S. Gregory I, letters 20423
20423 Gregory to Hospito, &c.
Since no one of thy race is a Christian, I hereby know that thou art better than all thy race, in that thou in it art found to be a Christian. For, while all the Barbaricini live as senseless animals, know not the true God, but adore stocks and stones, in the very fact that thou worshippest the true God thou shewest how much thou excellest them all. But carry thou out the faith which thou hast received in good deeds and words, and offer what is in thy power to Christ in whom thou believest, so as to bring to Him as many as thou canst, and cause them to be baptized, and admonish them to set their affection on eternal life. And if perchance thou canst not do this thyself, being otherwise occupied, I beg thee, with my greeting, to succour in all ways our men whom we have sent to your parts, to wit my fellow-bishop Felix, and my son, the servant of God, Cyriacus26 , so that in aiding their labours thou mayest shew thy devotion to Almighty God, and that He whose servants thou succourest in their good work may be a helper to thee in all good deeds. We have sent you through them a blessing27 of St. Peter the apostle, which I beg you to receive, as you ought to do, kindly. The month of June, Indiction 12).
20424 Gregory to Zabardas, &c.
From the letters of my brother and fellow-bishop Felix, and of the servant of God, Cyriacus, we have learnt your Gloryís good qualities. And we give great thanks to mighty God, that Sardinia has got such a duke; one who so knows how to do his duty to the republic in earthly matters as to know also how to exhibit to Almighty God dutiful regard for the heavenly country. For they have written to me that you are arranging terms of peace with the Barbaricini on such conditions as to bring these same Barbaricini to the service of Christ. On this account I rejoice exceedingly, and, should it please Almighty God, will speedily notify your gifts to our most serene princes. Do you, therefore, accomplish what you have begun, shew the devotion of your heart to Almighty God, and help to the utmost of your power those whom we have sent to your parts for the conversion of the Barbaricini28 ; knowing that such works may avail much to aid you both before our earthly princes and in the eyes of the heavenly king.
Gregory to the Nobles, &c.
I have learnt from the report of my brother and fellow-bishop Felix, and my son the servant of God, Cyriacus29 , that nearly all of you have peasants (rusticos30 ) on your estates given to idolatry. And this has made me very sorry, since I know that the guilt of subjects weighs down the life of their superiors, and that, when sin in a subject is not corrected, sentence is flung back on those who are over them. Wherefore, magnificent sons, Iexhort that with all care and all solicitude ye be zealous for your souls, and see what account you will render to Almighty God for your subjects. For indeed they have been committed to you for this end, that both they may serve for your advantage in earthly things, and you, through your care for them, may provide for their souls in the things that are eternal. If, then, they pay what they owe you, why pay you not them what you owe them? That is to say, your Greatness should assiduously admonish them, and restrain them from the error of idolatry, to the end that by their being drawn to the faith you may make Almighty God propitious to yourselves. For, lo, you observe how the end of this world is close at hand; you see that now a human, now a divine, sword rages against us: and yet you, the worshippers of the true God, behold stones adored by those who are committed to you, and are silent31 . What, I pray you, will you say in the tremendous judgment, when you have received Godís enemies into your power, and yet disdain to subdue them to God and recall them to Him? Wherefore, addressing you with due greeting, I beg that your Greatness would be earnestly on the watch to give yourselves to zeal for God, and hasten to inform me in your letters which of you has brought how many to Christ.If, then, haply from any cause you are unableto do this, enjoin it on our aforesaid brotherand fellow-bishop Felix, or my son Cyriacus, and afford them succour for the work of God, that so in the retribution to come you may bein a state to partake of life by so much the more as you now afford succour to a good work.
20426 Gregory to Januarius, Bishop of Caralis (Cagliari).
We have ascertained from the report of our fellow-bishop Felix and the abbot Cyriacus that in the island of Sardinia priests are oppressed by lay judges, and that thy ministers despise thy Fraternity; and that, so far as appears, while you aim only at simplicity, discipline is neglected. Wherefore I exhort thee that, putting aside all excuses, thou take pains to rule the Church of which thou hast received the charge, to keep up discipline among the clergy, and fear no oneís words. But, as I hear, thou hast forbidden thy Archdeacon to live with women, and up to this time art set at naught with regard to this thy prohibition. Unless he obey thy command, our will is that he be deprived of his sacred order.
