The Second Concerning the Son. I. Since I have by the power of the Spirit sufficiently overthrown the subtleties and intricacies of the arguments, and already. The Fifth Theological Oration. On the Holy Spirit. I. Such then is the account of the Son, and in this manner He has escaped those who would stone Him, passing. Oration 1 · Oration 2 · Oration 3 · Oration 7 · Oration 8 · Oration 12 · Oration 16 · Oration 18 · Oration 21 · Oration 27 First Theological Oration Oration 28 Second.
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The Theological Orations of St Gregory Nazianzen were delivered at a time when the Church in Constantinople was wracked by theological controversy revolving around the identity and nature of God.
Gregory evidently composed these five lectures as a comprehensive and rhetorically persuasive response to the controversy. Clearly his audience included, not only members of his congregation, but also opponents from the Homoian and Heterousian camps. John McGuckin suggests that it took a couple of months for Gregory to prepare these discourses. He may even have received a measure of assistance from St Jerome and Evagrius Ponticus in their composition.
Taken together, orations represent one of the finest patristic presentations of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. In Oration 27 Gregory does not, however, immediately jump into the substance of the conflict. Rather, he addresses the way these matters are being presently debated in Constantinople. What is the proper manner for Christians to discuss theological questions? What is the proper forum? And who qualifies as a theologian?
It sounds as if the entire city was involved in disputation and debate, with everyone passionately and often violently advancing their theological opinions. Everywhere one went, whether theaters, salons, funerals, or taverns, there one would hear people vigorously debating arcane points of theology. Gregory and his church of the Anastasia were far outnumbered by Christians and pagans who rejected the confession that Jesus Christ is of one being with the Father.
They apparently were skilled in rhetoric and argumentation but of a kind of which Gregory strongly disapproves. They always win the argument, even when they are wrong. Oration 27 is a call to rhetorical temperance, humility, civility, patience, discernment, seriousness, reverence.
There is a time and place for theological argument, but there are also times and places where it is inappropriate and harmful. The nature of God is not lightly and frivolously discussed. We do not chit-chat about divinity. Theology is not about scoring debate points.
Theology is apprehension of the truth, and such apprehension requires the cultivation of virtue and a living relationship with God. The following passage particularly jumped out at me:. Discussion of theology is not for everyone, I tell you, not for everyone—it is no such inexpensive or effortless pursuit.
Nor, I would add, is it for every occasion, or every audience; neither are all its aspects open to inquiry. It must be reserved for certain occasions, for certain audiences, and certain limits must be observed. It is not for all people, but only for those who have been tested and have found a sound footing in study, and, more importantly, have undergone, or at the very least are undergoing, purification of body and soul.
What is the right time? Whenever we are free from the mire and noise without, and our commanding faculty is not confused by illusory, wandering images, leading us, as it were, to mix fine script with ugly scrawling, or sweet-smelling scent with slime.
Who should listen to discussions of theology? Those for whom it is a serious undertaking, not just another subject like any other for entertaining small-talk, after the races, the theater, songs, food, and sex: St Gregory firmly locates theology in the liturgical, ascetical, and moral life of the Church. It is is not a kind of academic speculation in which any person might indulge. Those who would reflect faithfully on the things of God must be themselves living a life of faith, repentance, prayer, and worship.
They must be immersed in the Scriptures. Intellectual study, ascetical discipline, and devotional meditation are inseparable. Character formation and the acquisition of virtue are decisive. If we would apprehend truth, we must live in the truth. His heart and mind must be purified and illumined by the Holy Spirit.
St. Gregory the Theologian – Theological Orations
Gregory is not telling his audience that they must orationw remain silent about God—remembering God at all times is more important than breathing, he assures them—but their conversation must be grounded in spiritual union with the Holy Trinity in the Church.
Mere syllogistic skill is insufficient. In truth, Gregory believes that the teaching and public discussion of theology should be restricted to the few. The gift of salvation and faith is the common property of all believers, but only some are summoned to the vocation of theologian.
Months earlier he had reminded his congregation of the teaching of the Apostle Paul about the diversity of the gifts of the Spirit.
