Gregory, Pastoral 111
111 Wherefore let every one measure himself wisely, lest he venture to assume a place of rule, while in himself vice still reigns unto condemnation; lest one whom his own guilt depraves desire to become an intercessor for the faults of others. For on this account it is said to Moses by the supernal voice, Speak unto Aaron; Whosoever he be of thy seed throughout their generations that hath a blemish, he shall not offer loaves of bread to the Lord his God (Lv 21,17). And it is also immediately subjoined; If he be blind, if he be lame, if he have either a small or a large and crooked nose, if he be brokenfooted or brokenhanded, if he be hunchbacked, if he be bleareyed (lippus), if he have a where speck (albuginem) in his eye, if chronic stables, if impetigo in his body, or if he be ruptured (ponderosus) (Lv 18,3). For that man is indeed blind who is unacquainted with the light of supernal contemplation, who, whelmed in the darkness of the present life, while he beholds not at all by loving it the light to come, knows not whither he isí advancing thesteps of his conduct. Hence by Hannah prophesying it is said, (He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness (1R 2,9). But that man is lame who does indeed see in what direction he ought to go, but, through infirmity of purpose, is unable to keep perfectly the way of life which he sees, because, while unstable habit rises not to a settled state of virtue, the steps of conduct do not follow with effect the aim of desire. Hence it is that Paul says, Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed (He 12,12-13). But one with a small nose is he who is not adapted for keeping the measure of discernment. For with the nose we discern sweet odours and stenches: and so by the nose is properly expressed discernment, through which we choose virtues and eschew sins. Whence also it is said in praise of the bride, Thy nose is as the tower which is in Lebanon (Ct 7,4); because, to wit, Holy Church, by discernment, espies assaults issuing from this or that quarter, and detects from an eminence the coming wars of vices. But there are some who, not liking to be thought dull, busy themselves often more than needs in various investigations, and by reason of too great subtilty are deceived. Wherefore this also is added, Or have a large and crooked nose. For a large and crooked nose is excessive subtility of discernment, which, having become unduly excrescent, itself confuses the correctness of its own operation. But one with broken foot or hand is he who cannot walk in the way of God at all, and is utterly without part or lot in good deeds, to such degree that he does not, like the lame man, maintain them however weakly, but remains altogether apart from them. But the hunchbacked is he whom the weight of earthly care bows down, so that he never looks up to the things that are above, but is intent only on what is trodden on among the lowest. And he, should he ever hear anything of the good things of the heavenly country, is so pressed down by the weight of perverse custom, that he lifts not the face of his heart to it, being unable to erect the posture of his thought, which the habit of earthly care keeps downward bent. Of this kind of men the Psalmist says, I am bent down and am brought low continually (Ps 38,8). The fault of such as these the Truth in person reprobates, saying, But the seed which fell among thorns are they which, when they have heard the word, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of life, and bear no fruit (Lc 8,14). But the blear eyed is he whose native wit flashes out for cognition of the truth, and yet carnal works obscure it. For in the blear-eyed the pupils are sound; but the eyelids, weakened by defluxion of humours, become gross; and even the brightness of the pupils is impaired, because they are worn continually by the flux upon them. The blear-eyed, then, is one whose sense nature has made keen, but whom a depraved habit of life confuses. To him it is well said through the angel, Anoint thine eyes with eyesalve that thou mayest see (Ap 3,18). For we may be said to anoint our eyes with eyesalve that we may see, when we aid the eye of our understanding for perceiving the clearness of the true light with the medicament of good conduct. But that man has a white speck in his eye who is not permitted to see the light of truth, in that he is blinded by the arrogant assumption of wisdom or of righteousness. For the pupil of the eye, when black, sees; but, when it bears a white speck, sees nothing; by which we may understand that the perceiving sense of human thought, if a man understands himself to be a fool and a sinner, becomes cognizant of the clearness of inmost light; but, if it attributes to itself the whiteness of righteousness or wisdom, it excludes itself from the light of knowledge from above, and by so much the more fails entirely to penetrate the clearness of the true light, as it exalts itself within itself through arrogance; as of some it is said, Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools (Rm 1,22). But that man has chronic scabies whom the wantonness of the flesh without cease overmasters. For in scabies the violent heat of the bowels is drawn to the skin; whereby lechery is rightly designated, since, if the heartís temptation shoots forth into action, it may be truly said that violent internal heat breaks out into stables of the skin: and it now wounds the body outwardly, because, while sensuality is not repressed in thought, it gains the mastery also in action. For Paul had a care to cleanse away this itch of the skin, when he said, Let no temptation take you but such as is human (1Co 10,13); as if to say plainly, It is human to suffer temptation in the heart; but it is devilish, in the struggle of temptation, to be also overcome in action. He also has impetigo in his body whosoever is ravaged in the mind by avarice; which, if not restrained in small things, does indeed dilate itself without measure.
