Gregory of Nyssa in his Life of *Gregory the Miracle-Worker (bishop and missionary in Pontus, S00687), of the late 370s or the 380s, recounts a vision experienced by the saint (purportedly in the early 3rd century), with *John the Evangelist (S00042) and *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033) revealing the doctrine of the Trinity. Written in Greek in Asia Minor.
Literary - Hagiographical - Lives of saint
Literary - Sermons/Homilies
Gregory of Nyssa
Gregory of Nyssa, Life of Gregory the Miracle-Worker (CPG 3184, BHG 715-715b)
For the context of this passage, see E01878
28. Οὕτω τοίνυν ὑπελθὼν τὸν ζυγὸν κατ᾽ ἀνάγκην πάντων μετὰ ταῦτα τῶν νομίμων ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ τελεσθέντων καὶ βραχὺν χρόνον αἰτησάμενος παρὰ τοῦ τὴν ἱερωσύνην ἐπικηρύξαντος πρὸς κατανόησιν τῆς κατὰ τὸ μυστήριον ἀκριβείας οὐκέτι, καθώς φησιν ὁ ἀπόστολος, Σαρκὶ καὶ αἵματι προσανέχειν ᾤετο δεῖν, ἀλλὰ θεόθεν ᾔτει γενέσθαι αὐτῷ τὴν τῶν κρυφίων φανέρωσιν καὶ οὐ πρότερον ἐπεθάρρησε τῷ τοῦ λόγου κηρύγματι πρὶν διά τινος ἐμφανείας ἐκκαλυφθῆναι αὐτῷ τὴν ἀλήθειαν. 29. Σκοπουμένῳ γὰρ αὐτῷ ποτε νύχιον περὶ τοῦ λόγου τῆς πίστεως καὶ παντοίους ἀνακινοῦντι λογισμούς — ἦσαν γὰρ δὴ καὶ τότε τινὲς οἱ τὴν εὐσεβῆ διδασκαλίαν παραχαράττοντες καὶ διὰ τῆς πιθανότητος τῶν ἐπιχειρημάτων ἀμφίβολον ποιοῦντες πολλάκις καὶ τοῖς συνετοῖς τὴν ἀλήθειαν — ὑπὲρ ἧς τότε διαγρυπνοῦντι αὐτῷ καὶ φροντίζοντι φαίνεταί τις καθ᾽ ὕπαρ ἐν ἀνθρωπίνῳ τῷ σχήματι γηραλέος τὸ εἶδος ἱεροπρεπὴς τῇ καταστολῇ τοῦ ἐνδύματος πολλὴν ἐπισημαίνων τὴν ἀρετὴν τῇ περὶ τὸ πρόσωπον χάριτι καὶ τῇ καταστάσει τοῦ σχήματος. τὸν δὲ καταπλαγέντα τὴν ὄψιν διαναστῆναί τε τῆς εὐνῆς καὶ ὅστις εἴη μαθεῖν καὶ ὑπὲρ τίνος ἥκοι. ἐκείνου δὲ καταστείλαντος αὐτοῦ τὴν ταραχὴν τῆς διανοίας ἐν ἠρεμαίᾳ φωνῇ καὶ εἰπόντος θείῳ προστάγματι πεφηνέναι αὐτῷ τῶν ἀμφισβητουμένων παρ᾽ αὐτοῦ χάριν, ὡς ἂν ἐκκαλυφθείη τῆς εὐσεβοῦς πίστεως ἡ ἀλήθεια, θαρρῆσαί τε πρὸς τὸν λόγον καὶ βλέψαι πρὸς αὐτὸν μετά τινος χαρᾶς καὶ ἐκπλήξεως. 