De vita sua 20-39

Everything has melted away, even with the passage of time the good. Little or nothing now is left. After a place has been churned up by heavy rains only pebbles are left behind. The plight of all those people who never, even originally, stood in the ranks of the good, is of course of no great moment. They were brutish and earthbound. The dread and raging torrent is ourselves. Ours, I must say it with tears, is the disruptive force. We sit, not worthily on our high thrones, leaders of the people, teachers of virtue, whose task it is to nourish souls with heavenly food. But we ourselves are famine struck: we are physicians of sickness but corpses ourselves, reeking with numberless diseases. We are supposed to be guides over precipitous routes, but we have never travelled the routes and do not travel them now. To evade such guides is the briefest way and surest precept of salvation. Their very elevation is their impeachment. The sanctuary molds not their lives but their pretensions.

Gregory of Nazianzus, “De vita sua, 20-39” in Three Poems, translated by by Denis Molaise Meehan, (Washington D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1987), pp. 77-78.


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