For, as impetigo invades the body without pain, and, spreading with no annoyance to him whom it invades, disfigures the comeliness of the members, so avarice, too, exulcerates, while it pleases, the mind of one who is captive to it. As it offers to the thought one thing after another to be gained, it kindles the fire of enmities, and gives no pain with the wounds it causes, because it promises to the fevered mind abundance out of sin. But the comeliness of the members is destroyed, because the beauty of other virtues is also hereby marred: and it exulcerates as it were the whole body, in that it corrupts the mind with vices of all kinds; as Paul attests, saying, The love of money is the root of all evils (1Tm 6,10). But the ruptured one is he who does not carry turpitude into action, but yet is immoderately weighed down by it in mind through continual cogitation; one who is indeed by no means carried away to the extent of nefarious conduct; but his mind still delights itself without prick of repugnance in the pleasure of lechery. For the disease of rupture is when humor viscerum ad virilia labitur, quae propeta cum malestin dedecatis intumescunt. He, then, may be said to be ruptured who, letting all his thoughts flow down to lasciviousness, bears in his heart a weight of turpitude; and, though not actually doing deeds of shame, nevertheless in mind is not withdrawn from them. Nor has he power to rise to the practice of good living before the eyes of men, because, hidden within him, the shameful weight presses him down. Whosoever, therefore, is subjected to any one of these diseases is forbidden to offer loaves of bread to the Lord, lest in sooth he should be of no avail for expiating the sins of others, being one who is still ravaged by his own.
And now, having briefly shewn after what manner one who is worthy should come to pastoral authority, and after what manner one who is unworthy should be greatly afraid, let us now demonstrate after what manner one who has attained to it worthily should live in it.
1 In this passage the phrase magisterium humilitatis has reference to Mt 20,25, &c., or Lc 22,25, &c., and ipsa lingua confunditur to Gn 11,7. The meaning appears to be that, when men seek and attain in a spirit of pride the office which according to our Lordís teaching is one of humility, they are incapable of fulfilling its duties by speaking to others so to be understood and edify. They are as the arrogant builders of Babel, whose language the Lord confounded, that they might not understand one anotherís speech.
