St. Gregory Nazianzen Gave Christians an Important Insight into the Mystery of the Trinity
(Note: The author is indebted to several Wikipedia articles on various subjects for most of the material in this article.) .
Gregory of Nazianzen (c. 329 – 390), also known as Gregory the Theologian , was a 4th-century Archbishop of Constantinople, and theologian. He is widely considered the most accomplished rhetorical stylist of the patristic age. As a classically trained orator and philosopher he infused Hellenism into the early church, establishing the paradigm of Byzantine theologians and church officials.
Gregory made a significant impact on the shape of Trinitarian theology among both Greek and Latin speaking theologians, and he is remembered as the "Trinitarian Theologian". Much of his theological work continues to influence modern theologians, especially in regard to the relationship among the three Persons of the Trinity. Along with the brothers Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, he is known as one of the Cappadocian Fathers.
Gregory is a saint in both Eastern and Western Christianity. In the Roman Catholic Church he is numbered among the Doctors of the Church; in the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches he is revered as one of the Three Holy Hierarchs, along with Basil the Great and John Chrysostom.
At the time of Gregory there were three types of heresies regarding the person and nature of Jesus Christ going around:
(1) The denial of Christ's Divinity -- which lead to heresies such as Arianism ((others include: Ebonism, Arianism (Jehovah's Witnesses), Nestorianism, Socinianism, Liberalism, Humanism, Unitarianism.))
(2) The denial of Christ's two natures -- which created heretical groups such as Monophysitism, Eutychianism, and Monothelitism. These all confuse the two natures of Christ ( and tend to absorb one of His natures into the other in one way or the other.)
(3) The denial of Christ's humanity -- which gave rise to heresies such as Apollinarianism, Docetism, Marcionism, Gnosticism, Apollinarianism, Monarchianism, Patripassianism, Sabellianism, Adoptionism, and Dynamic Monarchianism.
All of these heresies in some way ended up by "dividing" the anthropic (God-Man) Jesus Christ!
Gregory is also one of only three men in the life of the Orthodox Church who have been officially designated "Theologian" by epithet, the other two being St. John the Evangelist, and St. Symeon .
Gregory at Constantinople
Following Constantine’s edict which allowed the practice of Christianity together with the clear doctrinal pronouncement of the Council of Nicea in 325, Christian orthodoxy began spreading throughout the empire.
However, Julian the Apostate become emperor in 360 and attempted to restore pagan worship across the empire. This submerged Christianity for a time and allowed heresies to recover and even flourish. After Julian died in 363, there were three emperors who accommodated Arian heretics.
The last of these was Valens who died in 378. The accession of Theodosius I, a steadfast supporter of Nicene orthodoxy, was good news for those who wished to purge Constantinople of the Arian and Apollinarian heresies. The exiled Nicene party gradually returned to the city. In 379, from his deathbed, Basil reminded the other bishops of Gregory's capabilities and likely recommended his friend to champion the Trinitarian cause in Constantinople.
In 379, the Antioch synod and its archbishop, Meletios, asked Gregory to go to Constantinople to lead a theological campaign to win over that city to Nicene orthodoxy. After some hesitation, Gregory agreed. His cousin Theodosia offered him a villa for his residence; Gregory immediately transformed much of it into a church, naming it Anastasia, "a scene for the resurrection of the faith". From this little chapel he delivered powerful discourses on Nicene doctrine, explaining the nature of the Trinity and the unity of the Godhead. Refuting those who denied the Holy Spirit's divinity, Gregory offered this argument:
Look at these facts: Christ is born, the Holy Spirit is His Forerunner. Christ is baptized, the Spirit bears witness to this
Christ works miracles, the Spirit accompanies them. Christ ascends, the Spirit takes His place. What great things are there in the idea of God which are not in His power? What titles appertaining to God do not apply also to Him, except for Un-begotten and Begotten? I tremble when I think of such an abundance of titles, and how many Names they blaspheme, those who revolt against the Spirit!
Gregory's homilies were well received and attracted ever-growing crowds to Anastasia. Fearing his popularity, his opponents decided to strike. On the vigil of Easter , an Arian mob burst into his church during worship services, wounding Gregory and killing another bishop. Escaping the mob, Gregory next found himself betrayed by his erstwhile friend, the philosopher Maximus , who was in secret alliance with Peter, bishop of Alexandria. Maximus attempted to seize Gregory's position and have himself ordained bishop of Constantinople. Shocked, Gregory decided to resign his office, but the faction faithful to him induced him to stay and ejected Maximus. However, the episode left him embarrassed and exposed him to criticism as a provincial simpleton unable to cope with the intrigues of the imperial city.
