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E01177: Gregory of Nazianzus in his Oration 43 of 382, On Basil of Caesarea, describes expressions of passionate grief and veneration during the funeral of *Basil (bishop of Caesarea, ob. 379, S00780), and invokes Basil’s intercession for Gregory’s own health. Composed in Greek, for a memorial ceremony held at Kaisareia/Caesarea of Cappadocia central Asia Minor).

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posted on 07.03.2016, 00:00 by erizos
Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 43, On Basil of Caesarea (CPG 3010, BHG 245)

79. Ἔκειτο μὲν ὁ ἀνὴρ τὰ τελευταῖα πνέων καὶ παρὰ τῆς ἄνω χοροστασίας ἐπιζητούμενος, πρὸς ἣν ἐκ πλείονος ἔβλεπεν. Ἐχεῖτο δὲ περὶ αὐτὸν πᾶσα ἡ πόλις, τὴν ζημίαν οὐ φέροντες καὶ τῆς ἐκδημίας ὡς τυραννίδος καταβοῶντες καὶ τῆς ψυχῆς λαμβανόμενοι, ὡς καθεκτῆς καὶ βιασθῆναι δυναμένης ἢ χερσὶν ἢ δεήσεσιν. Ἐποίει γὰρ αὐτοὺς καὶ παράφρονας τὸ πάθος, καὶ προσθεῖναί τι τῆς ἑαυτῶν ζωῆς ἕκαστος ἐκείνῳ, εἴπερ οἷόν τε ἦν, πρόθυμος ἦν.  Ὡς δὲ ἡττήθησαν - ἔδει γὰρ αὐτὸν ἐλεγχθῆναι ἄνθρωπον ὄντα - καὶ Εἰς χεῖράς σου παραθήσομαι τὸ πνεῦμά μου τελευταῖον εἰπών, τοῖς ἀπάγουσιν αὐτὸν ἀγγέλοις οὐκ ἀηδῶς ἐναπέψυξεν, ἔστιν ἃ τοὺς παρόντας μυσταγωγήσας καὶ βελτίους ποιήσας ταῖς ἐπισκήψεσι, τότε δὴ θαῦμα γίνεται τῶν πώποτε γενομένων ὀνομαστότατον.

80. Προσεκομίζετο μὲν ὁ ἅγιος, χερσὶν ἁγίων ὑψούμενος, σπουδὴ δ’ ἦν ἑκάστῳ τῷ μὲν κρασπέδου λαβέσθαι, τῷ δὲ σκιᾶς, τῷ δὲ τοῦ ἱεροφόρου σκίμποδος καὶ ψαῦσαι μόνον – τί γὰρ ἐκείνου τοῦ σώματος ἱερώτερόν τε καὶ καθαρώτερον; – τῷ δὲ τῶν ἀγόντων ἐλθεῖν πλησίον, τῷ δὲ τῆς θέας ἀπολαῦσαι μόνης, ὥς τι κἀκείνης πεμπούσης ὄφελος. Πλήρεις ἀγοραί, στοαί, διώροφοι, τριώροφοι, τῶν ἐκεῖνον παραπεμπόντων, προηγουμένων, ἑπομένων, παρεπομένων, ἀλλήλοις ἐπεμβαινόντων, μυριάδες γένους παντὸς καὶ ἡλικίας ἁπάσης, οὐ πρότερον γινωσκόμεναι. Ψαλμῳδίαι θρήνοις ὑπερνικώμεναι καὶ τὸ φιλόσοφον τῷ πάθει καταλυόμενον. Ἀγὼν δὲ τοῖς ἡμετέροις πρὸς τοὺς ἐκτός, Ἕλληνας, Ἰουδαίους, ἐπήλυδας· ἐκείνοις πρὸς ἡμᾶς, ὅστις πλέον ἀποκλαυσάμενος πλείονος μετάσχῃ τῆς ὠφελείας. Πέρας τοῦ λόγου, καὶ εἰς κίνδυνον τελευτᾷ τὸ πάθος, συναπελθουσῶν αὐτῷ ψυχῶν οὐκ ὀλίγων, ἐκ τῆς τοῦ ὠθισμοῦ βίας καὶ συγκλονήσεως, αἳ καὶ τοῦ τέλους ἐμακαρίσθησαν, ὡς ἐκείνῳ συνέκδημοι, καὶ θύματα ἐπιτάφια, τάχα ἄν τις εἴποι τῶν θερμοτέρων. Μόγις δὲ τὸ σῶμα διαφυγὸν τοὺς ἁρπάζοντας καὶ νικῆσαν τοὺς προπομπεύοντας, οὕτω τῷ τάφῳ τῶν πατέρων δίδοται, καὶ προστίθεται τοῖς ἱερεῦσιν ὁ ἀρχιερεύς, τοῖς κήρυξιν ἡ μεγάλη φωνὴ καὶ τοῖς ἐμοῖς ὠσὶν ἔνηχος, ὁ μάρτυς τοῖς μάρτυσι. Καὶ νῦν, ὁ μέν ἐστιν ἐν οὐρανοῖς, κἀκεῖ τὰς ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν, οἶμαι, προσφέρων θυσίας καὶ τοῦ λαοῦ προευχόμενος· οὐδὲ γὰρ ἀπολοιπὼν ἡμᾶς παντάπασιν ἀπολέλοιπεν (……….)