Not all are given to be apostles, prophets, teachers. He then reminded them of the experience of Israel at the holy mountain, one of his favorite stories:. If you are Moses, go up into the cloud and seek to talk to God and to hear his voice; and receive the Law, and become a lawgiver. But if you are Aaron, go up with him but stop outside the cloud and stay close by.
And if you are an Ithamar or an Eleazar and third from Moses or one of the elders and theologcal member of the Seventy, stand even farther away, although you are third in rank. But if you are one of the common crowd, the mountain does not admit you; even a beast which touches there will be stoned.
Wait below and seek to hear only the voice and this only after you have cleansed and purified yourself, as you have been commanded. Gregory makes a clear distinction between that gift of salvation, generously bestowed upon all the faithful, and the intellectual and spiritual enlightenment given to those few whom God has chosen to be theological teachers in the Church:. We have as our common property the Law; the Prophets; Testaments; the oracles therein; elementary instruction; perfection; the sufferings of Christ; the new creation; the apostles; the Gospels; the apportionment of the Spirit; faith, hope, love, both toward God and from God and not doled out piecemeal as the gift of manna once was to an ungrateful and unfeeling Israel, but in proportion to our desire; ascent; illumination, in its earthly form, limited, in the one we hope for, clear; and the greatest gift of all, the recognition of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and the confession of our highest hope.
What is greater than these?
Indeed, what more common? As for the gifts that are above these, though more precious because of their rarity, they are secondary because they are not vital, for the things without which one cannot be a Christian are more useful than those accessible to only a few. Ultimately only he who has been illumined by the Spirit is qualified to be a theologian. I am reminded of the words of St Paul: So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. Having spent many years in study and contemplation of the divine mysteries, St Gregory believes that he is appropriately qualified. Gregory is also concerned with the impact that frivolous and uncivil theological discourse may have on others, especially on those hostile to the faith. In particular he is fearful that they will misinterpret the dispute about the generation of the Son and be confirmed in their idolatry and sin:.
How, I ask you, will such a discussion be interpreted by the man who subscribes to a creed of adulteries and infanticides, who worships the passions, who is incapable of conceiving of anything higher than the body, who fabricated his own gods only the other day, and gods at that distinguished by their utter vileness?
What sort of construction will he put on it? Is he not certain to take it in a crude, obscene, material sense, as is his wont? Will he not appropriate your theology to defend his own gods and passions?
This is what our civil war leads to. This is what we achieve by fighting for the Word with greater violence than is pleasing to the Word.
We are in the same state as madmen who set fire to their own houses, tear their own children limb from limb, or reject their own parents, regarding them as strangers. How can we converse about the mystery of the Trinity with those whose minds are governed by philosophical, religious, and moral principles contrary to the apostolic faith? Clearly Gregory does not believe that people outside the orthodox faith can be argued into orthodoxy by logic and proofs.
But he is equally concerned about the destructive consequences of unholy disputation. Only a few months earlier he and his congregation had been attacked by an unruly crowd on Pascha. The practice of theology is therefore profoundly personal.
CHURCH FATHERS: Fourth Theological Oration (Oration 30) (Gregory Nazianzen)
It both presupposes and enacts the transformation of the theologian. The knowledge of God and the condition of the knower are inseparably joined. Gregory of Nazianzus on the Trinity and the Knowledge of Godp. Having addressed the intellectual, moral, and spiritual qualifications of the true theologian, St Gregory the Theologian is now ready to address the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.
Go to the Second Theological Oration. I have made a couple of minor changes to this article. I had forgotten to include it when I first published my blog article yesterday. One of the advantages of a blog article is that one can always edit it. I have just added another lengthy quotation from St Gregory, this one from Or St Gregory the Theologian: The following passage particularly jumped out at me: He then reminded them of the experience of Israel at the holy mountain, one of his favorite stories: Gregory makes a clear distinction between that gift of salvation, generously bestowed upon all the faithful, and the intellectual and spiritual enlightenment given to those few whom God has chosen to be theological teachers in the Church: In particular he is fearful that they will misinterpret the dispute about the generation of the Son and be confirmed in their idolatry and sin: Go to the Second Theological Oration Share this: Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Print.
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