Gregory Naz. 23400
This Oration was preached at Constantinople in 380, under the following circumstances:
Peter, Patriarch of Alexandria, had sent a mission of five of his Suffragans to consecrate the impostor Maximus to the Throne occupied by Gregory. This had led to much trouble, but in the end the intruder had been expelled and banished. Shortly afterwards an Egyptian fleet, probably the regular corn ships, had arrived at Constantinople, apparently on the day before a Festival. The crews of the ships, landing next day to go to Church, passed by the numerous Churches held by the Arians, and betook themselves to the little Anastasia. S. Gregory felt himself moved to congratulate them specially on such an act, after what had recently passed, and accordingly pronounced the following discourse.
I. I Will address myself as is right to those who have come from Egypt; for they have come here eagerly, having overcome illwill by zeal, from that Egypt which is enriched by the River, raining out of the earth, and like the sea in its season,—if I too may follow in my small measure those who have so eloquently spoken of these matters; and which is also enriched by Christ my Lord, Who once was a fugitive into Egypt, and now is supplied by Egypt; the first, when He fled from Herod’s massacre of the children;1 and now by the love of the fathers for their children, by Christ the new Food of those who hunger after good;2 the greatest alms of corn of which history speaks and men believe; the Bread which came down from heaven and giveth life to the world, that life which is indestructible and indissoluble, concerning Whom I now seem to hear the Father saying, Out of Egypt have I called My Son.3
II. For from you hath sounded forth the Word to all men; healthfully believed and preached; and you are the best bringers of fruit of all men, specially of those who now hold the right faith, as far as I know, who am not only a lover of such food, but also its distributor, and not at home only but also abroad. For you indeed supply bodily food to peoples and cities so far as your lovingkindness reaches; and you supply spiritual food also, not to a particular people, nor to this or that city, circumscribed by narrow boundaries, though its people may think it very illustrious, but to almost the whole world. And you bring the remedy not for famine of bread or thirst of water,4 which is no very terrible famine—and to avoid it is easy; but to a famine of hearing the Word of the Lord, which it is most miserable to suffer, and a most laborious matter to cure at the present time, because iniquity hath abounded,5 and scarce anywhere do I find its genuine healers.
III. Such was Joseph your Superintendent of corn measures, whom I may call ours also; who by his surpassing wisdom was able both to foresee the famine and to cure it by decrees of government, healing the ill-favoured and starving kine by means of the fair and fat.6 And indeed you may understand by Joseph which you will, either the great lover and creator and namesake of immortality or his successor in throne and word and hoary hair, our new Peter,7 not inferior in virtue or fame to him by whom the middle course was destroyed and crushed, though it still wriggles a little weakly, like the tail of a snake after it is cut off; the one of whom, after having departed this life in a good old age after many conflicts and wrestlings, looks upon us from above, I well know, and reaches a hand to those who are labouring for the right: and this the more, in proportion as he is freed from his bonds; and the other is hastening to the same end or dissolution of life, and is already drawing near the dwellers in heaven, but is still so far in the flesh as is needed to give the last aids to the Word, and to take his journey with richer provision.
IV. Of these great men and doctors and soldiers of the truth and victors, you are the nurslings and offspring; of these neither times nor tyrants, reason nor envy, nor fear, nor accuser, nor slanderer, whether waging open war against them, or plotting secretly; nor any who appeared to be of our side, nor any stranger, nor gold—that hidden tyrant, through which now almost everything is turned upside down and made to depend on the hazard of a die; nor flatteries nor threats, nor long and distant exiles (for they only could not be affected by confiscation, because of their great riches, which were—to possess nothing) nor anything else, whether absent or present or expected, could induce to take the worse part, and to be anywise traitor to the Trinity, or to suffer loss of the Godhead. On the contrary indeed, they grew strong by dangers, and became more zealous for true religion. For to suffer thus for Christ adds to one’s love, and is as it were an earnest to high-souled men of further conflicts. These, O Egypt, are thy present tales and wonders.
V. Once thou didst praise me thy Mendesian Goats, and thy Memphite Apis, a fatted and fleshy calf, and the rites of Isis, and the mutilations of Osiris, and thy venerable Serapis, a log that was honoured by myths and ages and the madness of its worshippers, as some unknown and heavenly matter, however it may have been aided by falsehood; and things yet more shameful than these, multiform images of monstrous beasts and creeping things, all of which Christ and the heralds of Christ have conquered, both the others who have been illustrious in their own times, and also the Fathers whom I have named just now; by whom, O admirable country, thou art more famous today than all others put together, whether in ancient or modern history.
