Selected Epistles, of
Gregory the Great, Bishop of RomeTranslated, with Introduction, Notes, and Indices, by the Rev. James Barmby, D.D.,
Vicar of Northallerton, Yorkshire
Published in 1886 by Philip Schaff, New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co.
Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great.
Epistle I.To John, Abbot.
Gregory to John, Abbot of Mount Sina  .
The Epistle of thy Humility testifies to the holiness of thy life; whence we give great thanks to Almighty God, for that we know that there are still some to pray for our sins. For we, under the colour of ecclesiastical government, are tossed in the billows of this world, which frequently overwhelm us. But by the protecting hand of heavenly grace we are raised up again from the deep. Do you, then, who lead a tranquil life in the so great serenity of your rest, and stand as it were safe on the shore, extend the hand of your prayer to us who are on our voyage, or rather who are suffering shipwreck, and with all the supplications in your power help us as we strive to reach the land of the living, so that not only for your own life, but also for our rescue, you may have reward for ever. May the Holy Trinity protect thy Love with the right hand of Its protection, and grant unto thee in Its sight, by praying, by admonishing, by shewing example of good work, to feed the flock committed to thee, that so thou mayest be able to reach the pastures of eternal life with the flock itself which thou feedest. For it is written, My sheep shall come and shall find pastures (John x. 27). And these pastures in truth we find, when, freed from the winter of this life, we are satisfied with the greenness of eternal life, as of a new Spring.
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Gregory to Conon, Abbot of the Monastery of Lirinus  .
The carefulness of persons in authority is the safeguard of subjects, since one who watches over what is entrusted to him avoids the snares of the enemy. But how skilful thou art in ruling the brethren, and how earnestly watchful in keeping guard over them, we have learnt from the report of our most reverend brother and fellow-bishop Mennas  . And as our hearing of the unwary remissness of thy predecessor often saddened us, so the carefulness of thy foresight gladdens us, since there is no doubt that the safeguard of thy earnestness is of profit for reward to thee, and for example to do good to others.
But, since the more our adversary knows himself to be guarded against on all sides, the more he seeks to break in by hidden ways, and strives with cunning art to overthrow his opponent, let the watchfulness of thy Love ever kindle itself to more ardent care; and so, with God's help, fortify all beforehand, that the ravening wolf, running about hither and thither, may have no place for entering among the Lord's sheep. Be it then thine earnest endeavour, the grace of our Redeemer aiding thee, to prohibit and in all ways guard those who are committed to thee from gluttony, from pride, from avarice, from idle speaking, and from all uncleanness; that by so much the greater reward may accrue to thee from the government committed to thee as thy subjects, through thy vigilance, shall be conquerors against the iniquities of the adversary.
Wherefore let the good feel thee sweet, the bad a corrector. And even in correction know thou that this order should be observed, that thou shouldest love persons and visit faults; lest, if thou shouldest perchance be disposed to act otherwise, correction should pass into cruelty, and thou shouldest destroy those whom thou desirest to amend. For thou oughtest so to cut away a sore as not to run the risk of ulcerating what is sound; lest, if thou press in the steel more than the case requires, thou injure him whom thou art in haste to benefit. For let thy very sweetness be wary, not remiss; and let thy correction be loving, not severe. But let the one be so seasoned by the other that both the good may have, in loving, something to beware of, and the bad, in fearing, something to love.
Attend carefully to these things, most beloved son; earnestly observe them; that, when through such management thou shalt have given back safe to God those whom thou hast received from Him, thou mayest be counted worthy in the day of eternal retribution to hear Him say, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: because thou hast been faithful in a few things, I will set thee over many things: enter into the joy of thy Lord (Luke xix. 17). Further, we desire that our son Columbus the presbyter, who is commended to thy Charity by his own merits, may advance in thy love from our commendation also.
Gregory to Serenus, &c.
The beginning of thy letter so showed thee to have in thee the good will that befits a priest as to cause us increased joy in thy Fraternity. But its conclusion was so at variance with its commencement that such an epistle might be attributed, not to one, but to different, minds. Nay, from thy very doubts about the epistle which we sent to thee it appears how inconsiderate thou art. For, hadst thou paid diligent attention to the admonition which in brotherly love we gave thee, not only wouldest thou not have doubted, but have perceived what in priestly seriousness it was thy duty to do. For Cyriacus  formerly abbot, who was the bearer of our letter, was not a man of such training and erudition as to dare, as thou supposest, to make up another, nor for thee to entertain this suspicion of falseness against his character. But, while putting aside consideration of our wholesome admonitions, thou hast come to be culpable, not only in thy deeds, but in thy questionings also. For indeed it had been reported to us that, inflamed with inconsiderate zeal, thou hadst broken images of saints, as though under the plea that they ought not to be adored  . And indeed in that thou forbadest them to be adored, we altogether praise thee; but we blame thee for having broken them. Say, brother, what priest has ever been heard of as doing what thou hast done? If nothing else, should not even this thought have restrained thee, so as not to despise other brethren, supposing thyself only to be holy and wise? For to adore a picture is one thing, but to learn through the story of a picture what is to be adored is another. For what writing presents to readers, this a picture presents to the unlearned who behold, since in it even the ignorant see what they ought to follow; in it the illiterate read. Hence, and chiefly to the nations  , a picture is instead of reading. And this ought to have been attended to especially by thee who livest among the nations, lest, while inflamed inconsiderately by a right zeal, thou shouldest breed offence to savage minds. And, seeing that antiquity has not without reason admitted the histories of saints to be painted in venerable places, if thou hadst seasoned zeal with discretion, thou mightest undoubtedly have obtained what thou wert aiming at, and not scattered the collected flock, but rather gathered together a scattered one; that so the deserved renown of a shepherd might have distinguished thee, instead of the blame of being a scatterer lying upon thee. But from having acted inconsiderately on the impulse of thy feelings thou art said to have so offended thy children that the greatest part of them have suspended themselves from thy communion. When, then, wilt thou bring wandering sheep to the Lord's fold, not being able to retain those thou hast? Henceforth we exhort thee that thou study even now to be careful, and restrain thyself from this presumption, and make haste, with fatherly sweetness, with all endeavour, with all earnestness, to recall to thyself the minds of those whom thou findest to be disjoined from thee.
For the dispersed children of the Church must be called together, and it must be shewn then by testimonies of sacred Scripture that it is not lawful for anything made with hands to be adored, since it is written, Thou shalt adore the Lord thy God, and him only shalt serve (Luke iv. 8). And then, with regard to the pictorial representations which had been made for the edification of an unlearned people in order that, though ignorant of letters, they might by turning their eyes to the story itself learn what had been done, it must be added that, because thou hadst seen these come to be adored, thou hadst been so moved as to order them to be broken. And it must be said to them, If for this instruction for which images were anciently made you wish to have them in the church, I permit them by all means both to be made and to be had. And explain to them that it was not the sight itself of the story which the picture was hanging to attest that displeased thee, but the adoration which had been improperly paid to the pictures. And with such words appease thou their minds; recall them to agreement with thee. And if any one should wish to make images, by no means prohibit him, but by all means forbid the adoration of images. But let thy Fraternity carefully admonish them that from the sight of the event portrayed they should catch the ardour of compunction, and bow themselves down in adoration of the One Almighty Holy Trinity.
Now we say all this in our love of Holy Church, and of thy Fraternity. Be not then shaken, in consequence of my rebuke, in the zeal of uprightness, but rather be helped in the earnestness of thy pious administration.
Furthermore, it has come to our ears that thy Love gladly receives bad men into its society; so much so as to have as a familiar friend a certain presbyter who, after having fallen, is said to live still in the pollution of his iniquity  . This indeed we do not entirely believe, since he that receives such a one does not correct wickedness, but rather appears to give licence to others to perpetrate the like things. But, lest haply by any subornation or dissimulation he should prevail on thee to receive him and keep him still in favour, it becomes thee not only to drive him further from thee, but also in all ways to cut away his excesses with priestly zeal. But as to others who are reported to be bad, study to restrain them from their badness by fatherly exhortation, and to recall them to the way of rectitude. But, if (which God forbid) you seem not to profit them at all by salutary admonition, these also thou wilt take care to cast off far from thee, lest, from their being received, their evil doings should seem not at all to displease thee, and lest not only they themselves should remain unamended, but others also should be corrupted in consequence of thy reception of them. And consider how execrable it is before men, and how perilous before the eyes of God, if vices should seem to be nurtured through him whose duty it is to punish crimes. Attend therefore to these things diligently, most beloved brother; and study so to act as both wholesomely to correct the bad and to avoid breeding offence in the minds of thy children by associating with evil men.
Gregory to Januarius, &c.
Know ye that your Fraternity's solicitude has pleased us, in that you have evinced, as was right, pastoral vigilance for the guardianship of souls. For indeed it has been reported to us that you have forbidden a monastery to be founded in the house of the late Epiphanius, a reader of your Church, in accordance with his will, for this reason; lest, seeing that this house was adjacent to a monastery of hand-maidens of God  , deception of souls should thence ensue. And we praised you greatly for guarding, as became you, by suitable foresight against the snares of the ancient foe. But, since we have been informed that the religious lady Pompeiana is desirous of taking away the handmaidens of God from this same monastery, and restoring them to their own monasteries whence they had been taken, and establishing there a congregation of monks, it is necessary that if this be accomplished, the disposition of the deceased should in all respects be adhered to. But, if this should not be done, that the will of the testator may not seem to be entirely frustrated, we will that--inasmuch as the monastery of the late abbot Urban, situated outside the city of Caralis, is said to be left so destitute that not even one monk remains there--we will, I say, that John, whom the said Epiphanius appointed to be abbot in the monastery which, as has been said, he had determined should be founded in his house, be ordained abbot (i.e. of the late Urban's monastery), provided only that there be no impediment against him.
And let the relics which were to have been deposited in the house of the aforesaid Epiphanius be deposited there, and let whatever the same Epiphanius had contributed for the intended monastery in his own house be in all ways applied to the other; that so, even though for safeguard, as above written, his will is not carried out with regard to the place, the benefit intended may nevertheless be preserved inviolate. And indeed let your Fraternity, together with the guardian (defensore) Vitalis, arrange all this, and endeavour to order it so advantageously that you may have your reward, as for your praiseworthy prohibition, so also for your good settlement of the case. Lastly, though it may be superfluous to commend this monastery to your Fraternity, yet we abundantly exhort you that, as becomes you, with due regard to justice, you hold it as commended to you  .
Gregory to Augustine, &c.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will (Luke ii. 14); because a grain of wheat, falling into the earth, has died, that it might not reign in heaven alone; even He by whose death we live, by whose weakness we are made strong, by whose suffering we are rescued from suffering, through whose love we seek in Britain for brethren whom we knew not, by whose gift we find those whom without knowing them we sought. But who can describe what great joy sprung up here in the hearts of all the faithful, for that the nation of the Angli through the operation of the grace of Almighty God and the labour of thy Fraternity has cast away the darkness of error, and been suffused with the light of holy faith; that with most sound mind it now tramples on the idols which it formerly crouched before in insane fear; that it falls down with pure heart before Almighty God; that it is restrained by the rules of holy preaching from the lapses of wrong doing; that it bows down in heart to divine precepts, that in understanding it may be exalted; that it humbles itself even to the earth in prayer, lest in mind and soul it should lie upon the earth. Whose is this work but His who says, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work (John v. 17)? who, to shew that He converts the world, not by men's wisdom, but by His own power, chose unlettered men as His preachers whom He sent into the world? And He does the same even now, having deigned to work mighty works in the nation of the Angli through weak men. But in this heavenly gift, dearest brother, there is ground, along with great joy, for most serious fear. For I know that Almighty God has displayed great miracles through thy Love in the nation which He has willed to be chosen. Wherefore thou must needs rejoice with fear for this same heavenly gift, and tremble in rejoicing:--rejoice, that is, because the souls of the Angli are drawn by outward miracles to inward grace; but tremble, lest among the signs that are done the infirm mind lift itself up to presumption about itself, and from being exalted in honour outwardly, fall inwardly through vain glory. For we ought to remember how, when the disciples returned with joy from preaching, and said to their heavenly Master, Lord, in thy name even the devils are subject unto us (Luke x. 17), they straightway heard, In this rejoice not; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven (Ib. v. 20). For they had set their minds on private and temporal gladness, when they rejoiced in the miracles. But they are recalled from private to common, from temporal to eternal gladness, when it is said to them, In this rejoice ye, because your names are written in heaven. For not all the elect work miracles; and yet the names of all of them are kept enrolled in heaven. For to the disciples of the Truth there should not be joy, save for that good which they have in common with all, and in which they have no end to their gladness.
It remains, therefore, dearest brother, that in the midst of the things which through the operation of God thou doest outwardly, thou shouldest ever nicely judge thyself within, and nicely understand both what thou art thyself and how great is the grace in the midst of that same nation for the conversion of which thou hast received even the gift of doing signs. And if at any time thou shouldest remember having offended against our Creator, whether in tongue or in deed, ever recall these things to thy memory, that memory of guilt may keep down the rising glory of the heart. And whatsoever thou mayest receive, or hast received, in the way of doing signs, regard these powers as not granted to thyself, but to those for whose salvation they have been conferred upon thee. Further, there occurs to my mind, while I think on these things, what took place with one servant of God, even one eminently chosen. Certainly Moses, when he led God's people out of Egypt, as thy Fraternity knows, wrought wonderful miracles. Fasting forty days and nights in Mount Sina, he received the tables of the law; among lightnings and thunders, while all the people trembled, he was attached to the service of Almighty God, being alone with Him even in familiar colloquy (Exod. xxx., xxxi.); he opened a way through the Red Sea; he had a pillar of a cloud to lead him on his journey; to the people when an hungered he gave manna from heaven; flesh to those who longed for it he supplied in the wilderness by a miracle, even unto overmuch satiety (Exod. xiii., xiv., xvi.). But, when in a time of drought they had come to the rock, he was distrustful, and doubted being able to draw water from the same, which still at the Lord's command he opened without fail in copious streams. But how many and great miracles after these he did during eight and thirty years in the desert who can count or search out (Exod. xvii.; Num. xx.)? As often as a doubtful matter had troubled his mind, he resorted to the tabernacle, and enquired of the Lord in secret, and was forthwith taught concerning it, God speaking to him (Exod. xxxiii. seq.). When the Lord was wrath with the people, he appeased Him by the intervention of his prayer; those who rose in pride and dissented in discord he engulphed in the jaws of the gaping earth; he bore down his enemies with victories, and shewed signs to his own people. But, when the land of promise had at length been reached, he was called into the mountain, and heard of the fault which he had committed eight and thirty years before, as I have said, in that he had doubted about drawing water from the rock. And for this reason he was told that he might not enter the land of promise (Num. xxvii.). Herein it is for us to consider how formidable is the judgment of Almighty God, who did so many signs through that servant of His whose fault He still bare in remembrance for so long a time.
Wherefore, dearest brother, if we find that even he whom we know to have been especially chosen by Almighty God died for a fault after so many signs, with what fear ought we to tremble, who do not yet know whether we are chosen?
