Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS AND IS AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ. ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
FROM THE LITURGY OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT
With these blessed powers, Master and Lover of mankind, we sinners also cry out and say: truly You are Holy and All-Holy; there is no bound to the Majesty of Your Holiness. You are Holy in all Your works, for in righteousness and true judgment You have brought all things to pass for us. Taking clay from earth, You shaped man, and honoring him, O God, with Your likeness, You set him in a Paradise of delight, promising him immortality and the enjoyment of everlasting blessings in the keeping of Your Commandments.
But once he disobeyed You, the True God Who created him, and fell under the serpent's guile, becoming subject to death by his own transgression, in Your just judgment, O God, You exiled him from Paradise into this world, returning him to the earth from which he was first taken, yet planned for him salvation through rebirth in Your Christ.
For You did not turn away altogether from what You had fashioned, O Gracious God, nor did You forget the work of Your hands. But in the depth of your love You watched over him in many ways: You sent forth Prophets; You worked mighty signs through Your Saints, who in each generation were pleasing to You. You spoke to us through the mouths of Your servants the prophets, announcing to us beforehand the salvation that was to come. You gave the Law as guide; You set Angels as guardians. And when the fullness of time came, You spoke to us through Your very Son, through Whom You created the ages.
For though He is the reflection of Your glory and the very likeness of Your Person, sustaining all things by the power of His Word, He "did not count equality with [You, God and Father] a thing to be grasped. But though He was God before all time, He was seen on earth and lived among the people. And taking flesh from the Holy Virgin, He "emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness" of "our lowly body", that He might "change [us] to be like His glorious body".
For since it was by man that sin entered the world, and death through sin, Your Only-begotten Son, He Who was in the bosom of God the Father, condescended to be born of woman, the Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary; to be born under the Law, so as to condemn sin in His Flesh, that those who die in Adam may be brought to life in Your Christ.
And having lived in the world, and having given precepts for salvation, turning us away from the delusion of idolatry, He brought us to the knowledge of You, the True God and Father, redeeming us to Himself as "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation", and, when He had cleansed us in water and sanctified us with the Holy Spirit, He gave Himself up as ransom to death, to which we were in bondage, sold under sin. He descended into Hades by way of the Cross, "that He might fill all things" in Himself and "loosed the pangs of death".
Rising on the third day, He prepared the way for the resurrection of all flesh from the dead, "because it was not possible for Him [the Author of life] to be held by it." He thus became the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep", "the first-born from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent". Ascending into heaven, He was enthroned at the right hand of Your Majesty on High, whence He shall come to render to each of us according to our deeds.
But He left us remembrances of His saving Passion, these which we have set forth as he commanded. For as He was about to go forth to His voluntary and eternally memorable and life giving death, on the night when He gave Himself up for the life of the world, taking bread in His Holy and Spotless hands, and presenting it to You, God and Father, He gave thanks, blessed it, sanctified it and broke it, then: He gave it to His holy disciples and apostles, saying: Take, eat, this is My Body which is broken for you for the remission of sins. [Likewise, taking the cup "of the fruit of the vine" mixing it, giving thanks, blessing and sanctifying it, He gave it to His holy disciples and Apostles, saying: Drink of this all of you; this is My Blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins. Amen.
Do this in remembrance of Me. For whenever you eat this Bread and drink this Cup, you proclaim My death and confess My Resurrection. Therefore, Master, as we too remember His saving sufferings, the Life-Giving Cross, the three days in the tomb, the Resurrection from the dead, the Ascension into Heaven, the Enthronement at Your Right hand, God and Father, and His Glorious and awesome Second Coming,
Offering You these Gifts from Your Own Gifts, in all and for all.
THE LIFE AND WRITINGS OF SAINT GREGORY OF NYSSA
In the roll of the Nicene Holy Fathers there is no more honored name than that of Saint Gregory of Nyssa. Besides the praises of his great brother Saint Basil and of his equally great friend Saint Gregory of Nazianzos, the sanctity of his life, his theological learning, and his strenuous advocacy of the faith embodied in the Nicene clauses.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa was equally fortunate in his county, the name he bore, and the family which produced him. He was a native of Cappadocia, and was born most probably at Caesarea, the capital, about A.D. 335 or 336. No province of the Roman Empire had in those early ages received more eminent Orthodox Hierarchs than Cappadocia.