Affairs in Constantinople remained confused as Gregory's position was still unofficial and Arian priests occupied many important churches. The arrival of the emperor Theodosius in 380 settled matters in Gregory's favor. The emperor, determined to eliminate Arianism, expelled the Arian bishop of Constantinople. Gregory was subsequently enthroned as bishop of Constantinople at the Basilica of the Apostles.
Theological and other works
Gregory's most significant theological contributions arose from his defense of the doctrine of the Trinity. He is especially noted for his contributions to the theology concerning the nature of the Holy Spirit. In this regard, Gregory is the first to use the idea of procession to describe the relationship between the Spirit and the Godhead: "The Holy Spirit is truly Spirit, coming forth from the Father indeed but not after the manner of the Son, for it is not by generation but by procession,” Gregory further pointed out he used the word procession “ since I must coin a word for the sake of clearness." Although Gregory does not fully develop the concept, this idea of procession would shape most later thought about the Holy Spirit./H4>
He emphasized that Jesus did not cease to be God when he became a man, nor did he lose any of his divine attributes when he took on human nature. Furthermore, Gregory asserted that Christ was fully human, including a full human soul. He also proclaimed the eternal existence of the Holy Spirit, saying that the Holy Spirit's actions were somewhat hidden in the Old Testament but much clearer since the ascension of Jesus into Heaven and the descent of the Holy Spirit at the feast of Pentecost.
In contrast to the Neo-Arian belief that the Son is "unlike" the Father, and to the Semi-Arian assertion that the Son is "like" the Father, Gregory and his fellow Cappadocians maintained the Nicaean doctrine of consubstantiality of the Son with the Father. The Cappadocian Fathers asserted that God's nature is unknowable to man; they helped to develop the framework of hypostasis, or three persons united in a single Godhead; illustrated how Jesus is the eikon of the Father; and explained the concept of the-o-sis, the belief that all Christians can be assimilated with God in "imitation of the incarnate Son as the divine model." .
Apart from the several theological discourses, Gregory was also one of the most important early Christian men of letters, a very accomplished orator, perhaps one of the greatest of his time. Gregory was also a very prolific poet who wrote theological, moral and biographical poems. .
In bad health, St Gregory lived for six years after retiring as Archbishop of Constantinople. During this period he composed many beautiful poems including a long poem about his own life. (The existence of this poem is partly responsible for the length this essay.) .
A Closing Item .
Comparison between Creed of 325 and Creed of 381
This table indicates how the basic Nicene Creed was edited at the Council of Constantinople. Some portions were changed, some deleted and some added. .
Filioque Controversy .
Long after Gregory’s death a very consequential event occurred related to the changes urged by Gregory at Constantinople in 381.
In the late 6th century, some Latin-speaking churches added the words "and from the Son" (Filioque) to the description of the procession of the Holy Spirit, in what many Eastern Orthodox Christians have argued is a violation , since the words were not included in the text by either the Council of Nicaea or that of Constantinople, two councils where the entire Church was represented. This Filioque change was fully incorporated into the liturgical practice of Rome in 1014. Filioque eventually became one of the main causes for the East-West Schism in 1054, and has been an on-going barrier to reunion between Eastern and Western Christianity..
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An Open Letter to a Moderate Muslim who Wants to Re-Educate Muslim Extremists
Here are the obvious problems with any such attempt -
1) Intrusions into Islamic areas by the west, particularly the US, can undo in six months all the re-education you moderates do in sixty years. This is because Muslim are trained to think that Islam should be superior to Christians and Jews, and the invasion of an America army necessily puts Christians in control of Muslim territory. But with Israel in the middle of the Middle East the US will remain involved.
2) Informed opinion in the west in 2017 is tolerant of Muslims, but the extremists only need a couple more 9/11 type events and opinion will move quickly to expel Muslims en mass.
3) A strategy that posits 1% of Muslims are supportive of extremists is quite different from a strategy that assumes 50% of Muslims are supportive. Which percentage is correct? Perhaps re-education works if 1% is correct. It is unlikely to work if 50% is more correct.
4) How much time do people of goodwill have to resolve these issues before a huge conflict erupts which will lead to a) millions of deaths and b) forced geographic separation of warring parties.? (For instance - Consider the friction in France. What would France look like after the killing and forced seperations ended?)
Your idea about re-education is good but seems totally inadequate given the scope of the problem.
One can't find an adequate solution short of creating an "Islam-lite" which would be a version of Islam completely stripped of sharia, but that would require a "Koran-lite" and the Koran contains the precise word of God and thus is beyond any possible human alteration. It looks like a straight-jacket from which there is no escape.. (In the Christian world, there is the magisterium of the Catholic Church which allows "new understandings". In fact , the Catholic Church actually decided what writings would go in the original New Testament and what writings would be excluded. In the Protestant Christianity believers are encouraged read and interpert scripture on their own.)
