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Cappadocian Fathers

Icon of Gregory of Nyssa (14th century fresco, Chora Church, Istanbul).
The Cappadocian Fathers (or Cappadocian philosophers) are Basil the Great (330-379), who was bishop of Caesarea; Basil's brother Gregory of Nyssa (c.330-395), who was bishop of Nyssa; and a close friend, Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389), who became Patriarch of Constantinople. The Cappadocia Region, in modern-day Turkey, was early a site of Christian activity, with several missions by Paul in this region.
Gregory the Theologian (Fresco from Kariye Camii, Istanbul).

The Cappadocian Fathers advanced the development of early Christian theology, for example the doctrine of the Trinity, and are highly respected as saints in both Western and Eastern churches.

Greek Icon of Basil the Great.
Theological contributions
The three scholars set out to demonstrate that Christians could hold their own in conversations with learned Greek-speaking intellectuals and that Christian faith, while it was against many of the ideas of Plato and Aristotle (and other Greek Philosophers), was an almost scientific and distinctive movement with the healing of the soul of man and his union with God at its center - one best represented by monasticism. They made major contributions to the definition of the Trinity finalized at the First Council of Constantinople in 381 and the final version of the Nicene Creed, finalised there.

They made key contributions to the doctrine of the Trinity and to the responses to Arianism, Apollinarianism, and the filioque debate.

Subsequent to the First Council of Nicea, Arianism did not simply disappear. The semi-Arians taught that the Son is of like substance with the Father (homoiousios) as against the outright Arians who taught that the Son was not like the Father. So the Son was held to be like the Father but not of the same essence as the Father.

The Cappadocians worked to bring these semi-Arians back to the orthodox cause. In their writings they made extensive use of the (now orthodox) formula "one substance (ousia) in three persons (hypostaseis)". The relationship is understandable, argued Basil of Caesarea, in a parallel drawn from Platonism: any three human beings are each individual persons and all share a common universal, their humanity. The formulation explicitly acknowledged a distinction between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, (a distinction that Nicea had been accused of blurring), but at the same time insisting on their essential unity.

Thus Basil wrote:

"In a brief statement, I shall say that essence (ousia) is related to substance (hypostasis) as the general to the particular. Each one of us partakes of existence because he shares in ousia while because of his individual properties he is A or B. So, in the case in question, ousia refers to the general conception, like goodness, godhead, or such notions, while hypostasis is observed in the special properties of fatherhood, sonship, and sanctifying power. If then they speak of persons without hypostasis they are talking nonsense, ex hypothesi; but if they admit that the person exists in real hypostasis, as they do acknowledge, let them so number them as to preserve the principles of the homoousion in the unity of the godhead, and proclaim their reverent acknowledgment of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the complete and perfect hypostasis of each person so named."
—Epistle 214.4.

Basil thus attempted to do justice to the doctrinal definitions of Nicea while at the same time distinguishing the Nicene position from modalism, which had been Arius's original charge against Pope Alexander in the Nicene controversy. The outcome was that Arianism and semi-Arianism virtually disappeared from the church.

While the Cappadocians shared many traits, each one exhibited particular strengths. Scholars note that Basil was "the man of action", Gregory of Nazianzus "the orator" and Gregory of Nyssa "the thinker".
source: Wikipedia
On the Concept of the Trinity

The Confession of the Council of Nicaea said little about the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the divinity and personality of the Holy Spirit was developed by Athanasius (c 293–373) in the last decades of his life. He defended and refined the Nicene formula. By the end of the 4th century, under the leadership of Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus (the Cappadocian Fathers), the doctrine had reached substantially its current form.

Some deny that the doctrine that developed in the 4th century was based on Christian ideas, and hold instead that it was a deviation from Early Christian teaching on the nature of God. Or even that it was borrowed from a pre-Christian conception of a divine trinity held by Plato.

Summarizing the role of scripture in the formation of Trinitarian belief, Gregory Nazianzen argues in his Orations that the revelation was intentionally gradual:

The Old Testament proclaimed the Father openly, and the Son more obscurely. The New manifested the Son, and suggested the deity of the Spirit. Now the Spirit himself dwells among us, and supplies us with a clearer demonstration of himself. For it was not safe, when the Godhead of the Father was not yet acknowledged, plainly to proclaim the Son; nor when that of the Son was not yet received to burden us further.
source: Wikipedia
The Cappadocian Fathers Basil the Great, Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory of Nyssa “The Triad that glorified the Trinity”

* Basil the Great (329-379 AD)

* Born to a prominent Christian family. (Grandmother [St. Macrina], Mother [St. Emmelia], Sister [St. Macrina] and Brothers [St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Peter of Sebastia] are all canonized saints in the Church)
* Educated in Constantinople and Athens where he meets St. Gregory Nazianzen. Goes to Cappadocia and forms monastic rule.
* Becomes Bishop and fights against Arianism and forms “New Nicene Party”
* Wrote many famous tracts including “On the Holy Spirit”

* Gregory of Nazianzen (The Theologian) (329-389 AD)

* Born to wealthy Christian family. His mother Nonna is a major influence in his life.
* Educated with Basil and has a life-long friendship with him.
* Resisted ordination and elevation and actually never gets to his See.
* Longs for the solitary and contemplative life
* Writes famous “Theological Orations”, poetry and sermons

* Gregory of Nyssa (340 –390 AD)

