2013 Play-In: Gregory the Great vs. Gregory of Nyssa

Here at Lent Madness we believe there's a fine line between a teaser and a foretaste. Actually, in this case they're synonymous as we tease you with a foretaste of the Lent Madness 2013 that is to come. This year, we're offering four play-in matches leading up to the official 32-saint bracket that kicks off on Ash Thursday (February 14, 2013).

As Lent Madness Day is commemorated throughout the world, we give you the first ever play-in match: the Great Battle of the Gregorys: Gregory the Great vs. Gregory of Nyssa. Here's the deal -- the winning Gregory makes it into the official bracket while the losing Gregory goes home to lick his wounds and pray that he makes it in next year. We figured we'd ask two veteran Celebrity Bloggers, who just happen to be in Indianapolis for General Convention, to do the write-ups. We tried to find two people named Gregory to do this but we've settled for a Heidi and a Laura.

Heidi Shott is the Canon for Communications in the Diocese of Maine. While at convention, you can check out Heidi's three-minute nightly video Convention wrap-up at The Daily Lap. Of course at some point she'll be focusing on Lent Madness which makes Tim worried that he'll have to sit on Scott's lap.

The Rev. Laura Toepfer is also at this year's General Convention letting people know about Confirm not Conform. Check out this innovative confirmation preparation curriculum and sign up for the monthly e-newsletter. If you're at General Convention, come meet her at the Forward Movement Booth.

The play-in format is straightforward: we've asked for a Top Ten List answering the question "Why should Gregory of/the ______ be included in the 2013 bracket? For those keeping score at home, the winner will face Martin of Tours in the First Round of Lent Madness 2013.

View the full 2013 bracket here.

Gregory the Great

10 . Gregory the Great was a liturgical innovator of the 6th Century whose contributions to the order of worship endure to the present day.

9. Gregory the Great listened to the Holy Spirit and enjoyed a very interesting relationship with doves.

8. Gregory the Great was great. Everybody said so. He was canonized by popular acclaim, and John Calvin called him “the last good pope.”

7. Gregory the Great was a monk. Even after he became POPE and could have really lived it up, he eschewed a sybaritic lifestyle.

6. Gregory the Great, unlike a certain other Gregory, didn’t ride into ecclesiastical prominence on the coattails of his older brother, though he did come from a prominent family with ties to the Church. Nor was he, unlike you-know-who, virtually unremembered until the mid-20th Century when theological scholars had to dig deep into the shrouded veils of Eastern church history to find new dissertation topics.

5. Gregory the Great was into chant before chant was cool, as in Gregorian chant. (Though naming it after him a couple of hundred years after he died was a marketing move to capitalize on his venerated name in order to standardize liturgical practice across the Frankish empire.)

4. Gregory the Great is survived by a boatload of his sermons, commentaries and letters. What he had to say must have been pretty memorable and important to last 1,400 years. Just sayin’.

3. Gregory the Great was a huge advocate for the health and well-being of the poor and those displaced by war. He gave lavishly from his own substance and and became a gadfly to wealthy Romans by inducing them to give generously as well.

2.    Gregory the Great was concerned about all the churches in Christendom not just a squirty, little place called Nyssa  that only a few serious church history geeks could, if pressed, find on a map of Central Asia without looking it up on Wikipedia.

and finally....

1. Gregory the Great’s compassion for the plight of young Anglo-Saxon slaves (“Non Angli, sed angeli” -  They are not Angles, but angels) he encountered at the Roman Forum so moved him that he sent St. Augustine to England as a missionary and, well, here we are in Indianapolis.

-- Heidi Shott

Gregory of Nyssa

 10. For all his conceptual thinking, apologetical writing, and doctrinal teaching, Gregory of Nyssa still said, “Concepts create idols; only wonder grasps anything.”

9.  As a leading figure in the Council of Constantinople in 381, Gregory played a primary role in the Nicene Creed we know and love.

8. He and his brother Basil made the Trinity the Godhead it is today.

7. He may have been a pretty lousy bishop, but was a darn good thinker. Hey, at least he was cleared of that embezzlement charge.

6.  His experience as Bishop of Nyssa during the Arian controversy makes General Convention look like a cakewalk with delicious frosting and pretty flowers on top.

5. When he said he didn’t want to be a bishop, it’s because he really, really didn’t want to be a bishop.

4.  Despite the fact that Gregory didn’t have much good to say about pilgrimages, he put Nyssa on the map. The Cappodocian Board of Tourism owes him big time.

3. He was an early and vocal opponent of slavery, asserting since all are made in the divine image, all are radically equal.

2. He showed proper deference to his older sister Macrina (as younger siblings ought, ahem), and became a Christian through her witness and guidance. He was devastated by her death in 379.

and finally...

