Saint Nonna, Mother of Saint Gregory the Theologian
Commemorated on August 5 and the Sunday after the Feast of the Presentaton of Christ to the Temple
“You know the woman by the house she makes. Some homes have always a somber air. Some people’s religion seems to make them severe and ungentle. But that is not the Christian way. The religion which the word of Christ inspires is sunny and songful.” Royal Martyr Empress Alexandra
From the Prologue: “Nonna was the mother of St. Gregory the Theologian. As a Christian, she possessed powerful and miracle-working prayer. By her prayer to God, she converted her husband from heathen stupidity to the Christian Faith. Her husband Gregory later became a bishop in the town of Nazianzus. By prayer Nonna saved her son Gregory the Theologian from a storm. She died peacefully as a deaconess in the year 374 A.D.
This is how Valerian begins the biography of his companion, St. Pontius: “Who can believe, if God does not grant it? Who can lead a life of asceticism, if the Lord does not help? Who can receive the wreath of martyrdom, if Christ does not give it?” God can do all and God wills all that is for the salvation of men, if only men pray to Him. By prayer, St. Nonna converted her husband Gregory to Christianity and saved her son, Gregory the Theologian, from a storm … Furthermore, all the stars in the heavens will be more readily counted then all the miracles worked on earth by prayer.”
The Prologue from Ohrid: Lives of Saints by Saint Nikolai Velimirovič for Old Calendar date August 5, and New Calendar date August 18.
Saint Nonna, the mother of St Gregory the Theologian (January 25, 389), was the daughter of Christians named Philotatos and Gorgonia, who raised her in Christian piety. St Nonna was also an aunt of St Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium (November 23). Nona, and father of St. Amphilochius, and he called Amfilohije, were brothers.As also the sister of St. Amphilochius of Konya, Theodosia, mother was the Saint Olympia the Deaconess, which was very beloved to St. John Chrysostom. St Nonna entered into marriage with Gregory of Arianzus (January 1), the rich landowner of an estate in the Arianzus and Nazianzos districts.Her husband Gregory was a pagan, a follower of the sect of the Supremists (Hypsistarii). St Nonna prayed that her spouse would turn to the holy truth.
St Nonna’s son, St Gregory the Theologian, wrote about this: “Day and night she turned to God with fasting and many tears, entreating Him to grant salvation to her husband.” Through the prayers of St Nonna, her husband Gregory had a vision in his sleep. “It seemed to my father,” writes St Gregory, “as though he was singing the following verse of David: ‘I was glad when they said to me, let us go into the house of the Lord’ (Ps. 121/122: 1). He had never done this before, though his wife had often offered her supplications and prayers for it.” The Psalm was strange to him, but along with its words, the desire also came to him to go to church. When she heard about this, St Nonna told her husband that the vision would bring the greatest pleasure if it were fulfilled.
At that time St. Leontius, bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, stopped in Nazianzen on his way to to the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea. Blessed Nonna brought her husband to him and Gregory was baptized by the hands of the saint. After receiving Holy Baptism he led such a righteous and God-pleasing life that he was later selected as bishop of that same city of Nazianzen (Monthly Readings, Jan. 25).
“She knew,” says St Gregory the Theologian, “one thing to be truly noble: to be pious and to know from where we have come and where we are going; and that there is one innate and trusty wealth: to use one’s substance on God and on the poor, especially the impoverished kin. One woman may be distinguished for frugality, and another for piety, while she, difficult as it is to combine both qualities, excelled all others in both of them. In each she attained the height of perfection, and both were combined in her. She did not permit one duty to interfere with the other, but rather each supported the other. What time and place of prayer ever eluded her? She was drawn to this each day before anything else, and she had complete faith that her prayers would be answered. Although greatly moved by the sorrows of strangers, she never yielded to grief to the extent that she allowed any sound of woe to escape her lips before the Eucharist, or a tear to fall from her eye, or for any trace of mourning to remain on a Feast day, though she repeatedly endured many sorrows. She subjected every human thing to God.
Her final years brought St Nonna many sorrows. In the year 368 her younger son Caesarios died, a young man of brilliant expectations; and in the following year, her daughter Gorgonia died.The brave old woman bore these losses submitting to the will of God.
Early in the year 374 the hundred-year-old St Gregory the Elder reposed. After this, St Nonna almost never emerged from the church. Soon after his death, she died at prayer in the temple on August 5, 374.
St Nonna was a model wife and mother,are all in the family honored as saints.
Saint Gregory the Theologian, her son – January 25
Saint Caesarius of Nazianzus , her younger son ,physician – March 9
Saint Gorgonia, her daughter – February 23
Saint Gregory the Elder, bishop of Nanzianzen, her husband – January 1
Saint Amphilochius of Iconium ,her nephew – November 23
Prosomoia of the Stichera in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone.
What shall we call you, O Saints?
How shall we call you, O divine Nonna? A mother of fervant prayer, like that of the Prophet Samuel, the sweetest spouse, as proclaimed by Gabriel? You sprouted the all-wise Gregory, and you watered Caesarios and Gorgonia with the springs of piety, and the waters of the faith, intercede, that our souls be saved.