Renouncing the World Yet Leading the Church: The Monk-Bishop in Late Antiquity (excerpts)
From "Renouncing the World Yet Leading the Church: The Monk-Bishop in Late Antiquity", Harvard University Press.
Gregory of Nazianzus: Ascetic Life and Episcopal Office in Tension
In keeping with his more volatile and sensitive temperament, Gregory of Nazianzus was more explicit in his descriptions of bishops and ideals of leadership than were his two close Cappadocian colleagues. This is particularly evident in his treatment of ecclesiastical abuses. In fact, no one up to this point in the fourth century was as outspoken as the Theologian in condemning contemporary bishops he judged unworthy of Episcopal office. His forthrightness and specificity were not confined to negative examples, for he provided vivid descriptions of the positive preparation and character he expected of a Christian bishop. Though Gregory had difficulty reconciling ascetic and Episcopal ideals in his own life, many of his positive expectations were met in the person and career of Basil -if not always in the real Basil, then at least in the bishop of Caesarea he constructed in his later writings. In fact, much of what Gregory said about ecclesiastical office, his concerns as well as his high standards, had been expressed or intimated in a different tone and in a less programmatic fashion by Basil himself. Yet the number and forcefulness of Nazianzen's writings on church leadership, a subject that preoccupied him through the greater part of his life, played a particularly important role in spreading his own perspectives as well as shared Cappadocian ideals.
In considering Gregory's career we must remember that most of what we know of his biography was carefully scripted by Gregory himself. Through his autobiographical poems and his astutely crafted orations, both purposefully directed toward specific audiences, Gregory took a very active role in projecting a particular self-image to his own and future generations (1). While such intentionality on Nazianzen's part may distort some of the details of his past or cause readers to misinterpret them, it also illumines what he considered most important to communicate about his life and ideals. From his own reflections, then, we learn that as a young man Gregory was already strongly disposed toward the monastic vocation. Employing a standard hagiographical trope, he recounts how at his birth his mother dedicated him to God; in accordance with her prayers for him, Gregory explains, Christ "breathed into me the love of holy wisdom, and of monastic life, which is the first fruit of the life to be"(2). Any natural inclination toward a life of asceticism and contemplation became all the more pronounced through his intimate association with Basil. Gregory's admiration for Basil dates back to the years of their blossoming friendship as students in Athens. "Above all it was God, of course, and a mutual desire for higher things, that drew us to each other," he later recalled (3). Together they pledged to devote themselves to "philosophy," "the more perfect life," upon the completion of their studies (4).
While Basil embarked on a monastic course soon after his return to Cappadocia, Gregory himself was held back for some time. He explains on several occasions that it was reverence toward his aging parents that prevented him from joining Basil immediately. In retrospect he wonders whether his separation from Basil was not the cause of many difficulties in his life, particularly his unsatisfactory progress in the pursuit of philosophy (5). Gregory did finally succeed in joining his friend in Annesi for some time (6). He was not equally enthralled with the humble existence there that Basil had described to him in such idyllic terms. Finding the setting harsh and barren and the lifestyle rigorous and austere, Gregory describes the retreat in a mocking tone in two letters to his friend (7). Nonetheless, another letter from these early years reveals that his ascetic ideals and ambitions had not diminished. After discounting his two previous letters as mere teasing, he looks back longingly to the psalmodies and vigils, the zeal for the Scriptures, the earnest pursuit of virtue, "those journeys to God in prayer and that life in some sense immaterial and incorporeal" that he had shared with Basil and other brothers in their company (8). His yearning for such a life and his esteem for Basil remained strong.
Gregory returned to his family in Nazianzus little knowing the plans his father had for him. Though he did not disdain the active life, he claims that his proclivity toward monastic withdrawal and contemplation caused him to react vehemently against the course of life the elder Gregory had foreordained for him. In reflections on this period of his life he lays bare his internal struggles. A passage from his autobiographical poem De vita sua is especially telling in this regard:
As I surveyed the actual paths to holiness it was not easy to discern the better path or the serene one ... I decided upon a middle way between the life without ties and the life of mixing, one which would combine the serenity of the former with the practical use of the latter ... I took the view that people living the active life, too, deserve our love. They receive their measure of honour from God because they lead people by means of the divine mysteries. Still, however much I seemed involved with people; I was possessed by a greater longing for monastic life, which I regarded as a matter of interior dispositions, not of physical situation. For the sanctuary I had reverence, but from a good distance, the effect being that of sunlight upon weak eyes. In all the ups and downs of life I had hoped for any other dignity than this (9).
Gregory's worst fears were soon realized. He describes the "tyranny" of his forced ordination at the hands of his father. In great distress he fled back to Pontus, hoping that Basil would serve as "medicine" for his wounds. Although his panegyric would portray Basil as having perfectly combined the virtues of active and contemplative life, in his reaction to the demands of the priesthood Gregory perceived his friend in stark contrast to mundane and burdensome ecclesiastical affairs: "For there, hidden in that cloud, like one of the sages of old, practising union with God, was Basil"(10).
Precisely what he did during the ensuing period of retirement with Basil is nowhere clearly stated, but it likely involved considerable reflection on the role of the Christian leader, whether priest or bishop, and the proper ascetic, biblical, and theological preparation for such a weighty position, themes that Gregory would soon take up in his early orations. The retreat served to clarify his perspective on church office and to reconcile him personally to the tasks that he was about to assume in Nazianzus. Indeed his withdrawal was short-lived, for fear of irreverence toward his father and disobedience to God soon persuaded Gregory to return and accept his charge (11). Soon after his return he delivered Oration 2, an apology for his flight from sacerdotal responsibility. The speech is not merely a sermon defending his actions to the congregation of his hometown but a major treatise on the priesthood that would exercise great influence on John Chrysostom's ideas in the next generation (12). Gregory's preoccupation with ecclesiastical leadership would continue throughout his life, and many of the convictions he expressed in this oration would deepen and apply to his treatment of the episcopate some twenty years later.
