S. Gregory I, letters 20543
20543 Gregory to Eulogius, Bishop of Alexandria, and Anastasius, Bishop of Antioch.
When the excellent preacher says, As long as I am the apostle of the Gentiles I will honour my ministry (Rm 11,13); saying again in another place, We became as babes among you (1Th 2,7), he undoubtedly shews an example to us who come after him, that we should retain humility in our minds, and yet keep in honour the dignity of our order, so that neither should our humility be timid nor our elevation proud. Now eight years ago, in the time of my predecessor of holy memory Pelagius, our brother and fellow-bishop John in the city of Constantinople, seeking occasion from another cause, held a synod in which he attempted to call himself Universal Bishop. Which as soon as my said predecessor knew, he despatched letters annulling by the authority of the holy apostle Peter the acts of the said synod; of which letters I have taken care to send copies to your Holiness. Moreover he forbade the deacon who attended us the most pious Lords for the business of the Church to celebrate the solemnities of mass with our aforesaid fellow-priest. I also, being of the same mind with him, have sent similar letters to our aforesaid fellow-priest, copies of which I have thought it right to send to your Blessedness, with this especial purpose, hat we may first assail with moderate force he mind of our before-named brother con- cerning this matter, wherein by a new act of pride, all the bowels of the Universal Church are disturbed. But, if he should altogether refuse to be bent from the stiffness of his elation, then, with the succour of Almighty God, we may consider more particularly what ought to be done.
For, as your venerable Holiness knows, this name of Universality was offered by the holy synod of Chalcedon to the pontiff of the Apostolic See which by the providence of God I serve38 . But no one of my predecessors has ever consented to use this so profane a title; since, forsooth, if one Patriarch is called Universal, the name of Patriarch in the case of the rest is derogated. But far be this, far be it from the mind of a Christian, that any one should wish to seize for himself that whereby he might seem in the least degree to lessen the honour of his brethren. While, then, we are unwilling to receive this honour when offered to us, think how disgraceful it is for any one to have wished to usurp it to himself perforce.
Wherefore let not your Holiness in your epistles ever call any one Universal, lest you detract from the honour due to yourself in offering to another what is not due. Nor let any sinister suspicion make your mind uneasy with regard to our most serene lords, inasmuch as he fears Almighty God, and will in no way consent to do anything against the evangelical ordinances, against the most sacred canons. As for me, though separated from you by long spaces of land and sea, I am nevertheless entirely conjoined with you in heart. And I trust that it is so in all respects with your Blessedness towards me; since, when you love me in return, you are not far from me. Hence we give thanks the more to that grain of mustard seed (Mt 13,31-32), for that from what appeared a small and despicable seed it has been so spread abroad everywhere by branches rising and extending themselves from the same root that all the birds of heaven may make their nests in them. And thanks be to that leaven which, in three measures of meal, has leavened in unity the mass of the whole human race (Mt 13,33); and to the little stone, which, cut out of the mountain without hands, has occupied the whole face of the earth (Da 2,35), and which to this end everywhere distends itself, that from the human race reduced to unity the body of the whole Church might be perfected, and so this distinction between the several members might serve for the benefit of the compacted whole.
Hence also we are not far from you, since in Him who is everywhere we are one. Let us then give thanks to Him who, having abolished enmities, has caused that in His flesh there should be in the whole world one flock, and one sheepfold under Himself the one shepherd; and let us be ever mindful how the preacher of truth admonishes us, saying, Be careful to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace (Ep 4,3), and, Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see God (He 12,14). And he says also to other disciples, If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, having peace with all men (Rm 12,18) For he sees that the good cannot have peace with the bad; and therefore,as ye know, he premised, If it be possible.
But, because peace cannot be established except on two sides, when the bad fly from it, the good ought to keep it in their inmost hearts. Whence also it is admirably said, As much as lieth in you; meaning that it should remain in us even when it is repelled from the hearts of evil men. And such peace we truly keep, when we treat the faults of the proud at once with charity and with persistent justice, when we love them and hate their vices. For man is the work of God; but vice is the work of man. Let us then distinguish between what God and what man has made, and neither hate the man on account of his error nor love the error on account of the man.