There is another tiling also which is much to be deplored; namely, that the negligence of your Fraternity has allowed the peasants (rusticos) belonging to lily Church to remain up to the present time in infidelity. And what is the use of my admonishing you to bring such as do not belong to you to God, if you neglect to recover your own from infidelity? Hence you must needs be in all ways vigilant for their conversion. For, should I succeed in finding a pagan peasant belonging to any bishop whatever in the island of Sardinia, I will visit it severely on that bishop.
But now, if any peasant should be found so perfidious and obstinate as to refuse to come to the Lord God, he must be weighted with so great a burden of payment as to be compelled bythe very pain of the exaction to hasten to the right way32 .
It has also come to our knowledge that some in sacred orders who have lapsed, either after doing penance or before, are recalled to the office of their ministry; which is a thing that we have altogether forbidden and the most sacred canons also declare against it. Whoso, then, after having received any sacred order, shall have lapsed into sin of the flesh, let him so forfeit his sacred order as not to approach any more the ministry of the altar. But, lest those who have been ordained should ever perish, previous care should be taken as to what kind of people are ordained, so that it be first seen to whether they have been continent in life for many years, and whether they have had a care for reading anda love of almsgiving. It should be enquired also whether a man has perchance been twice married. It should also be seen to that he be not illiterate, or under liability to the state, so as to be compelled after assuming a sacred order to return to public employment. All these things therefore let your Fraternity diligently enquire into, that, every one having been ordainedafter diligent examination. none may be easilyliable to be deposed after ordination. These things which We have written to your Fraternity do you make known to all the bishops under you, since I myself have been unwilling to write to them, lest I might seem to lessen your dignity.
It has also come to our ears that some have been offended by our having forbidden presbyters to touch with chrism those who are to be baptized. And we indeed acted according to the ancient use of our Church: but, if any are in fact hereby distressed, we allow that, where there is a lack of bishops, presbytersmay touch with chrism, even on their foreheads, those who are to be baptized33 .
20427 Gregory to Januarius, Bishop of Caralis (Cagliari).
Thy Fraternity ought indeed to have been so attentive to pious duties as to be in no need at all of our admonitions to induce thee to fulfil them: yet, as certain particulars that require correction have come to our knowledge, there is nothing incongruous in yourhaving besides a letter addressed to you bearing our authority.
Wherefore we apprize you that we have been given to understand that it has been the custom for the Guest-houses (Xenodochia) constituted in the parts about Caralis to submit their accounts in detail from time to time to the bishop of the city; that is, so as to be governed under his guardianship and care. Now, as thy Charity is said to have so far neglected this, we exhort, as has been said, that the inmates who are or have been established in these Guest-houses submit their accounts in detail from time to time. And let such persons be ordained to preside over them as may be found most worthy in life, manners and industry, and at any rate religiosi34 , whom judges may have no power of annoying, lest, if they should be such as could be summoned to the courts, occasion might be given for wasting the feeble resources which they have: concerning which resources we wish thee to take the greatest care, so that they be given away to no one without thy knowledge, lest the carelessness of thy Fraternity should go so far as to let them be plundered.
Moreover, thou knowest that the bearer of these presents, Epiphanius the presbyter, was criminally accused in the letters of certain Sardinians. We, then, having investigated his case as it was our will to do, and finding no proof of what was charged against him, have absolved him, so that he might be restored to his place. We therefore desire thee to search out the authors of the charge against him: and, unless he who sent those same letters be prepared to support his charges by canonical and most strict proofs, let him on no account approach the mystery of holy communion.
†Further, as to Paul the cleric, who is said to have been often detected in malpractices, and who had fled into Africa, havingreturned to a lay state of life in despite of his cloth, if it is so, we have seen to his being given up to penance after previous corporal punishment, to the end that, according to the apostolic sentence, by means of affliction of the flesh the spirit may be saved, and also that he may be able to wash away with continual tears the earthly filth of sin, which he is said to have contracted By wicked works.
Moreover, in accordance with the injunctions of the canons, let no religious person (religiosus) associate with those who have been suspended from ecclesiastical communion.