To appreciate the acuity of the problems addressed in Oration 2 it is worth recalling the historical and literary context of the speech, particularly its connection with broader realities of leadership in the church of this period. During the reign of Constantius in January 360, bishops at the Council of Rimini-Constantinople had formulated a homoian creed affirming the likeness, rather than equality, of the Son with the Father. In the months that followed, proponents of the creed succeeded in rallying support for this position among a majority of eastern bishops, a clear victory for Constantius's religious policy and a bitter disappointment for the Nicene party (13). Both Dianius, Basil's bishop in Caesarea, and Gregory the Elder in Nazianzus signed the creed between 360 and 361, much to the chagrin of both Basil and Gregory. A group of dissenting ascetics in Nazianzus even split off from the church as a result of this apparent defection, refusing to have their leaders ordained by their own bishop (14). In fact, Gregory the Elder's subscription to an unorthodox formula of faith may well have been one reason for Gregory's own prompt withdrawal from Nazianzus at the prospect of ordination at his father's hands (15). In any case, after three months of retreat in the company of Basil he had returned to Nazianzus some time before Easter 362 and delivered his first three orations as an ordained priest.
Only a few months before these events, in November 361, Emperor Julian had come to power. The first pagan emperor since the conversion of Constantine, Julian's ascension to the imperial throne threw the Christian world into confusion. Shortly after Julian's death in 363 Nazianzen would compose his famous Invectives against Julian. Alongside their polemic against the emperor's anti-Christian policies, these orations attempted to explain to the faithful why God would have allowed such misfortune to befall them. God was teaching Christians a lesson, Gregory suggests, for the corruption, pride, and rivalry that had arisen among them because of their success (16). Not far in the background were the lust for power and the personal ambitions of bishops, whom Gregory would often blame on subsequent occasions for the impiety of Christians as well as for doctrinal quarrels. If this is only an underlying critique in his Invectives, it is a major theme of Oration 2, pronounced in Nazianzus in the midst of the Apostate's reign. Compared with the conflicts that rage among Christian leaders, says Gregory, even this great external threat inspires no fear (17).
Certainly the apology presents a sad picture of the clergy of his day. Like the other two Cappadocians, Gregory was all too aware of the abuses of priestly office. Yet while Basil and Gregory of Nyssa reserved their critiques of the priesthood for personal correspondence or less direct discussion, Nazianzen often brought his complaints and accusations before a wider public. In Oration 2 he expresses concern about proper order in ascending to the priestly throne, no doubt alluding to the process by which neophytes rose hastily through the ecclesiastical ranks (18). He criticizes priests for lack of preparation, wrong motives, and reprehensible character -for presuming to lead others in the pious life while they themselves have not been sanctified (19). Finding and recruiting worthy candidates for church office was a problem to which Gregory would repeatedly return in his discussions of the episcopate. Already in this oration composed in 362 he sees disreputable men in the priesthood as the principal fault of the church in his age. Decrying the numerous "wretched" and "pitiful" ministers who hold power, Gregory laments "nothing in any circumstance is or has been as widespread as are such infamies and sins among Christians today. Stopping this tendency is beyond our control, but to detest it and blush at it is not the least element of piety "(20).
Shaped by classical style and themes, as might be expected of a young man who had recently completed a rhetorical education in Athens, the same oration also shows the early influence of monastic ideals on Gregory's concept of church leadership. In keeping with the prescriptions for overseers in the monastic rules that Basil had begun to compose in Pontus, Gregory stresses the exemplary character that ought to mark the Christian leader. "One must first be purified before purifying others, be instructed before instructing, become light in order to enlighten, draw near to God before approaching others, be sanctified in order to sanctify"(21). He devotes considerable attention to the role of the priest as a spiritual guide to his flock. Like the monastic overseer who applies appropriate treatment for each state of the soul, the priest must be able to apply different remedies to the wide range of maladies that plague the Christian people (22). The medicine prescribed for each malady is some appropriate portion of Scripture rightly applied by the priest, for after presenting an overview of salvation history through the Old and New Testaments, Gregory declares, "Of this treatment we are servants and co-workers"(23). The specific image of the physician of souls to which he appeals repeatedly in this oration is more than an apt metaphor for Nazianzen. Physicians were the only "professionals" of his day who went through a lengthy and exacting professional training to equip them with the requisite skills for their vocation, and Gregory seems to be recommending this kind of preparation for leaders in the church.
In fact the final and longest section of Oration 2 considers the kind of training required for leaders in the church in contrast to the unpreparedness and consequent moral, spiritual, and theological deficiencies of most clergy in his own day Central to such preparation is a long and deep immersion in Scripture, and not just the memorization of a few pious phrases or a brief acquaintance with the Psalms, which was apparently the boast of some contemporary clergy (24). Thorough biblical and spiritual training would require years of preparation and could not be rushed. Little wonder, then, that Gregory's ideal minister might well be a man of grey hair and advanced age. Until a prospective priest has, through long philosophical training, mastered his passions, purified his understanding, and sufficiently surpassed others in nearness to God, it would be dangerous to entrust him with the direction of souls or to place him as a mediator between God and humanity (25).
