Fathers of the Church

Epistle XLVI: to Basil

Description

Gregory is emphatic in his admiration for Basil, stating that Basil's affairs are always of great importance to him.

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)

St. Basil the Great, the new Archbishop of Caesarea, seems not to have been satisfied with the reasons given in Gregory's last letter for not joining him following the consecration; so Gregory writes again. For further background, see Epistle XLV.

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

How can any affairs of yours be mere grape-gleanings to me, O dear and sacred friend?

"What a word has escaped the fence of your teeth," or how could you dare to say such a thing, if I too may be somewhat daring? How could your mind set it going, or your ink write it, or your paper receive it, O lectures and Athens and virtues and literary labours! You almost make me write a tragedy by what you have written. Do you not know me or yourself, you eye of the world, and great voice and trumpet and palace of learning? Your affairs trifles to Gregory? What then on earth could any one admire, if Gregory admire not you? There is one spring among the seasons, one sun among the stars, and one heaven that embraces all things; and so your voice is unique among all things, if I am capable of judging such things, and not deceived by my affection—and this I do not think to be the case. But if it is because I do not value you according to your worth that you blame me, you must also blame all mankind; for no one else has or will sufficiently admire you, unless it be yourself, and your own eloquence, at least if it were possible to praise oneself, and if such were the custom of our speech. But if you are accusing me of despising you, why not rather of being mad? Or are you vexed because I am acting like a philosopher? Give me leave to say that this and this alone is higher than even your conversation.

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.