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Fathers of the Church

Letter VI: to Stagirius

Description

Gregory asks Stagirius to act as the founder of his city in order to make it look more impressive to his companions.

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

THEY say that conjurors in theatres contrive some such marvel as this which I am going to describe. Having taken some historical narrative, or some old story as the ground-plot of their sleight of hand, they relate the story to the spectators in action. And it is in this way that they make their representations of the narrative. They put on their dresses and masks, and rig up something to resemble a town on the stage with hangings, and then so associate the bare scene with their life-like imitation of action that they are a marvel to the spectators—both the actors themselves of the incidents of the play, and the hangings, or rather their imaginary city. What do I mean, do you think, by this allegory? Since we must needs show to those who are coming together that which is not a city as though it were one, do you let yourself be persuaded to become for the nonce the founder of our city, by just putting in an appearance there; I will make the desert-place seem to be a city; now it is no great distance for you, and the favour which you will confer is very great; for we wish to show ourselves more splendid to our companions here, which we shall do if, in place of any other ornament, we are adorned with the splendour of your party.

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.