S. Gregory I, letters 20505
20505 Gregory to Dominicus,Bishop of Carthage.
Prosper your delegate (responsalis), the bearer of these presents, has been with us, and after other expressions of your charity handed us your second letters with an allegation of the imperial commands, and a paper giving an account of the synod that has been held among you4 . Having read all, we rejoiced for your pastoral zeal, and that our most pious lords had given no ear to the calumnies of venal persons brought against you on the plea of religion; but especially that your Fraternity has so taken pains to preserve the African province as in no wise to neglect to restrain with priestly fervour the devious sects of heretics; concerning the quieting of whom we remember having laid down the law so fully, even before consulting the letters of your Charity, that we do not believe that anything needs to be said again in reply to you about them. Although, however, this is so, and though we desire all heretics to be repressed always with vigour and reason by catholic priests, yet, on looking thoroughly into what has been done among you, we are in fact apprehensive lest offence should thereby be caused (which thing may the Lord avert) to the primates of other councils. For at the conclusion of your acts you have promulged a sentence, in which, while ordering the searching out of those heretics, you have brought in that those who neglect the duty are to be punished by forfeiture of their possessions and dignities. It is therefore best, most dear brother, that, in dealing with matters outside ourselves that require correction, charity among ourselves should first be preserved, and that we should be subject in mind (as I judge to be peculiarly proper to your Gravity) even to persons below us in dignity. For you will then more advantageously meet the errors of heretics with your whole united powers when, as befits your priesthood, you study to keep ecclesiastical concord among yourselves.
20508 Gregory to Cyprian, deacon and rector of the patrimony of Sicily.
Concerning the Manicheans who are on our possessions I have frequently admonished thy Love to press them with the utmost diligence, and recall them to the Catholic faith. If, then, the time requires it, make enquiries in person, or, if other business does not allow this, through others. Further, it has come to my ears that there are Hebrews on our possessions who will not by any means be converted to God. But it seems to me that thou shouldest send letters through all our possessions on which these Hebrews are known to be, promising them particularly from me that whosoever of them shall have been converted to our true Lord God Jesus Christ shall have the burdens of his holding lightened. And this I wish to have done in such sort that, if one has a payment to make of one solidus, a third should be remitted him; if of three or four, that one solidus should be remitted; if of any more, the remission should still be made in the same proportion, or at any rate according as thy Love sees fit, so that one who is converted may have some relief of Iris burden, and the Church may not be put to heavy expense. Nor shall we do this unprofitably, if by lightening the burdens of their payments we bring them to the grace of Christ, since, though they themselves came with little faith, yet those who may be born of them will now be baptized with more faith: thus we gain either them or their children. And whatever amount of payment we let them off for the sake of Christ is nothing serious. Furthermore, some time ago, when John the deacon came, thy Love wrote something to me, the whole of which I read at the time, but let many days intervene before replying; and then, after such delay, replied to all particulars as I recollected them. But now I think that one point escaped my memory, and suspect that I gave no reply about it. For thou hadst written that loans were being advanced to peasants (rusticis)through certain undertakers for their debt5 , lest in borrowing from others they should be burdened either by exactions or by the prices of things6 . This particular was to me most acceptable; and, if indeed I have already written about it, observe what I wrote. But if, as I suspect, I gave in my reply no definite direction on the subject, thou must not hesitate to advance money for the advantage of the peasants, since the ecclesiastical property will not thus be wasted, and out of it the peasants will derive advantage. And, if there are other things which thou considerest to be advantageous, thou must carry them out without any hesitation.
