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Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume III: March. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

March 9

St. Gregory of Nyssa, Bishop and Confessor

HE was younger brother to St. Basil the Great; was educated in polite and sacred studies, and married to a virtuous lady. He afterwards renounced the world, and was ordained lector; but was overcome by his violent passion for eloquence to teach rhetoric. St. Gregory Nazianzen wrote to him in the strongest terms, exhorting him to renounce that paltry or ignoble glory, as he elegantly calls it. 1 This letter produced its desired effect. St. Gregory returned to the sacred ministry in the lower functions of the altar: after some time he was called by his brother Basil to assist him in his pastoral duties, and in 372 was chosen bishop of Nyssa, a city of Cappadocia, near the Lesser Armenia. The Arians, who trembled at his name, prevailed with Demosthenes, vicar or deputy-governor of the province to banish him. Upon the death of the Arian emperor, Valens, in 378, St. Gregory was restored to his see by the Emperor Gratian. Our holy prelate was chosen by his colleagues to redress the abuses and dissensions which heresy had introduced in Arabia and Palestine. He assisted at the council of Constantinople in 381, and was always regarded as the centre of the Catholic communion in the East. Those prelates only who joined themselves to him, were looked upon as orthodox. He died about the year 400, probably on the 10th of January, on which the Greeks have always kept his festival: the Latins honour his memory on the 9th of March. The high reputation of his learning and virtue procured him the title of Father of the Fathers, as the seventh general council testifies. His sermons are the monuments of his piety; but his great penetration and learning appear more in his polemic works, especially in his twelve books against Eunomius. See his life collected from his works, St. Greg. Nazianzen, Socrates, and Theodoret, by Hermant, Tillemont, t. 9. p. 561. Ceillier, t. 8. p. 200. Dr. Cave imagines, that St. Gregory continued to cohabit with his wife after he was bishop. But Saint Jerom testifies that the custom of the eastern churches did not suffer such a thing. She seems to have lived to see him bishop, and to have died about the year 384; but she professed a state of constinency: hence St. Gregory Nazianzen, in his short eulogium of her, says, she rivalled her brothers-in-law, who were in the priesthood, and calls her sacred, or one consecrated to God; probably she was a deaconness.  1
Note 1. [Greek], Naz. ep. 43. [back]