Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 12: 32.02.26 Book VIII Part I

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Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 12: 32.02.26 Book VIII Part I

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SUBJECT: 32.02.26 Book VIII Part I

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Epistle I. To Peter, Bishop.

Gregory to Peter, Bishop of Corsicahyperlink .

On receiving the letters of your Fraternity we returned great thanks to Almighty God, that you had been so good as to refresh us with the news of the gathering in of many souls. And accordingly let your Fraternity strive anxiously to bring to perfection, with the help of the Lord, the work which you have begun. And with regard to those who have once been faithful, but from negligence or under constraint have returned to the worship of idols, make haste to bring them back to the faith, imposing on them a penance of a few days, that they may bewail their guilt, and keep to that to which they return, God helping them, the more firmly as they shall have perfectly deplored that from which they now depart; and with regard to those who have not yet been baptized, let thy Fraternity make haste, by admonishing, by beseeching, by alarming them about the coming judgment, and also by giving reasons why they should not worship stocks and stones, to gather them in to Almighty God; that so, at His advent, when the strict day of judgment comes, thy Holiness may be found in the number of the Saints. For what more profitable work or more lofty canst thou be engaged in than taking thought for the quickening and gathering together of souls and bringing in immortal gain to thy Lord, Who has given to thee the post of preaching?

Further, we send thy Fraternity fifty solidi for procuring vestments for those who are to be baptized; and we have also caused to be given to the presbyter of the Church situated in Mount Negeugnushyperlink the possession which thy Fraternity has asked for, so that its value may be deducted from the money that he had been accustomed to receive.

Further, your Fraternity has asked to be allowed to make for yourself an episcopal residence in the church that is not far from the same mountain; which proposal I most gladly accede to, since the nearer you are, the more will you be able to do good to the souls that are there.

In consideration of your Holiness's intercessions for him we have made the bearer of these presents an acolyte, and have sent him back to attend upon you, in order that, if he should be of still more service in winning souls, he may be in a position to be still further advanced.

Epistle II. To Anastasius, Bishop of Antioch.

Gregory to Anastasius, Patriarch of Antioch.

I have received the letters of your most sweet Blessedness, which flowed with tears for words. For I saw in them a cloud flying aloft as clouds do; but, though it carried with it a darkness of sorrow, I could not easily discover at its commencement whence it came or whither it was going, since by reason of the darkness I speak of I did not fully understand its origin. Yet it becomes you, most holy ones, ever to recall to mind what the preacher to the Gentiles says; In the last times perilous times shall be at hand, and there shall be men loving themselves, covetous, lifted up (1 Tim. iv. 1); and what follows, which it would be a trouble for me to speak, and which is not necessary for you to hear. Lo, in your holy old age, your Blessedness labours under many tribulations; but consider in whose seat you sithyperlink . Is it not in his to whom it was said by the voice of the truth, When thou shalt be old, another shall gird thee and carry thee whether thou wouldest not (Joh. xxi. 18)? But in saying this I recollect that your Holiness even from your youth hastoiled under many adversities. Say then with the good king, I will think again over all my years in the bitterness of my soul (Isai. xxxviii. 15). For there are many who, as you say in your letter, make to themselves pastime over our wounds: but we know who said, Ye shall lament and weep, but the world shall rejoice; and ye shall be sorrowful (Joh. xvi. 20): where also he forthwith adds, But your sorrow shall be turned into joy, But, since we already suffer what was foretold, it remains that we should also hope for what was promised. For as to these of whom you say that they themselves lay on the burdens which they ought to have lightened, I know that they are those who come in sheep's clothing, and inwardly are ravening wolves (Matth. vii.). But They are so much the more to be endured as they persecute us not only with a malicious mind, but also in religious guise. And in that they desire to have to themselves above others what it were not fit that they should have even with their brethren, we are in no wise disturbed at this, since we trust in Almighty God that those who desire what belongs to others will be the sooner deprived even of what is their own. For we know who said, That every one that exalteth himself shall be abased (Luke xiv. 11). And again it is written, Before a fall the heart is exalted (Prov. xvi. 18).