Let us then with united mind attack the evil of pride in the man, that from his enemy, that is to say his error, the man himself may first be freed. Our Almighty Redeemer will supply strength to charity and justice; He will supply to us, though placed far from each other, the unity of His Spirit; even He by whose workmanship the Church, having been constructed as it were after the manner of the ark with the four sides of the world, and bound together with the compacture of incorruptible planks and the pitch of charity, is disturbed by no opposing winds, by the swelling of no billow coming from without.
But inasmuch as, with His grace steering us, we ought to seek that no wave coming upon us from without may throw us into confusion, so ought we to pray with all our hearts, dearest brethren, that the right hand of His providence may draw out the accumulation of internal bilgewater within us. For indeed our adversary the devil, who, in his rage against the humble, as a roaring lion walketh about seeking whom he may devour (1P 5,8), no longer, as we perceive, walks about the folds but so resolutely fixes his teeth in certain necessary members of the Church that, unless with the favour of the Lord, the heedful crowd of shepherds unanimously run to the rescue, no one can doubt that he will soon tear all the sheepfold; which God forbid. Consider, dearest brethren, who it is that follows close at hand, of whose approach such perverse beginnings are breaking out even in priests. For it is because he is near of whom it is written, (He is king over all the sons of pride (Jb 41,25)—not without sore grief I am compelled to say it—that our brother and fellow-bishop John, despising the Lord’s commands, apostolical precepts, and rules of Fathers, attempts through elation to be his forerunner in name.
But may Almighty God make known to your Blessedness with what sore groaning I am tormented by this consideration; that he, the once to me most modest man, he who was beloved of all, he who seemed to be occupied in alms, deeds, prayers, and fastings, out of the ashes he sat in, out of the humility he preached, has grown so boastful as to attempt to claim all to himself, and through the elation of a pompous expression to aim at subjugating to himself all the members of Christ, which cohere to one Head only, that is to Christ. Nor is it surprising that the same tempter who knows pride to be the beginning of all sin, who used it formerly before all else in the case of the first man, should now also put it before some men at the end of virtues, so as to lay it as a snare for those who to some extent seemed to be escaping his most cruel hands by the good aims of their life, at the very goal of good work, and as it were in the very conclusion of perfection.
Wherefore we ought to pray earnestly, and implore Almighty God with continual supplications, that He would avert this error from that man’s soul, anti remove this mischief of pride and confusion from the unity and humility of the Church. And with the favour of the Lord we ought to concur, and make provision with all our powers, lest in the poison of one expression the living members in the body of Christ should die. For, if this expression is suffered to be allowably used, the honour of all patriarchs is denied: and while he that is called Universal perishes per chance in his error, no bishop will be found to have remained in a state of truth.
It is for you then, firmly and without prejudice, to keep the Churches as you have received them, and not to let this attempt at a diabolical usurpation have any countenance from you. Stand firm; stand secure; presume not ever to issue or to receive writings with the falsity of the name Universal in them. Bid all the bishops subject to your care abstain from the defilement of this elation, that the Universal Church may acknowledge you as Patriarchs not only in good works but also in the authority of truth. But, if perchance adversity is the consequence, we ought to persist unanimously, and show even by dying that in case of harm to the generality we do not love anything of our own especially. Let us say with Paul, To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Ph 1,21). Let us hear what the first of all pastors says; If ye suffer anything for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye (1P 3,14). For believe me that the dignity which we have received for the preaching of the truth we shall more safely relinquish than retain in behalf of the same truth, should case of necessity require it. Finally, pray for me, as becomes your most dear Blessedness, that I may shew forth in works what I am thus bold to say to you.