VI. Wherefore I embrace and salute thee, O noblest of peoples and most Christian, and of warmest piety, and worthy of thy leaders; for I can find nothing greater to say of thee than this, nor anything by which better to welcome thee. And I greet thee, to a small extent with my tongue, but very heartily with the movements of my affections.8 O my people, for I call you mine, as of one mind and one faith, instructed by the same Fathers, and adoring the same Trinity. My people, for mine thou art, though it seem not so to those who envy me. And that they who are in this case may be the deeper wounded, see, I give the right hand of fellowship before so many witnesses, seen and unseen. And I put away the old calumny by this new act of kindness. O my people, for mine thou art, though in saying so I, who am least of all men, am claiming for myself that which is greatest. For such is the grace of the Spirit that it makes of equal honour those who are of one mind. O my people, for mine thou art, though it be afar, because we are divinely joined together,9 and in a manner wholly different to the unions of carnal people; for bodies are united in place, but souls are fitted together by the Spirit. O my people, who didst formerly study how to suffer for Christ, but now if thou wilt hearken unto me, wilt study not to do aught, but to consider the power of doing to be a sufficient gain, and to deem that thou art offering a sacrifice to Christ, as in those days of thy endurance so in these of meekness. O people to whom the Lord hath prepared Himself to do good, as to do evil to thine enemies.10 O people, whom the Lord hath chosen to Himself out of all peoples; O people who art graven upon the hands of the Lord, to whom saith the Lord, Thou art My Will; and, Thy gates are carved work, and all the rest that is said to them that are being saved. O people;—nay, marvel not at my insatiability that I repeat your name so often; for I delight in this continual naming of you, like those who can never have enough of their enjoyment of certain spectacles or sounds.
VII. But, O people of God and mine, beautiful also was your yesterday’s assembly, which you held upon the sea, and pleasant, if any sight ever was, to the eyes, when I saw the sea like a forest, and hidden by a cloud made with hands, and the beauty and speed of your ships, as though ordered for a procession, and the slight breeze astern, as though purposely escorting you, and wafting to the City your city of the Sea. Yet the present assembly which we now behold is more beautiful and more magnificent. For you have not hastened to mingle with the larger number, nor have you reckoned religion by numbers, nor endured to be a mere unorganized rabble, rather than a people purified by the Word of God; but having, as is right, rendered to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, ye have offered besides to God the things that are God’s; to the former Custom, to the latter Fear; and after feeding the people with your cargoes, you yourselves have come to be fed by us. For we also distribute corn, and our distribution is perhaps not worth less than yours. Come eat of my Bread and drink of the Wine which I have mingled for you.11 I join with Wisdom in bidding you to my table. For I commend your good feeling, and I hasten to meet your ready mind, because ye came to us as to your own harbour, running to your like; and ye valued the kindred Faith, and thought it monstrous that, while they who insult higher things are in harmony with each other and think alike, and think to make good each man’s individual falsehood by their common conspiracy, like ropes which get strength from being twisted together; yet you should not meet nor combine with those who are of the same mind, with whom it is more reasonable that you should associate, for we gather in the Godhead also. And that you may see that not in vain have you come to us, and that you have not brought up in a port among strangers and foreigners, but amongst your own people, and have been well guided by the Holy Ghost; we will discourse to you briefly concerning God; and do you recognize your own, like those who distinguish their kindred by the ensigns of their arms.
VIII. I find two highest differences in things that exist, viz.:—Rule, and Service; not such as among us either tyranny has cut or poverty has severed, but which nature has distinguished, if any like to use this word. For That which is First is also above nature. Of these the former is creative, and originating, and unchangeable; but the other is created, and subject and changing; or to speak yet more plainly, the one is above time, and the other subject to time. The Former is called God, and subsists in Three Greatest, namely, the Cause, the Creator, and the Perfecter; I mean the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, who are neither so separated from one another as to be divided in nature, nor so contracted as to be circumscribed by a single person; the one alternative being that of the Arian madness, the other that of the Sabellian heresy; but they are on the one hand more single than what is altogether divided, and on the other more abundant than what is altogether singular. The other division is with us, and is called Creation, though one may be exalted above another according to the proportion of their nearness to God.
IX. This being so, if any be on the Lord’s side let him come with us,12 and let us adore the One Godhead in the Three; not ascribing any name of humiliation to the unapproachable Glory, but having the exaltations of the Triune God continually in our mouth.13 For since we cannot properly describe even the greatness of Its Nature, on account of Its infinity and undefinableness, how can we assert of It humiliation? But if any one be estranged from God, and therefore divideth the One Supreme Substance into an inequality of Natures, it were marvellous if such an one were not Cut in sunder by the sword, and his portion appointed with the unbelievers,14 reaping any evil fruit of his evil thought both now and hereafter.
X. What must we say of the Father, Whom by common consent all who have been preoccupied with natural conceptions share, although He hath endured the beginnings of dishonour, having been first divided by ancient innovation into the Good and the Creator. And of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, see how simply and concisely we shall discourse. If any one could say of Either that He was mutable or subject to change; or that either in time, or place, or power, or energy He could be measured; or that He was not naturally good, or not Self-moved, or not a free agent, or a Minister, or a Hymnsinger; or that He feared, or was a recipient of freedom, or was not counted with God; let him prove this and we will acquiesce, and will be glorified by the Majesty of our Fellow Servants, though we lose our God. But if all that the Father has belongs likewise to the Son, except Causality; and all that is the Son’s belongs also to the Spirit, except His Sonship, and whatsoever is spoken of Him as to Incarnation for me a man, and for my salvation, that, taking of mine, He may impart His own by this new commingling; then cease your babbling, though so late, O ye sophists of vain talk that falls at once to the ground; for why will ye die O House of Israel?15 —if I may mourn for you in the words of Scripture.
