The Catholic Defender: Gregory the Theologian
Gregory was a 4th-century Archbishop of Constantinople and theologian.
After his baptism at 30, Gregory gladly accepted his friend Basil’s invitation to join him in a newly founded monastery. The solitude was broken when Gregory’s father, a bishop, needed help in his diocese and estate.
It seems that Gregory was ordained a priest practically by force, and only reluctantly accepted the responsibility. He skillfully avoided a schism that threatened when his own father made compromises with Arianism.
At 41, Gregory was chosen suffragan bishop of Caesarea and at once came into conflict with Valens, the emperor, who supported the Arians.
An unfortunate by-product of the battle was the cooling of the friendship of two saints.
Gregory offered this argument:
Look at these facts: Christ is born, the Holy Spirit is His Forerunner. Christ is baptized, the Spirit bears witness to this ... Christ works miracles, the Spirit accompanies them. Christ ascends, the Spirit takes His place. What great things are there in the idea of God which are not in His power? What titles appertaining to God do not apply also to Him, except for Unbegotten and Begotten? I tremble when I think of such an abundance of titles, and how many Names they blaspheme, those who revolt against the Spirit!
He was a close friend of St. Basil the Great, his fellow student and later bishop of Caesarea
Basil, his archbishop, sent him to a miserable and unhealthy town on the border of unjustly created divisions in his diocese. Basil reproached Gregory for not going to his See.
It was in Constantinople, where he tried to bring back Christians from Aryanism, where he began giving the great sermons on the Trinity for which he is famous.
He was acclaimed simply as “the Theologian.”
When protection for Arianism ended with the death of Valens, Gregory was called to rebuild the faith in the great see of Constantinople, which had been under Arian teachers for three decades.
Retiring and sensitive, he dreaded being drawn into the whirlpool of corruption and violence. He first stayed at a friend’s home, which became the only orthodox church in the city.
In such surroundings, he began giving the great sermons on the Trinity for which he is famous. In time, Gregory did rebuild the faith in the city, but at the cost of great suffering, slander, insults, and even personal violence. An interloper even tried to take over his bishopric.
His last days were spent in solitude and austerity. He wrote religious poetry, some of it autobiographical, of great depth and beauty. He was acclaimed simply as “the Theologian.” he is numbered among the Doctors of the Church
St. Gregory was a Doctor of the Church, born at Arianzus in Asia Minor, probably in 325, and died in 389. He was the son of Gregory, Bishop of Nazianzus (329-374.)
During his lifetime, he penned over 800 letters and authored accounts of the lives of saints and other religious works, including a six-volume commentary on the book of Job. He was also involved in church music, writing many songs and hymns, and is most notably associated with the Gregorian chant
St. Gregory Nazianzen shares the celebration of his liturgical feast with St. Basil the Great on January 2.
“Almost every sin is committed for the sake of sensual pleasure; and sensual pleasure is overcome by hardship and distress arising either voluntarily from repentance, or else involuntarily as a result of some salutary and providential reversal. ‘For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged; but when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, so that we should not be condemned with the world.’ (1 Cor. 11:31-32).”
“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.
Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us. He assumed the worse that He might give us the better; He became poor that we through His poverty might be rich.
We are not made for ourselves alone, we are made for the good of all our fellow creatures.
What He was, He laid aside; what He was not, He assumed. He takes upon Himself the poverty of my flesh so that I may receive the riches of His divinity.
These three things God requires of all the Baptized: right faith in the heart, truth on the tongue, temperance in the body.
It is difficult to practice obedience; but it is even more difficult to practice leadership.
If anyone does not believe that Holy Mary is the Mother of God, such a one is a stranger to the Godhead.
May you be children of God, pure and unblameable, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (cf. Phil. 1:15): and may you never be entangled in the snares of the wicked that go round about, or bound with the chains of your sins. May the Word in you never be smothered with the cares of this life and so make you unfruitful: but may you walk in the King's Highway, turning aside neither to the right hand nor to the left, but led by the Spirit through the narrow gate.