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


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

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Published : 2021-06-15

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  United Kingdom