XI. For my part I revere also the Titles of the Word, which are so many, and so high and great, which even the demons respect. And I revere also the Equal Rank of the Holy Ghost; and I fear the threat pronounced against those who blaspheme Him. And blasphemy is not the reckoning Him God, but the severing Him from the Godhead. And here you must remark that That which is blasphemed is Lord, and That which is avenged is the Holy Ghost, evidently as Lord. I cannot bear to be unenlightened after my Enlightenment, by marking with a different stamp any of the Three into Whom I was baptized; and thus to be indeed buried in the water, and initiated not into Regeneration, but into death.
XII. I dare to utter something, O Trinity; and may pardon be granted to my folly, for the risk is to my soul. I too am an Image of God, of the Heavenly Glory, though I be placed on earth. I cannot believe that I am saved by one who is my equal. If the Holy Ghost is not God, let Him first be made God, and then let Him deify me His equal. But now what deceit this is on the part of grace, or rather of the givers of grace, to believe in God and to come away godless; by one set of questions and confessions leading to another set of conclusions. Alas for this fair fame, if after the Layer I am blackened, if I am to see those who are not yet cleansed brighter than myself; if I am cheated by the heresy of my Baptizer; if I seek for the stronger Spirit and find Him not. Give me a second Font before you think evil of the first. Why do you grudge me a complete regeneration? Why do you make me, who am the Temple of the Holy Ghost as of God, the habitation of a creature? Why do you honour part of what belongs to me, and dishonour part, judging falsely of the Godhead, to cut me off from the Gift, or rather to cut me in two by the gift? Either honour the Whole, or dishonour the Whole, O new Theologian, that, if you are wicked, you may at any rate be consistent with yourself, and not judge unequally of an equal nature.
XIII. To sum up my discourse:—Glorify Him with the Cherubim, who unite the Three Holies into One Lord,16 and so far indicate the Primal Substance as their wings open to the diligent. With David be enlightened, who said to the Light, In Thy Light shall we see Light,17 that is, in the Spirit we shall see the Son; and what can be of further reaching ray? With John thunder, sounding forth nothing that is low or earthly concerning God, but what is high and heavenly, Who is in the beginning, and is with God, and is God the Word,18 and true God of the true Father, and not a good fellow-servant honoured only with the title of Son; and the Other Comforter (other, that is, from the Speaker, Who was the Word of God). And when you read, I and the Father are One,19 keep before your eyes the Unity of Substance; but when you see, “We will come to him, and make Our abode with him,”20 remember the distinction of Persons; and when you see the Names, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, think of the Three Personalities.
XIV. With Luc be inspired as you study the Act of the Apostles. Why do you range yourself with Ananias and Sapphira, those vain embezzlers (if indeed the theft of one’s own property be a vain thing) and that by appropriating, not silver nor any other cheap and worthless thing, like a wedge of gold,21 or a didrachma, as did of old a rapacious soldier; but stealing the Godhead Itself, and lying, not to men but to God, as you have heard. What? Will you not reverence even the authority of the Spirit Who breathes upon whom, and when, and as He wills? He comes upon Cornelius and his companions before Baptism, to others after Baptism, by the hands of the Apostles; so that from both sides, both from the fact that He comes in the guise of a Master and not of a Servant, and from the fact of His being sought to make perfect, the Godhead of the Spirit is testified.
XV. Speak of God with Paul, who was caught up to the third Heaven,22 and who sometimes counts up the Three Persons, and that in varied order, not keeping the same order, but reckoning one and the same Person now first, now second, now third; and for what purpose? Why, to shew the equality of the Nature. And sometimes he mentions Three, sometimes Two or One, became That which is not mentioned is included. And sometimes he attributes the operation of God to the Spirit, as in no respect different from Him, and sometimes instead of the Spirit he brings in Christ; and at times he separates the Persons saying, “One God, of whom are all things, and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him;”23 at other times he brings together the one Godhead, “For of Him and through Him and in Him are all things;”24 that is, through the Holy Ghost, as is shown by many places in Scripture. To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
1 (Mt 2,13,
2 (Jn 6,33,
3 (Os 11,1,
4 (Am 8,11,
5 (Mt 24,12,
6 (Gn 41,29 sq.
8 Ga 2,9.
9 (Is 62,4,
10 Is 64,12, etc.
11 (Pr 9,5,
12 (Ex 32,26,
13 (Ps 149,6.
