(Gregory of Nyssa), one of the fathers of the Eastern Church, was born at Caesarea in Cappadocia about 332. He was a younger brother of Basil, enjoyed a liberal education under able masters, and distinguished himself by his proficiency in literature and science. He excelled in rhetoric, and was successful both as a professor and pleader. He married a woman of virtue and piety, named Theosebia, of whom Gregory of Nazianzus speaks in high commendation. He appears to have officiated as a reader in a church, and to have been originally intended for the ecclesiastical life, but his passion for rhetoric, to the study of which he had devoted his youth, haunted him so incessantly that; unable to withstand its continual allurements, he, for a time, forsook his clerical duties, and gave lessons to youth in this his favorite art. Gregory of Naziamzus heard with grief of this dereliction in the brother of.his friend, and wrote him a letter, still preserved (Epist. 43), which recalled him to duty. No sooner was Basil elevated to the episcopal chair of Caesarea in 370, than he summoned his brother Gregory to assist him in the duties of his .new diocese; but the bishopric of Nyssa, a city of Cappadocia, near Lesser Armenia, becoming vacant the following year Basil gave up the pleasure of his brother's aid and society, and consecrated him to it against his will in 372. In this see he signalized his zeal in defense of the orthodox faith, in opposition to the Arians. He drew upon himself the vengeance of that party, and was banished from his see bythe emperor Valens about 374. On the death of Valens in 378, he was recalled by Gratian, and restored to the possession of his see. A council, probably that of Antioch, having ordered Greg.ory of syssa to reform the Church of Arabia, and Palestine bordering upon it, he visited Jerusalem and the holy- places, as well to perform a vow as to settle peace and tranquillity among them who governed the Church of Jerusalem. For his greater convenience in this journey the emperor allowed him the use of the public carriages, so that, having a wagon at his own disposal, it served him and those who accompanied him both as a church and a monastery; they sang psalms, and observed their fasts as they traveled. He visited Bethlehem, Mount Calvary, the holy Sepulchre, and the Mount of Olives; however, he was not much edified by the inhabitants of the country, who, he says, were very corrupt in their manners, and notoriously guilty of all sorts of crimes, especially murder. Therefore, being afterwards consulted by a monk of Cappadocia concerning the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, he declares "that he does not think it proper for such as have renounced the world, and have resolved to.arrive at Christian perfection, to undertake these journeys. Advise your brethren, therefore, rather to leave the body to goto the Lord, than to leave Cappadoeia togo to Palestine." This was the opinion of Gregory of Nyssa concerning pilgrimages. In 381 and the subsequent vyears, Gregory attended the Council of. Constantinople. In this city he pronounced the funeral oration of his sister Macrina, and three years afterwards he was deprived by death of his wife, a woman of many virtues, who, in her later, years, devoted herself to religious duties, and has been supposed by.some to have become a deaconess. His own death took place in the beginning of the year 400.
As a theologian, Gregory had great reputation in his age. His theology, shows independent and original thought, but contains many of the ideas of Origen. He maintained the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of Redemption, the freedom of the will, faith as the subjective, amid the sacraments as the objective means of grace. His style is very uneven. He was an abundant writer, but his abundance too often degenerated into diffuseness; his style drags; his illustrations are often in, questionable taste, and, being too fully developed, fatigue the reader. When attempting to be refined, he becomes subtile, and his grander passages border on bombast; yet his works contain many passages full of elevated views and true beauty, and animated by a warmth of feeling reaching even to enthusiasm. An analysis of his writings may be found in Clarke, Succession of Sac. Lit.
1:354 sq.; and in Dupin, Hist. of Eccl. Writers, cent. 4. They may be divided into, 1. Doctrinal (chiefly relating to the Arian controversy), 2. Exegetical; 3. Practical treatises; 4. Discourses, 5. Epistles and Panegyrics. Many of these have been published in separate editions. The first edition of his collected Works appeared at Cologne. (1037, fol.), then at Basle (1562, 1571), and at Paris (1573 and 1603). Fronton le Due gave the first Greek asnd Latin edition (Paris, 1615, 2 volumes, fol.; an Appendix in 1 volume fol. appeared in 1618). This edition was reprinted in 1638 (edited by Grenter, 3 volumes, fol.). It is handier, but not so neat and correct as that of 1615. New editions in Migne's Patrol. Graec. volumes 44-46 (Par. 1846) also by Oehler (Hal. Sax. 865 sq.). The oration against Arius and Sabellius, and that against the Macedonians, is in Mai's Script. Vet. nova coll. volume 8, and in volume 4 of the Nava Patrum Bibliotheca (Romans 1847). Ceillier gives a long catalogue of the separate editions of Gregory's writings in Hist. Generale des Asteurs Sacres, 6:119 sq. (Paris, 1860). Recent issues are, Gregorius Nyssenus, Dial. de anima et resurrections ed. Krabinger (Leips. 1837, 8vo); Orationes Catachet. ed. Krabinaer (Munich; 1838, 8vo); Orationes de Precatione edit. Krabinger (Landshut, 1840, 8vo). See Dupin Eccl. Writers, cent. 3; Hook, Eccl. Biog. volume 5; Neander, Ch. History, 2:413 sq.; Lardner, Works, 5:295 sq. Cave, Hist. Lit. 1:249; Tillemont, Memoires, t. 9; Rupp, Gregor's von Nyssa Leben und Meinungen (Leips. 1834, 8vo); Heyns, Disputatio de Gregorio Nysseneo (Leyden, 1835, 4to); Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generale, 21:846; Falbricius, Bibl. Graeca, edit. Harles, 9:98; Bohringer, Kirche Christi in Biograph. 1:2, 275; Möller, Greg. Nyss. doctrinam de hominis natura, etc. (Halle, 1854).