Gregory 20666

Book VII

Epistle II. To Columbus, Bishop.

20702 Gregory to Columbus, Bishop of Numidia1 .

We received at the hands of the bearer, your deacon, the epistle of your Fraternity, in which you informed us of what had been done among you with regard to the person of the bishop Paul. This has been done so late that he could not now have appeared here in person. For his Excellency also, our son Gennadius the Patrician, sent his chancellor to us with reference to the same case. But when we had caused enquiry to be made whether he was willing to plead against him [i.e. against the bishop Paul] before us, he replied that he had been by no means sent with this intent but had only brought hither certain three persons from his Church who would allege many things against him. While, then, we neither found him prepared to commence an action, nor were moved by the quality of those persons to regard them as fit accusers of a bishop, we could not gainsay or offer hindrance to the often before-mentioned bishop Paul, who petitioned us in the hope of having leave given him to resort to the royal city; but we presently allowed him according to his petition, with two others whom he should take with him, to set forth. If, then, there have been any things that could be reasonably said against him, the proper course would have been for him to come here at once, and for your Fraternity to inform us of all particulars, as you have now done. For, as to your having signified to us that you suffer from the enmities of many on account of our frequently visiting you by our letters, there is no doubt, most reverend brother, that the good suffer from the grudges of the bad, and that those who are intent on divine works are harassed by the oppositions of the perverse. But, in proportion as these bad things are around you, ought you to be more instantly occupied with the care of the government committed to you, and to watch for the custody of the flock of Christ; and in proportion as the contrarietyof unrighteous men presses upon you, ought the care of pastoral solicitude to inflame youto be more active, and very certain of the promised reward, to the end that you may beable to offer to the chief Shepherd gain from the work given you to do.

Epistle IV. To Cyriacus, Bishop.

20704 Gregory to Cyriacus, Bishop of Constantinople.

We have received with becoming charity our common sons, George the presbyter and Theodore your deacon; and we rejoice that you have passed from the care of ecclesiastical business to the government of souls, since, according to the voice of the Truth, (He that is faithful in a little will be faithful also in much (
Lc 16,10). And to the servant who administers well it is said, Because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler aver many things (Mt 25,23); to whom also it is presently said further with respect to eternal retribution, Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord. Now you say in your letter that you had exceedingly wished for rest. But in this you shew that you have fitly assumed pastoral responsibility, since, as a place of rule should be denied to those who covet it, so it should be offered to those who fly from it. And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron (He 5,4). And again the same excellent preacher says, If one died far all, then all died; and Christ died for all. It remaineth that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again (2Co 5,14-15). And to the shepherd of holy Church it is said, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Feed My sheep (Jn 21,17). From which words it appears that, if one who is able refuses to feed the sheep of Almighty God, he shews that he does not love the chief Shepherd. For if the Only-begotten of the Father, for accomplishing the good of all, came forth from the secrecy of the Father into the midst of us, what shall we say, if we prefer our secrecy to the good of our neighbours? Thus rest is to be desired by us with all our heart; and yet for the advantage of many it should sometimes be laid aside. For, as we ought with full desire to fly from occupation, so, if there should be a want of some one to preach, we must needs put a willing shoulder under the burden of occupation. And this we are taught by the conduct of two prophets2 , one of whom attempted to shun the office of preaching, while the other desired it. For to the Lord who sent him Jeremias replied saying, Ah, Lord God, I cannot speak; far I am a child (Jr 1,6). And when Almighty God sought for some one to preach, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Isaias offered himself of his own accord, saying, Here am I, send me (Is 6,8). Lo, different voices proceeded outwardly from the two, but they flowed from the same fountain of love.

For indeed there are two precepts of charity; to wit, the love of God and of one’s neighbour. Wherefore Isaias, wishing to profit his neighbours by an active life, desires the office of preaching; but Jeremias, longing to cling assiduously to the love of his Maker by a contemplative life, protests against being sent to preach. What, then, one laudably desired the other laudably shrunk from: the latter lest by speaking he should lose the gains of silent contemplation; the former lest by keeping silence he should feel the loss of diligent work. But this is nicely to be observed in both, that he who refused did not resist finally, and he who wished to be sent saw himself previously purged by a coal from the altar; that so no one who has not been purged should dare to approach sacred ministries, nor any one whom heavenly grace chooses refuse proudly under a show of humility.

