GREGORY THE GREAT
(ca. 540-604)
( sel.: On the Song of Songs;
Pastoral Rule; Gospel Homilies; Letters
)

 

 Gregory the Great, 
 The Petite Heures of Jean, Duke of Berry, 1480


1_ Song

 

ON THE SONG of SONGS

 

 


Commentary on the Song of Songs

Expositio in Canticum Canticorum

1. WHEN the human race was banished from the joys of paradise, it embarked upon the pilgrimage of this present life with a heart blind to spiritual understanding. If the divine voice were to proclaim to this blind heart, “Follow God!” or “Love God!”--as it was proclaimed to it in the Law--once it was uttered, the frigid sluggishness of spiritual insensitivity would have prevented it from grasping what it heard.

Postquam a paradisi gaudiis expulsum est genus humanum, in istam peregrinationem uitae praesentis ueniens caecum cor ab spiritali intellectu habet. Cui caeco cordi si diceretur uoce diuina: sequere deum uel dilige deum, sicut ei in lege dictum est, semel foris missum et per torporem infidelitatis frigidum non caperet, quod audiret.

And so, a divine discourse is communicated to the frigid, sluggish soul by means of enigmas and secretly teaches such a soul the love that it does not know by means of what it knows. Idcirco per quaedam enigmata sermo diuinus animae torpenti et frigidae loquitur et de rebus, quas nouit, latenter insinuat ei amorem, quem non nouit.
2. ALLEGORY functions as a device to lift the soul that is far from God to God. This is possible because allegories employ enigmas. When the soul recognizes something familiar to itself in the words of an enigma, it comes to understand in the deeper meaning of the enigma's words what is not familiar to itself and is thereby separated from the earth by means of earthly terminology.

Allegoria enim animae longe a deo positae quasi quandam machinam facit, ut per illam leuetur ad deum. Interpositis quippe enigmatibus, dum quiddam in uerbis cognoscit, quod suum est, in sensu uerborum intellegit, quod non est suum, et per terrena uerba separatur a terra. Per hoc enim, quod non abhorret cognitum, intellegit quiddam incognitum.

By approaching what it already knows, the soul comes to understand what is unknown to it. To create allegories, the divine thoughts are cloaked with what we know; by examining exterior language, we attain an interior understanding.

Rebus enim nobis notis, per quas allegoriae conficiuntur, sententiae diuinae uestiuntur et, dum recognoscimus exteriora uerba, peruenimus ad interiorem intellegentiam.

3. For this reason the Song of Songs employs language characteristic of sensual love to reheat the soul using familiar expressions to revive it from sluggishness and to spur it onto the love that is above using language typical of the love here below.

Hinc est enim, quod in hoc libro, qui in canticis canticorum conscriptus est, amoris quasi corporei uerba ponuntur: ut a torpore suo anima per sermones suae consuetudinis refricata recalescat et per uerba amoris, qui infra est, excitetur ad amorem, qui supra est.

This book mentions kisses and breasts and cheeks and thighs. We must not ridicule the sacred description of these terms but reflect upon the mercy of God.

Nominantur enim in hoc libro oscula, nominantur ubera, nominantur genae, nominantur femora; in quibus uerbis non irridenda est sacra descriptio, sed maior dei misericordia consideranda est:

For this book goes so far as to extend the meaning of the language characteristic of our shameful love in such a way that our heart is set on fire with yearning for that sacred love.

quia, dum membra corporis nominat et sic ad amorem uocat, notandum est quam mirabiliter nobis cum et misericorditer operatur,

By discussing the parts of the body, this book summons us to love. Therefore we ought to note how wonderfully and mercifully this book is working within us.

qui, ut cor nostrum ad instigationem sacri amoris accenderet,  usque ad turpis amoris nostri uerba distendit.

However, from where God lowers himself by speaking, he lifts us up there by understanding.

Sed, unde se loquendo humiliat, inde nos intellectu exaltat:

We are instructed by the conversations proper to sensual love when their power causes us to enthusiastically burn with love for the Divinity.

quia ex sermonibus huius amoris discimus, qua uirtute in diuinitatis amore ferueamus.

