This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Monday, February 25, 2013

February 25 -- Feast of Saint Caesarius of Nazianzus

Wrong garb
If the place (Nazianzus) seems familiar, it is probably because you have heard of his more famous brother, Gregory.  Those two weren't the only saints in the family.  Both parents, Greg the Elder and Nonna, are in the canon.  A sister, the unhappily named Saint Gorgonia, made the cut too.  An optimist might say they were a very holy family.  A cynic might say that Greg had enough familial devotion and enough canonical juice to get everybody a halo.  The options are not mutually exclusive. 

While Young Greg pursued the Life Ecclesiastical, Caesarius followed a medical vocation.  Having studied in Alexandria, he set up shop in Constantinople and was soon banking large.  Young Greg visited in 358 and persuaded him to move home.  It was a family thing, and Caesarius did not feel that he could refuse.  Then an offer from the imperial household came and he couldn't resist that either.  Soon he was back in Constantinople, taking the vitals of Emperor Constantius II and those dear to him.  Big Connie died in 361 and was succeeded by Julian.  Julian the Apostate. 

There was no way that an emperor dedicated to reversing four decades of Christian toleration was going to let Christian herbalist with a scapel anywhere near him.  Caesarius got a choice: ditch the Cross or get out of Dodge.  Caesarius hit the road.  Julian also went on the move, pursuing war in the East.  He took a spear to the abdomen in 363; his surgeon did the best he could, including a dark wine irrigation of the wound (Is yeast really a good idea?) and gastrorrhaphy, which involves suturing the intestines.  I'm not saying that Dr. Caesarius could have done better, but the patient did not pull through. 

Clothes are closer, probably. Dirt 'stache, though
Caesarius was soon back in Constantinople, checking Emperor Jovian's pulse and mixing up his herbal infusions.  Emperor Valens promoted (?) him to quaestor, which is a tax and treasury job of considerable prestige.  An earthquake shook Nicea in 368, shaking Caesarius' confidence.  Young Greg wrote to him, urging him to abandon the vanities of worldly life and store up his treasure in Heaven.  He went so far as baptism, but the plague got him before he could make any significant changes to his life. 

When Greg showed up to deal with the estate, he found that the creditors and servants had done most of his work already.  Greg donated whatever was left to the poor and proceeded to deliver a eulogy in which Caesarius had seen the light and generously given his wealth to the needy just before departing to his eternal reward.  An optimist would say that Greg probably knew this was in his brother's heart from a letter, or perhaps even a spiritual revelation. A skeptic would say that Greg was spinning his brother's last days to comfort his family or to fit his own view of virtue.  A cynic might even say that Greg had to recast his brother as a saint for the sake of his own reputation.  In this, the cynical and the optimistic versions are exclusive.  The choice is for the reader.

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