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Fathers of the Church

Epistle CLXXXV: to Nectarius Archbishop of Constantinople


Gregory therefore writes to the Archbishop to point out what a serious infringement of the rights of the Church this would be. Probably the attitude which Nectarius took up at the suggestion of Gregory was the occasion of the Edict which Theodosius addressed in February, A.D. 384 or 5, to the Augustal Prefect, withdrawing all clerics from the jurisdiction of the civil tribunals, and placing them under the exclusive control of the episcopal courts.


Bosporius, Bishop of Colonia in Cappadocia Secunda, who had apparently taken a prominent part in the election and consecration of Eulalius to the See of Nazianzus, was accused of heresy by Helladius Archbishop of Caesarea. He was to be sent to Constantinople that his cause might there be tried in the Civil Courts.

by Gregory Nazianzen in 383 | translated by Charles Gordon Browne, M.A., James Edward Swallow, M.A

Whenever different people praise different points in you, and all are pushing forward your good fame, as in a marketplace, I contribute whatever I can, and not less than any of them, because you deign also to honour me, to cheer my old age, as a well-beloved son does that of his father. For this reason I now also venture to offer to you this appeal on behalf of the Most Reverend and God-beloved Bishop Bosporius; though ashamed on the one hand that such a man should need any letter from me, since his venerable character is assured both by his daily life and by his age; and on the other hand not less ashamed to keep silence and not to say a word for him, while I have a voice, and honour faith, and know the man most intimately. The controversy about the dioceses you will no doubt yourself resolve according to the grace of the Spirit which is in you, and to the order of the canons. But I hope Your Reverence will see that it is not to be endured that our affairs are to be posted up in the secular courts. For even if they who are judges of such courts are Christians, as by the mercy of God they are, what is there in common between the Sword and the Spirit? And even if we yield this point, how or where can it be just that a dispute concerning the faith should be interwoven with the other questions? Is our God-beloved Bishop Bosporius to-day a heretic? Is it to-day that his hoar hair is set in the balance, who has brought back so many from their error, and has given so great proof of his orthodoxy, and is a teacher of us all? No, I entreat you, do not give place to such slanders; but if possible reconcile the opposing parties and add this to your praises; but if this may not be, at all events do not allow us all, (with whom he has lived, and with whom he has grown old,) to be outraged by such insolence,—us whom you know to be accurate preachers of the Gospel, both when to be so was dangerous, and when it is free from risk; and to be unable to endure any detraction from the One Unapproachable Godhead. And I beg you to pray for me who am suffering from serious illness. I and all who are with me salute the brethren who surround you. May you, strong and of good courage and of good fame in the Lord, grant to us and the Churches the support which all in common demand.

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.

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