“All things belong to God, who is our Father and the Father of all things. We are all of the same family; all of us are brothers. Amongst brothers, it is best that all inherit equal portions.”
Today, January 10, we celebrate the feast of Saint Gregory of Nyssa (333-398), younger brother of Saints Basil the Great and Macrina, and one of the greatest of the Easter Fathers of the Church. Along with his brother, Basil, and Saint Gregory Nazianzen, Saint Gregory of Nyssa is known as one of the Cappadocian Fathers. A deep and contemplative theologian, the works of Saint Gregory greatly impacted the manner in which we understand the Scriptures, the Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes, and the life of Moses.
Gregory was born in modern-day Turkey in the years following the persecution of Christians. His grandparents had fled to Turkey during the reign of Emperor Diocletian. He was raised by his elder brother and sister, Saints Basil the Great and Macrina. From a young age, Saint Gregory excelled at his studies, becoming a professor of rhetoric at an early age, working for several years before entering the monastery founded by Saint Basil. Ordained a priest, he was later consecrated the Bishop of Nyssa (in Lower Armenia) in 371, at the age of 38.
Saint Gregory fought tirelessly against heresies, and preached the tenets of the Trinitarian faith. Following the death of his brother, he was recognized as a defender of orthodoxy, writing and preaching effectively against Arianism and other questionable doctrines. Saint Gregory held a position of prominence at the Council of Constantinople, which reaffirmed the divinity of the Trinity. He spent the remainder of his life, following this great council, writing, preaching, and traveling.
Generally considered one of the great pillars of mystical writing of the Church, Saint Gregory is referred to as the “Father of Mysticism.” While his brother, Saint Basil the Great, is credited with providing structure and organization to the eastern Church, Saint Gregory’s writings filled the hearts of the faithful with spirituality and the mystical vision of Christ. He penned countless reflections and commentaries on the Holy Scriptures, including a well-known text on the Life of Moses. His other writings and homilies included treatises on the Lord's Prayer, the Song of Songs, and the Beatitudes.
“Man was honoured by God and placed above every other creature: "The sky was not made in God's image, not the moon, not the sun, not the beauty of the stars, no other things which appear in creation. Only you (human soul) were made to be the image of nature that surpasses every intellect, likeness of incorruptible beauty, mark of true divinity, vessel of blessed life, image of true light, that when you look upon it you become what he is, because through the reflected ray coming from your purity you imitate he who shines within you. Nothing that exists can measure up to your greatness" (Homilia in Canticum 2: PG 44, 805d).
Let us meditate on this praise of the human being. Let us also see how man was degraded by sin. And let us try to return to that original greatness: only if God is present, does man attain his true greatness.
Man therefore recognizes in himself the reflection of the divine light: by purifying his heart he is once more, as he was in the beginning, a clear image of God, exemplary Beauty (cf. Oratio Catechetica 6: SC 453, 174).
Thus, by purifying himself, man can see God, as do the pure of heart (cf. Mt 5: 8): "If, with a diligent and attentive standard of living, you wash away the bad things that have deposited upon your heart, the divine beauty will shine in you.... Contemplating yourself, you will see within you he who is the desire of your heart, and you will be blessed" (De Beatitudinibus 6: PG 44, 1272ab). We should therefore wash away the ugliness stored within our hearts and rediscover God's light within us.
Man's goal is therefore the contemplation of God. In him alone can he find his fulfilment.
To somehow anticipate this goal in this life, he must work ceaselessly toward a spiritual life, a life in dialogue with God. In other words - and this is the most important lesson that St Gregory of Nyssa has bequeathed to us - total human fulfilment consists in holiness, in a life lived in the encounter with God, which thus becomes luminous also to others and to the world.”
“When we lay bare the hidden meaning of the history, scripture is seen to teach that the birth which distresses the tyrant is the beginning of the virtuous life. I am speaking of the kind of birth in which free will serves as the midwife, delivering the child amid great pain. For no one causes grief to his antagonist unless he exhibits in himself those marks which give proof of his victory over the other."
"A greedy appetite for food is terminated by satiety and the pleasure of drinking ends when our thirst is quenched. And so it is with the other things... But the possession of virtue, once it is solidly achieved, cannot be measured by time nor limited by satiety. Rather, to those who are its disciples it always appears as something ever new and fresh."
"So we say to God: Give us bread. Not delicacies or riches, nor magnificent purple robes, golden ornaments, and precious stones, or silver dishes. Nor do we ask Him for landed estates, or military commands, or political leadership. We pray neither for herds of horses and oxen or other cattle in great numbers, nor for a host of slaves. We do not say, give us a prominent position in assemblies or monuments and statues raised to us, nor silken robes and musicians at meals, nor any other thing by which the soul is estranged from the thought of God and higher things; no--but only bread!”
“Through prayer we succeed in being with God. But anyone who is with God is far from the enemy. Prayer is a support and protection of charity, a brake on anger, an appeasement and the control of pride. Prayer is the custody of virginity, the protection of fidelity in marriage, the hope for those who are watching, an abundant harvest for farmers, certainty for sailors"
God our Father, Saint Gregory, your bishop, praised you by the splendor of his life and teaching. In your kindness, as we forget what is past and reach out to what is before us, help us to attain that vocation to which we are called.
You have shown forth your watchfulness, and were a fervent Preacher of godliness: by the wisdom of the teachings you have gladden the Church's faithful, Righteous Father Gregory, entreat Christ our God to grant us his great mercy.
Year 2: Day 10 of 365
Prayer Intentions: Lives lived in encounter with the Lord
Requested Intentions: Improved financial stability (A); Improved relationship with business partner (A); For employment (N); Reconciliation of a workplace relationship (R); Healing of son, cousin, and friend (L); Healing of a husband from cancer, end to medical problems (T); Freedom from persecution (E); Successful employment (R); Reconciliation of a marriage (M); Successful marriage, employment, healing (J); For a family struggling with a difficult situation (M); For family intentions (I); Reconciliation of a marriage (S); For blessings upon a family (R); Permanent employment (N); Successful employment (M); Healing of a father following stroke (S).
Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?
Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."
To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."
As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."