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Weary postmoderns, rejoice, for you have a theo-poet among you in Gregory of Nazianzus. And since Gregory worked his vocabulary around the economy of the Incarnation, one can even say he was a narrative theologian! (Okay, I'll stop poking fun at postmodernists now). I had reservations about this volume at first. I thought Daley was going to interpret Gregory as *merely* a Christian humanist interested only in "a new Hellenic and Christian literature." Daley does pull that line, but there is more to it. Daley approached Gregory in a unique way: most people simply focus on Gregory's five theological orations (more on that later); Daley's approach is to translate and view Gregory's works which have not received that much attention. The positive is that we get a stunning array of Gregory's lyrical prose and poetry. With the exception of Augustine, we can't a strange glimpse into the struggles of an ancient writer, which is unusual for the time.
The downside to Daley's approach is we don't get a lot of interaction with the rich theological corpus that Gregory leaves. True, Daley does translate, and occasionally gloss, the "Christmas Orations," but he generally doesn't deal with the theological orations except for a few pages in the introduction. This is not Daley's fault, for he did not set out to do that. (Interestingly, Daley does admit that for Gregory, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. There is nothing in here about Filioque and Daley, unlike the Schaff editors on Gregory of Nyssa, has the honesty to admit that.)
For Daley, Gregory sought to create a new theological vocabulary reminiscent of Hellenic literature, yet remaining faithful to the Christian Tradition, and he largely succeeded. Gregory saw himself, not only as a theologian--as he is known to us today--but also as a Christian philosopher, and routinely encouraged the contemplation-oriented youth to pursue philosophy.
The selection on Gregory's poetry was beautiful. The modern world would be hard-pressed to find Gregory's equal on poetry. Daley's inclusion of Gregory's will was a neat addition to the volume, though probably not of much interest to theological studies. All in all this is a good read. A word of caution, though: If you have the Schaff edition on Gregory of Nyssa, you might not want to buy this book. Most of the material in the book, excluding the poetry and the introduction, is in the Schaff edition.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
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St Gregory of Nazianzen, also known as 'the Theologian', was one of the key architects of the Early Christian Church, along with St Basil and St Gregory of Nyssa. He was also one of the main theologians who was instrumental in formulating the doctrine of the Trinity, which today is held around the world by all the main denominations.
Gregory, like the other Gregory and Basil, recieved a first class education and came from a family with impeccable credentials. Originally trained as a Rhetorician (the ancient equivalent of a Lawyer or Orator) he originally aimed at a public life and career, but under Basil's guidance became a Bishop. While not brilliant at his administrative duties, Gregory's brilliant orations on various matters would later become key sources of theological reflection on many matters.
While not as an outstanding administrator as Basil, or as brilliant a philosophical theologian as St Gregory of Nyssa, Nazianzen still had a brilliant theological intellect. Key to him, as was to the other Cappadocians, is the incomprehensibility and inscrutability of God by virtue of his infinity, which is an essential property of his essence. This was used to defend against the heresy of Arianism and Eunomius, who believed that Jesus was not God but only a creature made by God, though the greatest creature in creation. Gregory's orations also though come down from the pinnacles of speculative theology and also concern many pastoral matters as well as orations for great figures in the Church, alive and dead. Gregory also sometimes describes his experiential awareness of the Trinity in personal experience and in the liturgy, which often form some of his most interesting works.
This work introduces some of his main works, including the theological orations and other works.