But what should I say of the miracles of the reprobate, when thy Fraternity well knows what the Truth says in the Gospel; Many shall come in that day saying to me, Lord in thy name we have prophesied, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name have done many wonderful works. But I will say unto them, I know not who ye are: depart from me all ye workers of iniquity (Matth. vii. 22; Luke xiii. 27)? The mind, then, should be much kept down in the midst of signs and miracles, lest haply one seek therein one's own glory, and exult in private joy for one's own exaltation. For through signs gains of souls should be sought, and His glory by whose power these very signs are done. But there is one sign that the Lord has given us for which we may exceedingly rejoice, and acknowledge the glory of election in ourselves, seeing that He says, In this shall it be known that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John xiii. 35). Which sign the prophet demanded, when he said, Make with me, Lord, a sign for good, that they which hate me may see it, and be confounded (Ps. lxxxv. 17).
These things I say, because I desire to abase the mind of my hearer in humility. But let thy very humility have its confidence. For I, a sinner, maintain a most certain hope that through the grace of our Almighty Creator and Redeemer, our God and Lord Jesus Christ, thy sins are already remitted, and thou art chosen for this purpose, that those of others may be remitted through thee. Nor will you have sorrow for any guilt in the future, while you strive to cause joy in heaven for the conversion of many. Truly the same our Maker and Redeemer, speaking of the repentance of men, says, Verily I say unto you there will be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance (Luke xv. 7). And if for one penitent there is great joy in heaven, of what kind may we believe the joy to be for so large a people, converted from its error, which, coming to faith, has condemned by penitence the evil things it did. In this joy, then, of heaven and the angels let us repeat the very words of the angels with which we began: let us say therefore, let us all say, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will.
Gregory to Bertha, &c.
They who desire, after earthly dominion, to obtain the glory of a heavenly kingdom ought to labour earnestly to bring in gain to their Creator, that they may be able to rise by the steps of their operation to the things they long for; as we are glad to know you do. For indeed our most beloved son Laurentius the presbyter, and Peter the monk, have brought us word on their return to us how your Glory has exhibited itself towards our most reverend brother and fellow-bishop Augustine, and how great succour and what charity you have bestowed upon him. And we bless Almighty God, who has been mercifully pleased to reserve the conversion of the nation of the Angli for your reward. For, as through Helena of illustrious memory, the mother of the most pious Emperor Constantine, He kindled the hearts of the Romans into Christian faith, so we trust that He works in the nation of the Angli through the zeal of your Glory. And indeed you ought before now, as being truly a Christian, to have inclined the heart of our glorious son, your husband, by the good influence of your prudence, to follow, for the weal of his kingdom and of his own soul, the faith which you profess, to the end that for him, and for the conversion of the whole nation through him, fit retribution might accrue to you in the joys of heaven. For seeing, as we have said, that your Glory is both fortified by a right faith and instructed in letters, this should have been to you neither slow of accomplishment nor difficult. And since, by the will of God, now is a suitable time, so proceed, with the co-operation of divine grace, as to be able to make reparation with increase for what has been neglected. Wherefore strengthen by continual hortation the mind of your glorious husband in love of the Christian faith; let your solicitude infuse into him increase of love for God, and so kindle his heart even for the fullest conversion of the nation subject to him that both he may offer, out of the zeal of your devotion, a great sacrifice to the Almighty Lord, and that the things related of you may both grow and be in all ways proved to be true: for your good deeds are known not only among the Romans, who have prayed earnestly for your life, but also through divers places, and have come even to the ears of the most serene prince at Constantinople. Hence, as great joy has been caused us by the consolations of your Christianity, so also may there be joy in heaven for your perfected work. So acquit yourselves devotedly and with all your might in aid of our above-named most reverend brother and fellow-bishop, and of the servants of God whom we have sent to you, in the conversion of your nation that you may both reign happily here with our glorious son your husband, and after long courses of years may also attain the joys of the future life, which know no end. Now we pray Almighty God that He would both kindle the heart of your Glory with the fire of His grace to perform what we have spoken of, and grant you the fruit of an eternal reward for work well-pleasing to Him.
Gregory to Venantius, &c.
In addressing to you the greeting which is due I was intending to speak of what I suffer. But I think I need not relate to you what you know. For I am tormented by pains of gout, which, afflicting not dissimilarly both me and you, while they increase upon us exceedingly, have caused our life to decrease. In the midst of them what else should we do but recall our faults to mind, and give thanks to Almighty God? For we who have sinned in many things from the pampering of the flesh are purged by the affliction of the flesh. We are to know also that present pain, if it converts the mind of the afflicted one, is the end of preceding guilt; but, if it does not convert to the fear of the Lord, is the beginning of pain to follow. We must therefore take care, and in entire conversion of heart watch to the utmost of our power with tears, lest we pass from torment to torments. We are also to consider by how great a dispensation of loving kindness our Maker deals with us, in that He continually smites us, who are worthy of death, and still slays us not. For He threatens what He will do, and yet does it not, that pains sent in advance may alarm us, and, when we are converted to the fear of the strict Judge, may shield us from His animadversion when life is over. For who may tell, who may count, how many, sunk in their lechery, running headlong also in blasphemies and pride, continuing in robberies and iniquities even to the day of their death, have so lived in this world as never to suffer even a headache, but by a sudden stroke have been delivered to the fires of hell? We, then, have a token that we are not forsaken, in that we are continually scourged, according to the testimony of Scripture, which says, Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth (Heb. xii. 6). Wherefore under the very stripes of God let us recall to mind both His gifts and the losses of our guilt. Let us consider what good things He has showered upon our ill-doing, and what ill things we have committed under His goodness. Let us fulfil what the Lord says through the prophet, Put me in remembrance, that we may plead together (Isai. xliii. 26). Let us plead now in our thought with God, that we be not hereafter strictly judged by God. For what says Paul? If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged of the Lord (1 Cor. xi. 31). Whosoever, then, would make haste to escape the strictness of the sentence of the judgment to come, let him, through the bitterness of penitence, cut off for himself all the sweetness of the present life. Moreover, whatever gifts of this kind there are, whose gifts are they but our Maker's? But that should not be accounted a gift of God fully to us which separates us through delight in itself from the love of God; lest we should prefer the things given to the Giver, and while receiving good things, though ourselves evil, we should be disjoined from His fear by that whereby we ought to have grown in His fear. Now may the Creator of all things, that is Almighty God, pour into your heart by the inspiration of His Spirit what we speak to you of by letter, and cleanse you from all defilements of sin, and grant you the joy of His comfort here, and hereafter eternal rewards with Himself. I beg that my most sweet daughters, the lady Barbara and the lady Antonina, be greeted in my name.
Gregory to Marinianus, &c.
When the bearer of these presents, Candidus the abbot, came hither to ask for relics (which have also been granted), as much as I rejoiced in thy Fraternity's nursing aid, thy Fraternity's care for me being therein apparent, so much was I distressed that I could not enjoy his presence as I wished to do, seeing that he found me sick, and, when he departed, left me still in a state of weakness. For it is now a long time since I have been able to rise from bed. For at one time the pain of gout torments me, at another a fire, I know not of what kind, spreads itself with pain through my whole body; and it is generally the case that at one and the same time burning pain racks me, and body and mind fail me. Further, what other great distresses of sickness beside what I have mentioned I am affected by, I am unable to recount. This however I may briefly say, that the infection of a noxious humour so drinks me up that it is pain to me to live, and I anxiously look for death, which alone I can hope for to relieve my groans. Accordingly, most holy brother, implore for me the compassion of divine loving-kindness, that it would mercifully mitigate towards me the scourges of its smiting, and grant me patience to endure, lest (which God forbid) my heart break out into impatience from excessive weariness, and the guilt which might have been well cured through stripes be increased by murmuring. Given in the month of February, Indiction 4.
Gregory to Marinianus, &c.
On the arrival here of a certain man of Ravenna, I was smitten by most grievous sorrow for that he told me of thy Fraternity being sick from vomiting of blood. On this account we have caused enquiry to be made carefully and severally of those here whom we know to be well-read physicians, and have sent in writing to your Holiness their several opinions and prescriptions. All, however, prescribe before all else quiet and silence, which I greatly doubt whether thy Fraternity can have in thine own Church. And accordingly it seems good to me that, when the Church there has been provided for--whether with such as may accomplish the solemnities of mass, or with such as may take charge of the episcopate, and may be able to shew hospitality and hold receptions, or such as may superintend the guardianship of monasteries--thy Fraternity should come to me before the summer season, that I may, as far as I can, take special charge of thy sickness, and keep thee from being disturbed, since the physicians say that the summer season is exceedingly dangerous for this kind of sickness. And I greatly fear lest, if thou shouldest have any cares together with the unfavourableness of the season, there might be further risk to thee from this disorder. I too myself am very weak, and it is in all respects advantageous that thou shouldest, with the favour of God, return to thy Church in health; or certainly, if thou art to be called, that thou shouldest be called in the hands of thy friends; and that I, who see myself to be very near death, if Almighty God should be pleased to call me before thee, should pass away in thy hands. But if the circumstances of the present time stand in the way of thy coming, Ago  may be treated with, some small present being given him, that he may himself send one of his people with thee as far as Rome. If, then, thou feelest thyself held heavily by this sickness, and arrangest to come, thou must come with few attendants, since, while thou stayest with me in the episcopal residence (episcopium), thou wilt have daily attendance from this Church.
Furthermore, I neither exhort nor admonish thee, but straitly charge thee, that thou by no means presume to fast, since the physicians say that the practice is very prejudicial to this disorder; except that, if by chance a great solemnity demands it, I concede it five times in the year. Thou must also refrain from vigils; and let the prayers which in the city of Ravenna are wont to be said over the wax-taper, and the expositions of the Gospel which are given by priests about the time of the Paschal solemnity, be delivered by another. And by no means impose on thyself, beloved, any labour beyond thy powers. I have said this that, if thou shouldest feel thyself better, and shouldest put off thy coming, thou mayest know what to observe by my command.
Gregory to Barbara, &c.
Having received your Glory's letters, which spoke with tears for words, we, most beloved daughters, are affected by no less sorrow than yourselves for your father's sickness. For we cannot account that sadness as extraneous which is made our own by the law of charity. But, since in no state of despair ought there to be distrust in the mercy of our Redeemer, raise your spirits for the comforting of your father, place your hope in the hand of Almighty God, and by His protection we trust that He will guard you from all adversity, and cheer your tribulation, and grant you to be favourably disposed of according to your father's desires. But should He pay the debt of our human lot, even then let not any despair crush you, nor the words of any persons cause you alarm. For after God, Who is the governor and protector of orphans, we will be so solicitous in behalf of your most sweet Glory, and will so make haste, with the Lord's help, to provide as we can for your advantage, that no rough handling of unjust men may perturb you  , and that we may repay in all ways the debt we have contracted from the goodness of your parents. And so may heavenly grace nurture you with its favour and defend you by its protection from all evils, that your safety may become our joy.
Gregory to John, &c.
I have received your Fraternity's letters telling me of the sickness of my most sweet son the lord Venantius, and relating how all things are going on about him. But when I heard at one and the same time that he was desperately and grievously sick, and that unfair men were laying claim to the property of the orphans, the sorrow in my heart could scarce contain itself. But in this there was comfort, in that tears relieved my groans. Your Holiness therefore ought not to neglect, what should be your first care, to take thought for his soul, by exhorting him, beseeching him, putting before him God's terrible judgment, and promising His ineffable mercy, so as to induce him to return even at his last moments to his former state of life  , lest the guilt of so great a fault should stand against him in the eternal judgment. And then it is your duty to take thought how his daughters, the ladies Barbara and Antonina, may be disposed of, so that no opportunity be afforded to bad men. For after he had conjured me to take anxious care for them, adding that I should see to the disposal of them, he went on in his letter to mention a thing which, when I consider the matter, I have no doubt might stand in the way. For he says that I should repeatedly petition the most pious lord Emperor, that he should himself cause provision to be made for the disposal of them. You observe how different this is from his former wish. And I fear lest an apt opportunity might hence be given to men in Sicily who are seeking all opportunity for interfering in his affairs. For, when this is known, what will those men do who have already, as report goes, been attempting to put a seal on his effects  ? Would not reason seem to be on their side, and to afford them as it were a just ground for this proceeding? If they should say, the girls have been commended to the lord Emperor; we cannot neglect the matter; it is at our peril if we do; we make the property safe till such time as the lord Emperor may order them to be taken to Constantinople;--tell me, I pray thee, what I could do in such a case, wherein the father's commendation seems to support a man that has authority. For he conjures me to see to their being so disposed of that they may either be in the Roman city or not be taken away from Sicily; and he so acts as to leave no way of either bringing them hither or retaining them there. But, do you, as far as you can, oppose these bad men. Defend their substance for the sake of Almighty God as if it were your own: and, if it is still possible, see to all opportunity for wrong being removed with regard to the will of the aforesaid lord Venantius. But, if it is thought fit that they should be commended to the palace, he ought not to impose such a burden on me as to wish to charge my soul with the care of the disposal of them; as to which be it enough that God Almighty knows how I am taking thought. Hence I have taken care to write at once to my most beloved son the deacon Anatolius, bidding him endeavour to speak with the glorious patrician lady Rusticiana  , and telling him in what manner he should enquire and inform me about the persons whose names have been transmitted to me; that so he may inform us of all things speedily, and what is to be done, may under the ordering of God be arranged.
Furthermore, in the letters that have been sent to us we find that your Fraternity has been grieved at our not having wished you to come hither, as though it had been on account of some displeasure; whereas we acted with a sole view to utility, knowing that on account of persons in your locality your presence there was exceedingly necessary. But, lest you should hence suppose that we have any feeling or displeasure towards you (which God forbid), if you have the will to come to us, present yourself at a suitable time at the threshold of the apostles. For, so far as we are concerned, we so love your Charity that we desire to see you often.
Gregory to Romanus, Guardian of Sicily  .
It has come to our knowledge that, if any one has a suit against any clerics, thou causest these clerics to be brought before thee for judgment, setting at nought their bishops. If this be so, seeing that it is evidently very unsuitable, we order thee by this our authority that thou presume not to do it any more. But, if any one should have a suit against any cleric, let him go to his bishop, that either he may take cognizance himself, or at any rate that judges may be deputed by him; or, if it should be a case for arbitration, let the executive authority deputed by him compel the parties to choose a judge. But, if any cleric or lay person should have a suit against a bishop, then thou oughtest to interpose, so that either thou thyself mayest take cognizance of the matter between them or that on thy admonition they may choose for themselves judges. For, if each single bishop has not his own jurisdiction reserved to him, what else is done but that ecclesiastical order is confounded through us by whom it ought to be guarded?
Further, it has been reported to us that, certain clerics having been sent into penance for fault requiring it by our most reverend brother bishop John, thou hast on thy own authority, without his knowledge removed them from it. Now, if this is true, know that thou hast done a thing altogether unseemly, and calling for no light reproof. Wherefore restore these clerics without delay to their bishop. And beware of committing this fault in future: for, shouldest thou be inattentive, know that thou wilt incur our anger in no slight degree.
Gregory to Vitus, &c.
If thou art held bound by no condition or liability to bodily service, and hast not been a cleric of any other city, and if there is no canonical objection to thee, it is our will and pleasure, with a view to the advantage of the Church, that thou receive the office of Guardian of the Church, in order that thou mayest execute incorruptly and diligently whatever may be enjoined thee by us for the benefit of the poor; using this privilege which after deliberation we have conferred on thee, so as to do thy diligence faithfully in accomplishing all that may be enjoined thee by us, as having to render an account of thy doings before the judgment of our God. This epistle we have dictated for writing to Paterius, secundicerio notario of our Church  , and have subscribed it.
