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SAINT GREGORY OF NYSSA

Bishop and Confessor, c. 335-c.400

GREGORY, whose parents, two brothers, and sister are also saints, was born about the year 335 in Asia Minor and spent most of his life fighting heresy, Arianism particularly. Although combating heresy can be done in a spectacular fashion, it usually requires the writing of long, technical books, which are difficult for anyone to understand, but most difficult of all for the confused people who begin the heresy. Gregory was efficient in his work-too efficient for his opponents, who became so irritated at his attacks that they banded together and caused him to leave his diocese, placing their own bishop in his place.

This was a difficult trial for Gregory, but he bided his time and continued his literary bombardment. Eventually, his opposition and that of other orthodox churchmen had its effect. Arianism began to wane. After the Second Council of Constantinople in 381, in which Gregory played an important part, the heresy ceased to be a major problem. Gregory returned to his diocese about this time, but the rest of his life remains in obscurity, and we are not sure of the date of his death, except that it could not have taken place any later than the year 400.

Although his writings against Arianism gained the greatest fame in his own time, he has been recognized in recent times as an ascetical and mystical writer of the highest importance. His works on virginity, the union of the soul with God, the Psalms, the beatitudes, and the Lord's Prayer could be just as useful to Christians today as they were fifteen hundred years ago. His learning and holiness are just as true and beautiful now as then.

 

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