Moreover I find yon in your epistles seeking with great longing after serenity of mind, and panting for tranquillity of thought apart from perturbation. But I know not in what manner your Fraternity can attain to this. For one who has undertaken the pilotage of a ship must needs watch all the more as he further recedes from shore, so as sometimes to foresee from signs the coming storms; sometimes, when they come, either, if they are small, to ride over them in a straight course, or, if they swell violently, to avoid them as they rush on by steering sideways; and often to watch alone when all who are without charge of the ship are at rest. How, moreover, having undertaken the burden of pastoral charge, can you have serenity of thought, seeing that it is written, Behold giants groan under the waters (Jb 26,5)? For, according to the words of John, The waters are peoples (Ap 17,15). And the groaning of giants under the waters means that whoso in this world has increased in degree of power, as though in a sort of massive size of body, feels the load of greater tribulation by so much the more as he has taken on himself the care of ruling peoples. But, if the power of the Holy Spirit breathes upon the afflicted mind, forthwith what was done bodily for the people of Israel takes place with us spiritually. For it is written, But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea (Ex 14,29). And through the prophet the Lord promises saying, When thou passest through the waters. I will be with thee, and the rivers shall not overflow thee (Is 43,2). For the rivers overflow those whom the active business of this world confounds with perturbation of mind. But he who is sustained in mind by the grace of the Holy Spirit passes through the waters, and yet is not overflowed by the rivers, because in the midst of crowds of peoples he so proceeds along his way as not to sink the head of his mind beneath the active business of the world.

I also, who, unworthy as I am, have come to a place of rule, had sometimes determined to seek some place of retirement: but, seeing the Divine counsels to be opposed to me, I submitted the neck of my heart to my Maker’s yoke; especially reflecting on this, that no hidden places whatever can save the soul without the grace of God; and this we observe sometimes, when even saints go astray. For Lot was righteous in the depraved city itself, and sinned on the mountain (Gn 19).. But why speak of these instances, when we know of greater ones? For what is pleasanter than Paradise? What safer than Heaven? And yet man out of Paradise, and the angel from heaven, by sinning fell. His power, then, should be sought, His grace implored, without whom we are nowhere without fault, with whom we are nowhere without righteousness. We should, then, take care that perturbation of thought get not the better of our minds; for it can by no means be entirely got rid of. For whosoever is in a place of rule must needs have to think sometimes even of earthly things, and to have a care also of external things, that the flock committed to him may be able to subsist for accomplishing what it has to do. But it should be most carefully seen to, that this same care pass not due measure, and that, when lawfully admitted into the heart, it be not allowed to become excessive. Whenceit is rightly said through Ezekiel 3s3.v12.a2.w2.b7.f3 , Let not the priests shave their heads, nor suffer their lacks to grow long; but palling let them poll their heads (Ez 44,20 =rge 19). For what are hairs in the head by signification but thoughts in the mind? For, rising above the brain insensibly, they denote cares of the present life, which from negligent perception, since they come on sometimes importunely, advance as it were without our feeling them. Since, then, all who are over others ought indeed to have outward anxieties, and yet not to devote themselves to them exceedingly, the priests are rightly forbidden either to shave the head or to let their locks grow long, so that they nay neither entirely cut off from themselves carnal thoughts for the life of their subjects, nor again allow them to grow too much. And it is also there well said, Polling let them poll their heads; meaning that the anxieties of a temporal charge should both proceed as far as is needful, and yet should be soon cut short, lest they grow to an immoderate length. While therefore both, through external provision administered, the life of bodies is protected, and again intentness of heart is not hindered through the same being immoderate, the hairs on the head of the priest are kept to cover the skin, and cut short so as not to veil the eyes.

Furthermore, we have received in full faith your letters addressed to us, and give thanks to Almighty God, who, by the mutual confession of the faithful, guards the coat that is without seam woven from the top throughout, that is to say His Church, in the unity of grace, from all rent of error; and against the deluge (so to speak) of so many sins of the perishing world constructs an ark of many planks in which the elect of Almighty God may be preserved unto life. For, when we in our turn send the confession of our faith to you, and you shew your charity towards us, what are we doing in holy Church but smearing the ark with pitch; lest any wave of error enter, and kill all the spiritual as being men, and the carnal as being beasts.