20511 Gregory to John, Bishop of Ravenna.
I find that your Fraternity is greatly distressed on account of being forbidden by the censure of reason to wear the pallium in litanies. But through the most excellent Patrician, and through the most eminent Prefect, and through other noble men of your city, you have urgently requested to have this allowed you. Now we, having made careful enquiry of Adeodatus, some time thy Fraternity’s deacon, have ascertained that it was never the custom of thy predecessors to use the pallium during litanies, except at the solemnities of the blessed John the Baptist, the blessed Apostle Peter, and the blessed martyr Apollinaris. But we were by no means bound to believe him, since many of our delegates have often been at your Fraternity’s city, who declare that they never saw anything of the kind. And in this matter credence is rather to be given to many than to one, who is attesting something in behalf of his own Church. But, since we do not wish your Fraternity to be distressed, or the petition of our sons to be of no avail with us, we concede the use of the pallium, until we shall gain some more accurate knowledge, on the days of the Nativity of the Blessed John the Baptist, of the blessed Apostle Peter, anti the blessed martyr Apollinaris, and on the day of the celebration of your ordination. But in the sacristy, according to former custom, after the sons of the Church have been received and dismissed, your Fraternity may put on the pallium, and so proceed to the solemnization of mass, arrogating to yourself nothing more in the daring of rash presumption; lest, while something is snatched at out of order in exterior habiliment, what might have been done in due order be neglected. Given in the month of October; Indiction 13.
20515 Gregory to John, Bishop of Ravenna.
In the first place this makes me sad; that thy Fraternity writes to me with a double heart, exhibiting one sort of blandishment in letters, but another sort with the tongue in secular intercourse. In the next place, it grieves me that my brother John even to this day retains on his tongue those gibes which notaries while still boys are wont to indulge in. He speaks bitingly, and seems to delight in such pleasantry. He flatters his friends in their presence, and maligns them in their absence. Thirdly, it is to me grievous and altogether execrable, that he imputes shameful crimes to his servants7 , whatever the hour may be, calling them “effeminate;” and, what is still more grievous, this is done openly. Then there is this in addition that there is no discipline for keeping guard over the life of the clergy, but that he exhibits himself only as their Lord. The last thing, but first in importance as evidence of elation, is about his use of the pallium outside the church, which is a thing he never presumed to do in the times of my predecessors, and what none of his predecessors ever presumed to do, as our delegates testify (except it might be when relics were deposited, though with regard to relics one person only could be found to say that it was so); yet this in my days, in contempt of me, with extreme audacity, he not only did, but even made a habit of doing.
From all these things I find that the dignity of the Episcopacy is with him all in outside show, not in his mind. And indeed I return thanks to Almighty God that at the time when this came to my knowledge, which had never; reached the ears of my predecessors, the Lombards were posted between me and the city of Ravenna. For perchance I had it in my mind to shew to men hour severe I can be8 .
Lest, however, thou shouldest suppose that I wish thy church to be depressed or lessened in dignity, remember where the deacon of Ravenna used to stand in solemnization of mass at Rome, and enquire where he stands now; and thou wilt recognize the fact that I desire to honour the church of Ravenna. But that any one whatever should snatch at anything out of pride, this I cannot tolerate.
Nevertheless I have already written on this matter to our deacon at Constantinople, that he should enquire of all who have under them even thirty or forty bishops. And if there is anywhere this custom of their walking in litanies wearing the pallium, God forbid that through me the dignity of the church of Ravenna should seem to be in any way lessened.
Reflect, therefore, dearest brother, on all that I have said above: think of the day of thy call: consider what account thou wilt render of the burden of epi copacy. Amend those manners of a notary. See what becomes a bishop in tongue and in deed. Be entirely sincere to thy brethren. Do not speak one thing, and have another in thy heart. Do not desire to seem more than thou art, that so thou mayest be able to be more than thou seemest. Believe me, when I came to my present position, I had such consideration and charity towards thee that, if thou hadst wished to keep hold of this my charity, thou still wouldest not have ever found such a brother as myself, or one so sincerely loving thee, or so concurring with thee in all devotion: but when I came to know of thy words and thy manners, I confess I started back. I beseech thee, then, by Almighty God, amend all that I have spoken of, and especially the vice of duplicity. Allow me to love thee; and for the present and the future life it may be of advantage to thee to be loved of thy brethren. Reply, however, to all this, not by words, but by behaviour.