30. Εἶτα ἐκείνου κατ᾽ εὐθὺ τὴν χεῖρα προτείναντος καὶ οἷον ὑποδεικνύντος αὐτῷ διὰ τῆς τῶν δακτύλων εὐθείας τὸ ἐκ πλαγίου φαινόμενον συμπεριαγαγεῖν τοῦτον τῇ εὐθείᾳ τῆς χειρὸς τὸ ἴδιον βλέμμα καὶ ἰδεῖν ἀντιπρόσωπον τῷ ὀφθέντι ἕτερον θέαμα ἐν γυναικείῳ τῷ σχήματι κρεῖττον ἢ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον. πάλιν δὲ καταπλαγέντα συγκλιθῆναί τε πρὸς ἑαυτὸν τῷ προσώπῳ καὶ ἀμηχανεῖν τῷ θεάματι μὴ φέροντα τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς τὴν ἐμφάνειαν. καὶ γὰρ δὴ τὸ παράδοξον τῆς ὀπτασίας ἐν τούτῳ μάλιστα ἦν, ὅτι νυκτὸς οὔσης βαθείας φῶς τοῖς ὀφθεῖσιν αὐτῷ συνεξέλαμψεν ὥσπερ τινός λαμπρᾶς ἐξαπτομένης λαμπάδος. ἐπεὶ οὖν οὐχ οἶός τε ἦν φέρειν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς τὴν ἐμφάνειαν, ἤκουσε διὰ λόγου τινὸς τῶν ὀφθέντων αὐτῷ πρὸς ἀλλήλους τὸν περὶ τοῦ ζητουμένου λόγον διεξιόντων, δι᾽ ὧν οὐ μόνον ἐπαιδεύθη τὴν ἀληθῆ γνῶσιν τῆς πίστεως, ἀλλὰ καὶ διὰ τῶν ὀνομάτων τοὺς ἐπιφανέντας ἐγνώρισεν ἑκατέρου αὐτῶν διὰ τῆς οἰκείας προσηγορίας ἀνακαλοῦντος τὸν ἕτερον.
31. Ἀκοῦσαι γὰρ λέγεται παρὰ τῆς ἐν γυναικείῳ φανείσης τῷ σχήματι παρακαλούσης τὸν εὐαγγελιστὴν Ἰωάννην φανερῶσαι τῷ νέῳ τὸ τῆς ἀληθείας μυστήριον, ἐκεῖνον δὲ εἰπεῖν ἑτοίμως ἔχειν καὶ τοῦτο τῇ μητρὶ τοῦ κυρίου χαρίσασθαι, ἐπειδὴ τοῦτο φίλον αὐτῇ. καὶ οὕτως εἰπόντα τὸν λόγον σύμμετρόν τε καὶ εὐπερίγραπτον πάλιν μεταστῆναι τῶν ὄψεων. τὸν δὲ παραχρῆμα τὴν θείαν ἐκείνην μυσταγωγίαν γράμμασιν ἐνσημήνασθαι καὶ κατ᾽ ἐκείνην μετὰ ταῦτα κηρύσσειν ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τὸν λόγον καὶ τοῖς ἐφεξῆς ὥσπερ τινὰ κλῆρον τὴν θεόσδοτον ἐκείνην διδασκαλίαν καταλιπεῖν, δι᾽ ἧς μυσταγωγεῖται μέχρι τοῦ νῦν ὁ παρ᾽ ἐκείνοις λαὸς πάσης αἱρετικῆς κακίας διαμείνας ἀπείραστος.
32. Τὰ δὲ τῆς μυσταγωγίας ῥήματα ταῦτά ἐστιν·
πατὴρ λόγου ζῶντος - σοφίας ὑφεστώσης καὶ δυνάμεως καὶ χαρακτῆρος ἀϊδίου -
τέλειος τελείου γεννήτωρ
πατὴρ υἱοῦ μονογενοῦς.
μόνος ἐκ μόνου
θεὸς ἐκ θεοῦ
χαρακτὴρ καὶ εἰκὼν τῆς θεότητος
σοφία τῆς τῶν ὅλων συστάσεως περιεκτική
καὶ δύναμις τῆς ὅλης κτίσεως ποιητική
υἱὸς ἀληθινὸς ἀληθινοῦ πατρός
(καὶ) ἄφθαρτος ἀφθάρτου
(καί) ἀθάνατος ἀθανάτου
(καὶ) ἀΐδιος ἀϊδίου.
Ἓν πνεῦμα ἅγιον
ἐκ θεοῦ τὴν ὕπαρξιν ἔχον
καὶ δι᾽ υἱοῦ πεφηνὸς - δηλαδὴ τοῖς ἀνθρώποις -
εἰκὼν τοῦ υἱοῦ τελείου τελεία
ζωὴ ζώντων αἰτία
ἁγιότης ἁγιασμοῦ χορηγός
ἐν ᾧ φανεροῦται θεὸς ὁ πατήρ
ὁ ἐπὶ πάντων καὶ ἐν πᾶσι
καὶ θεὸς ὁ υἱός
ὁ διὰ πάντων.
