longer than silence.
Although I am at home, my love is expatriated with you, for affection makes us have all things common. Trusting in the mercy of God, and in your prayers, I have great hopes that all will turn out according to your mind, and that the hurricane will be turned into a gentle breeze, and that God will give you this reward for your orthodoxy, that you will overcome your opponents. Most of all I long to see you shortly, and to have a good time with you, as I pray. But if you delay owing to the pressure of affairs, at any rate cheer me by a letter, and do not disdain to tell me all about your circumstances, and to pray for me, as you are accustomed to do. May God grant you health and good spirits in all circumstances – you who are the common prop of the whole Church.
(Basil the Great died Jan. 1, a.d. 379. Gregory of Nazianzus was prevented by very serious illness from attending his funeral, and therefore wrote as follows to Gregory of Nyssa.)
This, then, was also reserved for my sad life, to hear of the death of Basil, and the departure of that holy soul, which has gone from us that it may be with the Lord, for which he had been preparing himself all his life. And among all the other losses I have had to endure this is the greatest, that by reason of the bodily sickness from which I am still suffering and in great danger, I cannot kiss that holy dust, or be with you to enjoy the consolations of a just philosophy, and to comfort our common friends. But to see the desolation of the Church, shorn of such a glory, and bereft of such a crown, is what no one, at least no one of any feeling, can bear to let his eyes look upon, or his ear hearken to. But you, I think, though you have many friends and will receive many words of condolence, yet will not derive comfort so much from any as from yourself and your memory of him; for you two were a pattern to all of philosophy, a kind of spiritual standard, both of discipline in prosperity, and of endurance in adversity; for philosophy bears prosperity with moderation and adversity with dignity. This is what I have to say to Your Excellency. But for myself who write so, what time or what words shall comfort me, except your company and conversation, which our blessed one has left me in place of all, that seeing his character in you as in a bright and shining mirror, I may think myself to possess him also!
You are distressed by your travels, and think yourself unsteady, like a stick carried along by a stream. But, my dear friend, you must not let yourself feel so at all. For the travels of the stick are involuntary, but your course is ordained by God, and your stability is in doing good to others, even though you are not fixed to a place; unless indeed one ought to find fault with the sun, for going about the world scattering his rays, and giving life to all things on which he shines; or, while praising the fixed stars, one should revile the planets, whose very wandering is harmonious.
(Gregory after his resignation of the Patriarchal See of Constantinople had retired to Nazianzus, and had been persuaded to undertake the administration of the diocese then vacant, until the vacancy should be filled. The Bishops of the Province wished him to retain it altogether, and therefore were in no hurry to proceed to election. At length however they yielded to the continually expressed wishes of Gregory and chose his cousin Eulalius. Soon however Gregory's enemies spread abroad a report that this election had been made against his wishes, and with the intention of unfairly ousting him from the administration of that Church. The following letter was written in consequence of this slander.)
Woe is me that my sojourning is prolonged, and, which is the greatest of my misfortunes, that war and dissensions are among us, and that we have not kept the peace which we received from our holy fathers. This I doubt not you will restore, in the power of the Spirit who upholds you and yours. But let no one, I beg, spread false reports about me and my lords the bishops, as though they had proclaimed another bishop in my place against my will. But being in great need, owing to my feeble health, and fearing the responsibility of a Church neglected, I asked this favour of them, which was not opposed to the Canon Law, and was a relief to me, that they would give a Pastor to the Church. He has been given to your prayers, a man worthy of your piety, and I now place him in your hands, the most reverend Eulalius, a bishop very dear to God, in whose arms I should like to die. If any be of opinion that it is not right to ordain another in the lifetime of a Bishop, let him know that he will not in this matter gain any hold upon us. For it is well known that I was appointed, not to Nazianzus, but to Sasima, although for a short time out of reverence for my father, I as a stranger undertook the government.
Ep. CXCVII. A Letter of Condolence on the Death of His Sister Theosebia.
(The writer of the article on Gregory Nyssen in the Dict. Biogr. supposes her to have been his wife, but produces no evidence of this beyond the ambiguous expression in this letter which speaks of her as the true consort of a priest, but on the other hand she is expressly called his Sister in the same letter. Some writers have imagined that she was the wife of Gregory Nazianzen himself, but there is no evidence to show that he was ever married. The date of her death is uncertain, but it was probably subsequent to a.d. 381. It would seem that the term Consort might have a general application to those who shared in the same work, and consequently the Benedictine Editors regard Theosebia as a Deaconess of the Church of Nyssa.)
I had started in all haste to go to you, and had got as far as Euphemias, when I was delayed by the festival which you are celebrating in honour of the Holy Martyrs; partly because I could not take part in it, owing to my bad health, partly because my coming at so unsuitable a time might be inconvenient to you. I had started partly for the sake of seeing you after so long, and partly that I might admire your patience and philosophy (for I had heard of it) at the departure of your holy and blessed sister, as a good and perfect man, a minister of God, who knows better than any the things both of God and man; and who regards as a very light thing that which to others would be most heavy, namely to have lived with such a soul, and to send her away and store her up in the safe garners, like a shock of the threshingfloor gathered in due season, Job 5:26 to use the words of Holy Scripture; and that in such time that she, having tasted the joys of life, escaped its sorrows through the shortness of her life; and before she had to wear mourning for you, was honoured by you with that fair funeral honour which is due to such as she. I too, believe me, long to depart, if not as you do, which were much to say, yet only less than you. But what must we feel in presence of a long prevailing law of God which has now taken my Theosebia (for I call her mine because she lived a godly life; for spiritual kindred is better than bodily), Theosebia, the glory of the church, the adornment of Christ, the helper of our generation, the hope of woman; Theosebia, the most beautiful and glorious among all the beauty of the Brethren; Theosebia, truly sacred, truly consort of a priest, and of equal honour and worthy of the Great Sacraments, Theosebia, whom all future time shall receive, resting on immortal pillars, that is, on the souls of all who have known her now, and of all who shall be hereafter. And do not wonder that I often invoke her name. For I rejoice even in the remembrance of the blessed one. Let this, a great deal in few words, be her epitaph from me, and my word of condolence for you, though you yourself are quite able to console others in this way through your philosophy in all things. Our meeting (which I greatly long for) is prevented by the reason I mentioned. But we pray with one another as long as we are in the world, until the common end, to which we are drawing near, overtake us. Wherefore we must bear all things, since we shall not for long have either to rejoice or to suffer.
3. To Eusebius Bishop of Samosata
(This letter, urging his friend to attend at Cæsarea for the election of a Metropolitan in succession to Eusebius, has been already given in the second division of this Selection.)
(Eusebius, having in response to the appeal referred to above, betaken himself to Cæsarea, the Elder Gregory, though in very feeble health, resolved to attend the Synod in person, that Basil's Election might be secured by their joint exertions, Gregory the Younger sent the following letter by his father to explain to his friend the reason why he had not come too. The date is about September of the year 379.)
Whence shall I begin your praises, and by what name shall I give you your right appellation? The pillar and ground of the church, or a light in the world, using the very words of the apostle, or a crown of glory to the remaining portion of christendom; or a gift of God, or the bulwark of your country, or the standard of faith, or the ambassador of truth, or all these at once, and more than all? And these excessive praises I will prove by what we shall see. What rain ever came so seasonably to a thirsty land, what water flowing out of the rock to those in the wilderness? What such Bread of Angels did ever man eat? When did Jesus the common Lord ever so seasonably present Himself to His drowning disciples, and tame the sea, and save the perishing, as you have shown yourself to us in our weariness and distress, and in our immediate danger as it were of shipwreck? I need not speak of other points, with what courage and joy you filled the souls of the orthodox, and how many you delivered from despair.
But our mother church, Cæsarea I mean, is now really putting off the garments of her widowhood at the sight of you, and putting on again her robe of cheerfulness, and will be yet more resplendent when she receives a pastor worthy of herself and of her former Bishops and of your hands. For you yourself see what is the state of our affairs, and what a miracle your zeal has wrought, and your toil, and your godly plainness of speech. Age is renewed, disease is conquered, they leap who were in their beds, and the weak are girded with power. By all this I guess that our matters too will turn out as we desire. You have my father, moreover, representing both himself and me, to put a glorious close to his whole life and to his venerable age by this present struggle on behalf of the Church. And I shall receive him back, I am well assured, strengthened by your prayers, and with youth renewed, for one must confidently commit all in faith to them. But if he should end his life in this anxiety, it would be no calamity to attain to such an end in such a cause. Pardon me, I beg of you, if I give way a little to the tongues of evil men, and delay a little to come and embrace you, and to complete in person what I now pass over of the praises due to you.
(In the year 374 Eusebius and other orthodox Bishops of the East were banished by Valens and their thrones filled with Arian intruders. Eusebius was ordered to retire to Thrace, and his journey lay through Cappadocia, where he saw Basil, but Gregory to his great grief was too unwell to leave his house and go to meet him. Instead he sent the following letter.)
