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Gregory of Nazianzus

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The Theologian

Growing up as a Catholic, I never even considered watching whom I spoke in front of when in a conversation about God. I never dwelled on the fact that I might be putting "the sword into the enemies hands", or that only people that were concerned with God should speak of Him. Gregory of Nazianzus believed that only certain people, certain places and certain occasions were worthy of the discussion of God. In Gregory's First Theological Oration, he clearly delivers the guidelines that believers should heed when speaking of or about God.

First and foremost, the First Oration is not just a set of guidelines, but also a preparatory work that precedes four other Orations. The Five Theological Orations earned Gregory the title of the Theologian (Catholic Online). In them he discusses the consubstantiality of the Son and Holy Spirit in relation to God, as well as the fact that no human, despite their level of understanding or knowledge, can fully comprehend the nature of God (Bone). With these subjects in mind, it is important to consider a bit about Gregory's background.

Born to the Bishop of Nazianzus in Cappadocia, religion was a central part of Gregory's life. He was educated in Christian writings, especially Origen (Catholic Online). Origen lived during the Christian persecutions between 185 and 254 AD. He is considered one of the greatest Christian Theologians of all time, most likely in regards to his many biblical commentaries and sermons. Some of his better known works were On First Principle, which discussed Christian Neo-Platonism, and Against Celcus, which was a written response to the Pagan philosopher Celcus' attack on Christianity (IEoP). Together with his friend Basil, Gregory composed the Philocalia, meaning "Love of Beauty" which was an anthology of Origen's works. Gregory was also extremely well versed in Greek philosophy (Catholic Online).

A very surprising fact is that it was under force from his father that Gregory became a priest. He did not feel that he was pure enough to be in such a sacred office, because he had not yet finished learning. Several times he took sanctuary in a monastery. He was eventually made into the Bishop of Nazianzus, but a larger position was offered to him as the Bishop of Constantinople. He accepted the role, but unfortunately could not keep it, since one cannot be Bishop of two places, and the original "bishopship" should be the position kept (Catholic Online).

After giving a bit of background information, I can now explain the First Theological Oration. Speaking to, or against the Eunomians, which were a radical group of Arians (Catholic Encyclopedia), Gregory begins the First Oration very boldly about the pride the Eunomians have in their eloquence and ability to masterfully work the crowds in their favor. The interpretation I take is that these Eunomians take what theologians, such as Gregory, have to say and then twist it for the benefits of their own cause and religion. Gregory also accuses them of sophistry and that they are "acrobats with words". These accusations directly apply, since the definitions, in a nutshell, mean "plausible but misleading argument" and "one who changes one's viewpoint on short notice in response to their circumstance" ( I take that to mean something that is possible enough to distract new believers from the true cause, and give that sliver of a doubt to pull them away from the one God. It is appropriate, then, that Gregory goes on to discuss that there is a proper time, place, presence, and circumstance in which to discuss God.

First, he says that only certain audiences are worthy of the discussion of God. It is not for those that do not concern themselves on the subject, or for those that consider it tomorrow's gossip. It is for those that are "purified body and soul", or at the very least in the process of being purified. I asked myself what Gregory meant by purification, and I feel that this use of the word means a strong conviction and commitment to God alone, that the worldly consequences of such a belief have already been considered, and the first step towards salvation are taken in thought, word, and deed. This makes perfect sense. It does not seem beneficial to discuss it in front of those that do not care about God or their life after death, especially when different theories could be argued, pulling one away from God completely as has been mentioned earlier.

Likewise, it makes sense that in public places or under certain circumstances, the topic of God should be taken into consideration. It would not be right to talk about baseball at a funeral, or death at a wedding. So too is there a proper time to talk about God. He says next that the discussion of God needs to be done in moderation. God needs to be thought of every moment; remembered, thanked, revered, but speaking of Him should be saved for those aforementioned appropriate occasions. In this same discussion, Gregory questions "what subjects and to what extent may we philosophize". He goes on to say that we should only speak about subjects that are "within our reach", or as I took it, within our mental comprehension. There is a common pattern of moderation here; appropriate discussion time, place and audience and the things that can be discussed are all subject to be done in moderation.

Worldly desires are something that most, if not all humans possess. With Gregory in mind, he goes into a long rhetorical thought, speaking of those that cannot think higher than the body, along with many other points. Out of those points, one that stands out is "we do not make our life a preparation for death". I took this phrase literally. By not making our lives a preparation for death, we are not appreciating the ability to share another day with the world, we are not working in the name of God so that we can enter the Kingdom, and the parts of each day that we are active in speaking out, it (possibly) is spent discussing trivial matters and gossiping.

Gregory next discusses the many mansions that comprise "God's



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