δόξῃ καὶ ἀϊδιότητι καὶ βασιλείᾳ μὴ μεριζομένη μηδὲ ἀπαλλοτριουμένη.
(οὔτε οὖν κτιστόν τι ἢ δοῦλον ἐν τῇ τριάδι οὔτε ἐπείσακτον ὡς πρότερον μὲν οὐχ ὑπάρχον ὕστερον δὲ ἐπεισελθόν. οὔτε οὖν ἐνέλιπέ ποτε υἱὸς πατρὶ οὔτε υἱῷ πνεῦμα, ἀλλ᾽ ἄτρεπτος καὶ ἀναλλοίωτος ἡ αὐτὴ τριὰς ἀεί.)
33. Ὅτῳ δὲ φίλον περὶ τούτου πεισθῆναι, ἀκουέτω τῆς ἐκκλησίας, ἐν ᾗ τὸν λόγον ἐκήρυττε, παρ᾽ οἷς αὐτὰ τὰ χαράγματα τῆς μακαρίας ἐκείνης χειρὸς εἰς ἔτι καὶ νῦν διασῴζεται. ταῦτα οὐχὶ πρὸς τὰς θεοτεύκτους ἐκείνας πλάκας ἁμιλλᾶται τῇ μεγαλοφυΐᾳ τῆς χάριτος; ἐκείνας λέγω τὰς πλάκας, ἐν αἷς ἡ τοῦ θείου θελήματος ἐνετυπώθη νομοθεσία.
[After his ordination by the bishop of Amaseia, Gregory requests time to contemplate on doctrine]
’28. Thus, then, he willy-nilly came under the yoke, and later all the proper rites were performed on him; and he requested a little time from the man who had summoned him to the priesthood, in order to obtain an understanding of the exact purport of the mystery. For he thought that he should no longer pay heed “to flesh and blood,” as the Apostle says, but sought to receive the revelation of the hidden things from God. And he did not feel ready to preach the word, until the truth was manifested to him by a revelation. 29. So, one night, as he was contemplating on the doctrine of the faith, and was turning over all sorts of thoughts – for even then there were people who falsified the orthodox doctrine, and, through the plausibility of their proposals, they often blurred the truth even for the sound-minded — so, as he lay awake pondering these things, there appeared the living vision of a human figure of elderly appearance, very dignified in garb, and displaying every virtue in the grace of his countenance and the calmness of his appearance. Startled by the sight, he got up from his bed and asked who he was and why he had come. The man calmed his distress of mind with a calm voice, and said that he had appeared to him by divine command, on account of his uncertainties, and in order that the truth of the orthodox faith might be disclosed. And he took heart at the word and looked to him with joy and atonement.
30. Then the man stretched forth his hand, as if indicating to him by the direction of his fingers what was appearing by his side. And he followed with his eyes the direction where the hand was pointing, and saw, opposite the man he had already seen, another apparition in the form of a woman, but grander than human. Startled once again, he shrunk away and was at a loss at the vision, unable to bear the sight with his eyes. For the strangest thing about his vision was precisely this: although the night was far advanced, a light shone along with the figures he was seeing, like a bright bursting beacon. And, as he was unable to bear the sight with his eyes, he heard a conversation between the figures he had seen, discussing with each other the subject he was seeking to learn about, and, by that, he not only was instructed in the true knowledge of the faith, but also recognised those who had appeared by their names, since each of them addressed the other by their proper name.
31. For they say that he heard her who had appeared in a female form requesting the Evangelist John to show the young man the mystery of truth, and that the latter said that he would readily oblige the Mother of the Lord also in this, since she so pleased. And thus he uttered the word, balanced and succinct, and again vanished from his eyes. And he [Gregory] immediately wrote down that divine mystical doctrine, and afterwards preached the word in the church according to it, and left that God-given teaching to his successors as a kind of inheritance, by which the people of that region are initiated to this day, thus remaining unaffected by every heretical wickedness.