14 (Lc 12,46,
15 (Ez 18,31,
16 Is 6,3.
17 (Ps 36,9,
18 (Jn 1,1,
19 Jn 10,30.
20 (Jn 14,23,
21 (Jos 7,21 Jos 7,
22 (2Co 12,2,
23 (1Co 8,6,
24 (Rm 11,36,
S. Mt 19,1.
1. Jesus Who Chose The Fishermen, Himself also useth a net, and changeth place for place. Why? Not only that He may gain more of those who love God by His visitation; but also, as it seems to me, that He may hallow more places. To the Jews He becomes as a Jew that He may gain the Jews; to them that are under the Law as under the Law, that He may redeem them that are under the Law; to the weak as weak, that He may save the weak. He is made all things to all men that He may gain all. Why do I say, All things to all men? For even that which Paul could not endure to say of himself I find that the Saviour suffered. For He is made not only a Jew, and not only doth He take to Himself all monstrous and vile names, but even that which is most monstrous of all, even very sin and very curse; not that He it such, but He is called so. For how can He be sin, Who setteth us free from sin; and how can He be a curse, Who redeemeth us from the curse of the Law?1 But it is in order that He may carry His display of humility even to this extent, and form us to that humility which is the producer of exaltation. As I said then, He is made a Fisherman; He condescendeth to all; He casteth the net; He endureth all things, that He may draw up the fish from the depths, that is, Man who is swimming in the unsettled and bitter waves of life.
II. Therefore now also, when He had finished these sayings He departed from Galilee and came into the coasts of Judea beyond Jordan; He dwelleth well in Galilee, in order that the people which sat in darkness may see great Light.2 He removeth to Judea in order that He may persuade people to rise up from the Letter and to follow the Spirit. He teacheth, now on a mountain; now He discourseth on a plain; now He passeth over into a ship; now He rebuketh the surges. And perhaps He goes to sleep, in order that He may bless sleep also; perhaps He is tired that He may hallow weariness also; perhaps He weeps that He may make tears blessed. He removeth from place to place, Who is not contained in any place; the timeless, the bodiless, the uncircumscript, the same Who was and is; Who was both above time, and came under time, and was invisible and is seen. He was in the beginning and was with God, and was God.3 The word Was occurs the third time to be confirmed by number. What He was He laid aside; what He was not He assumed; not that He became two, but He deigned to be One made out of the two. For both are God, that which assumed, and that which was assumed; two Natures meeting in One, not two Sons (let us not give a false account of the blending). He who is such and so great—but what has befallen me? I have fallen into human language. For how can So Great be said of the Absolute, and how can That which is without quantity be called Such? But pardon the word, for I am speaking of the greatest things with a limited instrument. And That great and long-suffering and formless and bodiless Nature will endure this, namely, my words as if of a body, and weaker than the truth. For if He condescended to Flesh, He will also endure such language.
III. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there, where the multitude was greater. If He had abode upon His own eminence, if He had not condescended to infirmity, if He had remained what He was, keeping Himself unapproachable and incomprehensible, a few perhaps would have followed Him—perhaps not even a few, possibly only Moses—and He only so far as to see with difficulty the Back Parts of God.4 For He penetrated the cloud, either being placed outside the weight of the body or being withdrawn from his senses; for how could he have gazed upon the subtlety, or the in-corporeity, or I know not how one should call it, of God, being incorporate and using material eyes? But inasmuch as He strips Himself for us, inasmuch as He comes down (and speak of an exinanition, as it were, a laying aside and a diminution of His glory), He becomes by this comprehensible,
IV. And pardon me meanwhile that I again suffer a human affection. I am filled with indignation and grief for my Christ (and would that you might sympathize with me) when I see my Christ dishonoured on this account on which He most merited honour. He on this account to be dishonoured, tell me, that for you He was humble? Is He therefore a Creature, because He careth for the creature? Is He therefore subject to time, because He watches over those who are subject to time Nay, He beareth all things, He endureth all things.5 And what marvel? He put up with blows, He bore spittings, He tasted gall for my taste. And even now He bears to be stoned, not only by those who deal despite-fully with Him, but also by ourselves who seem to reverence Him. For to use corporeal names when discoursing of the incorporeal is perhaps the part of those who deal despitefully and stone Him; but pardon, I say again to our infirmity, for I do not willingly stone Him; but having no other words to use, we use what we have. Thou art called the Word, and Thou art above Word; Thou art above Light, yet art named Light; Thou art called Fire not as perceptible to sense, but because Thou purgest light and worthless matter; a Sword, because Thou severest the worse from the better; a Fan, because Thou purgest the threshing-floor, and blowest away all that is light and windy, and layest up in the garner above all that is weighty and full; an Axe, because Thou cuttest down the worthless fig-tree, after long patience, because Thou cuttest away the roots of wickedness; the Door, because Thou bringest in; the Way, because we go straight; the Sheep, because Thou art the Sacrifice; the High Priest, because Thou offerest the Body the Son, because Thou art of the Father. Again I stir men’s tongues; again some men rave against Christ, or rather against me, who have been deemed worthy to be a herald of the Word. I am like John, The Voice of one crying in the wilderness6 —a wilderness that once was dry, but now is only too populous.