81. Δεῦρο δὴ περιστάντες με πᾶς ὁ ἐκείνου χορός, ὅσοι τοῦ βήματος καὶ ὅσοι τῶν κάτω, ὅσοι τῶν ἡμετέρων καὶ ὅσοι τῶν ἔξωθεν, τὴν εὐφημίαν μοι συνεργάζεσθε, ἄλλος ἄλλο τι τῶν ἐκείνου καλῶν διηγούμενοι καὶ ζητοῦντες, οἱ τῶν θρόνων τὸν νομοθέτην, οἱ τῆς πολιτείας τὸν πολιστήν, οἱ τοῦ δήμου τὴν εὐταξίαν, οἱ περὶ λόγους τὸν παιδευτήν, αἱ παρθένοι τὸν νυμφαγωγόν, αἱ ὑπὸ ζυγὸν τὸν σωφρονιστήν, οἱ τῆς ἐρημίας τὸν πτερωτήν, οἱ τῆς ἐπιμιξίας τὸν δικαστήν, οἱ τῆς ἁπλότητος τὸν ὁδηγόν, οἱ τῆς θεωρίας τὸν θεολόγον, οἱ ἐν εὐθυμίᾳ τὸν χαλινόν, οἱ ἐν συμφοραῖς τὴν παράκλησιν, τὴν βακτηρίαν ἡ πολιά, τὴν παιδαγωγίαν ἡ νεότης, ἡ πενία τὸν ποριστήν, ἡ εὐπορία τὸν οἰκονόμον· δοκοῦσί μοι καὶ χῆραι τὸν προστάτην ἐπαινέσεσθαι, καὶ ὀρφανοὶ τὸν πατέρα, καὶ πτωχοὶ τὸν φιλόπτωχον, καὶ τὸν φιλόξενον οἱ ξένοι, καὶ ἀδελφοὶ τὸν φιλάδελφον, οἱ νοσοῦντες τὸν ἰατρόν, ἣν βούλει νόσον καὶ ἰατρείαν, οἱ ὑγιαίνοντες τὸν φύλακα τῆς ὑγείας, οἱ πάντες τὸν πάντα πᾶσι γενόμενον ἵνα κερδάνῃ τοὺς πάντας ἢ πλείονας.