32. Now the words of the mystical doctrine are these:
“One God: Father of the living Word – who is subsistent wisdom and eternal power and impress; perfect begetter of perfect; Father of only-begotten Son.
One Lord: only from only; God from God; impress and image of the Godhead; acting Word; wisdom enclosing the structure of the universe, and power which makes the entire creation; true Son of true Father; invisible of invisible; incorruptible of incorruptible; immortal of immortal; eternal of eternal.
One Holy Spirit: holding existence from God, and manifested (i.e. to men) through the Son; perfect image of the perfect Son; life, the cause of the living; holiness granting sanctification; in whom is manifested God the Father who is above all and in all, and God the Son who is through all.
Perfect Trinity: in glory and eternity and sovereignty neither divided nor estranged.”
(Therefore, neither is there anything created or servile in the Trinity nor anything secondarily added, as if non-existent in the first place and introduced later. Therefore, neither has the Father ever lacked the Son, nor has the Son the Spirit, but the Trinity is ever the same, unchanging and unaltered.)
33. Whoever would like to be convinced of this should listen to the Church where he proclaimed the doctrine, and where the very writings (charagmata) of that blessed hand are preserved to this very day. Do these not rival in the marvellous nature of their grace those divinely fashioned tablets of stone? I refer to those tablets on which the legislation of the divine will was engraved (...)’
Text: Heil 1990 (paragraph numbers Maraval 2014). Translation: Efthymios Rizos (using Slusser 1998).
Verbal images of saintsNon Liturgical Activity
Transmission, copying and reading saint-related textsMiracles
Composing and translating saint-related texts
Miracle during lifetimeRelics
Miracles experienced by the saint
Miraculous sound, smell, light
Miraculous intervention in issues of doctrine
Handwriting of a saintProtagonists in Cult and Narratives
Ecclesiastics - bishops
SourceGregory of Nyssa was born in the late 330s as one of the youngest of a leading Christian family of Cappadocia. His siblings included important figures of church life, namely Basil of Caesarea, the ascetic Makrina the Younger, and Peter of Sebaste. Gregory was trained in philosophy and rhetoric mainly by his brother Basil, who, in 371 or 372 ordained him bishop of the Cappadocian township of Nyssa. In 376, Gregory was deposed from his see, to which he was able to return in 378, and, from then onwards, he was one of the protagonists of church politics in the East Roman Empire. He played an important role during the Council of Constantinople (381) and was very close to the imperial family of Theodosius I. He was sent on missions to Armenia and Arabia in order settle problems in local churches. Gregory died after 394. He left a large literary heritage on philosophical, theological, ascetical, catechetical and homiletic works.
Gregory wrote the Life of Gregory the Miracle-Worker in 379 or in the 380s. The text is preserved in 133 manuscripts, on which see:
http://pinakes.irht.cnrs.fr/notices/oeuvre/4338/ (accessed 02/02/2017)
Heil, Cavarnos, and Lendle 1990, lxxxvii-cxxxiii (G. Heil)
DiscussionEssentially, the legend of Gregory the Miracle-Worker is a schematic foundation narrative of the Church of Neokaisareia/Neocaesarea and its region. Even though it presents features which can be ascribed confidently to earlier periods, the context of Gregory of Nyssa’s work is also visible. This is mainly echoed in the doctrine on the divinity of the Holy Spirit, which caused a breach in the ranks of the Nicene party during the 4th century. In the 370s, Basil of Caesarea championed a Trinitarian theology which was met with disapproval from communities in Pontus, including the bishop of Neocaesarea, Atarbios, who accused Basil of doctrinal and liturgical innovations against traditions allegedly inherited from Gregory the Miracle-Worker. Thus the founding father of the Church of Pontus came to be invoked by two parties debating the divinity of the Spirit: Atarbios claimed that the Spirit played a lesser role in the traditions inherited from Gregory; Basil responded that Gregory’s entire life was a testimony to the divinity of the Spirit, manifested in every miracle he had performed (see E01103; E00822; E00823). Our author, Gregory of Nyssa, opens his text with a statement asserting precisely the proposition of Basil, by invoking the grace of the Holy Spirit, which supported his hero in his path to perfection (paragraph 1).