When Your Reverence was passing through our country I was so ill as not to be able even to look out of my house. And I was grieved not so much on account of the illness, though it brought about the fear of the worst, as by the inability to meet your holiness and goodness. My longing to see your venerable face was like that which a man would naturally feel who needed healing of spiritual wounds, and expected to receive it from you. But though at that time the effect of my sins was that I missed the meeting with you, it is now by your goodness possible for me to find a remedy for my trouble, for if you will deign to remember me in your acceptable prayers, this will be to me a store of every blessing from God, both in this my life and in the age to come. For that such a man, such a combatant for the Faith of the Gospel, one who has endured such persecutions, and won for himself such confidence before the all-righteous God by his patience in tribulation – that such a man should deign to be my patron also in his prayers will gain for me, I am persuaded, as much strength as I should have gained through one of the holy martyrs. Therefore let me entreat you to remember your Gregory without ceasing in all the matters in which I desire to be worthy of your remembrance.
(Eusebius having replied to the former letter Gregory wrote again, having an opportunity of communicating with his friend through one Eupraxius, a disciple of Eusebius, who passed through Cappadocia on his way to visit his master. This letter is sometimes attributed to Basil.)
Our reverend brother Eupraxius has always been dear to me and a true friend, but he has shown himself dearer and truer through his affections for you, inasmuch as even at the present time he has hurried to your reverence, like, to use David's words, a hart to quench his great and unendurable thirst with a sweet and pure spring at your patience in tribulations. Deign then to be his patron and mine.
Happy indeed are they who are permitted to come near you, and happier still is he who can place upon his sufferings for Christ's sake and upon his labours for the truth, a crown such as few of those who fear God have obtained. For it is not an untested virtue that you have shown, nor is it only, in a time of calm that you have sailed aright and steered the souls of others, but you have shone in the difficulties of temptations, and have been greater than your persecutors, having nobly departed from the land of your birth. Others possess the threshold of their fathers – we the heavenly City; others perhaps hold our throne, but we Christ. O what a profitable exchange! How little we give up, to receive how much! We went through fire and water, and I believe that we shall also come out into a place of refreshment. For God will not forsake us for ever, or abandon the true faith to persecution, but according to the multitude of our pains His comforts shall make us glad. This at any rate we believe and desire. But do you, I beg, pray for our humility. And as often as occasion shall present itself bless us without hesitation by a letter, and cheer us up by news of yourself, as you have just been good enough to do.
(The following letter is sometimes attributed to Basil, and is found in his works as well as in those of Gregory. The mss. however, with only a single exception, give it to the latter.)
You give me pleasure both by writing and remembering me, and a much greater pleasure by sending me your blessing in your letter. But if I were worthy of your sufferings and of your conflicts for Christ and through Christ I should have been counted worthy also to come to you, to embrace Your Piety, and to take example by your patience in your sufferings. But since I am not worthy of this, being troubled with many afflictions and hindrances I do what is next best. I address Your Perfection, and I beg you not to be weary of remembering me. For to be deemed worthy of your letters is not only profitable to me, but is also a matter to boast of to many people, and is an honour, because I am considered by a man of so great virtue, and such near relations with God, that he can bring others also by word and example into relation to Him.
4. To Sophronius, Prefect of Constantinople
(Sophronius, a native of the Cappadocian Cæsarea, was an early friend and fellow-student of Gregory and Basil. He entered the Civil Service, and soon rose to high office. In a.d. 365 he was appointed Prefect of Constantinople, as a reward for timely intimation which he gave to the Emperor Valens of the usurpation attempted by Procopius. He is chiefly known to us by the letters of Gregory and Basil, invoking his good offices for various persons. Epistle 21 was written in a.d. 369 to commend to him Nicobulus, Gregory's nephew by marriage, the husband of Alypiana, daughter of his sister Gorgonia. This Nicobulus was a man of great wealth and ability, but much disinclined for public life. Gregory constantly writes to one and another high official to get him excused from appointments which had been thrust upon him.)
Gold is changed and transformed into various forms at various times, being fashioned into many ornaments, and used by art for many purposes; yet it remains what it is – gold; and it is not the substance but the form which admits of change. So also, believing that your kindness will remain unchanged for your friends, although you are ever climbing higher, I have ventured to send you this request, because I do not more reverence your high rank than I trust your kind disposition. I entreat you to be favourable to my most respectable son Nicobulus, who is in all respects allied with me, both by kindred and by intimacy, and, which is more important, by disposition. In what matters, and to what extent? In whatever he may ask your aid, and as far as may seem to you to befit your Magnanimity. I on my part will repay you the best I have. I have the power of speech, and of proclaiming your goodness, if not nearly according to its worth, at any rate to the best of my ability.
(Is for Amphilochius, written at the same time and in consequence of the same trouble as that which we have placed second of the letters to Cæsarius.)
As we know gold and stones by their look, so too we may distinguish good men from bad in the same way, and do not need a very long trial. For I should not have needed many words in pleading for my most honourable son Amphilochius with Your Magnanimity. I should rather have expected some strange and incredible thing to happen than that he would do anything dishonourable, or think of such a thing, in a matter of money; such a universal reputation has he as a gentleman, and as wiser than his years. But what must he suffer? Nothing escapes envy, for some word of blame has touched even him, a man who has fallen under accusation of crime through simplicity rather than depravity of disposition. But do not allow it to be tolerable to you to overlook him in his vexations and trouble. Not so, I entreat your sacred and great mind, but honour your country and aid his virtue, and have a respect for me who have attained to glory by and through you; and be everything to this man, adding the will to the power, for I know that there is nothing of equal power with Your Excellency.
(Of the same year. Here Cæsarius had bequeathed all his property to the poor; but his house had been looted by his servants, and his friends could only find a comparatively small sum. Besides this a number of persons, shortly afterwards, presented themselves as creditors of his estate, and their claims, though incapable of proof, were paid. Then others kept coming forward, until at last the family refused to admit any more. Then a lawsuit was threatened. Gregory intensely disliking all this, and dreading moreover the scandal which might be caused by legal proceedings, writes as follows to the Prefect.)
You see how matters stand with me, and how the circle of human affairs goes round, now some now others flourishing or the reverse, and neither prosperity nor adversity remaining constant with us, as the saying is, but ever changing and altering, so that one might trust the breezes, or letters written in the waters, rather than human prosperity. For what reason is this? I think it is in order that by the contemplation of the uncertainty and anomaly of all these things we may learn the rather to have recourse to God and to the future, giving scanty thoughts to shadows and dreams. But what has produced this talk, for it is not without a cause that I thus philosophize, and I am not idly boasting?
Cæsarius was once one of your not least distinguished friends; indeed, unless my brotherly affection deceives me, he was one of your most distinguished, for he was remarkably well informed, and for gentlemanly conduct was above the average, and was celebrated for the number of his friends; among the very first of these, as he always thought and as he persuaded me, Your Excellency held the first place. These are old stories, and you will add to them of your own accord in rendering honours to his memory; for it is human nature to add something to the praises of the departed. But now (that you may not pass over this story without a tear, or that you may weep to some good and useful purpose), he lies dead, friendless, solitary, pitiable, deemed worthy of a little myrrh (if even of so much), and of the last small coverings, and it is much that he has found even thus much compassion. But his enemies, as I hear, have fallen upon his estate, and from all quarters with great violence are plundering it, or are about to do so. O cruelty! O savagery! And there is no one to hinder them; but even the kindest of his friends only calls upon the laws as his utmost favour. If I may put it concisely, I have become a mere drama, who once was wont to be happy. Do not let this seem to you to be tolerable, but help me by sympathy and by sharing my indignation, and do right by the dead Cæsarius. Yes, in the name of friendship herself; yes, by all that you hold dearest; by your hope (which may you make secure by showing yourself faithful and true to the departed), I pray you do this kindness to the living, and make them of good hope. Do you think that I am grieved about the money? It would have been a more intolerable disgrace to me if Cæsarius alone, who thought he had so many friends, turned out to have none. Such is my request, and from such a cause does it arise, for perhaps my affairs are not altogether matters of indifference to you. In what you will assist me, and by what means, and how, the matter itself will suggest and your wisdom will consider.
(A letter of recommendation for Eudoxius a Rhetorician for whom Gregory had a warm regard.)
To honour a mother is a religious duty. Now, different individuals have different mothers; but the common mother of all is our country. This mother you have honoured by the splendour of your whole life; and you will honour her again now by obtaining for me that which I entreat. And what is my request? You certainly know Eudoxius the Rhetorician, the most learned of her sons. His son, to speak concisely, another Eudoxius both in life and learning, now approaches you through me. In order then to get yourself a yet better name, be helpful to him in the matters for which he asks your assistance. For it were a shame were you, who are the universal Patron of our Country, and who have done good to so many, and I will add, who will yet continue to do so, should not honour above all him who is most excellent in learning and in his eloquence, which you ought to honour, if for no other reason, because he uses it to praise your goodness.
(About the same date. A recommendation of one Amazonius, whose learning was much respected by Gregory.)
I wish well to all my friends. And when I speak of friends, I mean honourable and good men, linked with me in virtue, if indeed I myself have any claim to it. Therefore at the present time when seeking how I might do a kindness to my excellent brother Amazonius (for I was very much pleased with the man in some intercourse which has lately taken place between us), I thought I might return him one favour for all – in your friendship and protection. For in a short time he showed proof of an extensive education, both of the kind which I used once to be very zealous for, when I was shortsighted, and of that for which I am zealous in its place since I have been able to contemplate the summit of virtue. Whether I in my turn have appeared to him to be worth anything in respect of virtue is his affair. At any rate I showed him the best things I have, namely, my friends to him as my friend. Of these I reckon you as the first and truest, and want you to show yourself so to him – as your common Country demands, and my desire and promise begs; for I promised him your patronage in return for all his kindness.