2 In Hebr. and Engl. 69,24).
3 The designations here given of the bodily imperfections, enumerated in Lv 21, as disqualifying for priestly tunctions, are the same as those in the Tridentine edition of the Vulgate, except that instead of herniosus Gregory has ponderosus, which was a word used in the same sense, denoting one suffering from rupture (Cf. Augustine, De Civitate Dei, Lib. ult., cap. viii)..The idea expressed by the latter word, and carried out in Grea!oryís application, was that of the weight (pondus), or downward pressure, of the intestines in a ruptured person. The Hebrew Bible (see (A.V)., and also the rendering of the LXX.(monovrxi"), conveys a different idea of the ailment intended. The cutaneous diseases specified are denoted, here as in the Vulgate, by jugas scabies (ywvra ajgria, LXX.; scurvy, A. V). and impetigo (leixh;n, LXX. ; scabbed A.V)..Whatever may be the exact meaning of the original Hebrew words, Gregoryís conception of these diseases evidently was that the former was a chronic and painful eruption, proceeding from internal heat, and the latter a painless, but disfiguring, affection of the skin. The diseases of the eye, with regard to which the Hebrew (and consequently our A.V). differs from the LXX. and Vulgate, are denoted by lippus (ptillo" tou;" ofqalmouv", LXX)., and albuginem habens (e[fhlo", LXX).; of which Gregoryís conception was that the former was an affection, not properly of the eye, but eyelid, the flux from which impaired the power of vision, while the latter was an obscuration of the pupil itself, exhibiting a white colour.
201 The conduct of a prelate ought so far to transcend the conduct of the people as the life of a shepherd is wont to exalt him above the flock. For one whose estimation is such that the people are called his flock is bound anxiously to consider what great necessity is laid upon him to maintain rectitude. It is necessary, then, that in thought he should be pure, in action chief; discreet in keeping silence, profitable in speech; a near neighbour to every one in sympathy, exalted above all in contemplation; a familiar friend of good livers through humility, unbending against the vices of evil-doers through zeal for righteousness; not relaxing in his care for what is inward from being occupied in outward things, nor neglecting to provide for outward things in his solicitude for what is inward. But the things which we have thus briefly touched on let us now unfold and discuss more at length.
202 The ruler should always be pure in thought, inasmuch as no impurity ought to pollute him who has undertaken the office of wiping away the stains of pollution in the hearts of others also; for the hand that would cleanse from dirt must needs be clean, test, being itself sordid with clinging mire, it soil whatever it touches all the more. For on this account it is said through the prophet, Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord (Is 53,11). For they bear the vessels of the Lord who undertake, on the surety of their own conversation, to conduct the souls of their neighbours to the eternal sanctuary. Let them therefore perceive within themselves how purified they ought to be who carry in the bosom of their own personal responsibility living vessels to the temple of eternity. Hence by the divine voice it is enjoined (Ex 28,15), that on the breast of Aaron the breastplate1 of judgment should be closely pressed by binding fillets; seeing that lax cogitations should by no means possess the priestly heart, but reason alone constrain it; nor should he cogitate anything indiscreet or unprofitable, who, constituted as he is for example to others, ought to shew in the gravity of his life what store of reason he carries in his breast. And on this breastplate it is further carefully prescribed that the names of the twelve patriarchs should be engraved. For to carry always the fathers registered on the breast is to think without intermission on the lives of the ancients. For the priest then walks blamelessly when he pores continually on the examples of the fathers that went before him, when he considers without cease the footsteps of the Saints, and keeps down unlawful thoughts, lest he advance the foot of his conduct beyond the limit of order. And it is also well called the breastplate of judgment, because the ruler ought ever with subtle scrutiny to discern between good and evil, and studiously consider what things are suitable for what, and when and how; nor should he seek anything for himself, but esteem his neighboursí good as his own advantage. Hence in the same place it is written, But thou shall put in the breastplate of Aaron doctrine and truth2 , which shall be upon Aaronís breast, when he goeth in before the Lord, and he shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his breast in the sight of the Lord continually (Ex 30). For the priestís bearing the judgment of the children of lsrael on his breast before the face of theí Lord means his examining the causes of his subjects with regard only to the mind of the judge within, so that no admixture of humanity cleave to him in what he dispenses as standing in Godís stead, lest private vexation should exasperate the keenness of his censure. And while he shews himself zealous against the vices of others, let him get rid of his own lest either latent grudge vitiate the calmness of his judgment, or headlong anger disturb it. But when the terror of Him who presides over all things is considered (that is to say of the judge within), not without great fear may subjects be governed. And such fear indeed purges, while it humiliates, the mind of the ruler, guarding it against being either lifted up by presumption of spirit, or defiled by delight of the flesh, or obscured by importunity of dusty thought through lust for earthly things. These things, however, cannot but knock at the rulerís mind: but it is necessary to make haste to overcome them by resistance, lest the vice which tempts by suggestion should subdue by the softness of delight, and, this being tardily expelled from the mind, should slay with the sword of consent.
