Gregorius Nazianzenus (Gregory of Nazianzus, or Nazianzum), one of the greatest of the Greek Church fathers, was born either at Arianzus, a small village in Cappadocia, near the town of Nsiansun (or Naziansum), from which he derives his surname, and of which his father was bishop, or else in the town of Nazianzum itself. The date of his birth has never been precisely settled. but it was probably about AD. D 330 (see Ullmann, Life of Gregory, Appendix 1). His pious mother, Nonnaj devoted him when an infant to Christ and the Church. His education, which commenced at Ceasarea in Cappadocia, wan prosecuted next at Caesarea Philippi, and at Alexandria, and was finished at Athens, when he began a life-long intimacy with Basil the Great. SEE BASIL. He was also a fellow-student with Julian, afterwards the apostate emperor. Gregory, with a quick instinct, discerned the character of Julian even then, and said to one of his friends, "How great a scourge is here intraining for the Roman empire! He remained at Athens nearly ten years, part of which he employed in teaching rhetoric with great success. About A.D. 856 he returned to Nasianzum where he intended to enter upon civil life. Shortly after he was baptized, and consecrated himself anew to the service of God, resolving that his gift of eloquence should serve no interests but those of Gods and the Church. But far his aged father, he would probably at this time have gone into the desert, to lead an ascetic life, at least for asome years. At home he remained, and devoted himself to then study of the Scriptures, living by rule a life of the strictest self-denial. Abiout A.D. 3859 he visited Basil in his retreat, and remained a short time with him in the practice of ascetic and devotional acts. Returning home at the request of his father, probably to aid in the settlement of a difficulty into which the aged bishop had fallen by signing the Armenian formula, which favored Arianism (Ullmanns, Life of Gregory, chapter 4, § 2), he was soon after (perhaps), at Christmas, A.D. 361, ordained suddenly, and without forewarning, by his father, before the congregation. These "violent" ordinations were not uncommon in the early Church; Gregory was, however, greatly displeased, and pronounced the transactions "an act of spiritual tyranny." Either to calm his feelings, or to prepare himself thoroughly for his new functions, he again retired to his friend Basil in Pontus early in A.D. 362. The commandsof his father and the calls of the Church brought him back to Nazianzum towards Easter, and on that festival he delivered is first oration.
The next six or seven years were spent is pastoral labor at Nasianzsum; happily, it seems, on the part of Gregory, though with some mortification to his pride, from a change of feeling towards him on the part of the fickle populace; who, after almost forcing him to serve them, afterwards neglected his ministry (Orat. 3, Bened. ed. page 69). His brother Caesarius, who practiced medicine had become a favorite of Julian, and of this prince endeavored, by his favors, to bring him back to paganism. The Christians murmured at seeing the son of a bishop living openly at the court of their enemy. Gregory succeeded he inducing Caesarius to return to Cappadocia (A.D. 362). Julian's edict forbidding Christians to read the pagan authors was a severe blow to the Christians, and none felt it more than Gregory. His two discourses against Julian (prepared after his death, A.D. 363) are written as if against a personal enemy. "He takes eloquence away from us," he says, "as though we were thieves (who had stolen it." Elsewhere, addressing the heathen, he writes: "Every thing else, riches, birth, glory, power, and all the vain pomps of earth whose brilliancy vanishes like a dream, I willingly abandon to you; but I will not abandon eloquence. I do not complain of the fatigues I have undergone by land and by sea to attain it. Please God that my friends and I may possess its power! Among the things I care for it stands foremost — that is, foremost after those which are above all, faith, and the hope which rises up above things visible." And again: "It is our duty to render thanks unto God that eloquence has again become free." These two discourses, it must be admitted, are really nothing but pamphlets, exhibiting little of the charity and mildness which one would expect from a Christian pastor speaking of a deceased enemy. There is, nevertheless, a certain grandeur in the indignation which Gregory pours out against Julian. At the close of the second discourse the orator grows calmer, and endeavors to prevent revenge being taken on the partisans of Julian: he says: "Let not the facility of avenging ourselves lead us to forget the duty of moderation., Let us leave to God's judgment the chastisement of those who have offended us . . . and be satisfied with seeing the people openly hissing our persecutors in the public places and in the theatres." Gregory's friendly relations with Basil came near being sadly interrupted. Gregory had, in 365, brought about a reconciliation between his friend and Eusebius of Caesarea. The latter dying in 370, Basil succeeded him as archbishop, and Gregory came to visit him in the year following. There was a contest between Basil and Anthimus, bishop of Tyana in Cappadocia, who pretended to be metropolitan of the province. Basil, in order to secure a useful ally, offered Gregory the bishopric of Sasima, a small unhealthy place on the frontier of the two provinces which divided Cappadocia. Gregory, after, declining for some time, finally accepted, and was ordained bishop in 372; but when pressed by Basil to take his part actively, he answered "that he would not take up arms in his quarrel with Anthimus, as he did not wish to, play the part either of battle-field or of prey." Retiring to Nazianzum a bishop without a bishopric, he remained with his father, whom he assisted in the.governmentof his church. He taught the people, defended the Church against the vexations of the Roman governors, and by his eloquence and virtue exerted that kind. of religious supremacy which, in