Gregory to Marinianus, &c.
Great infirmity constrains us, dearest brother, from which if we were free, we should seem justly blamable. But since, while we are in this fragile body, we cannot subsist but by subservience to its weaknesses, we ought not to blush for what necessity imposes on us. And so, since physicians all say that to those who suffer from eruption of blood fasts are injurious, we exhort thy Fraternity by this present address that, recalling to mind what thou hast been accustomed to endure from sickness, thou by no means impose on thyself the labour of fasting  . If, however, by the mercy of God, thou knowest thyself to be so far improved in health as to have sufficient strength, we permit thee to fast once or twice in the week. But of this it befits thee before all things to take care, that thou in no wise subject thyself to any feeling of irritation, lest the sickness, which is believed to be now lighter and as it were suspended, should be experienced afterwards more heavily through exasperation.
Gregory to Rusticiana, &c.
I have received the letters of your Excellency, which altogether relieved me, while I was in a state of most grievous sickness, with regard to your health, your devotion, and your sweetness. One thing however I took amiss, namely that in the same epistles to me what might have been said once was said repeatedly; "Your handmaiden," and "your handmaiden." For, I having been made the servant of all through the burdens of episcopacy, with what reason does she call herself my handmaid whose own I was before I undertook the episcopate? And so I beseech you by Almighty God, that I may never find this word in what you write to me. Further, the gifts which out of a most pure and sincere heart you sent to the blessed Peter, Prince of the apostles, have been received and hung up there  in the presence of all the clergy. But my son, the magnificent lord Symmachus, finding me ill from pains of gout and almost despaired of, deferred giving me your letters, and gave them long after the veils had been received: and I found afterwards in your Excellence's letters that they were to have been borne to the Church of the blessed Peter with a litany. And so this was not done, because, as I have already said, we received the veils before the letters. Nevertheless the aforesaid Symmachus did with your whole household what you wished us to do with the clergy. But, even if the voices of men were wanting, your offering itself has its own voice before Almighty God. In His loving-kindness I trust that the intercession of him whose body you have covered on earth may protect you in heaven from all sins, and in his provision rule your house, and in his watchfulness guard it.
With regard to the affliction of gout which you signify to us has come upon you, I am both distressed and rejoiced exceedingly: rejoiced, because the noxious humour, attacking the lower parts of your body, has entirely left the higher ones; but distressed, because I fear you suffer excessive pain in so very slender a body. For where there is a deficiency of flesh, what strength can there be to resist pain? For as to myself, you know what I used to be: but now bitterness of soul and continual exasperation, and besides this the affliction of gout so affects me that my body is dried up even as if in burial. Hence it comes to pass that I can rarely now rise from bed. If, then, the pain of gout has reduced the mass of my body to such dryness, what must I think of your body, which was too dry before the pains came on?
As to the alms which you have bestowed on the monastery of the blessed Apostle Andrew, there is no need for me to say anything, since it is written, Hide thine alms in the bosom of a poor man, and it shall pray for thee (Ecclus. xxix. 15). If then the good deed itself has its voice in the secret ears of God, whether we cry aloud or keep silence, this very thing which you have well done cries aloud. Moreover I declare that there are so great miracles, there is so great care and custody of the monks in this same monastery of the said apostle that it is as if he himself were specially the abbot of the monastery. For, to speak of a few things out of many which I have learnt from the narration of the abbot and the prior of the monastery, two brethren were one day sent out thence to buy something for the use of the monastery, one a junior who seemed to be distinguished for prudence, the other a senior, sent to be the guardian of the junior. Both went forth, and from the money they received as the price of what they were to purchase, he who had been sent as the guardian of the junior purloined something without the knowledge of the other. Having both of them presently returned to the monastery, and come to the threshold of the oratory, he who had committed the theft fell down seized by a demon, and began to be vexed. And, when the demon had let him go, he was asked by the monks who came round him whether perchance he had purloined anything from what he had received: he denied, and was a second time vexed. Eight times he denied, and eight times was vexed. But after his eighth denial he confessed how much money he had purloined. And repenting he acknowledged, prostrate on the earth, that he had sinned, and when he had undergone penance, the demon came to him no more.
At another time also, on the anniversary of the same apostle, while the brethren were resting during the mid-day hours, suddenly a certain brother, having become blind with his eyes open, began to tremble, to utter loud cries, testifying by these cries that he could not bear what he was suffering. The brethren ran together to him, saw him blind with his eyes open, trembling, and crying out, abstracted from the scene around him, and having no sense of anything that could be done externally. They lifted him in their hands, and cast him before the altar of Saint Andrew the Apostle, prostrating themselves also in prayer for him. And he at once, coming to himself again, declared what he had suffered; namely that a certain old man appeared to him, and set a black dog at him to tear him, saying, Why wouldest thou flee from this monastery? And, when I could by no means have escaped (said he) from the bites of the dog, certain monks came, and besought that old man for me, who straightway bade the dog depart, and then I came to myself. And he often afterwards confessed, saying, On the day on which I suffered these things I had had a design of flying from this same monastery.
Another monk also secretly desired to depart from the same monastery. And, having considered the matter in his mind, he would have entered the oratory; but he was immediately delivered to a demon and most sorely vexed. But he used to be left by the demon and if he remained outside the oratory, he would suffer no harm; but, if he attempted to enter it, he was at once delivered to the evil spirit and vexed. And, when this took place frequently, he confessed his fault, namely that he was thinking of going away from the monastery. Then the brethren, assembled in his behalf, bound themselves to continue in prayer for him for three days, and he was so cured that the evil spirit never came to him afterwards. He used to say also that he had seen the same blessed apostle while he was being vexed, and had been reproached by him for wishing to depart from the monastery.
Two other brethren also fled from the same monastery, and gave some intimations previously to the brethren in conversation that they were going down by the Appian way, to make for Jerusalem; but, when they had gone out, they turned aside from the road. And, that there might be no possibility of their being found by any that might follow them, finding some retired crypts near the Flaminian gate, they hid themselves therein. But when they had been looked for in the evening, and not found in the monastery, certain brethren followed them on horseback, going out by the gate of Metronus, to follow them along the Latin or Appian way. But suddenly they conceived the design of looking further for them on the Salarian way: and so, in proceeding outside the city, they turned their course into the Salarian way. But, failing to find them, they decided to return through the Flaminian gate. And, as they were returning, presently when their horses came in front of the crypts in which the men were hidden, they stood still, and, though beaten and urged, refused to move. The monks considered that such a thing could not be without some mystery. They observed the crypts, and saw the entrance to them to be blocked by a piled heap of stones, but, as their horses would not go in any direction, they dismounted. They displaced the stones which were placed at the mouth of the crypts, entered, and found the men in a state of consternation within these dark subterranean hiding-places. They were taken back to the monastery, and were so improved by this miracle that it was of great advantage to them to have fled for a short time from the monastery.
I have told you these things that it may be known to your Excellency whose oratory it is on which you have bestowed your alms. Now may Almighty God keep you under His heavenly protection both in soul and in body and all your house, and grant you to live long for our consolation. I beg that my most beloved son the Lord Strategius  with his glorious parents your children may be greeted in my name.
Gregory to Theoctista, &c.
We ought to give great thanks to Almighty God, that our most pious and most benignant Emperors have near them kinsfolk of their race, whose life and conversation is such as to give us all great joy. Hence too we should continually pray for these our lords, that their life, with that of all who belong to them, may by the protection of heavenly grace be preserved through long and tranquil times.
I have to inform you, however, that I have learnt from the report of certain persons how that, owing to the levity of the people, a tumult of detraction has arisen against you. And I hear that your Excellency has consequently been distressed with no slight vexation. If this is so, I wonder much why the words of men on earth should agitate you, who have fixed your heart on heaven. For the blessed Job, when his friends who had come to console him had broken out into rebuke, said, For behold my witness is in heaven, and he that knows me is on high (Job xvi. 20). For one who has the witness of his life in heaven ought not to be afraid of the judgments of men on earth. Paul also, a leader of good men, says, Our glory is this, the testimony of our conscience (2 Cor. i. 12). And he says again, Let every man prove his own work, and so shall he have glory in himself, and not in another (Gal. vi. 4). For, if we are rejoiced by praises and broken down by detractions, we have set our glory not in ourselves, but in the mouth of others. And indeed the foolish virgins took no oil in their vessels, but the wise ones took oil in their vessels with their lamps (Matth. xxv.). Now our lamps are good works; of which it is written, Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matth. v. 16). And we then take oil in our vessels with our lamps, when we seek not the splendour of glory for our good deeds from the adulation of our neighbours, but preserve it in the testimony of our conscience. And in regard to all that is said of us outwardly we ought to recur to the secrets of our soul. Although all should revile us, yet he is free whom conscience accuses not, while, even though all should praise, one cannot be free, if conscience accuses him. Whence the Truth says concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? (Matth. xi. 7). And this in truth is said in the way of negation, not of assertion, since it is added, But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses (Ibid. 8). For although, according to the truth of the Gospel, John was clothed in rough raiment, yet the signification is that they wear soft clothing who are delighted by adulations and praises. And it is denied that John was a reed shaken with the wind, inasmuch as no breath from any human mouth bent the fortitude of his mind. For we, if we are lifted up by praises, or cast down by revilings, are a reed shaken with the wind. But far be this, far be it from the heart of your Excellency. I know that you read studiously the teacher of the Gentiles, who says, I, if I yet pleased men, should not be the servant of Christ (Gal. i. 10).
If, however, any even slight sadness has arisen in your mind from this cause, I believe that Almighty God has kindly allowed this to be the case. For not even to His elect in this life has He promised the joys of delight, but the bitternesses of tribulation; so that, after the manner of medicine, they may be restored through a bitter cup to the sweetness of eternal salvation. For what says He? The world shall rejoice and ye shall lament (Joh. xvi. 20). With what hope? With what promise? A little afterwards it is added, I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man shall take from you (Ibid. 22). Hence again He says to His disciples, In your patience shall ye possess your souls (Luke xxi. 19).
Consider, I pray you, where patience would be, if there were nothing to be endured. I suspect that there is no Abel without having a Cain for his brother. For if the good were without the bad, they could not be perfectly good, since they would not be purged: and the very society of the bad is the purgation of the good. There were three sons of Noe in the ark, one of whom was a derider of his father, who, though in himself he was blessed, still received a sentence of condemnation in his son. Abraham had two sons before he took Cethura to wife; and yet his carnal son persecuted the son of promise (Genes. ix.). This the great teacher expounds, saying, As he who is after the flesh persecuted him that is after the Spirit, even so it is now (Gal. iv. 29). Isaac had two sons; but one, who was spiritual, fled before the threats of his carnal brother. Jacob had twelve sons, but one, who lived uprightly, was sold by ten into Egypt. In the case of the prophet David, because there was in him what should have been purged, it was brought to pass that he suffered under a son's persecution. The blessed Job says of the society of the reprobate, I have been a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls (Job xxx. 29). To Ezekiel the Lord says, Son of man, unbelievers and destroyers are with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions (Ezek. ii. 6). Among the twelve apostles there was one reprobate, that there might be one by whose persecution the eleven might be tried. The Prince of the apostles speaks thus to his disciples, He delivered just Lot, oppressed by the injury and conversation of the wicked. For in seeing and hearing he was just, dwelling among those who from day to day vexed the soul of the just one with their unrighteous deeds (2 Pet. ii. 7, 8). Paul also the apostle writes to his disciples, saying, In the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as luminaries in the world, holding fast the word of life (Philip. ii. 15).
Seeing then that we know from the witness of Scripture that in this life the good cannot be without the bad, your Excellency ought by no means to be disturbed by the voices of fools, especially as there is then sure confidence in Almighty God, when for well-doing any adversity is given us in this world in order that a full reward may be reserved for us in the eternal retribution. Whence also in the holy Gospel the Truth says, Blessed shall ye be when men shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my name's sake (Matth. v. 11). And for our consolation He deigned to adduce as an example His own reproaches, saying, If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of his household (Ibid. x. 25).
But there are many who perhaps praise the life of the good more than they ought; and, lest any elation should creep in from praise, Almighty God allows bad men to break out into slander and objurgation, in order that, if any sin springs up in the heart from the mouth of them that praise, it may be choked by the mouth of them that revile. Hence it is, then, that the teacher of the Gentiles testifies that he continues in his preaching through evil report and good report (2 Cor. vi. 8); saying also, As deceivers and yet true. If then there were such as laid an evil report on Paul, and called him a deceiver, what Christian now should account it a hard thing in behalf of Christ to hear injurious words? Moreover we know of how great virtue was the precursor of our Redeemer, who in Holy Writ is called not only more than a prophet, but even an angel: and yet, as the history of his death testifies, after his death his body was burnt by his persecutors  . But why say we these things of holy men? Let us speak of the Holy of holies Himself, that is of God Who was made man for us, Who before His death heard the injurious charge that He had a devil, and after His death was called a deceiver by His persecutors, when one said, We know that that deceiver said, After three days I will rise again (Matth. xxvii. 63). How much, then, must we sinners needs bear from the tongues and hands of wicked men, we who are to be judged at the coming of the eternal Judge, if He Who will even come as Judge endured so much both before and after His death?
These things, most sweet and excellent daughter, I have briefly said, lest, as often as thou hearest of foolish men speaking in derogation of thee, thou shouldest be touched by even the least sadness of heart. But, seeing that this very murmuring of foolish men cannot be allayed by quiet reason, I hold it to be sin if the doing of what can be done is neglected. For, when we appease insane minds, and bring them back to a healthy state, we ought by no means to cause them offence. For there are some offences that are to be altogether despised; but there are some which, when they can be avoided without guilt, are not to be despised, lest there be guilt in keeping them alive. We learn this from the preaching of the sacred Gospel; since, when the Truth said, Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man (Matth. xv. 11), and the disciples replied saying, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended after they heard this saying? (Ibid. 12), straightway He replied, Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up. Let them alone; they be blind, and leaders of the blind (Ibid. 13). And yet, when tribute was demanded, He first gave a reason why tribute should not be paid, and forthwith subjoined, Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a stater. That take, and give unto them for me and for thee (Matth. xvii. 26). Why is it that of some who were offended it is said, Let them alone; they are blind, and leaders of the blind; and that to others, lest they should be offended, tribute is paid by the Lord, even though not due? Why is it that He allowed one offence to remain, but forbade another to be caused to others? Why, but that He might teach us on the one hand to despise offences which implicate us in sin, but on the other to mitigate in all ways those which we can appease without sin?
Wherefore your Excellency, God protecting you, may, with great quietness, turn aside the offences of bad men. For the chief of them you should of your own accord call to you privately and give them reasons, and anathematize certain wrong points which they suppose to be held by you. And if too, as it is said may be the case, they suspect such anathema to be insincere, you should confirm it even by an oath, averring that you do not hold, and never have held, those points. Nor let it seem beneath you to satisfy them in such a way; nor let there be in your mind any feeling of disdain against them on account of your imperial race. For we are all brethren created by the power of one Emperor, and redeemed by His blood. And so we ought not in anything to despise our brethren, however poor and abject.