82. Ταῦτά σοι παρ’ ἡμῶν, ὦ Βασίλειε, τῆς ἡδίστης σοί ποτε γλώττης καὶ ὁμοτίμου καὶ ἥλικος. Εἰ μὲν τῆς ἀξίας ἐγγύς, σοὶ τοῦτο χάρις· σοὶ γὰρ θαρρῶν, τὸν περὶ σοῦ λόγον ἐνεστησάμην· εἰ δὲ πόρρω καὶ παρὰ πολὺ τῆς ἐλπίδος, τί χρὴ παθεῖν καὶ γήρᾳ καὶ νόσῳ καὶ τῷ σῷ πόθῳ τετρυχωμένους; Πλὴν καὶ Θεῷ φίλον τὸ κατὰ δύναμιν. Σὺ δὲ ἡμᾶς ἐποπτεύοις ἄνωθεν, ὦ θεῖα καὶ ἱερὰ κεφαλή, καὶ τὸν δεδομένον ἡμῖν παρὰ Θεοῦ σκόλοπα τῆς σαρκός, τὴν ἡμετέραν παιδαγωγίαν, ἢ στήσαις ταῖς σεαυτοῦ πρεσβείαις ἢ πείσαις καρτερῶς φέρειν· καὶ τὸν πάντα βίον ἡμῖν διεξάγοις πρὸς τὸ λυσιτελέστατον. Εἰ δὲ μετασταίημεν, δέξαιο κἀκεῖθεν ἡμᾶς ταῖς σεαυτοῦ σκηναῖς, ὡς ἂν ἀλλήλοις συζῶντες καὶ συνεποπτεύοντες τὴν ἁγίαν καὶ μακαρίαν Τριάδα, καθαρώτερόν τε καὶ τελεώτερον, ἧς νῦν μετρίως δεδέγμεθα τὰς ἐμφάσεις, ἐνταῦθα σταίημεν τῆς ἐφέσεως, καὶ ταύτην λάβοιμεν ὧν πεπολεμήκαμεν καὶ πεπολεμήμεθα τὴν ἀντίδοσιν. Σοὶ μὲν οὖν οὗτος παρ’ ἡμῶν ὁ λόγος· ἡμᾶς δὲ τίς ἐπαινέσεται μετὰ σὲ τὸν βίον ἀπολείποντας, εἰ καί τι παράσχοιμεν ἐπαίνου τοῖς λόγοις ἄξιον;

‘79. He lay, drawing his last breath, and the choir above, upon which he long had fixed his gaze, was eagerly awaiting him. There poured about him the whole city, unable to endure his loss, crying out against his departure as against an act of tyranny, and seeking to lay hold of his soul, as though they could restrain and hold it with their hands and their prayers. Their grief drove them mad, and each one was eager to give him a part of his own life, if that were possible. But they were defeated, for he had to give proof that he was a mortal. When he had spoken his last words: 'Into Thy hands I commend my spirit,’ he joyfully gave up his soul to the angels who carried him away. He had previously delivered some mystical teaching to those who were present and rendered them better men by his final injunctions. Then occurred a wonder more extraordinary than anything so far.

80. The holy one was being carried out on the hands of the holy, and every single person rushed, some to seize the hem of his garment [Luke 8:44], others its shadow [Acts 5:15], or just to touch the bier carrying that holy burden. For what could be holier and purer than that body? Others sought to draw near those carrying it, others only to enjoy its sight, as if that alone conveyed some benefit. Market places, porticoes, and buildings two or three stories high were filled with people escorting, preceding, following, accompanying him, and trampling upon each other. Tens of thousands of every race and age, beyond all previous experience. Psalmody was overborne by lamentation, and restraint was overwhelmed by emotion. Our people [=Christians] vied with outsiders, Jews, Greeks, and strangers, and they with us, who would weep more and earn a greater benefit. To close my story, commotion culminated in a dangerous situation, since no mean number of souls followed him in his departure, due to the violence of the pushing and confusion. These people were held blessed for their end, becoming as they did his companions in his departure – a more passionate speaker might even call them funeral sacrifices. Having nearly escaped those attempting to seize it, and overcome those walking before it, the body was consigned to the tomb of the fathers, and thus the archpriest joined the priests, the mighty voice – still ringing in my ears! – joined the heralds, the martyr the martyrs. And now he is in heaven where, I believe, he offers sacrifices for us and leads the prayers of the people. Indeed, although he has gone away from us, he has not left us completely. (………)

81. Come then, all his chorus surrounding me, both those on the tribunal and those below, those from our people and those from outside [= Christians and non-Christians], and join me in building his praise, telling and enquiring one another about his various benefactions: those sitting on thrones tell of Basil the lawmaker; those of state, of him the statesman; those of the people, the guarantor of public order; the learned, the instructor; the unmarried girls, the arranger of marriages; the married women, the moraliser; those pursuing the eremitical life, your heartener; those pursuing the cenobitic life, the man who established your rules; those of the simple living, the guide; those of the contemplative living, the theologian; those living in happiness, your bridle; those living in misfortune, your consoler; the elderly, your support; the young, your tutor; the destitute, your nourisher; the rich, the manager. I believe that the widows will also have words of praise for him as a defender, and the orphans for him as a father; and the poor for his charity; and the strangers for his hospitality; and the brothers for his brotherly love; the sick about him the healer in any sickness and treatment you may think of; the healthy about him the keeper of health. Let everyone speak of this man who made himself everything for everyone in order to win everyone, or at least as many as possible [1 Cor. 9:19].