20517 Gregory to Cyprian, &c.I received your letters of most bitter import about the death of the Lord Maximianus10 in the month of November. And he indeed has reached the rewards he longed for, but the unhappy people of the city of Syracuse is to be commiserated as not having been counted worthy to have such a pastor long. Accordingly let thy Love take anxious heed that such a one may be chosen for ordination in the same church as may not seem to obtain undeservedly the same place of rule after the Lord Maximianus. And indeed I believe that the majority would choose the presbyter Trajan, who, as is said, is of a good disposition, but, as I suspect, not fit for ruling in that place. Yet, if a better cannot be found, and if there are no charges against him, he may be condescended to under stress of very great necessity. But, if my wishes are asked with regard to this election, I inform thee privately of what I do wish: for no one in this same church appears to me so worthy after the Lord Maximianus as John the archdeacon of the church of Guiana. And, if his election can be brought about, I believe that he will be found an exceedingly fit person. But he too must first be enquired about by thee privately as to any charges against him that may stand in the way. If he should be found free from any, he may be rightly chosen. Should this be done, our brother and fellow-bishop Leo11 will also have to give him leave to go, that he may be found free to be ordained. These things, then, I have taken care to intimate to thy Love; and it will now be thy concern to look round thee on all sides carefully, and arrange what is pleasing to God.
20518 Gregory to John, Bishop of Constantinople12 .
At the time when your Fraternity was advanced to Sacerdotal dignity, you remember what peace and concord of the churches you found. But, with what daring or with what swelling of pride I know not, you have attempted to seize upon a new name, whereby the hearts of all your brethren might have come to take offence. I wonder exceedingly at this, since I remember how thou wouldest fain have fled from the episcopal office rather than attain it. And yet, now that thou hast got it, thou desirest so to exercise it as if thou hadst run to it with ambitious intent. For, having confessed thyself unworthy to be called a bishop, thou hast at length been brought to such a pass as, despising thy brethren, to covet to be named the only bishop. And indeed with regard to this matter, weighty letters were addressed to your Holiness by my predecessor Pelagius of holy memory; in which he annulled the acts of the synod, which had been assembled among you in the case of our once brother and fellow-bishop Gregory, because of that execrable title of pride, and forbade the archdeacon whom he had sent according to custom to the threshold of our Lord, to celebrate the solemnities of mass with you. But after his death, when I, unworthy, succeeded to the government of the Church, both through my other representatives and also through our common son the deacon Sabinianus, I have taken care to address your Fraternity, not indeed in writing, but by word of mouth, desiring you to restrain yourself from such presumption. And, in case of your refusing to amend, I forbade his celebrating the solemnities of mass with you; that so I might first appeal to your Holiness through a certain sense of shame, to the end that, if the execrable and profane assumption could not be corrected through shame, strict canonical measures might be then resorted to. And, since sores that are to be cut away should first be stroked with a gentle hand, I beg you, I beseech you, and with all the sweetness in my power demand of you, that your Fraternity gainsay all who flatter you and offer you this name of error, nor foolishly consent to be called by the proud title. For truly I say it weeping, and out of inmost sorrow of heart attribute it to my sins, that this my brother, who has been constituted in the grade of episcopacy for the very end of bringing hack the souls of others to humility, has up to the present time been incapable of being brought back to humility; that he who teaches truth to others has not consented to teach himself, even when I implore him.
Consider, I pray thee, that in this rash presumption the peace of the whole Church is disturbed, and that it is in contradiction to the grace that is poured out on all in common; in which grace doubtless thou thyself wilt have power to grow so far as thou determinest with thyself to do so. And thou wilt become by so much the greater as thou restrainest thyself from the usurpation of a proud and foolish title: and thou wilt make advance in proportion as thou art not bent on arrogation by derogation of thy brethren. Wherefore, dearest brother, with all thy heart love humility, through which the concord of all the brethren and the unity of the holy universal Church may be preserved.Certainly the apostle Paul, when he heard some say, I am of Paul, I of Apollos, but I of Christ (1Co 1,13), regarded with the utmost horror such dilaceration of the Lord’s body, whereby they were joining themselves, as it were, to other heads, and exclaimed, saying, Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul (ib).? If then he shunned the subjecting of the members of Christ partially to certain heads, as if beside Christ, though this were to the apostles themselves, what wilt thou say to Christ, who is the Head of the universal Church, in the scrutiny of the last judgment, having attempted to put all his members under thyself by the appellation of Universal? Who, I ask, is proposed for imitation in this wrongful title but he who, despising the legions of angels constituted socially with himself, attempted to start up to an eminence of singularity, that he might seem to be under none and to be alone above all? Who even said, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the starts of heaven: I will sit upon the mount of the testament, in the sides of the North: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High (Is 14,13).