For certainly Peter had received power in the heavenly kingdom, so that whatever he should bind or loose on earth should be bound or loosed in heaven; he walked on the sea, he healed the sick with his shadow, he slew sinners with his word, he raised the dead by his prayer. And because by the admonition of the Spirit he had gone in to Cornelius the Gentile, a question was raised against him by the believers as to why he had gone in among Gentiles and eaten with them, and why he had received them in baptism. And yet this first of the apostles, filled with such gifts of grace, supported by such power of miracles, replied to the complaint of the believers, not by power but by reason, and explained the case to them in order; how he saw a certain vessel, as it had been a sheet, in which were four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air, let down from heaven, and heard a voice saying, Arise, Peter; kill and eat (Acts xi. 5 seq.); how three men came to him calling him to Cornelius; how the Holy Spirit bade him go with them; how the same Holy Spirit who had been wont to come on those baptized in Judea after baptism, came on the Gentiles before baptism. For if, when he was blamed by the believers, he had paid regard to the authority which he had received in Holy Church, he might have replied that the sheep should not dare to find fault with the shepherd to whom they had been committed. But, had he said anything of his own power in answer to the complaint of the believers, he would not have been truly a teacher of gentleness. He pacified them, therefore, by giving a reason humbly, and even produced witnesses to defend him from blame, saying, Moreover these six brethren accompanied me (Acts xi. 12). If, then, the pastor of the Church, the Prince of the Apostles, who singularly did signs and miracles, disdained not, in defending himself from blame, humbly to give a reason, how much more ought we sinners, when we are blamed for anything, to pacify those who blame us by giving a reason humbly!
For to me, as you know, when I was resident at the footsteps of my lords in the royal city, many used to come of those who were accused with respect to the aforesaid points. But I declare, my conscience bearing me witness, that I never found in them any error, any pravity, or anything of what was said against them. Whence also I took care, despising report, to receive them familiarly, and rather to defend them from their accusers. For it used to be said against them that under pretext of religion they dissolved marriages; and that they said that baptism did not entirely take away sins; and that, if any one did penance for three years for his iniquities, he might afterwards live perversely; and that, if they said under compulsion that they anathematized anything for which they were blamed, they were by no means holden by the bond of anathema. Now if there are any who undoubtedly hold and maintain such views, there is no doubt that they are not Christians. And such both I, and all catholic bishops, and the universal Church, anathematize, because they think what is contrary to the truth, and speak what is contrary. For, if they say that marriages should be dissolved for the sake of religion  , be it known that, though human law has conceded this, yet divine law has forbidden it. For the Truth in person says, What God hath joined together let not man put asunder (Matth. xix. 6). He says also, It is not lawful for a man to put away his wife saving for the cause of fornication (Ibid. 9). Who then may contradict this heavenly legislator? We know how it is written, Two shall be one flesh (Matth. xix. 5; 1 Cor. vi. 16; Gen. ii. 24). If, then, a man and wife are one flesh, and a man puts away his wife for the sake of religion, or a woman her husband while he remains in this world, even though perchance he turns aside to unlawful deeds, what is this conversion  , in which one and the same flesh on the one part passes to continence and on the other part remains in pollution? If, however, it should suit both to lead a continent life, who may dare to accuse them, since it is certain that Almighty God, who has granted what is less, has not forbidden what is greater? And indeed we know of many holy persons who have both previously led continent lives with their consorts, and have afterwards passed over to the rules of holy Church. For in two ways holy men are accustomed to abstain even from lawful things. Sometimes that they may increase their merits before Almighty God; but sometimes that they may wipe away the sins of their former life. For when the three children who were brought under obedience to the Babylonian King, asked for pulse for food, being unwilling to make use of the king's meat, it was not because it would have been sin in them to eat what God had created. They were unwilling, then, to take what it was lawful for them to take, that their virtue might increase through continence. But David, who had taken to himself another man's wife, and had been sorely scourged for his fault, desired long afterwards to drink water from the cistern of Bethlehem; which when his bravest soldiers had brought to him, he refused to drink it, and poured it out as a libation to the Lord. For it was lawful for him to drink it, had he been so minded; but, because he remembered having done what was unlawful, he laudably abstained even from what was lawful. And he, who to his guilt previously feared not that the blood of dying soldiers should be shed, afterwards considered that, were he to drink the water, he would have shed the blood of living soldiers, saying, Shall I drink the blood of these men who have put their lives in jeopardy (1 Chron. xi. 19)? Accordingly, when good husbands and wives desire either to increase merit or to do away with the faults of previous life, it is lawful for them to bind themselves to continence and to aspire to a better life. But, if the wife does not follow after the continence which the husband aspires to, or the husband refuses that which the wife aspires to, it is not lawful for wedlock to be cut asunder, seeing that it is written, The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband; and the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife (1 Cor. vii. 4).
But, if there are any who say that sins are only superficially put away in baptism, what can be more against the faith than such preaching, whereby they would fain undo the very sacrament of faith, wherein principally the soul is bound to the mystery of heavenly cleanness, that, being completely absolved from all sins, it may cleave to Him alone of Whom the Prophet says, But it is good for me to cleave to God (Ps. lxxii. 28  )? For certainly the passage of the Red Sea was a figure of holy baptism, in which the enemies behind died, but others were found in front in the wilderness. And so to all who are bathed in holy baptism all their past sins are remitted, since their sins die behind them even as did the Egyptian enemies. But in the wilderness we find other enemies, since, while we live in this life, before reaching the country of promise, many temptations harass us, and hasten to bar our way as we are wending to the land of the living. Whosoever says, then, that sins are not entirely put away in baptism, let him say that the Egyptians did not really die in the Red Sea. But, if he acknowledges that the Egyptians really died, he must needs acknowledge that sins die entirely in baptism, since surely the truth avails more in our absolution than the shadow of the truth. In the Gospel the Lord says, He that is washed needeth not to wash, but is clean every whit (Joh. xiii. 10). If, therefore, sins are not entirely put away in baptism, how is he that is washed clean every whit? For he cannot be said to be clean every whit, if he has any sin remaining. But no one can resist the voice of the Truth, He that is washed is clean every whit. Nothing, then, of the contagion of sin remains to him whom He Himself who redeemed him declares to be clean every whit.
But, if there are any who say that penance is to be done for sin during any three years, and that after the three years one may live in pleasures, these know neither the preaching of the true faith nor the precepts of sacred Scripture. Against these the excellent preacher says, He that soweth in his flesh shall of the flesh also reap corruption (Galat. vi. 8). Against these he says again, They that are in the flesh cannot please God (Rom. viii. 8); where he subjoins to his disciples, But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.
Now they are in the flesh who live in carnal pleasures. Against them it is said, Neither shall corruption possess incorruption (1 Cor. xv. 50). But, if they say that a short season of penitence may suffice against sin, so that one may be allowed to return again to sin, rightly does the sentence of the first pastor hit them, when he says, It is happened unto them according to the true proverb; The dog is turned to his own vomit again, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire (2 Pet. ii. 22). For great is the efficacy of penitence against sin; but only if one persevere in this penitence. For it is written, He that shall persevere unto the end, the same shall be saved (Matth. x. 22: xxiv. 13). Hence again it is written, He that is baptized from a dead body, and toucheth it again, what availeth his washing? (Ecclus. xxxiv. 30  ). Now a dead body is every perverse work, which draws a man to death, because he lives not in the life of righteousness. He, then, is baptized from a dead body, and again touches it, who deplores the bad works which he remembers having done, but after his tears entangles himself in the same again. Washing, therefore, from such dead body avails not any soul that does again what it has bemoaned, and rises not through the lamentations of penitence to the rectitude of righteousness. For to do penance truly is not only to bemoan what has been committed, but also to decline from what has been bemoaned.
But, if there are any who say that, if any one shall have anathematised anything under compulsion of necessity, he is not held by the bond of the anathema, these are themselves witnesses that they are no Christians. For they think by vain attempts to loose the binding of holy Church, and hereby neither do they account as real the absolution of holy Church which she offers to the faithful, if they think that her binding is of no avail. Against such as these dispute should be no longer held, since they ought to be altogether scorned and anathematised; and whence they think to elude the truth, thence let them in reality be bound in their sins.
If, then, there are any who under the Christian name dare either to preach, or to hold silently in their own minds, the points of error which we have spoken of above, these undoubtedly we both have anathematised and do anathematise. Yet, as I have said before, in those who used to come to me in the royal city I observed no error at all as to any one of the aforesaid points, nor do I think there was any. For, if there had been, I should have observed it. However, since there are many of the faithful who are inflamed with unwise zeal, and often, while they attack certain persons as though they were heretics, themselves make heresies, consideration should be had for their infirmity, and, as I have said before, they should be appeased with reason and gentleness. For indeed they are like unto those of whom it is written, I bear them record, that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge (Rom. x. 2). Wherefore your Excellency, who live incessantly in reading, in tears, and in alms, should, as I have requested, appease their unwisdom by gentle exhortations and replies, that not only in yourself, but also in them, you may find the glory of eternal retribution. All this my exceeding love has induced me to say to you, since I think that your joy is my gain, and your sadness my loss. May Almighty God guard you with heavenly grace, and, keeping safe the Piety of our lord and the Tranquillity of our most pious lady, prolong your life for the education of the little lords.
Gregory to Isacius, &c.
In keeping with the truth of history, what means the fact that at the time of the flood the human race outside the ark dies, but within the ark is preserved unto life, but what we see plainly now, namely that all the unfaithful perish under the wave of their sin, while the unity of holy Church, like the compactness of the ark, keeps her faithful ones in faith and in charity? And this ark in truth is compacted of incorruptible timber, since it is built of strong souls, and such as persevere in good. And, when any single person is converted from a secular life, timber is, as it were, still cut down from the mountains. But when, according to the order of holy Church, one is assigned to have custody of others, it is as though the ark were built of timber sawn and put together for preserving the life of men. And in truth that ark, when the flood was over, rested on a mountain, because when the corruption of this life is over, when the billows of evil works have passed away, holy Church will rest in the heavenly country, as on a high mountain. To the building, therefore, of this ark we rejoice to find, after reading your Fraternity's epistle, that in the compactness of a right faith you lend your aid; and we render great thanks to Almighty God, who, though the pastors of His flock are changed, keeps the faith which He once delivered to the holy Fathers, even after them unchangeable. Now the excellent preacher says, Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus (1 Cor. iii. 11). Whosoever, then, with love of God and his neighbour, holds firmly the faith which is in Christ, he has laid the same Jesus Christ, Son of God and man, as a foundation for himself from the Father. It is to be hoped, then, that, where Christ is the foundation, the building also of good works may follow. The Truth itself also in person says, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep (Joh. x. 1). And a little afterwards He adds, I am the door. He, then, enters into the sheepfold by the door who enters by Christ. And he enters by Christ who thinks and preaches what is true concerning the same Creator and Redeemer of the human race, keeps what he preaches, and undertakes the topmost place of government with a view to a burdensome office, not in desire of the glory of transitory dignity. He watches also wisely over the charge of the sheepfold which he has taken in hand, lest either perverse men speaking forwardly tear the sheep of God, or malignant spirits waste them by persuading them to vicious delights.
But in all these things may He instruct us Who for our sake was made man. May He Who vouchsafed to become what He made Himself infuse the spirit of His love both into my infirmity and thy charity, and open the eye of our heart in all carefulness and watchful circumspection.
But that men of a right faith are advanced to sacred orders, thanks should be given without cease to the same Almighty God, and prayer should ever be made for the life of our most pious and Christian lord the Emperor, and for his most tranquil spouse, and his most gentle offspring, in whose times the mouths of heretics are silent, since, though their hearts seethe in the madness of perverse opinion, yet in the time of the orthodox Emperor they presume not to speak out the wrong opinions which they hold; so that we plainly see fulfilled what is written, Gathering the waters of the sea together as in a bottle (Ps. xxxii. 7  ). For the water of the sea is gathered together as in a bottle, because whatever wrong opinions the bitter science of heretics entertains at the present day it keeps within the breast, and presumes not to express them openly. But thy Fraternity, spiritually taught, has set forth in all respects the right faith, and has thoroughly declared the things that should be sought after. Your faith, therefore, is ours. We hold what you say, and say what you hold.
But, inasmuch as it has come to our ears that in the Churches of the East no one attains to sacred orders but by giving of bribes, if your Fraternity finds that this is the case, you should offer as your first oblation to Almighty God the restraining of the error of simoniacal heresy in the Churches subject to you. For, not to speak of other things, what sort of men can they be when in sacred orders who are advanced to them not by merit but by bribes? Now we know with what animadversion the Prince of the apostles attacked this heresy, having pronounced the first sentence of condemnation against Simon, when he said, Thy money be with thee unto perdition, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money (Acts viii. 20). Our Lord God Himself also, the Creator and Redeemer of the human race, having made a scourge of small cords, overthrew and cast out of the temple the seats of them that sold doves (Matth. xxi.). For to sell doves in the temple, what else is it but to give for a price in holy Church that imposition of hands whereby the Holy Spirit is given? But the seats of them that sold doves were overthrown, because the priesthood of such is not accounted as priesthood.
Moreover, I have been informed that in the Church which is called Neas, strifes often arise with your Church in the city of Jerusalem. Wherefore your Holiness ought carefully to consider all things, and to correct some things gently, but bear others that cannot be corrected with equanimity. For we see plainly what is said by holy Church through the voice of the Psalmist, Sinners have built upon my back (Ps. cxxviii. 3)  . For on the back burdens are borne. Sinners, then, build upon our back, when we bear with sufferance those whom we cannot correct. For the steersman of a ship, when he considers that the wind is against him, surmounts some billows by steering right over them, but some which he foresees cannot be surmounted he prudently avoids by turning his course aside. So, therefore, let your Holiness mitigate some evils by repressing them, and others by bearing them, so as in all respects to conserve the peace of them that dwell together in the holy Church of Jerusalem. For it is written, Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see God (Hebr. xii. 14). For in quarrels the very light of the soul, the light of good intent, is blocked. Whence the Psalmist says, Mine eye is troubled because of anger (Ps. vi. 8). And what remains in us of well-doing, if we lose peace from the heart, without which we cannot see the Lord? Do you therefore so act as to gather the gain of your reward even from those who through strife might have caused it to perish. May Almighty God guard your Love with heavenly grace, and grant you to carry with you from those who are committed to you manifold fruit and measure running over to eternal joys.
Gregory to Anatolius, &c.
Thy Love has written to me that our most pious lord orders a successor to be appointed to my most reverend brother John, bishop of Prima Justiniana, on account of the ailment of the head from which he suffers, lest perchance that city, while without the jurisdiction of a bishop, should be ruined by its enemies, which God forbid. And yet the canons nowhere enjoin that a bishop should be superseded on account of sickness. And it is altogether unjust that, if bodily ailments come on, the sick person should be deprived of his dignity  . Accordingly this thing can by no means be done through us, lest sin should come upon my soul from his deposition. But it is to be suggested that, if he who bears rule is sick, an administrator may be found, to undertake all his charge, and maintain and fill his place, without his being deposed, in the government of the Church and custody of the city; so that neither may Almighty God be offended nor the city be found to be neglected. If, however, the same most reverend John should haply on account of his ailments request to be relieved from the dignity of the episcopate, it should be conceded on his presenting a petition in writing. But otherwise we are altogether unable, with due regard to the fear of Almighty God, to do this thing. But, if he should be unwilling thus to make petition, what pleases the most pious Emperor, whatever he commands to be done, is in his power. As he determines, so let him provide. Only let him not cause us to be mixed up in the deposition of one so situated. Still, what he does, if it is canonical, we will follow. But, if it is not canonical, we will bear it, so far as we can without sin of our own.
