The Normativity of Measure in Gregory Nazianzus’ and Gregory of Nyssa’s Orations on Love for the Destitute Poor

Monica Tobon

University College London


Gregory Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa between them composed three orations on love of the destitute poor: Nazianzen's Oration 14, Peri philoptōchias and Nyssen's On love of the poor 1 and 2 (De beneficentia and In illud: quatenus uni ex his fecistis mihi fecistis). All three situate leprosy as the most extreme, and therefore paradigmatic, form of poverty as a basis for exhorting Christians to the practice of love. Those suffering from leprosy were stigmatised and excluded from society even by Christians, yet the Gregories exhort them to serve Christ by serving them, supporting pastoral entreaty with theological argument. This paper aims to introduce these orations to those unfamiliar with them and contribute new insights to those who already know them. After situating them in their historical context I summarise each then comment on their content, highlighting Nazianzen's reconfiguration of classical motifs in the service of a revisionist social policy and Christian anthropology rooted in the imago Dei and Nyssen's recourse to ascetic theory with marked similarities to that of Egyptian desert asceticism as taught by Evagrius. This paper's discussion of these prophetic orations will contribute to knowledge of them and by extension of the two Gregories.



Gregory Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, Evagrius, leprosy, poor, destitute, pathos, passion, body, love, insensibility, greed, ptochoi, oration

Basilius Caesariensis, Regulae brevius tractatae 262, PG 31, 1052-1305.

Dionysius Areopagita, De caelesti hierarchia, ed. G. Heil – A.M. Ritter, Corpus Dionysiacum ii: Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagita. De coelesti hierarchia, de ecclesiastica hierarchia, de mystica theologia, epistulae, Patristische Texte und Studien 36, Berlin 1991, p. 7-59.

Euripides, Phoenissae, in: Euripidis fabulae, v. 3, ed. J. Diggle, Oxford 1994, p. 83-179.

Euripides, Phoenician Women, in: Euripides: Helen, Phoenician Women, Orestes, ed. and tr. D. Kovacs, Cambridge 2014.

Evagrius Ponticus, De malignis cogitationibus, in: Évagre le Pontique: Sur les pensées, ed. A. Guillaumont – C. Guillaumont – P. Géhin, SCh 438, Paris 1998.

Evagrius Ponticus, Tractatus ad Eulogium (sub nomine Nili Ancyrani), PG 79, 1093-1140.

Franciscus, Apostolic Exhortation on the Joy of the Gospel Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2013), in: papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html (access: 20.01.2021).

Franciscus, Francisci Summi Pontificis Litterae Encyclicae Laudato Si’ De Communi Domo Colenda (24.05.2015), in: documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html (access: 20.01.2021).

Gregorius Nazianzenus, De pauperem amore (orat. 14), PG 35, 857-909, tr. M. Vinson, St. Gregory of Nazianzus. Select Orations, The Fathers of the Church, Washington 2003, p. 39-71.

Gregorius Nazianzenus, Funebris oratio in laudem Basilii Magni Caesareae in Cappadocia episcopi (orat. 43), in: Grégoire de Nazianze. Discours funèbres en l’honneur de son frère Césaire et de Basile de Césarée, ed. F. Boulenger, Paris 1908, p. 58-230.

Gregorius Nyssenus, De beneficentia (vulgo De pauperibus amandis i), in: Gregorii Nysseni opera, v. 9/1, ed. A. van Heck, Leiden 1967, p. 93-108, tr. S.R. Holman, The Hungry are Dying: Beggars and Bishops in Roman Cappadocia, Oxford 2001, p. 193-199.

Gregorius Nyssenus, De virginitate, ed. M. Aubineau, SCh 119, Paris 1966.

Gregorius Nyssenus, In illud: Quatenus uni ex his fecistis mihi fecistis (vulgo De pauperibus amandis ii), in: Gregorii Nysseni opera, v. 9/1, ed. A. van Heck, Leiden 1967, p. 111-127, tr. S.R. Holman, The Hungry are Dying: Beggars and Bishops in Roman Cappadocia, Oxford 2001, p. 199-206.

Origenes, Fragmenta in Psalmos, PG 12, 1201B, tr. G. Hamel, Poverty and Charity in Roman Palestine, First Three Centuries C.E., Near Eastern Studies 23, Berkeley 1990.

Palladius, Historia Lausiaca (recensio G), in: Palladio. La storia Lausiaca, ed. G.J.M. Bartelink, Verona 1974.

Plato, Gorgias, in: Plato: Gorgias, ed. E.R. Dodds, Oxford 1959.

Plato, Gorgias, tr. T. Irwin, Plato: Gorgias, Oxford 1979.

Plato, Leges, in: Platonis opera, v. 5, ed. J. Burnet, Oxford 1907.

Plato, Respublica, in: Platonis Rempublicam, ed. S.R. Slings, Oxford 2003.

Plato, Timaeus, in: Platonis opera, v. 4, ed. J. Burnet, Oxford 1902.

Boff L., Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor, Maryknoll 1997.

Cadenhead R.A., The Body and Desire. Gregory of Nyssa’s Ascetical Theology, Oakland 2018.