But, when you have wisely professed a right faith, it remains doubtless that you should keep the more warily the peace of hearts, because of what the Truth says, Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another (Mc 9,50). And Paul the apostle admonishes, saying, Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ep 4,3). And again he says, Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see God (He 12,14). Which peace indeed you will then truly have with us, if you turn away from the pride of a profane name, according to what the same teacher of the Gentiles says, O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane novelties of words (1Tm 6,20). For indeed it is too bad, if these who have been made preachers of humility should glory in the elation of a vain name, when the true preacher says, But God forbid that I should glory, save in the crass of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ga 6,14).. He then is truly glorious who glories not in temporal power, but, for the name of Christ, glories in His passion. Herein therefore we embrace you from the bottom of our heart, herein we recognize you as priests, if, rejecting the vanity of words, you occupy the place of holiness with holy humility. For behold, we have been scandalized by this impious appellation, and retain in our mind and express in words by no means slight complaints. But your Fraternity knows how the Truth says, If thou offerest thy gift before the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave there thy gift, and go thy way to be first reconciled to thy brother, and then thou shale come and after thy gift (Mt 5,23-24). Herein is to be considered, that, while every fault is done away by the offering of sacrifice, so great is the evil of offence engendered in another’s heart that from one who has so sinned the Lord accepts not the sacrifice itself which is wont to do away sin. Take heed then with speed to wipe off cause of offence from your heart, that Almighty God may be able to regard as acceptable the sacrifice of your offering.

Furthermore, while you have truly and accurately professed the right faith, we find that among those whom you have held to be condemned by the most holy general synods you have condemned a certain Eudoxius; whose name we have not found mentioned in the Latin language either in synods or in the books of the bishops of blessed memory, Epiphanius, Augustin, or Philaster, whom we know to have been the chief disputants against heretics4 . Now if any one of the catholic Fathers really condemns him, we undoubtedly follow their opinion. If, however, in your synodical epistle you have wished to condemn by name those also who, apart from the holy synods, are condemned in the writings of the Fathers, your Fraternity has mentioned too few by many; but if those whom the general synods reject, then too many by this one. But in the midst of all these things it is to be remembered, that in order that we may be free to profess the true faith and to order whatever has to be done in peace and concord, we ought to pray incessantly for the life of our most serene lords and of their offspring, that Almighty God would subdue barbarous nations under their feet, and grant them long and happy lives, to the end that through a Christian empire the faith which is in Christ may reign.

Epistle V. To Cyriacus, Bishop.

20705 Gregory to Cyriacus, Bishop of Constantinople.

When in time past I represented the Apostolic See in the royal city, I became acquainted with the good qualities of your Holiness. And I greatly rejoice that the care of souls has been committed to you. And though unworthy, I beseech Almighty God with all the prayers in my power that He would even increase His grace in you, and cause you to gather gain of souls for the eternal country. But, whereas you say that you are weak for this work that has been put upon you, we know that the first virtue is acknowledgment of infirmity; and from this we gather that you can fulfil well the ministry you have undertaken, that we see how, out of humility, you acknowledge your own infirmity For we are all infirm; but he is more infirm who has not strength to consider his infirmity. But you, most blessed brethren, are for this reason strong, that, distrusting your own strength, you trust in the power of Almighty God.

I cannot, however, express by the words of a letter how much my heart is bound to your Charity. But I pray that Almighty God may by the gift of His grace multiply the same charity that is between us, and may take away all occasion of offence, lest the holy Church, united by the profession of the true faith, and compacted by conjunction of the hearts of the faithful, should suffer any damage from priests disputing with each other, which God forbid. I at any rate, in all that I speak, in all that I say, against the proud conduct of certain persons, still, through the bounty of Almighty God, never relinquish custody of inward charity; but so execute outwardly what belongs to justice as by no means to disregard inwardly what belongs to love and kindness. And do you also ever return my love, and guard what belongs to peace and kindness; that, remaining of one mind, so as to allow no dissension to come in between us, we may be better able from the very unity of our hearts to obtain what we seek from the Lord.

Furthermore, I commend to your Holiness John, presbyter of Chalcedon, and Athanasius of Isauria, that no one may set you against them by underhand misrepresentations; for I have thoroughly examined their faith, and have found them sound in their confessions, which have also been given in writing.

Now may the Holy Trinity protect you with His hand, and render you always vigilant anti careful in the custody of souls, to the end that in the eternal retribution you may be counted worthy to be crowned, not only for your own work, but also for the amelioration of your subjects,

Epistle VI. To Mauricius Augustus.