Here as elsewhere in his orations Gregory refers to Moses as an example of one who was suitably prepared to approach God and consequently to lead God's people (26). He reminds us that even Aaron and his two sons who were priests were instructed to worship at a distance, "for it does not belong to all to approach God," but only to those who, like Moses, are able to confront God's glory (27). Likewise only Moses, who alone had climbed the mountain and penetrated to the interior of the cloud, was prepared to receive God's law and instruct the multitudes. Far from being opposed to the active life of pastoral care, the life of contemplation is presented as a requirement for effective priestly service. To accept a position of authority without this spiritual experience would be folly and peril (28). Gregory implies that it is largely because he recognized the grandeur of the priesthood that he himself hesitated to submit to this exalted calling. The refusal of public office, followed by acceptance of it at some later time, was in fact a classical political motif that would have been familiar to someone of Gregory's background and education; we need not insist on purely Christian ideals or monastic virtues behind his reservations. And he places himself in good company, for once again Moses, whom he so often invokes as a model of Christian leadership, was initially reluctant to respond to God's call (29).
In light of this high view of priestly office and its requisite qualifications, it is not surprising that Gregory writes a letter of encouragement to Basil on the event of his ordination to the priesthood (30). He sympathizes and identifies with Basil's love for the philosophical life, and he admits that he does not understand the purpose of the Spirit in the matter of their ordinations. Yet especially in light of the threat of heresies facing the church in their day, he urges his friend to bear the task entrusted to him. Several years later Basil had returned from Caesarea to the monastic solitude of Pontus when Bishop Eusebius's negative feelings toward him threatened to divide the Caesarean church into rival parties. The conflict seems to have been sparked by a group of ascetics in Caesarea whom Gregory refers to as "our Nazarites," the wiser elite of the church who had separated themselves from the world and consecrated their lives to God. This influential ascetic party opposed Eusebius's Episcopal election, considering Basil the more suitable leader. Recognizing the danger of a split in the church, Basil felt it prudent to withdraw from the city.
Gregory writes to him during this period, encouraging him to resume his sacerdotal duties in Caesarea both because his bishop needs his aid and because of Basil's better theological preparation to withstand the attack of heretics (31). At the same time, he pens three letters to Bishop Eusebius urging him to be reconciled to Basil. He praises his friend's life and words, describing him as a priest of such high character that "in life, in doctrine, and in conduct we hold him to be the best of all we know."
Gregory considered Basil not only the best of priests but also the worthiest of bishops, despite his initial reservations about Basil's motives in accepting the Episcopal dignity (32). Writing to the people of Caesarea during the summer of 370, Gregory speaks of a bishop as "the lamp of the church," one whose character either compromises or saves the church. In the same letter he commends Basil above all other candidates, for he is a priest "purified in life and word"(33). At the start of the controversy surrounding the division of Cappadocia two years later, before Gregory himself is forcibly ordained bishop, he writes a letter of support to his friend. He expresses confidence that Basil's "philosophy" will be untainted by his present afflictions and that his long experience in the contemplative life will enable him to remain unshaken by events that are agitating others (34).
Gregory seems to have come to view the "mixed life" that Basil represented as the ideal. He believed the active life of love and service ought to complement the pursuit of contemplation (35). An appreciation for a kind of mixed life was not unique to Christians of this period. For many pagan philosophers of late antiquity, involvement in public affairs at a certain level went hand in hand with the life of renunciation and contemplative withdrawal. Philosophers might serve as ambassadors, diplomats, mediators, and financial benefactors of their city and its traditions (36). What set apart the pagan ideal of "contemplative worldliness" from the mixed life of the Christian ascetic was the nature of the pagan philosopher's involvement in public life.
The philosopher rendered service almost exclusively on behalf of the governing class, an upper-class urban elite. The Christian ascetic, in contrast, identified with the humble and oppressed classes (37). The ancient virtue of euergesia, which wealthy and powerful patrons practiced largely in the form of gifts to their city, was transformed by Christians into the virtue of ptochotrophia, support of the poor and care for the sick. As Brian Daley has argued, it was particularly this concrete Christian version of the philosophical life, a central aspect of the classical ideal of philanthropia that pagan Hellenism had failed to realize, that the Cappadocians saw as the goal of the Christian community as a whole and a major focus of monasticism. This is an emphasis we have already noted in Basil's career and one that Gregory would laud on various occasions (38).
Whatever his ideological convictions about the nature of philanthropia or the value of the mixed life, however, Gregory continued to wrestle with a natural inclination toward monastic seclusion and a disinclination to govern the churches or engage in ecclesiastical affairs. This tension, he suggests, underlies his hostile reaction to being consecrated to the newly created see of Sasima in 372. In a biting letter to Basil he writes, "For me the greatest action is inaction ... So proud am I of my inactivity [apragmosune] that I think I might even be a standard for all of magnanimity in this regard"(39). Despite his claims here, Gregory's objections to this ordination probably involved more than a mere disinclination for ecclesiastical affairs. His comments in De vita sua suggest that he was particularly incensed at being condemned to such a remote village. Gregory never actually took possession of his see in Sasima but remained in Nazianzus as his father's coadjutor. Though his anger and bitterness persisted toward both his friend and his father for forcing him into the episcopate, Gregory still held Basil in high regard. While a certain distance thenceforth marked their relationship, he did not cease to praise Basil for his piety and example of virtue"(40).
Four short orations from the period of Gregory's Episcopal consecration illustrate the tensions that continued to dominate his ecclesiastical career. The editor of these discourses has singled out three "thèmes privilégiés" of Orations 9 through 12: friendship, the role of the bishop, and philosophy (41). Gregory's treatment of each of these themes juxtaposes his inner struggles and his consistently lofty ideals. In particular these speeches expose his sense of loss at having to relinquish the tranquil life of philosophy. In Oration 10 Gregory confesses, "Ι dreamed of Elijah's Carmel and John's desert, of that life above the world led by the philosophers.
