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St Gregory the Theologian (Nazianzen): Five Theological Orations


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#1 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 03:05 PM

A couple of folks have expressed interest in joining me in reading the Five Theological Orations of St Gregory of Nazianzus. Each week we will read one oration, beginning with Oration 27: "An Introductory Sermon against the Eunomians." I will be reading the translation included in the book On God and Christ (SVS), but other versions are available on the web. For example: Theological Orations, Five Theological Orations, Five Theological Orations, Oration 27. Also see the Gregory the Theologian anthology site.

This week we will read (and probably re-read) Oration 27. I suggest that you jot down any reflections and questions that you have about the text. Some of you may well have some scholarly secondary material available to you, which would be helpful to us all. I will start a discussion thread on the oration next Sunday. Though it will largely be the blind leading the blind, I'm sure we can help each other to understand better the thought of St Gregory the Theologian. I think it will be great fun. And perhaps Fr Irenei might even be persuaded to jump in and answer some of our questions and correct our mis-readings.

Edited by Herman Blaydoe, 19 May 2012 - 10:46 PM.
Orthodox title for St. Gregory


#2 Mary Lanser

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 04:22 PM

A couple of folks have expressed interest in joining me in reading the Five Theological Orations of St Gregory of Nazianzus. Each week we will read one oration, beginning with Oration 27: "An Introductory Sermon against the Eunomians." I will be reading the translation included in the book On God and Christ (SVS), but other versions are available on the web. For example: Theological Orations, Five Theological Orations, Five Theological Orations, Oration 27. Also see the Gregory the Theologian anthology site.

This week we will read (and probably re-read) Oration 27. I suggest that you jot down any reflections and questions that you have about the text. Some of you may well have some scholarly secondary material available to you, which would be helpful to us all. I will start a discussion thread on the oration next Sunday. Though it will largely be the blind leading the blind, I'm sure we can help each other to understand better the thought of St Gregory the Theologian. I think it will be great fun. And perhaps Fr Irenei might even be persuaded to jump in and answer some of our questions and correct our mis-readings.


There's a free googlebook that has the orations in Greek and commentary and notes in English. I have the PDF but I don't have the url easily at hand. I'll get it eventually though.

You are right. These are not an easy "read"...translations vary, the text itself is dense and it is deeply embedded in Scripture which is not particularly obvious at first glance, particularly in the translations. Books and research are out of print and out of pocket...for the likes a me and you... So I expect we'll be at this for a while. I think it will be interesting and keep me off the streets!

XB!

M.

#3 Reader Andreas

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 05:43 PM

Before we go any further, I find it is confusing to have two threads, this one and the one to which Fr David moved some posts.

#4 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 05:50 PM

Not to worry, Andreas. I will start a new thread for each oration as we proceed.

#5 Reader Andreas

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 06:04 PM

Thank you, Father. In the first place, my I respectfully suggest that you, as our priest here, offer a prayer to St Gregory to enlighten us in our deliberations?

#6 Rick H.

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 06:12 PM

Thank you, Father. In the first place, my I respectfully suggest that you, as our priest here, offer a prayer to St Gregory to enlighten us in our deliberations?



I am never ceased to be amazed at how ignorant I am of Eastern Orthodoxy, but is this correct to say? In EO can St. Gregory enlighten us as Mr. Moran says?

#7 Anna Stickles

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 06:20 PM

Don't we pray to the saints for help all the time? Who better to help us understand what he said then the saint himself. If the definition of a saint is one who is full of the light of Christ, then they have the ability to share this light. Aren't we taught that part of what the saints are doing in heaven is interceding with Christ for us? The problem is not with the saint's ability to enlighten us, but that we tend to be rather hard of hearing, or on the wrong frequency, or distracted and not paying attention.

#8 Rick H.

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 06:23 PM

I guess you are saying the answer is yes Anna? Somehow the saint will work a kind of illumination or revelation in our mind?


I thought the deal was that in EO one asks the saint to pray to God for you, as in this case that the Holy Spirit would enlighten our minds.

#9 Anna Stickles

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 06:27 PM

Oh Rick, you make it sound like some kind of magic charm. I mean that being baptized in the Church means we are in communion not only with Christ, but with the saints as well.

#10 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 06:27 PM

Once several brothers visited Abba Anthony and asked him to explain a passage from Leviticus.

