S. Gregory I, letters 20356
20356 Gregory to John, Bishop of Ravenna38 .
It is not long since certain things had been told us about thy Fraternity concerning which we remember having declared ourselves in full, when Castorius, notary of the holy church over which we preside, went into your parts. For it had come to our ears that some things were being done in your church contrary to custom and to the way of humility, which alone, as you well know, exalts the priestly office. Now, if your Wisdom had received our admonitions kindly or with episcopal seriousness, you ought not to have been incensed by them, but have corrected these same things with thanks to us. For it is contrary to ecclesiastical use, if even unjust correction (the which be far from us) is not most patiently borne.
But your Fraternity has been too much moved; and when, in the swelling of thy heart, as if to justify thyself, thou wrotest that thou didst not use the pallium except after the sons of the Church had been dismissed from the sacristy39 , and at the time of mass, and in solemn litanies, thou madest acknowledgment in words with most manifest truth of having usurped something contrary to the usage of the Church in general. For how can it be that at a time of ashes and sackcloth, through the streets among the noises of the people thou couldest do lawfully what thou hast disclaimed the doing of as being unlawful in the assembly of the poor and nobles, and in the sacristy of the Church? Yet this, dearest brother, is not, we think, unknown to thee; that it has hardly ever been heard of any metropolitan in any parts of the world that he has claimed to himself the use of the pallium except at the time of mass. And that you knew well this custom of the Church in general you have shewn most plainly by your epistles, in which you have sent to us appended the precept of our predecessor John of blessed memory, to the effect that all the customs conceded in the way of privilege to you and your church by our predecessors should be retained. You acknowledge, then, that the custom of the Church in general is different, seeing that you claim the right of doing what you do on the score of privilege. Thus, as we think, we can have no remaining doubtfulness in this matter. For either the usage of all metropolitans should be observed also by thy Fraternity, or, if thou sayest that something has been specially conceded to thy church, it is for your side to shew the precept of former pontiffs of the Roman City wherein these things have been conceded to the Church of Ravenna. But, if this is not shewn, it remains, seeing that you establish your claim to do such things on the score neither of general custom nor of privilege, that you prove yourself to have usurped in what you have done. And what shall we say to the future judge, most beloved brother, if we defend the use of that heavy yoke and chain on our neck with a view, I do not say to ecclesiastical, but to a certain secular dignity; judging ourselves to be lowered if we are without so great a weight even for a short space of time? We desire to be adorned with the pallium, being, it may be, unadorned in character; whereas nothing shines more splendidly on a bishop’s neck than humility.
It is therefore the duty of thy Fraternity, if thou art firmly determined to defend thy honours with any kind of arguments, either to follow the use of the generality without written authority, or to defend thyself under privileges shewn in writing. Or, if lastly thou doest neither, we will not have thee set an example of presumption of this sort to other metropolitans. But, lest thou shouldest perchance think that we, in thus writing to you, have neglected what belongs to fraternal charity, know ye that careful search has been made in our archives for the privileges of thy Church. And indeed some things havebeen found, sufficient to obviate entirely theaims of thy Fraternity, but nothing to support the contentions of your Church on the points in question. For even concerning the very custom of thy Church which thou allegest against us, which custom we wrote before should be proved on your side, we would have you know that we have already taken thought sufficiently, having questioned our sons, Peter the deacon and Gaudiosus the primicerius40 , and also Michael the guardian (defensorem) of our see, or others who on various commissions have been sent by our predecessors to Ravenna; and they have most positively denied that thou hast done these things in their presence. It is therefore apparent that what was done in secret must have been an unlawful usurpation. Hence what has been latently introduced can have no firm ground to justify its continuance. What things, then, thou or thy predecessors have presumed to do superfluously do thou, having regard to charity, and with brotherly kindness, study to correct. To no degree attempt—I do not say of thine own accord, but after the fashion set by others, even thy predecessors,—to deviate from the rule of humility. For, to sum up shortly what I have said above, I admonish thee to this effect; that unless thou canst shew that this has been allowed thee by my predecessors in the way of privilege, thou presume not any more to use the pallium in the streets, lest thou come not to have even for mass what thou audaciously usurpest even in the streets. But as to thy sitting in the sacristy, and receiving the sons of the Church with the pallium on (which thing thy Fraternity has both done and disclaimed), we now for the present make no complaint; since, following the decision of synods, we refuse to punish minor faults, which are denied. Yet we know this to have been done once and again, and we prohibit its being done any more. But let thy Fraternity take careful heed, lest presumption which in its commencement is pardoned be more severely visited if it proceeds further.