4. Moreover, we ought to consider this book shrewdly lest we become stuck on exterior perceptions when we hear the language of exterior love and the very device employed to lift us up instead weighs us down and fails to lift us up. In this exterior, sensual language we must seek whatever is interior and discuss the body as if we were apart from the body.

38 Hoc autem nobis sollerter intuendum est, ne, cum uerba exterioris amoris audimus, ad exteriora sentienda remaneamus et machina, quae ponitur ut leuet, ipsa magis opprimat ne leuemur. Debemus enim in uerbis istis corporeis, in uerbis exterioribus, quidquid interius est quaerere et, loquentes de corpore, quasi extra corpus fieri.


 2_Regula_Pastoralis

 


GREGORY THE GREAT
O PASTORAL CARE
(Regula Pastoralis)
 

 Gregory the Great presents the Scholia on Job
to Bishop Leander of Seville. 
Hartker MS.


 

 

The Book of Pastoral Rule
 of Saint Gregory The Great Roman Pontiff To John, Bishop of The City of Ravenna (NPNF ser. 2 vol. 12)

SANCTI  GREGORII MAGNI, ROMANI PONTIFICIS, REGULAE PASTORALIS LIBER, AD JOANNEM EPISCOPUM CIVITATIS RAVENNAE. PL 77

 

 

PART 1.

PRIMA PARS.

 

 

Gregory to His Most Reverend and Most Holy Brother and Fellow-Bishop, John.

[0013A] 1 Reverentissimo et sanctissimo fratri Joanni coepiscopo, Gregorius .

WITH kind and humble intent you reprove me, dearest brother, for having wished by hiding myself to fly from the burdens of pastoral care; Pastoralis curae me pondera fugere delitescendo voluisse, benigna, frater carissime, atque humili intentione reprehendis; 
[And] in regard to these [burdens], lest to some they should appear light, I express with my pen in the book before you all my own estimate of their heaviness, in order both that  quae ne quibusdam levia esse videantur, praesentis libri stylo exprimo de eorum gravedine omne quod penso, ut et 

he who is free from them may not unwarily seek them,

and that he who has so sought them may tremble for having obtained them. 

haec qui vacat, incaute non expetat;

et qui incaute expetiit, adeptum se esse pertimescat.

THIS book is divided into four separate heads of argument, that it may approach the reader’s mind by allegations arranged in order-by certain steps, as it were.  Quadripartita vero disputatione liber iste distinguitur, ut ad lectoris sui animum ordinatis allegationibus quasi quibusdam pastibus gradiatur. 
For, as the necessity of things requires, we must especially consider  Nam cum rerum necessitas exposcit, pensandum

[1] in what way a person should come to high leadership; 

[2] and, having attained it, in what way he should live;

[3] and, living well, in what way he should teach

[4] and, teaching rightly, with how great consideration he should daily become aware of his own infirmity;

valde est ad culmen quisque regiminis qualiter veniat; 

atque ad hoc rite perveniens, qualiter vivat; 

et bene vivens, qualiter doceat; 

et recte [0013B] docens, infirmitatem suam quotidie quanta consideratione cognoscat, 

 lest either[:]

[1] humility fly from the approach, 

[2] or life contradict with the arrival,

[3] or teaching be absent the life,

[4] or presumption unduly exalt the teaching.

ne aut humilitas accessum fugiat, 

aut perventioni vita contradicat; 

aut vitam doctrina destituat; a

ut doctrinam praesumptio extollat. 2

THEREFORE

[1] first let fear temper the desire

[2] but afterwards, authority being assumed by one who sought it not, let his life commend it.

[3] But then it is necessary that the good which is displayed in the life of the pastor should also be propagated by his speech.

[4] And at last it remains that, whatever works are brought to perfection, consideration of our own infirmity should oppress us in their own regard, test the swelling of elation extinguish even them before the eyes of hidden judgment.

Prius ergo 

appetitum timor temperet: 

post autem magisterium quod a non quaerente suscipitur, vita commendet; 

ac deinde necesse est ut pastoris bonum quod vivendo ostenditur, etiam loquendo propagetur. 

Ad extremum vero superest ut perfecta quaeque opera consideratio propriae infirmitatis deprimat, ne haec ante occulti arbitrii oculos tumor elationis exstinguat. 

