Tag Archives: Council of Nicea

St. Gregory of Nyssa, Theologian

St. Gregory

Today, January 10th, the universal Church celebrates St. Gregory of Nyssa, a fourth century thinker, philosopher and theologian (330-95).  He was raised by his older brother, the wonderful St. Basil the Great, and his sister, Macrina, in what is now called Turkey.

He became a professor of rhetoric, but decided to devote his learning and talents to the Church.  He was ordained a priest and appointed the Bishop of Nyssa (lower Armenia) in 372, defending the Council of Nicea, from which came the  Nicene Creed, from the heresies of his time, including the Arian heresy which denied the divinity of Christ.  He produced numerous sermons and letters on the Scriptures, was an original thinker and theologian, being especially familiar with Platonism.

In our Catholic Study Group, we studied one of St. Gregory’s ascetical writings, On What It Means to Call Oneself a Christian (De Professione Christiana), which is absolutely thought-provoking and brilliant.  The purpose of this work is to set forth the foundation for the attainment of holiness by following in the footsteps of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  As Father John A. Hardon, S.J. set out in his commentary, “Since He is the Incarnate Son of God in human form, the virtues He practiced on earth were the attributes of God lived out in recordable history. . . Gregory shows how important is sound doctrine in the faith, especially faith in Christ as true God and true man, as the precondition for achieving holiness.”

In the De Professione Christiana, in discussing what is meant by the term, Christian, St. Gregory states in part, the following:

If, therefore, someone puts on the name of Christ, but does not exhibit in his life what is indicated by the term, such a person belies the name and puts on a lifeless mask. . .For it is not possible for Christ not to be justice and purity and truth and estrangement from all evil, nor is it possible to be a Christian, that is, truly a Christian, without displaying in oneself a participation in these virtues.  If one can give a definition of Christianity, we shall define it as follows:  Christianity is an imitation of the divine nature. . .

. . .Therefore, the One who orders us to imitate our Father orders us to separate ourselves from earthly passions, and this is a separation which does not come about through a change of place, but is achieved only through choice. . .

. . .For just as we are, in accordance with our nature, accomplish little in making our deposit because we are what we are, so, also, it is likely that the one who is rich in every way will give to the depositor a return which reflects His nature.  So let no one be discouraged when he brings into the divine treasury, what is in keeping with his own power, assuming that he will go off with what corresponds to the amount he has given, but let him anticipate, according to the Gospel which says he will receive in exchange large for small, the heavenly for the earthly, the eternal for the temporal, such things as are not able to be grasped by thought or explained by word, concerning which: “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love him.”

St. Gregory is known as the defender of orthodoxy, and was sent on missions to counter other heresies and held a position of importance during the Council of Constantinople.  Indeed and in fact, “St. Gregory contributes to the mystical tradition in Christian spirituality. . .”

St. Gregory, please help us on our journey, to be real Christians, to examine ourselves daily, to convert ourselves daily with the guidance and assistance of the Church, and to love and trust God completely; our upcoming eternal lives depend on our choices. . .

Respectfully,

Joan

Sources:

The Treasury of Catholic Wisdom, Edited and with an Introduction by John A. Hardon, S.J., 1995 Ignatius Press;

americancatholic.org

St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra (Fourth Century)

st-nicholas

Today, the Universal Church celebrates the Feast of St. Nicholas, from whom Santa Claus evolved.  It is so wonderful and noteworthy that many of the feasts and holidays we celebrate originated from the Church.  St. Nicholas is highly honored throughout the world, with many churches dedicated in memory to his holiness and his effective advocacy.

Nicholas was born at Patara in Lycia, a province of Asia Minor.  Nicholas’ parents were well off and they died when he was a young man, leaving him many assets.  Nicholas filled with generosity and goodness, with empathy thinking about his fellow brothers and sisters, devoted himself to works of charity and the needy he found in his community.  For example, a citizen of Patara, with three daughters, lost all of his money.  Because of this circumstance of poverty, the three ladies could not find husbands, wherein they were destined to become prostitutes.  Nicholas discovered their horrible upcoming fate.  He then took a bag of gold and under cover in the dark, threw the money into the window of this citizen’s home.  Therefore, the oldest lady now had a dowry and she was soon married.  Nicholas did the same act of charity for the other two ladies in the household.  However, the father was “on the watch” and he recognized Nicholas as his benefactor.  He expressed to Nicholas how happy he was and thankful he was for his love and gratitude to help his family.

At the beginning of the fourth century, Nicholas went to the city of Myra, the capital of Patara in Lycia.  It so happened that the Catholic clergy in this episcopal see were electing a new bishop and it happened that the clergy chose Nicholas; obviously, his reputation preceded him.

“As he was the chief priest of the Christians of this town and preached the truths of faith with a holy liberty, Nicholas was seized by the magistrates, tortured, then chained and thrown into prison with many other Christians.  But when the great and religious Constantine, chosen by God, assumed the imperial diadem of the Romans, the prisoners were released from their bonds and with them the illustrious Nicholas, who when he was set at liberty returned to Myra.”

Nicholas continued on with his works of charity, taking strong measures against paganism, setting prisoners falsely accused and innocent free and taking care of his people in Myra.  It is believed that he was present at the Council of Nicea which arose the Nicene Creed that we say today.  Additionally, Nicholas condemned one of the heresies of his time, Arianism, which denied the divinity of Jesus and the Holy Trinity.  St. Methodius states that “thanks to the teaching of St. Nicholas the metropolies of Myra alone was untouched by the filth of the Arian heresy.”

St. Nicholas died and was buried in Myra.  St. Nicholas is honored as the patron saint of sailors and children.  As to sailors, it is said that during his lifetime, he appeared to storm-tossed mariners who asked for his assistance wherein they were brought safely to port.  As to children, he is particularly associated with the giving of gifts at Christmas time.  With St. Andrew, he is patron of Russia, Greece, Apulia, Sicily and Lorraine.

Let us during this Christmas Season remember this dear saint, be generous to others, giving our love with joy and happiness, always remembering the true meaning of Christmas (Christ’s Mass), the birth of Our Dear Saviour, Jesus Christ, coming into the world through the Blessed Virgin, God Incarnate, and being protected and cared for by the wonderful St. Joseph.  LOVE was born to the world.  Come Lord Jesus, Come!

Joan

Sources:

  • Lives of the Saints, Edited by Michael Walsh.
  • One Hundred Saints, Fulfinch Press, AOL Time Warner Book Group.