S. Gregory I, letters 21342

Epistle XLII.

To Eulogius, Patriarch of Alexandria.

Gregory to Eulogius, &c.

We return great thanks to Almighty God, that in the mouth of the heart a sweet savour of charity is experienced, when that which is written is fulfilled, As cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news front a far country (
Pr 25,25). For I had previously been greatly disturbed by a letter from Boniface the Chartularius, my responsalis, who dwells in the royal city, saying that your to me most sweet and pleasant Holiness had suffered from failure of bodily sight. From this letter I was smitten by heavy sorrow. But suddenly, by the prospering grace of our Creator and Redeemer, I received the epistle of your Blessedness, and, learning that the bodily trouble of which I had heard was cured, I rejoiced exceedingly, since gladness of heart succeeded which was as great as the bitterness of the sadness which had come before. For we know that, with the help of Almighty God, your life is the health of many. For sailors sail secure through the waves when an instructed and skilful steersman sits at the helm.

Moreover in my joy for your health I have this additional cause for exultation, that I have learnt how through your mouth the enemies of the Church are decreased in number, and the flocks of the Lord multiplied. For through the ploughshare of your tongue heavenly corn increases daily, and is multiplied in the garners on high; so that in you we rejoice that what is written is fulfilled, Where there is much increase, there is manifest the strength of the oxen (Pr 14,4). Whence we gather plainly that the more you bring back fugitives to the service of Almighty God, the more merit you have with Him. And by how much the more merit you receive, the more fully can you obtain what you ask for. I beseech you therefore to pray the more earnestly for me a sinner, since both pain of body, and bitterness of heart, and immense ravages of mortality among the swords of so many barbarians, afflict me exceedingly. In the midst of all these things it is not temporal but eternal consolation that I require, which of myself I am not able to win by prayer, but which I trust that I shall obtain by the intercessions of your Blessedness. Last year I received no letters from your Holiness, and I was much distressed. It is true that your blessing, which you sent without a letter, was both given and received. But, since your tongue delights me more than your gifts, I was less gratified than I might have been by what was given. But I directed our common son, the deacon Epiphanius, to write to Alexander and Isidore, deacons of your most holy Church, to acknowledge the receipt of what had been sent.

I wrote to you, further, that I had got ready large pieces of timber for making masts and rudders, but that the small ship which had come could not carry them; and you have since written nothing in reply. Wherefore, it you need them, write to our common son Boniface, whom we are now sending as our representative (responsalem) to the royal city, that he may send me word that they may prepared, and that they may be found ready when your Blessedness shall send for them.

Furthermore, we have sent you a small cross, in which is inserted a blessing from the chains of your lovers the apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul; and let this be continually applied to your eyes, seeing that many miracles have been wont to be wrought through this same blessing.

May Almighty God inspire the heart of your Blessedness to be careful to pray for me continually, and may He protect yon and all yours with His right hand, and after ninny courses of years bring you to the heavenly kingdom.

We have received, corresponding with your description of them, the blessings27 of Saint Mark, sent to us by your most blessed Fraternity, and we return thanks for your kindness, since from these outward things we learn what you are towards us inwardly.

