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Fathers of the Church

Epistle XLII: to Eusebius, Bishop of Samosata


There still seemed a probability that intrigues and party spirit would carry the day, and so the two Gregories determined to call in the aid of Eusebius of Samosata, though he did not belong to the Province. He had been a conspicuous champion of orthodoxy against the Arian Emperor Valens, and the Gregories hoped much from his presence at the Synod. He responded to their appeal, and undertook the three hundred miles of very difficult travelling to throw in his influence with the cause which they had at heart. He saw, however, that it was necessary that the aged Bishop of Nazianzus, notwithstanding his years and infirmities, should make the effort, and he persuaded him to go. The result was all that could be desired; for Basil was elected by a unanimous vote.


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

O that I had the wings of a dove, or that my old age could be renewed, that I might be able to go to your charity, and to satisfy the longings that I have to see you, and to tell you the troubles of my soul, and in you to find some comfort for my afflictions. For since the death of the blessed Bishop Eusebius I am not a little afraid lest they who on a former occasion set traps for our Metropolis, and wanted to fill it with heretical tares, should now seize the opportunity, and uproot by their evil teaching the piety which has with so much labour been sown in the hearts of men, and should tear asunder its unity, as they have done in many Churches. As soon as I received letters from the Clergy asking me not to forget them in their present circumstances, I looked round about me, and remembered your love and your right faith and the zeal with which you are ever possessed for the Churches of God; and therefore I sent my beloved Eustathius, my Deacon and helper, to warn your Reverence, and to entreat you, in addition to all your toils for the Churches, to meet me, and both to refresh my old age by your coming, and to establish in the Orthodox Church that piety which is so famous, by giving her with us (if we may be deemed worthy to have a share with you in the good work) a Shepherd according to the will of the Lord, who shall be able to rule His people. For we have a man before our eyes, and you are not unacquainted with him; and if we are permitted to obtain him I know that we shall acquire great boldness towards God, and shall confer a very great benefit upon the people who have called upon our aid. I beg you again and again to put away all delay, and to come to us before the bad weather of the winter sets in.

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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