BUT inasmuch as there are many, like me in awkwardness, 

who, while they do not know how to measure themselves,

are covetous of teaching what they have not learned; 

who estimate lightly the burden of authority

in proportion as they are ignorant of the pressure of its greatness;

Sed quia sunt plerique mihi imperitia similes,

qui dum metiri se nesciunt

quae non didicerint docere concupiscunt

qui pondus magisterii tanto levius aestimant,

quanto vim magnitudinis illius ignorant

let them be reproved from the very beginning of this book;  ab ipso libri hujus reprehendantur [0013C] exordio; 

so that, while, unlearned and precipitate, they desire to hold the citadel of teaching, they may be repelled at the very door of our discourse from the ventures of their precipitancy.

   ut quia indocti ac praecipites doctrinae [0014A] arcem tenere appetunt, a praecipitationis suae ausibus in ipsa locutionis nostrae janua repellantur.

 

 

PART 2.

SECUNDA PARS.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 38.

CAPUT XXXVIII [Al. LXII.]

 

 

That sometimes lighter vices are to be left alone, that more grievous ones may be removed.

 Quod aliquando leviora vitia relinquenda sunt, ut graviora subtrahantur.
But since, when the sickness of two vices attacks a man, one presses upon him more lightly, and the other perchance more heavily, it is undoubtedly right to haste to the correction of that through which there is the more rapid tendency to death.  And, if the one cannot be restrained from causing the death which is imminent unless the other which is contrary to it increase, the preacher must be content by skilful management in his exhortation to suffer one to increase, to the end that he may keep the other back from causing the death which is imminent.  When he does this, he does not aggravate the disease, but preserves the life of his sufferer to whom he administers the medicine, that he may find a fitting time for searching out means of recovery.  For there is often one who, while he puts no restraint on his gluttony in food, is presently pressed hard by the stings of lechery, which is on the point of overcoming him, and who, when, terrified by the fear of this struggle, he strives to restrain himself through abstinence, is harassed by the temptation of vainglory:  in which case certainly one vice is by no means extinguished unless the other be fostered. 

Sed quia plerumque dum duorum vitiorum languor irruit, hoc levius, illud fortasse gravius premit; [123B] ei nimirum vitio rectius sub celeritate subvenitur, per quod festine ad interitum tenditur. Et si hoc a vicina morte restringi non potest, nisi illud etiam quod existit contrarium crescat tolerandum praedicatori est, ut per exhortationem suam artificioso moderamine unum patiatur crescere, quatenus possit aliud a vicina morte retinere. Quod cum agit, non morbum exaggerat, sed vulnerati sui, cui medicamentum adhibet, vitam servat, ut exquirendae salutis congruum tempus inveniat. Saepe enim quis a ciborum se ingluvie minime temperans, jamjamque pene superantis luxuriae stimulis premitur, qui hujus pugnae metu territus, dum se per abstinentiam restringere nititur, inanis gloriae tentatione fatigatur: in quo nimirum unum vitium nullatenus extinguitur, [123C] nisi aliud nutriatur.

Which plague then should be the more ardently attacked but that which presses on the man the more dangerously?  For it is to be tolerated that through the virtue of abstinence arrogance should meanwhile grow against one that is alive, lest through gluttony lechery should cut him off from life entirely.  Hence it is that Paul, when he considered that his weak hearer would either continue to do evil or rejoice in the reward of human praise for well-doing, said, Will you not be afraid of the power?  Do that which is good, and you shall have praise of the same (Rom. 13. 3).  For it is not that good things should be done in order that no human power may be feared, or that the glory of transitory praise may be thereby won; but, considering that the weak soul could not rise to so great strength as to shun at the same time both wickedness and praise, the excellent preacher in his admonition offered something and took away something.  For by conceding mild ailments he drew off keener ones; that, since the mind could not rise all at once to the relinquishing of all its vices, it might, while left in familiarity with some one of them, be taken off without difficulty from another. Quae igitur pestis ardentius insequenda est, nisi quae periculosius premit? Tolerandum nunquam est ut per virtutem abstinentiae interim arrogantia contra viventem crescat, ne eum per ingluviem a vita funditus luxuria exstinguat. Hinc est quod Paulus, cum infirmum auditorem suum perpenderet, aut prava adhuc velle agere, aut de actione recta humanae laudis retributione gaudere, ait: Vis non timere potestatem? bonum fac, et habebis laudem ex illa (Rom. XIII, 3). Neque enim ideo bona agenda sunt ut potestas hujus mundi nulla timeatur, aut per haec gloria transitoriae laudis sumatur. Sed cum infirmam mentem ad tantum robur ascendere non posse pensaret, ut et pravitatem vitaret simul et laudem; praedicator egregius ei, admonendo aliquid [123D] obtulit, et aliquid tulit. Concedendo enim lenia, subtraxit acriora; ut quia ad deserenda cuncta simul non assurgeret, dum in quodam suo vitio animus familiariter relinquitur, a quodam suo sine labore tolleretur.