1 On this head, see also XI. 48.
2 On Brunechild, see VI. 5, note 4. Having after the death of her son Childebert II. acted as guardian of his son Theodebert II., who had received the kingdom of Austrasia with his Capital at Metz, she had been expelled by the Austrasians in the year 599, and been received by her other grandson, Theoderic II., who reigned over Burgundy with his Capital at Orleans. When this letter was sent (a.d. 602) Theoderic would be about fifteen years of age, and, as appears from the letter to himself which follows, under the management of his grandmother.
3 See preceding epistle.
4 i.e. his metropolitan province, Lyons being a metropolitan See.
5 See preceding epistle, note 2.
6 If the accounts given by the Frankish historians be true, Brunechild’s influence over her grrandson was not in all respects such as to prepare him for life with the angels. She is said to have encouraged him in licentious living for fear of her own power being undermined by the introduction into his court of a lawful queen. (Greg Turon., Hist. Franc. Xl. 36; Fredegar. XXX., XXXVII)..
7 For the rest of this epistle see preceding Epistle IX with which, mutatis mutandis it is identical, as was Epistle VIII., save for an additional paragraph given under Epistle VIII. See what has been said with regard to that Epistle. The genuineness, or at any rate the freedom from interpolation, of all these three Epistles is disputed. The Benedictine Editors of Gregory’s works defend their authenticity. See their note (b) to Ep.VIII( Patrologiae Tomus LXVII. Sancti Gregorii Magni tomus tertius). The purport of all three letters is to confer privileges on, and provide for the future security and regulation of, three recent foundations of Queen Brunechild at Augustodunim (Autun); viz. 1. A hospital, or guest-house (xenodochium) in Autun, over which a Senator, described as “presbyter and abbot,” had been appointed to preside; 2. A monastery for women, of which Thalassi had been appointed Abbess; 3. The Church of St. Martin in the suburbs, over which Lupo “presbyter and abbot,” presided. These foundations are referred to, though not described, in Epistle VI. to Brunechild herself, where Gregory speaks of having issued decrees for their protection in the future, which he desires should be kept among the royal archives. In those times of continual conflict among the Frank potentates royal founders might naturally wish to protect their foundations from disturbance by means of spiritual fulminations ; and the queen’s desire in this respect might account for the anathemas in these epistles, which have been said to be characteristic of a later age than that of Gregory. It may be observed further that the appointment of the heads of these religious institutions is, in the letters before us, reserved to “the kings of the province” instead of free election, subject to episcopal approval, being left to the inmates, as was usual in other cases. This might be due, if the letters are genuine, to the request of Brunechild, whom, as a staunch Catholic and a supporter of the Church, Gregory ever shews himself anxious to conciliate. With regard to his politic flattery of her, or of others similarly situated, cf. VI. 5, note 4.
8 Adrian, who had already been commissioned as notarius Siciliae (X. 23), had now been made rector patrimonii, being succeeded as notary by Pantaleo (XIII. 34)
9 Sacerdotes, meaning here apparently parish priests, though more commonly, in Gregory’s epistles, denoting bishops. The abuse complained of seems to have been that of charging priests of parishes unreasonably for the remuneration of the clerici who attended the bishops on their confirmation progresses.
10 Ad consignados infantes; i.e. for confirmation, cf. IV. 26, note, 6.
11 This designation may mean a kind of private secretary to the Emperor, or one to whom the secret service of the government was committed.
12 See 11.27, note 2.
13 Bishop of Naples. A few epistles not included in this translation are addressed to him as such.
14 Filii ecclesae, or, according to the authority of mss., simply filii. Cf. III. 56, where the expression occurs. It is understood to denote the lay members of any Church, among whom those of the highest social position were called nobiles (see (below), and others plebs. Mandates for the election of bishops are addressed to clero, nobilibus, ordini, et plebi (as in II.6), or to clero ordini, et plebi (as in I.58), or occasionally clero et nobilibus (as in I. 80); ordo being understood to denote persons of position, though not ranking as nobles.
15 i.e. bishops, as commonly meant by sacerdotes.
16 See above, note 5.
17 Phocas succeeded Mauricius as Emperor in November, a.d. 602. With regard to Gregory’s adulatory tone towards this sanguinary usurper and his consort Leontia, see Prolegomena, p. xxvii.
18 Cf. I.44, note 1.
19 Cf. ib., note 4.
20 Cf. ib., note 5.
21 Cf. ib., note 1.
22 Cf. ib., note 5.
23 Bishop of Syracuse. Cf. V. 17.
24 Adrian, previously addressed as notarius Sicilae (X.. 23), had been succeeded by Pantaleo and made rector patrimonii (XIII. 18).
25 The person thus sent was Boniface (see (below, Ep. XL., and XIV. 8), who afterwards became pope.
26 See VII. 40 for Gregory’s view of the three sees of Rome, Antioch, Alexandria, all representing the see of St. Peter.
27 Eulogias, apparently in the same sense as benedictiones, used elsewhere as denoting presents).

Book XIV

Epistle II.

To Vitalis, Guardian (Defensorem) of Sardinia.

 Gregory to Vitalis, &c.

From the information given us by thy Experience we find that the hospitals [or guest-houses, xenodochia] rounded in Sardinia are suffering from grievous neglect. Hence our most reverend brother and fellow-bishop Januarius1 would have had to be most strongly reprehended, did not his old age and simplicity, and the sickness which thou hast told us of coming on besides, keep us in check.