Gregory to Adrian, Notary of Panormus.
Agathosa, the bearer of these presents, complains that her husband has, against her will, been converted  in the monastery of the abbot Urbicus. And, since this undoubtedly touches the credit and reputation of the said abbot, we enjoin thy Experience to investigate the matter by diligent enquiry, so as to see whether it may not be the case that the man's conversion was with her consent, or that she herself had promised to change her state. And should it be found to be so, see to his remaining in the monastery, and compel her to change her state, as she had promised. If however neither of these things is the case, and you do not find that the aforesaid woman has committed any crime of fornication on account of which it is lawful for a man to leave his wife, then, lest his conversion should possibly be an occasion of perdition to the wife left behind in the world, we desire thee, without any excuse allowed, to restore her husband to her, even though he should be already tonsured. For, although mundane law declares that marriage may be dissolved for the sake of conversion against the will of either party, yet divine law does not permit this to be done. For, save for the cause of fornication, a man is on no account allowed to put away his wife, seeing that after the husband and wife have been made one body by the copulation of wedlock, it cannot be in part converted, and in part remain in the world  .
Gregory to Desiderius, &c.
Many good things having been reported to us with regard to your pursuits, such joy arose in our heart that we could not bear to refuse what your Fraternity had requested to have granted to you. But it afterwards came to our ears, what we cannot mention without shame, that thy Fraternity is in the habit of expounding grammar to certain persons. This thing we took so much amiss, and so strongly disapproved it, that we changed what had been said before into groaning and sadness, since the praises of Christ cannot find room in one mouth with the praises of Jupiter. And consider thyself what a grave and heinous offence it is for bishops to sing what is not becoming even for a religious layman. And, though our most beloved son Candidus the presbyter, having been, when he came to us, strictly examined on this matter, denied it, and endeavoured to excuse you, yet still the thought has not departed from our mind, that in proportion as it is execrable for such a thing to be related of a priest, it ought to be ascertained by strict and veracious evidence whether or not it be so. Whence, if hereafter what has been reported to us should prove evidently to be false, and it should be clear that you do not apply yourself to trifles and secular literature, we shall give thanks to our God, who has not permitted your heart to be stained with the blasphemous praises of the abominable; and we will treat without misgiving or hesitation concerning the granting of what you request.
We commend to you in all respects the monks whom together with our most beloved son Laurentius the presbyter and Mellitus the abbot we have sent to our most reverend brother and fellow-bishop Augustine, that, through the succour of your Fraternity, no delay may stop their onward progress.
Gregory to Virgilius, &c.
Since by the testimony of Holy Writ avarice is called the service of idols, with what earnestness it ought to be banished from the temple of God is acknowledged; and yet (we say it with groaning) by some priests this is not regarded. For fierce cupidity holds the heart captive, and persuades one that what it commands is lawful, and so proceeds as to slay with the same sword both the giver and the receiver. What safe place, then, can hereafter be of avail against avarice, if the Church of God is opened to it by bad priests? How can he keep the sheepfolds inviolate who invites the wolf to enter? Alas for shame! He pollutes his hands by an unlawful bribe, and thinks to lift up others by his benediction, while himself prostrate under his own iniquity, and captive notwithstanding to his own ambition. Since then this evil of rapacity has never entered the citadel of your mind, and you say that you have your hands unpolluted in the matter of ordinations, give thanks to Almighty God, and acknowledge yourselves to be His debtors in that under His protection you have remained unharmed by the contagion of this disease. But this good in you will profit you less than it might have done if you have not carefully forbidden this thing in others also. As in thyself this evil had displeased thee, thou oughtest to have been zealous against it in thy brother also. For, seeing that the divine precepts admonish us to love our neighbours as ourselves, it is no small fault to disregard them, and not to fear for others what for ourselves we shrink from. Even now, therefore, most beloved brother, give thy mind to repairing what thou hast lost in others through thy negligence in correction, and restrain whomsoever thou canst from this wickedness, and insist on a synod being assembled for rooting out this same heresy, to the end that, with reward to thy Love, what shall have been condemned, God granting it, by the ordinance of all may be better guarded against by all.
Furthermore, it has come to our ears that our brother and fellow-bishop, Serenus of Massilia (Marseilles), receives bad men into his intimate society, so as to have, in fine, as his familiar friend a certain presbyter. who, after lapse, is said to wallow still in his iniquities. This you ought to enquire into closely. And, if it should prove to be so, let it be your care so to correct this matter in our stead that both he who has received such a one may learn not to encourage him by familiarity, but rather to constrain him by punishment, and he who has been received may learn to wash away his sins with tears, and not to pile up iniquity by unclean living. Let your Fraternity hold as commended to you in all respects the monks whom we have sent to our brother and fellow-bishop Augustine, and take pains so to succour them for proceeding on their way, and so to concur with them, that through your assistance they may be able, under the protection of God, to arrive speedily at their destination.
Gregory to Ătherius, Bishop of Gaul.
The language of your epistles, full of venerable gravity, has so engaged our heart's affection that it would please us to be ever mingling mutual discourse, to the end that, if we cannot enjoy your bodily presence, absence may make no difference with us while this intercourse goes on between us. For how great love of ecclesiastical order shines forth in you, and how great is your regard for discipline, and how great your earnestness in the observance of wholesome ordinances you shew in that you receive our exhortation submissively and altogether willingly, and declare that you will inviolably observe it. Since then you bear a heart prompt for the amendment of others, and condemn with a free voice, as becomes you, an evil of old standing, and seeing that our other brethren and fellow-bishops also are similarly disposed, it is your duty to rise unanimously against the Lord's enemies, and cast avarice out of the house of God by a synodical definition. In the giving of ecclesiastical orders let not fierce hunger for gold find any satisfaction; let not flatteries filch any advantage; let not favour confer anything: let a man's life have the reward of honour, his modesty promote his advancement; that, while this kind of observance obtains, both he that seeks to rise by bribes may be judged unworthy, and he to whom his conduct bears good testimony may be worthily honoured. Let this be your care, most beloved brother, let this anxiety ever keep guard over your thoughts, so that you may prove by action that the zeal which you shew in your letters is the witness of your heart. Wherefore continually and instantly press for the assembling of a synod; and so earnestly acquit yourself as to act up to the dignity of your title in the administration of your office.
With regard to what you request to have granted to your Church on the ground of ancient custom, we have caused search to be made in our archives, and nothing has been found. Wherefore send to us the letters which you say you have, that from them we may gather what ought to be granted you.
As to the acts or writings of the blessed Irenæus, we have now long been searching for them, but have not succeeded so far in finding any of them.
Furthermore, let your Fraternity take care to hold as in all respects commended to you the monks whom we despatched to our brother and fellow-bishop Augustine, and for the sake of God display your charity towards them; and so earnestly concur with them in priestly zeal, and so hasten to help them with your succour for proceeding on their journey, that, while there shall be no cause of delay in your parts to detain them, both they may go on their way more speedily, and you may find a reward for what you have done in their behalf. Given this 10th day of July, Indiction 4  .
Gregory to Aregius, Bishop of Gaul.
There being in brotherly love one heart and one soul, as the mind rejoices in the prosperity of another, so is it afflicted in his adversity, since in both it is bound to be partaker by the law of charity. And so the greater sorrow had come upon us for your sadness, lest perchance the affliction of a prolonged grief might batter your heart with continual pain, and burden your life with groans. But, having received the letters of your Charity, we have been consoled with the joy we hoped for, and we give thanks to Almighty God, for that we now know that your equanimity is unimpaired, and that your mind has been restored to comfort. Nor indeed was it otherwise to be expected of you than that you would undoubtedly overcome with priestly patience whatever adversity there might be.
Further, we well recollect how the zeal of your Fraternity flamed up of old in uprooting simoniacal heresy. Wherefore we exhort that you give your earnest attention to this, and that, among other things that we wrote of, it be condemned by the strict definition of a council; that so, the bent of our desire being fulfilled by the help of your solicitude, you may both offer to Almighty God a most acceptable oblation in the correction of vices, and also shew, for the edification of others, how the care of the pastoral office shines forth in you. Moreover our experience of your life, which we have known to be much superior to that of many, moves us to presume on great assistance from you in this matter. And so complete ye your kindness as under God you have begun, that the good which with a right aim has been begun in you may, by the help of God the Creator of all, be brought to completion.
Furthermore, let your Fraternity bestow your accustomed charity on the monks whom we have sent to our most reverend brother and fellow-bishop Augustine; and so endeavour to succour them for proceeding on their way, as well personally as through others as you can, that, while through your provision they have no difficulties or delays in your parts, both we may feel that our confidence in you was not in vain, and Almighty God may give you the recompense of His grace for the conversion of the souls on whose behalf they have been sent.
Gregory to Mennas of Telona (Toulon), Serenus of Massilia (Marseilles), Lupus of Cabillonum (Châlons-sur-Sa˘ne), Aigulfus of Mettæ (Metz), Simplicius of Parisii (Paris), Melantius of Rotonius (Rouen), and Licinius  , bishops of the Franks. A paribus.
Though the care of the office you have undertaken reminds your Fraternity how you ought to assist with all your endeavours religious men, and especially those who labour in behalf of souls, yet it is not beside the purpose that an address by letter from us should stimulate your assiduity, since, as a fire becomes larger from a blast of air, so the purposes of a good disposition are advanced by commendation. Inasmuch, then, as through the co-operating, grace of our Redeemer so great a multitude of the nation of the Angli is being converted to the grace of Christian faith that our most reverend common brother and fellow-bishop Augustine asserts that those who are with him cannot suffice for carrying out this work in divers places, we have made provision by sending to him a few monks with our most beloved common sons Laurentius the presbyter and Mellitus the abbot. And so let your Fraternity shew them the charity that becomes you, and so make haste to aid them wherever there may be need, that through your assistance they may have no cause for delay in your parts, and that both they themselves may rejoice with you in being relieved by your consolation, and you, by affording them your succour, may be found partakers in the cause in furtherance of which they have been sent.
Gregory to Theoderic, &c.
The letter of your Excellency, which is the index of your heart, has so shewn, in its flow of lucid language, what great prudence is conspicuous in you, along with royal power, that there can be no doubt of the truth of whatever fame has reported in your praise. And inasmuch as you signify, by what you say in praise of it, that our exhortation has so pleased your royal mind that you wish whatever you know to pertain to the worship of our God, to the veneration of Churches, or to the honour of priests, to be both carefully established and in all ways guarded, we appeal to you with a renewed exhortation, with a view to your greater reward, that you would order a synod to be assembled, and, as we have before written, cause corporal vices in priests and the pravity of simoniacal heresy to be condemned by the definition of all the bishops, and to be cut off within the limits of your kingdom, and allow not any longer money to have more effect than the precepts of the Lord. For, since all avarice is the service of idols, whosoever does not watchfully guard against it, and especially in the bestowal of ecclesiastical honours, is subjected to the perdition of infidelity, even though he may seem to hold the faith which he disregards. As, then, against external enemies, so also against adversaries of souls among yourselves, take ye earnest heed, that on account of this your faithful opposition to God's enemies you may both reign prosperously here under His protection, and also come hereafter by the leading of His grace to eternal joys.
Furthermore, what benefits your Excellence bestowed on our most reverend brother and fellow-bishop Augustine on his progress to the nation of the Angli we have been told by certain monks who have returned to us from him. Wherefore, returning abundant thanks, we beg that you will deign to afford your support in full measure to these monks also who have been sent to him, and to aid them on their onward journey, so that the more amply you shew your kindness to them, the greater return you may expect from Almighty God, whom they serve.
Gregory to Theodebert, &c.
One who receives with willing mind and embraces in the bosom of his heart words of fatherly admonition declares himself without doubt to be one who would be an amender of faults. On which account the absolute promise of your Excellence assures us sufficiently. For we hold in place of a pledge the words of one who is good for payment. Therefore let your Excellency vouchsafe, adhering to the commands of our God, to give zealous attention to the assembling of a synod, that every corporal vice in priests, and simoniacal heresy, which was the first to arise in Churches from iniquitous ambition, may under threat of the censure of your power be removed by the definition of a council, and be cut off by the roots; lest, if gold is loved in your parts more than God, He who now remains tranquil while His precepts are despised be felt hereafter to be wrathful in vengeance. And indeed, because we say all this for your own behoof, we therefore cease not to press you again and again, that we may be able, even by importunity, to do good to our most excellent and most sweet sons. For it will be in all respects of advantage to your kingdom, if what is done in those parts against God be corrected by the emendation of your Excellency.
Furthermore, what good service your Excellency did to our most reverend brother and fellow-bishop Augustine on his progress to the nation of the Angli we have learnt from the report of certain monks who returned to us from him. Rendering you the greatest thanks for this, we beg you to bestow your benefits abundantly on the monks, the bearers of these presents, whom we have sent to our said brother, to the end that, while under your patronage, they find no difficulties in your parts, but accomplish easily with the help of Christ the journey they have undertaken, you may reap your richer fruit of reward before the eyes of our God.
Gregory to Clotaire, &c.
Among so many cares and anxieties which you sustain for the government of the peoples under your sway, it is to your exceeding praise and great reward that you are helpers of those who labour in the cause of God. And, since you have shewn yourselves by the good things you have already done to be such that we may presume still better things of you, we are moved most gladly to request of you what will be to your own reward. Now certain monks, who had proceeded with our most reverend brother and fellow-bishop Augustine to the nation of the Angli, have returned and told us with what great charity your Excellence refreshed this our brother when he was present with you, and with what supports you aided him on his departure. But, since the works of those who do not recede from the good they have begun are acceptable to our God, we beg of you, greeting you with fatherly affection, to hold as peculiarly commended to you the monks, bearers of these presents, whom we have sent to our aforesaid brother together with our most beloved sons, the presbyter Laurentius and the abbot Mellitus. And whatever kindness you before shewed to him bestow ye on them also to the richer increase of your praise, to the end that, when through your provision they shall have accomplished without delay the journey they have begun, Almighty God may be the recompenser of your good deeds, and both your guardian in prosperity and your helper in adversity.
Furthermore, it has come to our ears that in your parts sacred orders are conferred with payment of money. And we are exceedingly distressed if the gifts of God are not attained by merit, but pounced upon by bribes. And, because this simoniacal heresy, which was the first to arise in the Church, was condemned by the authority of the apostles, we beg of you for your own reward to cause a synod to be assembled; to the end that, having been put down and eradicated by the definition of all the priests, it may in future find no power in your parts to endanger souls, nor be allowed henceforth to arise under any pretext whatever, that so our Almighty God may exalt you against your adversaries in proportion as He sees that you have zeal in fulfilling His commands, and as you take thought for the salvation of souls which had been in danger of perishing by the sword of this atrocity.
Gregory to Brunichild, &c.