But in these days, as I find, new wars of heretics are arising, about whom I have before now written to your Blessedness, in such sort that they attempt to invalidate the prophets, the Gospels, and all the sayings of the Fathers. But, while the life of your Holiness endures, we trust in the favour of our Protector that their mouths which have been opened against the solidity of the truth may be the sooner stopped, inasmuch as, however sharp may be the swords that are employed, they recoil broken when they strike the rock. Moreover there is this by the great favour of Almighty God; that among those who are divided from the doctrine of Holy Church there is no unity, since every kingdom divided against itself shall not stand (Luke xi.). And holy Church is always more thoroughly equipped in her teaching when assaulted by the questionings of heretics; so that what was said by the Psalmist concerning God against heretics is fulfilled, They are divided from the wrath of his countenance, and his heart hath drawn nigh (Ps. liv. 22hyperlink ). For while they are divided in their wicked error, God brings His heart near to us, because, being taught by contradictions, we more thoroughly learn to understand Him.

Further, what ills we suffer from the swords of barbarians, and what from the perversity of judges, I shrink from relating to your Blessedness, lest I should increase your groaning, which I ought to diminish by consolation. But in all these things the precepts of our Master comfort me, who says, These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation (John xvi. 33). For I consider to whom it was said, This is your hour, and the power of darkness (Luke xxii. 53). If, then, the hour of light will be afterwards, since it is said to the elect, Ye are the light of the world (Matth. v. 14), and as it is written, The righteous shall have dominion over them in the morning (Ps. xlviii. 15)hyperlink , whatever we suffer in the hour of the power of darkness is not to be deplored.

Moreover your most sweet Holiness tells me that you would have wished, if it could have been so, to converse with me without paper and pen, and grieves that a distance almost as far as the East is from the West lies between us. But this which I feel I declare is true; that on paper your soul speaks to me without paper, since in the words of your Holiness charity alone sounds, and we are not divided by distance of place who, of the gift of Almighty God, are joined together in the bond of love. Why then seek you to have given you the wings of a dove covered with silver, when you already have them? For indeed these wings are love of God and of our neighbour. For by these holy Church flies aloft, and by these transcends all that is earthly; which if your Holiness had not, you would not have come to me by letter with so great charity.

Further, I beg you to pray earnestly in behalf of the weakness of my heart, to the end that Almighty God may through your intercession defend my soul from all evils, and the sooner snatch me away from the hurricanes of this time, which are so many, and bring me to the shores of eternal rest.

I have received all the very rich blessingshyperlink , directed to me, which thou, as a man of Godpoor in spirit, hast sent me, saying of them, For what can a poor man give but what is poor? But had you not been poor through a spirit of humility, your blessings would not have been rich. May Almighty God guard you by His protection from all evils; and, since your life is very necessary for all good men, bring you after many years yet to come to the joys of the heavenly country.

Epistle III. To Donus, Bishop of Messana (In Sicily).

Gregory to Donus, &c.

The most eloquent than, our son Faustinus, has come to us and complained that his late father Peltrasius left some things which were not his own to your Church for his burial. And indeed he knows himself, and we have heard, what the secular law is in such a case; namely, that the heir is bound to pay if his father has bequeathed what was not his own. But, as we know that your Fraternity lives by the law of God and not of the world, it seems to me very unjust that an amber cup, and a boy who is said to be of a certain church situate on his property in the diocese of Consentia, should be detained by thy Fraternity. For, when the most reverend Palumbus, now bishop, but then archdeacon, had testified that things were as I have said, you certainly ought tO have taken his word, and restored what was not your own. Further, you ought in my opinion to have considered the golden brooch, which would be his whole substance were there anything for the sustenance of those he had left behind him, and accepted it at that time for his burial. Nevertheless, you know our ordinance, how that we have entirely forbidden the old custom in our Church, nor give our assent to any one being allowed to acquire burial-places for a human body for a price. For, if the men of Sichem, who were as we suppose Gentiles, offered without charge to Abraham sepulture for the dead Sara to be buried in a place of her own, and were hardly prevailed upon by his great importunity to receive a price for her place of burial, ought we, who are called bishops, to make any charge for burying the bodies of the faithful? This, then, we commit to the judgment of your Fraternityhyperlink .