The ruler should always be chief in action, that by his living he may point out the way of life to those that are put under him, and that the flock, which follows the voice and manners of the shepherd, may learn how to walk better through example than through words For he who is required by the necessity of his position to speak the highest things is compelled by the same necessity to exhibit the highest things. For that voice more readily penetrates the hearerís heart, which the speakerís life commends, since what he commands by speaking he helps the doing of by shewing. Hence it is said through the prophet, Get thee up into the high mountain, thou that bringest good tidings to Sion (Is 40,9): which means that he who is engaged in heavenly preaching should already have forsaken the low level of earthly works, and appear as standing on the summit of things, and by so much the more easily should draw those who are under him to better things as by the merit of his life he cries aloud from heights above. Hence under the divine law the priest receives the shoulder for sacrifice, and this the right one and separate (Ex 29,22); to signify that his action should be not only profitable, but even singular; and that he should not merely do what is right among bad men, but transcend even the well-doers among those that are under him in the virtue of his conduct, as he surpasses them in the dignity of his order. The breast also together with the shoulder is assigned to him for eating, that he may learn to immolate to the Giver of all that of himself which he is enjoined to take of the Sacrifice; that he may not only in his breast entertain right thoughts, but with the shoulder of work invite those who behold him to things on high; that he may covet no prosperity of the present life, and fear no adversity; that, having regard to the fear within him, he may despise the charm of the world, but considering the charm of inward sweetness, may despise its terrors. Wherefore by command of the supernal voice (Ex 29,5) the priest is braced on each shoulder with the robe of the ephod, that he may be always guarded against prosperity and adversity by the ornament of virtues; so that walking, as S. Paul says (2Co 6,7),in the armour of righteousness an the right hand and an the left, while he strives only after those things which are before, he may decline on neither side to low delight. Him let neither prosperity elate nor adversity perturb; let neither smooth things coax him to the surrender of his will, nor rough things press him down to despair; so that, while he humbles the bent of his mind to no passions, he may shew with how great beauty of the ephod he is covered on each shoulder. Which ephod is also rightly ordered to be made of gold, blue, purple, twice dyed scarlet, and flue twined linen (Ex 28,8), that it may be shewn by how great diversity of virtues the priest ought to be distinguished. Thus in the priestís robe before all things gold glitters, to shew that he should shine forth principally in the understanding of wisdom. And with it blue, which is resplendent with aerial colour, is conjoined, to shew that through all that he penetrates with his understanding he should rise above earthly favours to the love of celestial things; test, while caught unawares by his own praises, he be emptied of his very understanding of the truth. With gold and blue, purple also is mingled: which means, that the priestís heart, while hoping for the high things which he preaches, should repress in itself even the suggestions of vice, and as it were in virtue of a royal power, rebut them, in that he has regard ever to the nobility of inward regeneration, and by his manners guards his right to the robe of the heavenly kingdom. For it is of this nobility of the spirit that it is said through Peter, Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood (1P 2,9) With respect also to this power, whereby we subdue vices, we are fortified by the voice of John, who says, As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God (Jn 1,12). This dignity of fortitude the Psalmist has in view when he says, But with me greatly honoured have been Thy friends, O God; greatly strengthened has been their principality (Ps 138,17). For truly the mind of saints is exalted to princely eminence while outwardly they are seen to suffer abasement. But with gold, blue, and purple, twice died scarlet is conjoined, to show that all excellences of virtue should be adorned with charity in the eyes of the judge within; and that whatever glitters before men may be lighted up in sight of the hidden arbiter with the flame of inward love. And, further, this charity, since it consists in love at once of God and of our neighbour, has, as it were, the lustre era double dye. He then who so pants after the beauty of his Maker as to neglect the care of his neighbours, or so attends to the care of his neighbours as to grow languid in divine love, whichever of these two things it may be that he neglects, knows not what it is to have twice dyed scarlet in the adornment of his ephod. But, while the mind is intent on the precepts of charity, it undoubtedly remains that the flesh be macerated through abstinence. Hence with twice dyed scarlet fine twined linen is conjoined. For fine linen (byssus)springs from the earth with glittering show: and what is designated by fine linen but bodily chastity shining white in the comeliness of purity? And it is also twisted for being interwoven into the beauty of the ephod, since the habit of chastity, then attains to the perfect whiteness of purity when the flesh is worn by abstinence. And, since the merit of affliction of the flesh profits among the other virtues, fine twined linen shews white, as it were, in the diverse beauty of the ephod.