Seeing, then, that he is so situated that he cannot be fit to order anything, do thou warn the steward of that Church, and Epiphanius the archpresbyter, under our strict authority, that they themselves at their own peril endeavour themselves carefully and profitably to set those same hospitals (xenodochia) in order. For, if there should be any neglect there hereafter, let them know that they will not be able in any manner, or to any extent, to excuse themselves before us.

Further, since the proprietors of Sardinia have petitioner us that, seeing that they are afflicted by diverse burdens, thou mightest go to Constantinople for their redress, we grant thee leave to go. And we have also written to our most beloved son Boniface, desiring him to do his best to lend thee his aid in obtaining redress for that province.

Moreover, with regard to the Churches which thou hast informed us are without priests2 , we have written to our aforesaid most reverend brother and fellow-bishop Januarius, that he should supply them; yet so that all be not chosen for the episcopate from his own Church. For it becomes him so to supply other Churches as not to cause want in his own of persons who may be of advantage to it.

As to what thou hast told us of persons having been preferred to the government of certain monasteries who, while they were in a lower monastic order, had fallen into sin, they ought not indeed to have undertaken the office of abbot except after entire reformation of life and after due preceding penance. But since, as thou sayest, they have undertaken the office of abbots, heed must be given to their life, manners, and attention to duty. And, if their conduct should not be found inconsistent with their office, let them persevere in the order in which they are. Otherwise let them be removed, and others ordained who may profit the souls committed to them.

Furthermore, in the case of the monastery of Saint Hermas, which was founded by our brother in the house of the religious lady Pomponiana, inasmuch as it should be treated with tenderness rather than with strictness, let thy Experience endeavour to deal sweetly with the said lady, to the end that neither may she, to her own sin, disregard the will of the founder, nor thou fail to provide salubriously for the advantage of the monastery. Further, as to the girls of whom the aforesaid Pomponiana had formerly changed the religious dress, and converted them in the monastery3 , thou must by no means suffer them to be withdrawn from her, or disquieted; but let them continue, God protecting them, in the state of life in which they are.

With regard to the recovery of the property of Churches, or of monasteries, or any other devoted to pious uses, about which thou hast written, those who are interested must be admonished that it is for them to seek in all ways to recover it with thy support and aid. But, if they should haply prove negligent, or in any case if such as ought to recover it should not be found, then do thou search it all out and so get it back, when discovered, as not to appear to take legal action against any one with a high hand. As to what thou bast told us with respect to the hospitals (xenodochia) of Hortulanus and Thomas, we so far have no knowledge. Wherefore let thy Experience look diligently into the order of the Emperor so far given, and arrange all according to its tenour, and make known to us whatever thou hast done.

Concerning what thou hast written about our brother and fellow-bishop Januarius at the time when he celebrates the sacrifice often suffering such distress that he can hardly after long intervals return to the place in the canon where he has left off, and as to many doubting whether they should receive the Communion from his consecration, they are to be admonished to be in no alarm at all, but communicate with full faith and security, since a person’s sickness neither alters nor defiles the benediction of the sacred mystery. Nevertheless our said brother should by all means be exhorted privately, that, as often as he feels any trouble coming on, he should not proceed to celebration, lest he thus expose himself to contempt, and cause offence to the minds of the weak.

Furthermore, the religious lady Pomponiana4 has complained to us that the inheritance of her late son-in-law Epiphanius—of which the said Epiphanius had appointed his wife Matrona, daughter of the aforesaid Pomponiana, to be usufructuary for the benefit of the monastery which he had directed to be founded in his house, and for its benefit also in all ways after the extinction of the usufruct—together with other things which are proved to belong to the same Matrona by right of possession, have been unjustly taken away by thy Experience and by our most reverend brother and fellow-bishop Januarius, and that nothing therefore has so far been paid to her daughter, or been of profit to the monastery. Now if the truth is so, and thou art aware of having done anything unbecomingly, without any delay restore what has been taken away; or at any rate, if thou thinkest it to be otherwise lest the opposite party should seem to be aggrieved prejudicially, by no means defer submitting the case to arbitrators chosen with her concurrence, that it may be declared by a definite decision whether her complaint be true and just.

Epistle IV.

To Fantinus, Guardian (Defensorem) of Panormus.