Saint Gregory was at first a married priest, but when his wife, the blessed Theosevia, died, he was chosen and consecrated as bishop of Nyssa. He was distinguished by great secular learning and spiritual experience, and was a great preacher, a translator of the Holy Scriptures and a theologian. As a result of his opposition to the Arians (heretics), they did everything in their power to crush him, regarding him as their chief enemy. They were so successful in this that, in the reign of the Emperor Valens, their confederate, they managed to depose him from his Episcopal Seat and drive him into exile. This was in 376 A.D. The Holy Father spent several years in patient exile, enduring poverty and humiliation. In 381 A.D., he took part in the Second Ecumenical Council, and it is thought that he formulated the final part of the Creed concerning the Holy Spirit.
Saint Gregory's father, Basil, who gave his name to his eldest son, was known as a rhetorician. He died at a comparatively early age, leaving a family of ten children, five of whom were boys and five girls, under the care of the grandmother Macrina and mother Emmelia. Both of these illustrious ladies were distinguished for the earnestness and strictness of their Christian principles, to which the latter added the charm of great personal beauty.
All the sons and daughters were of high character, but it is only of four sons and one daughter that we have any special record. The daughter, called Macrina, from her grandmother, was the angel in the house of this illustrious family. She shared with her grandmother and mother the care and education of all its younger members. Nor was there one of them who did not owe to her religious influence their settlement in the faith and consistency of Christian conduct.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa was the third son, and one of the youngest of the family. He had an elder brother, Nectarius, who followed the profession of their father, and became rhetorician, and like him died early. He had also a younger brother, Peter, who became bishop of Sebaste.
Saint Gregory devoted himself to the study of the Holy Scripture and the works of his teacher Origen.
About 365 A.D. Saint Basil the Great was summoned from his retirement to act as coadjutor to Efsevius, the Metropolitan of Caesarea in Cappadocia, and aid him in repelling the assaults of the Arian heretical faction on the Faith. In these assaults the Arians were greatly encouraged and assisted by the proclivities of the Emperor Valens. After some years of strenuous and successful resistance, and the endurance of great persecution from the Emperor and his Court, a persecution which indeed pursued him through life. Saint Basil is called by the popular voice, on the death of Efesvius, 370 A.D. to succeed him in the See. His election is vehemently opposed, but after much turmoil is at length accomplished.
To strengthen himself in his position, and surround himself with defenders of the Orthodox Faith, he obliges his brother Gregory, in spite of his emphatic protest, to undertake the Bishopric of Nyssa, a small town in the west of Cappadocia. When a friend expressed his surprise that he had chosen so obscure a place for such a man as Gregory, he replied, that he did not desire his brother to receive distinction from the name of his See, but rather to confer distinction upon it.
Finally, finishing his life at a great age in about the year 395 A.D., he entered into the Kingdom of God and has been commemorated through all succeeding ages as a great light in the Church.
The holy hymns of the feast of Saint Gregory reveal the respect and admiration of this great Holy Father of the Church. The following is taken from the Holy Vespers:
O Righteous Father, truly wise and sacred Gregory, thou reed-pipe ever sounding forth with the Comforter's voice and brightly shining lamp lit with Godly splendour, clear-speaking tongue of pious doctrine and faith, fount of lofty teaching and herald of divine truth, holy theology's crown and peak, torrent of teachings mellifluous and august, divinely sounding harp of songs divinely written, which gently sweeteneth the minds of all the faithful: Do thou entreat Christ, do thou plead with Christ unceasingly, Who within the streams of the Jordan refashioned all the world, that He might thus save our souls.
Glory. Of Saint Gregory. Fourth Tone
Splendidly adorning thy words of wisdom with thine incomparable virtue, thou becamest exceedingly fair in both. O Gregory of Nyssa. Being filled with knowledge, thou did delight thy people and made them beautiful with thy divinely speaking voice, when thou did set forth with all wisdom the equal divinity of the Trinity. Hence, with Orthodox doctrines thou did wage war against alien heresies, and to the ends of the world thou did raise up the dominion of the Faith. As thou standest before Christ with the immaterial ministers, pray that peace and great mercy be granted unto our souls.
Dismissal (Apolytikion) Hymn
O God of our Fathers, ever dealing with us according to Thy gentleness: take not Thy mercy from us, but by their entreaties guide our life in peace.
FROM HIS WORKS
The Christian is Another Christ
No one has known Christ better than Saint Paul, nor surpassed him the careful example he gave of what anyone should be who bears Christ's name. So precisely did he mirror his Master that he became his very image. By a painstaking imitation, he was transformed into his model and it seemed to be no longer Paul who lived and spoke, but Christ himself. He shows his keen awareness of this grace when he refers to the Corinthians' desire for proof that Christ was speaking in him; as he says: 'It is no longer I who live: it is Christ who lives in me.'
