Gregory of Nazianzus

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Gregory the Theologian

Gregory of Nazianzus (

early church, establishing the paradigm of Byzantine theologians and church officials.[6]

Gregory made a significant impact on the shape of


Gregory of Nazianzus is a

Gregory the Great was also considered the patron of both the state and dynasty in the late 15th century.[7][8]

He is also one of only three men in the life of the Orthodox Church who have been officially designated "Theologian" by epithet,



Early life and education

Gregory was born to

Proaeresius.[12] He may have been baptized there, or shortly after his return to Cappadocia.[13]


In 361 Gregory returned to Nazianzus and was ordained a presbyter by his father's wish, who wanted him to assist with caring for local Christians.[6]: 99–102  The younger Gregory, who had been considering a monastic existence, resented his father's decision to force him to choose between priestly services and a solitary existence, calling it an "act of tyranny".[11]: 32 [14] Leaving home after a few days, he met his friend Basil at Annesoi, where the two lived as ascetics.[6]: 102  However, Basil urged him to return home to assist his father, which he did for the next year. Arriving at Nazianzus, Gregory found the local Christian community split by theological differences and his father accused of heresy by local monks.[6]: 107  Gregory helped to heal the division through a combination of personal diplomacy and oratory.[citation needed]

By this time Emperor Julian had publicly declared himself in opposition to Christianity.

Jovian was an avowed Christian and supporter of the church.[6]
: 130 

Gregory spent the next few years combating


Episcopate in Sasima and Nazianzus

Gregory was ordained Bishop of Sasima in 372 by Basil.[6]: 190–5  Basil created this see in order to strengthen his position in his dispute with Anthimus, bishop of Tyana.[12] The ambitions of Gregory's father to have his son rise in the Church hierarchy and the insistence of his friend Basil convinced Gregory to accept this position despite his reservations. Gregory would later refer to his episcopal ordination as forced upon him by his strong-willed father and Basil.[6]: 187–92  Describing his new bishopric, Gregory lamented how it was nothing more than an "utterly dreadful, pokey little hole; a paltry horse-stop on the main road ... devoid of water, vegetation, or the company of gentlemen ... this was my Church of Sasima!"[15] He made little effort to administer his new diocese, complaining to Basil that he preferred instead to pursue a contemplative life.[11]: 38–9 

By late 372 Gregory returned to Nazianzus to assist his dying father with the administration of his diocese.[6]: 199  This strained his relationship with Basil, who insisted that Gregory resume his post at Sasima. Gregory retorted that he had no intention to continue to play the role of pawn to advance Basil's interests.[16] He instead focused his attention on his new duties as coadjutor of Nazianzus. It was here that Gregory preached the first of his great episcopal orations.[citation needed]

Following the deaths of his mother and father in 374, Gregory continued to administer the Diocese of Nazianzus but refused to be named bishop. Donating most of his inheritance to the needy, he lived an austere existence.[12] At the end of 375 he withdrew to a monastery at Seleukia, living there for three years. Near the end of this period his friend Basil died. Although Gregory's health did not permit him to attend the funeral, he wrote a heartfelt letter of condolence to Basil's brother, Gregory of Nyssa, and composed twelve memorial poems dedicated to the memory of his departed friend. (The Greek Anthology, book I epigram 86 and book VIII epigrams 2–11).

Gregory at Constantinople

Upon the death of Emperor Valens in 378, the accession of Theodosius I, a steadfast supporter of Nicene orthodoxy, was good news to those who wished to purge Constantinople of Arian and Apollinarian domination.[6]: 235  The exiled Nicene party gradually returned to the city. From his deathbed, Basil reminded them of Gregory's capabilities and likely recommended his friend to champion the Trinitarian cause in Constantinople.[6]: 235–6 [17]

In 379, the Antioch synod and its archbishop, Meletios, asked Gregory to go to Constantinople to lead a theological campaign to win over that city to Nicene orthodoxy.[11]: 42  After much hesitation, Gregory agreed. His cousin Theodosia offered him a villa for his residence; Gregory immediately transformed much of it into a church, naming it Anastasia, "a scene for the resurrection of the faith".[6]: 241 [18] From this little chapel he delivered five powerful discourses on Nicene doctrine, explaining the nature of the Trinity and the unity of the Godhead.[12] Refuting the Eunomion denial of the Holy Spirit's divinity, Gregory offered this argument:

Look at these facts: Christ is born, the Holy Spirit is His Forerunner. Christ is baptized, the Spirit bears witness to this ... Christ works miracles, the Spirit accompanies them. Christ ascends, the Spirit takes His place. What great things are there in the idea of God which are not in His power? What titles appertaining to God do not apply also to Him, except for Unbegotten and Begotten? I tremble when I think of such an abundance of titles, and how many Names they blaspheme, those who revolt against the Spirit![19]

Gregory's homilies were well received and attracted ever-growing crowds to Anastasia. Fearing his popularity, his opponents decided to strike. On the

vigil of Easter in 379, an Arian mob burst into his church during worship services, wounding Gregory and killing another bishop. Escaping the mob, Gregory next found himself betrayed by his erstwhile friend, the philosopher Maximus the Cynic. Maximus, who was in secret alliance with Peter, bishop of Alexandria, attempted to seize Gregory's position and have himself ordained bishop of Constantinople.[11]: 43  Shocked, Gregory decided to resign his office, but the faction faithful to him induced him to stay and ejected Maximus. This episode left Gregory embarrassed, and exposed him to criticism as a provincial simpleton unable to cope with the intrigues of the imperial city.[11]
: 43 

Affairs in Constantinople remained confused as Gregory's position was still unofficial, and Arian priests yet occupied many important churches. The arrival of the emperor Theodosius in 380 settled matters in Gregory's favor. The emperor, determined to eliminate Arianism, expelled Bishop Demophilus. Gregory was subsequently enthroned as bishop of Constantinople at the Basilica of the Apostles, replacing Demophilus.[11]: 45 

Second Ecumenical Council and retirement to Nazianzus

Basil the Great, John Chrysostom
and Gregory the Theologian.

Theodosius wanted to further unify the entire empire behind the orthodox position and decided to convene a church council to resolve matters of faith and discipline.

Paulinus as Patriarch of Antioch. The Egyptian and Macedonian bishops who had supported Maximus's ordination arrived late for the council. Once there, they refused to recognise Gregory's position as head of the church of Constantinople, arguing that his transfer from the See of Sasima was canonically illegitimate.[6]
: 358–9 

Gregory was physically exhausted and worried that he was losing the confidence of the bishops and the emperor.[6]: 359  Rather than press his case and risk further division, he decided to resign his office: "Let me be as the Prophet Jonah! I was responsible for the storm, but I would sacrifice myself for the salvation of the ship. Seize me and throw me ... I was not happy when I ascended the throne, and gladly would I descend it."[20] He shocked the council with his surprise resignation and then delivered a dramatic speech to Theodosius asking to be released from his offices. The emperor, moved by his words, applauded, commended his labor, and granted his resignation. The Council asked him to appear once more for a farewell ritual and celebratory orations. Gregory used this occasion to deliver a final address (Or. 42) and then departed.[6]: 361 

Returning to his homeland of Cappadocia, Gregory once again resumed his position as bishop of Nazianzus. He spent the next year combating the local Apollinarian heretics and struggling with periodic illness. He also began composing De Vita Sua, his autobiographical poem.[11]: 50  By the end of 383 he found his health too feeble to cope with episcopal duties. Gregory established Eulalius as bishop of Nazianzus and then withdrew into the solitude of Arianzum. After enjoying six peaceful years in retirement at his family estate, he died on 25 January in 390.[citation needed]

Gregory faced stark choices throughout his life: Should he pursue studies as a rhetor or philosopher? Would a monastic life be more appropriate than public ministry? Was it better to blaze his own path or follow the course mapped for him by his father and Basil? Gregory's writings illuminate the conflicts which both tormented and motivated him. Biographers suggest that it was this dialectic which defined him, forged his character, and inspired his search for meaning and truth.[11]: 54 


Andrei Rublev, Gregory the Theologian (1408), Dormition Cathedral, Vladimir.