V. But, as I was saying, to return to my argument; for this reason great multitudes followed Him, because He condescended to our infirmities. What next? The Pharisees also, it says, came unto Him, tempting Him, and saying unto Him, is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? Again the Pharisees tempt Him; again they who read the Law do not know the Law; again they who are expounders of the Law need others to teach them. It was not enough that Sadducees should tempt Him concerning the Resurrection, and Lawyers question Him about perfection, and the Herodians about the poll-tax, and others about authority; but some one must also ask about Marriage at Him who cannot be tempted, the Creator of wedlock, Him who from the First Cause made this whole race of mankind. And He answered and said unto them, Have ye not read that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female? He knoweth how to solve some of their questions and to bridle others. When He is asked, By what authority doest thou these things? He Himself, because of the utter ignorance of those who asked Him, replies with another question; The baptism of John, was it from Heaven or of men? He on both sides entangles His questioners, so that we also are able, following the example of Christ, sometimes to check those who argue with us over-officiously, and with still more absurd questions to solve the absurdity of their questions. For we too are wise in vanity at times, if I may boast of the things of folly. But when He sees a question that calls for reasoning, then He does not deem His questioners unworthy of prudent answers.
VI. The question which you have put seems to me to do honour to chastity, and to demand a kind reply. Chastity, in respect of which I see that the majority of men are ill-disposed, and that their laws are unequal and irregular. For what was the reason why they restrained the woman, but indulged the man, and that a woman who practises evil against her husband’s bed is an adulteress, and the penalties of the law for this are very severe; but if the husband commits fornication against his wife, he has no account to give? I do not accept this legislation; I do not approve this custom. They who made the Law were men, and therefore their legislation is hard on women, since they have placed children also under the authority of their fathers, while leaving the weaker sex uncared for. God doth not so; but saith Honour thy father and thy mother, which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee; and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. Similarly He gave honour to good and punishment to evil. And, The blessing of a father strengtheneth the houses of children, but the curse of a mother uprooteth the foundations.7 See the equality of the legislation. There is one Maker of man and woman; one debt is owed by children to both their parents.
VII. How then dost thou demand Chastity, while thou dost not thyself observe it? How dost thou demand that which thou dost not give? How, though thou art equally a body, dost thou legislate unequally? If thou enquire into the worse—The Woman Sinned, and so did Adam.8 The serpent deceived them both; and one was not found to be the stronger and the other the weaker. But dost thou consider the better? Christ saves both by His Passion. Was He made flesh for the Man? So He was also for the woman. Did He die for the Man? The Woman also is saved by His death. He is called of the seed of David;9 and so perhaps you think the Man is honoured; but He is born of a Virgin, and this is on the Woman’s side. They two, He says, shall be one Flesh; so let the one flesh have equal honour.” And Paul legislates for chastity by His example. How, and in what way? This Sacrament is great, he says, But I speak concerning Christ and the Church.10 It is well for the wife to reverence Christ through her husband: and it is well for the husband not to dishonor the Church through his wife. Let the wife, he says, see that she reverence her husband, for so she does Christ; but also he bids the husband cherish his wife, for so Christ does the Church.11 Let us, then, give further consideration to this saying.
VIII. Churn milk and it will be butter;12 examine this and perhaps you may find something more nourishing in it. For I think that the Word here seems to deprecate second marriage. For, if there were two Christs, there may be two husbands or two wives; but if Christ is One, one Head of the Church, let there be also one flesh, and let a second be rejected; and if it hinder the second what is to be said for a third? The first is law, the second is indulgence, the third is transgression, and anything beyond this is swinish, such as has not even many examples of its wickedness. Now the Law grants divorce for every cause; but Christ not for every cause; but He allows only separation from the whore; and in all other things He commands patience. He allows to put away the fornicatress, because she corrupts the offspring; but in all other matters let us be patient and endure; or rather be ye13 enduring and patient, as many as have received the yoke of matrimony. If you see lines or marks upon her, take away her ornaments; if a hasty tongue, restrain it; if a meretricious laugh, make it modest; if immoderate expenditure or drink, reduce it; if unseasonable going out, shackle it; if a lofty eye, chastise it. It is uncertain which is in danger, the separator or the separated. Let thy fountain of water, it says, be only thine own, and let no stranger share it with thee;14 and, let the colt of thy favours and the stag of thy love company with thee; do thou then take care not to be a strange river, nor to please others better than thine own wife. But if thou be carried elsewhere, then thou makest a law of lewdness for thy partner also. Thus saith the Saviour.
IX. But what of the Pharisees? To them this word seems harsh. Yes, for they are also displeased at other noble words—both the older Pharisees, and the Pharisees of the present day. For it is not only race, but disposition also that makes a Pharisee. Thus also I reckon as an Assyrian or an Egyptian him who is ranged among these by his character. What then say the Pharisees? If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. Is it only now, O Pharisee, that thou understandest this, It is not good to marry?15 Didst thou not know it before when thou sawest widowhoods, and orphanhoods, and untimely deaths, and mourning succeeding to shouting, and funerals coming upon weddings, and childlessness, and all the comedy or tragedy that is connected with this? Either is most appropriate language. It is good to marry; I too admit it, for marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled.16 It is good for the temperate, not for those who are insatiable, and who desire to give more than due honour to the flesh. When marriage is only marriage and conjunction and the desire for a succession of children, marriage is honourable, for it brings into the world more to please God. But when it kindles matter, and surrounds us with thorns, and as it were discovers the way of vice, then I too say, It is not good to marry.