20548 Gregory to Andrew, &c.
We have been desirous of carrying out the wish of the most excellent the Lord Patrician as to the person of Donatus, the archdeacon; but, seeing that it is very dangerous to the soul to lay hands on any one rashly, we took care to examine by a thorough investigation into his life and deeds. And, since many things have been discovered, as we have written to the said Lord Patrician, which remove him far from the episcopate, we, fearing the judgment of God, have not thought fit to consent to his ordination. But neither have we presumed to ordain John, the presbyter, who is ignorant of the psalms, since this circumstance certainly shewed him to be too little in earnest about himself. These, then, being excluded, when we had urged the parties to choose some one from among their own people40 , and they declared that they had no one fit for this office, and when we together with them were the more distressed, they at length, with one common voice and consent, repeatedly solicited our venerable brother the presbyter Marinianus, who they learns had been associated with me for a long time in a monastery. He, shrinking from the office, was at last, by various means, with difficulty persuaded to give assent to their petition. And, since we were well acquainted with his life, and knew him to be solicitous in winning souls, we did not delay his ordination. Let, therefore, your Glory receive him as is becoming, and extend to his newness the aid of your succour. For to all, as you know,newness in any office whatever is very trying.But I have great confidence that Almighty God, who has vouchsafed to put him over His flock, will both stimulate him to give heed to what is inward, and comfort him with the loving-kindness of His grace for administering what is outward. But, inasmuch as, after his long enjoyment of quiet, his newness, as we have before said, will without doubt expose him to perturbation, I beg that, when he shall come to you flying from the whirlwinds of secular storms, he may always find in your heart a haven of rest, and be cheered by the boon of your charity. But you will soon learn how much you will find yourselves able to agree; for he comes unwillingly to the episcopate41 .
20549 Gregory to Leander, Bishop of Hispalis (Seville).
With what ardour I am athirst to see thee thou readest in the tables of thine own heart, since thou lovest me exceedingly. But since I cannot see thee, separated as thou art from me by long tracts of country, I have done what charity towards thee dictated, namely to transmit to thy Holiness, on the arrival here of our common son Probinus the presbyter, the book of Pastoral Rule, which I wrote at the commencement of my episcopate, and the books which thou knewest I had already composed on the exposition of the blessed Jb Some sheets indeed of the third and fourth parts of that work I have not sent to thy Charity, having already given those sheets only of the said parts to monasteries. These, then, which I send let thy Holiness earnestly peruse, and more earnestly deplore my sins, lest it be to my more serious blame that I am seen as it were to know what I omit to do. But with how great tumults of business I am oppressed in this Church the very brevity of my epistle will signify to thy Charity, seeing that I say so little to him whom more than all I love.
20552 Gregory to John, Archbishop of the Corinthians.
The equity and solicitude of Secundinus our brother and fellow-bishop, which had been well known to us of old, is shewn also by the tenor of your letters. In this matter he has greatly pleased us, and made us glad, in that in the cause of Anastasius42 , once bishop, which we charged him to enquire into, he has both exercised his vigilance diligently and judged the crimes that were discovered as justice required, and as was fight. But in all these things we return thanks to Almighty God for that, when certain accusers held back, He brought the truth to his knowledge, lest the originator of such great crimes should escape detection. But seeing that, in the sentence wherein it is evident that the above-named Anastasius has been justly condemned and deposed, our above-named brother and fellow-bishop has visited the offence of certain persons in such a manner as to reserve them for our judgment, we therefore have seen fit to signify by this present epistle what is to be held to and observed concerning them.
As to Paul the deacon then, the bearer of these presents, although his fault is exceedingly to his shame and discredit—namely, that deluded by promises, he held back from accusation of his late bishop who has been lately deposed, and that, in the eagerness of cupidity, he consented, against his own soul, to keep silence rather than declare the truth—yet, since it befits us to be more kind than strict, we pardon him this fault, and decide that he is to be received again into his rank and position. For we believe that the affliction which he has endured since the time of the sentence being pronounced may suffice for the punishment of this fault. But as to Euphemius and Thomas, who received sacred orders for relinquishing their accusation, it is our will that they be deprived of these sacred orders, and, having been deposed from them, so continue; and we decree that they shall never, under any pretext or excuse, be restored to sacred orders. For it is in the highest degree improper, and contrary to the rule of ecclesiastical discipline, that they should enjoy the dignity which they have received, not for their merits, but as the reward of wickedness. Yet, inasmuch as it is fit for us to incline to mercy more than to strict justice, it is our will that the same Euphemius and Thomas be restored to the rank and position, but to that only, from which they had been promoted to sacred orders, and receive during all the days of their life the stipends of these positions, as they had been before accustomed. Further, as to Clematius the reader, I appoint, from a like motive of benignity, that he is to be restored to his rank and position. To all these also that is, to Paul the deacon, to Euphemius, Thomas, and Clematius, let your Fraternity take care to supply their emoluments, according to the rank and position in which each of them is, as each has been accustomed to receive them, from this present thirteenth indiction without any diminution. Inasmuch, therefore, as the above-named Paul the deacon asserts that he expended much for the advantage of your Church, and desires to be aided by the succour of your Fraternity for recovery of the same, we exhort that, if this is so, you should concur with him in all possible ways, and support him with your aid, for recovering what he has given, since no reason allows that he should unjustly suffer loss in what he has expended for the advantage of the generality. Furthermore, let your Fraternity restore without delay the three pounds of gold which, at the instance of our above-named brother and fellow-bishop Secundinus, it appears that the said Paul the deacon gave for the benefit of your Church, lest (which God forbid) you should seem to burden him, not reasonably, but out of mere caprice.