Furthermore, you have complained that certain of the sacerdotal order in the city of Ravenna are involved in serious criminal charges. Their case we desire thee either to examine on the spot, or to send them hither (unless, indeed, difficulty of proof owing to the distance of the places stands in the way of this), that the case may be examined here But if, relying on the patronage of great people, which we do not believe, they should scorn to submit to thy judgment or to come to us, and should refuse contumaciously to answer to the charges made against them, we desire that after thy second and third admonition, thou interdict them from the ministry of the sacred office, and report to us in writing of their contumacy, that we may deliberate how thou oughtest to make a thorough enquiry into their doings. and correct them according to canonical definitions. Let, therefore, thy Fraternity know tint we are most fully absolved from responsibility in this case, seeing that we have committed to you a thorough investigation of the matter; and that, if all their sins should pass unpunished, the whole weight of this enquiry redounds to the peril of thy soul. And know, beloved, that thou wilt have no excuse at the future judgment, if thou dost not correct the excesses of thy clergy with the utmost severity of canonical strictness, and if thou allowest any against whom such excesses shall have been proved to profane sacred orders any longer.
Further, what you have written in defence of the use of napkins by your clergy is strenuously opposed by our own clergy, who say that this has never been granted to any other Church whatever, and that neither have the clergy of Ravenna, either there or in the Roman city, presumed, to their knowledge, in any such way, nor, if it has been attemptedin the way of furtive usurpation, does it form a precedent. But, even though there had been such presumption in any church whatever, they assert that it ought to be corrected, not being by grant of the Roman pontiff, but merely a surreptitious presumption. But we, to save the honour of thy Fraternity, though against the wish of our aforesaid clergy, still allow the use of napkins to your first deacons (whose former use of them has been testified to us by some), but only when in attendance upon thee. The use of them, at any other time, or by any other persons, we most strictly prohibit.
38 This John, and apparently previous bishops of Ravenna, appear to have assumed a dignity not conceded to other metropotitans; perhaps on the ground of Ravenna being the seat of the Exarch, and having been once the imperial residence. The pallium usually granted to Metropolitans was allowed to be used by them only during the celebration of the Eucharist; and we find Gregory, in several epistles, restricting them to such use of it, when he sent it to them. John was reported to have worn it while receiving the laity in the sacristy before celebration; and he owned to having worn it in solemn processions through the city, alleging custom and peculiar privilege. Further, his clergy, when accompanying him in processions, had been accustomed to carry napkins (mappuloe), which appear to have been signs of dignity. It is for these assumptions that Gregory now remonstrates with him; but apparently in vain with regard to the use of the pallium in processions through the city: For Marinianus, the successor of John, continued the custom, though whether he finally persisted in it does not appear. Other letters referring to the subject are V. 15; VI. 34, 61).
39 Secretarium, viz. the chamber adjoining the church in which the vestments and sacred utensils were kept, and the clergy vested for service; and in which also as appears from this and the following epistle, the bishop was accustomed to receive the laity before mass. From the custom of holding synods in the apartments so called, the sessions of synods were also themselves sometimes called secretaria.
40 The term primicerius is variously applied, denoting the chiefs of departments. In Ep.22, supra, we find primicerium notariorum. In VII. 32, we find also the designation Secundi cerius).
20357 41 .
My most reverend fellow-servant Castorius, notary of your Apostolical See, has delivered to me my Lord’s epistle, compounded of honey and of venom; which has yet so infixed its stings as still to leave place for healing appliances. For my Lord, while he reproves pride and speaks of divine judgment following it, in a certain way professes himself with reason to be mild and placid.