82. This is our tribute to you, Basil, from this tongue which once was for you most sweet, and your peer in rank and age. If our words have been close to your worth, we owe this to you, for we undertook to speak of you out of confidence in you. But if our speech has fallen way short of what we hoped to achieve, why take offence at a man worn out with age and disease and your regret? After all, even God is contempt, if one does what he can. Now may you watch over us from above, oh figure divine and hallowed, and may you restrain, by your intercession, this thorn of the flesh, which has been given to us by God for our correction, or may you hearten us to suffer it with patience. And may you lead our whole life towards our greatest profit. Were we to depart, may you welcome us into your tabernacle, so that we may dwell together and gaze in greater clarity and fullness the holy and blessed Trinity Whose manifestations we have received in a modest manner during this life. And may we achieve that ultimate desire, and receive that reward for all those battles we have given and endured. This then is our eulogy for you. But who will be there to say ours, when we leave this life after you – should we indeed offer any matter worthy of a eulogy?’

Text: Bernardi 1992
Translation: E. Rizos.

History

Evidence ID

E01177

Saint Name

Basil, bishop of Caesarea, ob. 379 : S00780

Saint Name in Source

Βασίλειος

Major author/Major anonymous work

Gregory of Nazianzus

Source

Gregory was born in c. 330 to a wealthy Christian family in Cappadocia. He was educated at Nazianzos, Kaisareia/Caesarea, Athens, and Alexandria, and in 361 he returned to Nazianzos where he was ordained priest by his father, Gregory the Elder, who was bishop of Nazianzos. He was ordained bishop of Sasima in Cappadocia by Basil of Caesarea in 372, but stayed in Nazianzos, administering the local community after the death of his father. After retreating as a monk in Isauria for some years, he moved to Constantinople in 379, in order to lead the struggle for the return of the city to Nicene Orthodoxy. Two years later, the Arians were ousted by the emperor Theodosius I, and Gregory became bishop of Constantinople. In 381, he convened the Council of Constantinople, at the end of which he resigned his throne and retired to Cappadocia where he died in 390. Oration 43 was probably delivered during a memorial for Basil held in Kaisareia/Caesarea, on 1 January 382 or later. On the manuscript tradition of this Oration (550 manuscripts), see Bernardi 1992, 40-45, and: http://pinakes.irht.cnrs.fr/notices/oeuvre/7597/

