ST. GREGORY OF NYSSA, B. C.
HE was younger brother to St. Basil the Great; was
educated in polite and sacred studies, and married to a virtuous
lady. He afterwards renounced the world, and was ordained lector; but
was overcome by his violent passion for eloquence to teach rhetoric.
St. Gregory Nazianzen wrote to him in the strongest terms, exhorting
him to renounce that paltry or ignoble glory, at he elegantly calls
it.1 This letter produced its desired effect. St. Gregory returned to
the sacred ministry in the lower functions of the altar: after some
time he was called by his brother Basil to assist him in his pastoral
duties, and in 372 was chosen bishop of Nyssa, a city of Cappadocia,
near the Lesser Armenia. The Arians, who trembled at his name,
prevailed with Demosthenes, vicar or deputy-governor of the province,
to banish him. Upon the death of the Arian emperor, Valens, in 378,
St. Gregory was restored to his see by the emperor Gratian. Our holy
prelate was chosen by his colleagues to redress the abuses and
dissensions which heresy had introduced in Arabia and Palestine. He
assisted at the council of Constantinople in 381, and was always
regarded as the centre of the Catholic communion in the East. Those
prelates only who joined themselves to him, were looked upon as
orthodox. He died about the year 400, probably on the 10th of
January, on which the Greeks have always kept his festival: the
Latins honor his memory on the 9th of March. The high reputation of
his learning and virtue procured him the title of Father of the
Fathers, as the seventh general council testifies. His sermons are
the monuments of his piety; but his great penetration and learning
appear more in his polemic works, especially in his twelve books
against Eunomius. See his life collected from his works, St. Greg.
Nazianzen, Socrates, and Theodoret, by Hermant, Tillemont, t. 9, p.
561; Ceillier, t. 8, p. 200. Dr. Cave imagines, that St. Gregory
continued to cohabit with his wife after he was bishop. But St. Jerom
testifies that the custom of the eastern churches did not suffer such
a thing. She seems to have lived to see him bishop, and to have died
about the year 384; but she professed a state of contiuency: hence
St. Gregory Nazianzen, in his short eulogium of her, says, she
rivalled her brothers-in-law who were in the priesthood, and calls
her sacred, or one consecrated to God; probably she was a deaconess.