For what are all thy brethren, the bishops of the universal Church, but stars of heaven, whose life and discourse shine together amid the sins and errors of men, as if amidthe shades of night? And when thou desirest to put thyself above them by this proud title, and to tread down their name in comparison with thine, what else dost thou say but I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven? Are not all the bishops together clouds, who both rain in the words of preaching, and glitter in the light of good works? And when your Fraternity despises them, and you would fain press them down under yourself, what else say you but what is said by the ancient foe, I will ascend above the heights of the clouds? All these things when I behold with tears, and tremble at the hidden judgments of God, my fears are increased, and my heart cannot contain its groans, for that this most holy man the Lord John, of so great abstinence and humility, has, through the seduction of familiar tongues, broken out into such a pitch of pride as to attempt, in his coveting of that wrongful name, to be like him who, while proudly wishing to be like God, lost even the grace of the likeness granted him, and because he sought false glory, thereby forfeited true blessedness. Certainly Peter, the first of the apostles, himself a member of the holy and universal Church, Paul, Andrew, John,—what were they but heads of particular communities? And yet all were members under one Head. And (to bind all together in a short girth of speech) the saints before the law, the saints under the law, the saints under grace, all these making up the Lord’s Body, were constituted as members of the Church, and not one of them has wished himself to be called universal. Now let your Holiness acknowledge to what extent you swell within yourself in desiring to be called by that name by which no one presumed to be called who was truly holy.
Was it not the case, as your Fraternity! knows, that the prelates of this Apostolic See which by the providence of God I serve, had the honour offered them of being called universal by the venerable Council of Chalcedon13 . But yet not one of them has ever wished to be called by such a title, or seized upon this ill-advised name, lest if, in virtue of the rank of the pontificate, he took to himself the glory of singularity, he might seem to have denied it to all his brethren.
But I know that all arises from those who serve your Holiness on terms of deceitful familiarity; against whom I beseech your Fraternity to be prudently on your guard, and not to lay yourself open to be deceived by their words. For they are to be accounted the greater enemies the more they flatter you with praises. Forsake such; and, if they must needs deceive, let them at any rate deceive the hearts of worldly men, and not of priests). Let the dead bury their dead (Lc 9,60). But say ye with the prophet, Let them be turned back and put to shame that say unto me, Aha, Aha (Ps 69,4). And again, But let not the oil of the sinner lard my head (Ps 140,5).
Whence also the wise man admonishes well, Be in peace with many: but have but one counsellor of a thousand (Si 6,6). For Evil communications corrupt good manners (1Co 15,33). For the ancient foe, when unable to break into strong hearts, looks out for weak persons who are associated with them, and, as it were, scales lofty walls by ladders set against them. So he deceived Adam through the woman who was associated with him. So, when he slew the sons of the blessed Job, he left the weak woman, that, being unable of himself to penetrate his heart, he might at any rate be able to do so through the woman’s words. Whatever weak and secular persons, then, are near you, let them be shattered in their own persuasive words and flattery, since they procure to themselves the eternal enmity of God from their very frowardness in being seeming lovers.
Of a truth it was proclaimed of old through the Apostle John, Little children, it is the last hour (1Jn 2,18), according as the Truth foretold. And now pestilence and sword rage through the world, nations rise against nations, the globe of the earth is shaken, the gaping earth with its inhabitants is dissolved. For all that was foretold is come to pass. The king of pride is near, and (awful to be said!) there is an army of priests in course of preparation for him, inasmuch as they who bad been appointed to be leaders in humility enlist themselves under the neck of pride. But in this matter, even though our tongue protested not at all, the power of Him who in His own person peculiarly opposes the vice of pride is lifted up for vengeance against elation. For hence it is written, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble (Jc 4,6). Hence, again, it is said, Whoso exalteth his heart is unclean before God (Pr 16,5). Hence, against the man that is proud it is written, Why is earthand ashes proud (Si 10,9)? Hence the Truth in person says, Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased (Lc 14,11). And, that he might bring us back to the way of life through humility, He deigned to exhibit in Himself what He teaches us, saying, Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart (Mt 11,29). For to this end the only begotten Son of God took upon Himself the form of our weakness; to this end the Invisible appeared not only as visible but even as despised; to this end He endured the mocks of contumely, the reproaches of derision, the torments of suffering; that God in His humility might teach man not to be proud. How great, then, is the virtue of humility for the sake of teaching which alone He who is great beyond compare became little even unto the suffering of death! For, since the pride of the devil was the origin of our perdition, the humility of God has been found the means of our redemption. That is to say, our enemy, having been created among all things, desired to appear exalted above all things; but our Redeemer remaining great above all things, deigned to become little among all things.