Further, for ordinations or marriages of clerics, or from virgins who are veiled, let no one presume to receive any fee, unless they should prefer to offer something of their own accord.
As to what should be done in the case of women who have left monasteries for a lay life, and have taken husbands, we have conversed at length with thy Fraternityís aforesaid presbyter, from whose report your Holiness may be more fully informed.
Further, let religious clerics (religiosi clerici)35 avoid resort to or the patronage of laymen; but let them be in all respects subject to thy jurisdiction according to the canons, lest through the remissness of thy Fraternity the discipline of the Church over which thou presidest should be dissolved.
Lastly, as to the men who have sinned with the aforesaid women who had left their monasteries, and are said to be now suspended from communion, if thy Fraternity should observe them to have repented worthily for such a wickedness, we will that thou restore them to holy communion.
20429 Gregory to Januarius, Bishop of Caralis (Cagliari).
It has come to our knowledge that in the place within the province of Sardinia called Phausiana it is said to have been once the custom to ordain a bishop; but that, through stress of circumstances, the custom has for long fallen into disuse. But, as we are aware that now, owing to scarcity of priests, certain pagans remain there, living like wild beasts, and entirely ignorant of the worship of God, we exhort thy Fraternity to make haste to ordain a bishop there according to the ancient way; such a one, that is, as may be suitable for this work, and may take pains to bring wanderers into the Lordís flock with pastoral zeal; that so, while he devotes himself there to the saving of souls, neither may you be found to have required what was superfluous, nor may we repent of having re-established in vain what had been once discontinued.
20430 Gregory to Constantina, &c.
The Serenity of your Piety, conspicuous for religious zeal and love of holiness, has charged me with your commands to send to you the head of Saint Paul, or some other part of his body, for the church which is being built in honour of the same Saint Paul in the palace. And, being desirous of receiving commands from you, by exhibiting the most ready obedience to which I might the more provoke your favour towards me, I am all the more distressed that I neither can nor dare do what you enjoin. For the bodies of the apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul glitter with so great miracles and terrors in their churches that one cannot even go to pray there without great fear. In short, when my predecessor,of blessed memory, was desirous of changing the silver which was over the most sacred body of the blessed apostle Peter, though at a distance of almost fifteen feet from the same body, a sign of no small dreadfulness appeared to him. Nay, I too wished in like manner to amend something not far from the most sacred body of Saint Paul the apostle; and, it being necessary to dig to some depth near his sepulchre, the superintendent of that place found some bones, which were not indeed connected with the same sepulchre; but, inasmuch as he presumed to lift them and transfer them to another place, certain awful signs appeared, and be died suddenly.
Besides all this, when my predecessor, of holy memory, was desiring in like manner to make some improvements not far from the body of Saint Laurence the martyr, it not being known where the venerable body was laid, diggings were made in the course of search, and suddenly his sepulchre was unawares disclosed; and those who were present and working, monks and mansionarii36 , who saw the body of the same martyr, which they did not indeed presume to touch, all died within ten days, so that none might survive who had seen the holy body of that righteous man.
Moreover, let my most tranquil lady know that it is not the custom of the Romans, when they give relics of saints, to presume to touch any part of the body; but only a cloth (brandeum) is put into a box (pyxide), and placed near the most sacred bodies of the saints: and when it is taken up it is deposited with due reverence in the Church that is to be dedicated, and such powerful effects are thereby produced there as might have been if their bodies had been brought to that special place. Whence it came to pass in the[ times of Pope Leo, of blessed memory, ashas been handed down from our forefathers, that, certain Greeks being in doubt about such relics, the aforesaid pontiff took scissors and cut this same cloth (brandeum), and from the very incision blood flowed. For in the Roman and all the Western parts it is unendurable and sacrilegious for any one by any chance to desire to touch the bodies of saints: and, if one should presume to do this, it is certain that this temerity will by no means remain unpunished. For this reason we greatly wonder at the custom of the Greeks, who say that they take up the bones of saints; and we scarcely believe it. For certain Greek monks who came here more than two years ago dug up in the silence of night near the church of Saint Paul, bodies of dental men lying in the open field, and laid up their bones to be kept in their own possession till their departure. And, when they were taken and diligently examined as to why they did this, they confessed that they were going to carry those bones to Greece to pass for relics of saints. From this instance, as has been already said, the greater doubt has been engendered in us whether it be true that they really take up the bones of saints, as they are said to do.
