Three Poems

Three Poems

Three Poems

Three Poems

Excerpt

Saint Gregory of Nazianzus 1. was born either at the town of Nazianzus, or at Arianzus, a country estate bordering the town, in south western Cappadocia, in the year 329 or 330. The estate, according to the usual pattern of Roman provincial latifundia, was probably fairly considerable. Fifty years later it was still in the hands of the family. 2. It was here that Gregory came after his retirement from Constantinople, and here that he died in 389 or 390. For most of the illustrious ecclesiastics indeed who had origin in Cappadocia in the fourth century, all the information we possess goes to suggest a rather affluent background. For the first time in Christian history we are enabled to observe the results of some generations of Christian belief, combined with wealth, reasonable tranquility, and cultivated standards. 3. By the end of the third century in this province adherents of the new faith, in many cases doubtless the descendants of apostolic converts, seem to have been fairly numerous, and to have made their influence felt in public life well before the edicts of toleration.

The most striking instance, of course, was the family of Saint Basil. His celebrated grandmother, Saint Macrina the Elder, who probably died soon after Gregory was born, and who had borne witness for Christ in the persecution of Diocletian, was a woman of quite unusual attainments. And other womenfolk in Basil's family and in Gregory's are of a pattern: Basil's mother Emmelia, his sister Saint Macrina the Younger, Gregory's mother Nonna, also the daughter of Christian parents, and his sister Gorgonia. Basil's father achieved much more than local reputation in the prestigious profession of rhetor, and Gregory's father, though not a born Christian, was probably some sort of local magnate as well as being bishop of Nazianzus. He had belonged to the Hypsistarian 4. sect, and was baptized into the Christian faith by Leontius, bishop of Caesarea, in 325. In 330 he became bishop of Nazianzus.

It would be interesting if one could determine precisely the racial composition of this class from which people like Gregory and Basil sprang. For more than six hundred years the area had had a fairly chequered history. From being a regular . . .

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