Friday, 24 May 2019

Andra Jugănaru: The Early Cult of Saint Gregory of Nyssa in Byzantium

Unlike Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa did not enjoy such quick and widespread a recognition of his sainthood as his contemporary Cappadocian Fathers. The earliest surviving evidence for his commemoration is a seventh-century Georgian Version of the Lectionary of Jerusalem, which ascribes his feast day on 23 August, together with the celebrations of Basil and Gregory of Nazianzus. One of the earliest recognitions of Gregory of Nyssa as “champion of the Church” and “father of the fathers” was in 787, at the seventh Ecumenical Council of Nicaea. He is celebrated in the Greek cult on 10 January and in the calendar of Jerusalem on 9 January, but without special services consecrated to him.In spite of him not being especially venerated as a saint, his hagiographical works dedicated to Macrina, his elder sister, Basil, the forty martyrs of Sebasteia, and the protomartyr Stephen were widely spread, by the eighth century having reached the Middle-Egypt.Why did Gregory remain in the shadow of Macrina and Basil, whom he promoted as saints? Why was his memory left in the background of the Greek-speaking Christianity in the first centuries after his death, while the legacy of his contemporary Cappadocian Fathers became prominent? In this paper I explore the evolution of Gregory of Nyssa’s cult in Byzantium, by investigating the political and ecclesiastical context. I argue that the condemnation of ideas labeled as “Origenist” in 553 played a key-role in the trajectory of Gregory of Nyssa’s cult.

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