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Home > Fathers of the Church > Registrum Epistolarum (Gregory the Great) > Book VII, Letter 7

Book VII, Letter 7

To Peter, Domitian, and Elpidius.

Gregory to Peter, Domitian, and Elpidius, Bishops.

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

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

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

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Source. Translated by James Barmby. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 12. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1895.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/360207007.htm>.

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