(Written soon after Gregory's resignation of the Archbishopric.)
Our retreat and leisure and quiet have about them something very agreeable to me; but the fact that they cut me off from your friendship and society is not so advantageous but rather the other way. Others enjoy your Perfection, to me it would be really a great boon if I might have just that shadow of conversation which comes in a letter. Shall I see you again? Shall I embrace again him of whom I am so proud, and shall this be granted to the remnant of my life? If so, all thanks to God: if not, the best part of my life is over. Pray remember your friend Gregory and pray for him.
(About the middle of a.d. 382 Theodosius, on the recommendation of S. Damasus, summoned a new Synod of Eastern Bishops to meet at Constantinople, to try and heal the schism which had been embittered by the election of Flavian at Antioch. As soon as Gregory heard of the convocation of this Synod he wrote to several of his influential friends at Court, to beg them to do their utmost for the promotion of peace.)
I am philosophizing at leisure. That is the injury my enemies have done me, and I should be glad if they would do more of the same sort, that I might look upon them still more as benefactors. For it often happens that those who are wronged get a benefit, while they, whom we would treat well, suffer injury. That is the state of my affairs. But if I cannot make every one believe this, I am very anxious, that at all events you, for them all, to whom I most willingly give an account of my affairs, should know, or rather I feel certain that you do know it, and can persuade those who do not. You, however, I beg to give all diligence, now at any rate, if you have not done so before, to bring together to one voice and mind the sections of the world that are so unhappily divided; and above all if you should perceive, as I have observed, that they are divided not on account of the Faith, but by petty private interests. To succeed in doing this would earn you a reward; and my retirement would have less to grieve over if I could see that I did not grasp at it to no purpose, but was like a Jonas, willingly casting myself into the sea, that the storm might cease and the sailors be saved. If, however, they are still as storm-tost as ever, I at all events have done what I could.
5. To Amphilochius the Younger
(Constantine and Constantius had granted exemption from the military tax to all clerics. This privilege was, however, abolished by Julian, and was restored by Valentinian and Valens: but the collectors of revenue often tried to levy it on them in spite of the exemption. The collector at Nazianzus tried to do this in the case of a Deacon named Euthalius, in whose behalf Gregory wrote the following letter to Amphilochius, who was at the time one of the principal magistrates of the province. The date of the letter is given as a.d. 372, the year of Gregory's Ordination to the Priesthood. For further particulars about this Amphilochius, see introd. to letters II. and III. to Cæsarius Epp. 22, 23.)
Support a wellbuilt chamber with columns of gold, as Pindar says, and make yourself from the beginning known to us on the right side in our present anxiety, that you may build yourself a notable palace, and show yourself in it with a good fame. But how will you do this? By honouring God and the things of God, than Whom there can be nothing greater in your eyes. But how, and by what act can you honour Him? By this one act, by protecting the servants of God and ministers of the altar. One of these is our fellow deacon Euthalius, on whom, I know not how, the officers of the Prefecture are trying to impose a payment of gold after his promotion to the higher rank. Pray do not allow this. Reach a hand to this deacon and to the whole clergy, and above all to me, for whom you care; for otherwise he would have to endure a grievous wrong, alone of men deprived of the kindness of the time and the privilege granted by the Emperor to the Clergy, and would even be insulted and fined, possibly on account of my weakness. It would be well for you to prevent this even if others are not well disposed.
(See the first letter to Sophronius. The nature of the trouble here alluded to is unknown. There are several letters to various persons in reference to his troubles and difficulties, many of them coming from his reluctance to undertake the duties of any public office. He died at an early age, leaving his widow, Alypiana, with a large family to bring up in very reduced circumstances. Her troubles and the education of her children were matters of much concern to Gregory, whose frequent letters on the subject will be found below.)
I approve the statement of Theognis, who, while not praising the friendship which goes no further than cups and pleasures, praises that which extends to actions in these words,
Beside a full wine cup a man has many friends: But they are fewer when grave troubles press.
We, however, have not shared winecups with each other, nor indeed have we often met (though we ought to have been very careful to do so, both for our own sake, and for the sake of the friendship which we inherited from our fathers), but we do ask for the goodwill which shows itself in acts. A struggle is at hand, and a very serious struggle. My son Nicobulus has got into unexpected troubles, from a quarter from which troubles would least be looked for. Therefore I beg you to come and help us as soon as you can, both to take part in trying the case, and to plead our cause, if you find that a wrong is being done us. But if you cannot come, at any rate do not let yourself be previously retained by the other side, or sell for a small gain the freedom which we know from everybody's testimony has always characterized you.
(Amphilochius was acquitted of the charges made against him, referred to in former letters; but the result of the accusation on his own mind was such that he resigned his office, and retired to a sort of hermitage at a place called Ozizala, not far from Nazianzus, where he devoted his hours of labour to the cultivation of vegetables. The four letters which follow are of no special importance, and are only given as specimens of the lighter style which Gregory could use with his intimate friends.)
I did not ask you for bread, just as I would not ask for water from the inhabitants of Ostracine. But if I were to ask for vegetables from a man of Ozizala it were no strange thing, nor too great a strain on friendship; for you have plenty of them, and we a great dearth. I beg you then to send me some vegetables, and plenty of them, and the best quality, or as many as you can (for even small things are great to the poor); for I am going to receive the great Basil, and you, who have had experience of him full and philosophical, would not like to know him hungry and irritated.
What a very small quantity of vegetables you have sent me! They must surely be golden vegetables! And yet your whole wealth consists of orchards and rivers and groves and gardens, and your country is productive of vegetables as other lands are of gold, and
You dwell among meadowy leafage.
But grain is for you a fabulous happiness, and your bread is the bread of angels, as the saying is, so welcome is it, and so little can you reckon upon it. Either, then, send me your vegetables less grudgingly, or – I won't threaten you with anything else, but I won't send you any grain, and will see whether there is any truth in the saying that grasshoppers live on dew!
You make a joke of it; but I know the danger of an Ozizalean starving when he has taken most pains with his husbandry. There is only this praise to be given them, that even if they die of hunger they smell sweet, and have a gorgeous funeral. How so? Because they are covered with plenty of all sorts of flowers.
In visiting the mountain cities which border on Pamphylia I fished up in the Mountains a sea Glaucus; I did not drag the fish out of the depths with a net of flax, but I snared my game with the love of a friend. And having once taught my Glaucus to travel by land, I sent him as the bearer of a letter to Your Goodness. Please receive him kindly, and honour him with the hospitality commended in the Bible, not forgetting the vegetables.
(The Armenian referred to is probably Eustathius Bishop of Sebaste, the capital of Armenia Minor. He had been a disciple of Arius, but more than once professed the Nicene Faith, changing his opinions with his company. His personal character however stood very high, and for a long time S. Basil regarded him with affectionate esteem. Indeed S. Basil's Rule for Monks is based on one drawn up by him. But after Basil's elevation to the Episcopate Eustathius began to oppose him and to calumniate him on all sides, and even entered openly into communion with the Arians. It would seem that this man tried to get Amphilochius round to his side, and through him Gregory.)
The Injunction of your inimitable Honour is not barbaric, but Greek, or rather christian; but as for the Armenian on whom you pride yourself so, he is a downright barbarian, and far from our honour.
Ep. LXIII. To Amphilochius the Elder.
(In a.d. 374 Amphilochius was made Bishop of Iconium; and his father, a man of the same name, was deeply aggrieved at being thus deprived of his son, to whom he had looked to support him in his old age, and accused Gregory of being the cause. Gregory, who had just lost his own father, writes to undeceive him, and to convince him how much he dreads the burden of the responsibilities of the episcopate for his friend as well as for himself.)
Are you grieving? I, of course, am full of joy! Are you weeping? I, as you see, am keeping festival and glorying in the present state of things! Are you grieved because your son is taken from you and promoted to honour on account of his virtue, and do you think it a terrible misfortune that he is no longer with you to tend your old age, and, as his custom is, to bestow on you all due care and service? But it is no grief to me that my father has left me for the last journey, from which he will return to me no more, and I shall never see him again! Then I for my part do not blame you, nor do I ask you for due condolence, knowing as I do that private troubles allow no leisure for those of strangers; for no man is so friendly and so philosophical as to be above his own suffering and to comfort another when needing comfort himself. But you on the contrary heap blow on blow, when you blame me, as I hear you do, and think that your son and my brother is neglected by us, or even betrayed by us, which is a still heavier charge; or that we do not recognize the loss which all his friends and relatives have suffered, and I more than all, because I had placed in him my hopes of life, and looked upon him as the only bulwark, the only good counsellor, and the only sharer of my piety. And yet, on what grounds do you form this opinion? If on the first, be assured that I came over to you on purpose, and because I was troubled by the rumour, and I was ready to share your deliberations while it was still time for consultation about the matter; and you imparted anything to me rather than this, whether because you were in the same distress, or with some other purpose, I know not what. But if the last, I was prevented from meeting you again by my grief, and the honour I owed my father, and his funeral, over which I could not give anything precedence, and that when my sorrow was fresh, and it would not only have been wrong but also quite improper to be unseasonably philosophical, and above human nature. Moreover, I thought that I was previously engaged by the circumstances, especially as his had come to such a conclusion as seemed good to Him who governs all our affairs. So much concerning this matter. Now I beg you to put aside your grief, which is most unreasonable I am sure; and if you have any further grievance, bring it forward that you may not grieve both me in part and yourself, and put yourself in a position unworthy of your nobility, blaming me instead of others, though I have done you no wrong, but, if I must say the truth, have been equally tyrannized over by our common friend, although you used to think me your only benefactor.