Ι considered the present as a tempest, and Ι sought a rock, a precipice, or a wall to shelter myself. Ι said, let others have the honours and the toil; for others the battles and the victories. For myself, let it suffice for me to flee the battles, to be attentive to myself"(42). While admitting his sadness and unable to hide the pain caused by an apparent breach of friendship on Basil's part, Gregory claims that he has now been won over by the Spirit and reconciled to his new position as well as to those who placed him in it (43). He describes his Episcopal charge in terms that reflect monastic ideals, and he appeals to Basil to teach him his pastoral art. He compares both Basil and his father in their function as bishops with the ministry of Moses (44). Indeed despite feeling victimized by what he considered a heavy-handed use of authority, he later commended the bishop of Caesarea as the paragon of Christian leadership.
Before considering his famous panegyric of Basil, however, we must review the events in Nazianzen's life that directly preceded his delivery of this speech. Soon after his father's death in 375 Gregory fled to the monastery of St. Thecla in Seleucia, 600 to 700 kilometres from Caesarea, hoping to withdraw from ecclesiastical affairs for the sake of contemplation(45). He remained there in relative seclusion for several years until, according to his own account, he was again wrenched away from his solitude by the pressing needs of the church (46). With the death of Valens in 378 the orthodox community in Constantinople, which had long suffered under Arian dominance, saw its fortunes changing. The Nicene emperor Theodosius was about to establish his rule in the imperial city. Yet Christians were still deeply divided, and warring factions threatened to further rend the beleaguered church. Able leadership was sorely wanting. The small flock of orthodox Christians appealed to Nazianzen as God's man for the task (47). He accepted the call and assumed leadership of the Nicene community in Constantinople.
The preceding scenario is based primarily on Gregory's personal reflections on the course of events. The actual religious situation in Constantinople was more complex and Nazianzen's role more ambiguous than he might lead us to believe (48). There is no doubt, however, that once he arrived in the capital Gregory immediately found himself in the midst of controversy. While defending the Nicene faith against manifold heresies that persisted in the imperial city, he was also forced to defend himself personally against enemies who sought to denigrate his character or contest his authority to govern the church (49). His embroilment in controversy with bishops following his arrival in Constantinople strengthened his convictions about ecclesiastical authority and puts the panegyric of Basil into proper perspective. The importance of the Constantinopolitan episode in Nazianzen's life is suggested by the amount of space he allots to it in his poem De vita sua. Almost two-thirds of the verses in this autobiographical poem focus on this two-year period (50). Also striking is the amount of attention he devotes to the episcopate in his writings from 379 to 382. His orations and poems from these years show him to be a forceful and untiring advocate of ecclesiastical reform, particularly upholding an ascetic ideal of leadership in the church.
Several orations delivered during Gregory's tenure in Constantinople reflect the ecclesiastical malaise of the city. They also expose his view of contemporary bishops and his deepening convictions about Episcopal authority. Both Orations 20 and 21 take up the theme of bad bishops (51). Men in the highest ecclesiastical office are uninstructed, unpurified, and wholly unprepared for spiritual leadership (52). Only one who has tamed the flesh and received divine enlightenment through the prolonged practice of "philosophy" is equipped to take charge of souls, Gregory insists at the beginning of Oration 20. He repeats this concern at the close of the discourse. As in Oration 2, from which much of the content of this speech is drawn, Gregory points to the life of Moses as an illustration of proper preparation for leadership. Moses alone ascended the mount, encountered God in the cloud, and finally received the law (53). We have seen that the three stages of Moses' life served as an important Episcopal paradigm for the Cappadocians, but his tripartite career was only one aspect of his appeal as a leader. His encounter with God on Mount Sinai was indispensable preparation for the task of instructing the multitudes. Gregory takes up this theme again in one of his five theological orations delivered in Constantinople during the same period. In Oration 28 he gives a detailed account of Moses' ascent and divine encounter. The vision of God epitomized by the Sinai theophany was for Nazianzen as for Nyssan the ultimate goal of monastic withdrawal and the mark of the true theologian. "In this way, then, you will do theology," Gregory declares toward the end of the narrative (54). To teach or lead the Christian people without this revelation was for Gregory the height of presumption.
In Oration 21 Athanasius poses the contrast to unworthy prelates of the day. While the latter usurp and abuse their power, the great bishop of Alexandria is said to have exercised paternal authority, a gentleness and severity stemming from his "philosophy"(55). After classing Athanasius with a long list of biblical saints, Gregory suggests that his hero equalled or surpassed them all. Both in theory and in practice he excelled, and he far exceeded those renowned in only one or the other domain (56). Though Athanasius was never a monk in the strict sense, Nazianzen turns him into the model monk-bishop; and it was especially this depiction of the Alexandrian that shaped later Byzantine portrayals of the patriarch. Gregory explains how Athanasius reconciled the eremitic and coenobitic life,
showing that there is a priesthood which is a philosophy and a philosophy which needs the sacerdotal ministry. In this way he harmonized the two types of life and brought them together, both activity compatible with retreat and retreat compatible with the active life, that he might persuade everyone that the monastic profession is characterized by steadfastness in a way of life rather than by physical withdrawal, according to the principle of David, the great man of action who was at the same time a perfect solitary (57).
As in Nyssan's portrayal of Basil, Nazianzen internalises monastic ideals so that active ministry in the church need not be opposed to the values and practices of the monk. Such a life, he concludes, is the rule for the episcopate (58).