What, then, can we bishops say for ourselves, who have received a place of honour from the humility of our Redeemer, and yet imitate the pride of the enemy himself? Lo, we know our Creator to have descended from the summit of His loftiness that He might give glory to the human race, and we, created of the lowest, glory in the lessening of our brethren). God humbled Himself even to our dust; and human dust sets his face as high as heaven, and with his tongue passes above the earth, and blushes not, neither is afraid to be lifted up: even man who is rottenness, and the son of man that is a worm.
Let us recall to mind, most dear brother, this which is said by the most wise Solomon). Before thunder shall go lightning, and before ruin shall the heart be exalted (Si 32,10); where, on the other hand it is subjoined, Before glory it shall be humbled. Let us then be humbled in mind, if we are striving to attain to real loftiness. By no means let the eyes of our heart be darkened by the smoke of elation, which the more it rises the more rapidly vanishes away. Let us consider how we are admonished by the precepts of our Redeemer, who says, Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5,3). Hence, also, he says by the prophet, On whom shall my Spirit rest, but on him that is humble, and quiet, and that trembleth at my words (Is 66,2)? Of a truth, when the Lord would bring back the hearts of His disciples, still beset with infirmity, to the way of humility, He said, Whosoever will be chief among you shall be least of all (Mt 20,27). Whereby it is plainly seen how he is truly exalted on high who in his thoughts is humbled. Let us, therefore, fear to be numbered among those who seek the first seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the market, and to be called of men Rabbi. For, contrariwise, the Lord says to His disciples, But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your master; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your Father upon the earth, far one is your Father (Mt 23,7-8).
What then, dearest brother, wilt thou say in that terrible scrutiny of the coming judgment, if thou covetest to be called in the world not only father, but even general father? Let, then, the bad suggestion of evil men be guarded against; let all instigation to offence be fled from). It must needs be (indeed) that offences come; nevertheless, woe to that man by whom the offence cometh (Mt 18,7). Lo, by reason of this execrable title of pride the Church is rent asunder, the hearts of all the brethren are provoked to offence. What! Has it escaped your memory how the Truth says, Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a mill stone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea (IB 5,6)? But it is written, Charity seeketh not her own (1Co 13,4). Lo, your Fraternity arrogates to itself even what is not its own. Again it is written, In honour preferring one another (Rom. xii. 10). And thou attemptest to take the honour away from all which thou desirest unlawfully to usurp to thyself singularly. Where, dearest brother, is that which is written, Have peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord (He 12,14)? Where is that which is written, Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God (Mt 5,9)?
It becomes you to consider, lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled. But still, though we neglect to consider, supernal judgment will be on the watch against the swelling of so great elation. And we indeed, against whom such and so great a fault is committed by this nefarious attempt,—we, I say, are observing what the Truth enjoins when it says, If thy brother shall sin against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of one or two witnesses every word may be established. But if he will not hear them, tell it unto the Church. But if he will not hear the Church, let hint be to thee as an heathen man and a publican (Mt 18,15). I therefore have once and again through my representatives taken care to reprove in humble words this sin against the whole Church; and now I write myself. Whatever it was my duty to do in the way of humility I have not omitted. But, if I am despised in my reproof, it remains that I must have recourse to the Church.
Wherefore may Almighty God show your Fraternity how great love for you constrains me when I thus speak, and how much I grieve in this case, not against you, but for you. But the case is such that in it I must prefer the precepts of the Gospel, the ordinances of the Canons, and the welfare of the brethren to the person even of him whom I greatly love.
I have received the most sweet and pleasant letter of your Holiness with respect to the case of the presbyters John and Athanasius14 , about which, the Lord helping me, I will reply to you in another letter; for, being surrounded by the swords of barbarians, I am now oppressed by such great tribulations that it is not allowed me, I will not say to treat of many things, but hardly even to breathe. Given in the Kalends of January; Indiction 13.