20553 Gregory to Virgilius, Bishop of Arelate (Arles).
O how good is charity, which through an image in the mind exhibits what is absent as present to ourselves, through love unites what is divided, settles what is confused, associates things that are unequal, completes things that are imperfect! Rightly does the excellent preacher call it the bond of perfectness; since, though the other virtues indeed produce perfectness, yet still charity binds them together so that they can no longer be loosened from the heart of one who loves. Of this virtue, then, most dear brother, i find thee to be full, as both those who came from the Gallican parts and the words also of thy letter addressed to me testify to me of thee.
Now as to thy having asked therein, according to ancient custom, for the use of the pallium and the vicariate of the Apostolic See, far be it from me to suspect that thou hast sought eminence of transitory power, or the adornment of external worship, in our vicariate and in the pallium. But, since it is well known to all whence the holy faith proceeded in the regions of Gaul, when your Fraternity asks for a repetition of the old custom of the Apostolic See, what is it but that a good offspring reverts to the bosom of its mother?43 With willing mind therefore we grant what has been asked for, lest we should seem either to withdraw from you anything of the honour due to you, or to have despised the petition of our most excellent son king Childebert. But the present state of things requires the greater earnestness, that with increase of dignity solicitude also may advance, and watchfulness in the custody of others may grow, and the merits of your life may serve as an example to your subjects, and that your Fraternity may never seek your own through the dignity accorded you, but the gains of the heavenly country. For you know what the blessed apostle says, groaning, For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s (Ph 2,21).
For I have learnt from information given me by certain persons that in the parts of Gaul and Germany no one attains to holy orders except for a consideration given. If this is so, I say it with tears, I declare it with groans, that, when the priestly order has fallen inwardly, neither will it be able to stand outwardly for long. For we know from the Gospel what our Redeemer in person did; how He went into the temple, and overthrew the seats of them that sold doves (Mt 21,12). For to sell doves is to receive a temporal consideration for the Holy Spirit, whom, being consubstantial with Himself, God Almighty gives to men through the imposition of hands. From which evil what follows is already intimated. For of those who presumed to sell doves in the temple of God the seats fell by God’s judgment.
And in truth this transgression is propagated with increase among subordinates. For he who is promoted to any sacred order for a price, being already corrupted in the very root of his advancement, is the more ready to sell to others what he has bought. And where is that which is written, Freely ye have received, freely give (Mt 10,8)?
And, seeing that the simoniacal heresy was the first to arise against the holy Church, why is it not considered, why is it not seen, that whoso ordains any one for money, causes him in advancing him, to become a heretic?
Another very detestable thing has also been reported to us; that some persons, being laymen, through desire of temporal glory, are tonsured on the death of bishops, and all at once are made priests. In such cases it is already known what manner of man he is who attains to priesthood, passing suddenly from a lay estate to sacred leadership. And one who has never served as a soldier fears not to become a leader of the religious44 . How is that man to preach who has perhaps never heard any one else preach? Or bow shall he correct the ills of others who has never yet bewailed his own? And, where Paul the apostle prohibits a neophyte from coming to sacred orders, we are to understand that, as one was then called a neophyte who had been newly planted in the faith, so we now reckon among neophytes one who is still new in holy conversation.
Moreover, we know that walls after being built, are not made to carry a weight of timber till they are dried of the moisture of their newness, lest, if a weight be put on them before they are settled, it bear down the whole fabric together to the ground. And, when we cut trees for a building, we wait for the moisture of their greenness to be first dried out, lest, if the weight of the fabric is imposed on them while still fresh, they be bent from their very newness, and be the sooner broken and fall down from having been elevated prematurely. Why, then, is not this scrupulously seen to among men, which is so carefully considered even in the case of timber and stones?
