Sunday, January 25, 2015

January 25 - Gregory of Nazianzus, Doctor, Theologian, Archbishop


Had Gregory ever heard the sentiment that "you can't go home again" he would have likely agreed wholeheartedly. After going away to school and studying intensely with his new friend Basil, he returned to the home of his parents full of vigor and hope for the future. Gregory's father--Gregory, Sr.--had become bishop of his home region of the Church after Gregory's mother--Nonna--had convinced him to consider conversion. Years after his conversion, Gregory's father was serving the Church in a shepherding and guidance role and expected Gregory to return from school and join him in leadership within the Church that had served as both comfort and affliction. But, Gregory came home speaking about a life of disconnection from the world and a life of ascetic joy and pursuit. His father insisted that he should serve in a role similar to his own role within the Church and was troubled by his son's change of heart--especially given the struggles between orthodoxy and Arianism that had only intensified over the last few years.Gregory was upset that his hopes were not met with excitement and left his home to go and be with his friend Basil.

Basil didn't offer the conspiring advice that Gregory hoped for. Though Basil and Gregory had hoped to become ascetics together, Basil's advice turned from encouraging to discouraging when he found out what Gregory's father had said. He advised his dear friend to follow his father's advice and teaching and become a Church leader and shepherd. Likely Gregory resisted this at first but soon found himself seeing his friend's wisdom even when he couldn't see his father's identical wisdom. So, he returned to the home of his father and became a leader within the Church--eventually becoming Archbishop. He would even help walk his father back into the embrace of orthodoxy when his aged father became persuaded by a heretic and wandered from the Church's teaching. The father who had insisted on the Church's need for Gregory found himself in need and Gregory willing to serve.

His incredible rhetorical skills made him a noted and highly esteemed leader and theologian, yet perhaps the most amazing aspect of Gregory's leadership and writing was his willingness to lay down anything and everything to reconcile others to the Faith that gripped and held him. When he was invited to councils and synods he was always eager to take a little extra time and effort to bring people back into the fold instead of simply breaking communion with them. At the Second Ecumenical council his presence there was disputed by some of those who opposed him theologically. When he was asked to moderate and mediate the meeting, he did so and reached out to his opposition but they were unpersuaded. Finding that he could not bring peace to the meeting he resigned his position and said, "Let me be as the Prophet Jonah! I was responsible for the storm, but I would sacrifice myself for the salvation of the ship." With these words, he left his position and his willingness to resign power for the sake of unity brought about momentary peace and agreement between the parties. He finished his life serving in the Church that had called and formed him even as he had fought and resisted the drive to power and drive to do solely what he wanted. He was willing to lay himself and his will down for the good of the Church he loved and that loved him.

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