204 †The ruler should be discreet in keeping silence, profitable in speech; lest he either utter what ought to be suppressed or suppresswhat he ought to utter. For, as incautious speaking leads into error, so indiscreet silence leaves in error those who might have been instructed. For often improvident rulers, fearing to lose human favour, shrink timidly from speaking freely the things that are right; and, according to the voice of the Truth (Jn 10,12), serve unto the custody of the flock by no means with the zeal of shepherds, but in the way of hirelings; since they fly when the wolf cometh if they hide themselves under silence. For hence it is that the Lord through the prophet upbraids them, saying, Dumb dogs, that cannot bark (Is 56,10). Hence again He complains, saying, Ye have not gone up against the enemy, neither opposed a wall for the house of Israel, to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord (Ez 13,5). Now to go up against the enemy is to go with free voice against the powers of this world for defence of the flock; and to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord is out of love of justice to resist bad men when they contend against us. For, for a shepherd to have feared to say what is right, what else is it but to have turned his back in keeping silence? But surely, if he puts himself in front for the flock, he opposes a wall against the enemy for the house of Israel. Hence again to the sinful people it is said, Thy prophets have seen false and foolish things for thee: neither did they discover thine iniquity, to provoke thee to repentance (Lm 2,14). For in sacred language teachers are sometimes called prophets, in that, by pointing out how fleeting are present things, they make manifest the things that are to come. And such the divine discourse convinces of seeing false things, because, while fearing to reprove faults, they vainly flatter evil doers by promising security: neither do they at all discover the iniquity of sinners, since they refrain their voice from chiding. For the language of reproof is the key of discovery, because by chiding it discloses the fault of which even he who has committed it is often himself unaware. Hence Paul says, That he may be able by sound doctrine even to convince the gainsayers (Tt 1,9). Hence through Moloch; it is said). The priestís lips keep knowledge, and they shall seek the law at his mouth (Ml 2,7). Hence through Isaiah the Lord admonishes, saying, Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet (Is 58,1). For it is true that whosoever enters on the priesthood undertakes the office of a herald, so as to walk, himself crying aloud, before the coming of the judge who follows terribly. Wherefore, if the priest knows not how to preach, what voice of a loud cry shall the mute herald utter? For hence it is that the Holy Spirit sat upon the first pastors under the appearance of tongues (Ac 2,3); because whomsoever He has filled, He himself at once makes eloquent. Hence it is enjoined on Moses that when the priest goes into the tabernacle he shall be encompassed with bells (Ex 28,33); that is, that be shall have about him the sounds of preaching, lest he provoke by his silence the judgment of Him Who beholds him from above. For it is written, That his sound may be heard when he goeth in unto the holy place before the Lord and when he cometh out, that he die not (Ex 28,35). For the priest, when he goeth in or cometh out, dies if a sound is not heard from him, because he provokes the wrath of the hidden judge, if