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Fathers of the Church

Letter VII: to a Friend

Description

Gregory expresses his great joy at receiving a letter from the addressee.

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

WHAT flower in spring is so bright, what voices of singing birds are so sweet, what breezes that soothe the calm sea are so light and mild, what glebe is so fragrant to the husbandman—whether it be teeming with green blades, or waving with fruitful ears as is the spring of the soul, lit up with your peaceful beams, from the radiance which shone m your letter, which raised our life from despondency to gladness? For thus, perhaps, it will not be unfitting to adapt the word of the prophet to our present blessings: "In the multitude of the sorrows which I had in my heart, the comforts of God," by your kindness, "have refreshed my soul," like sunbeams, cheering and warming our life nipped by frost. For both reached the highest pitch—the severity of my troubles, I mean, on the one side, and the sweetness of your favours on the other. And if you have so gladdened us, by only sending us the joyful tidings of your coming, that everything changed for us from extremest woe to a bright condition, what will your precious and benign coming, even the sight of it, do? what consolation will the sound of your sweet voice in our ears afford our soul? May this speedily come to pass, by the good help of God, Who giveth respite from pain to the fainting, and rest to the afflicted. But be assured, that when we look at our own case we grieve exceedingly at the present state of things, and men cease not to tear us in pieces: but when we turn our eyes to your excellence, we own that we have great cause for thankfulness to the dispensation of Divine Providence, that we are able to enjoy in your neighbourhood your sweetness and good-will towards us, and feast at will on such food to satiety, if indeed there is such a thing as satiety of blessings like these.

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.