We render thanks to Almighty God, Who, among all the other gifts of His loving-kindness that He has bestowed upon your Excellency, has so filled you with a love of the Christian religion that whatever you know to pertain to the gain of souls, whatever to the propagation of the faith, you cease not to carry into effect with devout mind and pious zeal. As to the great favour and assistance wherewith your Excellence aided our most reverend brother and fellow-bishop Augustine on his progress to the nation of the Angli, fame had already not been silent; and afterwards certain monks, returning to us from him, gave us a particular account thereof.
And indeed, let others to whom your benefactions are less known wonder at these evidences of your Christianity; for to us who know them by experience they are not a subject of wonder, but of rejoicing, because through what you bestow upon others you delight yourself. Now of what sort and how great are the miracles which our Redeemer has wrought in the conversion of the above-written nation is already known to your Excellency. On which account you ought to have great joy, since the succours afforded by you claim to themselves the larger share herein, it having been through your aid, after God, that the word of preaching became widely known in those parts. For one who aids the good work of another makes it his own. But, that the fruit of your reward may be richer more and more, we beg of you kindly to afford the support of your patronage to the monks, the bearers of these presents, whom we have sent with our most beloved sons, the presbyter Laurentius and the abbot Mellitus, to our aforesaid most reverend brother and fellow-bishop, because of his telling us that those who are with him are not sufficient; and to vouchsafe to stand by them in all things, to the end that, when by the good auspices of your Excellency they shall have had the better success, and shall have found no delays or difficulties in your parts, you may call down the mercy of our God towards you and your most sweet nephews in proportion as you have demeaned yourselves compassionately for the love of Him in causes of this kind.
[(In Collect. Pauli Diac.) Given the tenth day of the Kalends of July, Indiction 4.]
Gregory to Brunichild, &c.
What good gifts have been conferred on you from above, and with what piety heavenly grace has filled you, this, among all the other proofs of your merits, intimates evidently to all that you both govern the savage hearts of barbarians with the skill of prudent counsel, and (what is still more to your praise), adorn your royal power with wisdom. And since, as you are above many nations in both these respects, so also you excel them in the purity of your faith, we have great confidence in your amending what is unlawful. For the contents of the letters you have already sent us are witness how your Excellency has embraced our exhortation, and with what devotion you long to fulfil the same. But, since He Who is the giver of good dispositions is wont to be their helper also, we trust that He may direct your causes in His loving-kindness all the more favourably as He sees you to be assiduous in His cause. Do you God's work, and God will do yours. Wherefore order a synod to be assembled, and, among other things, as we have before written, studiously prohibit by the definition of a council the sin of simoniacal heresy in your kingdom. Offer a sacrifice to God by conquering the enemy that is within, that by His help you may conquer the enemies that are without; and that, according to the zeal you evince against His foes, such you may feel Him to be in aiding you. Believe me, moreover, that, as we have learnt from the experience of many, whatever is gathered together with sin is spent with loss. If, then, you wish to lose nothing unjustly, endeavour to the utmost to have nothing got by injustice. For in earthly matters loss has always its origin in sin. You, therefore, if you wish to stand above adverse nations, if you would speedily, with God's leave, be victorious over them, receive with trembling the commandments of the same Almighty God, that He Himself may fight for you against your adversaries, Who has promised in Holy Writ, saying, The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace (Exod. xiv. 14).
[In Collect. Pauli Diac.: Data die decima Kalend., Indict. 4. In Remigiano: Data die x Kalendas Julii, Indict. 4.]
Here begins the epistle of the blessed Gregory pope of the city of Rome, in exposition of various matters, which he sent into transmarine Saxony to Augustine, whom he had himself sent in his own stead to preach.
Preface.--Through my most beloved son Laurentius, the presbyter, and Peter the monk, I received thy Fraternity's letter, in which thou hast been at pains to question me on many points. But, inasmuch as my aforesaid sons found me afflicted with the pains of gout, and on their urging me to dismiss them speedily were allowed to go, leaving me under the same painful affliction; I have not been able to reply, as I ought to have done, at greater length on every single point.
Augustine's first question.
I ask, most blessed father, concerning bishops, how they should live with their clergy: And concerning the offerings of the faithful which are received at the altars, both into what portions they should be divided, and how the bishop ought to deal with them in the Church.
Answer of Saint Gregory, pope of the city of Rome.
Holy Scripture, which no doubt thou knowest well, bears witness, and especially the epistles of the blessed Paul to Timothy, in which he studied to instruct him how he ought to behave himself in the house of God. Now it is the custom of the Apostolic See to deliver an injunction to bishops when ordained, that of all emoluments that come in four divisions should be made: to wit, one for the bishop and his household on account of hospitality and entertainment; another for the clergy; a third for the poor; and a fourth for the reparation of Churches. But, inasmuch as thy Fraternity, having been trained in the rules of a monastery, ought not to live apart from thy clergy in the Church of the Angli, which by the guidance of God has lately been brought to the faith, it will be right to institute that manner of life which in the beginning of the infant Church was that of our Fathers, among whom none said that aught of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things common (Acts iv.).
Augustine's second question  .
I wish to be taught whether clerics who cannot contain may marry; and, if they marry, whether they should return to the world.
Answer of the blessed pope Gregory.
If, however, there are any clerics, not in sacred orders, who cannot contain themselves, they ought to take to themselves wives, and receive their stipends separately, since we know that it is written of those same Fathers whom we have before mentioned, that distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. Wherefore thought should be taken and provision made for their stipends, and they should be kept under ecclesiastical rule, that they may lead good lives, and give attention to the singing of psalms, and by the help of God preserve their heart and tongue and body from all that is unlawful. But as to those who live in community, what is there more for us to say with regard to assigning portions, or shewing hospitality, or executing mercy, seeing that what remains over and above their needs is to be expended for pious and religious uses, as the Lord and Master of us all says, Of what is over give alms, and behold all things are clean unto you (Luke xi. 41)?
Augustine's third question.
Since there is but one faith, why are the uses of Churches so different, one use of Mass being observed in the Roman Church, and another in the Churches of Gaul?
Answer of the blessed pope Gregory.
Thy Fraternity knows the use of the Roman Church, in which thou hast been nurtured. But I approve of thy selecting carefully anything thou hast found that may be more pleasing to Almighty God, whether in the Roman Church or that of Gaul, or in any Church whatever, and introducing in the Church of the Angli, which is as yet new in the faith, by a special institution, what thou hast been able to collect from many Churches. For we ought not to love things for places, but places for things. Wherefore choose from each several Church such things as are pious, religious, and right, and, collecting them as it were into a bundle, plant them in the minds of the Angli for their use.
Augustine's fourth question.
Pray tell me what any one ought to suffer who may have abstracted anything from a church by theft?
Answer of the blessed pope Gregory.
In this case thy Fraternity can consider, with regard to the person of the thief, how he may be best corrected. For there are some who commit theft though they have resources, and there are others who transgress in this matter out of want. Hence it is needful that some should be corrected by fines, but some by stripes, and some more severely, but some more lightly. And, when any one is somewhat severely dealt with, he should be dealt with in charity, and not in anger; since to the man himself who is corrected the punishment is assigned lest he should be given up to the fires of hell. For we ought so to maintain discipline towards believers as good fathers are wont to do towards their sons, whom they both smite with blows for their faults, and yet seek to have as their heirs the very persons on whom they inflict pain, and keep what they possess for the very same whom they seem to assail in anger. This charity, then, should be retained in the mind, so that nothing at all be done beyond the rule of reason.
Thou askest also how they ought to restore what they have abstracted by theft from churches. But far be it from us that the Church should receive back with increase what it seems to lose of its earthly things, and seek gain out of losses. [al., for de damnis, de vanis. So Bede.]
Augustine's fifth question.
I beg to know whether two brothers may marry two sisters, who are far removed from them in descent.
Answer of the blessed pope Gregory.
This by all means may be done. For nothing at all is found in Holy Writ which seems to be opposed to it.
Augustine's sixth question.
As far as what generation believers ought to be joined in marriage with their kin, and whether it is lawful to be joined in marriage with stepmothers and brothers' wives?
Answer of the blessed pope Gregory.
A certain earthly law in the Roman republic allows the son and daughter, whether of a brother and sister, or of two brothers, or of two sisters, to marry together. But we have learnt by experience that progeny cannot ensue from such marriages. And the sacred law forbids to uncover the nakedness of kindred. Whence it follows that only the third or fourth generations of believers may be lawfully joined together  . For the second which we have spoken of, ought by all means to abstain from each other. But to have intercourse with a stepmother is a grave offence, seeing that is also written in the law, thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father (Lev. xviii. 7). Not indeed that a son can uncover his father's nakedness; but, since it is written in the law, They too shall be one flesh (Gen. ii. 24), he who has presumed to uncover the nakedness of his stepmother, who has been one flesh with his father, has in truth uncovered his father's nakedness. It is also forbidden to have intercourse with a brother's wife, who, through her former conjunction, has become the flesh of the brother. For which thing also John the Baptist was beheaded, and crowned with holy martyrdom. He was not bidden to deny Christ; and yet for confessing Christ he was slain; because the same our Lord Jesus Christ had said, I am the truth (John xiv. 6); and because John was slain for the truth, he shed his blood for Christ.
Augustine's seventh question  .
I request to have it declared whether to such as are thus foully joined together separation should be enjoined, and the oblation of sacred communion denied them?
Answer of the blessed pope Gregory.
But, since there are many in the nation of the Angli who while they were yet in unbelief are said to have been associated in such unholy marriages, they should be admonished, when they come to the faith, to abstain from each other, and be made to understand that this is a grievous sin. Let them fear God's tremendous judgment, lest for carnal delight they incur the pains of eternal torment. Yet they should not on this account be deprived of the communion of the Lord's body and blood, lest we should seem to punish them for what they had bound themselves in through ignorance before the laver of baptism. For at this time holy Church corrects some things with fervour, tolerates some things with gentleness, connives at and bears some things with consideration, so as often to repress what she opposes by bearing and conniving. But all who come to the faith are to be warned not to dare to perpetrate any such thing: and if any should perpetrate it, they must be deprived of the communion of the Lord's body and blood, since, as in those who have done it in ignorance the fault should be to a certain extent tolerated, so it should be severely visited in those who are not afraid to sin in spite of knowledge.
Augustine's eighth question.
I ask whether, if length of way intervenes, and bishops are not able to assemble easily, a bishop should be ordained without the presence of other bishops.
Answer of the blessed pope Gregory.
Indeed in the Church of the Angli, wherein thou art so far the only bishop, thou canst not ordain a bishop otherwise than without bishops. For, when bishops shall come from Gaul they will attend thee as witnesses for the ordination of a bishop  . But we desire thy Fraternity so to ordain bishops in England that the bishops themselves be not separated from one another by long distances, to the end that there be no necessary cause why they should not come together in the case of the ordination of any bishop. For the presence of some other pastors also is exceedingly advantageous; and hence they ought to be able to come together as easily as possible. When therefore, God granting it, bishops shall have been ordained in places not far from each other, an ordination of bishops should in no case take place without three or four bishops being assembled. For in spiritual things themselves, that they may be ordered wisely and maturely, we may draw an example even from carnal things. For assuredly, when marriages are celebrated in the world, some married persons are called together, that those who have gone before in the way of marriage may be associated also in the ensuing joy. Why then, in this spiritual ordination too, wherein man is joined to God through a sacred mystery, should not such come together as may both rejoice in the advancement of him who is ordained bishop and pour forth prayers to the Almighty Lord for His protection?
Augustine's ninth question.
I ask also how we should deal with the bishops of Gaul and of the Britons.
Answer of the blessed pope Gregory.
Over the bishops of Gaul we give thee no authority, since from the ancient times of my predecessors the bishop of Arelate (Arles) has received the pallium, and we ought by no means to deprive him of the authority that he has acquired. If therefore it should happen that thy Fraternity should pass into the provinces of Gaul, thou shouldest act with the same bishop of Arelate in such a way that vices in bishops, if any, may be corrected. And, if he should by chance be lukewarm in the vigour of discipline, he must be stirred up by the zeal of thy Fraternity. To him we have also written letters  , bidding him aid thee with his whole soul, whenever thy Holiness may be present in Gaul, that you may together repress in the manners of bishops all that is contrary to the command of our Creator. But thou thyself wilt not have power to judge the bishops of Gaul by authority of thine own; but by persuading, alluring, and also exhibiting thine own good works for their imitation, and so moulding the dispositions of the vicious to concern for holiness; seeing that it is written in the law, One passing through the standing corn of another must not put in a sickle, but rub the ears with his hand and eat (Deut. xxxii. 25). Thou canst not, then, put in the sickle of judgment into the crop that is seen to be committed to another; but by kindly good offices thou canst strip the corn of the Lord from the chaff of its defects, and by admonishing and persuading, convert it, as it were by chewing, into the body of the Church. But whatever is to be done authoritatively, let it be done with the aforesaid bishop of Arelate, lest there should be any disregard of what the ancient institution of the Fathers has provided. But of all British bishops we commit the charge to thy Fraternity, that the unlearned may be taught, the weak strengthened by persuasion, the perverse corrected by authority.
I request that the relics of Saint Sixtus the martyr may be sent to us  .
The grant of Gregory.
We have done what thou hast requested, to the end that the people who formerly said that they venerated in a certain place the body of Saint Sixtus the martyr, which seems to thy Fraternity to be neither the true body nor truly holy, may receive certain benefits from the most holy and approved martyr, and not reverence what is uncertain. Yet it seems to me that, if the body which is believed by the people to be that of some martyr is distinguished among them by no miracles, and if further there are none of the more aged who declare that they had heard the order of his passion from progenitors, the relics which thou hast asked for should be so deposited apart that the place in which the aforesaid body lies, be entirely blocked up, and that the people be not allowed to desert what is certain, and venerate what is uncertain.
Augustine's tenth question.
Whether a pregnant woman should be baptized, or, when she has brought forth, after what length of time she should be allowed to enter the church. Or, to guard also against her issue being surprised by death, after how many days it may receive the sacrament of holy baptism. Or after what length of time her husband may have carnal intercourse with her. Or, if she is in her sickness after the manner of women, whether she may enter the church, or receive the sacrament of sacred communion. Or whether a man after intercourse with his wife, before he has been washed with water, may enter the church, or even go to the ministry (ministerium: in Bede, mysterium) of sacred communion. All these things it is right we should have made known to us for the rude nation of the Angli.
Answer of the blessed pope Gregory.
I doubt not that thy Fraternity has been asked these questions, and I think that I have supplied thee with answers to them. But I believe that thou wishest what thou art able of thyself to say and think to be confirmed by my reply. For why should not a pregnant woman be baptized, fecundity of the flesh being no fault before the eyes of Almighty God? For, when our first parents had transgressed in Paradise, they lost by the just judgment of God the immortality which they had received. Therefore, because Almighty God would not utterly extinguish the human race for their fault, He took away immortality from man for his sin, and yet, in the kindness of His pity, reserved to him fruitfulness in offspring. With what reason then can what has been preserved to the human race by the gift of Almighty God be debarred from the grace of holy baptism? For indeed it is very foolish to suppose that a gift of grace can possibly be inconsistent with that mystery wherein all human sin is entirely extinguished.