But what shall I say of the bodies of the blessed apostles, when it is well known that, at the time when they suffered, believers came from the East to recover their bodies as being those of their own countrymen? And, having been taken as far as the second milestone from the city, they were deposited in the place which is called Catacumbas. But, when the whole multitude came together and endeavoured to remove them thence, such violence of thunder and lightning terrified and dispersed them that they on no account presumed to attempt such a thing again. And then the Romans, who of the Lordís loving-kindness were counted worthy to do this, went out and took up their bodies, and laid them in the places where they are now deposited.
Who then, most serene lady, can there be so venturesome as, knowing these things, to presume, I do not say to touch their bodies, but even at all to look at them? Such orders therefore having been given the by you, which I could by no means have obeyed, it has not, so far as I find, been of your own motion; but certain men have wished to stir up your Piety against me, so as to withdraw from me (which God forbid) the favour of your good will, and have therefore sought out a point in which I might be found as if disobedient to you. But I trust in Almighty God that your most kind good will is in no way being stolen away from me, and that you will always have with you the power of the holy apostles, whom with all your heart and mind you love, not from their bodily presence, but from their protection.
Moreover, the napkin, which you have likewise ordered to be sent you, is with his body,and so cannot be touched, as his body cannot be approached. But since so religious a desire of my most serene lady ought not to be wholly unsatisfied, I will make haste to transmit to you some portion of the chains which Saint Peter the apostle himself bore on his neck and his hands, from which many miracles are displayed among the people; if at least I should succeed in removing it by filing. For, while many come frequently to seek a blessing from these same chains, in the hope of receiving a little part of the filings, a priest attends with a file, and in the case of some seekers a portion comes off so quickly from these chains that there is no delay: but in the case of other seekers the file is drawn for long over the chains, and yet nothing can be got from them. In the month of June, Indiction 12.
20431 Gregory to Theodorus, Physician to the Emperor.
I myself give thanks to Almighty God, that distance does not separate the hearts of those who truly love each other mutually. For lo, most sweet and glorious son, we are far apart in body, and yet are present with each other in charity. This your works, this your letters testify, this I experienced in you when present, this I recognize in your Glory when absent May this make you both beloved of men and worthy for ever before Almighty God. For, charity being the mother of virtues, you bring forth the fruits of good works for this reason that you keep in your soul the very root of those fruits. Now what you have sent me God inspiring you, for the redemption of captives, I confess that I have received both with joy and with sorrow. With joy, that is, for you, whom I thus perceive to be preparing a mansion in the heavenly country; but with exceeding sorrow for myself, who, over and above my care of the property of the holy apostle Peter, must now also give an account of the property of my most sweet son, the Lord Theodorus, and be held responsible for having spent it carefully or negligently. But may Almighty God, who has poured into your mind the bowels of His own mercy, who has granted to you to take anxious thought for what is said of our Saviour by the excellent preacheróThat, though he was rich, yet far us he became poor (2Co 8,9)ómay He, at the coming of the same Saviour, shew you to be rich in virtues, cause you to stand free from all fault. and giant to you heavenly for earthly joys; abiding joys for transitory.
As to what you say you desire to be donefor you near the most sacred body of theholy apostle Peter, be assured that, though your tongue were silent, your charity bids thedoing of it. Would indeed that we wereworthy to pray for you: but that I am not worthy I have no doubt. Still, however, there are here many worthy folk, who are being redeemed from the enemy by your offering, and serve our Creator faithfully, with regard to whom you have done what is written; Lay up alms in the bosom of the poor, and it shall pray for thee (Si 29,15).
But, since he loves the more who presumes the more, I have some complaint against the most sweet disposition of my most glorious son the Lord Theodorus; namely that he has received from the holy Trinity the gift of genius, the gift of wealth, the gift of mercy and charity, and yet is unceasingly bound up in secular causes, is occupied in continual processions, and neglects to read daily the words of his Redeemer. For what is sacred Scripture but a kind of epistle of Almighty God to His creature? And surely, if your Glory were resident in any other place, and were to receive letters from an earthly emperor, you would not loiter, you would not rest, you would not give sleep to your eyes, till you had learnt what the earthly emperor had written.