Gregory's personal struggles with fellow bishops worsened with time. Although Theodosius Ι himself had formally installed him as bishop of Constantinople in November 380, the legitimacy of his position continued to be questioned. Ostensibly the objections of adversaries were based on the prohibition of Episcopal translations in canon 15 of the Council of Nicaea. This legislation was under girded by a number of patristic writers who developed the notion that a bishop contracts a mystical, indissoluble marriage with his church. Gregory himself referred to this concept when arguing that lie was not bound to a church that he had never occupied (59). But worst of all the opposition, according to Gregory, were the pretensions of the rival bishop Maximus, at once a "villainous kennel keeper" and a "poor shorn dog"(60). This one-time Cynic philosopher had been smuggled into Gregory's own church and fraudulently consecrated by Egyptian prelates, and had ultimately gained the support of the western bishops as well. The whole episode of Gregory's rise and rapid fall in Constantinople was in fact part of a larger pattern of ecclesiastical conflicts in the capital in which the bishop of Alexandria, allied with a faction of monks, opposed and eventually jettisoned the bishop of Constantinople (61).
Debate over Nazianzen's status continued into the Council of Constantinople, over which Gregory himself presided following the death of Bishop Meletius. The rejection of his recommendation for the resolution of the Meletian schism of Antioch, coupled with ongoing polemic about his own appointment, was, by Gregory's account, too much for his sensitive temperament to bear. Though he does not mention it, the late arrival at the council of the Egyptian bishops, who had earlier backed Maximus as their candidate for the imperial see, must have sealed his doom. Pleading illness, he resigned his episcopate, took leave of the council, and returned to the family estate in Arianzus (62). Before his departure, however, he delivered a farewell address before a group of prelates assembled at the ecumenical council. Oration 42 was probably composed in stages, and the bishops likely never heard the harshest invectives Gregory hurled at them in the final form of this speech; or it may be that Gregory's immediate audience was composed of friends and supporters rather than the hostile bishops themselves (63). Nonetheless, it represents the epilogue to Nazianzen's tenure in Constantinople. Taken together with his autobiographical poems De se ipso et de episcopis and De vita sua, written during the same period of retirement, it contains some of his most severe criticism of the episcopate. It also provides an excellent foil for his portrayal of the ideal bishop, soon to be eulogized in his panegyric of Basil (64).
Like Oration 2, delivered almost twenty years earlier, Oration 42 is Gregory's apologia for his flight from ecclesiastical responsibility. After describing his call to Constantinople, the struggling church he had come to serve, and the results of his ministry, Gregory reserves a large portion of the speech for an indictment of unworthy leaders. He censures pastors who keep the truth hidden, caring only for their own well-being and not for the health of the people entrusted to them. He paints a bleak picture of Episcopal intrigues, describing contentiousness among bishops as a "holy war"(65). Moreover, many Christians seek pastors who will rival men of power, wealth, and worldly status: "For they seek not for priests, but for orators, not for stewards of souls, but for treasurers of money, not for pure offerers of the sacrifice, but for powerful patrons"(66). Gregory blames fellow bishops for the low level of the Christian laity, for leaders have all too easily accommodated themselves to the whims of the people they are supposed to lead. He begs only that his own successor would be a worthy shepherd, "one who is the object of envy, not the object of pity"(67). There is a note of irony in this plea, for his replacement, Nectarius, was almost the antithesis of Gregory's ideal bishop: a neophyte rather than an experienced priest, an administrator rather than a theologian, and a senator rather than a "philosopher."
Oration 42 has very little to say in a positive vein about bishops. However, within months of his departure from Constantinople Nazianzen found an ideal opportunity to publicize his own standards for Episcopal office. It has been suggested that Oration 43, Gregory's funeral oration on Basil, forms a "diptych" with his farewell address (68). Composed by the bishop of Constantinople, recently "emeritus" and living in retirement, it was pronounced before the public of Caesarea and later revised and enlarged for broader consumption. In this speech Basil's career serves as a contrast to the negative characteristics of contemporary bishops that Gregory had just condemned and as an example for imitation. Unlike Nyssan's highly idealized portrait of his brother in the encomium, Nazianzen's speech recounts many specific incidents from Basil's life. Despite obvious omissions in the narrative, there is also significant historical detail and a number of events parallel those related in Basil's correspondence (69).
Following traditional headings of a logos epitaphios, Gregory starts his oration with a eulogy of the Cappadocian's homeland, ancestry, and parents (70). He hopes to demonstrate that the great distinction of Basil's family was piety, which the young man both inherited and cultivated in his own life. Basil's education, especially his studies together with Gregory in Athens, is recounted in considerable detail. Nazianzen clearly valued the bishop's pagan education (paideusin ... ten exothen), which most Christians, he remarks, wrongly reject as dangerous or insidious to faith." While he stresses Basil's superiority in all academic pursuits, he is just as concerned to show that his friend's main occupation was "philosophy" .Describing the common object of their zeal during this period, Gregory writes, "The sole business of both of us was virtue, and living for the hopes to come, having retired from this world, before our actual departure hence. With a view to this, were directed all our life and actions"(72).
1. This has been emphasized by Neil McLynn, "A Self-Made Holy Man: The Case of Gregory Nazianzen," JECS 6/3 (1998): 463-483, and Susanna Elm, "A Programmatic Life: Gregory of Nazianzus' Orations 42 and 43 and the Constantinopolitan Elites," Arethusa 33 (2000): 411-427, especially pp. 414-415.
2. De rebus suis, lines 455-457, in Denis Molaise Meehan, trans., Saint Gregory of Nazianzus: Three Poems (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1986); cf. lines 262-267. Meehan, p. 20, dates this poem tentatively c. 371. For the Greek text see PG 37, 969-1017.
