Our Father Among the Saints, Gregory the Theologian, Archbishop of Constantinople

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

Απολυτίκον (Dismissal) Hymn. First Tone

The shepherd's pipe of thy theology conquered the trumpets of the philosophers; for since thou didst search out the depths of the Spirit, beauty of speech was added to thee. But intercede with Christ God, O Father Gregory, that our souls be saved.

Kontakion. Third Tone

With thy theologian's speech thou didst destroy the entangled webs of vain philosophers, while beautifying the whole Church clothed in it, of Orthodoxy woven in Heaven; and the Church, clothed in it, crieth with us, thy children: O wise Gregory most glorious, rejoice, O Father, great theological mind.


The great Father and Teacher of the Church was born in 329 A.D. in Arianzus, a village of the second district of Cappadocia, not far from Nazianzus. His father, who later became Bishop of Nazianzus, was named Gregory (commemorated January 1st), and his mother was named Nonna (August 5th); both are among the Saints, and so are his brother Caesarius (March 9th) and his sister Gorgonia (February 23). At first he studied in Caesarea of Palestine, then in Alexandria, and finally in Athens. As he was sailing from Alexandria, a violent sea storm put in peril not only his life but also his salvation, since he had not yet been baptized. With tears and fervor he besought God to spare him, vowing to dedicate his whole self to Him, and the tempest gave way to calm. At Athens Saint Gregory was later joined by Saint Basil the Great, whom he already knew; but now their acquaintanceship grew in to a lifelong brotherly love. Another fellow student of their in Athens was the young Prince Julian, who later as Emperor was called the Apostate because he denied Christ and did all in his power to restore paganism. Even in Athens, before Julian had thrown off the mask of piety, Saint Gregory saw what unsettled mind he had, and said, "What an evil the Roman State is nourishing".

After their studies at Athens, Saint Gregory became Saint Basil's fellow ascetic, living the monastic life together with him for a time in the hermitage of Pontus. His father ordained him presbyter of the Church of Nazianzus, and Saint Basil consecrated him Bishop consecrated him bishop of Sasima (or Zansima), which was in the Archdiocese of Caesarea. This consecration was a source of great sorrow to St. Gregory, and a cause of misunderstanding between him and St. Basil; but his love for Saint Basil remained unchanged, as can be plainly seen from his Funeral Oration on Saint Basil.

About the year 379 A.D., Saint Gregory came to the assistance of the Church of Constantinople, which had already been troubled for forty years by the heretical Arians; by his supremely wise words and many labors he freed it from the corruption of heresy, and was elected Archbishop of that city by the Second Ecumenical Council, which assembled there in 381 A.D., and condemned Macedonius, Archbishop of Constantinople, the enemy of the Holy Spirit. When Saint Gregory came to Constantinople, the heretical Arians had taken all the churches and he was forced to serve in a house chapel dedicated to Saint Anastasia the holy Martyr. From there he began to preach his famous five sermons on the Holy Trinity, called the Triadica. When he left Constantinople two year later, the heretical Arians did not have one church left to them in the city. Saint Meletius of Antioch (February 12), who was presiding over the Second Ecumenical Council, died in the course of it, and Saint Gregory was chosen in his stead; there he distinguished himself in his expositions of dogmatic theology.

He also wrote against Apollinarius who taught that Christ did not have a human soul but that His divinity was in place of His soul. He also wrote against the Emperor Julian the Apostate, his sometime schoolfellow. In the year 381 A.D., a quarrel broke out in the Council concerning his election as Archbishop, he withdrew himself, declaring: "Those who deprive us of the (Archiepiscopal) throne cannot deprive us of God."

Having governed the Church until 382 A.D. , he delivered his farewell speech--the Syntacterion, in which he demonstrated the Divinity of the Son--before 150 Bishops and the Emperor Theodocius the Great; in this speech he requested, and received from all, permission to retire from the See of Constantinople. He returned to Nazianzus, where he lived to the end of his life, and reposed in the Lord in 391 A.D., having lived some sixty-two years. His holy relics were taken to Rome, and his head to the Cathedral of the Dormition in Moscow.

His extant writings, both prose and poems in every type of meter, demonstrate his lofty eloquence and his wondrous breadth of learning. In the beauty of his writings, he is considered to have surpassed the Greek writers of antiquity, and because of his God-inspired theological thought, he received the surname "Theologian". Although he is sometimes called Gregory of Nazianzus, this title belongs properly to his father; he himself is known by the Church only as Gregory the Theologian. He is especially called "Trinitarian Theologian", since in virtually every homily he refers to the Holy Trinity and the one essence and nature of the Godhead. Hence, Alexius Anthorus dedicated the following verses to him:

"Life an unwavering star beaming with splendor, Thou bringest us by mystic teachings, of Father, To the Trinity's sunlike illumination, O mouth breathing with fire, Gregory most mighty.

He was, and remains, a great and wonderful light of the Orthodox Church, as much for the meekness and purity of his character as for the unsurpassable depth of his mind.


They deceive themselves who self-confidently assert that they know men well and that no-one can deceive them. Who but the One God, Who knows the secrets of the heart, can know what kind of spiritual being any man is? Even the great Saints were mistaken in people. For example: Saint Basil the Great for a long time considered a hypocritical heretic to be a holy man, and defended him against his many attackers until he was in the end, in bitter disappointment, convinced of the other's deceit. Saint Gregory the Theologian baptized a philosopher called Maximus and loved him so greatly that he shared his house and table with him. But this Maximus was as wicked and cunning as a snake, and after a while he managed by intrigues and bribes to be accepted by the citizens of Constantinople as Patriarch in place of Saint Gregory. When, after many intrigues, this trial was removed, Saint Gregory was upbraided for having kept his greatest enemy at his side. 'We are not to blame', replied the Saint, 'if we cannot see through a man's wickedness. God alone knows man's inner secrets. And we are told by the Commandments to open our hearts with fatherly love to anyone who approaches us.' The good, kindly man cannot easily comprehend the wickedness of the wicked man. [The Prologue from Ochrid]

With sincere agape In His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George