November 17, 2016

Saint Gregory of Neocaesaria's Revelation of the True Faith

Saint Gregory Thaumaturgus (ca. 213-270, also known as Gregory of Neocaesarea or Gregory the Wonderworker) is commemorated on November 17. When he become Bishop of Caesarea, there were only 17 Christians in a city full of pagans. When he died, there were only 17 pagans left in that region. As his name states, there were many wonders done by the Spirit through Gregory. Saint Gregory of Nyssa said that Gregory of Thaumaturgus was the first person known to receive a vision of the Theotokos. In that vision, the Theotokos and the Apostle John gave him a statement of doctrine on the Trinity.

Saint Gregory of Nyssa writes in his Life of Saint Gregory:

"At that time the deceit of innumerable idols gripped the city so that both in it and the surrounding area no more than seventeen were present who committed themselves to the faith. Therefore Gregory submitted to the yoke of priestly office and once all the religious rites were completed, he was soon obliged to carefully attend to the mystery of faith after his summons to the priesthood. As the Apostle says [Gal. 1:16], he should no longer be attached to flesh and blood but should seek to manifest the hidden things of God and not proclaim it before the truth was revealed in him. At night he beheld the foundation of the faith. Various thoughts troubled him, for certain people perverted true teaching and often obscured it through persuasive, clever attempts.

As he laid awake, there appeared to him in a vision an aged person in human form adorned with solemn raiment and whose countenance was striking by great virtue and kindness in addition to the integrity his form. Gregory was struck by fear at this sight and rising up from bed, realized who he was and why he came. After quieting his fear, he said in a soft voice that a divine order bade him to appear, the reasons of which were obscure to Gregory, in order to reveal the truth of correct belief and to encourage him to speak while gazing upon him with both joy and respect. Then the old man suddenly extended his hand and with his finger and pointed to something which appeared near him which was a splendid female form instead of a male one. Once again Gregory was terrified and turned his face away, unable to bear its sight. The vision was especially amazing since the night was gloomy, for it resembled something like a light illuminated by another light. Since he could not look upon this spectacle, he heard from those who appeared to him speaking in detail about what he was seeking. Not only was he revered with regard to true knowledge of faith but recognized the names of each man who appeared when they called each other by their respective names. It is claimed that this vision of a female form told Gregory that the evangelist John was exhorted to manifest the mystery of truth to a young man, and said that she was chosen to be the mother of the Lord whom she cherished. He also said that this fitting vision had vanished again from his sight. He was immediately ordered to write down this divine revelation and later proclaim it in the church. In this way it became for others a divinely given legacy through which the people might repulse any evil of heresy. The words of that revelation are as follows:

There is One God, the Father of the living Word, who is His subsistent wisdom and power and wternal image: perfect Begetter of the perfect Begotten, Father of the only-begotten Son.

The is One Lord, Only of the Only, God of God, Image and Likeness of the Deity, Efficient Word, Wisdom comprehensive of the constitution of all things, and power formative of the whole creation, true Son of true Father, Invisible of Invisible, and Incorruptible of Incorruptible, and Immortal of Immortal and Eternal of Eternal.

And there is One Holy Spirit, having His subsistence from God, and being made manifest by the Son, to men: Image of the Son, Perfect Image of the Perfect Life, the cause of the living; Holy Fount; Sanctity, the Supplier, or Leader, of Sanctification; in whom is manifested God the Father, who is above all and in all, and God the Son, who is through all.

There is a perfect Trinity, in glory and eternity and sovereignty, neither divided nor estranged. Wherefore there is nothing either created or in servitude in the Trinity; nor anything superinduced, as if at some former period it was non-existent, and at some later period it was introduced. And thus neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abides ever.

(Thus the Trinity is not created, has anything else which claims to be first, nor is there anything which exists that can be introduced later. Similarly, the Son neither lacks the Father nor does the Spirit lack the Son; rather, the Trinity forever remains immutable and constant.)

Let anyone whoever desires to believe this listen to the Church which proclaims its message and which preserves these signs of blessedness by that hand even to the present. Is it not evident that these divinely made tablets rival the magnificence of grace? I believe that such tablets are the ones in which are inscribed the intentions of the divine will. Concerning Moses, Scripture says that when God who transcends visible reality and who constitutes the invisible sanctuary within the soul (for darkness implies this), it is for teaching the divine mysteries to all the people through his knowledge about God. In the same way the office of this great man contains no perceptible mountain but consists in the loftiness of desire for true teachings which is a dark vision unable to be approached. The soul is the tablet; in place of letters upon a tablet voices appear which reveal the mysteries for anyone who has undergone initiation.

After that vision had filled him with confidence and courage, much like an athlete who competes in a contest after having acquired stamina from a trainer, he strips himself for the stadium and prepares for the struggle, in similar fashion, so does Gregory exercise himself and the assistance of grace which appeared to him anoints his soul and makes it worthy to undergo the contest. (For all the labors and struggles related to the priesthood follow this example where faith overcomes every adverse power). After leaving his solitude, Gregory at once hastened to the city where he felt obliged to establish a church for God. He knew that the whole region was under the grip of demons and that the temple of the true God was not yet constructed; the entire city and surrounding area was filled with pagan altars, sacred places and all the people were devoted to images. They adorned the temples and sacred places with images and the madness of idolatry with processions; their defilement gave substance to rites and ceremonies. Just as a noble commander routes the enemy in combat by the strength of his battle order, so does that great man's valor set an example against the demons."

St. Gregory receiving the true faith from the Apostle John and the Mother of God, with heretics suffering outside the church. Apse of the Borghese chapel Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Below is the Exposition of Faith in Greek:

Eίς Θεός Πατήρ Λόγου ζώντος, Σοφίας υφεστώσης και Δυνάμεως, και χαρακτήρος αϊδίου. Tέλειος τελείου Γεννήτωρ. Πατήρ υιού Mονογενούς. Eίς Kύριος, μόνος εκ μόνου, Θεός εκ Θεού, χαρακτήρ και Eικών της Θεότητος. Λόγος εναργής. Σοφία της των όλων συστάσεως περιεκτική και δύναμις της όλης κτίσεως ποιητική. Yιός αληθινός αληθινού Πατρός. Aόρατος, αοράτου. Άφθαρτος, αφθάρτου. Aθάνατος, αθανάτου. Aΐδιος, αϊδίου. Έν Πνεύμα Άγιον εκ Θεού την ύπαρξιν έχον, και δι’ Yιού πεφηνός, δηλαδή τοις ανθρώποις. Eικών του Yιού τελείου τελεία. Ζωή ζώντων αιτία. Πηγή αγία αγιότητος, αγιασμού χορηγός. Εν ω φανερούται Θεός ο Πατήρ ο επί πάντων και εν πάσι. Kαι Θεός ο Yιός ο διά πάντων. Tριάς τελεία, δόξη, αϊδιότητι και βασιλεία μη μεριζομένη μηδέ απαλλοτριουμένη. Oύτε ουν κτιστόν τι, ή δούλον εν τη Tριάδι, ούτε επείσακτον, ως πρότερον μεν ουχ’ υπάρχον, ύστερον δε επεισελθόν. Oύτε ουν ενέλιπέν ποτε Yιός Πατρί, ούτε Yιώ το Πνεύμα. Oύτε ηυξήθη Mονάς εις δυάδα, και δυάς εις Tριάδα. Aλλ’ άτρεπτος και αναλλοίωτος η αυτή Tριάς αεί.