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Fathers of the Church

Epistle XLVII: to Basil


Gregory offers his assistance to Basil in this brief letter of encouragement.


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)

The division of the civil Province of Cappadocia into two Provinces in the year 372 was followed by ecclesiastical troubles. Anthimus, the Bishop of Tyana, the civil metropolis of the new division of Cappadocia Secunda, maintained that the Ecclesiastical divisions must necessarily follow the civil, and by consequence claimed for himself that the purely civil action of the State had ipso facto elevated him to the dignity of Metropolitan of the new Province; and this pretension was supported by the Bishops of that district, who were as a rule not well disposed towards the great Archbishop. Letters XLVIII and XLIX are also connected with this dispute.

by Gregory Nazianzen in 372 | translated by Charles Gordon Browne, M.A., James Edward Swallow, M.A

I hear that you are being troubled by this fresh innovation, and are being worried by some sophistical and not unusual officiousness on the part of those in power; and it is not to be wondered at. For I was not ignorant of their envy, or of the fact that many of those around you are making use of you to further their own interests, and are kindling the spark of meanness. I have no fear of seeing you un-philosophically affected by your troubles, or in any way unworthy of yourself and me. Nay, I think that it is now above all that my Basil will be known, and that the philosophy which all your life you have been collecting will shew itself, and will overcome the abuse as with a high wave; and that you will remain unshaken while others are being troubled. If you think it well, I will come myself and perhaps shall be able to give you some assistance by my counsel (if the sea needs water, you do counsel!); but in any case I shall derive benefit, and shall learn philosophy by bearing my part of the abuse.

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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