The aforesaid most eloquent man complains also of this; that Sisinnius, the guardian (defensor) of thy Church, unreasonably detainsslaves in his possession: concerning whom also he asserts that it had been decided by the judgment of bishop Maximianus of holy memory that the detainer of them should give them up, but that he has so far wilfully put off their restitution. We therefore exhort thy Fraternity that, if the case has manifestly been adjudged, what was ordained be carried out. Otherwise, some one being deputed to act in the case, cause him to resort to the parts of our brother and fellow-bishop Secundinus for judgment, that, when it shall have been declared by his sentence to whom the slaves in question belong, neither the one party may appear to suffer prejudice nor the other bear a grudge.

Epistle V. To Various Metropolitans and Bishopshyperlink .

Gregory to Eusebius of Thessalonica, Urbitius of Dyracchium, Constantius of Mediolanum (Milan), Andrew of Nicopolis, John of Corinth, John of Prima Justiniana, John Cretensi Scoritano, John of Larissa, Marinianus of Ravenna, Januarius of Canalis (Cagliari) in Sardinia, and all the bishops of Sicily.

I have taken care to transmit to your Fraternity the law which the most pious Emperor has issued, to the effect that such as are bound by engagements of military service or public liabilities, may not in any case, in order to escape risk of being called to account, assume the condition of ecclesiastics, or become monks: and this I especially press upon you, that such as are involved in secular engagements are not to be received hastily among the clergy of the Church, since, while they live in an ecclesiastical condition no otherwise than they had lived before, they are by no means trying to escape secular affairs, but to change them. But, if any such should even seek a monastery, they are by no means to be received unless they have first been absolved from their public liabilities. Further, if any from the military order are in haste to become monks, they are not to be received rashly, or until their life has been fully enquired into. And, according to the regular rule, they ought to undergo a probation of three years, and then, God granting it, assume the monastic habit. And if they have thus been proved and accepted, and are anxious, for the good of their souls, to do penance for the sins they have committed, then, with a view to their heavenly life and gain, monastic profession should not be denied them. With respect to this matter also, believe me, the most serene and most Christian Emperor is in every way pacified, and willingly allows the monastic profession of those whom he knows not to be implicated in public liabilities. The Month of December, first Indiction.

Epistle VI. To Amos, Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Gregory to Amos, Bishop of Jerusalem.

Being confident that your Fraternity pays regard to the ordinances of the canons and the vigour of discipline, lest the falseness of one of' your clerics should succeed in imposing on you so as to escape the strictness of ecclesiastical order, we have thought it right to inform you of his fault, that through your solicitude he may be subjected to the discipline from which he has fled. We understand, then, that Peter, an acolyte, whom we bad caused to serve under our son the deacon Sabinianus, our ecclesiastical representative in the royal city, has fled, and resorted to your Church. If this is true, let your Fraternity be at pains to secure him, and send him back hither when an opportunity occurs. But if by chance, fearing this, he shall have departed from your Church, and be lurking in various places to escape detection, order him to be diligently sought for in all your parishes, and, when found, send him back to us, as we have before said. And we desire also to notify through you that he is deprived of communion: nor let him dare to receive the mysteries of the Lord's body and blood until he shall return to us, unless by chance he should be in imminent peril of death.

Epistle X. To Sabinianus, Bishop of Jaderahyperlink .

Gregory to Sabinianus, &c.