Ep. CLXXI. To Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium.
Scarcely yet delivered from the pains of my illness, I hasten to you, the guardian of my cure. For the tongue of a priest meditating of the Lord raises the sick. Do then the greater thing in your priestly ministration, and loose the great mass of my sins when you lay hold of the Sacrifice of Resurrection. For your affairs are a care to me waking or sleeping, and you are to me a good plectrum, and have made a well-tuned lyre to dwell within my soul, because by your numerous letters you have trained my soul to science. But, most reverend friend, cease not both to pray and to plead for me when you draw down the Word by your word, when with a bloodless cutting you sever the Body and Blood of the Lord, using your voice for the glaive.
(Bosporius, Bishop of Colonia in Cappadocia Secunda, who had apparently taken a prominent part in the election and consecration of Eulalius to the See of Nazianzus, was accused of heresy by Helladius Archbishop of Cæsarea, and a Council met at Parnassus to try him, a.d. 383. Gregory, not being able personally to attend this Synod, writes to Amphilochius, to beg him to undertake the defense of the accused. The letter is lost, but Gregory's friend carried out his mission with success, and the following letter is to thank him for his kindness.)
The Lord fulfil all your petitions (do not despise a father's prayer), for you have abundantly refreshed my age, both by having gone to Parnassus, as you were invited to do, and by having refuted the calumny against the most Reverend and God-beloved Bishop. For evil men love to set down their own faults to those who convict them. For the age of this man is stronger than all the accusations, and so is his life, and we too who have often heard from him and taught others, and those whom he has recovered from error and added to the common body of the church; but yet the present evil times called for more accurate proof on account of the slanderers and evil-disposed; and this you have supplied us with, or rather you have supplied it to those who are of fickler mind and easily led away by such men. But if you will undertake a longer journey, and will personally give testimony, and settle the matter with the other bishops, you will be doing a spiritual work worthy of your Perfection. I and those with me salute your Fraternity.
6. To Nectarius Archbishop of Constantinople
(Gregory, having failed to persuade the Council of a.d. 381 to end the schism at Antioch by recognizing Paulinus as successor to Meletius, thought it best for the sake of peace to resign the Archbishopric. The Council elected in his place Nectarius, a catechumen at the time, who was Prætor of Constantinople, and he was consecrated and enthroned June 9, 381. Gregory always maintained cordial relations with him; and the following letter was written in answer to the formal announcement of his election.)
It was needful that the Royal Image should adorn the Royal City. For this reason it wears you upon its bosom, as was fitting, with the virtues and the eloquence, and the other beauties with which the Divine Favour has conspicuously enriched you. Us it has treated with utter contempt, and has cast away like refuse and chaff or a wave of the sea. But since friends have a common interest in each other's affairs, I claim a share in your welfare, and feel myself a partaker in your glory and the rest of your prosperity. Do you also, as is fitting, partake of the anxieties and reverses of your exiles, and not only (as the tragedians say) hold and stick to happy circumstances, but also take your part with your friend in troubles; that you may be perfectly just, living justly and equally in respect of friendship and of your friends. May good fortune abide with you long, that you may do yet more good; yes, may it be with you irrevocably and eternally, after your prosperity here, unto the passage to that other world.
(A letter of no great importance, except as showing the friendly feelings which Gregory continued to maintain towards his successor.)
Affairs with us go on as usual: we are quiet without strifes and disputes, valuing as we do the reward (which has no risk attaching to it) of silence, beyond everything. And we have derived some profit from this rest, having by God's mercy fairly recovered from our illness. Do you ride on and reign, as holy David says, and may God, Who has honoured you with Priesthood, accompany you throughout, and set it for you above all slander. And that we may give each other a proof of our courage, and may not suffer any human calamity as we stand before God, I send this message to you, and do you promptly assent to it. There are many reasons which make me very anxious about our very dear Pancratius. Be good enough to receive him kindly, and to commend him to the best of your friends, that he may attain his object. His object is through some kind of military service to obtain relief from public office, though there is no single kind of life that is unexposed to the slanders of worthless men, as you very well know.
(Written about a.d. 382, commending his friend George, a deacon of Nazianzus, to the good offices of the Archbishop and the Count of the Domestics, or Master of the Imperial Household, on account of his private troubles and anxieties.)
People in general make a very good guess at your disposition – or rather, they do not conjecture, but they do not refuse to believe me when I pride myself on the fact that you deem me worthy of no small respect and honour. One of these people is my very precious son George, who having fallen into many losses, and being very much overwhelmed by his troubles, can find only one harbour of safety, namely, to be introduced to you by us, and to obtain some favour at the hands of the Most Illustrious the Count of the Domestics. Grant them this favour, either to him and his need, or else, if you prefer it, to me, to whom I know you have resolved to grant all favours; and facts also persuade me that this is true of you.
(See Introduction to Ep. CLXXXIV. above, p. 469. Bosporius was to be sent to Constantinople that his cause might there be tried in the Civil Courts. Gregory therefore writes to the Archbishop to point out what a serious infringement of the rights of the Church this would be. Probably the attitude which Nectarius took up at the suggestion of Gregory was the occasion of the Edict which Theodosius addressed in February, a.d. 384 or 5, to the Augustal Prefect, withdrawing all clerics from the jurisdiction of the civil tribunals, and placing them under the exclusive control of the episcopal courts.)
Whenever different people praise different points in you, and all are pushing forward your good fame, as in a marketplace, I contribute whatever I can, and not less than any of them, because you deign also to honour me, to cheer my old age, as a well-beloved son does that of his father. For this reason I now also venture to offer to you this appeal on behalf of the Most Reverend and God-beloved Bishop Bosporius; though ashamed on the one hand that such a man should need any letter from me, since his venerable character is assured both by his daily life and by his age; and on the other hand not less ashamed to keep silence and not to say a word for him, while I have a voice, and honour faith, and know the man most intimately. The controversy about the dioceses you will no doubt yourself resolve according to the grace of the Spirit which is in you, and to the order of the canons. But I hope Your Reverence will see that it is not to be endured that our affairs are to be posted up in the secular courts. For even if they who are judges of such courts are Christians, as by the mercy of God they are, what is there in common between the Sword and the Spirit? And even if we yield this point, how or where can it be just that a dispute concerning the faith should be interwoven with the other questions? Is our God-beloved Bishop Bosporius today a heretic? Is it today that his hoar hair is set in the balance, who has brought back so many from their error, and has given so great proof of his orthodoxy, and is a teacher of us all? No, I entreat you, do not give place to such slanders; but if possible reconcile the opposing parties and add this to your praises; but if this may not be, at all events do not allow us all, (with whom he has lived, and with whom he has grown old,) to be outraged by such insolence – us whom you know to be accurate preachers of the Gospel, both when to be so was dangerous, and when it is free from risk; and to be unable to endure any detraction from the One Unapproachable Godhead. And I beg you to pray for me who am suffering from serious illness. I and all who are with me salute the brethren who surround you. May you, strong and of good courage and of good fame in the Lord, grant to us and the Churches the support which all in common demand.
(A letter of introduction for a relative.)
What would you have done if I had come in person and taken up your time? I am quite certain you would have undertaken with all zeal to deliver me from the slander, if I may take as a token what has happened before. Do me this favour, then, through my most discreet kinswoman who approaches you through me, reverencing first the age of your petitioner, and next her disposition and piety, which is more than is ordinarily found in a woman; and besides this, her ignorance in business-matters, and the troubles now brought upon her by her own relations; and above all, my entreaty. The greatest favour you can do me is speed in the benefit for which I am asking. For even the unjust judge in the Gospel showed kindness to the widow, though only after long beseeching and importunity. But from you I ask for speed, that she may not be overwhelmed by being long burdened with anxieties and miseries in a foreign land; though I know quite well that Your Piety will make that alien land to be a fatherland to her.
(An important letter on the Apollinarian controversy has already been given above.)
7. To Theodore, Bishop of Tyana
(Theodore, a native of Arianzus, and an intimate friend of Gregory, accompanied him to Constantinople a.d. 379, and shared his persecution by the Arians, who broke into their church during the celebration of the divine liturgy, and pelted the clergy with stones. Theodore could not bring himself to put up with this, and declared his intention of prosecuting the aggressors. Gregory wrote the following letter to dissuade him from this course, by showing him how much more noble it is to forgive than to revenge.)
I hear that you are indignant at the outrages which have been committed on us by the Monks and the Mendicants. And it is no wonder, seeing that you never yet had felt a blow, and were without experience of the evils we have to endure, that you did feel angry at such a thing. But we as experienced in many sorts of evil, and as having had our share of insult, may be considered worthy of belief when we exhort Your Reverence, as old age teaches and as reason suggests. Certainly what has happened was dreadful, and more than dreadful – no one will deny it: that our altars were insulted, our mysteries disturbed, and that we ourselves had to stand between the communicants and those who would stone them, and to make our intercessions a cure for stonings; that the reverence due to virgins was forgotten, and the good order of monks, and the calamity of the poor, who lost even their pity through ferocity. But perhaps it would be better to be patient, and to give an example of patience to many by our sufferings. For argument is not so persuasive of the world in general as is practice, that silent exhortation.