3. De vita sua 231-232, in Gregor von Nazianz: De vita sua: Einleitung, Text, Ubersetzung, Kommentar, ed. Christoph Jungck (Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universitätsverlag, 1974); trans. Meehan, p. 83. The Greek text is also in PG 37, 1029-1166. For Gregory's description of these years in Athens see also Oration 43.14-24.
4. Oration 43.24, line 4. Cf. Letter 1.1. On the Cappadocians' use of the term philosophy to denote monastic life see A.-M. Malingrey, "Philosophia": Etude d'un groupe de mots dans la litterature grecque, des Présocratiques au IVe siècle après J.-C. (Paris: C. Klincksieck, 1961), pp. 237-260, and 22022, nn. 19-22. For the scope of their usage of this term see also Jaroslav Pelikan, Christianity and Culture: The Metamorphosis of Natural Theology in the Christian Encounter with Hellenism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), pp. 177-183. At this early stage of their careers (in the mid-350s) they certainly did not have in mind anything like the organized monastic communities that would eventually spread throughout Asia Minor.
5. Oration 43.25. Cf. De rebus suis, Meehan, lines 261-267. On his parents, see Letter 1.2, and De rebus suis 267-272. However, see McLynn, "A Self-Made Holy Man," pp. 467-468 and nn. 18-19, regarding Gregory's portrayal of the influence of Basil and his father.
6. Paul Gallay, La vie de Grégoire de Nazianze (Lyons: Vitte, 1943), p. 70, places his stay in Annesi around 360-361. More likely this retreat with Basil took place in 358-359 for reasons discussed by Philip Rousseau, Basil of Caesarea (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), pp. 65-68.
7. See Letters 4 and 5 in Paul Gallay ed., Saint Grégoire de Nazianze: Lettres, vol. 1 (Paris: Belles lettres, 1964), which offer a satirical response to Basil's glowing description of his monastic retreat in Letter 14. For divergent interpretations of their expectations of monastic life see Stanislas Giet, Sasimes: Une méprise de Saint Basile (Paris: Gabalda, 1941), pp. 51-54, and Gallay, Grégoire de Nazianze, pp. 71-72.
8. Letter 6.3. Note that the two friends were not alone or completely isolated in their retreat, as has often been assumed. See Susanna Elm, "Virgins of God": The Making of Asceticism in Late Antiquity (Oxford: Clarendon, 1994), pp. 63-66, and Rousseau, Basil of Caesarea, pp. 68-70.
9. De vita sua, Meehan, lines 284-332. See also Oration 2.6, 7 in Jean Bernardi, ed., Grégoire de Nazianze: Discours 1-3, SC 247 (Paris: Éditions du cerf, 1978), pp. 94-98, and De rebus suis, Meehan, lines 261-306.
10. De vita sua, Meehan, lines 352-352, 354-355. See Gregory's description of Basil in Oration 43.62 for a different perspective.
11. De vita sua, Meehan, lines 357-363, and Oration 2.112. On the importance of this period of retreat in the formation of Gregory's ideas on orthodox leadership see Susanna Elm, "The Diagnostic Gaze: Gregory of Nazianzus' Theory of Orthodox Priesthood in his Orations 6 De Pace and 2 Apologia de fuga sua," in Orthodoxy; Christianity, History; ed. Susanna Elm, Eric Rebillard, and Antonella Romano (Rome: Ecole française de Rome, 2000), pp. 83-100, here 91.
12. See Hermann Dorries, "Erneuerung des kirchlichen Amts im vierten Jahrhundert: Die Schrift De sacerdotio des Johannes Chrysostomus und ihre Vorlage, die Oratio de fuga sua des Gregor von Nazianz," in Bernd Moeller and Gerhard Ruhbach, eds., Bleibendes im Wandel der Kirchengeschichte (Tübingen: Mohr, 1973), pp. 1-46.
13. On the Council of Rimini-Constantinople and its aftermath see H.C. Breinnecke, Studien zur Geschichte der Homöer: Der Osten bis zum Ende der homöischen Reichskirche, Beiträge zur historisihen Theologie 73 (Tübingen: Mohr, 1988), pp. 23-86.
14. Leaders of the dissident group, apparently monastic, received ordination by "foreign hands." Oration 6.11, lines 1 and 12. Gregory would later excuse his father for his "simplicity" and would reconcile the schismatic ascetics of Nazianzus with Gregory the Elder. See Neil McLynn, "Gregory the Peacemaker: A Study of Oration Six," Kyoyo-ronso 101 (1996): 183-216.
15. On Gregory the Elder's signing of the homoian creed as background to Nazianzen's Orations 2 and 6 see Elm, "The Diagnostic Gaze," pp. 88-90.
16. See especially Oration 4.31, lines 9-12, in Jean Bernardi, ed., Grégoire de Nazianze: Discours 4-5, SC 309 (Paris: Editions du cerf, 1983). See also Oration 4.14, 32, and 49, and Oration 5.34.
17. Oration 2.87, line 1. Gregory alludes to Julian in this section. See Bernardi, Discours 1-3, p. 203 n. 1. Cf. Oration 2.85, where Gregory speaks of the mutual war between Christians. See also Bernardi, "Introduction," Discours 4-5, p. 63.
18. Oration 2.8, lines 3-7, and 2.111.
19. For lack of preparation see Oration 2.8, lines 3-7, and 2.47, lines 10-15. Regarding motives, see especially 2.8, lines 8-10, 2.41, and 2.46-49. On character and presumptuousness, see 2.46-47, 2.71, and 2.95-99.