Theological and other works

Gregory's most significant theological contributions arose from his defense of the doctrine of the

pneumatology—that is, theology concerning the nature of the Holy Spirit.[21] In this regard, Gregory is the first to use the idea of procession to describe the relationship between the Spirit and the Godhead: "The Holy Spirit is truly Spirit, coming forth from the Father indeed but not after the manner of the Son, for it is not by generation but by procession, since I must coin a word for the sake of clearness."[22] Although Gregory does not fully develop the concept, the idea of procession would shape most later thought about the Holy Spirit.[23]

He emphasized that Jesus did not cease to be God when he became a man, nor did he lose any of his divine attributes when he took on human nature. Furthermore, Gregory asserted that Christ was fully human, including a full human soul. He also proclaimed the eternality of the Holy Spirit, saying that the Holy Spirit's actions were somewhat hidden in the Old Testament but much clearer since the ascension of Jesus into Heaven and the descent of the Holy Spirit at the feast of Pentecost.[24]

In contrast to the Neo-Arian belief that the Son is anomoios, or "unlike" the Father, and with the

theosis, the belief that all Christians can be assimilated with God in "imitation of the incarnate Son as the divine model."[25]
: 10 

Some of Gregory's theological writings suggest that, like his friend

J. W. Hanson to describe Gregory's theology as universalist.[27] This view of Gregory is also held by some modern theologians such as John Sachs, who said that Gregory had "leanings" toward apocatastasis, but in a "cautious, undogmatic" way.[28] However, it is not clear or universally accepted that Gregory held to the doctrine of apocatastasis.[29]

Apart from the several theological discourses, Gregory was also one of the most important early Christian men of letters, a very accomplished orator, even perhaps one of the greatest of his time.[25]: 21  Gregory was also a very prolific poet who wrote theological, moral, and biographical poems.[citation needed] The book VIII of the Greek Anthology contains exclusively 254 epigrams of his.[citation needed]


Gregory's great nephew Nichobulos served as his literary executor, preserving and editing many of his writings. A cousin, Eulalios, published several of Gregory's more noteworthy works in 391.

Coptic Church is named after him.[32]


Following his death, Gregory was buried at Nazianzus. His relics, consisting of portions of his body and clothing, were transferred to


During the six years of life which remained to him after his final retirement to his birthplace, Gregory composed the greater part of his copious poetical works. These include a valuable autobiographical poem of nearly 2,000 lines; about one hundred other shorter poems relating to his past career; and a large number of epitaphs, epigrams, and epistles to well-known people during that era. The poems that he wrote that dealt with his personal affairs refer to the continuous illness and severe sufferings (physical and spiritual) which assailed him during his last years. In the tiny plot of ground at Arianzus, all that remained to him of his rich inheritance was by a fountain near which there was a shady walk. Gregory retired here to spend his days as a hermit. It was during this time that he decided to write theological discourses and poetry of both a religious and an autobiographical nature.[34] He would receive occasional visits from intimate friends, as well as visits from strangers who were attracted to his retreat by his large reputation for sanctity and learning. He died about 25 January 390, although the exact date of his death is unknown.[35]

Feast days

Gregory of Nazianzus is celebrated on different days across Christianity.