As to one who perseveres in a fault punishment is rightly due, so pardon should be granted to those who return to a better mind.For, as in the former case anger against the culprit is deservedly provoked, so in the latter good-will displayed is wont to promote concord. And so, inasmuch as a recollection of the gravity of the priestly office has now withdrawn thy Fraternity from fellowship and communion with Maximus, into which thoughtlessness had before betrayed thee; and this to such an extent that thou couldest by no means allow thyself to be content with mere separation from him without also bewailing thy past transgression by betaking thyself to the retirement of a monastery, therefore doubt not that thou art received again into our favour and communion: for, as much as thy fault had before offended us, so much has thy penitence appeased us. We exhort thee, therefore, most beloved brother, that thou be instant in bestowing pastoral solicitude on the Lord's flock, and be diligently on the watch to make profit of the sheep committed to thy charge; that so the retribution of a copious reward may abound to thee in proportion as thou shalt offer multiplied fruits of thy labour at the coming of the eternal Judge. Strive then to rescue those who have fallen into sin; strive to shew the way of retracing their steps to those that go astray; strive to recall salubriously to the grace of communion those who have been deprived of communion. Let the coming back of your Charity lay on you the duty of rescuing others, and be an example of salvation; to the end that, while your anxious care shall direct the wandering steps of sheep to the folds of the chief shepherd, both they themselves may not be left exposed to the teeth of wolves, and (what is above all things to be desired.) that the compensation of condign retribution may await thee in the life eternal.

As to the cause about which you wrote to us, requesting us to guard against any clandestine proceedings against you in the royal city, let not this matter disturb your mind. For we have with all possible care given orders to our responsalis to shew himself solicitous and on his guard. And we trust in the power of our God that things are being so conducted that the opposition of no one shall avail against reason, so as in any way to trouble you or to bear hard upon you.

Furthermore, the inhabitants of the city of Epidaurus have most urgently requested us to restore to them Florentius, whom they allege to be their bishop, asserting that he was driven into exile invalidly by the mere will of the bishop Natalishyperlink . And so, if your Fraternity has any knowledge of his case, please to inform us accurately by letter. But, if so far you have no knowledge of it, make enquiry, and report to us, that we may be able, with the Lord's help, to deliberate with full knowledge before us as to what should be determined concerning him. In the month of February, first Indiction.

Epistle XIII. To Columbus.

Gregory to Columbus, Bishop of Numidiahyperlink .

How we may presume on your Charity we gather from the disposition of our own mind with regard to you. Nor do we think that you love the Apostolic See otherwise than as it loves you. Whence it must needs be that we should more peculiarly commend those whom we know to be, as they should be, devoted in the Church of the blessed Peter, Prince of the apostles, to you whose life the action as well as the dignity of a priest adorns, and of whose sincerity we already hold proof from past experience.

As to our brother, therefore, and fellow-bishop Paulhyperlink , the bearer of these presents, with what billows and adversities he is tossed in your parts he tells us is not unknown to your Holiness. And seeing that he asserts that the complaints against him which you have told us have come to your ears are not true, but raised against him at the instigation of his adversaries, and that he trusts to be able by the help of the Lord to surmount them all, with the truth to support him and with you to take cognizance, we exhort you, most beloved brother, that, in whatever points considerations of justice are clearly on his side, you afford him becomingly the hand of succour, and aid him with priestly sympathy. Let, then, no circum stance, no influence of any persons, deflect you from studious regard to equity. But, leaning on the Lord's precepts, set at naught whatever is opposed to rectitude. In defending one party or the other insist constantly on justice. Shrink not from incurring ill-will, if such there be, in behalf of truth; that thou mayest find in the advent of our Redeemer b so much the greater fruit of reward as, not neglecting His commands, thou shalt have devoted thyself to the countenance and defenceof justice.In the month of March, firstIndiction.

Epistle XIV. To Boniface, First Guardian (Defensorem).

Gregory to Boniface concerning the privileges of Guardianshyperlink .