We think it an important matter to obtain penalties from those who have wronged us: an important matter, I say, (for even this is sometimes useful for the correction of others)– but it is far greater and more Godlike, to bear with injuries. For the former course curbs wickedness, but the latter makes men good, which is much better and more perfect than merely being not wicked. Let us consider that the great pursuit of mercifulness is set before us, and let us forgive the wrongs done to us that we also may obtain forgiveness, and let us by kindness lay up a store of kindness.
Phineas was called Zelotes because he ran through the Midianitish woman with the man who was committing fornication with her, Numbers 24:7 and because he took away the reproach from the children of Israel: but he was more praised because he prayed for the people when they had transgressed. Let us then also stand and make propitiation, and let the plague be stayed, and let this be counted unto us for righteousness. Moses also was praised because he slew the Egyptian that oppressed the Israelite; Exodus 2:12 but he was more admirable because he healed by his prayer his sister Miriam when she was made leprous for her murmuring. Numbers 12:40 Look also at what follows. The people of Nineve are threatened with an overthrow, but by their tears they redeem their sin. Jonah 3:10 Manasses was the most lawless of Kings, 2Chronicles 33:12–13 but is the most conspicuous among those who have attained salvation through mourning.
O Ephraim what shall I do unto you, Hosea 6:4 says God. What anger is here expressed – and yet protection is added. What is swifter than Mercy? The Disciples ask for flames of Sodom upon those who drive Jesus away, but He deprecates revenge. Luke 9:54 Peter cuts off the ear of Malchus, one of those who outraged Him, but Jesus restores it. And what of him who asks whether he must seven times forgive a brother if he has trespassed, is he not condemned for his niggardliness, for to the seven is added seventy times seven? Matthew 18:21 What of the debtor in the Gospel who will not forgive as he has been forgiven? Is it not more bitterly exacted of him for this? And what says the pattern of prayer? Does it not desire that forgiveness may be earned by forgiveness?
Having so many examples let us imitate the mercy of God, and not desire to learn from ourselves how great an evil is requital of sin. You see the sequence of goodness. First it makes laws, then it commands, threatens, reproaches, holds out warnings, restrains, threatens again, and only when forced to do so strikes the blow, but this little by little, opening the way to amendment. Let us then not strike suddenly (for it is not safe to do so), but being self-restrained in our fear let us conquer by mercy, and make them our debtors by our kindness, tormenting them by their conscience rather than by anger. Let us not dry up a fig tree which may yet bear fruit, Luke 13:7 nor condemn it as useless and cumbering the ground, when possibly the care and diligence of a skilful gardener may yet heal it. And do not let us so quickly destroy so great and glorious a work through what is perhaps the spite and malice of the devil; but let us choose to show ourselves merciful rather than severe, and lovers of the poor rather than of abstract justice; and let us not make more account of those who would enkindle us to this than of those who would restrain us, considering, if nothing else, the disgrace of appearing to contend against mendicants who have this great advantage that even if they are in the wrong they are pitied for their misfortune. But as things are, consider that all the poor and those who support them, and all the Monks and Virgins are falling at your feet and praying you on their behalf. Grant to all these for them this favour (since they have suffered enough as is clear by what they have asked of us) and above all to me who am their representative. And if it appear to you monstrous that we should have been dishonoured by them, remember that it is far worse that we should not be listened to by you when we make this request of you. May God forgive the noble Paulus his outrages upon us.
(Sent about Easter a.d. 382 with a copy of the Philocalia, or Chrestomathy of Origen's works edited by himself and S. Basil.)
You anticipate the Festival, and the letters, and, which is better still, the time by your eagerness, and you bestow on us a preliminary festival. Such is what Your Reverence gives us. And we in return give you the greatest thing we have, our prayers. But that you may have some small thing to remember us by, we send you the volume of the Philocalia of Origen, containing a selection of passages useful to students of literature. Deign to accept this, and give us a proof of its usefulness, being aided by diligence and the Spirit.
(Written a little later, as a letter of thanks for an Easter gift. Theodore had quite recently been made Archbishop of Tyana.)
We rejoice in the tokens of love, and especially at such a season, and from one at once so young a man, and so perfect; and, to greet you with the words of Scripture, established in your youth, for so it calls him who is more advanced in wisdom than his years lead us to expect. The old Fathers prayed for the dew of heaven and fatness of the earth Genesis 27:28 and other such things for their children, though perhaps some may understand these things in a higher sense; but we will give you back all in a spiritual sense. The Lord fulfil all your requests, and may thou be the father of such children (if I may pray for you concisely and intimately) as you yourself have shown yourself to your own parents, so that we, as well as every one else, may be glorified concerning you.
You owe me, even as a sick man, tending, for one of the commandments is the visitation of the sick. And you also owe to the Holy Martyrs their annual honour, which we celebrate in your own Arianzus on the 23rd of the month which we call Dathusa. And at the same time there are ecclesiastical affairs not a few which need our common examination. For all these reasons then, I beg you to come at once: for though the labour is great, the reward is equivalent.
(To excuse himself for postponing his acceptance of an invitation.)
I reverence your presence, and I delight in your company; although otherwise I counselled myself to remain at home and philosophize in quiet, for I found this of all courses the most profitable for myself. And since the winds are still somewhat rough, and my infirmity has not yet left me, I beg you to bear with me patiently for a little while, and to join me in my prayers for health; and as soon as the fit season comes I will attend upon your requests.
(A little later on, when the weather was more settled, Gregory accepts the invitation and proposes to come at once, but declines to attend the Provincial Synod.)
You call me? And I hasten, and that for a private visit. Synods and Conventions I salute from afar, since I have experienced that most of them (to speak moderately) are but sorry affairs. What then remains? Help with your prayers my just desires that I may obtain that for which I am anxious.
(On his retirement from Constantinople Gregory had at the request of the Bishops of the Province, and especially of Theodore of Tyana the Metropolitan, and Bosporius Bishop of Colonia (see letters above) and at the earnest solicitation of the people, undertaken the charge of the Diocese of Nazianzus; but he very soon found that his health was not equal to so great a task, and that he could not fulfil its calls upon him. He struggled on for some time, but at length, finding himself quite unequal to it, he wrote as follows to the Metropolitan:)
It is time for me to use these words of Scripture, To whom shall I cry when I am wronged? Habakkuk 2:1 Who will stretch out a hand to me when I am oppressed? To whom shall the burden of this Church pass, in its present evil and paralysed condition? I protest before God and the Elect Angels that the Flock of God is being unrighteously dealt with in being left without a Shepherd or a Bishop, through my being laid on the shelf. For I am a prisoner to my ill health and have been very quickly removed thereby from the Church, and made quite useless to everybody, every day breathing my last, and getting more and more crushed by my duties. If the Province had any other head, it would have been my duty to cry out and protest to it continually. But since Your Reverence is the Superior, it is to you I must look. For, to leave out everything else, you shall learn from my fellow priests, Eulalius the Chorepiscopus and Celeusius, whom I have specially sent to Your Reverence, what these robbers who have now got the upper hand, are both doing and threatening. To repress them is not in the power of my weakness, but belongs to your skill and strength; since to you, with His other gifts God has given that of strength also for the protection of His Church. If in saying and writing this I cannot get a hearing, I shall take the only course remaining to me, that of publicly proclaiming and making known that this Church needs a Bishop, in order that it may not be injured by my feeble health. What is to follow is matter for your consideration.
Ep. CLIII. To Bosporius, Bishop of Colonia.
(S. Gregory had to carry out his threat. He resigned the care of Nazianzus, and nothing would induce him to withdraw his resignation. Bosporius wrote him an urgent letter with this object, but he replied as follows:)
Twice I have been tripped up by you, and have been deceived (you know what I mean), and, if it was justly, may the Lord smell from you an odour of sweet savour; Genesis 8:21 if unjustly, may the Lord pardon it. For so it is reasonable for me to speak of you, seeing we are commanded to be patient when injuries are inflicted on us. But as you are master of your own opinions, so am I of mine. That troublesome Gregory will no longer be troublesome to you. I will withdraw myself to God, Who alone is pure and guileless. I will retire into myself. This I have determined; for to stumble twice on the same stone is attributed by the proverb to fools alone.
Ep. CLVII. To Theodore, Archbishop of Tyana.
(S. Gregory succeeded at the end of a.d. 382 in convincing the Metropolitan and his Comprovincials of his sincerity in desiring to retire; and so they began to cast about for a Successor. Gregory desired that his cousin the Chorepiscopus Eulalius should be nominated, but the Bishops felt some jealousy at what they took to be an attempt on his part to dictate to them, and refused to allow him to take any part in the election, on the ground that he either never had been, or at any rate had ceased to be one of the Bishops of the Province. He protested, but finding that he could not convince them he withdrew his claim to a vote and wrote to Theodore, as follows:–)
Our spiritual affairs have reached their limit: I will not trouble you any further. Join together: take your precautions: take counsel against us: let our enemies have the victory: let the canons be accurately observed, beginning with us, the most ignorant of men. There is no ill-will in accuracy; only do not let the rights of friendship be impeded. The children of my very honoured son Nicobulus have come to the city to learn shorthand. Be kind enough to look upon them with a fatherly and kindly eye (for the canons do not forbid this), but especially take care that they live near the Church. For I desire that they should be moulded in character to virtue by continual association with Your Perfectness.