20706 Gregory to Mauricius Augustus.

Almighty God, who has made your Piety to be the guardian of ecclesiastical peace, preserves you by the same faith which, through unity among priests, you preserve; and when you submit your heart humbly to the yoke of heavenly loving-kindness, it is brought to pass by heavenly grace that you tread your enemies under the foot of valour. For it cannot be of small advantage that, when John of holy memory had departed this life, your Piety long hesitated, and somewhat deferred the time, while seeking counsel in the fear of Almighty God, in order, to wit, that the cause of God might be ordered, as it should be, with great fear5 . Whence also I think that my brother and fellow-priest Cyriacus is proved to be exceedingly fit for pastoral rule, in that the long deliberation of your Piety has raised him to this degree. And we all know how diligent and how practised he has long been in the administration of ecclesiastical affairs. Whence also I doubt not that it has been brought about by Divine ordering that one who had admin- istered the least things well should fitly undertake the greater, and should pass from the charge of affairs to the government of souls. Wherefore in all our prayers we beseech Almighty God to repay this good work to the Serenity of our lords and to their pious offspring both in the present world and also with a perpetual recompense, and to grant to my aforesaid brother and fellow-priest, who has been put over the Lord’s flock, to shew himself fully solicitous in the care of souls; that he may be able irreprovably both to correct what is wrong in his subjects and to foster what is right unto further increase; to the end that the judgment of your Piety concerning him may be approved, not only before men, but also before the eyes of the Supernal Majesty.

The venerable men, George the presbyter and Theodore the deacon, in consideration of the command of my lords and the imminence of the winter season, I have not allowed to be delayed in this city

Epistle VII. To Peter, Domitian, and Elpidius.

20707 Gregory to Peter, Domitian, and Elpidius, Bishops6 .

I rejoice exceedingly that you welcomed with great joy the ordination of the most holy Cyriacus, my brother and fellow-priest. And since we have learnt from the preaching of Paul the apostle that If one member rejoice, all the members rejoice with it (
1Co 12,26), you must needs consider with how great exultation I rejoice with you in this thing, wherein not one member, but many members of Christ have rejoiced. Nevertheless, so far as I have been able to consider your Fraternity’s letters on a cursory perusal, great joy has carried you away into immoderate praise of this my brother. For you say that he has appeared in the Church like the sun, so that you all cried out, This is the day which the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Ps 117,24)7 . Yet surely this is a promise of the life to come, seeing that it is said, The righteous shall shine forth as the sun (Mt 13,43; Sg 3,7). For, in whatsoever virtue any one may excel, how can he shine forth as the sun while still in the present life, wherein The corruptible body presseth down the saul, and the earthly tabernacle weigheth down the mind that museth upon many things (Sg 9,15); wherein We see another law in our members warring against the law of our mind, and bringing us into captivity by the law of sin which is in our members (Rm 7,23); wherein Even in ourselves we have the answer of death, that we should not trust in ourselves (2Co 1,9); wherein also the Prophet cries aloud, Fear and trembling are canto upon me, and darkness hath covered me (Ps 54,6)8 ? For it is written also, A wise man abideth as the sun; a fool changeth as the moan (Si 27,12); where the comparison of the sun is not applied to the splendour of his brightness, but to perseverance in well-doing. But the good beginning of his ordination could not as yet be praised by you with regard to perseverance. And as to your saying that you cried out, This is the day which the Lord hath made, you ought to have considered of whom this is said. For what comes before is this; The stone which the builders refused, the same is made the head-stone of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes (Ps 117,22) 9 . And with regard to this same stone it is forthwith added, This is the day which the Lord hath made. For He who for strength of building is said to be a stone, for the grace of illumination is called the Day, being also made, because He became incarnate. In Him we are enjoined to rejoice and be glad, because He has overcome in us the darkness of our error by the light of His excellence. In praise of a creature, then, that expression ought not to have been used which is suitable to the Creator alone.

But why should I find fault with these things, knowing as I do how joy carries away the mind? For your charity engendered in you great gladness, which gladness of heart the tongue applauding followed. This being so, the praise which charity found to hand cannot now be called a fault. But to me concerning my most holy brother there should have been briefly said what I might accept with satisfaction, seeing that I knew him to be one who has long given to me especially this proof of his greatness; that, having been occupied in so many affairs of ecclesiastical administration, he has kept a tranquil heart in the midst of turbulent throngs, and always restrained himself with a gentle bearing. And this indeed is no small commendation of a great and unshaken mind, not to have been perturbed among the perturbations of business).