You have alleged, then, that I, ambitious of novelty, have usurped the use of the pallium beyond what had been indulged to my predecessors. This let not the conscience of my own Lord, which is governed by the divine right hand, in any way allow itself to believe; nor let him open his most sacred ears to the uncertainty of common report. First, because I, though a sinner, still know how grave a thing it is to transgress the limits assigned to us by the Fathers, and that all elation leads to nothing but a fall. For, if our ancestors did not tolerate pride in kings, how much more is it not to be endured in priests! Then, I remember how I was nourished in the lap and in the bosom of your most holy Roman Church, and therein by the aid of God advanced. And how should I be so daring as to presume to oppose that most holy see, which transmits its laws to the universal Church, for maintaining whose authority, as God knows, I have seriously excited the ill-will of many enemies against myself? But let not my most blessed Lord suppose that I have attempted anything contrary to ancient custom, as is attested by many and nearly all the citizens of this city, and as the above-written most reverend notary, even though he had taken no part in the proceedings, might have testified, inasmuch as it was not till the sons of the Church were descending from the sacristy42 , and the deacons were coming in for proceeding immediately [to the altar] that the first deacon has been accustomed to invest the bishop of the Church of Ravenna with the pallium, which he has also been accustomed in like manner to use in solemn litanies.
Wherefore let no one endeavour to insinuate anything against me to my Lord, since if any one wishes to do so, he cannot prove that any novelty has been introduced by me. For in what manner I have obeyed your commands and served your interests when cause required, may Almighty God make manifest to your most sincere heart: and I attribute it to my sins that after so many labours and difficulties which I endure within and without I should deserve to experience such a change. But again this among other things consoles me, that most holy fathers sometimes chastise their sons for the purpose only of advancing them the more, and that, after this devotion and satisfaction, you will not only conserve to the holy Church of Ravenna her ancient privileges, but even confer greater ones in your own times.
For with respect to the napkins, the useof which by my presbyters and deacons your Apostleship alleges to be a presumption, I confess in truth that it irks me to say anything on the subject, since the truth by itself, which alone prevails with my Lord, is sufficient. For this being allowed to the smaller churches constituted around the city, the apostleship of my Lord will also be able in all ways to find, if he deigns to enquire of the venerable clergy of his own first Apostolical See, that as often as priests or levites of the Church of Ravenna have come to Rome for the ordination of bishops or for business, they all have proceeded43 with napkins before the eyes of your most holy predecessors without any blame. Wherefore also at the time when I, sinner as I am, was ordained there by your predecessor, all mypresbyters and deacons used them while proceeding44 in attendance on the Lord pope. Andsince our God in His providence has placedall things in your hand and most pure conscience, I adjure you by the very Apostolical See, which you formerly adorned by your character, and now govern with due dignity, that you in no respect diminish on account of my deservings the privileges of the Church of Ravenna, which is intimately yours; but, even according to the voice of prophecy, let it be laid upon me and upon my father’s house, according to its deserving. I have, therefore, for your greater satisfaction, subjoined all the privileges which have been indulged by your predecessors to the holy Church of Ravenna, though none the less finding assurance in your venerable archives in reference to the times of the consecration of my predecessors. But now whatever, after ascertaining the truth, you may command to be done, is in God’s power and yours; since I, desiring to obey the commands of my Lord’s Apostleship, have taken care, notwithstanding ancient custom, to abstain till I receive further orders.
41 See Ep. 56. John of Ravenna, notwithstanding his obsequious language in this letter, appears to have been by no means disposed to give way. For see Gregory’s subsequent letter to him (V. 15), in which he is sharply accused of duplicity. And not only he, but his successor in the see also, appear to have continued the practice of wearing the pallium in public processions. What he says in the letter before us of his having incurred odium by his defence of the authority of the Roman See may be noted as significant of some jealousy of such authority at Ravenna).
42 Ut mox procedatur. The word procedere is used here, and elsewhere, for approaching the altar for celebration. Cf. below, and VII. 34.