20. Oration 2.8, lines 11-12 and 17-22.
21. Oration 2.71, lines 9-12. See also 2.69, lines 8-11, where Gregory stresses the celestial conduct that should mark the priest's life.
22. Oration 2.16-22 and 28-34. Cf. Basil, RF 43: PG 31, 1029A.
23. Oration 2.26, line 1.
24. Oration 2.49.
25. Oration 2.72; and 2.91, lines 10-19.
26. Oration 2.92. Cf. Orations 20.2, 32.16-17, and 28.2-3, where the theologian rather than the priest is in view. For other uses of Moses as a model leader see Orations 7.2, 11.2, 18.14, 21.3, 43.72.
27. Oration 2.92, line 9.
28. See Oration 2.97-99.
29. Oration 2.114. On refusal of church office as a motif for late antique bishops see Rita Lizzi, Il potere epsicopale nell'oriente romano: Rappresentazione ideologica e realità politica (IV-V sec. d.C.) (Rome: Edizioni dell'Ateneo, 1987), pp. 33-55, for references to its classical political roots, pp. 36-37, and especially J. Bιranger, "Le rιfus du pouvoir: Recherches sur l'aspect ideologique du principat," in Principatus: études de notions et d'histoire politiques dans l'Antiquitéι gréco-romaine, ed. F.Paschoud and P.Ducrey (Geneva, 1973), pp. 165-190.
30. Letter 8.
31. Letter 19. For Nazianzen's interpretation of the disagreement and its eventual resolution see Oration 43.28-33; 43.28, lines 8-11, for reference to the Nazarites.
32. In Letter 40 Gregory expresses anger that his friend is seeking higher ecclesiastical office.
33. Letter 41.4 and 8. This letter is written by Gregory in the name of his father, Gregory the Elder.
34. Letter 47.2.
35. Indeed praxis is sometimes described by Gregory as a prerequisite for theoria. See Orations 20.12, line 7, and 40.37, PG 35, 1080, and PG 36, 412C, respectively. These passages are cited and the theme discussed in T. Spidlik, "La theoria et la praxis chez Grégoire de Nazianze," SP 14 (= TU 117) (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1976), pp. 358-364. On Gregory's notion of a "middle way," see also De vita sua 284-332, cited above at n. 9.
36. Garth Fowden, "The Pagan Holy Man in Late Antique Society," Journal of Hellenic Studies 102 (1982): 50-51, gives several examples.
37. See Peter Brown, "The Philosopher and Society in Late Antiquity" Protocol Series of the Colloquies 34 (Berkeley: Centre for Hermeneutical Studies, 1980), pp. 1-17. Brown's essay is followed by several responses from which I have borrowed the phrase "contemplative worldliness."
38. See Brian Daley, "Building a New City: The Cappadocian Fathers and the Rhetoric of Philanthropy" JECS (1999): especially 437-440. For Nazianzen's particular emphasis on ptochotrophia see Oration 14, discussed by Daley, pp. 455-458. See also Jean Bernardi, La prédication des pères cappadociens: Le prédicateur et son auditoire (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1968), pp. 400-402. For Gregory's commendation of Basil's efforts on behalf of the masses see Oration 43.34-36 and 64.
39. Letter 49.1-2; but see De vita sua, Meehan, lines 440-449, for a different perspective.
40. For example, Letter 58.1. Following Basil's death, Nazianzen dedicated several epitaphs to his friend. See Epitaphia 119.2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, in Hermann Beckby, ed., Anthologia Graeca, Books VII-VIII (Munich, 1957), pp. 448-453; PG 38, 72A-73B.
41. Marie-Ange Calvet-Sebasti, "Introduction," in Discours 6-12, SC 405 (Paris: Editions du cerf, 1995), pp. 99-103. On the circumstances and dating of these four Orations see pp. 84-99.
42. Oration 10.1, lines 9-15.
43. For continued complaints about friendship see especially Orations 9.5, 10.2, 11.3. For Gregory's claims to have been reconciled to his charge and to Basil personally see Orations 9.3 and 10.3. On the relationship between Basil and Gregory see Carolinne White, Christian Friendship in the Fourth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 61-84.
44. See Orations 9.2; 9.5, lines 13-25; 11.2; 12.2.
45. See Jean Bernardi, Saint Grégoire de Nazianze (Paris: Editions du cerf, 1995), pp. 150-151.
46. De vita sua, Meehan, lines 553-556.
47. For Gregory's account see De se ipso et de episcopis, 71-135, in Uber die Bishofe (Carmen 2.1.12): Einleitung, Text, Ubersetzung, Kommentar, ed. Beno Meier (Paderborn: Schoningh, 1989); also PG 37, 1166-1227; English trans. in Meehan, Three Poems. See also De vita sua, Meehan, 563-606, and Oration 42.2-5. Writing in the mid-fifth century; Socrates, HE 5.3-6, gives a similar survey of the chaos in Constantinople around the time of Theodosius I's ascension.
48. McLynn, "A Self-Made Holy Man," pp. 474-477. For a more extensive treatment of this phase of his career see Gallay, Grégoire de Nazianze, pp. 132-211, and Bernardi, Saint Grégoire, pp. 175-192.
49. In De vita sua, Meehan, lines 609-664, Gregory recounts his opposition to Apollinarianism and Arianism in Constantinople; in lines 1146-1186 he lists various other heresies he confronted there. According to lines 665-735, Gregory's position was contested because he had been consecrated bishop of Sasima and the Council of Nicaea had prohibited Episcopal transfers.
50. According to Gallay, Grégoire de Nazianze, p.137, 1,297 of the 1,949 verses of De vita sua deal with events in Constantinople.