1. Gregory of Nyssa would be an excellent patron saint of home-schooled children.

-- Laura Toepfer


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39 comments on “2013 Play-In: Gregory the Great vs. Gregory of Nyssa”

  1. Thank you, SEC, Heidi, and Laura. You made my Friday (perhaps sad, but nevertheless true)! Keep up the good work.

  2. Gregory of Nyssa Explains It All To You (the Holy Trinity, that is) in "Why We Say There Are Not Three Gods." Thanks, Dr. Marshall and Dr. Abraham of Perkins School of Theology, for assigning this during Systematics in 2007-08. My head still hurts, but I think I get it.

    1. And I hasten to add.... Gregory the Great is the Patron of the Brotherhood of St. Gregory, a canonically recognized community of the Episcopal Church. We have brothers at General Convention at the "booth" for the National Association of Episcopal Christian Communities.

  3. Thanks for publishing the 2013 brackett. This gives us lots of time to read up on and campaign for our picks. You guys are the only reason I wish I was in Indianapolis! Happy Lent Madness Day, I will drink my morning coffee out of my 2012 cup in celebration!

  4. gotta go with Nyssa, explaining the Holy Trinity says it all; while the great guy brought about celibacy for our RC friends -- boo hiss.

    1. Diane, going w/o sex is a small price to pay for such ethereally beautiful music.

  5. Tough call. So close I had to dig deep to find a tie breaker: My sister Judi was going to be called Heidi instead. Plus, more susbstantively, there are too many unanswered questions on that Nyssa dude.

  6. Should be an interesting 2013 Lent. Leaning toward "The Great", unless something better is found on "Nyssa". Perhaps "Nyssa" thought he explained the Holy Trinity, but there are too many people who still don't get it.

  7. OK. The homeschooled thing did it for me because I homeschooled mine ( but not because I am a fundie eccentric...honest!) and now my son is working on a math PhD at a prestigious university which shall remain unnamed to protect the innocent. I was not his math teacher in the interest of full disclosure. Go Gregory of Nyssa...hopeless as it may seem!

  8. "5. When he said he didn’t want to be a bishop, it’s because he really, really didn’t want to be a bishop."

    Ouch, Laura. That's beyond trash talk. That's playing basketball... er hagiography... with elbows. I like it.

    Gregory the Great's book "Pastoral Care" deserves to be mentioned near the top of the list of reasons he should face Martin of Tours. And not just in Laura's brilliantly backhanded way. After 1,500 years, it is still a worthy gift to new pastors and new bishops for the ordering of their inner lives and the taking up of their responsibilities. The man knew and cared about being a pastor.

  9. Greg the Great! 1) the chanting and 2) love this language: he eschewed a sybaritic lifestyle

  10. “Concepts create idols; only wonder grasps anything.” Well, that about sums it up. Greg of Nyssa, 'nuff said.

  11. Gregory the Great. Because... he's great. (And yay! for Jonathan Daniels being on the bracket. Unreasonably excited about this.)

  12. Gregory the Great had a better writeup. There were a few points that almost had me going for Gregory of Nyssa, but then the commentator had to take that shot at younger siblings..

    Besides, I love Gregorian chants.

  13. Go Gregory of Nyssa ! Love, love, love rooting for the underdog! So glad to be voting again!

  14. Must vote for Gregory the Great as my son, Gregory, was nicknamed "the Pope" by his older siblings. He had a tendency to whine and mumble when they teased him, as a child, and they referred to it as "the Gregorian Chant". He is now a great man with a great legacy!

  15. can you give us past today to vote? my goodness - it is 4th of july week and half the nation is on vacation ............:-) and the other half is at general convention..........

    1. Deacon Lisa, as far as I know a sybarite enjoys-possibly to excess-the (ahem)pleasures of the flesh.

  16. Went for Gregory the Great though it was a tight one. Eschewing a sybaritic lifestyle will always get my vote.

  17. I went with Gregory the Great figuring if he made it in, I could learn more about his relationship with doves in future write ups.

  18. That's a mighty lop-sided vote. Hope there's no cheating like those Hawaiians in the finals for the Golden Halo! I just love voting again. I've told the Cathedral Dean to find the one and only quirky Padre Schenck at the table and have his photo made with Mary Mags.

  19. I find Gregory of Nyssa fascinating and real. I want to learn more about him.

  20. My week is complete--more Madness! When the contestant is portrayed readng a book, is into chanting and doves, it has got to be the Great Greg.

  21. I'm concerned that my lent madness voting withdrawal will only be exacerbated by the excitement of getting to vote again briefly! Gregory of Nyssa all the way!! I admire people who mean what they say and say what they mean 🙂

  22. Gregory the Great!
    Thanks for the chanting!
    The sermons written down (and saved) somewhere!
    The liturgy!
    Thanks for listening & following the Holy Spirit!

  23. The Great Gregory for that lovely chant (if Quakers could have music...), but I'll have to go for Martin next round after 25 years in the Touraine...