While in Bendigo recently in the company of the excellent Fraser Pearce, we were indulging in two of my favourite pastimes simultaneously: talking theology and op-shopping. This took us to the local Salvo’s store, where we found a surprisingly good collection of theological books for sale. For $3, I picked up a copy of J.W.C. Wand’s “Doctors and Councils”, published in 1962. (Wand was the Anglican bishop of London at the time of it’s publication.)
I have not read enough of the lives of the Saints, so I have been enjoying this book immensely. Today, I came across the following paragraphs on St Gregory Nazianzus:
Gregory was born in the year of the Council of Nicea, 325, on his father’s estate at Arianzus near the town of Nazianzus, of which his father was the bishop. The father had belonged originally to an obscure sect from which he was won to Orthodoxy by the persuasions of his wife, Nonna. She was not only a good wife, but a splendid mother, and deserves to be ranked with Monica, the mother of Augustine, as among the women who have made great contributions to history through their influence upon their sons. There was an older sister, Gorgonia, and a younger brother named Caesarius….
He was there [in Athens] for twelve years altogether, from the age of 18 to 30.
About this time he was caught at sea in a violent storm, of which he has left us a vivid description, and during it he pledged his life to the service of God. He returned with his brother, Caesarius, to Nazianzus, and it is possible that at this time he was baptised…
In 374 the elder Gregory died, as did also his wife, Nonna, at about the same time. For a period Gregory continued to administer the Church of Nazianzus while doing his utmost to secure the appointment of a new bishop…
Worn out before his time he died in 390, the year when at Hippo in North Africa the great Augustine was ordained priest.
Now this I found interesting – and educational – because it redrew the picture in my mind of the post-Nicene Church. I had thought that by this time two practices universally accepted in the Church today – episcopal celibacy and infant baptism – were already well in place. After all, all three of the Cappadocians were celibates, as was Augustine later. And all three came from well-established Christian families. I knew that Augustine was baptised as an adult, but I thought that the reason he was not baptised as a child was because his father was not a Christian. But Gregory’s father, Gregory of Nazianzus Sr, was a bishop and his mother apparently a devout orthodox Christian – so why was Gregory Jnr only baptised as an adult? And at first I surmised, when reading that Gregory’s father was a bishop, that his episcopal service must have begun after the death of his wife, but then I read that his wife died at about the same time he did.
So, you live and you learn. Does any Reader of SCE have more information of when these two practices – episcopal celibacy and infant baptism – became more widespread? My suspicion is that the practice of infant baptism at least became more common as a result of the writings of Augustine, who was just beginning his ecclesiastical career at the time when Gregory died.