Saint Gregory the Theologian (of Nazianzus), Archbishop of Constantinople
St Gregory of Nazianzus, known by the Orthodox Church as St Gregory the Theologian (c. 329 – c. 390 AD), was the son of the Bishop of Nazianzus (Cappadocia).
St Gregory received the best education available, at the University of Athens, where St Basil, his lifelong friend, and Julian, the future emperor, were fellow-students. In 359 AD he left Athens and became a monk, living a solitary life with St Basil at Pontus. After two years, St Gregory returned home to help his aging father manage his diocese. Against his wishes he was ordained a priest and then fled to St Basil for 10 weeks. He returned to his new duties and wrote an apologia, titled “Defence of the Flight to Pontos”, saying that no one can undertake to shepherd the spiritual flock without becoming a temple of the living God, “a habitation of Christ in the Spirit”. He also said, “It is necessary first to be purified, then to purify; to be made wise, then to make wise; to become light, then to enlighten; to approach God, then to bring others to Him; to be sanctified, then to sanctify”. This treatise became a classic on the nature and duties of the priesthood.
After St Basil became Archbishop of Caesarea, he had St Gregory consecrated Bishop of Sasima, but St Gregory continued to help his father with his duties. Following the death of his father in 374 AD, St Gregory lived a solitary life in Seleucia until about 380 AD. After the death of the persecuting emperor Valens, peace returned to the Church, but Constantinople was dominated by Arians. Neighbouring Bishops sent for St Gregory to restore Constantinople’s Christian community. Protesting, he moved to Constantinople, where he preached his famous sermons on the Trinity. His reputation spread and his audience increased, but the Arians attacked him by slander, insults, and violence. He persisted in preaching the faith and doctrine of Nicea (later known as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed). In 381 AD, the Council of Constantinople proclaimed the conclusions of Nicea as authentic Christian doctrine. During the council, St Gregory was appointed Bishop of Constantinople and installed in the basilica of St Sophia. Opposition to him, however, continued. He resigned for the sake of peace after restoring Orthodoxy in the capital.
He returned to Cappadocia, which was still without a Bishop, where he administered the See until a successor was appointed in c. 384 AD. He then retired to his estates and spent his time reading and writing. His writing included religious poetry (later to become Orthodox hymns), his autobiography, epistles, essays and sermons. He died at Cappadocia. (Source: www.greekorthodox.org.au)
St. Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews 7:26-28; 8:1-2
Prokeimenon. Mode 1.
My mouth shall speak wisdom and the meditation of my heart shall bring forth understanding.
Verse: Hear this all you nations.
Brethren, it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did this once for all when he offered up himself. Indeed, the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect for ever. Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent which is set up not by man but by the Lord.
The Gospel according to John 10:9-16
The Lord said, “I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.”
Dismissal Hymn (First Tone)
The sweet-sounding shepherd’s pipe of your theology overpowered the trumpeting of the orators; for having searched the depths of the Spirit eloquence was also bestowed upon you. Pray to Christ God, Father Gregory, that our souls may be saved.
Kontakion (Third Tone)
By words of theology, you unravelled the complex webs of the orators, glorious Gregory, and adorned the Church with the robe of Orthodoxy woven from on high. Wearing it, she cries out with us, her children, “Rejoice, O Father, supreme mind of theology”.
A Poem by St. Gregory The Theologian
Flee swiftly from my heart, all-crafty one.
Flee from my members and from my life.
Deceiver, serpent, and fire, Belial, sin,
death, abyss, dragon, night, snare, and frenzy,
chaos, manslayer, and ferocious beast!
Thou didst entice into perdition those
first-formed folk, my foreparents, offering them
at the same time the taste of sin and death.
Christ, the Ruler of all commandeth thee to
flee into the billows, to fall upon the rocks,
or to enter the herd of swine, O baleful one,
as once He bade that presumptuous Legion.
Nay, yield forthwith, lest I smite thee with the Cross,
whereat all things tremble;
I bear the Cross upon me, in all my members.
I bear the Cross whene’er I journey, whene’er I sleep.
I hold the Cross in my heart. The Cross is my glory.
O mischievous one, wilt thou never cease from
dogging me with traps and laying snares for me?
Wilt thou not dash thyself upon the precipices?
Seest thou not Sodom? Oh, wilt thou not speedily
assail the shameless herds of ungodly heretics,
who, having so recklessly sundered the Almighty
Godhead, have witlessly destroyed and abolished It?
But comest thou against my hoariness? Comest thou
against my lowly heart? Thou ever blackenest me,
O foe, with darksome thoughts, pernicious thoughts.
Thou hast no fear of God, nor of His Priests.
This mind of mine, most evil one, was verily
a mighty and loud-voiced herald of the Trinity.
And now it beholdeth its end, whither it goeth in haste.
Confuse me not, O slimy one, that I might, as pristine,
meet the pure lights of Heaven, that they might
shine like lightning flashes upon my life.
Lo, receive me; lo, I stretch forth my hands.
Farewell, O world! Farewell, thou who bringest woes upon me!
Pity be shown to all that shall live after me.
Woe is me! Just now that I press forward
to Heaven, to the place of God, alas!
This body of mine encompasseth me.
Neither is there an end to this much-erring life,
nor yet to loathsome evil, which bindeth me fast
here below, and woundeth me from every side,
smiting me with unexpected cares that consume
the beauty and grace of my soul.
Nonetheless, O my God, King of all,
loose me swiftly from these earthly fetters,
and enroll me henceforth in the celestial choirs.
Source: Our Father among the Saints Gregory of Nazianzos, the Theologian: Selected verses from his poetry translated metrically into Modern Greek by Alexandros Moraïtides (in Greek) (Athens: Ekdosis I.N. Sideres, n.d.), Vol. II. [The original poems are found in Patrologia Græca, Vol. XXXVII, cols. 1399A-1401A (Poem LV); cols. 1384A-1385A (Poem XLIX) — trans.]
A Prayer Before the Reading of Scripture by St. Gregory the Theologian
All-seeing Father of Christ Hear now our prayers and grace your minister with a song of sweetness so divine; for he walks the straight and godly path and has known the self-originate God among the living creatures (Hab. 3.2 LXX; Origen De Princ. 1.3) and has known the Lord Christ who heals all ills of mortal man. He it was who had compassion on the wretchedness of the suffering race of men and in accordance with the Father’s will he willingly exchanged his form and state. (Phil. 2.6-11) The incorruptible God became mortal and by his blood dissolved the dreadful chains of hell. Now, draw near, and from this pure and sacred book and in these God-inspired words find sustenance for your soul. Here you shall behold the ministers of truth proclaim the word of life in a voice that pierces through to very heaven itself. St. Gregory of Nazianzus. Hymn 1.1.35. PG 37. 517-518 Tr. J.A. McGuckin.