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Fathers of the Church

Epistle VIII


Gregory wrote this letter to St. Basil shortly after his ordination to the priesthood. It is almost a letter of commiseration, for each had wished to spend their lives in the pursuit of philosophy in a monastic setting rather than in the priesthood.


Gregory was the first Greek author to publish a collection of his letters; he did so at the request of Nicobulus, a grandson of his sister Gorgonia. Incidentally, he also sets forth a theory of epistolography; he demands that a good letter should have four characteristics: shortness, clearness, charm and simplicity. Although he refuses to present his own epistles as models, they are carefully written, in mnay cases not without humor, and most of them are brief and pointed. (Quasten)

Gregory opens one of his letters addressed to St. Basil with the sentence: "From the first I have taken you, and I take you still, for my guide of life and my teacher of dogma." With these words Gregory himself acknowledges his obligation to the great bishop of Caesarea. (Quasten) The two were friends from their youth, and maintained an active correspondence throughout most of their adult lives.

by Gregory Nazianzen in 362 | translated by Charles Gordon Browne, M.A., James Edward Swallow, M.A

I approve the beginning of your letter; but what is there of yours that I do not approve? And you are convicted of having written just like me;(g) for I, too, was forced into the rank of the Priesthood, for indeed I never was eager for it. We are to one another, if ever any men were, trustworthy witnesses of our love for a humble and lowly philosophy. But perhaps it would have been better that this had not happened, or I know not what to say, as long as I am in ignorance of the purpose of the Holy Ghost. But since it has come about, we must bear it, at least so it seems clear to me; and especially when we take the times into consideration, which are bringing in upon us so many heretical tongues, and must not put to shame either the hopes of those who have trusted us thus, or our own lives.

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/VII, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.