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Fathers of the Church

Epistle XLIII: to the Bishops

Description

The comprovincial Bishops had notified the elder Gregory of their Synod, but without mentioning its date or purpose or inviting him to take part in it—probably because they knew how strongly he would support the election of Basil, to which they were unfavourable. St. Gregory therefore wrote the following letter in his father's name.

Provenance

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 many cases not without humor, and most of them are brief and pointed. (Quasten)

On the death of Eusebius Basil seems to have formed a desire that his friend Gregory should succeed to the vacant Metropolitanate; and so he wrote to him, without mentioning the death of the Archbishop, to come to him at Caesarea, representing himself as dangerously ill. Gregory, deeply grieved at the news, set off at once, but had not proceeded far on his way when he learned that Basil was in his usual health, and that the Bishops of the Province were assembling at Caesarea for the Election of a Metropolitan. He saw through the artifice at once; and thinking that Basil had wished to secure his presence at the Metropolis in order that his influence might bring about his own (Basil's) Election, he wrote him the following indignant letter. Nevertheless both he and his father felt that no one was so well fitted to succeed to the vacant throne; and so Gregory wrote in his father's name the three letters (XLI, XLIII, XLII), addressed respectively to the people of Caesarea, to the Bishops attending the Synod, and to Eusebius Bishop of Samosata.

by Gregory Nazianzen in 370 | translated by Charles Gordon Browne, M.A., James Edward Swallow, M.A

How sweet and kind you are, and how full of love. You have invited me to the Metropolis, because, as I imagine, you are going to take some counsel about a Bishop. So much I learn from you, though you have not told me either that I am to be present, or why, or when, but have merely announced to me suddenly that you were setting out, as though resolved not to respect me, and as not desirous that I should share your counsels, but rather putting a hindrance in the way of my coming, that you may not meet me even against my will. This is your way of action, and I will put up with the insult, but I will set before you my view and how I feel. Various people will put forward various candidates, each according to his own inclinations and interests, as is usually the case at such times. But I cannot prefer anyone, for my conscience would not allow it, to my dear son and fellow priest Basil. For whom of all my acquaintance do I find more approved in his life, or more powerful in his word, or more furnished altogether with the beauty of virtue? But if you allege weak health against him, I reply that we are choosing not an athlete but a teacher. And at the same time is seen in this case the power of Him that strengthens and supports the weak, if such they be. If you accept this vote I will come and take part, either in spirit or in body. But if you are marching to a foregone conclusion, and faction is to overrule justice, I shall rejoice to have been overlooked. The work must be yours; but pray for 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/VII, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.