Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Select Letters of Saint Gregory Nazianzen.: Letter XXIX
(Of the same year. Here Cæsarius had bequeathed all his property to the poor; but p. 465 his house had been looted by his servants, and his friends could only find a comparatively small sum. Besides this a number of persons, shortly afterwards, presented themselves as creditors of his estate, and their claims, though incapable of proof, were paid. Then others kept coming forward, until at last the family refused to admit any more. Then a lawsuit was threatened. Gregory intensely disliking all this, and dreading moreover the scandal which might be caused by legal proceedings, writes as follows to the Prefect.)
You see how matters stand with me, and how the circle of human affairs goes round, now some now others flourishing or the reverse, and neither prosperity nor adversity remaining constant with us, as the saying is, but ever changing and altering, so that one might trust the breezes, or letters written in the waters, rather than human prosperity. For what reason is this? I think it is in order that by the contemplation of the uncertainty and anomaly of all these things we may learn the rather to have recourse to God and to the future, giving scanty thoughts to shadows and dreams. But what has produced this talk, for it is not without a cause that I thus philosophize, and I am not idly boasting?
Cæsarius was once one of your not least distinguished friends; indeed, unless my brotherly affection deceives me, he was one of your most distinguished, for he was remarkably well informed, and for gentlemanly conduct was above the average, and was celebrated for the number of his friends; among the very first of these, as he always thought and as he persuaded me, Your Excellency held the first place. These are old stories, and you will add to them of your own accord in rendering honours to his memory; for it is human nature to add something to the praises of the departed. But now (that you may not pass over this story without a tear, or that you may weep to some good and useful purpose), he lies dead, friendless, solitary, pitiable, deemed worthy of a little myrrh (if even of so much), and of the last small coverings, and it is much that he has found even thus much compassion. But his enemies, as I hear, have fallen upon his estate, and from all quarters with great violence are plundering it, or are about to do so. O cruelty! O savagery! And there is no one to hinder them; but even the kindest of his friends only calls upon the laws as his utmost favour. If I may put it concisely, I am become a mere drama, who once was wont to be happy. Do not let this seem to you to be tolerable, but help me by sympathy and by sharing my indignation, and do right by the dead Cæsarius. Yes, in the name of friendship herself; yes, by all that you hold dearest; by your hope (which may you make secure by shewing yourself faithful and true to the departed), I pray you do this kindness to the living, and make them of good hope. Do you think that I am grieved about the money? It would have been a more intolerable disgrace to me if Cæsarius alone, who thought he had so many friends, turned out to have none. Such is my request, and from such a cause does it arise, for perhaps my affairs are not altogether matters of indifference to you. In what you will assist me, and by what means, and how, the matter itself will suggest and your wisdom will consider.
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