Saturday, February 7, 2009

St. Gregory the Theologian

Today (Old Calendar) we commemorate St. Gregory the Theologian.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
The pastoral flute of your theology conquered the trumpets of orators. For it called upon the depths of the Spirit and you were enriched with the beauty of words. Intercede to Christ our God, O Father Gregory, that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
O Glorious One, you dispelled the complexities of orators with the words of your theology. You have adorned the Church with the vesture of Orthodoxy woven from on high. Clothed in this, the Church now cries out to your children, with us, "Hail Father, the consummate theological mind."

Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev has written an interesting article entitled: Theology and Mysticism in St. Gregory Nazianzen. Here is an excerpt:
First of all, Gregory’s theology is very central to the entire Byzantine Tradition. In Byzantium he was known as ‘The Theologian’ and was the most quoted author, after the Bible, in the ecclesiastical literature.[1] The corpus of his writings (especially his Discourses), have become not only an integral part of Byzantine paradosis (Tradition); it was in fact regarded as regula fidei (‘the rule of faith’), almost as sacred scripture. No other Byzantine author ever enjoyed such appreciation, popularity and unquestionable authority.

Theology ought to be inspired by God: it ought to be not the word of a human person, but the word of the Spirit which is pronounced by human lips. A true Christian theologian is the one who is able to be silent until the Holy Spirit touches the strings of his soul. And it is only when the human word falls silent and the word of the Spirit emerges from his soul, that true theology is born. From this moment ‘a lover of words’ is transformed into ‘a lover of wisdom’, a rhetorician into a theologian.

According to Gregory, not everyone can be a theologian, but only the one who purifies himself for God. Not everyone can participate in theological discussions, but only those who can do it properly. Finally, not every theological theme can be discussed openly:

Discussion of theology is not for everyone, I tell you, not for everyone - it is no such inexpensive and effortless pursuit... It must be reserved for certain occasions, for certain audiences, and certain limits must be observed. It is not for all men, but only for those who have been tested and have found a sound footing in study, and, more importantly, have undergone, or at the very least are undergoing, purification of body and soul. For one who is not pure to lay hold on pure things is dangerous,[1] just as it is for weak eyes to look at the sun’s brightness. What is the right time? Whenever we are free from the mire and noise without, and our commanding faculty[2] is not confused by illusory, wandering images... We need actually to be still[3] in order to know God... What aspects of theology should be investigated, and to what limit? Only aspects within our grasp, and only to the limit of the experience and capacity of our audience... Yet I am not maintaining that we ought not to be mindful of God at all times... It is more important that we should remember God than that we should breathe... So it is not continual remembrance of God that I seek to discourage, but continual discussion of theology. I am not opposed either to theology... but only to its untimely practice...[4]

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