On this account your Fraternity must needs take care to admonish our most excellent son king Childebert that he remove entirely the stain of this sin from his kingdom, to the end that Almighty God may give him the greater recompense with Himself as He sees him both love what He loves and shun what He hates.
And so we commit to your Fraternity, according to ancient custom, under God, our vicariate in the Churches which are under the dominion of our most excellent son Childebert45 , with the understanding that their proper dignity, according to primitive usage, be preserved to the several metropolitans. We have also sent a pallium for thy Fraternity to use within the Church for the solemnization of mass only. Further, if any one of the bishops should by any chance wish to travel to any considerable distance, let it not be lawful for him to remove to other places without the authority of thy Holiness. If any question of faith, or it may be relating to other matters, should have arisen among the bishops, which cannot easily be settled, let it be ventilated and decided in an assembly of twelve bishops. But, if it cannot be decided after the truth has been investigated, let it be referred to our judgment.
Now may Almighty God keep you under His protection, and grant unto you to preserve by your behaviour the dignity that you have received. Given the 12th day of August, Indiction 13.
20554 Gregory to all the Bishops of Gaul who are under the kingdom of Childebert46 .
To this end has the provision of the divine dispensation appointed that there should be diverse degrees and distinct orders, that, while the inferiors shew reverence to the more powerful and the more powerful bestow love on the inferiors, one contexture of concord may ensue of diversity, and the administration of all several offices may be properly borne. Nor indeed could the whole otherwise subsist; unless, that is, a great order of differences of this kind kept it together. Further, that creation cannot be governed, or live, in a state of absolute equality we are taught by the example of the heavenly hosts, since, there being angels and also archangels, it is manifest that they are not equal; but in power and rank, as you know, one differs from another. If then among these who are without sin there is evidently this distinction, who of men can refuse to submit himself willingly to this order of things which he knows that even angels obey? For hence peace and charity embrace each other mutually, and the sincerity ofconcord remains firm in the reciprocal lovewhich is well pleasing to God.
Since, then each single duty is then salubriously fulfilled when there is one president who may be referred to, we have therefore perceived it to be opportune, in the Churches that are under the dominion of our most excel- lent son king Childebert, to give our vicariate jurisdiction, according to ancient custom, to our brother Virgilius, bishop of the city of Arelate, to the end that the integrity of the catholic faith, that is of the four holy synods, may be preserved under the protection of God with attentive devotion, and that, if any contention should by chance arise among our brethren and fellow-priests, he may allay it by the rigour of his authority with discreet moderation, as representing the Apostolic See. We have also charged him that, if such a dispute should arise in any cases as to require the presence of others, he should assemble our brethren and fellow-bishops in competent number, and discuss the matter salubriously with due regard to equity, and decide it with canonical integrity. But if a contention (which may the Divine power avert) should happen to arise on matters of faith, or any business come up about which there may perchance be serious doubt, and he should be in need of the judgment of the Apostolic See in place of his own greatness, we have directed him that, having diligently enquired into the truth, he should take care to bring the question under our cognizance by a report from himself, to the end that it may be terminated by a suitable sentence so as to remove all doubt.
And, since it is necessary that the bishops should assemble at suitable times for conference before him to whom we have granted our vicariate jurisdiction as often as he may think it, we exhort that none of you presume to be disobedient to his orders, or defer attending the general conclave, unless perchance bodily infirmity should prevent any one, or a just excuse in any case should allow his absence. Yet let such as are unavoidably prevented from attending the synod send a presbyter or a deacon in their stead, to the end that the things that, with the help of God, may be decided by our vicar, may come to the knowledge of him who is absent by a faithful report through the person whom he had sent, and be observed with unshaken steadfastness, and that there be no occasion of excuse for daring to violate them.
About this also we take the precaution of warning you, that none of you may attempt in any way to depart to places at any great distance without the authority of our aforesaid brother and fellow-bishop Virgilius, knowing that the orders of our predecessors, who granted vicariate jurisdiction to his predecessors, undoubtedly lay this down.