 

 

CHAPTER 39.

CAPUT XXXIX [Al. LXIII].

 

 

That deep things ought not to be preached at all to weak souls.

[124A] Quod infirmis mentibus omnino non debent alta praedicari.

But the preacher should know how to avoid drawing the mind of his hearer beyond its strength, lest, so to speak, the string of the soul, when stretched more than it can bear, should be broken.  For all deep things should be covered up before a multitude of hearers, and scarcely opened to a few.  For hence the Truth in person says, Who, thinkest thou, is the faithful and wise steward, whom his Lord has appointed over his household, to give them their measure of wheat in due season? (Luke 12. 42).  Now by a measure of wheat is expressed a portion of the Word, lest, when anything is given to a narrow heart beyond its capacity, it be spilt.  Hence Paul says, I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal.  As it were to babes in Christ, I have given you milk to drink, and not meat (1 Cor. 3. 1, 2).  Hence Moses, when he comes on from the sanctuary of God, veils his shining face before the people; because in truth He shews not to multitudes the secrets of inmost brightness (Exod. 34. 33, 35).  Hence it is enjoined on him by the Divine voice that if any one should dig a cistern, and not cover it, and an ox or ass should fall into it, he should pay the price (Exod. 21. 33, 34), because when one who has arrived at the deep streams of knowledge covers them not up before the brutish hearts of his hearers, he is adjudged as liable to penalty, if through his words a soul, whether clean or unclean, be caught on a stumbling-stone.  Hence it is said to the blessed Job, Who has given understanding unto the rooster? (Job 38. 36).  For a holy preacher, crying aloud in time of darkness, is as the rooster crowing in the night, when he says, It is even now the hour for us to arise from sleep (Rom. 13. 11).  And again, Awake ye righteous, and sin not (1 Cor. 15. 34).  But the rooster is wont to utter loud chants in the deeper hours of the night; but, when the time of morning is already at hand, he frames small and slender tones; because, in fact, he who preaches aright cries aloud plainly to hearts that are still in the dark, and shows them nothing of hidden mysteries, that they may then hear the more subtle teachings concerning heavenly things, when they draw near to the light of truth.

 Sciendum vero est praedicatori, ut auditoris sui animum ultra vires non trahat, ne, ut ita dicam, dum plus quam valet tenditur, mentis chorda rumpatur. Alta enim quaeque debent multis audientibus contegi, et vix paucis aperiri. Hinc namque per semetipsam Veritas dicit: Quis putas est fidelis dispensator et prudens, quem constituit dominus super familiam suam, ut det illis in tempore tritici mensuram (Matth. XXIV, 45; Luc. XII, 42)? Per mensuram quippe tritici exprimitur modus verbi, ne cum angusto cordi incapabile aliquid tribuitur, extra fundatur. Hinc Paulus ait: Non potui vobis loqui quasi spiritalibus, [124B] sed quasi carnalibus. Tanquam parvulis in Christo lac vobis potum dedi, non escam (I Cor. III, 1). Hinc Moyses a secreto Dei exiens, coruscantem coram populo faciem velat (Exod. XXXIV, 33), quia nimirum turbis claritatis intimae arcana non indicat. Hinc per eum divina voce praecipitur (Ibid. XXI, 33), ut is qui cisternam foderit, si operire neglexerit, corruente in ea bove vel asino, pretium reddat; quia ad alta scientiae fluenta perveniens, cum haec apud bruta audientium corda non contegit, poenae reus addicitur, si per verba ejus in scandalum, sive munda sive immunda mens capiatur. Hinc ad beatum Job dicitur? Quis dedit gallo intelligentiam (Job. XXXVIII, 36)? Praedicator etenim sanctus dum caliginoso hoc clamat in tempore, quasi gallus cantat in nocte, cum [124C] dicit: Hora est jam nos de somno surgere (Rom. XIII, 11). Et rursum: Evigilate justi, et nolite peccare (I Cor. XV, 34). Gallus autem 100 profundioribus horis noctis altos edere cantus solet; cum vero matutinum jam tempus in proximo est, minutas ac tenues voces format, quia nimirum qui recte praedicat, obscuris adhuc cordibus aperta clamat, nil de occultis mysteriis indicat, ut tunc subtiliora quaeque de coelestibus audiant, cum luci veritatis appropinquant.

