Sunday, 3 May 2015

Ron Ditmars: St. Gregory of Nazianzus' Homily on Baptism (Or. 40): Stylistic Analysis and Performance

St. Gregory of Nazianzus (c.330-389) has been regarded as one of the finest orators and stylists of late antiquity. Several monographs have demonstrated the influence of Hellenistic or classical Greek rhetorical sources on Gregory’s style, but there is no extensive treatment of style as found in a single homily. This paper aims at uncovering the poetic rhetoric as found in Oration 40 (“On Holy Baptism”). This will be done by providing an in-depth stylistic analysis of the Greek text of five different sections within the homily. The analysis will include setting out the words and phrases on the page to reflect its poetic character, as determined by dichotomies, chiasm, parallelism, symmetry, ascending or descending intensity, etc., with the goal of demarcating the unique configuration of images and motifs found in each of these sections. A brief commentary will follow, focusing on how the Saint combines aesthetic and literary sensitivity with theological nuance to generate a message that is, at times, breathtaking as well as didactic on several levels – in the best sense of that word – with regard to the significance of this sacrament.

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