Those who labour faithfully in the interests of the Church should receive the benefit of suitable remuneration, so that both we may be seen to have made a worthy return for their services, and they may shew themselves the more useful for the favour of the solace granted them. Seeing, then, that those who hold the office of Guardians are known to labour in the causes of the Church and in the service of the pontiffs, we have thought fit that they should enjoy the following prerogatives, granted to them for recompense;-appointing that, as in the school (schola) of notaries and subdeacons, through the indulgence of pontiffs long ago, there have been constituted regionarii, so also among the Guardians seven who may have commended themselves by proved utility shall be distinguished by the dignity of regionarii. And we appoint that these, in the absence of the pontiff, shall have leave to sit anywhere in any assembly of clergy, and enjoy in all respects the privileges of their dignity. Furthermore, if any one, attaining to this position of priority, should by any chance livein another province for his own advantage, he must needs still occupy in all respects his place of priority, so that he may be the chief of all the guardians, as being one who, even before he obtained his position of priority, had not ceased by assiduous personal attention to devote himself to the interests of the Church and the service of the pontiff. These decrees, then, by us constituted, which have been ordained for the privileges and constitution of Guardians, we appoint to be kept in perpetual force and irrefragably;-whether such things as we have decreed in writing, or such as are seen to have been ordained in our presence: and we decree also that they shall not be upset or changed in whole or in part on any occasion whatever by any of the pontiffs. For it is a very harsh proceeding, and especially contrary to good conduct in priests, that any one should endeavour, under any manner of excuse, to rescind what has been well ordained, and also by his example to teach others to dissolve his own constitutions after his own time The mouth of April, first Indiction.

Epistle XV. To Marinianus, Bishop of Ravenna.

Gregory to Marinianus, &c.

How necessary it is to provide for the quiet of monasterieshyperlink , and to take measures for their perpetual security, you are aware from the office you formerly filled in government of a monastery. And so, seeing that we have learnt how the monastery of the blessed John and Stephen in the city of Classis, over which our common son, the abbot Claudius, is known to preside, has suffered many prejudices and grievances from your predecessors, it is right that the provision of your Fraternity should make salutary arrangements for the quiet of its inmates in future; to the end that living there in the service of God, His grace also assisting them, they may persevere with free mind. But lest, owing to the custom which ought rather to be amended, any one at any time should presume to cause any annoyance there, it is necessary that the points which we have taken care to enumerate below be so guarded by the careful attention of your Fraternity that no occasion of causing them disquiet may possibly be found in future. Let no one, then, any more dare, by any kind of inquisition whatever, to diminish anything from the revenues or charters of the aforesaid monastery, or of any place that in any manner whatever pertains to it, or to attempt any kind of usurpations or stratagems. But if perchance any matter of dispute should arise between the Church of Ravenna and the aforesaid monastery, and it cannot be settled amicably, let it be concluded without voluntary delay before men who fear God chosen by the parties, oath being made upon the most holy Gospels. Further, on the death of an abbot, let not a stranger be ordained, but one whom the congregation may choose of its own free will for itself from the same congregation, and who shall have been chosen without any fraud or venality. But, if they should be unable to find a suitable person among themselves, let them in like manner wisely choose for themselves for ordination one from some other monastery. And, when an abbot comes, let no person whatever on any occasion whatever be put over him in his own monastery, unless perchance in the case (which God forbid) of crimes which are shewn to be punishable by the sacred canons. This rule also must be no, less carefully observed; that against the will of the abbot of such monastery monks be not removed thence for furnishing other monasteries, or for sacred orders, or for any clerical office. But in cases of there being monks in abundance, sufficient for celebrating praises to God and for satisfying the requirements of monasteries, let the abbot offer with devotion of those who are to spare, such as he may be able to find worthy in the sight of God. But if, while having a sufficient number he should refuse to give any, then let the bishop of Ravenna take of such as are to spare for furnishing other monasteries. Nevertheless, let no one be taken out thence for an ecclesiastical office, except such as the abbot of the place, on having notice given him, may offer of his own accord, Whosoever also from the aforesaid monastery shall have attained to any ecclesiastical order, let him thenceforth have neither any power there nor leave to dwell therehyperlink .

It is to be observed also that no schedule of the property and charters of this monastery must be made by ecclesiastics, if ever circumstances require one: but let the abbot of the place with other abbots make an inventory of the property.

Further, as often as the abbot may perchance wish to go or send to the Roman pontiff in the interest of his monastery, let him have entire liberty to do so.