* Brother of Basil the Great
* Bishop in Nyssa though not very forceful
* Most outstanding of the three in theological matters
* Main person at the Second Ecumenical Council in 381 at Constantinople. Wrote the second part of the Creed dealing with the Holy Spirit.
* Also wrote “Against Eunomius” and “Not Three Gods” etc.
source: Orthodox Library
Basil was raised in a great Christian family and was given the best education possible. Thus he studied at Athens where also was his friend Gregory Nanzianen (and also Julian the apostate Emperor). When he returned home he was content to have the best life possible. His sister, the holy Macrina, perceived how worldly he had become and suggested that he travel to Egypt to sample the monastic life. That trip changed his attitude towards living the Christian Gospel. When he returned he founded a monastery, and although he stayed there for only five years, it influenced the rest of his life greatly. It also gave the Orthodox Church a rule for cenobitic living, on which Benedict drew heavily.
He was consecrated bishop of Caesarea in 370 whilst the Arian Valens was still emperor. When the emperor passed through Caesarea in 371, he demanded that Basil submit to Arianism, but of course Basil flatly refused. For his defiance, Valens divided the province of Cappadocia into two provinces and appointed an Arian as bishop of Tyana that became the metropolitan see. Basil responded to this by having his brother, Gregory and his friend, Gregory of Nanzianus, appointed to sees, positions that they never wanted, in order to outnumber the Arians. Basil died in 379, shortly after the death in battle of Valens, that removed the chief threat to the Nicene faith to which Basil had devoted his life. As well as his writings against the predominant heresies of the time, such as Contra Eunomius, he also wrote The Hexaemeron, a series of lectures on the six days of creation. His other major writing was De Spiritu Sancto.

Gregory Nanzianen as the name suggests lived in Nanzianus. He and Basil were good friends, but his commitment to his elderly father put restrictions on this friendship. Still he had no desire for an active life as Basil lived. He was content with his monastic kind of existence and his writings and studies. When Basil founded his monastery Gregory joined him for awhile, and here they compiled The Philokalia (meaning "Love of the Beautiful") an anthology of Origen's writings.
He had no wish to be a priest let alone a bishop. Much against his will, Basil appointed him as bishop of Sasima, a little village. This he resented and soon returned to Nanzianus. After the death of his parents and siblings he fled to Seleucia to live the hermit life. Whilst here Basil died and he deeply regretted that he had never really mended the rift with this dear friend over the bishopric.
Seven years later in 379 he appeared in the centre of the Empire, Constantinople, invigorated to pursue the Orthodox cause against Arianism. This he did mainly though his eloquent preaching that attracted great number of people. Here he preached the sermons that would earn him the distinctive title, "the Theologian." Theologically they were important as it drew the attention of the new Emperor, Theodosius, who as an Orthodox Christians had forced the Arian patriarch, Demophilus into exile as well as expelling Arians from the churches. Looking for a new patriarch, Theodosius took an imperial guard and escorted Gregory to the Hagia Sophia, where the people shouted "Gregory for Bishop! Gregory for Bishop!" Theodosius turned to Gregory and asked if he would accept the position as Patriarch of Constantinople. Gregory hesitatingly accepted this most important position, Patriarch of Constantinople. Yet he held this important position for a short time only. At the Council of Constantinople, he was accused of pluralism as he was still bishop of Sasima. So he retired both as president of the Council and from the see. The rest of his life he spent quietly and ascetically but continued to write theologically and corresponded with many for the next eight years. He died in 389 at the age of sixty.

Gregory of Nyssa was the younger brother of Basil. It is from Gregory that we learn of their remarkable family. It was Gregory who delivered the funeral orations for his father, Gregory, his brother Caesarius, and his sisters, Gorgionia and the holy Macrina. Indeed he wrote two works in which Macrina is the central person. For his brother, St. Peter of Sebaste, he wrote his mystical commentaries. From Gregory we also learn that another sibling, Naucratius, drowned as a youth. Although Basil had a better education than Gregory it is the latter who was the deeper and more mystical thinker. Gregory became bishop of Nyssa in 371,when he was shanghaied into episcopal ordination by his brother. Four years later he was deposed by the Arian emperor Valens, but after the emperor's death in 379 returned to his see. With Gregory of Nanzianus he attended the Council of Constantinople in 381.
The last years of his life seem to have been dedicated to his most sublime mystical works, including the Life of Moses, in which he relies on Origen's approach to drawing out the mystical meaning of scriptural texts where they might not be obvious at first glance. It is here that he gives us his vision of eternal life as forever stretching towards God (epektasis) Some of his other exegetico-mystical works included his homilies on the Song of Songs, On Ecclesiastes, On the inscriptions of the Psalms, On the Beatitudes and On the Lord's Prayer. Like the other two Cappadocian Fathers he contributed to the defence of the Orthodox faith against the new Arians (Eunomians).
The Cappadocian Fathers are Ss. Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and Gregory of Nyssa, who were bishops in Cappadocia (now central Turkey) in the fourth century. They, along with St. Athanasius the Great, laid the pattern for formulating the doctrines related to the mystery of the Holy Trinity.
source: OrthoWikipedia
Three theologians from the region of Cappadocia in modern-day Turkey - Basil of Caesarea (c. 330-379), Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389) and Gregory of Nyssa (330-395) - whose development of Trinitarian doctrine remains highly influential in Orthodox Christianity.
source: Glossary of Christianity
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