Calleja C., The Orations of the Cappadocian Fathers on Lepers: A Blueprint for Exhorting Solidarity with the Socially Alienated Today, “Lumen et Vita” 9/2 (2019) p. 1-20.

Holman S.R., Healing the Social Leper in Gregory of Nyssa’s and Gregory of Nazianzus’s “περí Φιλοπτωχìας”, “Harvard Theological Review” 92 (1999) p. 283-309.

Holman S.R., The Hungry are Dying. Beggars and Bishops in Roman Cappadocia, Oxford 2001.

Holmes B., The Symptom and the Subject. The Emergence of the Physical Body in Ancient Greece, Princeton 2010.

Kahn C.H., Plato and the Post-Socratic Dialogue. The Return to the Philosophy of Nature, Cambridge 2013.

Long A.A., Heraclitus on measure and the explicit emergence of rationality, in: Body and Soul in Ancient Philosophy, ed. D. Frede – B. Reis, Berlin 2009, p. 87-110.

McGuckin J.A., Saint Gregory of Nazianzus. An Intellectual Biography, Crestwood 2001.

McGuckin J.A., St. Gregory of Nazianzus on the Love of the Poor (Oration 14), in: The Ecumenical Legacy of the Cappadocians, ed. N. Dumitrascu, Basingstoke 2016, p. 139-157.

Meredith A., Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa on Basil, “Studia Patristica” 32 (1997) p. 163-169.

Milovanović Č., “Here I am a Breathing Corpse”: did Gregory of Nazianzus Suffer from Leprosy?, “Analecta Bollandiana” 127 (2009) p. 273-297.

Petrakis V., Philanthropia as a Social Reality of Askesis and Theosis in Gregory the Theologian’s Oration On the Love for the Poor, in: Philanthropy and Social Compassion in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition, ed. M.J. Pereira, New York 2010, p. 90-105.

Ramelli I.L.E., Evagrius and Gregory: Nazianzen or Nyssen? Cappadocian (and Origenian) Influence on Evagrius, “Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies” 53 (2013) p. 117-137.

Ramelli I.L.E., Social Justice and the Legitimacy of Slavery: The Role of Philosophical Asceticism from Ancient Judaism to Late Antiquity, Oxford 2016.

Religion and the Body, ed. S. Coakley, Cambridge 1997.

Rousseau P., Basil of Caesarea, Berkeley 1994.

Shields C., Simple Souls, in: Essays on Plato’s Psychology, ed. E. Wagner, Lanham 2001, p. 137-156.

Tiwari R. – Dhama K. – Sharun K. – Iqbal Yatoo M. – Malik Y.S. – Singh R. – Michalak I. – Sah R. – Bonilla-Aldana D.K. – Rodriguez-Morales A.J., COVID-19: animals, veterinary and zoonotic links, “Vet Q” 40/1 (2020) p. 169-182.

Tobon M., Apatheia and Anthropology in Evagrius of Pontus, London 2021.

Tobon M., Disability in the Early Church, in: The T&T Clark Handbook of the Early Church, ed. P. Ashwin-Siejkowski – I.L.E. Ramelli – J.A. McGuckin, London 2021.

Wessel S., The Suffering of Christ, Humanity and the Lepers in Gregory Nazianzen, “Scottish Journal of Theology” 68/4 (2015) p. 381-397.



Tobon, M. (2021). The Normativity of Measure in Gregory Nazianzus’ and Gregory of Nyssa’s Orations on Love for the Destitute Poor. Vox Patrum, 78, 239–268.

Monica Tobon 
University College London


Zgodnie z regulacjami prawnymi zawartymi w ustawie o prawie autorskim i prawach pokrewnych z dnia 4 lutego 1994 r., autor przekazuje autorskie prawa majątkowe dotyczące składanego dzieła wydawcy czasopisma "Vox Patrum". Przeniesienie praw autorskich do składanego dzieła następuje na wszystkich polach eksploatacji, w szczególności tych wymienionych w art. 50 ustawy o prawie autorskim i prawach pokrewnych: 1. W zakresie utrwalania i zwielokrotniania utworu – wytwarzanie określoną techniką egzemplarzy dzieła, w tym techniką drukarską, reprograficzną, zapisu magnetycznego oraz techniką cyfrową. 2. W zakresie obrotu oryginałem albo egzemplarzami , na których dzieło utrwalono – wprowadzanie do obrotu, użyczenie lub najem oryginału albo egzemplarzy. 3. W zakresie rozpowszechniania utworu w sposób inny niż określony w pkt. 2 – publiczne wykonanie, wystawienie, wyświetlenie, odtworzenie oraz nadawanie i reemitowanie, a także publiczne udostępnianie utworu, aby każdy mógł mieć do niego dostęp w miejscu i czasie przez siebie wybranym.

Za zgodą Redakcji czasopisma artykuły i recenzje opublikowane w półroczniku "Vox Patrum" mogą być przedrukowywane w innych publikacjach.

Autor, w celach niekomercyjnych, może w dowolny sposób, bez zgody Redakcji, rozpowszechniać swój tekst w wersji elektronicznej.

Redakcja publikuje teksty on-line na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 4.0 Międzynarodowe.