20519 Gregory to Sabinianus, &c.
In the cause of our brother the most reverend John, bishop of Constantinople, I have been unwilling to write two letter. But one I have drawn up briefly, which may seem to combine both requisites; that is to say, both honesty and kindness.
Let therefore thy Love take care to give him this letter which I have now addressed to him in compliance with the wish of the Emperor. For in the sequel another will be sent him such as his pride will not rejoice in. For he has come even to this; that, taking occasion of the case of John the presbyter, he transmitted hither the acts, wherein almost in every line he called himself oijkoumeniko;n (aecumenical) patriarch. But I hope in Almighty God that the Supernal Majesty will confound his hypocrisy. But I wonder how he could so deceive thy Love as that thou shouldest allow the Lord Emperor to be persuaded to write to me himself concerning this matter, admonishing me to have peace with him. For, if the Lord Emperor wishes to observe justice, he ought to have admonished him to refrain from the proud title, and then at once there would be peace between us. I suspect, however, that thou hast not all considered with what cunningness this has been done by our aforesaid brother John. For it is for this purpose that he has done it; that the Lord Emperor might be obeyed, and so he himself might seem to be confirmed in his vanity, or that I might not obey him, and so his mind might be irritated against me. But we will keep to the right way, fearing nothing in this cause except the Almighty Lord. Wherefore let thy Love be in nothing afraid. All things that you see to be lofty in this world against the truth in behalf of the truth despise; trust in the grace of Almighty God, and the help of the blessed Apostle Peter. Remember the voice of the Truth, which says, Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world (1Jn 4,4); and in this cause whatever has to be done, do it with the utmost authority. For now that we can in no wise be protected from the swords of our enemies, now that for love of the republic we have lost silver, gold, slaves and clothing, it is too ignominious that through those men we should lose even the faith. For to assent to that atrocious title is nothing else than to lose the faith. Wherefore, as I have written to thee already in former letters, never do thou presume to proceed with him16 .
20520 Gregory to Mauricius, &c.
Our most pious and God-appointed Lord, among his other august cares and burdens, watches also in the uprightness of spiritual zeal over the preservation of peace among the priesthood, inasmuch as he piously and truly considers that no one can govern earthly things aright unless he knows how to deal with divine things, and that the peace of the republic hangs on the peace of the universal Church. For, most serene Lord, what human power, and what strength of fleshly arm would presume to lift irreligious hands against the lofty height of your most Christian Empire, if the concordant hearts of priests were studious to implore their Redeemer for you with the tongue, and also, as they ought to do, by their deservings? Or what sword of a most savage race would advance with so great cruelty to the slaughter of the faithful, unless the life of us, who are called priests but are not, were weighed down by works most wicked. But while we neglect the things that concern us, and think of those that concern us not, we associate our sins with the barbaric forces and our fault, which weighs down the forces of the republic, sharpens the swords of the enemy. But what shall we say for ourselves, who press down the people of God which we are unworthily set over with the loads of our sins; who destroy by example what we preach with the tongue; who by our works teach unrighteous things, and with our voice only set forth the things that are righteous? Our bones are worn down by fasts, and in our mind we swell. Our body is covered with vile raiment, and ill elation of heart we surpass the purple. We lie in ashes, and look down upon loftiness. Teachers of humility, we are chiefs of pride; behind the faces of sheep we hide the teeth of wolves17 . But what is the end of these things except that we persuade men, but are manifest to God? Wherefore most providently for restraining warlike movements does the most pious Lord seek the peace of the Church, and, for compacting it, deigns to bring back the hearts of its priests to concord. And this indeed is what I wish; and, as far as I am concerned, I render obedience to his most serene commands. But since it is not my cause, but God’s, since the pious laws, since the venerable synods, since the very commands of our Lord Jesus Christ are disturbed by the invention of a certain proud and pompous phrase, let the most pious Lord cut the place of the sore, and bind the resisting patient in the chains of august authority. For in binding up these things tightly you relieve the republic; and while you cut off such things, you provide for the lengthening of your reign.