Furthermore, we exhort that each one of you give careful attention to his own office, so that he who desires to receive the reward promised for feeding the sheep may guard the flock committed to him with carefulness and prayer, lest the prowling wolf should invade and tear the sheep entrusted to him, and there should be in the retribution punishment instead of reward. We hope, therefore, most dear brethren, and we entreat Almighty God with all our prayers, that He would make you to be fervent more and more in the constancy of His love, and grant you especially to be retained in the peace of the Church, and in agreement together.
It has been reported to us that some are promoted to sacred orders through simoniacal heresy; and we have ordered our above-written brother and fellow-bishop Virgilius that this must be altogether prohibited; and, that your Fraternity may know and studiously observe this, our letter to him is to be read in your presence. Given the 12th day of August, Indiction 13.
20555 Gregory to Childebert, king of the Franks47 .
The letter of your Excellency has made us exceedingly glad, testifying as it does that you are careful, with pious affection, of the honour and reverence due to priests. For you thus shew to all that you are faithful worshippers of God, while you love His priests with the acceptable veneration that is due to them, and hasten with Christian devotion to do whatever may advance their position. Whence also we have received with pleasure what you have written, and grant what you desire with willing mind; and accordingly we have committed, with the favour of God, our vicariate jurisdiction to our brother Virgilius, bishop of the city of Arelate, according to ancient custom and your Excellency’s desire; and have also granted him the use of the pallium, as has been the custom of old.
But, inasmuch as some things have been reported to us which greatly offend Almighty God, and confound the honour and reverence due to the priesthood, we beg that they may be in every way amended with the support of the censure of your power, lest, while headstrong and perverse doings run counter to your devotion, your kingdom, or your soul (which God forbid) be burdened by the guilt of others.
Further, it has come to our knowledge that on the death of bishops some persons from being laymen are tonsured, and mount to the episcopate by a sudden leap. And thus one who has not been a disciple is in his inconsiderate ambition made a master. And, since he has not learned what to teach, he bears the office of priesthood only in name; for he continues to be a layman in speech and action as before. How, then, is he to intercede for the sins of others, not having in the first place bewailed his own? For such a shepherd does not defend, but deceives, the flock; since, while he cannot for very shame try to persuadeothers to do what he does not do himself, what else is it but that the Lord’s people remains a prey to robbers, and catches destruction from the source whence it ought to have had a great support of wholesome protection? How bad and how perverse a proceeding this is let your Excellency’s Highness consider even from your own administration of things. For it is certain that you do not put a leader over an army unless his work and his fidelity have first been apparent; unless the virtue and industry of his previous life have shewn him to be a fit person. But, if the command of an army is not committed to any but men of this kind, it is easily gathered from this comparison of what sort a leader of souls ought to be. But it is a reproach to us, and we are ashamed to sayit, that priests snatch at leadership who have not seen the very beginning of religious warfare.
But this also, a thing most execrable, has been reported to us as well: that sacred orders are conferred through simoniacal heresy, that is for bribes received. And, seeing that it is exceedingly pestiferous, and contrary to the Universal Church, that one be promoted to any sacred order not for merit but for a price, we exhort your Excellency to order so detestable a wickedness to be banished from your kingdom For that man shows himself to be thoroughly unworthy of this office, who fears not to buy the gift of God with money, and presumes to try to get by payment what he deserves not to have through grace.
These things, then, most excellent son, I admonish you about for this reason, that I desire your soul to be saved. And I should have written about them before now, had not innumerable occupations stood in the way of my will. But now that a suitable time for answering your letter has offered itself, I have not omitted what it was my duty to do. Wherefore, greeting your Excellency with the affection of paternal charity, we beg that all things which we have enjoined on our above-named brother and fellow-bishop to be done and observed, may be carried out under the protection of your favour, and that you allow them not to be in any way upset by the elation or pride of any one. But, as they were observed by his predecessor under the reign of your glorious father, so let them be observed now also, by your aid, with zealous devotion. It is right, then, that we should thus have a return made to us; and that, as we have not deferred fulfilling your will, so you too, for the sake of God and the blessed Peter, Prince of the apostles, should cause our ordinances to be observed in all respects; that so your Excellency’s reputation, praiseworthy and well-pleasing to God, may extend itself all around. Given the 12th day of August, Indiction 13.
S. Gregory I, letters 20543