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January 25 Saints of the Day – Gregory Nanzianzen and Dwynwen of Llanddwyn

Gregory NanzianzenOn this day in 1960, the Payola scandal finally got so bad that the National Association of Broadcasters threatened to fine any disc jockey who accepted money to pay particular records, delaying the advent of rap for nearly 20 years.

Facing east today we see Gregory Nanzianzen (ca. 329 – 389), also called Gregory the Theologian. Our sources say his mother converted his father, a hypsisterian (not to be confused with hip Cistercians, French monks who brew really good beer), to the episcopacy of Nanzianzus. After schooling, a come-to-Jesus moment on a foundering ship, and a brief teaching gig in Athens, young Gregory went home to Nanzianzus, only to be forcibly priested by his dad in what he called an “act of tyranny.” Following in the footsteps of a thousand saints before and since, he ran away from home, taking up a monkly existence with his buddy Basil the Great (at the time Basil the Pretty Good). Basil told him to go home, so after a year he did so, only to find the diocese torn asunder by the Arian heresy. It probably was torn asunder before he left, but he was too mad to notice.

By this time Emperor Julian had changed his last name to The Apostate, so Gregory sat down and wrote his famous Invectives Against Julian (subtitled “Take That You Splitter”), which vowed to win Arians back to the fold through love and patience — leading one to marvel at how the word “invective” has changed meaning down through the years. In 372 Basil ordained him Bishop of Sasima (not to be confused with sashimi), a see Basil had invented to add more bishops to the Trinitarian team. Gregory took this with ill grace, calling it “a paltry horse-stop.” He escaped back to Nanziansus to help his father, saying he wouldn’t be Basil’s pawn any more. The two were never reconciled in the flesh, although upon Basil’s death he sent a heartfelt letter to his brother, Gregory of Nyssa, and wrote twelve beautiful poems about his departed friend.

After a time he was persuaded to remove to Constantinople and continue the fight against heresy. He went on to become Patriarch and presided over the Second Ecumenical Council, but when things turned ugly there, he begged to be allowed to retire, which he was, sort of. He went back to Nanzianzus and served as bishop for a time, before really retiring and spending some years in peace before his death. He is the patron of the poet and of the harvest.

Dwynwen of LlanddwenFacing west we see Dwynwen (or Dwyn) of Llanddwyn (d. ca. 460), a medieval nun sometimes called the St. Valentine of Wales. As a young girl Dwyn fell mutually in love with a certain Maelon, and the latter asked for her hand. At just that moment, though, her long-latent desire to become a nun got the better of her, and she rejected his suit, and also his casual clothes. That night she had a dream in which she drank a potion that “saved” her from his attentions, but turned him into ice. “Eek!” she cried (or something like that in Welsh), “it’s not his fault he loves me!” (We are told she was very beautiful.) In her dream she prayed for him to be restored, and (somewhat paradoxically) that all lovers should find happiness. While she was at it, she asked God to take away any inclinations in the marital direction that she might have. One hopes Maelon went on to find someone else; he kind of falls out of the story at this point. Dwyn lived out her years as a nun, and after she died her spring sprouted a magic eel that could tell young girls if their lovers were true. Many came there for eeling, so Dwyn became known as the patroness of sick animals as well as of lovers (if indeed the latter aren’t just a subset of the former). Many Cymry send each other mushy cards on her day.

January 25 (Wikipedia)
Saint Gregory of Nazianzen (SQPN)
Gregory of Nazianzus (Wikipedia)
Hypsistarians (Wikipedia)
Cistercians (Wikipedia)
Basil of Caesarea (Wikipedia)
Dwynwen (Wikipedia)
Saint Dwynwen (SQPN)
Wales (Wikipedia)

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.


About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

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