Sainted Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa, was a younger brother of Saint Basil the Great. His birth and time of upbringing coincided with the very heights of the Arian disputes. Having received an excellent education, he was at one time a teacher of rhetorical eloquence. In the year 372 he was ordained by Saint Basil the Great as bishop of the city of Nyssa in Cappadocia.
Saint Gregory was an ardent advocate for Orthodoxy, and together with his brother Saint Basil the great he fought against the Arian heresy. He suffered persecution by the Arians, by whom he was falsely accused in the year 376 of improper useage of church property, and thereby deprived of his cathedra and sent off to Ancyra. In the following year Saint Gregory was again in absentia deposed by a church-council of Arian bishops, but he continued to encourage his flock in Orthodoxy, wandering about from place to place. After the death of the emperor Valens (378), Saint Gregory was restored to his cathedra and joyously received by his flock.
In the year 379 his brother Saint Basil the Great died. Only with difficulty did Saint Gregory survive the loss of his brother and guide. He crafted a funeral oration to him and completed compilation of Saint Basil’s study of the Six Days of Creation, the so-called “Hexaemeron.” This same year Saint Gregory participated in the Council of Antioch, against heretics that disdained to honour the immaculate virginity of the Mother of God, and others at the opposite extreme that worshipped the Mother of God as Herself being God. He was chosen by the Council for an examination of churches in Arabia and Palestine to assert the Orthodox teaching about the Most Holy Mother of God. On his return journey Saint Gregory visited Jerusalem and the Holy Places.
In the year 381 Saint Gregory was one of the chief figures of the Second Ecumenical Council, convened at Constantinople against the heresy of Macedonias, who incorrectly taught concerning the Holy Spirit. At this Council, on the initiative of Saint Gregory, was completed the Nicean Symbol of Faith (i.e. the Creed).
Together with the other bishops Saint Gregory affirmed Sainted Gregory the Theologian in the dignity of Archpastor of Constantinople.
In the year 383 Saint Gregory of Nyssa was a participant in a Council at Constantinople, where he spoke a sermon about the Divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit. In the year 386 he was again at Constantinople, and to him was entrusted to speak the funeral oration in memory of the empress Placilla. And again in 394 Saint Gregory was present in Constantinople at a Local Council, convened for resolving church matters in Arabia.
Sainted Gregory of Nyssa was a fiery defender of Orthodox dogmata and a zealous teacher to his flock, a kind and compassionate father to his spiritual children, and their intercessor before the courts. He was distinguished by his magnanimity, patience and love for peace.
Having reached old age, Saint Gregory of Nyssa died peacefully, soon after the Constantinople Council. Together with his great contemporaries – Saints Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian – Saint Gregory of Nyssa had a significant influence on the Church life of his time. His sister, Saint Macrina, wrote to him: “Thou art reknowned both in the cities, and gatherings of people, and throughout entire districts; Churches do send off and summon thee for help.”
Saint Gregory has come down in history as one of the most obvious and active Christian thinkers of the fourth century. Endowed with a profound philosophical talent, he perceived philosophy but as a means for a deeper penetration into the authentic meaning of Divine revelation.
Saint Gregory left behind him many works of dogmatic character, as well as sermons and discourses.