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Saint Gregory of Nyssa

Reading from the Synaxarion:

Saint Gregory, the younger brother of Basil the Great, illustrious in speech and a zealot for the Orthodox Faith, was born in 331.  His brother Basil was encouraged by their elder sister Macrina to prefer the service of God to a secular career (see July 19); Saint Gregory was moved in a similar way by his godly mother Emily, who, when Gregory was still a young man, implored him to attend a service in honor of the holy Forty Martyrs at her retreat at Annesi on the River Iris.  Saint Gregory came at his mother’s bidding, but being wearied with the journey, and feeling little zeal, he fell asleep during the service.  The Forty Martyrs then appeared to him in a dream, threatening him and reproaching him for his slothfulness.  After this he repented and became very diligent in the service of God.

Gregory became bishop in 372, and because of his Orthodoxy he was exiled in 374 by Valens, who was of one mind with the Arians.  After the death of Valens in 378, Gregory was recalled to his throne by the Emperor Gratian. He attended the Local Council of Antioch, which sent him to visit the churches of Arabia and Palestine, which had been defiled and ravaged by Arianism.  He attended the Second Ecumenical Council, which was assembled in Constantinople in 381.  Having lived some sixty years and left behind many remarkable writings, he reposed about the year 395.  The acts of the Seventh Ecumenical Council call him ‘Father of Fathers.”

Text: Great Hologion, Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, MA

The Synergy of Ascetic Effort & Grace

For the grace of the Spirit gives eternal life and unspeakable joy in heaven, but it is
the love of the toils because of the faith that makes the soul worthy of receiving
the gifts and enjoying the grace. When a just act and grace of the Spirit coincide,
they fill the soul into which they come with a blessed life; but, separated from each
other, they provide no gain for the soul.

For the grace of God does not naturally frequent souls which are fleeing from
salvation, and the power of human virtue is not sufficient in itself to cause the
souls not sharing in grace to ascend to the beauty of life. For it says: ‘Unless the
Lord build the house and keep the city, he labours in vain that builds it and
watches in vain who keeps it.’  And again: ‘For not with their own sword did they
conquer the land; nor did their own arm make them victorious (although they used
their swords and arms in their struggles), but it was your right hand and your arm,
and the light of your countenance.’

What does this mean? It means that the Lord from on high enters into an alliance
with the doers, and, at the same time, it means that it is not necessary for men
considering human efforts to think that the entire crown rests upon their struggles,
but it is necessary for them to refer their hopes for their goal to the will of God.

On the Christian Mode of Life in V. Callahan (trans), St Gregory: Ascetical Works – Fathers of the Church Vol. 58 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1967), pp.131-2

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