“Come now, refresh this soul of yours with words”: St Gregory the Theologian and the Bible

St Gregory the Theologian

Ἐπίκλησις πρὸ τῆς τῶν Γραφῶν ἀναγνώσεως.

Κλῦθι, Πάτερ Χριστοῦ πανεπίσκοπε, τῶνδε λιτάων
Ἡμετέρων· μολπὴν δὲ χαρίζεο σῷ θεράποντι Θεσπεσίην.
Ζαθέην γὰρ ἐς ἀτραπὸν ἴχνος ἐλαύνων
Οὗτος, ὃς αὐτογένεθλον ἐνὶ ζωοῖς θεὸν ἔγνω,
Καὶ Χριστὸν θνητοῖσιν ἀλεξίκακον βασιλῆα·
Ὅς ποτ’ ἐποικτείρας μερόπων γένος αἰνὰ παθόντων
Πατρὸς ὑπ’ ἐννεσίῃσιν ἑκὼν ἠλλάξατο μορφήν.
Γίγνετο δὲ θνητὸς Θεὸς ἄφθιτος, εἰς ὅ κε πάντας
Ταρταρέων μογέοντας ὑφ’ αἵματι λύσατο δεσμῶν.
Δεῦρ’ ἴθι νῦν, ἱερῆς καὶ ἀκηρασίης ἀπὸ βίβλου
Ψυχὴν σὴν ἀτίταλλε θεοπνεύστοις ἐνὶ μύθοις.
Ἔνθα γὰρ ἀθρήσειας ἀληθείης θεράποντας
Ζωὴν ἀγγελέοντας ὑπ’ οὐρανομήκεϊ φωνῇ.

Prayer Before Reading Scripture

Father of Christ, all-seeing, hear our prayers;
Look kindly on your servant’s solemn song.
He turns his footsteps down a godly path,
Who knows, while living, the ingenerate God,
And Christ, the king who bans all mortal ills.
Once, out of pity for our hard-pressed race,
Freely conforming to the Father’s will,
He changed his form, taking our mortal frame
Though he was God immortal, freeing us all
From Tartarus’s bondage by his blood.
Come now, refresh this soul of yours with words—
Pure, godly sayings from this sacred book;
Gaze here upon the servants of your Truth
Proclaiming life in voices echoing heaven!

Greek Text: PG 37, cols. 517-8.
English translation: Brian Daley, S.J., Gregory of Nazianzus (New York: Routledge, 2006), pages 168-9.

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6 responses to ““Come now, refresh this soul of yours with words”: St Gregory the Theologian and the Bible

  1. Isn’t Fr. Daley’s translation wonderful? I woke up this morning and actually thought about writing my review(s) for the three volumes in the Early Church Fathers series that I have. Seeing this post has me convinced that this is what God would have me do! I perceive that thou art a prophet. ;-)

    But concerning this prayer: it’s nothing short of inspiring. I used to recite a nice little Hebrew berakhah before I’d engage in my study of Scripture. It went like this:

    ברוך אתה יהוה אלהינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו לעסוק בדברי תורה

    Blessed art thou, Lord our God, King of the universe, who hast sanctified us with thy commandments and hast commanded us to engross ourselves in the words of the Torah.

    Something about St. Gregory’s prayer just seems so much more personal though. I think I’m going to commit this prayer to memory and start reciting it when I read the Bible.

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  2. Nick> It is indeed! There are a couple of things that I would have done differently — for instance, he translates the relative ὃς in the fourth line as “who,” but this doesn’t make much sense in the English text, since it is unclear what exactly is its antecedent. Also, translating both ζαθέην and θεοπνεύστοις as “godly” strikes me as an odd decision, especially in the latter case. Still, the English sings!

    Meanwhile, I dug up the Greek text because I discovered through Fr Daley’s footnote that St Gregory wrote this in dactylic hexameter — you know, like in Homer. That is amazing, and I wanted the world to see!

    I fervently encourage you to learn and say St Gregory’s prayer. Its darinly personal tone reminds me of a prayer by St Symeon the New Theologian that we read in preparation for Holy Communion.

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  3. Pingback: Gregory of Nazianzos, the Patron Saint of Those Who Do Not Want to Be Bishops « Near Emmaus: Christ and Text

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