he goes without the sound of preaching. Aptly also are the bells described as inserted in his vestments. For what else ought we to take the vestments of the priest to be but righteous works; as the prophet attests when he says, Let Thy priests be clothed with righteousness (Ps 131,9)? The bells, therefore, are inherent in his vestments to signify that the very works of the priest should also proclaim the way of life together with the sound of his tongue. But, when the ruler prepares himself for speaking, let him bear in mind with what studious caution he ought to speak, lest, if he be hurried inordinately into speaking, the hearts of hearers be smitten with the wound of error and, while he perchance desires to seem wise he unwisely sever the bond of unity. For on this account the Truth says, Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another (Mc 9,49). Now by salt is denoted the word of wisdom. Let him, therefore, who strives to speak wisely fear greatly, lest by his eloquence the unity of his hearers be disturbed. Hence Paul says, Not to be more wise than behaveth to be wise, but to be wise unto sobriety (Rm 12,3). Hence in the priestís vestment, according to Divine precept, to bells are added pomegranates (Ex 28,34). For what is signified by pomegranates but the unity of the faith? For, as within a pomegranate many seeds are protected by one outer rind, so the unity of the faith comprehends the innumerable peoples of holy Church, whom a diversity of merits retains within her. Lest then a ruler should be unadvisedly hurried into speaking, the Truth in person proclaims to His disciples this which we have already cited, Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another (Mc 9,49). It is as though He should say in a figure through the dress of the priest: Join ye pomegranates to bells, that in all ye say ye may with cautious watchfulness keep the unity of the faith. Rulers ought also to guard with anxious thought not only against saying in any way what is wrong, but against uttering even what is right overmuch and inordinately; since the good effect of things spoken is often lost, when enfeebled to the hearts of hearers by the incautious importunity of loquacity; and this same loquacity, which knows not how to serve for the profit of the hearers, also defiles the speaker. Hence it is well said through Moses, The man that hath a flux of seed shall be unclean (Lv 15,2). For the quality of the speech that is heard is the seed of the thought which follows, since, while speech is conceived through the ear, thought is engendered in the mind. Whence also by the wise of this world the excellent preacher was called a sower of words (seminiverbius)(Ac 17,18). Wherefore, he that suffers from a flux of seed is pronounced unclean, because, being addicted to much speaking, he defiles himself by that which, had it been orderly issued, might have produced the offspring of right thought in the hearts of hearers; and, while he incautiously spends himself in loquacity, he sheds his seed not so as to serve for generation, but unto uncleanness. Hence Paul also, in admonishing his disciple to be instant in preaching, when he says, I charge thee before God and Christ Jesus, Who shall judge the quick and the dead by His appearing and His kingdom, preach the word, be instant opportunely, importunely3 (2Tm 4,1), being about to say importunely, premises opportunely, because in truth importunity mars itself to the mind of the hearer by its own very cheapness, if it knows not how to observe opportunity.
