5th August – St Nonna

St Nonna is celebrated on 5 August.  She lived in Cappadocia from 305 to 374.  She was the wife of a Bishop of Nazianzus.  Her husband and son were both called Gregory.  Gregory the son is the Cappadocian Father who is referred to as St Gregory of Nazianzus or St Gregory the Theologian, he and St Nonna are depicted in the icon to the right.  Nazianzus[1]was an ancient town and the home to this famous family.   St Nonna’s husband, known as Gregory of Nazianzus the elder wasn’t a Christian when they married.  He was known as a member of the Jewish-Pagan sect called Hypsistarians.  Tradition suggests that through the prayers and witness to the gospel of his wife, Nonna, Gregory the Elder[2]became a Christian in 325.  He was ordained and eventually became the Bishop of Nazianzus.   His son Gregory worked with his father as a priest and was later appointed Patriarch of Constantinople[3].

The Royal Martyr Empress Alexandra,[4]also a saint and the mother of saints, makes the following comment about motherhood in her spiritual journal:
“No work any man can do for Christ is more important than what he can and should do in his own home.  Men have their part – a serious and important part – yet the mother is the real homemaker.  It is her sweet life that gives the home its atmosphere.  It is through her love that God comes first to her children. 
The rabbis used to say: ‘God could not be everywhere and therefore He made mothers.’  The thought is very beautiful.
Mother-love is God’s love revealed in an incarnation which comes so close to the life of infancy that it wraps it about in divine tenderness and broods over it in divine yearning.  Some good mothers live for their children most devotedly, but think only of, or chiefly of, earthly things. They watch over them tenderly in sickness. They toil and deny themselves in order to have their children clothed in a fitting way…But they do not give such thought to their children’s spiritual education. They do not teach them about the Will of God. There are homes in which children grow up without ever hearing a prayer from their fathers or mothers, or receiving any instruction whatever concerning spiritual matters.
On the other hand, there are homes where the fires always burn brightly on the altar, where loving words are spoken continuously for Christ, where children are taught in their earliest years that God loves them, and where they learn to pray with their first lispings.  Far down into the years the memory of these holy moments will abide, proving a light in darkness, an inspiration in discouragement, a secret of victory in hard struggle, an angel of God to keep from sin in fierce temptation.”
St Nonna seems to have been one of those mothers who was faithful in taking care of the physical and spiritual needs of her children.  St Gregory of Nazianzus testifies to his mother’s faithfulness in the following tribute to his parents:
“My father was in truth a second Abraham and was a man of the highest virtue. . . My mother was a worthy companion for such a man and her qualities were as great as his.  She came from a pious family, but was even more pious than they.  Though in her body she was but a woman, in her spirit she was above all men. . . Her mouth knew nothing but the truth, but in her modesty she was silent about those deeds which brought her glory.  She was guided by the fear of God. . .”[5]
This is the second Cappadocian family where the men have paid tribute to their indebtedness to the women in their family.  The other is St Gregory of Nyssa gave tribute to his sister Macrina in his ‘Life of Macrina’.[6] 


[1]Also known as Arianzus.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazianzus
[2]276 to 374
[3] In 379
[4] Quoted from: http://www.orthodox.net/menaion-august/05-nonna-wife-gregory-nanzianzen-mother-gregory-theologian.html
[5]Quoted from Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia on https://web.archive.org/web/20070206180426/http://www.saintpatrickdc.org/ss/0805.htm
[6]See the section on St Macrina (19 July).


Copyright © 2018 Rev Ros Wilkinson