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Fathers of the Church

Letter IV: to Cynegius

Description

Gregory beseeches the addressee to help a young man of his acquaintance.

Provenance

Gregory's thirty extant letters reflect his many interests and friends. Of his writing Quasten states: "In his style Gregory shows himself more indebted to the contemporary sophistic and less restrained in the adoption of its devices than the other Cappadocian Fathers. In the selection of words he consciously follows classical authors. His predilection for ecphrais and metaphor, for the linguistic jugglery of the paradox and oxymoron shows how strongly he let himself be influenced by the eccentric characteristics of contemporary Greek rhetoric. Yet, he never became a master of the art. His style remains very often without charm. His sentences are too heavy and appear to be overcharged." (Quasten)

by Gregory of Nyssa in 371-394 | translated by H. C. Ogle

We have a law that bids us "rejoice with them that rejoice, and weep with them that weep ": but of these commandments it often seems that it is in our power to put only one into practice. For there is a great scarcity in the world of "them that rejoice," so that it is not easy to find with whom we may share our blessings, but there are plenty who are in the opposite case. I write thus much by way of preface, because of the sad tragedy which some spiteful power has been playing among people of long- standing nobility. A young man of good family, Synesius by name, not unconnected with myself, in the full flush of youth, who has scarcely begun to live yet, is in great dangers, from which God alone has power to rescue him, and next to God, you, who are entrusted with the decisions of all questions of life and death. An involuntary mishap has taken place. Indeed, what mishap is voluntary? And now those who have made up this suit against him, carrying with it the penalty of death, have turned his mishap into matter of accusation. However, I will try by private letters to soften their resentment and incline them to pity; but I beseech your kindliness to side with justice and with us, that your benevolence may prevail over the wretched plight of the youth, hunting up any and every device by which the young man may be placed out of the reach of danger, having conquered the spiteful power which assails him by the help of your alliance. I have said all that I want in brief; but to go into details, in order that my endeavour may be successful, would be to say what I have no business to say, nor you to hear from me.

Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (LNPF II/V, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.