It is to the same polemic that the account of Gregory’s vision of John the Evangelist and the Virgin Mary pertains. This story, which claims that Gregory and the Church of Neocaesarea had received a divine revelation of the doctrine of the Trinity, appears to have been unknown to Basil of Caesarea who, one would expect, would have used it in his arguments. Basil, however, appears unaware of the presumed hand-written creed mentioned here, and he indeed does not really contest the peculiar way in which the Spirit was mentioned in the liturgical traditions of Neocaesarea. Thus this account can be described as a late addition to the legend of Gregory the Miracle-Worker, amending the foundation narrative of the Church of Neocaesarea, so as to support the prevailing doctrinal direction of the 380s. The story about the tablet and the text of the creed must therefore be entirely ascribed to Gregory of Nyssa or his contemporaries, and the same may indeed apply to the whole vision account.
With regard to the cult of saints, this account provides yet another attestation of the broad and early Anatolian devotion to John the Evangelist. Most importantly, however, it is one of the earliest attested instances of devotion to the figure of the Virgin Mary. The two figures are described in an interestingly hierarchical manner: John appears first, as an old man, but, apparently, his dignified elderly figure was on a human scale. Βy contrast, Mary appears ‘grander than human’ (κρεῖττον ἢ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον), and Gregory is unable to bear her shining appearance with his eyes. Mary then requests that John make the revelation, and he obeys the Mother of the Lord. In a way, Mary is acknowledged as the first source of the revelation of the mystery, while to John (already revered as he who revealed in his Gospel the mystery of God the Word) is now ascribed the revelation of the Trinity in a very explicit formulation. The close relation between them (Mary was entrusted to John by Jesus on the cross, John 19:26-27) is probably implied in John’s reply that he ‘would readily indulge the Mother of the Lord also in this’. Finally, the description of John as an elderly man probably follows the tradition that he lived into a very advanced age and was the last of the disciples to die. It may also conform to the late antique and Byzantine iconographic tradition which depicts him in that way.
Heil, G., Cavarnos, J.P., and Lendle, O. (eds.), Gregorii Nysseni Opera X.1: Gregorii Nysseni Sermones II (Leiden: Brill, 1990), 4-57 (G. Heil).
Translations and commentaries:
Maraval, P., Grégoire De Nysse, Éloge De Grégoire Le Thaumaturge; Éloge De Basile (Sources Chrétiennes 573; Paris: Cerf, 2014).
Slusser, M., St. Gregory Thaumaturgus: Life and Works (Fathers of the Church 98; Washington, DC: CUA Press, 1998), 41-87
Leone, L., Gregorio di Nissa. Vita di Gregorio Taumaturgo (Rome, 1988).
Abramowski, L., "Das Bekentniss des Gregor Thaumaturgus und das Problem seiner Echtheit," Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 87 (1976), 145-166.
Mitchell, S., "The Life and Lives of Gregory Thaumaturgus," in: J.W. Drijvers and J.W. Watt (eds.), Portraits of Spiritual Authority: Religious Power in Early Christianity, Byzantium, and Christian Orient (Religions in the Graeco-Roman World 137; Leiden: Brill, 1999), 99-138.
Starowieyski, M., "La plus ancienne description d’une mariophanie par Grégoire de Nysse," in: H.R. Drobner and C. Klock (eds.), Studien zu Gregor von Nyssa und der christlichen Spätantike (Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 12; Leiden: Brill, 1990), 245-253.
On Gregory of Nyssa:
Dörrie, H., “Gregor III,” in: Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum 12 (1983), 863-895.
Maraval, P., "Grégoire, évêque de Nysse," in: Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques 22 (1988): 20–24.
Silvas, A.M. Gregory of Nyssa. The Letters: Introduction, Translation and Commentary (Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 83; Leiden: Brill, 2007), 1-57.
|ID||Name||Name in Source||Identity||S00033||Mary, Mother of Christ||Μήτηρ τοῦ Κυρίου||Certain||S00042||John, the Apostle and Evangelist||Εὐαγγελιστὴς Ἰωάννης||Certain||S00687||Gregory the Miracle-Worker (Thaumatourgos), bishop and missionary in Pontus, ob. c. 270||Γρηγόριος||Certain|
Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Efthymios Rizos, Cult of Saints, E01879 - http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=E01879