The Emperor of Heaven, the Lord of men and angels, has sent thee his epistles for thy lifeís behoof; and yet, glorious son, thou neglectest to read these epistles ardently. Study then, I beseech thee, and daily meditate on the words of thy Creator. Learn the heart of God in the words of God, that thou mayest sigh more ardently for the things that are eternal, that your soul may be kindled with greater longings for heavenly joys. For a man will have the greater rest here in proportion as he has now no rest in the love of his Maker. But, that you may act thus, may Almighty God pour into you the Spirit the Comforter: may He fill your soul with His presence, and in filling it, compose it.
As to me, know ye that I suffer here many and innumerable bitternesses. But I give thanks to Almighty God that I suffer far less than I deserve.
I commend to your Glory my son, your patient, the Lord Narses. I know indeed that you hold him as in all respects commended to you; but I beg you to do what you are doing, that, in asking for what I see is being done, I may by my asking have a share in your reward. Furthermore, I have received the blessing37 of your Excellency with the charity wherewith it was sent to me. And I have presumed to send you, in acknowledgment of your love, a duck with two small ducklings, that, as often as your eye is led to look at it, the memory also of me may be recalled to you among the occupations and tumults of business.
20432 Gregory to Narses, &c.
Your most sweet Charity has said much to me in your letters in praise of my good deeds, to all which I briefly reply, Call me not Noemi, that is beautiful; but call me Mara,that is bitter; far I am full of bitterness (Rt (i. 20).
But as to the cause of the presbyters38 , which is pending with my brother and fellow-bishop, the most reverend Patriarch John, we have, as I think, for our adversary the very man whom you assert to be desirous of observing the canons. Further, I declare to thy Charity that I am prepared, with the help of Almighty God, to prosecute this same cause with all my power and influence. And, should I see that in it the canons of the Apostolic See are not observed, Almighty God will give unto me what I may do against the contemners of the same.
As to what your Charity has written to me, asking me to give thanks for you to my son the chief physician and ex-praefect Theodorus, I have done so, and have by no means ceased to commend you as much as I could. Further, I beg you to pardon me for replying to your letters with brevity; for I am pressed by such great tribulations that it is not allowed me either to read or to speak much by letter. This only I say to thee, For the voice of groaning I have forgotten to eat my bread (Ps 101,5 Ps 3 Ps 9). All that are with you I beg you to salute in my name. Give my salutations to the lady Dominica, whose letter I have not answered, because, though she is Latin, she wrote to me in Greek.
20433 Gregory to Anthemius, &c.
Those whom our Redeemer vouchsafes to convert to himself from Judaical perdition we ought, with reasonable moderation, to assist; lest (as God forbid should be the case) they should suffer from lack of food. Accordingly we charge thee,under the authority of this order, not to neglect to give money every year to the children of Justa, who is of the Hebrews; that is to Julianus, Redemptus, and Fortuna, beginning from the coming thirteenth Indiction; and know that the payment is by all means to be charged in thy accounts.
20434 Gregory to Pantaleo, Praefect of Africa.
How the law urgently prosecutes the most abominable pravity of heretics is not unknown to your Excellency40 . It is therefore no light sin if these, whom both the integrity of our faith and the strictness of the laws condemn, should find licence to creep up again in your times. Now in those parts, so far as we havelearnt, the audacity of the Donatists has soincreased that not only do they with pestiferous assumption of authority cast out of their churches priests of the catholic faith, but fear not even to rebaptize those whom the water of regeneration had cleansed on a true confession. And we are much surprised, if indeed it is so, that, while you are placed in those parts,bad men should be allowed thus to exceed. Consider only in the first place what kind of judgment you will leave to be passed upon you by men, if these, who in the times of others were with just reason put down, find under your administration a way for their excesses. In the next place know that our God will require at your hand the souls of the lost, if you neglect to amend, so far as possibility requires it of you, sogreat an abomination. Let not your Excellency take amiss my thus speaking. For it is because we love you as our own children that we point out to you what we doubt not will be to your advantage. But send to us with all speed our brother and fellow-bishop Paul41 , lest opportunity should be given to any one under any excuse for hindering his coming; in order that, on ascertaining the truth more fully, we may be able, with Godís help, to settle by a reasonable treatment of the case how the punishment of so great a crime ought to be proceeded with.