X. Marriage is honourable; but I cannot say that it is more lofty than virginity; for virginity were no great thing if it were not better than a good thing. Do not however be angry, ye women that are subject to the yoke. We must obey God rather than man. But be ye bound together, both virgins and wives, and be one in the Lord, and each others’ adornment. There would be no celibate if there were no marriage. For whence would the virgin have passed into this life? Marriage would not have been venerable unless it had borne virgin fruit to God and to life. Honour thou also thy mother, of whom thou wast born. Honour thou also her who is of a mother and is a mother.17 A mother she is not, but a Bride of Christ she is. The visible beauty is not hidden, but that which is unseen is visible to God. All the glory of the King’s Daughter is within,18 clothed with golden fringes, embroidered whether by actions or by contemplation. And she who is under the yoke, let her also in some degree be Christ’s; and the virgin altogether Christ’s. Let the one be not entirely chained to the world,19 and let the other not belong to the world at all. For that which is a part to the yoked, is to the virgin all in all. Hast thou chosen the life of Angels? Art thou ranked among the unyoked? Sink not down to the flesh; sink not down to matter; be not wedded to matter, while otherwise thou remainest unwedded. A lascivious eye guardeth not virginity; a meretricious tongue mingles with the Evil One; feet that walk disorderly accuse of disease or danger. Let the mind also be virgin; let it not rove about; let it not wander; let it not carry in itself forms of evil things (for the form part of harlotry); let it not make idols in its soul of hateful things.
XI. But He said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. Do you see the sublimity of the matter? It is found to be nearly incomprehensible. For surely it is more than carnal that that which is born of flesh should not beget to the flesh. Surely it is Angelic that she who is bound to flesh should live not according to flesh, but be loftier than her nature. The flesh bound her to the world, but reason led her up to God. The flesh weighed her down, but reason gave her wings; the flesh bound her, but desire loosed her. With thy whole soul, O Virgin, be intent upon God (I give this same injunction to men and to women); and do not take the same view in other respects of what is honourable as the mass of men do; of family, of wealth, of throne, of dynasty, of that beauty which shews itself in complexion and composition of members, the plaything of time and disease. If thou hast poured out upon God the whole of thy love; if thou hast not two objects of desire, both the passing and the abiding, both the visible and the invisible, then thou hast been so pierced by the arrow of election, and hast so learned the beauty of the Bridegroom, that thou too canst say with the bridal drama and song, thou art sweetness and altogether loveliness.
XII. You see how streams confined in lead pipes, through being much compressed and carried to one point, often so far depart from the nature of water that that which is pushed from behind will often flow constantly upwards. So if thou confine thy desire, and be wholly joined to God, thou wilt not fall downward; thou wilt not be dissipated; thou wilt remain entirely Christ’s, until thou see Christ thy Bridegroom. Keep thyself unapproachable, both in word and work and life, and thought and action. From all sides the Evil One interferes with thee; he spies thee everywhere, where he may strike, where wound thee; let him not find anything bared and ready to his stroke. The purer he sees thee, the more he strives to stain thee, for the stains on a shining garment are more conspicuous. Let not eye draw eye, nor laughter, nor familiarity night, lest night bring destruction. For that which is gradually drawn away and stolen, works a mischief which is unperceived at the time, but yet attains to the consummation of wickedness.
XIII. All men, He saith, cannot receive this saying, but they to whom it is given. When you hear this, It is given, do not understand it in a heretical fashion, and bring in differences of nature, the earthly and the spiritual and the mixed. For there are people so evilly disposed as to think that some men are of an utterly ruined nature, and some of a nature which is saved, and that others are of such a disposition as their will may lead them to, either to the better, or to the worse. For that men may have a certain aptitude, one more, another less, I too admit; but not that this aptitude alone suffices for perfection, but that it is reason which calls this out, that nature may proceed to action, just as fire is produced when a flint is struck with iron. When you hear To whom it is given, add, And it is given to those who are called and to those who incline that way. For when you hear, Not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy,20 I counsel you to think the same. For since there are some who are so proud of their successes that they attribute all to themselves and nothing to Him that made them and gave them wisdom and supplied them with good; such are taught by this word that even to wish well needs help from God; or rather that even to choose what is right is divine and a gift of the mercy of God. For it is necessary both that we should be our own masters and also that our salvation should be of God. This is why He saith not of him that willeth; that is, not of him that willeth only, nor of him that runneth only, but also of God. That sheweth mercy. Next; since to will also is from God, he has attributed the whole to God with reason. However much you may run, however much you may wrestle, yet you need one to give the crown. Except the Lord build the house, they laboured in vain that built it: Except the Lord keep the city, in vain they watched that keep it.21 I know, He says, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong,22 nor the victory to the fighters, nor the harbours to the good sailors; but to God it belongs both to work victory, and to bring the barque safe to port.