But as to how many days after her delivery a woman may enter the church, thou hast learnt that by the direction of the Old Testament she ought to keep away xxxiii. days for a male child, but lxvi. for a female. It should be known, however, that this is understood mystically. For, if in the same hour in which she has been delivered she enters the church, she subjects herself to no burden of sin. For it is the pleasure of the flesh, not the pain, that is in fault. But it is in the carnal intercourse that the pleasure lies; for in bringing forth of offspring there is pain and groaning. Whence even to the first mother of all it is said, In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children (Gen. iii. 16). If, therefore, we forbid a woman after her delivery to enter the church, we reckon her very penalty to her for a fault. Moreover, it is by no means forbidden that either a woman after delivery or that which she has brought forth should be baptized without delay, if in peril of death; she even in the same hour in which she is delivered, or it in the same hour in which it is born. For, as in the case of those who live and have discretion the grace of the holy mystery should be seen to with great discernment, so to those who are in imminent danger of death it should be offered without any delay, lest, while time is being sought for administering the mystery of redemption, death should shortly intervene, and no way be found of redeeming the time that has been lost.
Further, her husband ought not to cohabit with her till that which is brought forth be weaned. But an evil custom has arisen in the ways of married persons, that women scorn to nurse the children whom they bring forth, and deliver them to other women to be nursed. Which custom appears to have been devised for the sole cause of incontinency, in that, being unwilling to contain themselves, they think scorn to suckle their offspring. Those women therefore who, after an evil custom, deliver their children to others to be nursed ought not to have intercourse with their husbands unless the time of their purification has passed, seeing that, even without the reason of childbirth, they are forbidden to have intercourse with their husbands while held of their accustomed sicknesses; so much so that the sacred law smites with death any man who shall go into a woman having her sickness (Lev. xx. 18). Yet still a woman, while suffering from her accustomed sickness, ought not to be prohibited from entering the church, since the superfluity of nature cannot be imputed to her for guilt, and it is not just that she should be deprived of entrance into the church on account of what she suffers unwillingly. For we know that the woman who suffered from an issue of blood, coming humbly behind the Lord, touched the hem of his garment, and immediately her infirmity departed from her (Luke viii.). If then one who had an issue of blood could laudably touch the Lord's garment, why should it be unlawful for one who suffers from a menstruum of blood to enter in the Lord's Church?
But that woman, thou wilt say, was compelled by infirmity; but these are held of their accustomed sicknesses. Yet consider, dearest brother, how all that we suffer in this mortal flesh is of infirmity of nature, ordained after guilt by the fitting judgment of God. For to hunger and to thirst, to be hot, to be cold, to be weary, is of infirmity of nature. And to seek food against hunger, and drink against thirst, and cool air against heat, and clothing against cold, and rest against weariness, what is it but to search out certain healing appliances against sicknesses? For in females also the menstruous flow of their blood is a sickness. If therefore she presumed well who in her state of feebleness touched the Lord's garment, why should not what is granted to one person in infirmity be granted to all women who through defect of their nature are in infirmity?
Further, she ought not to be prohibited during these same days from receiving the mystery of holy communion. If, however, out of great reverence, she does not presume to receive, she is to be commended; but, if she should receive, she is not to be judged. For it is the part of good dispositions in some way to acknowledge their sins, even where there is no sin, since often without sin a thing is done which comes of sin. Whence also, when we hunger, we eat without sin, though it has come of the sin of the first man that we do hunger. For the menstruous habit in women is no sin, seeing that it occurs naturally; yet still that nature itself has been so vitiated as to be seen to be polluted even without the intention of the will is a defect that comes of sin, whereby human nature may perceive what through judgment it has come to be, so that man who voluntarily committed sin may bear the guilt of sin involuntarily. And so females, when they consider themselves as being in their habit of sickness, if they presume not to approach the sacrament of the body and blood of the Lord, are to be commended for their right consideration. But when, out of the habit of a religious life, they are seized with a love of the same mystery, they are not to be restrained, as we have said. For, as in the old Testament outward acts were attended to, so in the New Testament it is not so much what is done outwardly as what is thought inwardly that is regarded with close attention, that it may be punished with searching judgment. For while the law forbids the eating of many things as being unclean, the Lord nevertheless says in the Gospel, Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man, but the things which come forth from the heart, these are they which defile a man (Matth. xv. 11). And soon after He added in explanation, Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts (Ib. 19). Hence it is abundantly indicated that what is shewn by Almighty God to be polluted in act is that which is engendered of the root of polluted thought. Whence also Paul the Apostle says, All things are pure to the pure; but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure (Tit. i. 15). And immediately, to declare the cause of this defilement, he subjoins, For their mind and conscience is defiled. If, then, food is not impure to one whose mind is not impure, why should what with a pure mind a woman suffers from nature be reckoned to her for impurity?
Further, a man after sleeping with his own wife ought not to enter the church unless washed with water, nor, even when washed, enter immediately. Now the law enjoined on the ancient people that a man after intercourse with a woman should both be washed with water and not enter the church before sunset. Which may be understood spiritually as meaning that a man has intercourse with a woman when his mind is joined with delight in thought to illicit concupiscence, and that, unless the fire of concupiscence in his mind should cool, he ought not to think himself worthy of the congregation of his brethren, seeing himself to be burdened with by lewdness of wrong desire. For, although in this matter different nations of men have different notions, and some are seen to observe one practice and some another, yet the usage of the Romans from ancient times has always been for a man after intercourse with his own wife both to seek the purification of the bath and to refrain reverently for a while from entering the church.
Nor do we, in saying these things, account wedlock as sin. But, since even the lawful intercourse of the wedded cannot take place without pleasure of the flesh, entrance into a sacred place should be abstained from, because the pleasure itself can by no means be without sin. For he had not been born of adultery or fornication, but of lawful wedlock, who said, Behold I was conceived in iniquities, and in sin my mother brought me forth (Ps. l. 7). For, knowing himself to have been conceived in iniquities, he groaned for having been born in sin, because the tree bears in its branch the vicious humour which it has drawn from its root. Yet in these words he does not call the intercourse of the wedded iniquity in itself, but in truth only the pleasure of the intercourse. For there are many things which are allowed and legitimate, and yet we are to some extent defiled in the doing of them; as often we attack faults with anger, and disturb the tranquillity of our own mind. And, though what is done is right, yet it is not to be approved that the mind is therein disturbed. For instance, he had been angry against the vices of transgressors who said, Mine eye is disturbed because of anger (Ps. vi. 8). For, since the mind cannot, unless it be tranquil, lift itself up to the light of contemplation, he grieved that his eye was disturbed in anger, because, though assailing evil doings from above, he still could not help being confused and disturbed from contemplation of the highest things. And therefore his anger against vice is laudable, and yet it troubles him, because he felt that he had incurred some guilt in being disturbed. Lawful copulation of the flesh ought therefore to be for the purpose of offspring, not of pleasure; and intercourse of the flesh should be for the sake of producing children, and not a satisfaction of frailties. If, then, any one makes use of his wife not as seized by the desire of pleasure, but only for the sake of producing children, he certainly, with regard to entering the church or taking the mystery of the body and blood of the Lord, is to be left to his own judgment, since by us he ought not to be prohibited from receiving it who knows no burning though in the midst of fire. But, when not the love of producing offspring but pleasure dominates in the act of intercourse, married persons have something to mourn over in their intercourse. For holy preaching concedes them this, and yet in the very concession shakes the mind with fear. For, when the Apostle Paul said, Who cannot contain let him have his own wife, he straightway took care to add, But I speak this by way of indulgence, not by way of command (1 Cor. vii. 7). For what is just and right is not indulged: what he spoke of as indulged he shewed to be a fault.
Furthermore it is to be attentively considered that the Lord in mount Sinai, when about to speak to the people, first charged the same people to abstain from women. And if there, where the Lord spoke to men through a subject creature, purity of body was required with such careful provision that they who were to hear the words of God might not have intercourse with women, how much more ought those who receive the Body of the Almighty Lord to keep purity of the flesh in themselves, lest they be weighed down by the greatness of the inestimable mystery! Hence also it is said through the priest to David concerning his servants, that if they were pure from women they might eat the shew bread; which they might not receive at all unless David first declared them to be pure from women. Still a man who after intercourse with his wife has been washed with water may receive even the mystery of sacred communion, since according to the opinion above expressed it was allowable for him to enter the church.
Augustine's eleventh question.
I ask also whether after an illusion, such is accustomed to occur in dreams, any one may receive the body of the Lord, or, if he be a priest, celebrate the sacred mysteries?
Answer of the blessed Pope Gregory.
Such a one the Testament of the old law, as we have already said in the last section, declares indeed to be polluted, and does not allow to enter the church until the evening, or without being washed with water. But one who understands this not only with special reference to that people at that time, but also spiritually, will regard it under the same intellectual conception that we have spoken of before; namely, that he has, as it were, an illusion in a dream who, being tempted by uncleanness, is defiled in thought by true images. But he is to be washed with water in the sense of washing away the sins of thought with tears. And, unless the fire of temptation has passed away, he should feel himself to be guilty, as it were, until the evening.
But in this same illusion discrimination is very necessary, since it ought to be nicely considered from what cause it occurs to the mind of the sleeper. For sometimes it happens from surfeit, sometimes from superfluity or infirmity of nature, sometimes from cogitation. And indeed when it has come to pass from superfluity or infirmity of nature, it is by no means to be viewed with alarm, since the mind is to be commiserated as having endured it unwittingly rather than as having done it. But when the appetite of gluttony in taking food is carried beyond measure, and consequently the receptacles of the humours are loaded, the mind has therefore some guilt, yet not to the extent of prohibition from receiving the sacred mystery, or celebrating the solemnities of mass, when perchance a festival day demands it, or necessity itself requires the mystery to be exhibited by reason of there being no other priest in the place. For, if others competent to execute the mystery are present, an illusion caused by surfeit ought not to debar from receiving the sacred mystery, though immolation of the sacred mystery ought, as I think, to be humbly abstained from; provided only that foul imagination has not shaken the soul of the sleeper. For there are some to whom the illusion for the most part so arises that their mind, though in the body which sleeps, is not defiled by foul imaginations. With regard to this, there is one case in which it is shewn that the soul itself is guilty, not being free even from its own judgment; that is where, while it remembers having seen nothing when the body was asleep, it still remembers having fallen into lewdness when the body was awake. But, if the illusion arises in the soul of the sleeper from foul cogitation while he was awake, the mind's guilt is patent to itself. For a man sees from what root that defilement proceeded, if he has endured unwittingly what he wittingly cogitated. But it is to be considered whether the cogitation ensued from suggestion, or delight, or sinful consent. For there are three ways in which all sin is accomplished; to wit, by suggestion, by delight, and by consent. Suggestion is through the devil, delight through the flesh, consent through the spirit; since, in the case of the first sin, the serpent suggested it, Eve, as the flesh, delighted in it, but Adam, as the spirit, consented to it. And great discernment is needed, that the mind may sit as judge of itself to distinguish between suggestion and delight, between delight and consent. For, when the evil spirit suggests sin in the soul, if no delight in sin should follow, no sin is in any wise committed. But, when the flesh has begun to take delight, then sin has its commencement. But, if it sinks to deliberate consent, then sin is known to be completed. In suggestion therefore is the seed of sin, in delight its nutriment, in consent its completion. And it often happens that what the evil spirit sows in the thought the flesh draws into delight, and yet the mind does not consent to this delight. And, while the flesh cannot be delighted without the soul, still the mind, though struggling against the pleasures of the flesh, is in some way bound against its will in carnal delight, so as by force of reason to protest against it and not consent to it, and yet to be bound by the delight, but still to groan exceedingly for being bound. Whence even that chief soldier of the heavenly army groaned, saying, I see another law in my members fighting against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members (Rom. vii. 23). Yet, if he was a captive, he did not fight. But he did fight too, and therefore he was not a captive. And therefore he fought by the law of the mind, which the law which is in the members fought against. If he thus fought, he was not a captive. Behold then man is, so to speak, both a captive and free: free with regard to the righteousness which he loves; a captive with regard to the delight which he endures unwillingly.
Gregory to Augustine, &c.
Though it is certain that for those who labour for Almighty God ineffable rewards of an eternal kingdom are reserved, yet we must needs bestow honours upon them, that by reason of remuneration they may apply themselves the more manifoldly in devotion to spiritual work. And, since the new Church of the Angli has been brought to the grace of Almighty God through the bountifulness of the same Lord and thy labours, we grant to thee the use of the pallium therein for the solemnization of mass only, so that thou mayest ordain bishops in twelve several places, to be subject to thy jurisdiction, with the view of a bishop of the city of London being always consecrated in future by his own synod, and receiving the dignity of the pallium from this holy and Apostolical See which by the grace of God I serve. Further, to the city of York we desire thee to send a bishop whom thou mayest judge fit to be ordained; so that, if this same city with the neighbouring places should receive the word of God, he also may ordain twelve bishops, so as to enjoy the dignity of a metropolitan: for to him also, if our life is continued, we propose, with the favour of God, to send a pallium; but yet we desire to subject him to the control of thy Fraternity. But after thy death let him be over the bishops whom he shall have ordained, so as to be in no wise subject to the jurisdiction of the bishop of London. Further, between the bishops of London and York in the future let there be this distinction of dignity, that he be accounted first who has been first ordained. But let them arrange by council in common, and with concordant action, whatever things may have to be done in zeal for Christ; let them be of one mind in what is right, and accomplish what they are minded to do without disagreement with each other.
But let thy Fraternity have subject to thyself under our God not only those bishops whom thou shalt ordain, and those whom the bishop of York may ordain, but also all the priests of Britain, to the end that they may learn the form of right belief and good living from the tongue and life of thy Holiness, and, executing their office well in their faith and manners, may attain to heavenly kingdoms when it may please the Lord. God keep thee safe, most reverend brother. Given on the tenth day of the Kalends of July, in the 19th year of the empire of our lord Mauricius Tiberius, the 18th year after the consulship of the same lord, Indiction 4.
Gregory to Edilbert, &c.
On this account Almighty God advances good men to the government of peoples, that through them He may bestow the gifts of His loving-kindness on all over whom they are preferred. This we have found to be the case in the nation of the Angli, which your Glory has been put over to the intent that through the good things granted to you, heavenly benefits might be conferred on the nation subject to you. And so, glorious son, keep guard with anxious mind over the grace which thou hast received from above. Make haste to extend the Christian faith among the peoples under thy sway, redouble the zeal of thy rectitude in their conversion, put down the worship of idols, overturn the edifices of their temples  , build up the manners of thy subjects in great purity of life by exhorting, by terrifying, by enticing, by correcting, by shewing examples of well-doing; that so you may find Him your recompenser in heaven Whose name and knowledge you shall have spread abroad on earth. For He Himself will make the name of your glory even more glorious to posterity, if you seek and maintain His honour among the nations. For so Constantine, the once most pious Emperor, recalling the Roman republic from perverse worshippings of idols, subjected it with himself to our Almighty Lord God Jesus Christ, and turned himself with his subject peoples with all his heart to Him. Hence it came to pass that that man surpassed in praise the name of ancient princes, and excelled his predecessors as much in renown as in well-doing. And now, therefore, let your Glory make haste to infuse into the kings and peoples subject to you the knowledge of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that you may both surpass the ancient kings of your race in renown and in deserts, and the more you shall have wiped away the sins of others among your subjects, the more secure you may become with regard to your own sins before the terrible scrutiny of Almighty God.