51. Justin Mossay ed. and trans., Grégoire de Nazianze: Discours 20-23, SC 270 (Paris: Editions du cerf, 1980). According to Mossay, p. 50, Oration 20 was probably delivered between February and late summer 380, but it is not clear whether it was given before or after Gregory's other theological orations (27-31). Mossay p. 93, surmises that Oration 21, "In Honour of Athanasius," was composed in Constantinople for a feast of Athanasius in 379, 380, or 381.
52. Oration 20.1; Oration 21.9. See also Oration 42.18, and for similar complaints about priests, Oration 2.8, 46-47, 71, 95-99.
53. Oration 20.2. Cf. Oration 2.92, and Bernardi, Saint Grégoire, p. 209 n. 5. Oration 32.16, one of the earliest orations from Constantinople, contains a parallel appeal to Moses as a leader.
54. Oration 28.3, line 18, in Paul Gallay, ed. and trans., Grégoire de Nazianze: Discours 27-31 (Discours Théologiques), SC 250 (Paris: Editions du cerf, 1978). For an illuminating study of these theological orations see Frederick Norris, Faith Gives Fullness to Reasoning: A Commentary on Gregory Nazianzen's "Theological Orations," Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 13 (Leiden: Brill, 1991).
55. Oration 21.9.
56. See Oration 21.3-4 for the whole comparison. Mossay Discours 20-23, p. 118 n. 1, notes that this type of synkrisis is typical of the second sophistic. Gregory uses it again in his panegyric of Basil. Compare Oration 43.70-76.
57. Oration 21.19, line 21, to 21.20, line 5.
58. Oration 21.37, line 2. Compare Gregory of Nyssa, Encomium, GNO X.1.2, 120.7-21. On Nazianzen's ideal of the bishop in Oration 21 see also Jean Robert Pouchet, "Athanase d'Alexandrie, modèle de l'éveque, selon Grégoire de Nazianze, Discours 21," in Vescovi et pastori pastori in epoca teodosiana (Rome: Institution Patristicum "Augustinianum," 1997), vol. 2, pp. 347-357.
59. Le., Sasima. See Oration 36.6, lines 17-28, in Grégoire de Nazianze: Discours 32-37, ed. Claudio Moreschini and trans. Paul Gallay SC 318 (Paris: Editions du cerf, 1984), pp. 254-256. On the development of this doctrine in patristic writings and canon law see Jean Gaudemet, L'Eglise dans l'Empire romain (IVe-V Siècles) (Paris: Sirey 1958), pp. 357-358.
60. For Gregory's lengthy, highly derogatory description of Maximus and his consecration see De vita sua, Meehan, lines 736-1043.
61. See Gilbert Dagron, "Les moines et la ville: Le monachisme à Constantinople jusqu'au Concile de Chalcιdoine (451)," Travaux et Mémoires 4 (1970): 261-272; on Gregory in particular, p. 262.
62. De vita sua, Meehan, lines 1745-1870.
63. See Jean Bernardi, "La composition et la publication du discours 42 de Grégoire de Nazianze," Studia Ephemeridis "Augustinianum" 27, Mémorial Dom Jean Gribomont (1920-1986) (Rome: Institutum Patristicum "Augustinianum," 1988), pp. 131-143. For the text of Oration 42 along with Oration 43 see Jean Bernardi, ed. and trans., Grégoire de Nazianze, Discours 42-43, SC 384 (Paris: Editions du cerf, 1992); also PG 36, 457-492; English trans. by Charles Gordon Browne and James Edward Swallow, NPNF, 2nd ser., vol. 7, pp. 385-395.
64. Two recent analyses of Oration 42 also connect its content and themes with these other three pieces from the same period: Elm, "A Programmatic Life," pp. 411-427, and Neil McLynn, "The Voice of Conscience: Gregory Nazianzen in Retirement," in Vescovi e pastori 2, pp. 299-308.
65. Oration 42.14; Oration 42.21, line 2. Bernardi, Discours 42-43, p. 94 n. 2, notes that Gregory uses a parallel phrase, ho polemos ... ton episkopon, "the war of the bishops," to describe similar circumstances in Oration 43.58, line 3.
66. Oration 42.24, lines 15-16, 24-25; Browne and Swallow, pp. 393-394.
67. Oration 42.25, lines 13-14; Browne and Swallow, p. 394.
68. Bernardi, La prédication, p. 238. Bernardi suggests that the speech was delivered at the anniversary celebration of Basil's death, January 1, 382, though of course the date of Basil's death remains uncertain. Rousseau, Basil of Caesarea, p. 3 n. 2, suggests August or September 381 for its delivery. For the text and French trans. see SC 384; PG 36, 493-605; English trans. Browne and Swallow, pp. 395-422.
69. For parallels see Paul Jonathan Fedwick, The Church and the Charisma of Leadership in Basil of Caesarea (Toronto: PIMS, 1979), p. 55. See also the sensitive treatment of Frederick W Norris, "Your Honour, My Reputation: St. Gregory of Nazianzus's Funeral Oration on St. Basil the Great," in Greek Biography and Panegyric in Late Antiquity, ed. Tomas Hägg and Philip Rousseau (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), pp. 140-159.
70. Oration 43.3-10. For a rhetorical analysis of Oration 43 see George A. Kennedy, Greek Rhetoric under Christian Emperors (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983), pp. 228-234. Kennedy categorizes the speech as an epitaphios, traditionally delivered some time after the death of the person being eulogized. On the difficulty of defining its precise genre see also Norris, "Your Honour, My Reputation," p. 143.
71. Oration 43.11, lines 2-7.
72. Oration 43.20, lines 12-15; Browne and Swallow, p. 402; on Basil's zeal for "philosophy," see 43.19, line 2.