Mother of Gregory Nanzianzen
305 – 374 A.D.
Gregory was a great theologian, a poet of much ability, and the greatest orator the Eastern Church produced. He was a champion of the orthodox faith, and was made Bishop of Constantinople in the reign of Theodosius the Great.
In his earlier years his friends sought to prevail upon him to settle at Athens as a teacher of eloquence, but he gave all his powers to the service of Christ, renounced the usual enjoyments of life, lived on the plainest fare, filled the day with labor, and the night with praying, singing, and holy contemplation.
To the mother, Nonna, is due much of the credit of the great and noble life of Gregory. By her prayers and holy life she brought about the conversion of her husband, who, without faith, simply worshiped a supreme being. Like Hannah of old she consecrated her son to the service of God before his birth. “She solved the difficult problem of uniting a higher culture and strict exercise of devotion with the practical care of her household.”
She had unbounded confidence in the power of believing prayer, and she exercised the power most diligently. Gregory says of his mother, that “by prayer she attained such control over her spirit, that in every sorrow she encountered she never uttered a plaintive tone before she had thanked God.” The loving son also celebrates her extraordinary liberality and self-denying love for the poor and sick.
At a great age, in the church which her husband had built almost entirely with his own means, she died holding fast to the altar with one hand, while the other raised to heaven she exclaimed, “Be gracious to me, O Christ my King!” Great was the sorry, especially among those whom she had befriended.
Gregory, in one of his poems, praising her life of piety and victorious death, writes:
“Bewail, O mortals, the mortal race;
But when one dies, like Nonna, praying, then weep I not.”
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.