(George a layman of Paspasus, was sent by Theodore of Tyana to Saint Gregory that the latter might convince him of his error and sin in repudiating an oath which he had taken, on the ground that it was taken in writing and not viva voce. Gregory seems to have brought him to a better mind, and sent him back to the Metropolitan with the following letter, requesting that due penance be imposed upon him, and have its length regulated by his contrition. This letter was read to the Second Council of Constantinople in 553, by Euphrantes, a successor of Theodore in the See of Tyana, and was accepted by the Fathers, wherefore it is regarded as having almost the force of a Canon of the Church Universal.)
God grant you to the Churches, both for our glory, and for the benefit of many, being as you are so circumspect and cautious in spiritual matters as to make us also more cautious who are considered to have some advantage over you in years. Since, however, you have wished to take us as partners in your spiritual inquiry (I mean about the oath which George of Paspasus appears to have sworn), we will declare to Your Reverence what presents itself to our mind. Very many people, as it seems to me, delude themselves by considering oaths which are taken with the sanction of spoken imprecations to be real oaths, but those which are written and not verbally uttered, to be mere matter of form, and no oaths at all. For how can we suppose that while a written schedule of debts is more binding than a verbal acknowledgment, yet a written oath is something other than an oath? Or to speak concisely, we hold an oath to be the assurance given to one who asked for and obtained it. Nor is it sufficient to say that he suffered violence (for the violence was the Law by which he bound himself), nor that afterwards he won the cause in the Law Court – for the very fact that he went to law was a breach of his oath. I have persuaded our brother George of this, not to pretend excuses for his sin, and not to seek out arguments to defend his transgression, but to recognize the writing as an oath, and to bewail his sin before God and Your Reverence, even though he formerly deceived himself and took a different view of it. This is what we have personally argued with him; and it is evident that if you will discourse with him more carefully, you will deepen his contrition, since you are a great healer of souls, and having treated him according to the Canon for as long a time as shall seem right, you will afterwards be able to confer indulgence upon him in the matter of time. And the measure of the time must be the measure of his compunction.
(Helladius, Archbishop of Cæsarea, contested the validity of the election of Eulalius to the Bishopric of Nazianzus, and accused Bosporius of heresy. S. Gregory here throws the whole weight of his authority into the other scale. It is however manifest from the very terms of the letter that the person addressed is not Theodore of Tyana. It was conjectured by Clémencet that perhaps he was Theodore of Mopsuestia.)
Envy, which no one easily escapes, has got some foothold among us. See, even we Cappadocians are in a state of faction, so to speak – a calamity never heard of before, and not to be believed– so that no flesh may glory 1Corinthians 1:29 in the sight of God, but that we may be careful, since we are all human, not to condemn each other rashly. For myself, there is some gain even from the misfortune (if I may speak somewhat paradoxically), and I really gather a rose out of thorns, as the proverb has it. Hitherto I have never met Your Reverence face to face, nor conversed with you by letter, but have only been illuminated by your reputation; but now I am of necessity compelled to approach you by letter, and I am very grateful to him who has procured me this privilege. I omit to write to the other Bishops about whom you wrote to me, as the opportunity has not yet arisen. Moreover my weak health makes me less active in this matter; but what I write to you I write to them also through you. My Lord the God-beloved Bishop Helladius must cease to waste his labour on our concerns. For it is not through spiritual earnestness, but through party zeal, that he is seeking this; and not for the sake of accurate compliance with the canons, but for the satisfaction of anger, as is evident by the time he has chosen, and because many have moved with him unreasonably, for I must say this, and not trouble myself about it. If I were physically in a condition to govern the Church of Nazianzus, to which I was originally appointed, and not to Sasima as some would falsely persuade you, I should not have been so cowardly or so ignorant of the Divine Constitutions as either to despise that Church, or to seek for an easy life in preference to the prizes which are in store for those who labour according to God's will, and work with the talent committed to their care. For what profit should I have from my many labours and my great hopes, if I were ill advised in the most important matters? But since my bodily health is bad, as everyone can plainly see, and I have not any responsibility to fear on account of this withdrawal, for the reason I have mentioned, and I saw that the Church through cleaving to me was suffering in its best interests and almost being destroyed through my illness, I prayed both before and now again my Lords the God-beloved Bishops (I mean those of our own Province) to give the Church a head, which they have done by God's Grace, worthy both of my desire and of your prayers. This I would have you both know yourself, most honourable Lord, and also inform the rest of the Bishops, that they may receive him and support him by their votes, and not bear heavily on my old age by believing the slander. Let me add this to any letter. If your examination finds my Lord the God-beloved Priest Bosporius guilty concerning the faith– a thing which it is not lawful even to suggest – (I pass over his age and my personal testimony) judge him so yourselves. But if the discussion about the dioceses is the cause of this evil report and this novel accusation, do not be led away by the slander, and do not give to falsehoods a greater strength than to the truth, I beg you, lest you should cast into despair those who desire to do what is right. May you be granted good health and spirits and courage and continual progress in the things of God to us and to the Church, whose common boast you are.
(This letter is written at a somewhat earlier date in reference to the consent he had been induced to give to remaining for some time longer as administrator of the See of Nazianzus. It is certainly not addressed to Theodore of Tyana, and it is not known who this Theodore is.)
He Who raised David His servant from the Shepherd's work to the Throne, and Your Reverence from the flock to the Work of the Shepherd: He that orders our affairs and those of all who hope in Him according to His own Will: may He now put it into the mind of Your Reverence to know the dishonour which I have suffered at the hands of my Lords the Bishops in the matter of their votes, in that they have agreed to the Election, but have excluded us. I will not lay the blame on Your Reverence, because you have but recently come to preside over our affairs, and are, as is to be expected, for the most part unacquainted with our history. This is quite enough: for I have no mind to trouble you further, that I may not seem burdensome at the very beginning of our friendship. But I will tell you what suggests itself to me in taking counsel with God. I retired from the Church at Nazianzus, not as either despising God, or looking down on the littleness of the flock (God forbid that a philosophic soul should be so disposed); but first because I am not bound by any such appointment: and secondly because I am broken down by my ill health, and do not think myself equal to such anxieties. And since you too have been heavy on me, in reproaching me with my resignation, and I myself could not endure the clamours against me, and since the times are hard, threatening us with an inroad of enemies to the injury of the commonwealth of the whole Church, I finally made up my mind to suffer a defeat which is painful to my body, but perhaps not bad for my soul. I make over this miserable body to the Church for as long as it may be possible, thinking it better to suffer any distress to the flesh rather than to incur a spiritual injury myself or to inflict it upon others, who have thought the worst of us, judging from their own experience. Knowing this, do pray for me, and approve my resolution: and perhaps it is not out of place to say, mould yourself to piety.
8. To Nicobulus
(See the introduction to the first letter to Sophronius above.)
Ep. XII. (About A.D. 365).
You joke me about Alypiana as being little and unworthy of your size, you tall and immense and monstrous fellow both in form and strength. For now I understand that soul is a matter of measure, and virtue of weight, and that rocks are more valuable than pearls, and crows more respectable than nightingales. Well, well! rejoice in your bigness and your cubits, and be in no respect inferior to the famed sons of Aloeus. You ride a horse, and shake a spear, and concern yourself with wild beasts. But she has no such work; and no great strength is needed to carry a comb, or to handle a distaff, or to sit by a loom, For such is the glory of woman. And if you add this, that she has become fixed to the ground on account of prayer, and by the great movement of her mind has constant communion with God, what is there here to boast of in your bigness or the stature of your body? Take heed to seasonable silence: listen to her voice: mark her unadornment, her womanly virility, her usefulness at home, her love of her husband. Then you will say with the Laconian, that verily soul is not a subject for measure, and the outer must look to the inner man. If you look at the things in this way you will leave off joking and deriding her as little, and you will congratulate yourself on your marriage.
(An answer to a request made by Nicobulus for a treatise on the art of writing letters. Benoît thinks this and the following ones were written to the Younger Nicobulus.)