20435 Gregory to Victor and Columbus, Bishops of Africa.
After what manner a disease, if neglected in its beginning, acquires strength we have proved from our own necessities, whosoever of us have had our lot in this life. If, then, it were met by the foresight of skilful physicians at its birth, we know that it would cease before doing very much harm from being attended to too late. On this consideration, then, reason ought to impel us, when diseases of souls are beginning, to make haste to resist them by all the means in our power, lest, while we neglect applying wholesome medicines, they steal away from us the lives of many whom we are striving to win for our God. Wherefore it behoves us so with watchful carefulness to guard the folds of sheep which we see ourselves to be put over as keepers that the prowling wolf may find everywhere shepherds to resist him, and may have no way of entrance thereinto.
For indeed we find that the stings of the Donatists have in your parts so disturbed the Lordís flock, as though it were guided by no shepherdís control. And there has been reported to us what we cannot speak of without heavy sorrow, seeing that very many have already been torn by their poisoned teeth. Lastly, in order with most wicked audacity to drive catholic priests from their churches, they are said, in their most atrocious wickedness, even to have slain many besides, on whom thewater of regeneration had conferred salvation, by rebaptizing them. All this saddens our mind exceedingly, for that, while you are placed there, it has been allowed to damned presumption to perpetrate such wickedness.
In this matter we exhort your Fraternity by this present writing, that, after discussion held and a council assembled, you should eagerly and with all your power so oppose this still nascent disease that neither may it acquire strength from neglect nor scatter the woes of pestilence in the flock committed to your charge. For, if in any way whatever (as we do not believe will be the case) you neglect to resist iniquity in its beginning, they will wound very many with the sword of their error. And it is in truth a most serious thing to allow to be ensnared in the noose of diabolical fraud those whom we are able to rescue beforehand from being entangled. Moreover it is better to prevent any one from being wounded than to search out how one that is wounded may be healed. Considering this, therefore, hasten ye by sedulous prayer and all the means in your power, to quell sacrilegious wickedness, so that subsequent news, through the aid of the grace of Christ, may cause us more joy for the punishment of those men than sadness for their excesses.
Furthermore, take all possible pains to send to us with all speed our brother and fellow-bishop Paul43 , to the end that, on learning more particularly from him the causes of so great a crime, we may be able by the succour of our Creator to apply the medicine of fitting rebuke to this most atrocious wickedness.
20436 Gregory to Leo, Bishop of Catana44 .
We have found from the report of many that a custom has of old obtained among you, for subdeacons to be allowed to have intercourse with their wives. That any one should any more presume to do this was prohibited by the servant of God, the deacon of our see, under the authority of our predecessor45 , in this way; that those who at that time had been coupled to wives should choose one of two things, that is, either to abstain from their wives, or on no account whatever presume to exercise their ministry. And, according to report, Speciosus, then a subdeacon, did for this reason suspend himself from the office of administration, and up to the time of his death bore indeed the office of a notary, but ceased from the ministry which a subdeacon should have exercised. After his death we have learnt that his widow, Honorata, has been relegated to a monastery by thy Fraternity for having associated herself with a husband. And so if, as is said, her husband suspended himself from ministration, it ought not to be to the prejudice of the aforesaid woman that she has contracted a second marriage, especially if she had not been joined to the subdeacon with the intention of abstaining from the pleasures of the flesh.
If, then, you find the truth to be as we have been informed, it is right for you to release altogether the aforesaid woman from the monastery, that she may be at liberty to return without any fear to her husband.
But for the future let thy Fraternity be exceedingly careful, in the case of any who may be promoted to this office, to look to this with the utmost diligence, that, if they have wives, they shall enjoy no licence to have intercourse with them: but you must still strictly order them to observe all things after the pattern of the Apostolic See.
S. Gregory I, letters 20423