Furthermore, though the visits of bishops should be looked for with desire by monasteries, yet, seeing that it has been reported to us that the aforesaid monastery in the times of your predecessor was burdened by occasion of entertainment, it is right that your Holiness should regulate this in a becoming manner, so that the prelate of the city may have access to the monastery as often as he pleases for the sake of visiting and exhorting. But let the bishop so fulfil the office of charity there that the monastery incur not any burden. Now the aforesaid abbot not only does not fear your Fraternity's frequent access to the monastery, but even longingly desires it, knowing that it is quite impossible that the substance of the monastery should be burdened through you, Given in the month of April, first Indiction.

Epistle XVII. To Maurentius.

Gregory to Maurentius, magister militumhyperlink .

My most beloved son, Cyprian the deacon, had pleased me much by his return to me, if his whole self had returned to me. But now that your Glory bus stayed in Sicily, I know most certainly that he has returned indeed in body, but in mind has remained in Sicily. Yet, in saying this, I rejoice with you for your quiet as much as I groan for my own occupations. And to this I earnestly exhort you, that, if the pleasant savour of inward sweetness has touched the palate of your heart, your mind be so rapt within itself that all which sounds without, all that delights without, may be distasteful. Moreover I commend you for avoiding concourses of men, seeing that a mind which desires to be renewed in God through the grace of compunction often relapses into its old state through evil conversation and words. I have sought for some to join you in a society for sacred reading, but have found no one, and I exceedingly lament the scarcity of what is good. And though I, a sinner, am very much occupied, yet, if you should wish to come to the threshold of the blessed apostle Peter, you will be able to have me as a close associate in the study of Holy Writ. May Almighty God keep you under His heavenly protection, and grant you to remain defended against the snares of the ancient foe.

Epistle XVIII. To Agnellus, Bishop of Terracina.

Gregory to Agnellus, &c.

It has come to our ears-a thing shocking to be told-that some in your parts worship trees, and perpetrate many other unlawful things contrary to the Christian faith. And we wonder why your Fraternity has delayed correcting this by strict punishment. On this account we exhort you by this present writing to cause these persons to be sought out by diligent enquiry, and such vengeance to be executed on them that both God may be pacified and their punishment may be an example of rebuke to others.

We have written also to Mourns the Viscount that he should afford aid to your Fraternity in this matter, that so you may be unable to find any excuse for nor apprehending them. Further, as we find that many excuse themselves from keeping watch over the walls, let your Fraternity be careful to suffer no man, either under the name of our or your Church, or under any other pretext, to be exempted from keeping watch: but let all generally be compelled, to the end that, while all keep watch, the custody of the city may, by the help of the Lord, be the better provided for.


1 Bishop of Aleria in Corsica. Cf. VI. 22.

2 A basilica, with a baptistry attached, had been built on this Mount Negeugnus (or Nigeunus), on land belonging to the Roman See, for the purpose of "winning souls." Cf. VI. 22.

3 Cf. V. 39, note 3.

4 In English Bible, lv. 21 (differently rendered from the Hebrew).

5 In English Bible, xlix. 14.

6 See IV. 31, note 9.

7 For similar disapproval of burial fees, cf. IX. 3.

8 On the subject of this Epistle, see III. 65, 66.

9 See VII. 17, and note on VI. 27.

10 See III. 8, and III. 9, note 2.

11 See II. 48, and note 8.

12 See IV. 34, note 4.

13 See Prolegom., p. vii.

14 For other Epistles in which bishops are forbidden to interfere, except in the case of need, with monasteries, see Index under monasteries. Also Prolegom., p. xx.

15 This is among the many evidences found in Gregory's Epistles that monks in his day were essentially laymen. The active duties incumbent on the clergy were held to be inconsistent with monastic life.

16 This letter is interesting as one of those which shew Gregory's carefulness to retain influence over pious lay friends of position, and his uniform tone of courtesy in addressing them. Maurentius appears to have been a military officer of studious habits in Sicily.