205 The ruler should be a near neighbour to every one in sympathy, and exalted above all in contemplation, so that through the bowels of loving-kindness he may transfer the infirmities of others to himself, and by loftiness of speculation transcend even himself in his aspiration after the invisible; lest either in seeking high things he despise the weak things of his neighbours, or in suiting himself to the weak things of his neighbours he relinquish his aspiration after high things. For hence it is that Paul is caught up into Paradise (2Co 12,3) and explores the secrets of the third heaven, and, yet, though borne aloft in that contemplation of things invisible, recalls the vision of his mind to the bed of the carnal, and directs how they should have intercourse with each other in their hidden privacy, saying, But on account of fornication let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife her due, and likewise the wife unto the husband (1Co 7,2). And a little after (1Co 5,5), Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to prayer, and come together again, that Satan tempt you not. Lo, he is already initiated into heavenly secrets, and yet through the bowels of condescension he searches into the bed of the carnal; and the same eye of the heart which in his elevation he lifts to the invisible, he bends in his compassion upon the secrets of those who are subject to infirmity. In contemplation he transcends heaven, and yet in his anxious care deserts not the couch of the carnal; because, being joined at once to the highest and to the lowest by the bond of charity, though in himself mightily caught up in the power of the spirit into the heights above, yet among others, in his loving-kindness, he is content to become weak. Hence, therefore, he says, Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not? (2Co 11,29). Hence again he says, Unto the Jews I became as a Jew (1Co 9,20). Now he exhibited this behaviour not by losing hold of his faith, but by extending his loving-kindness; so as, by transferring in a figure the person of unbelievers to himself, to learn from himself how they ought to have compassion shewn them; to the end that he might bestow on them what he would have rightly wished to have had bestowed upon himself, had he been as they. Hence again he says, Whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for you (2Co 5,13). For he had known how both to transcend himself in contemplation, and to accommodate himself to his hearers in condescension. Hence Jacob, the Lord looking down from above, and oil being poured down on the stone, saw angels ascending and descending (Gn 28,12); to signify, that true preachers not only aspire in contemplation to the holy head of the Church, that is to the Lord, above, but also descend in commiseration downward to His members. Hence Moses goes frequently in and out of the tabernacle, and he who is wrapped into contemplation within is busied outside with the affairs of those who are subject to infirmity. Within he considers the secret things of God; without he carries the burdens of the carnal. And also concerning doubtful matters he always recurs to the tabernacle, to consult the Lord before the ark of the covenant; affording without doubt an example to rulers; that, when in the outside world they are uncertain how to order things, they should return to their own soul as though to the tabernacle, and, as before the ark of the covenant, consult the Lord, if so, they may search within themselves the pages of sacred utterance concerning that whereof they doubt. Hence the Truth itself, manifested to us through susception of our humanity, continues in prayer on the mountain, but works miracles in the cities (Lc 6,12), thus laying down the way to be followed by good rulers; that, though already in contemplation aspiring to the highest things, they should mingle in sympathy with the necessities of the infirm; since charity then rises wonderfully to high things when it is compassionately drawn to the low things of neighbours; and the more kindly it descends to the weak things of this world, the more vigorously it recurs to the things on high. But those who are over others should shew themselves to be such that their subjects may not blush to disclose even their secrets to them; that the little ones, vexed with the waves of temptation, may have recourse to their pastors heart as to a motherís breast, and wash away the defilement they foresee to themselves from the filth of the sin that buffets them in the solace of his exhortation and in the tears of prayer. Hence also it is that before the doors of the temple the brazen sea for washing the hands of those who enter, that is the lover, is supported by twelve oxen (1R 7,23, seq)., whose faces indeed stand out to view, but whose hinder parts are hidden. For what is signified by the twelve oxen but the whole order at pastors, of whom the law says, as explained by Paul, Thou shall not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn (1Co 9,9; ex Dt 25,4)? Their open works indeed we see; but what remains to them behind in the hidden retribution of the strict judge we know not. Yet, when they prepare the patience of their condescension for cleansing the sins of their neighbours in confession, they support, as it were, the laver before the doors of the temple; that whosoever is striving to enter the gate of eternity may shew his temptations to his pastorís heart, and, as it were, wash the hands of his thought and of his deed in the layer of the oxen. And for the most part it comes to pass that, while the rulerís mind becomes aware, through condescension, of the trials of others, it is itself also attacked by the temptations whereof it hears; since the same water of the layer in which a multitude of people is cleansed is undoubtedly itself defiled. For, in receiving the pollutions of those who wash, it loses, as it were, the calmness of its own purity. But of this the pastor ought by no means to be afraid, since, under God, who nicely balances all things, he is the more easily rescued from his own temptations as he is more compassionately distressed by those of others.
Gregory, Pastoral 111