Furthermore, your Fraternity should be instant in continual prayers, that Almighty God may guard in our aforesaid brother and fellow-priest what has been well begun, and ever lead him on to what is better still. This should ever be the prayer of you, most holy ones, and of the people subject to him. For the deserts of rulers and peoples are so connected with each other that often the lives of subjects are made worse from tile fault of those who are over them, and often the lives of pastors fall off from the ill desert of peoples. For that the evil doings of one who is over others does very great harm to those who are under him the Pharisees are evidence, of whom it is written, Ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men. For ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in (Mt 23,13). And that the fault of peoples does much harm to the life of pastors we perceive in what David did (2R 2,24). For he, praised by the testimony of God, he, conscious of heavenly mysteries, being inflated by the turnout of hidden elation, sinned in numbering the people; and yet the punishment fell upon the people for David’s sin. Why was this? Because in truth according to the desert of subject peoples are the hearts of rulers disposed. Now the righteous Judge rebuked the fault of the sinner by visitation on those on account of whom he sinned. But, because he himself, waxing proud of his own will, was not free from fault, he himself also received punishment of his fault. For the fierce wrath, which smote the people bodily, prostrated also the ruler of the people with inmost sorrow of heart. Consider therefore these things mutually; and, even as he who is put over you and over the people should intercede for all, so should all of you pray for his conversation and manners, that before Almighty God both you may profit by imitation of him, and he may be aided by your deserts. Further, let us all with one accord pray continually with great weeping to the utmost of our powers for out most serene lords and their pious offspring, that protecting heavenly grace may guard their lives, and subdue the necks of the nations to the Christian empire.

Epistle XI. To Rufinus, Bishop of Ephesus.

Gregory to Rufinus, &c.

The charity of your acts of friendship in the past has moved us to visit your Fraternity with the present letter. For we have been refreshed with great joy by learning from reports given us of your health that all is well with you. But, while this is so, we implore Almighty God, that as in the present life, which is as it were a shadow of the future one, He has granted you to rejoice in the transitory welfare of your body, so in that heavenly country wherein is true life He may cause us to give thanks and rejoice with a common exultation for the perfected salvation of your soul. Now the bearer of this, desiring to be commended to you by a letter from us, having been asked by us whether he had learnt letters as becomes a clerk, replied that he was ignorant of them. What further commendation, then, with regard to him I should give to your Fraternity I know not; except that you should be solicitous about his soul, and watch over him with pastoral zeal, so that, as he cannot read, your tongue may be a book to him, and that in the goodness of your preaching and work he may see what to follow. For the living voice usually draws the heart more closely than perfunctory reading. But, while, as his master, you supply him inwardly with this spiritual teaching, let not outward care for him also be wanting, that by its aid he come to long for spiritual things, and lest, if such aid is slighted, you should no longer have one to preach to.

Epistle XII. To Respecta, Abbess.

20712 Gregory to Respecta, Abbess of Massilia (Marseilles) in Gaul.

The demand of a pious wish ought to be accomplished by a consequent result, that so the benefit demanded may be validly attained, and sincerity of devotion may laudably shine forth. Accordingly to the monastery consecrated to the honour of Saint Cassian wherein you are selected to preside—in accordance with the petition of our children Dynamius and Aureliana, who are shewn, in their religious devotion, to have united it to the house in their possession by connecting the buildings—we have seen fit to allow these privileges:—We appoint that on the death of the abbess of the aforesaid monastery, not a stranger, but one whom the congregation may choose for itself from among its own members, shall be ordained; whom (provided however that she be judged worthy of this ministry) the bishops of the same place shall ordain. Further, with regard to the property and management of the same monastery, we decree that neither bishop nor any ecclesiastic shall have any power; but appoint that these things shall in all respects pertain to the charge of thy Solicitude, or of her who may be abbess in the same place after thee. If on the day of the Saint’s anniversary, or of the dedication, of the aforesaid monastery the bishop should resort thither for celebrating the sacred solemnities of mass, still his office must be so executed that his chair be not placed there, except on the aforesaid days while he is celebrating there the solemnities of mass. And when he departs, let his chair be at the same time removed from the same oratory. But on all other days let the offices of mass be performed by the presbyter whom the same bishop may appoint