43 Procedebant. See last note.
44 Procedebant. See last note.
20359 Gregory to Secundinus, Bishop of Tauromenium). [In Sicily.]
Some time ago we ordered that the baptistery45 should be removed from the monastery of Saint Andrew, which is above Mascalae, because of inconvenience to the monks, and that an altar should be erected in the place where the fonts now are. But the carrying out of this order has been put off so far. We therefore admonish thy Fraternity that thou interpose no further delay after receiving this our letter, but that the fonts themselves be filled up46 , and an altar at once erected there for celebration of the sacred mysteries; to the end that the aforesaid monks may be at liberty to celebrate more securely the work of God, and that our mind be not provoked against thy Fraternity for negligence.
45 Baptisteries (baptisteria) were anciently separate buildings adjoining churches (cf. VI. 22), the fontes being the pools of water (called also piscinoe and kolumbhvqra) therein contained. (See Bingham, B. VIII. C. VII). Sect. 1, 4 ) The inconvenience to the monks of having a baptistery at their monastery would be from the concourse of people resorting to it, which would interfere with monastic seclusion. For a similar reason Gregory more than once forbids public masses in monasteries. Cf. e.g. II. 41; VI. 46.
46 Fonts were anciently sunken pools. “In media habet fontem in terra excavatam ad quinque ulnas . . . tribus gradibus in id descensus est.” Onuphrius, de baptisterio Lateran.
20360 47 .
Gregory to Italica, &c.
We have received your letter, which is full of sweetness, and rejoice to hear that your Excellency is well. Such is the sincerity of our own mind with regard to it that paternal affection does not allow us to suspect any latent ill-feeling concealed under its calmness. But may Almighty God bring it to pass, that, as we think what is good of you, so your mind may respond with good towards us, and that you may exhibit in your deeds the sweetness which you express in words. For the most glorious health and beauty on the surface of the body profit nothing if there is a hidden sore within. And that discord is the more to be guarded against to which exterior peace affords a bodyguard. But as to what your Excellency in your aforesaid epistle takes pains to recall to our recollection, remember that you have been told in writing that we would not settle anything with you concerning the causes of the poor so as to cause offence, or with public clamour. We remember writing to you to this effect, and also know, God helping us how to restrain ourselves with ecclesiastical moderation from the wrangling of suits at law, and, according to that apostolical sentence, to endure joyfully the spoiling of our goods. But this we suppose you to know; that our silence and patience will not be to the prejudice of future pontiffs after me in the affairs of the poor. Wherefore we, in fulfilment of our aforesaid promise, have already determined to keep silence on these questions; nor do we desire to mix ourselves personally in these transactions, wherein we feel that too little kindness is being shewn. But, lest you should hence imagine, glorious daughter, that we still altogether renounce what pertains to concord, we have given directions to our son, Cyprianus the deacon, who is going to Sicily, that, if you arrange about these matters in a salutary way, and without sin to your soul, he should settle them with you by our authority, and that we should be no further vexed by the business which may thus be brought to a conclusion amicably. Now may Almighty God, who well knows how to turn to possibility things altogether impossible, may He inspire you both to arrange your affairs with a view to peace, and, for the good of your soul, to consult the benefit of the poor of this Church in matters which concern them.
47 Possibly the same lady whom the ex-monk Venantius married. See I. 34, note 8, and IX. 123. The correspondence that took place at this time between her and Gregory seems to have arisen from some question of legal right, in which she appeared tothe latter to be dealing harshly with some poor persons, perhaps peasants (rustici) on an estate of the Church (hujus Ecclesioe pauperibus). The passing tribute paid in this letter to the lady’s personal charms is characteristic of Gregory’s complimentary style, and (supposing her to have been the same Italica who became the bride of Venantius) suggests one attraction which may have drawn the latter away from his intended monastic life. Further on the same supposition, we may perhaps read with interest between the lines of this letter something of the feelingsubsisting at the time of writing between the correspondents. She, being a well-bred patrician lady, had evidently written to him with gentle courtesy. But he detected, or thought he detected, something wanting in the tone of her letter. Nor was she likely to feel warmly towards him who now called her to account, if it were he whom she knew to have done all he could to alienate Velantius from her. He, on the other hand while addressing her in return with all the courtesy due to her rank and character, and evidently anxious to avoid unpleasantness, shews signs of not being entirely satisfied as to her feelings towards himself, or her readiness to follow his admonitions. It is interesting to observe that, judging from the tone of subsequent Epistles, we may conclude very friendly relations to have been afterwards maintained between Gregory and the wedded pair).
