Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, Chrysostom,
Ambrose, and Gregory the Great



 Council, Besancon BM 434, 102v,.1372

WE return to the subject of bishops as spiritual directors, this time noting the personal, ecclesial, and political approaches of: (1) three eastern church leaders; Basil the Great, Gregory Nazianzen, and John Chrysostom; and (2) of two western bishops, Ambrose and Gregory the Great.

IN Basil, Bishop of Caesarea, we not in his Letters 2, 72, and 173 a progression from layman, to priest to bishop; but also a movement from an early emphasis on solitude to his later praise of Christian community as the context for spiritual growth and guidance.

THEN Gregory Nazianzen discusses what he calls "the art of arts and science of sciences" (that is, spiritual guidance) in Oration 2, (in Defense of His Flight).

JOHN Chrysostom emphasizes the importance of respecting free will on his treatise on Priesthood.

ANOTHER renowned classic on the art of spiritual guidance in Ambrose's De Officiis.  His own application of these principles may be observed in his famous Letter to the Emperor Theodosius following the massacre at Thessalonica in 390.

FINALLY, we will glance briefly at Gregory the Great: his Regula Pastoralis was a textbook for spiritual guidance in the Middle Ages; and his Letter to Gregoria reveals his own approach to spiritual direction.


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