Please help support the mission of New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download. Includes the Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Fathers, Summa, Bible and more all for only $19.99...
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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 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.
(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.
(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.
(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.)
(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.
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.
(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.)
(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, 2 Chronicles 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.
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.
(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.
(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 1 Corinthians 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.
(See the introduction to the first letter to Sophronius above.)
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, 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.
(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.
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.
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.
Source. Translated by Charles Gordon Browne and James Edward Swallow. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 7. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1894.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3103c.htm>.
Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is feedback732 at newadvent.org. (To help fight spam, this address might change occasionally.) Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.