My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 10th of January, Our Holy Orthodox Church Commemorates
Our Holy Father among the Saints, GREGORY OF NYSSA.
Kontakion Hymn of the Saint. Second Tone
REJOICING with the Angels and taking delight in the Divine Light,
Gregory of Nyssa, the vigilant mind, the God inspired hierarch of
the Church, and wisdom’s revered hymnographer, intercedeth
unceasingly for us all.
Saint Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa (+372 A.D.), is to be praised for the holiness of his conduct of life, his theological knowledge, and his zealous promotion of the Orthodox Faith embodied in the Nicene clauses. He is believed to have been born in Caesarea, the Capital of Cappadocia, in 335 or 336 A.D. The family of Saint Gregory was wealthy, distinguished, and conspicuously Orthodox. He was the youngest brother of Saint Basil the Great (330-379 A.D.).
The Saint’s father, Basil was a notable rhetorician, He died at a relatively young age, after fathering a family of ten children, five boys, and five girls. The children were reared by their paternal grandmother Makrina and their mother Emmelia. Saint Gregory received his first instruction in grammar and rhetoric from his father. Saint Gregory’s father reposed when he was twelve years old. Saint Basil undertook his education.
Saint Gregory was celebrated for his gentle spirit. He was better suited to a life of monasticism and study. His Diocese was troubled with controversy and hostility from the Arian and Sabellian heretics. Problems in his Diocese were intensified on account of the imperial patronage for the heretics–the throne was occupied by Valens (364-378 A.D.), whose twisted mind bent on the uprooting of Nicene Orthodoxy. Saint Gregory was to suffer persecution as bishop of Nyssa.
Valens appointed his evil minion Demosthenes, a former clerk of the imperial kitchen, as Viceroy of the civil Diocese of Pontos. Demosthenes managed to have a synod meeting at Nyssa, where Gregory was summoned to answer to false charges against him. Saint Gregory refused to attend. The false council, deeming him intractable, charged him with the unwillingness to submit to authority, and deposed him in his absence. Emperor Valens also interfered, and in 376 A.D. he decreed banishment (exile) for Gregory to Seleukeia. He suffered from a lack of physical comforts and necessities. Shortly thereafter, Emperor Gratian, a disciple, and friend of Saint Ambrose, decided Bishop Gregory of Nyssa ought to be rightfully restored to his Episcopal throne. To the utter gladness of the Orthodox Christian faithful of his Diocese, the sentence of banishment was revoked. He returned in triumph to his people.
With the repose of the glorious Saint Basil the Great, Saint Gregory was called to fill the vacancy. He became bishop in 372 A.D. He rose in preeminence and exerted a powerful influence as the chief defender of the Nicene Creed, but was still harassed by the heretics. Saint Gregory, as his brother Basil’s worthy pupil, completed his brother’s description of the Six Days of Creation, the HEXAEMERON, AND WROTE On The Making of Man. In the latter, he explains the reason why man appeared last, after the creation.
Saint Gregory Attended the Local Council of Antioch, which sent him to visit the Churches of Arabia and Palestine, which had been defiled and ravaged by Arianism heresy. He attended the Second Ecumenical Council, which was assembled in Constantinople in 381 A.D. Having lived some 60 years and left behind man remarkable writings, and important dogmatic works on the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, the Redemption, and the Mysteries (Sacraments) of Baptism and the Divinie Eucharist. He struggled on behalf of Orthodox Christianity against the heretics who attempted TO PENETRATE THE FLOCK (THE CHURCH). He assigned the will at the source of evil, and considred the gift of FREE WILL AS THE MOST PRECIOUS OF BLESSINGS. To this end, he wrote in The Life of Moses about the Egyptian Pharaoh’s heart and free will, remarking, "God gives up to dishonorable passions the one who gives himself up to them. IT LIES WITHIN EACH PERSON’S POWER TO MAKE THIS CHOICE. GOD gives up to passion him whom He doest not protect, because He is not acknowledged by him. But his failure to acknowledge God becomes the reason why he is being pulled down into the passionate and dishonorable life. The Egyptian tyrrant is hardened by God not because the Divine will places the resistance in the soul of Pharaoh, but BECAUSE THE FREE WILL, THROUGH ITS INCLINATION TO EVIL, DOES NOT RECEIVE THE WORD WHICH SOFTENS RESISTANCE." THUS, "EACH MAN (PERSON) MAKES HIS/HER OWN PLAGUES."
Although Saint Gregory endured many disappointments, he was consoled by this fact, and he declared it in a letter, that "I am rich in friendships." In his writing, The Life of Moses, he leaves us with two thoughts: "The vision of God is never to be satisfied in the desire to see Him. But one must always, by looking AT WHAT HE CAN SEE, REKINDLE HIS DESIRE TO SEE MORE." And this is TRUE PERFECTION: "NOT TO AVOIDE A WICKED LIFE, BECAUSE LIKE SLAVES WE SERVILELY FEAR PUNISHMENT, NOR TO DO GOOD BECAUSE WE HOPE FOR REWARDS, AS IF CASHING IN ON THE VIRTUOUS LIFE BY SOME BUSINESS-LIKE AND CONTRACTUAL ARRANGEMENT. On the contrary, DISREGARDING ALL THOSE THINGS FOR WHICH WE HOPE AND WHICH HAVE BEEN RESERVED BY PROMISE, WE REGARD FALLING FROM GOD’S FRIENDSHIP AS THE ONLY THING DREADFUL, AND WE CONSIDER BECOMING GOD’S FRIEND AS THE ONLY THING WORTHY OF HONOR AND DESIRE. THIS, AS I HAVE SAID, IS THE PERFECTION OF LIFE."
As a theologian, HE DEFENDED ORTHODOXY WITH BRILLIANT REFUTATIONS AGAINST THE HERETICS. Thus, we see the prophecy of Saint Basil the Great was surely fulfilled in him, that Saint Gregory would be theone to bring honor to Nyssa, and not the cith to the man.
The acts of the Seventh Ecumenical Syond call him "Father of Fathers." Saint Gregory’s holy relics were translated to the Church of Saint Efstathios in Perissos, Attike, located in the outskirts of Athens, Greece. [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
+ + +
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George