20365 48 .
Gregory to Mauricius, &c.
(He is guilty before Almighty God who is not pure of offence towards our most serene lords in all he does and says. I, however, unworthy servant of your Piety, speak in this my representation neither as a bishop, nor as your servant in fight of the republic, but as of private right, since, most serene Lord, you have been mine since the time when you were not yet Lord of all.
On the arrival here of the most illustrious Longinus, the equerry (stratore), I received the law of my lords, to which, being at the time worn out by bodily sickness, I was unable to make any reply. In it the piety of my lords has ordained that it shall not be lawful for any one who is engaged in any public administration to enter on an ecclesiastical office. And this I greatly commended, knowing by most evident proof that one who is in haste to desert a secular condition and enter on an ecclesiastical office is not wishing to relinquish secular affairs, but to change them. But, at its being said in the same law that it should not be lawful for him to become a monk, I was altogether surprised, seeing that his accounts can be rendered through a monastery, and it can be arranged for his debts also to be recovered from the place into which he is received. For with whatever devout intention a person may have wished to become a monk, he should first restore what he has wrongly gotten, and take thought for his soul all the more truly as he is the more disencumbered. It is added in the same law that no one who has been marked on the hand49 may become a monk. This ordinance, I confess to my lords, has alarmed me greatly, since by it the way to heaven is dosed against many, and what has been lawful until now is made unlawful. For there are many who are able to live a religious life even in a secular condition: but there are very many who cannot in any wise be saved with God unless they give up all things. But what am I, in speaking thus to my lords, but dust and a worm? Yet still, feeling that this ordinance makes against God, who is the Author of all, I cannot keep silence to my lords. For power over all men has been given from heaven to the piety of my lords to this end, that they who aspire to what is good may be helped, and that the way to heaven may be more widely open, so that an earthly kingdom may wait upon the heavenly kingdom. And lo, it is said in plain words that one who has once been marked to serve as an earthly soldier may not, unless he has either completed his service or been rejected for weakness of body, serve as the soldier of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To this, behold, Christ through me the last of His servants and of yours will answer, saying; From a notary I made thee a Count of the bodyguard; from Count of the bodyguard I made thee a Caesar; from a Caesar I made thee Emperor; and not only so, but also a father of emperors. I have committed my priests into thy hand; and dost thou withdraw thy soldiers from my service? Answer thy servant, most pious Lord, I beseech thee; what wilt thou answer to thy Lord when He comes and thus speaks?
But peradventure it is believed that no one among them turns monk with a pure motive. I, your unworthy servant, know how many soldiers who have become monks in my own days have done miracles, have wrought signs and mighty deeds. But by this law it is forbidden that even one of such as these should become a monk.
Let my Lord enquire, I beg, what former emperor ever enacted such a law, and consider more thoroughly whether it ought to have been enacted. And indeed it is a very serious consideration, that now at this time any are forbidden to leave the world; a time when the end of the world is drawing nigh. For lo! there will be no delay: the heavens on fire, the earth on fire, the elements blazing, with angels and archangels, thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, the tremendous Judge will appear. Should He remit all sins, and say only that this law has been promulgate against Himself, what excuse, pray, will there be? Wherefore by the same tremendous Judge I beseech you, that all those tears, all those prayers, all those fasts, all those alms of my Lord, may not on any ground lose their lustre before the eyes of Almighty God: but let your Piety, either by interpretation or alteration, modify the force of this law, since the army of my lords against their enemies increases the more when the army of God has been increased for prayer.
I indeed, being subject to your command, have caused this law to be transmitted through various parts of the world; and, inasmuch as the law itself is by no means agreeable to Almighty God, lo, I have by this my representation declared this to my most serene lords. On both sides, then, I have discharged my duty, having beth yielded obedience to the Emperor, and not kept silence as to what I feel in behalf of God.
