Turkish Doctor of the Church, Byzantine Theologian, Archbishop of Constantinople
Gregory Nazianzen, aka Saint Gregory of Nazianzus or Gregory the Theologian
Turkish Doctor of the Church, Byzantine Theologian, Archbishop of Constantinople
Gold is an unseen tyrant.
He prays, but he answers prayers. He weeps, but wipes away tears. He asks where Lazarus has been laid, for he is man; but he raises him to life, for he is God. He is sold, dirt cheap, for thirty pieces of silver, but he redeems the world, at great cost, with his own blood. … He dies, but he brings to life, and by his own death destroys death. He is buried, but he rises again. He descends into hell, but rescues the souls imprisoned there.
The great Architect of the universe conceived and produced a being endowed with both natures, the visible and the invisible. God created the human being, bringing its body forth from the pre-existing matter which he animated with his own Spirit... Thus in some way a new universe was born, small and great at one and the same time. God set this 'hybrid' worshipper on earth to contemplate the visible world, and to be initiated into the invisible; to reign over earth's creatures, and to obey orders from on high. He created a being at once earthly and heavenly, insecure and immortal, visible and invisible, halfway between greatness and nothingness, flesh and spirit at the same time... an animal en route to another native land, and, most mysterious of all, made to resemble God by simple submission to the divine will.
I desire to learn what is this fashion of innovation in things Concerning the Church, which allows anyone who likes, or the passerby, as the Bible says, to tear asunder the flock that has been well led, and to plunder it by larcenous attacks, or rather by piratical and fallacious teachings. For if our present assailants had any ground for condemning us in regard of the faith, it would not have been right for them, even in that case, to have ventured on such a course without giving us notice. They ought rather to have first persuaded us, or to have been willing to be persuaded by us (if at least any account is to be taken of us as fearing God, labouring for the faith, and helping the Church), and then, if at all, to innovate; but then perhaps there would be an excuse for their outrageous conduct. But since our faith has been proclaimed, both in writing and without writing, here and in distant parts, in times of danger and of safety, how comes it that some make such attempts, and that others keep silence? The most grievous part of it is not (though this too is shocking) that the men instil their own heresy into simpler souls by means of those who are worse; but that they also tell lies about us and say that we share their opinions and sentiments; thus baiting their hooks, and by this cloak villainously fulfilling their will, and making our simplicity, which looked upon them as brothers and not as foes, into a support of their wickedness. And not only so, but they also assert, as I am told, that they have been received by the Western Synod, by which they were formerly condemned, as is well known to everyone. If, however, those who hold the views of Apollinarius have either now or formerly been received, let them prove it and we will be content. For it is evident that they can only have been so received as assenting to the Orthodox Faith, for this were an impossibility on any other terms. And they can surely prove it, either by the minutes of the Synod, or by Letters of Communion, for this is the regular custom of Synods. But if it is mere words, and an invention of their own, devised for the sake of appearances and to give them weight with the multitude through the credit of the persons, teach them to hold their tongues, and confute them; for we believe that such a task is well suited to your manner of life and orthodoxy. Do not let the men deceive themselves and others with the assertion that the Man of the Lord, as they call Him, Who is rather our Lord and God, is without human mind. For we do not sever the Man from the Godhead, but we lay down as a dogma the Unity and Identity of Person, Who of old was not Man but God, and the Only Son before all ages, unmingled with body or anything corporeal; but Who in these last days has assumed Manhood also for our salvation; passible in His Flesh, impassible in His Godhead; circumscript in the body, uncircumscript in the Spirit; at once earthly and heavenly, tangible and intangible, comprehensible and incomprehensible; that by One and the Same Person, Who was perfect Man and also God, the entire humanity fallen through sin might be created anew.
The guiding of man, the most variable and manifold of creatures, seems to me in very deed to be the art of arts and the science of sciences.
If anyone has put his trust in him as a man without a human mind, he is wholly bereft of mind, and quite unworthy of salvation. For that which he has not assumed he has not healed; but that which is united to his Godhead is also saved.
The scope of our art [i.e. pastoral ministry, which he elsewhere calls the 'the art of arts and science of sciences'] is to provide the soul with wings, to rescue it from the world and give it to God, and to watch over that which is in His image, if it abides, to take it by the hand, if it is in danger, or restore it.
In some cases, we must even be angry, without feeling angry, or treat them with a disdain we do not feel, or manifest despair, though we do not really despair of them… Others again we must treat with condescension and lowliness, aiding them readily to conceive a hope of better things. Some it is often more advantageous to conquer—by others to be overcome, and to praise or deprecate, in one case wealth and power, in another poverty and failure.
The Self-Existent comes into being, the Uncreated is created, that which cannot be contained is contained.
In the case of a ruler or leader it is a fault not to attain to the highest possible excellence, and always make progress in goodness, if indeed he is, by his high degree of virtue, to draw his people to an ordinary degree, not by the force of authority, but by the influence of persuasion. For what is involuntary apart from its being the result of oppression, is neither meritorious nor durable. For what is forced, like a plant violently drawn aside by our hands, when set free, returns to what it was before, but that which is the result of choice is both most legitimate and enduring.