Of those who write letters, since this is what you ask, some write at too great a length, and others err on the side of deficiency; and both miss the mean, like archers shooting at a mark and sending some shafts short of it and others beyond it; for the missing is the same though on opposite sides. Now the measure of letters is their usefulness: and we must neither write at very great length when there is little to say, nor very briefly when there is a great deal. What? Are we to measure our wisdom by the Persian Schœne, or by the cubits of a child, and to write so imperfectly as not to write at all but to copy the midday shadows, or lines which meet right in front of you, whose lengths are foreshortened and which show themselves in glimpses rather than plainly, being recognized only by certain of their extremities? We must in both respects avoid the want of moderation and hit off the moderate. This is my opinion as to brevity; as to perspicuity it is clear that one should avoid the oratorical form as much as possible and lean rather to the chatty: and, to speak concisely, that is the best and most beautiful letter which can convince either an unlearned or an educated reader; the one, as being within the reach of the many; the other, as above the many; and it should be intelligible in itself. It is equally disagreeable to think out a riddle and to have to interpret a letter. The third point about a letter is grace: and this we shall safeguard if we do not write in any way that is dry and unpleasing or unadorned and badly arranged and untrimmed, as they call it; as for instance a style destitute of maxims and proverbs and pithy sayings, or even jokes and enigmas, by which language is sweetened. Yet we must not seem to abuse these things by an excessive employment of them. Their entire omission shows rusticity, but the abuse of them shows insatiability. We may use them about as much as purple is used in woven stuffs. Figures of speech we shall admit, but few and modest. Antitheses and balanced clauses and nicely divided sentences, we shall leave to the sophists, or if we do sometimes admit them, we shall do so rather in play than in earnest. My final remark shall be one which I heard a clever man make about the eagle, that when the birds were electing a king, and came with various adornment, the most beautiful point about him was that he did not think himself beautiful. This point is to be especially attended to in letter-writing, to be without adventitious ornament and as natural as possible. So much about letters I send you by a letter; but perhaps you had better not apply it to myself, who am busied about more important matters. The rest you will work out for yourself, as you are quick at learning, and those who are clever in these matters will teach you.
(Nicobulus asked Gregory to publish a collection of his letters. Gregory forwards a copy.)
You are asking flowers from an autumn meadow, and arming Nestor in his old age, in demanding from me now something clever in the way of language, after I have long neglected all that is enjoyable in language and in life. But yet (since it is not an Eurysthean or Herculean labour that you are imposing on me, but rather one which is very agreeable and quiet, to collect for you as many of my own letters as I can), do you place this volume among your books – a work not amatory but oratorical, and not for display so much as for use, and that for our own home. For different authors have different characteristics, greater or smaller. Mine is a tendency to instruct by maxims and positive statements wherever opportunity occurs. And as in a legitimate child, so also in language, the father is always visible, not less than parents are shown by bodily characteristics. Mine are such as I have mentioned. You may repay me both by writing and by deriving profit from what I have written. I cannot ask for or request any better reward than this, either more profitable to the asker, or more becoming him who gives it.
(Gregory put a collection of Basil's letters with his own, and gave them the first place. Nicobulus seems to have been surprised at this, and asked the reason. Gregory explains as follows.)
I have always preferred the Great Basil to myself, though he was of the contrary opinion; and so I do now, not less for truth's sake than for friendship's. This is the reason why I have given his letters the first place and my own the second. For I hope we two will always be coupled together; and also I would supply others with an example of modesty and submission.
On Laconicism. To be laconic is not merely, as you suppose, to write few words, but to say a great deal in few words. Thus I call Homer very brief and Antimachus lengthy. Why? Because I measure the length by the matter and not by the letters.
An Invitation. You flee when I pursue you: perhaps in accordance with the laws of love, to make yourself more valuable. Come then, and fill up at last the loss I have suffered by your long delay. And if any home affairs detain you, you shall leave us again, and so make yourself more precious as an object of desire.
9. To Olympius
(Olympius was Prefect of Cappadocia Secunda in 382. One letter to him against the Apollinarians, has already been given; the rest, which are to follow are mainly recommendations of various persons to his patronage.)
All The Other favours which I have received I know to be due to your kindness; and may God reward you for them with His own mercies; and may one of these be, that you may discharge your office of prefect with good fame and splendour from beginning to end. In what I now ask I come rather to give than to receive, if it is not arrogant to say so. I personally introduce poor Philumena to you, to entreat your justice, and to move you to the tears with which she afflicts my soul. She herself will explain to you in what and by whom she has been wronged, for it would not be right for me to bring accusations against any one. But this much it is necessary for me to say, that widowhood and orphanhood have a right to the assistance of all right-minded men, and especially of those who have wife and children, those great pledges of pity, since we – ourselves only men – are set to judge men. Pardon me that I plead with you for these by letter, since it is by ill health that I am deprived of seeing a ruler so kind and so conspicuous for virtue that even the prelude of your administration is more precious than the good fame of others even at the end of their term.
The time is swift, the struggle great, and my sickness severer, reducing me almost to immovability. What is left but to pray to God, and to supplicate your kindness, the one, that He will incline your mind to gentler counsels, the other that you will not roughly dismiss our intercession, but will receive kindly the wretched Paulus, whom justice has brought under your hands, perhaps in order that it may make you more illustrious by the greatness of your kindness, and may commend our prayers (such as they are) to your mercy.
Here is another laying before you a letter, of which, if the truth may be said, you are the cause yourself, for you provoke them by the honour you do them. Here too is another petitioner for you, a prisoner of fear, our kinsman Eustratius, who with us and by us entreats your goodness, inasmuch as he cannot endure to be in perpetual rebellion against your government, even though a just terror has frightened him, nor does he choose to entreat you by anyone else than me, that he may make your mercy to him more conspicuous through his use of such intercessors, whom at all events you yourself make great by thus accepting their appeal. I will say one thing, and that briefly. All the other favours you conferred upon me; but this you will confer upon your own judgment, since once you purposed to comfort our age and infirmity with such honours. And I will add that you are continually rendering God more propitious to you.
(Given above, § 1.)
(While Gregory was at Xantharis an opportunity presented itself for seeing Olympius, but a return of illness prevented him from taking advantage of it. He writes to express his regret, and takes the opportunity also to request that Nicobulus may be exempted from the charge of the Imperial Posts.)
I was happy in a dream. For having been brought as far as the Monastery to obtain some comfort from the bath, and then hoping to meet you, and having this good fortune almost in my hands, and having delayed a few days, I was suddenly carried away by my illness, which was already painful in some respects and threatening in others. And, if one must find some conjecture to account for the misfortune, I suffered in the same way as the polypods do, which if torn by force from the rocks risk the loss of the suckers by which they attach themselves to the rocks, or carry off some portion of the latter. Something of this kind is my case. And what I should have asked Your Excellency for had I seen you, I now venture to ask for though I am absent. I found my son Nicobulus much worried by the care of the Post, and by close attention to the Monastery. He is not a strong man, and has great distaste for solitude. Make use of him for anything else you please, for he is eager to serve your authority in all things; but if it be possible set him free from this charge, if for no other reason, at any rate to do him honour as my Hospitaller. Since I have asked many favours from you for many people, and have obtained them, I need also your kindness for myself.
(In 382 Gregory was summoned to a Synod at Constantinople; he wrote to Procopius, the Prefectus Urbi, and declined to go, on the ground of his great dislike to Episcopal Synods, from which, he said, he had never known any good to result. However he seems to have received a more urgent summons through Icarius and Olympius. His reply to Icarius has been lost; that to Olympius is as follows.)
It is more serious to me than my illness, that no one will believe that I am ill, but that so long a journey is enjoined upon me, and I am pushed into the midst of troubles from which I rejoiced to have withdrawn, and almost thought that I ought to be grateful for this to my bodily affliction. For quiet and freedom from affairs is more precious than the splendour of a busy life. I wrote this yesterday to the Most Illustrious Icarius, from whom I received the same summons: and I now beg your Magnanimity also to write this for me, for you are a very trustworthy witness of my ill health. Another proof of my inability is the loss which I have now suffered in having been unable even to come and enjoy your society, who are so kind a Governor, and so admirable for virtue that even the preludes of your term of office are more honourable than the good fame which others can earn by the end of theirs.
Again I write when I ought to come: but I gain confidence to do so from yourself, O Umpire of spiritual matters (to put the first thing first), and Corrector of the Commonweal – and both by Divine Providence: who have also received as the reward of your piety that your affairs would prosper to your mind, and that you alone should find attainable what to every one else is out of reach. For wisdom and courage conduct your government, the one discovering what is to be done, and the other easily carrying out what has been discovered. And the greatest of all is the purity of your hands with which all is directed. Where is your ill-gotten gold? There never was any; it was the first thing you condemned to exile as an invisible tyrant. Where is illwill? It is condemned. Where is favour? Here you do bend somewhat (for I will accuse you a little), but it is in imitating the Divine Mercy, which at the present time your soldier Aurelius entreats of you by me. I call him a foolish fugitive, because he has placed himself in our hands, and through ours in yours, sheltering himself under our gray hair and our Priesthood (for which you have often professed your veneration) as if it were under some Imperial Image. See, this sacrificing and unbloodstained hand leads this man to you; a hand which has written often in your praise, and will I am sure write yet more, if God continue your term of government – yours, I mean, and that of your colleague Themis.
(The people of Nazianzus had in some way incurred the loss of civic rights; and the Order for the forfeiture of the title of City had been signed by Olympius. This led to something like a revolt on the part of a certain number of the younger citizens: and this Olympius determined to punish by the total destruction of the place. S. Gregory was again prevented by sickness from appearing in person before the Governor: but he pleaded the cause of his native city (using its official Latin name of Diocæsarea) in the following letters so successfully as to induce Olympius to pardon the outbreak.)