Discussion

Alongside Gregory’s oration on *Athanasius (see E01235), his eulogy on his friend Basil of Caesarea is an important testimony to the role of memorial ceremonies in the establishment of the memory of a bishop as a saint. Gregory’s speech reflects two important moments in the evolution of the posthumous veneration of Basil: the first is the bishop’s funeral which, according to Gregory, precipitated an outburst of grief and acts of veneration in the entire city; the second is the memorial service Gregory was invited to, during which he expressed certainty that the deceased bishop was in heaven and interceded with Christ. The text follows the traditional structure of funerary orations, starting with references to the family and education of Basil, with several anecdotes from the years they spent together with Gregory as students in Athens (3-24), his priesthood (25-36), a long section on his episcopate (37-59), his character and virtues (60-64), his teachings and written works (65-69) a comparison of Basil to biblical figures (70-77), Basil’s death and funeral, and the epilogue (78-81). Four texts of Gregory of Nazianzus are listed as funerary orations (eulogies). Two of them (Oration 7, On his brother Caesarius, and Oration 18, On his father Gregory of Nazianzus the Elder) fall strictly within the category of traditional funerary oratory, as they were written for the author’s relatives shortly after their deaths. Oration 21, on *Athanasius, does not fit perfectly within this category, since it was delivered during a memorial service held at Constantinople six years after Athanasius’ death, and is closer to what one can describe as the regular celebration of a saint’s memory beyond his own area (see E01235). Oration 43 on Basil of Caesarea stands somewhere in the middle of these two realities: it was given during what one could describe as a normal memorial held at the city of the deceased bishop a short time after his death. It therefore does not yet reflect the existence of a fully-fledged feast of him as a saint. Nevertheless, oration 43 shares a number of distinctive features with 21: both of them compare the deceased person to figures of the Bible, and finish with an invocation of his intercession – in other words, both contain statements of certainty about the person’s state of sainthood. These are not present in Gregory’s orations for his father and brother. The nature of the memorial this oration belongs to is less than clear. When the author addresses his audience in paragraph 81, it appears that he talks from a tribunal (come then all his chorus surrounding me, both those on the tribunal and those below) which is thought to refer to the presbytery of a church, reserved to the clergy. Yet the speaker proceeds to call on both ‘those from our people and those from outside’, an expression regularly used to define Christians and non-Christians, and he invites people from all social backgrounds to offer their praise for Basil. The whole of paragraph 81, of course, is a stereotypical piece of funerary rhetoric, which is repeated almost verbatim in Gregory’s Oration 21 on Athanasius (§10). It is possible that this ceremony was both ecclesiastical and civic, attended officials not all of whom were Christians. It may have been organised according to the tradition of aristocratic memorials, held for important officials and members of prominent families. Basil belonged to both categories. A central part of solemn memorials of this kind was a eulogy, often given by a friend, relative, or colleague of the deceased person – or by a professional orator. Gregory of Nazianzus was indeed one of the foremost orators of his time, a fellow bishop of Basil, and a close friend since their studies in Athens. Basil’s memorial was very probably Gregory’s first appearance at a major public occasion after his resignation from Constantinople and return to Cappadocia: Gregory left the capital in summer 381, and the ceremony is likely to have taken place in Kaisareia/Caesarea on 1 January 382, which was the third anniversary of Basil’s death (379). This was a bitter time in Gregory’s life, following his eventful stay in the capital, and it seems that the author anticipated his own death. One day earlier (on 31 December 381), Gregory had written and signed his own will, with seven Anatolian bishops signing as witnesses (see Daley 2006, 184-189). Exceeding 17,000 words, our text is one of the author’s longest orations. It is very probably an extended version based on the original eulogy – the extant text would take almost three hours to deliver. With its references to the friendship between Basil and Gregory, Oration 43 is a partly autobiographical work, and can be associated with Gregory’s three autobiographical poems. Of special interest is Gregory’s reference to Basil’s burial (paragraph 80: the body was consigned to the tomb of the fathers, and thus the archpriest joined the priests, the mighty voice – still ringing in my ears! – joined the heralds, the martyr the martyrs). This ‘tomb of the fathers’ cannot be a family tomb, since Basil’s parents were buried at their private estate near Ibora in Pontus (see E01299). There must have been a cemetery or crypt reserved to the burial of the bishops of Kaisareia/Caesarea, very probably at one of the city’s extramural martyr-shrines. This is suggested by Gregory’s passing reference to Basil as a martyr joining the martyrs. Of course, Basil was not strictly speaking a martyr, but he is portrayed by Gregory as a man willing to die for the faith: this is most clearly seen in paragraphs 47-51 which are written according to the norms of martyrdom accounts (passiones). Basil’s brave responses to the tyrannical Praetorian Prefect Domitius Modestus (fl. 369-377) are a skilfully disguised passio inserted by Gregory into the biography of his friend.

Bibliography

Text and French translation: Bernardi, J., Grégoire De Nazianze. Discours 42-43 (Sources Chrétiennes 384; Paris: Cerf, 1992), 25-45, 116-307. English Translations: Schaff, P., and Wace, H. (eds.), A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church: Second Series. Vol. 7 (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1894), 395-423. McCauley, L.P., "On St. Basil the Great, Bishop of Caesarea," in: Funeral Orations by Saint Gregory Nazianzen and Saint Ambrose (Fathers of the Church 22; Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1968), 27-99. Further reading : Bernardi, J., La prédication des pères Cappadociens (Université de Paris, Sorbonne, 1968). Daley, B.E., Gregory of Nazianzus (The Early Church Fathers; London: Routledge, 2006). McGuckin, J.A., St Gregory of Nazianzus: An Intellectual Biography (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2001). Rousseau, P., Basil of Caesarea (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994).

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