 Gregory to Fantinus, &c

Such things about our brother and fellow-bishop Exhilaratus, as thou thyself also knowest, have come to our ears as ought by all means to be visited with severe punishment. But, since it has been smoothed over by our most reverend brother and fellow-bishop Leo5 , who has also declared that he was judge in that case, we have thought it fit that he [i.e. Exhilaratus] should be sent back to his Church, considering that what we have inflicted on him by keeping him here so long may be enough for him. Therefore we enjoin thy Experience to pay attention to his manners and deeds, and to admonish him frequently, to the end that he may shew himself solicitous in extending kind charity to his clerks (clericis), and, should need require, in correcting faults. But we desire thee also to admonish his clergy that they exhibit humility towards him, and the obedience which the Lord commands, nor in any respect presume to behave proudly with regard to him. And if any one of them, that is, either bishop or clerk, should disregard thy admonition, do thou, under this authority from us, either correct the sin of disobedience by canonical coercion, as thou seest fit, or make haste to send a report to us, that we may be able to arrange how the rein of discipline may keep from going off their road those whom the goad of evil inclination provokes to transgression.

Epistle VII.

To Alcyson, Bishop of Corcyra.

Gregory to Alcyson, &c.

Not undeservedly does the ambition of an elated heart require to be quelled, when, disregarding the force of the sacred canons, the excess of rash presumption in coveting unlawfully what belongs to others is shewn to be not only harmful in causing expense, but also opposed to the peace of the Church. Having, then, perused thy Fraternity’s epistles, we have learnt what has been done formerly or of late by the bishop of the City of Euria with regard to the camp of Cassiopus6 , which is situated in thy diocese, and we are distressed that those who should have been debtors to thy Church for charity bestowed upon them, should rather become its enemies, no shame restraining them; and at last that, in a way contrary to ecclesiastical arrangement, contrary to priestly moderation, contrary to the ordinances of the sacred canons, they should attempt to withdraw the aforesaid camp from thy jurisdiction and subject it to their own power, so as to become as it were masters where they had before been received as strangers. Concerning which matter, seeing that Andrew, our brother of venerable memory, Metropolitan of Nicopolis, with the support also of an imperial order whereby the cognizance of this case had been enjoined on him, is known to have determined in a sentence promulged by him, as has been made manifest to us, that the aforesaid camp of Cassiopus should remain under the jurisdiction of thy Church as it always has been, we, approving of the form of that sentence, confirm it, as justice approves, by the authority of the Apostolic See, and decree that it remain firm in all respects. For no reason of equity, no canonical order, sanctions that one person should in any way occupy the parish7 of another. Wherefore, though the guilt of this contentiousness seems to require no slight strictness of treatment, in that they have returned evil for good, nevertheless care should be taken that kindness be not overcome by excess, nor that what is due to strange brethren, when they are suffering constraint too, be denied them, lest charity should be judged to have no operation in the minds of bishops, if those to whom great compassion is due should be left without the remedy of consolation. It is right, then, that the priests and clergy of the city of Euria be not repelled from habitation of the aforesaid camp of Cassiopus, but that they should have leave also to deposit with due reverence the holy and venerable body of the blessed Donatus, which they have brought with them, in one of the churches of the aforesaid place such as they may choose. Yet so that protection be procured for thy Love, in whose diocese this camp is situate, by the issue of a security whereby the bishop of Euria shall promise not to claim for himself any power therein, or any privilege, or any jurisdiction, or any authority in future, as though he were cardinal bishop; but that, peace being restored by the favour of God, they shall return by all means to their own places, taking away with them, if they will, the venerable body of Saint Donatus. So, this promise being kept in mind, neither may they dare on any pretext whatever to claim further to themselves any right of rule there, but acknowledge themselves guests there at all times, nor may the Church of thy Fraternity in any degree incur prejudice to its rights and privileges.

Epistle VIII.

To Boniface, Deacon.

Gregory to Boniface, Deacon at Constantinople8 .

