A family of holy men

Posté par diaconos le 2 janvier 2021

Saint Basile le Grand et Saint Grégoire de Nazianze, Docteur de l'Église

# Gregory of Nazianzus, born in 329 in Cappadocia and died in 390, was a theologian and Doctor of the Church. Together with Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa, he belonged to the « Cappadocian Fathers ». He studied in Alexandria and then in Athens, where he met Basil of Caesarea, who became his friend. He returned to Nazianze, where he was ordained a priest by his father. He was later ordained against his will as Bishop of Sasimi by Basil of Caesarea, but was unable to settle in that city and stayed with his father, becoming the first auxiliary bishop of the Church.

On the death of his father, he decided to retire to lead a cenobitic life. A supporter of the doctrine of the Council of Nicaea, he sought to defend the place of the Holy Spirit in Orthodox theology. Emperor Theodosius I imposed Gregory of Nazianzus as Bishop of Constantinople. He then presided over the Council of Constantinople but resigned when the debates were far from over. He returned to Nazianzia, where he wrote many letters and speeches in favour of the thesis that considered the Holy Spirit to be one of the persons of the Trinity. Father of the Church, he was introduced into the breviary as Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius V in 1578. He is venerated by both Catholics and Orthodox.

# Arius was a Libyan presbyter and ascetic, and priest in Baucalis in Alexandria His teachings about the nature of the Godhead in Christianity, which emphasized God the Father’s uniqueness and Christ’s subordination under the Father,[and his opposition to what would become the dominant Christology, Homoousian Christology, made him a primary topic of the First Council of Nicaea, which was convened by Emperor Constantine the Great in 325. The Christian Church was divided over disagreements on Christology, or, the nature of the relationship between Jesus and God. Homoousian Christians, including Athanasius of Alexandria, used Arius and Arianism as epithets to describe those who disagreed with their doctrine of coequal Trinitarianism, a Homoousian Christology representing God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son as of one essence and coeternal. Negative writings describe Arius’s theology as one in which there was a time before the Son of God, when only God the Father existed. Despite concerted opposition, Arian Christian churches persisted throughout Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, especially in various Germanic kingdoms, until suppressed by military conquest or voluntary royal conversion between the fifth and seventh centuries.

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 Holy Basil

 He was born in 329, his sister Macrine and his brothers Peter, Bishop of Sebaste, and Gregory of Nyssa were also canonised. The young Basil received the rudiments of Christian doctrine from his father and continued his studies in Constantinople and then in Athens. At the same time he studied rhetoric, beginning a brilliant career which he soon decided to abandon in order to follow his true vocation: a life of silence, solitude and prayer.

He made long journeys, first to the Bridge, then to Egypt, Palestine and Syria, attracted by the life of monks and hermits. On his return to the Bridge, he met a fellow student he had met in Athens, Gregory of Nazianzus, with whom he founded a small monastic community, based on the rules that Basil had elaborated in the course of the experiences he had gained during his travels.

Against Arianism

At that time a new doctrine was consolidated in Caesarea, based on the preaching of Arius, already condemned as a heretic by the Council of Nicea in 325. Arianism, thanks to the support of the Emperor of the East, Valens, began to spread rapidly in Syria and Palestine. Basil left the peace and security of his hermitage and went to Caesarea, where he was ordained priest and then bishop, and undertook a merciless struggle against the new heresy, to the point of earning the title of Great.

His struggle was not only on a doctrinal level, but also on the level of charity; to the Aryans, who maintained that they were doing no harm to anyone by defending what belonged to them in their own right, he replied: « What really belongs to you? From whom did you receive what you say is yours ? If everyone was satisfied with what was necessary and gave what was superfluous to his neighbour, there would be no more poor people ».

Furthermore, he founded, right at the gates of the city, a citadel of charity called the Basilica, which included orphanages, hospitals and hospices. At the same time Emperor Theodosius supported the work of Basil, who saw the heresy defeated before his death in 389, which occurred at about the age of 60.

Holy Gregory of Nazianzus : the friend of a lifetime

He had a sister, Gorgonia, and a brother, Caesario, who were saints. He was the son of a priest, and in Athens, where he studied, he met Basil, with whom he became deeply friends and with whom he shared a hermitage in Cappadocia. However, he had to give up this peace in order to assist his parents, who were already elderly.

His father wanted him to be at his side in the presbyterium in Nazianze, but Gregory, who was convinced in spite of himself, repented of the choice he had made and sought refuge with Basil again. However, Basil convinced him to return to his father’s house and to serve as his advisor in the difficult moments of the government of the Church of Nazianzus.

Later Gregory was sent by Emperor Theodosius to Constantinople with the task of fighting the spread of the Arian heresy. Welcomed on his arrival by a stone’s throw, Gregory stopped outside the walls of Constantinople in a small church which he dedicated to the Resurrection.

Thanks to his eloquence and the solidity of his doctrine, but above all thanks to his exemplary life, Gregory brought the city back to orthodoxy. In spite of this, he did not become bishop of Constantinople because he was opposed by a faction that was against him ; he therefore left the city to which he devoted countless efforts of his life, and on his departure he gave a long and moving farewell speech. On his return to Nazianzia, he devoted himself above all to writing and left an abundant collection of poems of a spiritual nature.

« Everything is fatigue for mortals, everything is mockery, shadow, appearance. And let everything be unstable, o Word that created us, we owe it to your wisdom, for we learn to turn our love towards that which is stable and firm. « (Gregory of Nazianzus).

Deacon Michel Houyoux

Links to other Christian websites

◊  History Of Controversy And Conflict   : click here to read the paper → Arianism | Definition, History, & Controversy

◊  Anthony Jerome Burgess   : click here to read the paper → The five  Theological Orations of Gregory of Nazianzus 

◊  Basil’s care for poor  : click here to read the paper → Saint Basil’s Place in Greek History

The Doctors of the Church with Dr. Matthew Bunson

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