the early ages, formed part of ecclesiastical power" (Villemain, Tableau de l'Eloquence chretienne au quatrieme siecle, page 133). Losing his father and mother almost at the same time (A.D. 374), he retired to a convent of Seleucia. He was still there, living in a calm which, as he said himself, "the hisses of heretics" could not disturb, when he heard of the death of Basil in 379. It affected him deeply, and he wrote a letter of encouragement and consolation to Gregory of Nyssa, the brother of his deceased friend. The Church of Constantinople had been for forty years a prey to Arianism, when Gregory was chosen as the most proper person to bring it back to orthodoxy. Though unwilling to be drawn out from the calm retirement he so much enjoyed, Gregory permitted himself to be led by the advice of his friends and the interests of the Church. His emaciated appearance, the marks of severe penance and of sickness, and his strange speech, made him at first a but for the laughter and irony of the heretics at Constantinople. The orthodox had not a single church of their own in Constantinople; Gregory was therefore obliged to preach at first in a private house, which gave place to a church named Anastasia, in remembrance of the rerival of faith. He taught and defended the Nicene Creed before crowded audiences attracted by his eloquence. It is then he was surnamed the Theologian, on account of the profundity of his learning. His success excited his enemies still more against him, and his life was several times in danger. Peter, patriarch of Alexandria, who had appointed him bishop of Constantinople, sided afterwards against him, and favored the pretensions of a cynic philosopher called Maximus, who caused himself to be elected bishop of Constantinople (A.D. 380). Vainly did Theodosius cause St. Gregory to take possession of the church of St. Sophia at the head of a large troop of soldiers, assuring him of his protection, and causing a council assembled at Constantinople to confirm Gregory's election as bishop, and annul that of Maximus. He could not put an end to the intrigues and calumnies which pursued Gregory. Some bishops of Egypt and of Macedonia attacked the validity of his election on the plea that he was already bishop of Sasima, and that the canons forbade the transfer of a bishop from one see to another. Gregory offered to resign, saying, "If my election is the cause of trouble, throw me into the sea like Jonas, to allay the storm, though it was not I who raised it." This proposal was accepted with a haste which could not but wound the susceptibility of Gregory. Before leaving Constantinople he assembled the clergy and the people in the church of St. Sophia, and delivered his farewell address the grandest of all his orations. "Farewell," said he at the close; "farewell, church of Anastasia, so called in remembrance of our pious trust; farewell, monument of our late victory, thou new Siloa, where, after forty years' wandering in the desert, we had for the first time settled the ark of the cove nant; farewell, too, thou grand and famous temple, our last trophy... farewell to you all, holy abodes of faith.... farewell, holy apostles, celestial colony, my models in the combats I have sustained farewell, episcopal chair, post at once so envied and so full of perils; farewell, ministers of God at his holy table.... farewell, choir of the Nazarenes, harmony of psalms, pious watches, holiness of virgins, modesty of women, assemblies of widows and of orphans, glances of the poor turned to God and to me; farewell, hospitable houses, friends of Christ who have succored me in mine infirmities... Farewell, kings of the earth, palaces, retinue, and courtiers of kings, faithful, I trust, to your master, but for the most part, I fear, faithless towards God... applaud, exalt unto heaven your new orator; the troublesome voice which displeased you is hushed.... Farewell, sovereign city, the friend of Christ, yet open to correction and repentance; farewell, Eastern and Western world, for whose sake I have striven, and for whose sake I am now slighted. Most of all, farewell, guardian angels of this church, who protected me in mpresence, and who will protect me in my exile; and thou, holy Trinity, my thought and my glory, may they hold fast to. thee, and mayest thou save them, save my people! and may I hear daily that they are increasing inknowledge and in virtue." On his way to exile Gregory, stopped at Caesarea, where he delivered a funeral oration on St. Basil. In the year 382 he retired to Arianzus for quiet and repose. In 383 Theodorius invited him to take part in a council held at Constantinople. He declined, saying, "To tell the truth, I will always avoid these assemblies of bishops; I have never seen them lead to any good result, but rather increase evils instead of diminishing them. They serve only as fields for tournaments of words and the play of ambition." He added that, at all events, his health would prevent him from attending. He remained in retirement until his death in 389. A garden which he cultivated, a fountain, and the shade of a few trees, composed all his enjoyments. He divided his time between prayer and the writing of poems, in which he expressed the thoughts, hopes, and longings of a mind naturally inclined to dreaminess and melancholy. He is one of the most polished among the sacred writers of the 4th century, and ranks first after Chrysostom and Basil. The richness of his imagination, developed in the solitude in which a great part of his life was spent, gives to his writings a charming freshness of tone which is seldom met with in the writers of that age. His letters are full of playful sprightliness, sometimes tinctured with a slight under-current of harmless irony. A severe critic might show some passages bordering on declamation and bombast. But these faults were general at the time in which he lived; and a writer, however great, always bears more or less the imprint of his day. He is commemorated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church on May 9, in the Greek Church on the 25th and 30th of January.