Again an opportunity for kindness: and again I am bold enough to commit to a letter my entreaty about so important a matter. My illness makes me thus bold, for it does not even allow me to go out, and it does not permit me to make a fitting entrance to you. What then is my Embassy? Pray receive it from me gently and kindly. The death of a single man, who today is and tomorrow will not be and will not return to us is of course a dreadful thing. But it is much more dreadful for a City to die, which Kings founded, and time compacted, and a long series of years has preserved. I speak of Diocæsarea, once a City, a City no longer, unless you grant it mercy. Think that this place now falls at your feet by me: let it have a voice, and be clothed in mourning and cut off its hair as in a tragedy, and let it speak to you in such words as these:
Give a hand to me that lie in the dust: help the strengthless: do not add the weight of your hand to time, nor destroy what the Persians have left me. It is more honourable to you to raise up cities than to destroy those that are distressed. Be my founder, either by adding to what I possess, or by preserving me as I am. Do not suffer that up to the time of your administration I should be a City, and after you should be so no longer: do not give occasion to after times to speak evil of you, that you received me numbered among cities, and left me an uninhabited spot, which was once a city, only recognizable by mountains and precipices and woods.
This let the City of my imagination do and say to your mercy. But deign to receive an exhortation from me as your friend: certainly chastise those who have rebelled against the Edict of your authority. On this behalf I am not bold to say anything, although this piece of audacity was not, they say, of universal design, but was only the unreasoning anger of a few young men. But dismiss the greater part of your anger, and use a larger reasoning. They were grieved for their Mother's being put to death; they could not endure to be called citizens, and yet to be without political rights: they were mad: they committed an offense against the law: they threw away their own safety: the unexpectedness of the calamity deprived them of reason. Is it really necessary that for this the city should cease to be a city? Surely not. Most excellent, do not write the order for this to be done. Rather respect the supplication of all citizens and statesmen and men of rank – for remember the calamity will touch all alike – even if the greatness of your authority keeps them silent, sighing as it were in secret. Respect also my gray hair: for it would be dreadful to me, after having had a great city, now to have none at all, and that after your government the Temple which we have raised to God, and our love for its adornment, is to become a dwelling for beasts. It is not a terrible thing if some statues were thrown down – though in itself it would be so – but I would not have you think that I am speaking of this, when all my care is for more important things: but it is dreadful if an ancient city is to be destroyed with them – one which has splendidly endured, as I, who am honoured by you, and am supposed to have some influence, have lived to see. But this is enough upon such a subject, for I shall not, if I speak at greater length, find anything stronger than your own reasons, by which this nation is governed – and may more and greater ones be governed by them too, and that in greater commands. This however it was needful that Your Magnanimity should know about those who have fallen before your feet, that they are altogether wretched and despairing, and have not shared in any disorder with those who have broken the law, as I am certified by many who were then present. Therefore deliberate what you may think expedient, both for your own reputation in this world, and your hopes in the next. We will bear what you determine – not indeed without grief – but we will bear it: for what else can we do? If the worse determination prevail, we shall be indignant, and shall shed a tear over our City that has ceased to be.
Though my desire to meet you is warm, and the need of your petitioners is great, yet my illness is invincible. Therefore I am bold to commit my intercession to writing. Have respect to our gray hair, which you have already often reverenced by good actions. Have respect also to my infirmity, to which my labours for God have in part contributed, if I may swagger a little. For this cause spare the citizens who look to me because I use some freedom of speech with you. And spare also the others who are under my care. For public affairs will suffer no damage through mercy, since you can do more by fear than others by punishment. May you, as your reward for this, obtain such a Judge as you show yourself to your petitioners and to me their intercessor.
What does much experience, and experience of good do for men? It teaches kindness, and inclines them to those who entreat them. There is no such education in pity as the previous reception of goodness. This has happened to myself among others. I have learned compassion by the things which I have suffered. And do you see my greatness of soul when I myself need your gentleness in my own affairs? I intercede for others, and do not fear lest I should exhaust all your kindness on other men's concerns. I am writing thus on behalf of the Presbyter Leontius – or, if I may so describe him, the ex-Presbyter. If he has suffered sufficiently for what he has done, let us stop there, lest excess become injustice. And if there is still any balance of punishment due, and the consequences of his crime have not yet equalled his offense, yet remit it for our sake and God's, and that of the sanctuary, and the general assembly of the priests, among whom he was once numbered, even though he has now shown himself unworthy of them, both by what he has done and by what he has suffered. If I can prevail with you it will be best; but if not, I will bring to you a more powerful intercessor, her who is the partner both of your rule and of your good fame.
(Verianus, a citizen of Nazianzus, had been offended by his son-in-law, and on this account wished his daughter to sue for a divorce. Olympius referred the matter to the Episcopal arbitration of S. Gregory, who refused to countenance the proceeding, and writes the two following letters, the first to the Prefect, the second to Verianus himself.)
Haste is not always praiseworthy. For this reason I have deferred my answer until now about the daughter of the most honorable Verianus, both to allow for time setting matters right, and also because I conjecture that Your Goodness does not approve of the divorce, inasmuch as you entrusted the enquiry to me, whom you knew to be neither hasty nor uncircumspect in such matters. Therefore I have refrained myself till now, and, I venture to think, not without reason. But since we have come nearly to the end of the allotted time, and it is necessary that you should be informed of the result of the examination I will inform you. The young lady seems to me to be of two minds, divided between reverence for her parents and affection for her husband. Her words are on their side, but her mind, I rather think, is with her husband, as is shown by her tears. You will do what commends itself to your justice, and to God who directs you in all things. I should most willingly have given my opinion to my son Verianus that he should pass over much of what is in question, with a view not to confirm the divorce, which is entirely contrary to our law, though the Roman law may determine otherwise. For it is necessary that justice be observed – which I pray you may ever both say and do.
Ep. CXLV. To Verianus.
Public executioners commit no crime, for they are the servants of the laws: nor is the sword unlawful with which we punish criminals. But nevertheless, the public executioner is not a laudable character, nor is the death-bearing sword received joyfully. Just so neither can I endure to become hated by confirming the divorce by my hand and tongue. It is far better to be the means of union and of friendship than of division and parting of life. I suppose it was with this in his mind that our admirable Governor entrusted me with the enquiry about your daughter, as one who could not proceed to divorce abruptly or unfeelingly. For he proposed me not as Judge, but as Bishop, and placed me as a mediator in your unhappy circumstances. I beg you therefore, to make some allowance for my timidity, and if the better prevail, to use me as a servant of your desire: I rejoice in receiving such commands. But if the worse and more cruel course is to be taken, seek for some one more suitable to your purpose. I have not time, for the sake of favouring your friendship (though in all respects I have the highest regard for you), to offend against God, to Whom I have to give account of every action and thought. I will believe your daughter (for the truth shall be told) when she can lay aside her awe of you, and boldly declare the truth. At present her condition is pitiable – for she assigns her words to you, and her tears to her husband.
To Olympius. Ep. CXLVI.
This is what I said as if by a sort of prophecy, when I found you favourable to every request, and was making insatiable use of your gentleness, that I fear I shall exhaust your kindness upon the affairs of others. For see, a contest of my own has come (if that is mine which concerns my own relations), and I cannot speak with the same freedom. First, because it is my own. For to entreat for myself, though it may be more useful, is more humiliating. And next, I am afraid of excess as destroying pleasure, and opposing all that is good. So matters stand, and I conjecture only too rightly. Nevertheless with confidence in God before Whom I stand, and in your magnanimity in doing good, I am bold to present this petition.
Suppose Nicobulus to be the worst of men: – though his only crime is that through me he is an object of envy, and more free than he ought to be. And suppose that my present opponent is the most just of men. For I am ashamed to accuse before Your Uprightness one whom yesterday I was supporting: but I do not know if it will seem to you just that punishment should be demanded for one man's crimes from another, though these were quite strange to him, and had not even his consent; from the man who has so stirred his household and been so upset as to have surrendered to his accuser more readily than the latter wished. Must Nicobulus or his children be reduced to slavery as his persecutors desire? I am ashamed both of the ground of the persecution and of the time, if this is to be done while both you are in power and I have influence with you. Not so, most admirable friend, let not this be suggested to Your Integrity. But recognizing by the winged swiftness of your mind the malice from which this proceeds, and having respect to me your admirer, show yourself a merciful judge to those who are being disturbed – for today you are not merely judging between man and man, but between virtue and vice; and to this more consideration than by an ordinary man must be given by those who are like you in virtue and are skilful governors. And in return for this you shall have from me not only the matter of my prayers, which I know you do not, like so many men, despise; but also that I will make your government famous with all to whom I am known.
To me you are Prefect even after the expiry of your term of office – for I judge things differently from the run of men – because you embrace in yourself every prefectoral virtue. For many of those who sit on lofty thrones are to me base, all those whose hand makes them base and slaves of their subjects. But many are high and lofty though they stand low, whom virtue places on high and makes worthy of greater government. But what have I to do with this? No longer is the great Olympius with us, nor does he bear our rudder-lines. We are undone, we are betrayed, we have become again the Second Cappadocia, after having been made the First by you. Of other men's matters why should I speak? But who will cherish the old age of your Gregory, and administer to his weakness the enchantment of honours, and make him more honourable because he obtains kindness for many from you? Now then depart on your journey with escort and greater pomp, leaving behind for us many tears, and carrying with you much wealth, and that of a kind which few Prefects do, good fame, and the being inscribed on all hearts, pillars not easily moved. If you preside over us again with greater and more illustrious rule, (this is what our longing augurs), we shall offer to God more perfect thanks.