The Cappadocian Fathers Basil the Great, Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory of Nyssa “The Triad that glorified the Trinity”
- Basil the Great (329-379 AD)
- Born to a prominent Christian family. (Grandmother [St. Macrina], Mother [St. Emmelia], Sister [St. Macrina] and Brothers [St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Peter of Sebastia] are all canonized saints in the Church)
- Educated in Constantinople and Athens where he meets St. Gregory Nazianzen. Goes to Cappadocia and forms monastic rule.
- Becomes Bishop and fights against Arianism and forms “New Nicene Party”
- Wrote many famous tracts including “On the Holy Spirit”
- Gregory of Nazianzen (The Theologian) (329-389 AD)
- Born to wealthy Christian family. His mother Nonna is a major influence in his life.
- Educated with Basil and has a life-long friendship with him.
- Resisted ordination and elevation and actually never gets to his See.
- Longs for the solitary and contemplative life
- Writes famous “Theological Orations”, poetry and sermons
- Gregory of Nyssa (340 –390 AD)
- Brother of Basil the Great
- Bishop in Nyssa though not very forceful
- Most outstanding of the three in theological matters
- Main person at the Second Ecumenical Council in 381 at Constantinople. Wrote the second part of the Creed dealing with the Holy Spirit.
- Also wrote “Against Eunomius” and “Not Three Gods” etc.
Some Selected Quotes from the Cappadocians
St. Basil the Great
“The way to divine knowledge ascends from one Spirit through the one Son to the one Father. Likewise, natural goodness, inherent holiness and royal dignity reaches from the Father through the Only-begotten to the Spirit.” -On the Holy Spirit 18,47
“When through the illuminating power (of the Spirit) we fix our eyes on the beauty of the image of the invisible God (on the Son), and through the Image are led to the supreme beauty of the Archetype (of the Father), then the Spirit of knowledge is with us inseparably. To those who love the vision of the truth, He gives in Himself the power of beholding the Image […]; He does not reveal it from outside, but leads to knowledge of Himself.” -On the Holy Spirit 18,47
“No sooner do I place before the mind the One, than I am surrounded by the splendor of the Three. No sooner do I distinguish the Three, than I am brought back to the One. When any one of the Three appears to me, I think of Him as a whole; my eyes are filled, and the greater part escapes my eye. I cannot comprehend the magnitude of the One, so as to impart a greater greatness to the Rest. When, again, I consider the Three together, I perceive but one splendor, and I cannot divide or measure the light that is one.” -On Holy Baptism 41
“The Father is the Father and is Unoriginate, for He is of no one, the Son is Son, and is not unoriginate, for He is of the Father. But if you take the word ‘origin’ in a temporal sense, He too is Unoriginate, for He is the Maker of time, and is not subject to time. The Holy Spirit is truly Spirit, coming forth from the father indeed, but not after the manner of the Son, for it is not by generation, but by procession since I must coin a word for the sake of clearness; for neither did the Father cease to be Unbegotten because of His begetting something, nor the Son to be begotten because He is Unbegotten, nor the Spirit changed into the father or the Son because He proceeds, or because he is God – though the ungodly do not believe it.” -Theological Orations 39
Gregory of Nyssa
“We say to begin with that the practice of calling those who are not divided by nature by the very name of their common nature in the plural and saying they are ‘many men’ is a customary abuse of language, and that it would be much the same thing to say there are ‘many human natures’…Thus there are many who have shared in the same nature – many disciples, say, or apostles, or martyrs – but the man in them all is one; since, as had been said, the term ‘man’ does not belong to the nature of the individuals as such, but to that which is common….Thus it would be better to correct our erroneous habit, so as to no longer extend a plurality to the name of the nature. We should no longer be tempted to project our error of speech into theological doctrine.” –There are Not Three God, Introduction
Irmos: Pharaoh’s Charioteer
Father, I beg the inspiration through Thee
of the Trinity to praise in odes
the accord and unison
of the three theologians,
and now too the words which you,
blessed hierarch Gregory,
have spoken in harmony with them.
As theologians and wise men,
orators and holy writers
and three best God-bearing heralds
of holy words and doctrines,
you now have also
your illustrious fellow-initiator
of the same name singing hymns
in unison with you.
Holding to the laws of friendship
and the ways from above, bearing Christ
in your midst, as He foretold,
you now are enriched by a fourth as well,
one of the same nature and ways.
Let us praise in holy hymns
those holy muses, voices of the Trinity,
trumpets of holy theology:
Basil, Gregory and John the great,
with Gregory, who breathed with them
the grace of the Holy Spirit".
Service of Vespers on the second Sunday of Lent