Saint Paul teaches us the power of Christ's name when he calls him the power and wisdom of God, our peace, the unapproachable Light where God dwells, our expiation and redemption, our great High Priest, our Paschal Sacrifice, our propitiation; when he declares him to be the radiance of God's Glory, the very pattern of His Nature, the Creator of all ages, our spiritual food and drink, the rock and the water, the bedrock of our faith, the cornerstone, the visible Image of the Invisible God...
Saint Paul calls Christ by many other titles too numerous to recall here. Their cumulative force will give some conception of the marvelous content of the name "Christ," revealing to us his inexpressible Majesty, insofar as our minds and thought can comprehend it. Since, by the Goodness of God, we who are called 'Christians' have been granted the honor of sharing this name, the greatest, the highest, the most sublime of all names, it follows that each of the titles that express its meaning should be clearly reflected in us. If we are not to lie when we call ourselves 'Christians,' we must bear witness to it by our way of living.
Examination of Conscience
"The life of the Christian has three distinguishing aspects: deeds, words and thought. Thought comes first, then words, since our words express openly the interior conclusions of the mind. Finally, after thoughts and words, comes action, for our deeds carry out what the mind has conceived. So when one of these results in our acting or speaking or thinking, we must make sure that all our thoughts, words and deeds are controlled by the divine ideal, the revelation of Christ. For then our thoughts, words and deeds will not fall short of the nobility of their implications..."
Keep Your Eyes on Christ
"We shall be blessed with clear vision if we keep our eyes fixed on Christ, for He, as Saint Paul teaches, is our Head, and there is in Him no shadow of evil. Saint Paul himself and all who have reached the same heights of sanctity had their eyes fixed on Christ, and so have all who live and move and have their being in Him."
This is the Day the Lord has Made
"The reign of life has begun, the tyranny of death is ended. A new birth has taken place, a new life has come, a new order of existence has appeared, our very nature has been transformed! This birth is not brought about by human generation, by the will of man, or by the desire of the flesh, but by God...
This is the day the Lord has made--a day far different from those made when the world was first created and which are measured by the passage of time. This is the beginning of a new creation. On this day, as the Prophet says, God makes a new heaven and a new earth. What is this new heaven? you may ask. It is the firmament of our faith in Christ. What is the new earth? A good heart, a heart like the earth, which drinks up the rain that falls on it and yields a rich harvest..."
The Kingdom of God is Within
"So if, by love and right living, you wash off the filth that has become stuck to your heart, the divine beauty will shine forth in you. Think of iron, which at one moment is dark and tarnished and the next, once the rust has been scraped off, shines and glistens brightly in the sun. It is the same with the inner core of man, which the Lord calls the heart. It has been in damp and foul places and is covered in patches of rust: but once the rust has been scraped off, it will recover itself and once more resemble its archetype. And so it will be good, since what resembles the good must be good itself.
Therefore, whoever looks at himself sees in himself what he desires. And whoever is pure in heart is blessed because, seeing his own purity, he sees the Archetype reflected in the image. If you see the sun in a mirror then you are not looking directly at the sky, but still you are seeing the sun just as much as someone who looks directly at it. In the same way, the Lord is saying, although you do not have the strength to withstand the direct sight of the great and inaccessible Light of God, if you look within yourselves once you have returned to the grace of the image that was placed in you from the beginning, you will find in yourselves all that you seek..."
Birth and Death
"There is a time to be born and a time to die. The fact that there is a natural link between birth and death is expressed very clearly in this text of Scripture (Ecclesiastes 3:1-22). Death invariably follows birth, and everyone who is born comes at last to the grave.
There is a time to be born and a time to die. God grant that mine may be a timely birth and a timely death! Of course no one imagines that the Speaker regards as acts of virtue our natural birth and death, in neither of which our own will plays any part. A woman does not give birth because she chooses to do so; neither does anyone die as a result of his own decision. Obviously, there is neither virtue nor vice in anything that lies beyond our control. So we must consider what is meant by a timely birth and a timely death.
It seems to me that the birth referred to here is our salvation, as is suggested by the Prophet Isaiah. This reaches its full term and is not stillborn when, having been conceived by the fear of God, the soul's own birth pangs bring it to the light of day. We are in sense our own parents, and we give birth to ourselves by our own free choice of what is good. Such a choice becomes possible for us when we have received God into ourselves and have become children of God, children of the Most High. On the other hand, if what the Apostle calls the form of Christ has not been produced in us, we abort ourselves. The man of God must reach maturity..."
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God