Furthermore, with regard to the life and deeds of the handmaidens of God, or of the abbess who may be constituted in the above-written monastery, we enjoin on the bishop, in the fear of God, to devote careful attention to them; so that, if any of those who dwell there, her fault demanding it, ought to be subjected to punishment, he may himself visit the offence according to the vigour of the sacred canons. These things, then, being by us ordained and granted, do thou, in the ordering of thy congregation, study to shew thyself so earnestly attentive in all respects that the malice of the malignant foe may find nothing there that can be contaminated. All these things, therefore, embraced in this paper of injunctions, we ordain to be observed, under Christ’s protection, in all respects and by all persons for ever in thy monastery, to the end that the benefits of the privileges allowed may always continue firm and inviolate. The month of November, Indict. 15.

Epistle XIII. To Fortunatus, Bishop.

20713 Gregory to Fortunatus, Bishop of Fanum10 .

As it is reprehensible and deserving of punishment for any one to sell consecrated vessels except in cases sanctioned by law and the sacred canons, so it is not a matter for reproach or penalty if they should be disposed of with a compassionate purpose for the redemption of captives. Since, then, we find from the information given us by your Fraternity that you have borrowed money for the redemption of captives, and have not the means of repaying it, and on this account desire, with our authority, to dispose of some consecrated vessels,—in this case, seeing that the decrees of both the laws and the canons approve, we have thought fit to lend our approval, and grant you leave to dispose of the consecrated vessels. But, lest their sale should possibly lead to any ill-feeling against yourself, they ought to be disposed of, up to the amount of the debt, in the presence of John our defensor, and their price should be paid to the creditors, to the end that, the business being completed with observance of this kind, neither may the creditors feel loss from having lent the money, nor your Fraternity sustain ill-will now or at any future time.

Epistle XV. To George, Presbyter.

20715 Gregory to George, Presbyter, and to Theodore, deacon, of the Church of Constantinople.

Mindful of your goodness and charity, I greatly blame myself, that I gave you leave to return so soon: but, since I saw you pressing me importunately once and again for leave to go, I considered that it might be a serious matter for your Love to tarry with us longer. But, after I had learnt that you had lingeredso long on your journey owing to the winterseason, I confess that I was sorry that you had been sent away so soon. For, if your Love was trouble to accomplish your intended journey, it had been better that you had lingered with me than away from me.

Moreover, after your departure I learnt from information given me by my most beloved sons the deacons that your Love had said that our Almighty Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, when He descended into hell, saved all who there acknowledged Him as God, and delivered them from the pains due to them. With regard to this subject I desire that your Charity should think very differently. For, when He descended into hell, He delivered through His grace those only who both believed that He should come and observed His precepts in their lives. For it is evident that after the incarnation of the Lord no one can be saved, even of those who hold His faith, who have not the life of faith; since it is written, They acknowledge that they know God, but in deeds they deny Him (
Tt 1,16). And John says, (He that saith that he knows Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar (1Jn 2,4). James also, the brother of the Lord, writes saying, Faith without works is dead (Jc 2,20). If, then, believers now are not saved without good works, while the unbelieving and reprobate without good action were saved by our Lord descending into hell, then the lot of those who never saw the incarnation of the Lord was better than that of these who have been born after the mystery of His incarnation. But what fatuity it argues to say or think this the Lord Himself testifies to His disciples, when He says, Many kings and prophets have desired to see the things which ye see, and have not seen them (Mt 13,17; Lc 10,24). But, that I may not detain your Love with argument of my own, learn what Philaster, in the book which he wrote about heresies, says about this heresy. His words are these; “They are heretics who say that the Lord descended into hell, and announced himself after death to all who were already there, so that in acknowledging Him there they might be saved; seeing that this is contrary to the prophet David where he says, But in hell who shall acknowledge thee (Ps 6,6)? And to the Apostle; As many as have shined without law shall perish without law (Rm 2,12).” And with his words the blessed Augustine also agrees in the book which he wrote about heresies.

Considering, therefore, all these things, hold ye nothing but what the true faith teachesthrough the Catholic Church: namely, that the Lord in descending into hell rescued from infernal durance those only whom while living in the flesh He preserved through His grace in faith and good conduct. For in that which He says in the Gospel, When I shall be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to myself (Jn 12,32), He means all that are elect. For one could not be drawn to God after death who had separated himself from God by evil living. May Almighty God keep you under His protection, that, wherever ye are, ye may feel in soul and body the aid of His grace.

Gregory 20666