Sylvain from Aeneas’ Quest sends a note with an excerpt from St. Gregory the Wonderworker’s speech honouring Origen (I’m adding it in the Greek original at the end of the post), and an accurate comment about how Gregory understands main Greek qualities.
Gregory’s thinking on the subject is characteristic of the first and most important steps of Christianity, a religion that was founded and spread by the Greek and Greek-speaking populations of the empire, without abandoning the ancient heritage of Greece, although rejecting completely the polytheistic side of this heritage.
St Gregory’s understanding is shared by Fathers of the magnitude of St. Athanasius the Great, St. Basil the Great, St Gregory of Nyssa and St Gregory the Theologian, and lesser ones, such as Clement of Alexandria — indeed, the whole church is thirsty for the ancient Greek thinking, which is the reason of resisting forcefully Julian the Apostate.
As I was going through some of the notes I took from various readings, I found this quote by St. Gregory Thaumaturgos, taken from his Oration and Panegyric to Origen, which is particularily inspiring:
“Moreover, another branch of learning occupies my mind completely, and the mouth binds the tongue if I should desire to make any speech, however brief, with the voice of the Greeks;
“I refer to those admirable laws of our sages by which the affairs of the Roman Empire are now directed, and which are neither composed nor learnt without difficulty.
“And these are wise and exact in themselves, and manifold and admirable, and, in a word, most thoroughly Grecian…”
I think Gregory summarizes here in the most beautiful manner the essential nature of the Greek mind: it is wise, exact, admirable. But what is even more amazing is that everything that possesses these qualities is worthy of praise and admiration.
To him, being Greek is a quality of the mind, it is to see the good and the beauty wherever it is, and to make it one’s own.
This is perhaps a lesson for all of us today, a lesson to turn back from minimalism and contentment to what is truly essential and can improve our degraded nature.
Gregory’s quote in the Greek original:
Οὐ μὴν δὲ ἀλλὰ καί γε τὸν νοῦν ἕτερόν τι μάθημα δεινῶς ἐπιλαμβάνει, καὶ τὸ στόμα συνδεῖ τὴν γλῶτταν, εἴ τι καὶ μικρὸν εἰπεῖν τῇ Ἑλλήνων ἐθελήσαιμι φωνῇ, οἱ θαυμαστοὶ ἡμῶν νόμοι, οἷς νῦν τὰ πάντων τῶν ὑπὸ τὴν Ρωμαίων ἀρχὴν ἀνθρώπων κατευθύνεται πράγματα, οὔτε συγκείμενοι οὔτε καὶ ἐκμανθανόμενοι ἀταλαιπώρως· ὄντες μὲν αὐτοὶ σοφοί τε καὶ ἀκριβεῖς καὶ ποικίλοι καὶ θαυμαστοί, καὶ συνελόντα εἰπεῖν Ἑλληνικώτατοι…