Friday, January 10, 2020

Γρηγόριος Νύσσης

Today is the feast of St. Gregory of Nyssa. He's the only major Cappadocian father who has not been liturgically named Doctor of the Church, probably because he was mostly unknown in the West until the nineteenth century. He is the grandson of St. Macrina the Elder, the son of St. Basil the Elder and St. Emmilia, the younger brother of St. Basil the Great, St. Macrina the Younger, and St. Naucratius, and the older brother of St. Peter of Sebaste. It was an impressive family, to say the least. He originally did not intend to have a career as a priest; he studied to become an orator and married. We don't know much about his marriage. He was, however, eventually elected to the see of Nyssa, probably through the maneuvering of his brother St. Basil, who was definitely a maneuverer and was building a network of orthodox alliances to resist the tide of Arianism even if it meant sticking his family and friends in minor back-country sees like Nyssa and Nazianzus. Gregory was not popular and was deposed on trumped-up charges of embezzlement, although he was eventually cleared and restored. He was eventually elected bishop of Sebaste in Armenia, but being a lover of Greek culture hated the relatively foreign culture of Armenia and eventually arranged to step down and return to Nyssa. His attempts as bishop to deal with the Arian heresy were in general not very successful, in part because his irenic disposition did not fit the times, but his writings against Arianism became major theological influences in the East.

From his book against Eunomius (XII.3):

For if he that honoureth the Son honoureth the Father, according to the Divine declaration, it is plain on the other side that an assault upon the Son strikes at the Father. But I say that to those who with simplicity of heart receive the preaching of the Cross and the resurrection, the same grace should be a cause of equal thankfulness to the Son and to the Father, and now that the Son has accomplished the Father’s will (and this, in the language of the Apostle, is "that all men should be saved"), they ought for this boon to honour the Father and the Son alike, inasmuch as our salvation would not have been wrought, had not the good will of the Father proceeded to actual operation for us through His own power. And we have learnt from the Scripture that the Son is the power of the Father.