In closing, I would note that Christianity has the advantage of having a human role model, Jesus Christ, who exhibited loving behavior toward his fellow man regardless of their sect or affliation.
Unfortuntely, Islam has the disadvantage of having a human role model, Muhammad, who lead an army to bring others under the submission and control of Islam.
This difference gives the two religions vastly different world views or one might say different ingrained views of the "other". ..... (prepared by Hugh Murray on 8/15/2017)
Is Donald Trump's Offer of Hope to the Struggling American Worker being Withdrawn? -
During the campaign Trump spoke about the 80,000 factories that have closed and the tens of millions of middle class workers thrown out of work. Workers who have had to struggle in hamburger flipping jobs that ordinarily went to students and high school drop outs. Trump mentioned “trade equalization” tariffs, quotas and tighter border controls with walls.
However lately, Trump has stopped mentioning the trade equalization idea and is instead focusing on a tax reform and simplification idea that is designed, not to generate revenues for the government, but mostly to help higher income individuals and large highly profitable corporations . ......
The promise of good factory jobs that got Trump elected, particularly in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, are evidently a thing of the electoral past. Changes in domestic tax policy while possibly beneficial to the overall economy are unlikely to reopen those 80,000 factories and get those jobs back for those tens of millions of under-employed Americans. These workers, by the way, were the same people sold out by the top 1% who decided to use their political influence to keep America open for predatory “free” trade from China rather than using their influence to protect the factories that employed their fellow Americans. .....
It appears Trump has been captured by the big money lobbying class in Washington DC. What a shame (and a sham) when something great could have happened. .........
Workers might have gotten better jobs, brought bigger paychecks home, strengthened their families , reduced the divorce rate, reduced the need for housing assistance, food stamps, etc, perhaps even slightly reduced the out of wedlock birth rate which currently stands at 52%., and America would have eliminated its chronic balance of payments deficits with China. ........
But who knows what goes on behind close doors, Trump may be using those 80,000 factories as a bargaining chip with China saying “We’ll keep our tariffs low and kept the factories shuttered if you organize regime change in North Korea” or perhaps China has said to Trump “you give up any plan to impose trade equalization tariffs and we’ll promise not to dump the trillion dollars worth of US Bonds we hold” . .....
Such conversations are not unknown. After all Kissinger gave China an opening to US markets in exchange for China helping us leave Vietnam with a modicum of dignity. .....
............ (prepared by Hugh Murray on 9/7/2017)
As we Grow Old and Approach Death we need to Pray as Christ prayed before His Death -
Jesus was a practicing Jews and on the Mount of Olives before His arrest, it is certain He prayed the Seven Penitential Psalms (Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143). These seven psalms deal with our relationship to God by 1) acknowledging our many failures and 2) accepting his love, forgiveness and mercy . ....
A short comment on each psalm follows: .............
Ps 6 - In this short psalm the petitioner asks for God to rescue his soul from Sheol, a place of silent shadows where souls have no communication with God. .........
Ps 32 - This interesting psalm begins with the petitioner’s admission of sinfulness and his request to be pardoned by God. The psalm ends with God’s response in which He promises to watch over the repentant sinner and enfold them with grace. .............
Ps 38 - This is an extended admission of sinfulness and a plea for God’s forbearance and protection. The psalm uses particularly stark language to describe the situations and people that have led, and are leading, the petitioner into “treacherous plots” and sinfulness. ...............
Ps 51 - Here the petitioner admits sinfulness and ask God to be his savior so he might go forward to teach others about God’s mercy with a clean heart. .................
Ps 102 - This is a two part psalm. It begins by a plea that God come quickly as life is slipping away from the petitioner. Then the petitioner asks God to speed the re-building of Zion so all nations might see God’s power. ...............
Ps 130 - This short psalm is a plea from the depths of the petition’s soul for God’s compassion and help. It closes with a statement that all nations and people should rely on God’s mercy and redemption. .......
Ps 143 - The psalm is a humble plea to God for relief from the petitioner’s persecutors. The petitioner is frank saying “save me, protect me from oppression, .... for I am your servant”. ................
These seven psalms are few in number and short in length, everyone would benefit from having these pleas ready at hand when adversity, oppression, or a sense of personal sinfulness occurs. .......
Humans are blessed with long term memory, Jesus committed these psalms to His long term memory. Accordingly these verses might profitably be assigned space in most everyone’s long term memory.
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