St. Gregory left a large number of poetical pieces. During the reign, of Julian, when profane literature was a forbidden pursuit for Christians, Gregory, considering it as a powerful aid to piety, attempted to supply the wants of his brethren by means of religious poems on the plan of the classics. He accused of, stupidity and ignorance (σκαιοὶ καὶ ἀπαίδευτοι) those who attempted to prevent the study of literature. "Most of his poetical works are religious meditations, which, in spite of the differences oaftime and manners, have still many points of affinity with the poetical reveries of our day's of skeptical satiety sand social progressin (Villemain, Tableau de l'Eloquence chretienne au IV me siecle, page 139). Gregory wrote also a large number of discourses or orations, both while administering the diocese of Nazianzum for his father and while defending orthodoxy at Constantinople. Among those discourses are funeral addresses and panegyrics, e.g. those of Athanasius and Basil; invectives, the two discourses against Juliane; sermons on questions of morals, disciplines and dogmas. Most of those written in Constantimsople, while he was opposing the Arians and Macedonians, are of the latter kind. These discourses are fifty-three in number. Some critics claim that the 45th, 47th, 49th, 50th, and 53d cannot be genuine. The Letters of Gregory amount to, 242, on all subjects; some of them are quite uninteresting except as they contribute to throw light on the character of Gregory and of his age. Gregory of Nazianzum has often been named as the author of a Paraphrase on Ecclesiastes, which is now generally attributed to Gregory Thaumaturgus. The Poems of Gregory number 156, differing very much from each other in length, subject, and meter; we find among them religious meditations, descriptions, acrostics, epigrams, ete. He also wrote 228 small pieces,which were collected and published by Muratori in 1709. In some qollections of his works is included a tragedy entitled Christ suffering (Χριστὸς πάσχων [ed. by Ellissen, Leipz. 1855]), which is probably not his.
As a theologian, Gregory shows marks of the powerful influencer of Origen. As to the Trinity, he earnestly defended the Nicene doctrines (Orationes, 2731), and vindicated, against the Apollinarians, the humanity of Christ. In common with nearly all theologians before Augustine, he maintained side by side the doctrines of the necessity of grace and the freedom of the human will.
The first edition of the Works of Gregory is that of Basie (1550, fol.): it contains the Greek text, a Latin version, and the life of Gregory by Suidas and by Gregory the Preisbyter. This edition is not much esteemed. A hbetter is that of Billius (Paris, 1609-11, 2 volumes, fol.; reprinted cum notis Prunaei Morelli, etc., Paris, 1630, 2 volumes, fol.; and again at Cologne, 1690, 2 volumes, fol.), badly edited, and abounding in erors. The best edition is that of the Benedictines (Paris, volume 1, fol. edited by Clemenet, 1778; volume 2, edited by Csaillam, fol. 1840). It is also given in Migne's Pastrologiae Curs. Complet. volumes 35-38: (Paris, fol., v.y.). Many of his writings have been published separately. His Oration on the Nativity, and a number of his poems, are given in English by H.S. Boyd, The Fathers not Papists (new ed. Lond. 1834, 8vo). A selection of his works was published by Goldhorns (Lamps. 1854). The best view of the life and theology of Gregory is to be found in Ullmann, Gregorius von Nazianz (Darmist. 1825, 8v); translated, but, unfortunately, without the dogmatical part, by G.V. Cox (Lond. 1857, 18mo). See Fabriciun, Bibl. Graeca, 8:383-389; Tillemont, Mem. pour. servir, etc., t. 9; Neander, Ch. History, 2:420; Neander, History of Dogma, page 262, 403; Lardner, Works, 4:285 sq.; Clarke, Succession of Sacred Literature, 1:308 (where the Orations are analyzed); Baur, Lehre von d. Dreieinigkeit, 1:648; Schaff, Hist. of the Christian Church, 3:908 sq.; Böhringer, Kirche Christi. in Biographieen, 1:2, 369; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generale 21:837- 846.