See also



  1. ^ a b Saint Gregory of Nazianzus at the Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. ^ "The Calendar". Church of England. Retrieved 2 January 2020.
  3. ^ "Commemoration of St. Gregory the Theologian". Archived from the original on 26 September 2021. Retrieved 31 July 2021.
  4. ^ a b Liturgy of the Hours Volume I, Proper of Saints, 2 January.
  5. ^ "Ορθόδοξος Συναξαριστής :: Άγιος Γρηγόριος ο Θεολόγος". 25 January 2016. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y McGuckin, John (2001) Saint Gregory of Nazianzus: An Intellectual Biography, Crestwood, NY.
  7. . Retrieved 17 May 2021.
  8. . Retrieved 3 March 2019 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ Great Synaxaristes: (in Greek) Ὁ Ἅγιος Γρηγόριος ὁ Θεολόγος Ἀρχιεπίσκοπος Κωνσταντινουπόλεως. 25 Ιανουαρίου. ΜΕΓΑΣ ΣΥΝΑΞΑΡΙΣΤΗΣ.
  10. . Gregory of Nazianzus or Nazianzen, St c. 330-c. 389 AD •Greek prelate and theologian- Born of Greek parents in Cappadocia, he was educated in Caesarea, Alexandria and Athens.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Ruether, Rosemary Radford (1969), Gregory of Nazianzus: Rhetor and Philosopher, Oxford University Press
  12. ^ a b c d e Hunter-Blair, DO (1910), "Gregory of Nazianzus", The Catholic Encyclopedia, Robert Appleton
  13. .
  14. ^ Migne, J.P. (ed), Patrologiae Graecae (PG), (1857–66), 37.1053, Carm. de vita sua, l.345
  15. ^ Gregory, as quoted in PG 37.1059–60, De Vita Sua, vv. 439–46.
  16. ^ Gallay, P. (1964), Grégoire de Nazianze (in French), Paris, p. 61{{citation}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link); quoting from Ep. 48, PG 37.97.
  17. ^ Orat. 43.2, PG 36.497.
  18. ^ 2 Kings 4:8 and Orat. 26.17, PG 35.1249.
  19. ^ Nazianzus, Gregory of, Or, The Orthodox Church of America, p. 31:29, retrieved 2 May 2007
  20. ^ PG, 37.1157–9, Carm. de vita sua, ll 1828–55.
  21. ^ Michael O'Carroll, "Gregory of Nazianzus" in Trinitas (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, 1987).
  22. ^ Gregory of Nazianzus, Five Theological Orations, oration five. This fifth oration deals entirely with the Holy Spirit.
  23. Filioque clause
    and the split between Eastern and Western Christianity.
  24. S2CID 170730880
  25. ^ a b c Børtnes (2006), Gregory of Nazianzus: Images and Reflections
  26. ^ "Apocatastasis". New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. I.
  27. ^ Hanson, JW Universalism: The Prevailing Doctrine Of The Christian Church During Its First Five Hundred Years. Chapter XV: Gregory Nazianzen. Boston and Chicago Universalist Publishing House, 1899.
  28. ^ Sachs, John R. "Apocatastasis in Patristic Theology." Theological Studies. 54 (December 1993), p. 632.
  29. ^ David L. Balas, "Apokatastasis" in The Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, second edition, ed. Everett Ferguson (New York: Garland Publishing, 1997), details Gregory of Nyssa's adherence to the doctrine, while making no mention of Nazianzan.
  30. ^ See how the 1992 edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church cites a variety of Gregory's orations
  31. ^ Tillich, Paul. A History of Christian Thought (Simon and Schuster, 1968), p. 76.
  32. ^ Fisher, Ian (28 November 2004), "Pope returns remains of 2 Orthodox patriarchs", San Diego Union-Tribune, archived from the original on 29 August 2007, retrieved 24 October 2012
  33. ^ "Saint Gregory of Nazianzen". 3 January 2009.
  34. ^ "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: St. Gregory of Nazianzus". Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  35. ^ "Join us in Daily Prayer – The Church of England".
  36. ^ Lutheranism 101, CPH, St. Louis, 2010, p. 277
  37. ^ "St Gregory the Theologian the Archbishop of Constantinople". OCA Online Feast Days. Orthodox Church in America. Retrieved 26 September 2009.
  38. ^ "Synaxis of the Ecumenical Teachers and Hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom". OCA Online Feast Days. Orthodox Church in America. Retrieved 26 September 2009.
  39. .
  40. ^ "Commemoration of the Twelve Archimandrites – STS. Retheos, Dionisios, Selbestros, Athanas, Cyril of Jerusalem, Ephrem Khourie Assyrian, Vasil (Barsegh) of Caesaria, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory the Theoloegian, Epiphan of Cyprus, John Chrysostom and Cyril".
  41. ^ "St. Gregory the Theologian and the Expansive Intellectual World of Armenian Commentaries – VEMKAR".


Further reading

External links

Titles of the Great Christian Church
Preceded by
Archbishop of Constantinople
Disputed by Maximus

Succeeded by