48 This letter is supposed to have been written in the third Indiction (a.d.592–3); the law complained of having been issued in the previous year. The epistle, which follows, to the Emperor’s physician on the same subject, shews how much Gregory had it at heart. Some five years later it appears from a letter to divers metropolitans, dated December,a.d.597 (VIII. 5), that an amicable agreement had meanwhile been come to, both the Emperor and the Pope having made some concessions. Cf. also the end of Ep. 24 in Book X.
49 Cf. below, “in terrena militia signatus.” It appears that not slaves only, but soldiers also, were sometime marked on the hand. Cf. Cyprian, Ad Donatum, “Te quem jam spiritualibus castris militia signavit”.
Gregory to Theodorus, &c.
What benefits I enjoy from Almighty God and my most serene Lord the Emperor my tongue cannot fully express. For these benefits what return is it in me to make, but to love their footsteps sincerely? But, on account of my sins, by whose suggestion or counsel I know not, in the past year he has promulgate such a law in his republic that whoso loves him sincerely must lament exceedingly. I could not reply to this law at the time, being sick. But I have just now offered some suggestions to my Lord. For he enjoins that it shall belawful for no one to become a monk who has been engaged in any public employment, for no one who is a paymaster50 , or who has been marked in the hand, or enrolled among the soldiers, unless perchance his military service has been completed. This law, as those say who are acquainted with old laws, Julian was the first to promulge, of whom we all know how opposed he was to God. Now if our most serene Lord has done this thing because perhaps many soldiers were becoming monks, and the army was decreasing, was it by the valour of soldiers that Almighty God subjugated to him the empire of the Persians? Was it not only that his tears were heard, and that God, by an order which he knew not of, subdued to his empire the empire of the Persians?
Now it seems to me exceedingly hard that he should debar his soldiers from the service of Him who both gave him all and granted w him to rule not only over soldiers but even over priests. If his purpose is to save pro- petty from being lost, why might not those same monasteries into which soldiers have been received pay their debts, retaining the men only for monastic profession? Since these things grieve me much, I have represented the matter to my Lord. But let your Glory take a favourable opportunity of offering him my representation privately. For I am unwilling that it should be given publicly by my representative (responsalis), seeing that you who serve him familiarly can speak more freely and openly of what is for the good of his soul, since he is occupied with many things, and it is not easy to find his mind free from greater cares. Do thou, then, glorious son, speak for Christ. If thou art heard, it will be to the profit of the soul of thy aforesaid Lord and of thine own. But if thou art not heard, thou hast profited thine own soul only.
50 Nullus qui optio.- “Optiones: Militaris annonoe eragatores: distribiteurs des vivres aux soldats” (Cod. Th). D’Arnis Lexicon Manuale).
20367 51 .
Gregory to Domitian, &c.
On receiving the letters of your most sweet Blessedness I greatly rejoiced, since they spoke much to me of sacred Scripture. And, finding in them the dainties that I love, I greedily devoured them. Therein also were many things intermingled about external and necessary affairs. And you have acted as though preparing a banquet for the mind so that the offered dainties might please the more from their diversity. And if indeed external affairs, like inferior and ordinary kinds of food, are less savoury, yet they have been treated by you so skilfully as to be taken gladly, since even contemptible kinds of food are usually made sweet by the sauce of one who cooks well. Now, while the truth of the History is kept to, what I had said some time ago about its divine meaning ought not to be rejected. For, although, since you will have it so, its meaning may not suit my case, yet, from its very context, what was said as being drawn from it may be held without hesitation. For her violator (i.e. Dinah’s) is called the prince of the country (Genes. 34,2), by whom the devil is plainly denoted, seeing that our Redeemer says, Now shall the prince of this world be cast out (Jn 12,31). And he also seeks her for his wife, because the evil spirit hastens to possess lawfully the soul which he has first corrupted by hidden seduction. Wherefore the sons of Jacob, being very wroth, take their swords against the whole house of Sichem and his country (Genes. 34,25), because by all who have zeal those also are to be attacked who become abettors of the evil spirit. And they first enjoin on them circumcision, and afterwards, while they are sore, slay them. For severe teachers, if they know not how to moderate their zeal, though cutting off the bias of corruption by preaching, nevertheless, when delinquents already mourn for the evil they had done, are frequently still savage in roughness of discipline, and harder than they should be. For those who had already cut off their foreskins ought not to have died, since such as lament the sin of lechery, and turn the pleasure of the flesh into sorrow, ought not to experience from their teachers roughness of discipline, lest the Redeemer of the human race be Himself loved less, if in His behalf the soul is afflicted more than it should be. Hence also to these his sons Jacob says, Ye have troubled me, and made me odious to the Canaanites (Jn 5,30). For, when teachers still cruelly attack what the delinquents already mourn for, the weak mind’s very love for its Redeemer grows cold, because it feels itself to be afflicted in that wherein of itself it does not spare itself.
