Thursday, 17 November 2011


Readers could be forgiven for expecting that today's blogpost would follow the Hungarian connection of yesterday's post on St Margaret of Scotland by talking of St Elizabeth of Hungary, that noble and pious woman who gave to the poor and adhered to her vows despite many challenges.  St Elizabeth of Hungary's feast day falls today, but she is not the subject of this post.

Since our Ordinariate group was founded on 3 September 2011, the Feast of St Gregory the Great (indeed one of our members took the name Gregory as his chrismation name), and since we have already talked of St Gregory the Illuminator, it seems like a good idea to bring to your attention a saint with surely one of the most exciting appellations around, St Gregory the Wonderworker.

St Gregory the Wonderworker (being the literal translation of St Gregory Thaumaturgus, and also called St Gregory of Neocaesarea) is, as his name suggests, associated with obtaining many miracles through his powers of intercession, even during his lifetime.  There are reports of his obtaining that a lake be dried up, of his holding back a rising tide by placing a staff in the ground, of him and a Deacon hiding from the authorities by taking the shape of trees and of him causing rocks to move.  St Gregory of Nyssa also records that St Gregory the Wonderworker was the first known person to see a vision of the Virgin.

Beyond this though, he is of interest for some rather more everyday things.  Many a bishop, priest and deacon will recognise in St Gregory the Wonderworker the impact that administration and workload have on the time available for clergy to maintain a spiritual life and pursue studies.  Those involved in apologetics, evangelism and catechesis will appreciate his examination of just what it was that made Origen such a convincing converter of the unbelieving - not only sound argument, but strong conviction, sincerity and a powerfully persuasive style (and even the odd outburst of temper). 

The bishops of 3rd Century Asia Minor are of huge importance to anyone studying the phenomenon of the growth of the Church.  Not only were they numerous (a community needed to have only 10 souls in order to be eligible to have its own bishop), but they were hugely influential and succesful.  Their local legacy endures much more obviously to this day than the local legacy of the no less numerous bishops of North Africa of around the same period, of whom Fr Colven spoke so interestingly in a recent homily at St James' Spanish Place.  Of all of these prelates of ancient Asia Minor, St Gregory the Wonderworker stands out on account of the sheer provable historicity of his life and works.  He is better and more fully documented than many before and after him, and his own writings add to the body of evidence of his approach and teachings.

An interesting text from this Pre-Nicene Father is his Declaration of Faith, which does not sound at all unfamiliar to any of us even today.
There is one God, the Father of the living Word, who is His subsistent Wisdom and Power and Eternal Image: perfect Begetter of the perfect Begotten, Father of the only-begotten Son. There is one Lord, Only of the Only, God of God, Image and Likeness of Deity, Efficient Word, Wisdom comprehensive of the constitution of all things, and Power formative of the whole creation, true Son of true Father, Invisible of Invisible, and Incorruptible of Incorruptible, and Immortal of Immortal and Eternal of Eternal. And there is One Holy Spirit, having His subsistence from God, and being made manifest by the Son, to wit to men: Image of the Son, Perfect Image of the Perfect; Life, the Cause of the living; Holy Fount; Sanctity, the Supplier, or Leader, of Sanctification; in whom is manifested God the Father, who is above all and in all, and God the Son, who is through all. There is a perfect Trinity, in glory and eternity and sovereignty, neither divided nor estranged. Wherefore there is nothing either created or in servitude in the Trinity; nor anything superinduced, as if at some former period it was non-existent, and at some later period it was introduced. And thus neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abideth ever.
The Gradual set for a Mass celebrated on the Feast of St Gregory the Wonderworker is a very well known text indeed, coming from the first reading set for Mass on this day, Ecclesiasticus 44:16. 
Ecce sacerdos magnus qui in diebus suis placuit Deo.  Non est investus similis illi, qui conservaret legem Excelsi.

Behold a great priest, who in his days pleased God.  There was not found the like to him, who kept the law of the Most High.
Which setting of that glorious text to include today (even if the choral settings one might choose are not of entirely the same text)?  This blog has already linked to the awe-inspiring setting by Bruckner, as sung at Westminster Cathedral during the Holy Father's visit in 2010.  Therefore, the obvious choice would seem to be the Elgar, as sung so regularly in our days at St Mary's Bourne St, and as sung at St James's Spanish Place on the occasion of the visit of Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Mennini, on St James's Day this year. 

This is perhaps not the best edition, shall we say, of the Elgar, but the photos are wonderful.

St Gregory the Wonderworker, St Elizabeth of Hungary, pray for us.

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