The Elder, without saying a thing went out of his cell into the desert.

Abba Ammonas, who was present, knowing the habits of St. Anthony (to pray in private), secretly followed him, without the Saint realizing it.

With amazement he confirmed the following:

"St. Anthony, having removed himself a little into the desert, stood in prayer and confidently cried out to God: 'My God, send Moses to me, so that he can teach me the meaning of this passage.' Immediately, I heard a voice from heaven, speaking with St. Anthony.

Abba Ammonas then noted that, while he heard the voice, what was relayed to St. Anthony, he could not comprehend.

- from the sayings of the Desert Fathers

#11 Reader Andreas

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 06:32 PM

It is customary to pray to the Holy Spirit before any discussion. Where that discussion is about the teaching of a particular saint, a prayer should be offered up to him. St Gregory is not 'a historical character' - he is a living saint of God. I really did not think this would become a matter for discussion.

#12 Rick H.

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 06:36 PM

Oh Rick, you make it sound like some kind of magic charm. I mean that being baptized in the Church means we are in communion not only with Christ, but with the saints as well.



Now I cannot tell at all if you are saying yes or no. I guess you are answering my original question by saying yes. Being confused is par for the course.

#13 Daniel R.

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 06:38 PM

Dear Rick,
Christ is Risen!

To give an comparative, should one of us here guide someone else to Orthodoxy, when they were received into the Church, would the work of bringing them into the Church have been done by us or the Holy Spirit?

I feel this is the same kind of thing a Saint can enlighten us just as the shadow of the Apostle healed the sick, the saints enlightens or heals but it is not them but the Holy Spirit working within them and through them, with their cooperation.

In the Risen Christ.
Daniel,

#14 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 06:40 PM

If Moses can explain things to St. Anthony, then why can't St. Gregory "speak" to us? This is not a strange thing for the Orthodox Church.

#15 Anna Stickles

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 06:43 PM

As noted in Herman's story (which is one among many, many both ancient and modern) there is evidence enough that the saints are not just praying to God for the faithful such that the Holy Spirit does everything, but rather that they continue to interact with the faithful according to the work that God gives them. Certainly teaching is one of the jobs that they have.

This doesn't mean we need to hear a voice directly from the saint, but rather that we can have faith that they are present and active still in the Church. The stories of the desert Fathers take those instances where spiritual reality has become manifest visibly and passes it on to us so that we can believe, even if we do not see the mystical reality we live in. I think Daniel hits the nail on the head.

#16 Anna Stickles

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 06:57 PM

Not to worry, Andreas. I will start a new thread for each oration as we proceed.


are you going to start the discussion for Oration 27 then on the other thread or on this thread?

#17 Rick H.

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 06:58 PM

That is somewhat helpful Daniel. Overall through this very short course, this seems to put the saints in a kind of omni-something mystical place to hear our prayers and respond or not. But, as long as we have 'evidence' for this (as Anna says) in the treasury, and the majority of the Orthodox people believe this in each generation then we are good to go, because this is the Orthodox way. It doesn't even occur to me to pray to anyone or anything other than God, especially when the chips are really down.

Some of us "converts" (whatever that means) have a closet for things like this. I'll put this one in my closet on the shelf next to the issue of relics. Sorry for the distraction.

#18 Anna Stickles

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 07:05 PM

Well if the angels can appear to people and talk to them (Gabriel to Mary for example) even though they don't have a physical body, and we understand thateven when not appearing physically they are active doing God's will, then why not the saints? They may not have a physical body, but as far as I understand it their soul, or "immaterial body" is much in substance and activity like the angels. But this is probably best left to another thread.

And now back to the main event...

#19 Rick H.

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 07:10 PM

Well if the angels can . . . then why not the saints?



Yeah, okay . . . if the angels can do it then why not the saints? :) That's good. :) That settles that.

Yes, and now the movie folks! [cue rinky-tink piano music]

#20 Reader Andreas

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 07:15 PM

Our prayers in our services are full of prayers to saints. We have the long general intercession during Vespers. The saints have manifested themselves to people here. Elder Sophrony of Essex has talked to his spiritual children since his repose. The saints are our friends and helpers - don't put them in the closet! Orthodox Christians should pray to the saints - of course, it's obvious!




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