(So much therefore I would say in order to shew that the sense which I set forth is not improbable in connexion with the context. But what has been inferred from the same passage by your Holiness for my comfort I gladly accept, since in the understanding of sacred Scripture whatever is not opposed to a sound faith ought not to be rejected. For, even as from the same gold some make necklaces, some rings, and some bracelets, for ornament, so from the same knowledge of sacred Scripture different expositors, through innumerable ways of understanding it, compose as it were various ornaments, which nevertheless all serve for the adornment of the heavenly bride. Further, I rejoice exceedingly that your most sweet Blessedness, even though occupied with secular affairs, still brings back its genius vigilantly to the understanding of Holy Writ. For so indeed it is needful that, if the former cannot be altogether avoided, the latter should not be altogether put aside. But I beseech you by Almighty God, stretch out the hand of prayer to me who am labouring in so great billows of tribulation, that by your intercession I may be lifted up to the heights, who am pressed down to the depths by the weight of my sins. Moreover, though I grieve that the Emperor of the Persians has not been converted, yet I altogether rejoice for that you have preached to him the Christian faith; since, though he has not been counted worthy to come to the light, yet your Holiness will have the reward of your preaching. For the Ethiopian, too, goes black into the bath, and comes out black; but still the keeper of the bath receives his pay.
Further, of Mauricius you say well, that from the shadow I may know the statue; that is, that in small things I may perpend greater things. In this matter, however, we trust him, since oaths and hostages bind his soul to us).
51 This Domitian, Bishop of Melitene and Metropolitan of Roman Armenia, was a kinsman of the Emperor Maurice, and had lately been successfully employed by him in coming to terms with the Persian king, Chosroes II., as is related in the histories of Evagrius and Theofylact. The latter describes him as “holy in life, sweet in speech, ready in action, most prudent in council” (Hist. iv. 14). He also gives at length an eloquent sermon of his, delivered after the cession, through his mediation, of the city Martyropolis in Mesopotamia to the Roman Emperor (IV. 16). Chosroes II., who is said to have had a strong regard for Domitian, appears to have had some leanings towards Christianity. We are told that, when flying from his enemies in Persia, and in doubt whether to seek refuge with the Romans or the Turks, he had let his horse take its own course, calling on the God of the Christians for guidance, and thus found his way to Circesium, where he was received by Probus the Governor (Theophyl. IV. 10; Evagr). H. E. VI. 16). Further, it is related that, on one occassion, when Probus, bishop of Chalcedon, had been sent to him as ambassador by the Emperor, he requested to be shewn a portrait of the Blessed Virgin, which he adored when he saw it, saying that he had seen the original in a vision (Theophyl. V. 15); and also that he attributed his own success in arms, and the pregnancy of his favourite wife Syra (Shirin), who was herself a Christian, to the intercession of S. Sergius. whom he had invoked, and that he sent a cross of pure gold, adorned with jewels, which he had vowed with other presents, to the shrine of the saint, together with a letter of acknowledgment addressed to him (Theophyl. V. 13, 14; Evagr. H.E. VI. 20). But he certainly never became a Christian, though it appears from the letter before us that Domitian had done his best to convert him. The earlier part of this epistle refers evidently to some allegorical interpretation of Scripture by Gregory after his usual manner, to which Domitian had taken objection.
S. Gregory I, letters 20356