This I give you to share, and to defend all your life, the one Godhead and power, found in the three in unit, and comprising the three separately; not unequal, in substances or natures, neither increased nor diminished by superiorities nor inferiorities; in every respect equal, in every respect the same; just as the beauty and the greatness of the heavens is one; the infinite conjunction of three infinite ones, each God when considered in himself; as the Father, so the Son; as the Son, so the Holy Spirit; the three one God when contemplated together; each God because consubstantial; one God because of the monarchia. No sooner do I conceive of the one than I am illumined by the splendor of the three; no sooner do I distinguish them than I am carried back to the one. When I think of anyone of the three I think of him as the whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking escapes me. I cannot grasp the greatness of that one so as to attribute a greater greatness to the rest. When I contemplate the three together, I see but one torch, and cannot divide or measure out the undivided light.
[A doctor] preserves, if it already exists, the health and good habit of the flesh, or if absent, recalls it… But the scope of our art is to provide the soul with wings, to rescue it from the world and give it to God.
It is in mercy, I am persuaded, that God inflicts punishment.
To impress the truth upon a soul when it is still fresh, like wax not yet subjected to the seal, is an easier task than inscribing pious doctrine on top of inscriptions—I mean wrong doctrines and dogmas—with the result that the former are confused and thrown into disorder by the latter.
Again the darkness is past; again Light is made; again Egypt is punished with darkness; again Israel is enlightened by a pillar. The people that sat in the darkness of ignorance, let it see the Great Light of full knowledge. Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new. The letter gives way, the Spirit comes to the front. The shadows flee away, the Truth comes in upon them. Melchisedec is concluded. He that was without Mother becomes without Father (without Mother of His former state, without Father of His second). The laws of nature are upset; the world above must be filled.
To say the truth, I go so far as to praise and congratulate them. Yea! would that I were one of those who contend and incur hatred for the truth’s sake: or rather, I can boast of being one of them. For better is a laudable war than a peace which severs a man from God: and therefore it is that the Spirit arms the gentle warrior, as one who is able to wage war in a good cause.
And therefore, first in the holy Synod of Nicaea, the gathering of the three hundred and eighteen chosen men, united by the Holy Ghost, as far as in him lay, he [St. Athanasius] stayed the disease. Though not yet ranked among the Bishops, he held the first rank among the members of the Council, for preference was given to virtue just as much as to office
It is our practice not to lead by force... For the mystery of godliness belongs to those who are willing, not to those who are overpowered.
To tell you plainly, I am determined to fly every convention of bishops; for I never yet saw a council that ended happily. Instead of lessening, they invariably augment the mischief. The passion for victory and the lust of power (you will perhaps think my freedom intolerable) are not to be described in words. One present as judge will much more readily catch the infection from others than be able to restrain it in them. For this reason, I must conclude that the only security of one’s peace and virtue is in retirement.
But if anyone who thinks we have spoken rightly on this subject reproaches us with holding communion with heretics, let him prove that we are open to this charge, and we will either convince him or retire. But it is not safe to make any innovation before judgment is given, especially in a matter of such importance, and connected with so great issues. We have protested and continue to protest this before God and men. And not even now, be well assured, should we have written this, if we had not seen that the Church was being tom asunder and divided, among their other tricks, by their present synagogue of vanity. But if anyone when we say and protest this, either from some advantage they will thus gain, or through fear of men, or monstrous littleness of mind, or through some neglect of pastors and governors, or through love of novelty and proneness to innovations, rejects us as unworthy of credit, and attaches himself to such men, and divides the noble body of the Church, he shall bear his judgment, whoever he may be, and shall give account to God in the day of judgment. But if their long books, and their new Psalters, contrary to that of David, and the grace of their metres, are taken for a third Testament, we too will compose Psalms, and will write much in metre. For we also think we have the spirit of God, if indeed this is a gift of the Spirit, and not a human novelty. This I will that thou declare publicly, that we may not be held responsible, as overlooking such an evil, and as though this wicked doctrine received food and strength from our indifference.
Let us not ask of the Lord deceitful riches, nor the good things of this world, nor transitory honors; but let us ask for light.
Today is the day of salvation for the world.
But in the case of man, hard as it is for him to learn how to submit to rule, it seems far harder to know how to rule over men, and hardest of all, with this rule of ours, which leads them by the divine law, and to God, for its risk is, in the eyes of a thoughtful man, proportionate to its height and dignity. For, first of all, he must, like silver or gold, though in general circulation in all kinds of seasons and affairs, never ring false or alloyed, or give token of any inferior matter, needing further refinement in the fire; or else, the wider his rule, the greater evil he will be. Since the injury which extends to many is greater than that which is confined to a single individual… nothing is so easy as to become evil, even without any one to lead us on to it; while the attainment of virtue is rare and difficult, even where there is much to attract and encourage us.