As often as the discord of those who ought to have been preachers of peace makes us sad, we should study with great solicitude that cause of contention may be removed, and that those who differ among themselves may return to concord. Now what has been done with respect to the camp of Cassiopus, which is situate in the island of Corcyra, and how the bishop of Euria is endeavouring to withdraw it from the jurisdiction of the bishop of Corcyra, and iniquitously to subject it to his own jurisdiction, it would be very tedious to tell9 . But, that your Love may understand all things fully, we have sent to you the letters of our brother Alcyson, the bishop of Corcyra, and have caused his man to go to you to inform you of everything more particularly by word of mouth. This, however, we briefly mention, that an order having been surreptitiously obtained from the late Emperor Mauricius, which order, having been given in opposition to the laws and sacred canons, had no effect, and the dispute between the parties remaining undecided, he gave another order to our late brother Andrew, then Metropolitan of Nicopolis, to the effect that, as both parties were subject to his jurisdiction, he should take cognizance of the case and terminate it canonically. The said Metropolitan, having taken cognizance of the case and pronounced sentence, of which we send you a copy, decided the aforesaid camp of Cassiopus to be under the power and jurisdiction of the bishop of Corcyra, in whose diocese it always was; and we, approving his sentence, have thought fit to confirm it by the authority of the Apostolic See. And, lest what we decreed should be so strict as to seem to have no admixture of benignity, we took care so to order the matter for the time being (as the text of our sentence which we send to thee shews) that neither should the bishop or clergy of the city of Euria incur the necessity of residence, nor the privileges of the Church of Corcyra be in any way disturbed. But inasmuch as at the very beginning of proceedings an order was surreptitiously got from the most serene lord the Emperor, and (contrary to the judgment of the Metropolitan of Nicopolis, which rested on ecclesiastical propriety and canonical reason) the aforesaid camp of Cassiopus is said to have been handed over to the bishop of Euria (a thing we cannot hear without grief or tell without groans), with still greater wrong to the bishop of Corcyra and his clergy, in such sort as (sad to say) to take away entirely the jurisdiction of the Church of Corcyra, and give as it were to the bishop of Euria the whole principal jurisdiction there; this being so, we have thought right to deliver our sentence to no one, lest we should seem to do anything contrary to the order of our most clement lord the Emperor, or (which God forbid) in contempt of him. Wherefore let thy Love diligently represent the whole matter to his Piety, and steadily insist that the thing is altogether unlawful, altogether bad, altogether unjust, and greatly opposed to the sacred canons. And so may he not allow a sin of this sort to be introduced in his times to the prejudice of the Church. But represent to him what is contained in the judgment of the aforesaid late metropolitan on the business, and in what manner his decision had been confirmed by us, and endeavour so to act that our sentence, with an order from him, may be sent to those parts, to the end that we may be seen to have paid due deference to his Serenity, and to have corrected reasonably what had been presumptuously done amiss. In this affair pains must by all means be taken that, if it can be effected, he may contribute also his own order, enjoining the observance of what has been decided by us. For if this is done, all place for subornation hereafter will be shut out. Make haste, then, so to exercise thy vigilance, with the help of Almighty God, for abating these wrongs, that neither may the will of those who attempt perverse things obtain any advantage now against the ancient settlement of ecclesiastical usage, nor a nefarious proceeding gain ground for example afterwards.

Furthermore, that thou mayest know what wrongs and what oppressions the above-written Alcyson, our brother and fellow-bishop, asserts that he endures from the agents (actionariis) of the Church of Thessalonica, we have forwarded to thy Love the letter which he has sent to us. And do thou accordingly cause the responsalis of the aforesaid Church to come to thee, anti take cognizance of the case in his presence, and write to our brother and fellow-bishop Eusebius, on such heads as reason may suggest to thee, that he may prohibit his men from acting unjustly, and warn them not to oppress interiors, but rather help them in whatever may be just. This also we desire; that thy Love should write to him who may have been ordained as Metropolitan in the city of Nicopolis, to the end that he may take cognizance of the case with regard to the injuries which our aforesaid brother Alcyson complains of having been inflicted on his Church, and decide what is just, seeing that the matter itself is stated not to have been decided by his predecessors, but reserved.

Epistle XII.

To Theodelinda, Queen of the Lombards.

Gregory to Queen Theodelinda.

The letters which you sent us a little time ago from the Genoese parts have made us partakers of your joy on account of our learning that by the favour of Almighty God a son has been given you, and, as is greatly to your Excellency’s credit, has been received into the fellowship of the catholic faith10 . Nor indeed was anything else to be supposed of your Christianity but that you would fortify him whom you have received by the gift of God with the aid of Catholic rectitude, so that our Redeemer might both acknowledge thee as His familiar servant, and also bring up prosperously in His fear a new king for the nation of the Lombards. Wherefore we pray Almighty God both to keep you in the way of His commandments, and to cause our most excellent son, Adulouvald11 , to advance in His love, to the end that, as he is in this world great among men, so also he may be glorious for his good deeds before the eyes of our God.