Moreover, you have with you our most reverend brother, Augustine the bishop, learned in monastic rule, replete with knowledge of holy Scripture, endowed by the grace of God with good works. Listen gladly to his admonitions, follow them devoutly, keep them studiously in remembrance: for, if you listen to him in what he speaks in behalf of Almighty God, the same Almighty God will the sooner listen to him when he prays for you. For, if (which God forbid) you disregard his words, when will it be possible for Almighty God to hear him for you, whom you neglect to hear for God? With all your heart, therefore, bind ye yourselves in fervour of faith to him, and aid his endeavours by the power which he gives you from above, that He Whose faith you cause to be received and kept in your kingdom may Himself make you partakers of His own Kingdom.
Furthermore, we would have your Glory know that, as we learn from the words of the Almighty Lord in holy Scripture, the end of the present world is already close at hand, and the reign of the saints is coming, which can have no end. And, now that this end of the world is approaching, many things are at hand which previously have not been; to wit, changes of the air, terrors from heaven, and seasons contrary to the accustomed order of times, wars, famine, pestilences, earthquakes in divers places. Yet these things will not come in our days, but after our days they will all ensue. You therefore, if you observe any of these things occurring in your land, by no means let your mind be troubled, since these signs of the end of the world are sent beforehand for this purpose, that we should be solicitous about our souls, suspectful of the hour of death, and in our good deeds be found prepared for the coming Judge. These things, glorious son, we have now briefly spoken of, that, when the Christian faith shall have been extended in your kingdom, our speech to you may also extend itself to greater length, and that we may be pleased to speak so much the more fully as joy multiplies itself in our heart for the perfected conversion of your nation.
I have sent you some small presents, which to you will not be small, when received by you as of the benediction of the blessed Apostle Peter. And so may Almighty God guard and perfect in you the grace which He has begun, and extend your life here through courses of many years, and after a long life receive you in the congregation of the heavenly country. May heavenly grace keep your Excellency safe, sir son (domine fili). Given this 10th day of the Kalends of July, the 19th year of the empire of our most pious lord Mauricius Tiberius Augustus, the 18th year after the consulship of the same our lord, Indiction 4.
Gregory to Quiricus, Bishop, and the other catholic bishops in Hiberia  .
Since to charity nothing is afar off, let those who are divided in place be joined by letter. The bearer of these presents, coming to the Church of the blessed Peter, Prince of the apostles, asserted that he had received letters for us from your Fraternity, and had lost them, with other things also, in the city of Jerusalem. In them, as he says, you were desirous of enquiring with regard to priests and people who have been bewildered in the error of Nestorian heresy, when they return to the Catholic Church which is the mother of all the elect, whether they should be baptized, or joined to the bowels of the same mother Church by confession only of the one true faith.
And indeed we have learnt from the ancient institution of the Fathers that whosoever among heretics are baptized in the name of the Trinity, when they return to holy Church, may be recalled to the bosom of mother Church either by unction of chrism, or by imposition of hands, or by profession of the faith only. Hence the West reconciles Arians to the holy Catholic Church by imposition of hands, but the East by the unction of holy chrism. But Monophysites and others are received by a true confession only, because holy baptism, which they have received among heretics, then acquires in them the power of cleansing, when either the former receive the Holy Spirit by imposition of hands, or the latter are united to the bowels of the holy and universal Church by reason of their confession of the true faith. Those heretics, however, who are not baptized in the name of the Trinity, such as the Bonosiaci and the Cataphrygæ, because the former do not believe in Christ the Lord, and the latter with a perverse understanding believe a certain bad man, Montanus, to be the Holy Spirit, like unto whom are many others;--these, when they come to holy Church, are baptized, because what they received while in their error, not being in the name of the Holy Trinity, was not baptism. Nor can this be called an iteration of baptism, which, as has been said, had not been given in the name of the Trinity. But the Nestorians, since they are baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity--though darkened by the error of their heresy in that, after the manner of Jewish unbelief, they believe not the Incarnation of the Only-begotten--when they come to the Holy Catholic Church, are to be taught, by firm holding and profession of the true faith, to believe in one and the same Son of God and man, our Lord God Jesus Christ, the same existing in Divinity before the ages, and the same made man in the end of the ages, because The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (Joh. i. 14).
But we say that the Word was made flesh not by losing what He was, but by taking what He was not. For in the mystery of His Incarnation the Only-begotten of the Father increased what was ours, but diminished not what was His. Therefore the Word and the flesh is one Person, as He says Himself, No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven (Joh. iii. 14). He Who is the Son of God in heaven was the Son of man who spoke on earth. Hence John says, We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding (1 Joh. v. 20). And as to what understanding He has given us, he straightway added, That we may know the true God. Whom in this place does he mean as the true God but the Father Almighty? But, as to what he conceives also of the Almighty Son, he added, And that we may be in his true Son Jesus Christ. Lo, he says that the Father is the true God, and that Jesus Christ is His true Son. And what he conceives this true Son to be he shews more plainly; This is the true God, and eternal life. If, then, according to the error of Nestorius the Word were one and the man Jesus Christ were another, he who is true man would not be the true God and eternal life. But the Only-begotten Son, the Word before the Ages, was made man. He is, then, the true God and eternal life. Certainly, when the holy Virgin was about to conceive Him, and heard the angel speaking to her, she said, Behold the hand-maid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word (Luke i. 38). And, when she had conceived Him, and went to Elizabeth her kinswoman, at once she heard, Whence am I worthy that the mother of my Lord should come to me? Lo, the same Virgin is called both the handmaid and the mother of the Lord. For she is the handmaid of the Lord, because the Word before the Ages, the Only-begotten, is equal to the Father; but the mother, because in her womb from the Holy Spirit and of her flesh He was made man. Nor is she the handmaid of one and the mother of another, because, when the Only-begotten of God, existing before the ages, of her womb was made man, by an inscrutable miracle she became both the handmaid of man by reason of the divinity and the mother of the Word by reason of the flesh. It was not that the flesh was first conceived in the womb of the Virgin, and the divinity afterwards came into the flesh; but that as soon as the Word came into the womb, immediately the Word, retaining the excellence of His own nature, was made flesh. And the Only-begotten Son of God, through the womb of the Virgin, was born a perfect man, that is, in verity of flesh and of rational soul. Whence also He is called Anointed above his fellows, as the Psalmist says, God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows (Ps. xliv. 8)  . For He is anointed with oil, that is to say with the gift of the Holy Spirit. But He was anointed above His fellows, because all we men first exist as sinners, and afterwards are sanctified through the unction of the Holy Spirit. But He Who, existing as God before the ages, was conceived as man through the Holy Spirit in the Virgin's womb at the end of the ages, was there anointed by the same Spirit, even where He was conceived. Nor was He first conceived and afterwards anointed; but to be conceived by the Holy Spirit of the flesh of the Virgin was itself to be anointed by the Holy Spirit. This truth, then, concerning His nativity let all who are brought back from the perverse error of Nestorius confess before the holy congregation of your Fraternity, anathematising the same Nestorius with all his followers, and all other heresies. The venerable synods also which the universal Church receives let them promise to receive and venerate; and let your Holiness without any hesitation receive them in your assembly, allowing them to retain their own orders, in order that, while you both carefully sift the secrets of their hearts, and teach them through true knowledge the right things they ought to hold, and in gentleness make no difficulty or contradiction with them with respect to their own orders, you may snatch them from the mouth of the ancient foe; and that the retribution of eternal glory with Almighty God may increase to you the more as you gather together many who may glory with you in the Lord without end. Now may the Holy Trinity keep you in its protection while you pray for us, and grant you in its love still more manifold gifts.
[In Colbert. and Collect. Paul, "Given on the tenth day of the Kalends of Jul. Indict. 4."]
Gregory to Virgilius, &c.
What affection should be bestowed on brethren who come to us of their own accord is apparent from the fact that they are usually invited to visit us for the sake of charity. And so, if our common brother the bishop Augustine should chance to come to you, let your Love, as is fit, so affectionately and sweetly receive him as both to refresh him with the boon of your consolation and teach others also how fraternal charity should be cultivated. And, since it often happens that those who are placed at a distance learn first from others of things that require amendment, if he should perchance intimate to your Fraternity any faults in priests or others, do you, in concert with him, enquire into them with all subtle investigation. And do you both shew yourselves so strict and solicitous against things that offend God and provoke Him to wrath that, for the amendment of others, both vengeance may smite the guilty and false report not afflict the innocent. God keep thee safe, most reverend brother. Given the 10th day of the Kalends of July, the 19th year of the empire of our most pious lord Mauricius Tiberius Augustus, the 18th year after the same our lord's consulship, Indiction 4.
Gregory to Brunichild, &c.
Since it is written, Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin maketh peoples miserable (Prov. xiv. 34), a kingdom is then believed to be stable when a fault that is known of is quickly amended. Now it has come to our ears by the report of many, what we cannot mention without exceeding affliction of heart, that certain priests in those parts live so immodestly and wickedly that it is a shame for us to hear of it and lamentable to tell it. Lest, then, now that the rumour of this iniquity has extended as far as here, the wrong doing of others should smite either our soul or your kingdom with the dart of its sin, we ought to arise with ardour to avenge these things, lest the wickedness of a few should be the perdition of many. For bad priests are the cause of the ruin of a people. For who may offer himself as an intercessor for a people's sins, if the priest who ought to have prayed for it commits more grievous offences? But, since those whose place it is to prosecute these things are stirred neither by care to enquire into them nor by zeal to punish them, let letters from you be addressed to us, and let us send over, if you order it, a person with the assent of your authority, who together with other priests may search into these things thoroughly, and amend them according to the will of God. For indeed what we speak of is not a thing to be winked at, since one who can amend a fault and neglects to do so without doubt makes himself partaker in it. See therefore to your own soul, see to your grandsons, whom you wish to reign happily, see to the provinces; and, before our Creator stretches out His hand to smite, take most earnest thought for the correction of this wickedness, lest He afterwards smite by so much the more sharply as He now waits longer and more mercifully. Know moreover that you will offer a great sacrifice of expiation to our God, if you cut off speedily from your territories the infection of so great a sin.
Gregory to Mellitus, Abbot in France  .
Since the departure of our congregation, which is with thee, we have been in a state of great suspense from having heard nothing of the success of your journey. But when Almighty God shall have brought you to our most reverend brother the bishop Augustine, tell him that I have long been considering with myself about the case of the Angli; to wit, that the temples of idols in that nation should not be destroyed, but that the idols themselves that are in them should be. Let blessed water be prepared, and sprinkled in these temples, and altars constructed, and relics deposited, since, if these same temples are well built, it is needful that they should be transferred from the worship of idols to the service of the true God; that, when the people themselves see that these temples are not destroyed, they may put away error from their heart, and, knowing and adoring the true God, may have recourse with the more familiarity to the places they have been accustomed to. And, since they are wont to kill many oxen in sacrifice to demons, they should have also some solemnity of this kind in a changed form, so that on the day of dedication, or on the anniversaries of the holy martyrs whose relics are deposited there, they may make for themselves tents of the branches of trees around these temples that have been changed into churches, and celebrate the solemnity with religious feasts. Nor let them any longer sacrifice animals to the devil, but slay animals to the praise of God for their own eating, and return thanks to the Giver of all for their fulness, so that, while some joys are reserved to them outwardly, they may be able the more easily to incline their minds to inward joys. For it is undoubtedly impossible to cut away everything at once from hard hearts, since one who strives to ascend to the highest place must needs rise by steps or paces, and not by leaps. Thus to the people of Israel in Egypt the Lord did indeed make Himself known; but still He reserved to them in His own worship the use of the sacrifices which they were accustomed to offer to the devil, enjoining them to immolate animals in sacrifice to Himself; to the end that, their hearts being changed, they should omit some things in the sacrifice and retain others, so that, though the animals were the same as what they had been accustomed to offer, nevertheless, as they immolated them to God and not to idols, they should be no longer the same sacrifices. This then it is necessary for thy Love to say to our aforesaid brother, that he, being now in that country, may consider well how he should arrange all things. God keep thee safe, most beloved son. Given this 15th day of the Kalends of July, the 19th year of the empire of our most pious lord Mauricius Tiberius Augustus, the 18th year after the consulship of the same our lord, Indiction 4.
Gregory to Boniface, &c.
Thy experience is not free from blame, in that, knowing Aleria and Adjacium, cities of Corsica, to have been long without bishops, thou hast delayed admonishing their clergy and people to choose for themselves priests. But, since they ought to be no longer without rulers of their own, hasten thou, on receiving this authority, to exhort the clergy and people of these cities severally, that they disagree not among themselves, but that each city with one consent choose for itself a priest to be consecrated. And, when they have made their decree, let such person as shall have been elected come to us. But, if they should be unwilling to come to an unanimous decision, being divided in their choice between two persons, let both in like manner come to us, the decree having been made in the usual way, that, after enquiry made into their lives and characters, the one who may appear to be most fit may be ordained. Seeing, moreover, that many poor persons there are said to be oppressed and to suffer prejudice, let thy Experience give heed to this, and not allow them to be unjustly aggrieved; but so endeavour thyself that neither they who take action be unreasonably hindered nor those against whom action is taken be in danger of sustaining damage unjustly.
Furthermore, it has reached our ears that some of the clergy, thou being on the spot, are held in custody by laymen. If this is so, know that the blame will be imputed to thee, since, if thou wert a man, it would not have been the case. And accordingly thou must needs pay attention in future so that thou permit not the like to be done; but that, if any one should have a cause of complaint against a clerk, he resort to his bishop. And, if perchance the latter should be suspected, a commissioner must be deputed by him--or, if this too should be objected to by the plaintiff, by thy Experience,--who may compel the parties to choose arbitrators by mutual consent. And whatever may be decided by them, let it be in all ways so carried out, with due observance of law, by thy own or the bishop's care, that there may be no occasion for them to weary themselves with disputes.
Gregory to Barbara, &c.
On receiving your epistles, I was in all manner of ways delighted to hear of your well being, and I entreat Almighty God that He would guard you by His protection from malignant spirits in thought, and from perverse men, and from all contrariety; and that He would, with the grace of His fear, settle you in unions worthy of you, and cause us all to rejoice in your settlement  . But do you, most sweet daughters, rest your hope on His help, and, being always under the shadow of His defence, both by praying and by well doing, escape the plots of bad men. For, whatever human comforts or adversities there may be, there are none, unless either His grace protects or His displeasure troubles you. Rest therefore your hope on no one among men, but bind your whole soul to trust in Almighty God. While we sleep, then, He will protect you, of whom it is written, Behold he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep (Ps. cxx. 4) .
As to your saying that you are in haste to approach the threshhold of the blessed Peter, Prince of the apostles, I wish exceedingly, and wait with fervent desire, to see you in his church united to husbands well worthy of you; that so both you may obtain some little comfort from me, and I no little joy from your presence. I have also commended your causes to thy most reverend brother the bishop John  , and to Romanus the guardian (defensori), that under God they may accomplish what they have begun.
Your present of two racanæ  , which you sent me word were your work, I accepted gladly. But yet know ye that I did not believe the word you sent me. For you are seeking praise from the work of others, seeing that you have perhaps never yet put hand to spindle. Nor yet does this circumstance distress me, since I wish you to love the reading of Holy Scripture, that, so long as Almighty God shall unite you to husbands, you may know how you should live and how you should manage your houses.
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