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.
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.
Let us not esteem worldly prosperity or adversity as things real or of any moment, but let us live elsewhere, and raise all our attention to Heaven; esteeming sin as the only true evil, and nothing truly good, but virtue which unites us to God.
We were detained in bondage by the Evil One, sold under sin, and receiving pleasure in exchange for wickedness. Now, since a ransom belongs only to him who holds in bondage, I ask to whom was this offered, and for what cause? If to the Evil One, fie upon the outrage! If the robber receives ransom, not only from God, but a ransom which consists of God Himself, and has such an illustrious payment for his tyranny, a payment for whose sake it would have been right for him to have left us alone altogether. But if to the Father, I ask first, how? For it was not by Him that we were being oppressed; and next, On what principle did the Blood of His Only begotten Son delight the Father, Who would not receive even Isaac, when he was being offered by his Father, but changed the sacrifice, putting a ram in the place of the human victim?
Concepts create idols; only wonder comprehends [grasps] anything. People kill one another over idols. Wonder makes us fall to our knees.
Let us then take care not to despise these things. How absurd it would be to grasp at money and throw away health; and to be lavish of the cleansing of the body, but economical over the cleansing of the soul; and to seek for freedom from earthly slavery, but not to care about heavenly freedom; and to make every effort to be splendidly housed and dressed, but to have never a thought how you yourself may become really very precious; and to be zealous to do good to others, without any desire to do good to yourself. And if good could be bought, you would spare no money; but if mercy is freely at your feet, you despise it for its cheapness. Every time is suitable for your ablution, since any time may be your death. With Paul I shout to you with that loud voice, ‘Behold now is the accepted time; behold Now is the day of salvation.
You have escaped the formidable rocks. Beware lest you are wrecked on the sands.
For each of our debts we are given to in a special way.
Men and woman, young and old, rich and poor, the sanguine and despondent, the sick and whole, rulers and ruled, the wise and ignorant, the cowardly and courageous, the wrathful and meek, the successful and failing, do not require the same instruction and encouragement.
Your natural beauty suffices your husband, but if flaunted before many men like a net to catch a flock of birds, what will be the result? You will be pleased by those whom your beauty pleases, returning glance for glance, gaze for gaze, then smiles and little words of love, guarded at first, but soon becoming familiar until you are openly behaving amorously. Take heed, my tongue, lest I mention what follows! But I will say this: Everything such foolish lovers say or do is an incitement to evil; one thing inevitably leads to another in these wretched flirtations as one piece of iron, drawn by a magnet, draws another in its turn.
For God loves to be entreated, He loves to be compelled.