Now as to what your Excellency has requested in your letter, that we should reply in full to what our most beloved son, the abbot Secundus has written12 , who could think of putting off his petition or your wishes, knowing how profitable they would be to many, did not sickness stand in the way? But so great an infirmity from gout has held us I fast as to render us hardly able to rise, not only for dictating, but even for speaking, as also your ambassadors, the bearers of these presents, are aware, who, when they arrived, found us weak, and when they departed, left us in the utmost peril and danger of our life. But, if by the ordering of Almighty God I should recover, I will reply in full to all that he has written. I have, however, sent by the bearers of these presents the Synod that was held in the time of Justinian of pious memory, that my aforesaid most-beloved son may acknowledge on reading it that all that he had heard against the Apostolic See or the Catholic Church was false. For far be it from us to accept the views of any heretic whatever, or to deviate in any respect from the tome of our predecessor Leo, of holy memory; but we receive whatever has been defined by the four holy synods, and condemn whatever has been rejected by them.

Further, to our son the King Adolouvald we have taken thought to send some phylacteries; that is, a cross with wood of the holy cross of the Lord, and a lection of the holy Gospel enclosed in a Persian case. Also to my daughter, his sister, I send three rings, two of them with hyacinths, and one with an albula13 , which I request may be given them through you, that our charity towards them may be seasoned by your Excellency.

Furthermore, while paying you our duty of greeting with fat erly charity, we beg you to return thanks in our behalf to our most excellent son the King your consort for the peace that has been made, and to move his mind to peace, as you have been accustomed to do, in all ways for the future; that so, among your many good deeds, you may be able in the sight of God to find reward in an innocent people, which might have perished in offence.

Epistle XIII. To Alcyson, Bishop of Corcyra

To Alcyson, Bishop of Corcyra14 .

Gregory to Alcyson, &c.

To brethren who bethink themselves and return to wholesome counsels kindness is not to be denied, lest a fault seem to weigh more in the minds of bishops than charity. We have therefore received, in the presence of thy Love’s responsales, Peter, reader of the Church of Euria, who came to us with letters from our brother and fellow-bishop John, and, when the letters which he had brought had been read, we took care to ask him if he had anything to say against the allegation of those thy responsales. And on his stating that he had been charged with nothing, and had no answer to make, beyond what the epistle of his bishop contained, we decreed without tardiness, under God, what was agreeable to the canons. After a long time, however, the above-written Peter produced a document which he asserted had been given him by his bishop; and so the case underwent delay. But inasmuch as in this document the above-mentioned bishop was found to say that he had hoped to have leave to deposit the holy and venerable body of the blessed Donatus in the church of the blessed Jn which is within the camp called that of Cassiopus, saying that he is prepared, on account of its being proved to be in thy diocese, to give thy Love a security that no prejudice to thee should thence arise, we thought it fight that his petition should not be left without effect, now that in a time of necessity he desires provision to be made for him in such a way as to secure his acknowledgment in all respects of the jurisdiction of thy Church. Moved therefore by this reason, we exhort thy Fraternity by this present letter, that, without any delay or excuse thou afford opportunity for depositing the venerable body of the above-written Saint in the aforenamed Church of the blessed John; on condition only that he previously protect thee by a security in writing that he will never on any plea whatever claim to himself any jurisdiction or privilege in the aforesaid Church or camp, as though he were the bishop of the place, but guard there inviolably all the right and power of thy Church, the place being in thy diocese. At the same time it becomes thee also, as the same our brother has requested, to reply to him that whenever, peace being restored by the mercy of God, he may be at liberty to return to his own place, it shall be lawful for him to take away with him, without any objection made, the aforesaid venerable body. Herein, lest what is done should seem to be personal, and occasion should possibly be found for stirring up the contention anew, your successors also should be in all respects included in this promise to keep things as they are, to the end that through this preventional security neither may he in future presume to claim anything there in thy diocese against equity and the decrees of the sacred canons, nor the rights of thy Church ever in any manner sustain any prejudice from such concession.

Epistle XVI. From Felix Bishop of Messana to St. Gregory.

From Felix Bishop of Messana15 ToSt. Gregory.

To the most blessed and honourable lord, the holy father Pope Gregory, Felix lover of your Weal and Holiness).