XIV. In another place it is also said and understood, and perhaps it is necessary that I should add it as follows to what has already been said, in order that I may impart to you also my wealth. The Mother of the Sons of Zebedee, in an impulse of parental affection, asked a thing in ignorance of the measure of what she was asking,23 but pardonably, through the excess of her love and of the kindness due to her children. For there is nothing more affectionate than a Mother,—and I speak of this that I may lay down a law for honouring Mothers. Their mother, then, asked Jesus that they might sit, the one on His right hand, the other on his left. But what saith the Saviour? He first asks if they can drink the Cup Which He Himself was about to drink; and when this was professed, and the Saviour accepted the profession (for He knew that they were being perfected by the same, or rather that they would be perfected thereby); what saith He? “They shall drink the cup; but to sit on My right hand and on My left—it is not Mine, He saith, to give this, but to whom it hath been given.” Is then the ruling mind nothing? Nothing the labour? Nothing the reasoning? Nothing the philosophy? Nothing the fasting? Nothing the vigils, the sleeping on the ground, the shedding floods of tears? Is it for nothing of these, but in accordance with some election by lot, that a Jeremias is sanctified, and others are estranged from the womb?
XV. I fear lest some monstrous reasoning may come in, as of the soul having lived elsewhere, and then having been bound to this body, and that it is from that other life that some receive the gift of prophecy, and others are condemned, namely, those who lived badly. But since such a conception is too absurd, and contrary to the traditions of the Church (others if they like may play with such doctrines, but it is unsafe for us to play with them); we must in this place too add to the words “To whom it hath been given,” this, “who are worthy;” who have not only received this character from the Father, but have given it to themselves.
XVI. For there are eunuchs which were made eunuchs from their mother’s womb, etc. I should very much like to be able to say something bold about eunuchs. Be not proud, ye who are eunuchs by nature. For, in point of self-restraint, this is perhaps unwilling. For it has not come to the test, nor has your self-restraint been proved by trial. For the good which is by nature is not a subject of merit; that which is the result of purpose is laudable. What merit has fire for burning, for it is its nature to burn? What merit has water for falling, a property given to it by its Maker? What thanks does the snow get for its coldness, or the sun for its shining?—It shines even if it does not wish. Claim merit if you please by willing the better things. You will claim it if, being carnal, you make yourself spiritual; if, while drawn down by the leaden flesh, you receive wings from reason; if though lowly born, you are found to be heavenly; if while chained down to the flesh, you shew yourself superior to the flesh.
XVII. Since then, natural chastity is not meritorious, I demand something else from the eunuchs. Do not go a whoring in respect of the Godhead. Having been wedded to Christ, do not dishonour Christ. Being perfected by the spirit, do not make the Spirit your own equal. If I yet pleased men, says Paul, I should not be the servant of Christ.24 If I worshipped a creature, I should not be called a Christian. For why is Christianity precious? Is it not that Christ is God, unless my mingling with Him in love is a mere human passion? And yet I honour Peter, but I am not called a Petrine; and Paul, but have never been called a Pauline. I cannot allow myself to be named after a man, who am born of God. So then, if it is because you believe Him to be God that you are called a Christian, may you ever be so called, and may you remain in both the name and the thing; but if you are called from Christ only because you have an affection for Him, you attribute no more to him than other names which are given from some practice or fact.
XVIII. Consider those men who are devoted to horse racing. They are named after the colours and the sides on which they have placed themselves. You know the names without my mentioning them. If it is thus that you have got the name of Christian, the mere title is a very small thing even though you pride yourself upon it. But if it is because you believe Him to be God, shew your faith by your works. If the Son is a creature, even now also you are worshipping the creature instead of the Creator. If the Holy Ghost is a creature, you are baptized in vain, and are only sound on two sides, or rather not even on them; but on one you are altogether in danger. Imagine the Trinity to be a single pearl, alike on all sides and equally glistening. If any part of the pearl be injured; the whole beauty of the stone is gone. So when you dishonour the Son in order to hon-our the Father, He does not accept your hon-our. The Father doth not glory in the dishonour of the Son. If a wise Son maketh a glad Father,25 how much more doth the hon-our of the Son become that of the Father! And if you also accept this saying, My Son, glory not in the dishonour of thy Father,26 similarly the Father doth not glory in the Son’s dishonour. If you dishonour the Holy Ghost, the Son receiveth not your honour. For though He be not of the Father in the same way as the Son, yet He is of the same Father. Either honour the whole or dishonour the whole, so as to have a consistent mind. I cannot accept your half piety. I would have you altogether pious, but in the way that I desire. Pardon my affection: I am grieved even for those who hate me. You were one of my members, even though you are now cut off: perhaps you will again become a member; and therefore I speak kindly. Thus much for the sake of the Eunuchs, that they may be chaste in respect of the Godhead.