For to all who know the Gospel it is apparent that by the Lord’s voice the care of the whole Church was committed to the holy Apostle and Prince of all the Apostles, Peter. For to him it is said, Peter, lovest thou Me? Feed My sheep (Jn xxi. 17). To him it is said, Behold Satan hath desired to sift you as wheat; and I have prayed for thee, Peter, that they faith fail not. And thou, when thou art converted,strengthen thy brethren (Lc 22,31). To him it is said, Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates ofhell shall not prevail against it. And I willgive unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatsoever thou shalt bind an earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven (Mt 16,18).
Lo, he received the keys of the heavenly kingdom, and power to bind and loose is given him, the care and principality of the whole Church is committed to him, and yet he is not called the universal apostle; while the most holy man, my fellow-priest John, attempts to be called universal bishop. I am compelled to cry out and say, O tempora, O mores!
Lo, all things in the regions of Europe are given up into the power of barbarians, cities are destroyed, camps overthrown, provinces depopulated, no cultivator inhabits the land, worshippers of idols rage and dominate daily for the slaughter of the faithful, and yet priests, who ought to lie weeping on the ground and in ashes, seek for themselves names of vanity, and glory in new and profane titles.
Do I in this matter, most pious Lord, defend my own cause? Do I resent my own special wrong? Nay, the cause of Almighty God, the cause of the Universal Church.
Who is this that, against the evangelical ordinances, against the decrees of canons, presumes to usurp to himself a new name? Would indeed that one by himself he were, if he could be without any lessening of others,—he that covets to be universal.
And certainly we know that many priests of the Constantinopolitan Church have fallen into the whirlpool of heresy, and have become not only heretics, but even heresiarchs. For thence came Nestorius, who, thinking Jesus Christ, the Mediator of God and men, to be two persons, because he did not believe that God could be made man, broke out even into Jewish perfidy. Thence came Macedonius, who denied that God the Holy Spirit was consubstantial with the Father and the Son. If then any one in that Church takes to himself that name, whereby he makes himself the head of all the good, it follows that the Universal Church falls from its standing (which God forbid), when he who is called Universal falls. But far from Christian hearts be that name of blasphemy, in which the honour of all priests is taken away, while it is madly arrogated to himself by one.
Certainly, in honour of Peter, Prince of the apostles, it was offered by the venerable synod of Chalcedon to the Roman pontiff18 . But none of them has ever consented to use this name of singularity, lest, by something being given peculiarly to one, priests in general should be deprived of the honour due to them. How is it then that we do not seek the glory of this title even when offered, and another presumes to seize it for himself though not offered?
He, then, is rather to be bent by the mandate of our most pious Lords, who scorns to render obedience to canonical injunctions. He is to be coerced, who does wrong to the holy Universal Church, who swells in heart, who covets rejoicing in a name of singularity, who also puts himself above the dignity of your Empire through a title peculiar to himself.
Behold, we all suffer offence for this thing. Let then the author of the offence be brought back to a right way of life; and all quarrels of priests will cease. For I for my part am the servant of all priests, so long as they live as becomes priests. For whosoever, through the swelling of vain glory, lifts up his neck against Almighty Gold and against the statutes of the Fathers, I trust in Almighty God that he will not bend my neck to himself, not even with swords.Moreover what has been done in this city on our hearing of this title, I have indicated in full to my deacon and responsalis Sabinianus. Let then the piety of my Lords think of me as their own, whom they have always cherished and countenanced beyond others, and who desire to render obedience to you and yet fear to be found guilty in the heavenly and tremendous judgment, and, according to the petition of the aforesaid deacon Sabinianus, let my most pious Lord either deign to judge this business, or to move the often before mentioned man to desist at length from this attempt. If then through the most just judgment of your Piety he should comply with your orders, even though they be mild ones, we shall return thanks to Almighty God, and rejoice for the peace granted through you to all the Church. But should he persist any longer in his present contention, we hold this sentence of the Truth to be already made good; Every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled (Lc 14,11 Lc 18,14). And again it is written, Before a fall the heart is lifted up (Pr 16,18). I however, rendering obedience to the commands of my Lords, have both Written sweetly to my aforesaid fellow-priest, and humbly admonished him to amend himself of this coveting of empty glory. If therefore he be willing to hear me, he has a devoted brother. But, if he persists in pride, I already see what will follow:—that he will find Him as his adversary of whom it is written, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble (Jc 4,6).
S. Gregory I, letters 20505