The claims under God of your most blessed Weal and Holiness are manifest. For, though the whole earth was filled with observance of the true faith by the preaching and doctrine of the apostles, yet the orthodox Church of Christ, having been founded by apostolical institution and most firmly established by the faithful fathers, is further built up through the teaching of divine discourses, while instructed by your hortatory admonition. To it did all the most blessed apostles, endowed with an equal participation of dignity and authority16 , convert hosts of peoples; and by salutary precepts and admonitions, piously and holily, brought such as were foreknown in the grace of divine predestination from darkness to light, from error to the true faith from death to life. Following the merits of these holy apostles, and perfectly acting up to their example, your honoured Paternity adorns with them the Church of God by probity of managers and holiness of deeds; and, strong in sacred faith and Christian manners, enjoins what should be done to please God, and unceasingly follows and fulfils pontifical duties, thus observing the precepts of divine law; since (as says the Apostle) Not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified (
Rm 2,13).

As we were meditating on these things, news was brought us by certain who came from Rome that you had written to our comrade Augustine (afterwards ordained Bishop for the nation of the Angli, and thither sent by your venerable Holiness), and to the Angli (whom we have long known to have been converted to the faith through you), that persons related in the fourth degree of descent, if married, should not be separated17 . Now this was not formerly the custom either in those or in these parts, when I was brought up and taught together with you from infancy; nor have I read of it in any decrees of your predecessors, or in the institutes of other Fathers generally or specially, or learnt that it had been allowed hitherto by any of the wise. But I have fouled from your holy predecessors, and from the rest of the holy Fathers, assembled as well in the Nicene synod as in other holy councils, that this [i.e). this prohibition of marriage] should be observed down to the seventh degree of descent; and I know that this is carefully seen to by men who live aright and fear the Lord. While these things were being discussed among us, other things also supervened, concerning which it seems necessary for us to consult your authority. For there came to us both Benedict, bishop of the Syracusan Church, and also others of our brethren, being bishops, weeping, and saying that they were greatly disturbed and afflicted in mind on account of the immoderate proceedings of secular and lay persons, in consequence of which some unjust things were also being said against them.

There are also some churches in our province about the consecration of which doubt is felt; and, because both of their antiquity and of the carelessness of their custodians, it is unknown whether they have been dedicated by bishops or not. As to all these things we beg to be instructed by your Holiness, and by the authority of your holy see; and we ask to be informed by your letters whether what, as we have before said, we have heard that you had written to our aforesaid comrade Augustine and to the nation of the Angli was written specially to them or generally to all; and we desire to be fully informed both on this matter and on the others above written.

For we do not signify to you what we have read, and what we know to be observed by the faithful, by way of finding fault (which be far from us); but we seek to know what we may reasonably and faithfully observe in this matter. And, since no slight murmuring is going on among us on this question, we seek an answer from you, as from the head, as to what we should reply to our brethren and fellow bishops; lest we should remain doubtful in the matter, and lest this murmuring should remain among us both in your times and in times to come, and your reputation, which has always been good and excellent, should be lacerated or disparaged through detractions, or your name (which God forbid) should be evil spoken of in succeeding times. For we, observing under God what is right with humble heart, being bound to you in one bond of charity, and defending your religion in all things as faithful pupils, seek knowledge of what is right from you. For we know that, as the apostles in the first place who were prelates of the holy See, and their successors afterwards, have always done, so you also take care of the universal Church, and especially of bishops, who on account of their contemplation and speculation are called the eyes of the Lord; and that you think continually about our religion and law, as it is written, Blessed is he who shall meditate in the law of the Lard day and night (Ps 1,2). Which meditation of yours is not only seen by reading, through the outward expression of letters, but, by the grace of Christ abounding in you, is known to be immoveably engrafted in your conscience; while the most holy law of Christ the Lord in no wise departs from your heart; as says the Prophet in the Psalms, The mouth of the righteous will meditate wisdom, and his tongue will be talking of judgments: the law of God is in his heart (Ps 36,30); written not with ink, but in secret by the Spirit of the living God; not therefore on tables of stone, but on the tables of the heart. Let all gloom of darkness, we pray you, be dispelled by your most wise replies and assistance, that the morning star may shine upon us through you, most holy Father, and a dogmatic definition causing joy to all everywhere, because the glorious Fathers of holy Church are known to have preached proper and most pious dogmas unto secure inheritance of eternal life.

Subscription. May the Lord keep you safe and well-pleasing to God for ever, holy father of fathers, while you pray for us.

S. Gregory I, letters 21342