XIX. For it is not only bodily sin which is called fornication and adultery, but any sin you have committed, and especially transgression against that which is divine. Perhaps you ask how we can prove this :—They went a whoring, it says, with their own inventions.27 Do you see an impudent act of fornication? And again, They committed adultery in the wood.28 See you a kind of adulterous religion? Do not then commit spiritual adultery, while keeping your bodies chaste. Do not shew that it is unwillingly you are chaste in body, by not being chaste where you can commit fornication. Why have you done your impiety? Why are you hurried to vice, so that it is all one to call a man a Eunuch or a villain? Place yourselves on the side of men, and, even though so late, have some manly thoughts. Avoid the women’s apartments; do not let the disgrace of proclamation be added to the disgrace of the name. Would you have us persevere a little longer in this discourse, or are you tired with what we have said? Nay, by what follows let even the eunuchs be honoured. For the word is one of praise.
XX. There are, He says, some eunuchs which were so born from their mother’s womb; and there are some eunuchs which were made eunuchs of men; and there be eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. I think that the discourse would sever itself from the body, and represent higher things by bodily figures; for to stop the meaning at bodily eunuchs would be small and very weak, and unworthy of the Word; and we must understand in addition something worthy of the Spirit. Some, then, seem by nature to incline to good. And when I speak of nature, I am not slighting free will, but supposing both—an aptitude for good, and that which brings the natural aptitude to effect. And there are others whom reason cleanses, by cutting them off from the passions. These I imagine to be meant by those whom men have made Eunuchs, when the word of teaching distinguishing the better from the worse and rejecting the one and commanding the other (like the verse, Depart from evil and do good),29 works spiritual chastity. This sort of making eunuchs I approve ; and I highly praise both teachers and taught, that the one have nobly effected, and the other still more nobly endured, the cutting off.
XXI. And there be eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake. Others, too, who have not met with teachers, have been laudable teachers to themselves. No father nor mother, no Priest or Bishop, nor any of those commissioned to teach, taught you your duty; but by moving reason in yourself and by kindling the spark of good by your free will, you made yourself a eunuch, and acquired such a habit of virtue that impulse to vice became almost an impossibility to you. Therefore I praise this kind of Eunuch-making also, and perhaps even above the others. He that is able to receive it let him receive it. Choose which part you will; either follow the Teacher or be your own teacher. One thing alone is shameful—that the passions be not extirpated. It matters not how they are extirpated. The teacher is God’s creature; and you also have the same origin; and whether the teacher grasp this grace, or the good be your own—it is equally good.
XXII. Only let us cut ourselves off from passion, test any root of bitterness springing up trouble us;30 only let us follow the image; only let us reverence our Archetype. Cut off the bodily passions; cut off also the spiritual. For by how much the soul is more precious than the body, by so much more precious is it to cleanse the soul than the body. And if cleansing of the body be a praiseworthy act, see, I pray you, how much greater and higher is that of the soul. Cut away the Arian impiety; cut away the false opinion of Sabellius; do not join more than is right, or wrongly sever; do not either confuse the Three Persons into One, or make Three diversities of Nature. The One is praiseworthy if rightly understood; and the Three when rightly divided, when the division is of Persons, not of Godhead.
XXIII. I enact this for Laymen too, and I enjoin it also upon all Priests, and upon those commissioned to rule. Come to the aid of the Word, all of you to whom God has given power to aid. It is a great thing to check murder, to punish adultery, to chastise theft; much more to establish piety by law, and to bestow sound doctrine. My word will not be able to do as much in fighting for the Holy Trinity as your Edict, if you will bridle the ill disposed, if you will help the persecuted, if you will check the slayers, and prevent people from being slain. I am speaking not merely of bodily but of spiritual slaughter. For all sin is the death of the soul. Here let my discourse end.
XXIV. But it remains that I speak a prayer for those who are assembled. Husbands alike and wives, rulers and ruled, old men, and young men, and maidens, every sort of age, bear ye every loss whether of money or of body, but one thing alone do not endure—to lose the Godhead. I adore the Father, I adore the Son, I adore the Holy Ghost; or rather We adore them; I, who am speaking, before all and after all and with all, in the same Christ our Lord, to whom be the glory and the might for ever. Amen.
1 (Ga 3,10 Ga 3,13.
2 (Is 9,1,
3 (Jn 1,1,
4 (Ex 20,21 33,20, Ex 23
5 (1Co 13,7,
6 (Mt 3,3,
7 (Si 3,11 Si 3,
8 (Gn 3,6,
9 (Rm 1,3,
10 Ep 5,32.
11 Ep 5,22 seq.
12 (Pr 30,33,
13 Anindication that S. Gregory was himself unmarried.
14 (Pr 5,17,
15 (Mt 19,10,
16 (He 12,4,
17 The passage is obscure. Combefis reads, “Though she be not a mother” but the Mss are against him.
18 (Ps 14,14,
19 (Lc 8,14,
20 (Rm 9,16,
21 (Ps 127,1,
22 Qo 9,11.
23 (Mt 20,20, etc.
24 Ga 1,10.
25 (Pr 10,1,
26 (Si 3,10 Si 3,
27 (Ps 106,39,
28 (Jr 3,9,
29 (Ps 37,27,
30 (He 12,15,
1 H. E., Nic Per., p. 399.
Gregory Naz. 23400