   

3_Hom-37-On-Gospels

 


GREGORY THE GREAT
HOMILY  37
 on the GOSPELS
 

 


Translation adapted from that of D.Hurst, Gregory The Great: Forty Gospel Homilies, (Cistercian Studies 1990) 332-338


 [...] Or what king, going to join battle against another king, does not first sit down and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, when the other is still some distance away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.

(Luke 14:16-33)

Aut quis rex iturus committere bellum adversus alium regem, non sedens prius cogitat si possit cum decem millibus occurrere ei qui cum viginti millibus venit ad se? Alioquin adhuc illo longe agente, legationem mittens, rogat ea quae pacis sunt.

A KING comes to do battle against another king the equal of himself. But if he considers carefully that he is unable to hold out, he sends a delegation and begs for terms of peace.

Rex contra regem ex aequo venit ad praelium, et tamen si se perpendit non posse sufficere, legationem mittit, et ea quae pacis sunt postulat.

With what tears should we hope for pardon, who in the dreadful inspection do not come to judgment with our king as an equal! Our status, our weakness, our cause reveal us as inferiors.

Quibus ergo nos lacrymis veniam sperare debemus, qui in illo tremendo examine cum Rege nostro [1278C] ex aequo ad judicium non venimus, quos nimirum conditio, infirmitas, et causa inferiores exhibet?

Perhaps we have already cut away the sins of our wicked deeds, already made an outward change from everything wrong. Are we able to offer an explanation of our thoughts? One is said to be coming with twenty thousand, and another coming with ten thousand cannot hold out against him. Twenty thousand is double ten thousand. If we are making great progress, still we hardly preserve our external works from error. Even if we cut away all outward dissipation, we have still not entirely removed it from our hearts.

7. Sed fortasse jam mali operis culpas abscidimus, jam prava quaeque exterius declinamus; nunquid ad reddendam rationem cogitationis nostrae sufficimus? Nam cum viginti millibus venire dicitur is contra quem minime sufficit iste qui cum decem millibus venit. Decem millia quippe ad viginti millia simplum ad duplum sunt. Nos autem si multum proficimus, vix exteriora nostra opera in rectitudine servamus. Nam et si jam luxuria carnis abscissa est, tamen adhuc a corde funditus abscissa non est.

MASS  KEEPS THE DANGEROUS JUDGE AT BAY

 
BUT the one who will come as judge judges outer and inner matters alike; he weighs deeds and thoughts equally. And so the one who examines us, we who are scarcely ready in works alone, on our works and thoughts alike, comes with an army twice the size of ours. Ille autem qui judicaturus venit exteriora simul et interiora judicat, facta pariter et cogitationes pensat. Cum duplo ergo exercitu contra simplum venit, qui nos vix [1278D] in solo opere praeparatos simul de opere et cogitatione discutit.

WHAT must we do, my friends, when we perceive that we are unable to hold out with an army half his size, except send a delegation and ask for terms of peace when he is still some distance away? He is said to be some distance away because we do not yet see him present for judgment.

Quid ergo agendum est, fratres, nisi ut dum nos cum simplo exercitu contra duplum illius sufficere non posse conspicimus, dum adhuc longe est, legationem mittamus, et rogemus ea quae pacis sunt? Longe enim esse dicitur, qui adhuc praesens per judicium non videtur.

Let us send him our tears as a delegation,

Mittamus ad hunc legationem lacrymas nostras,

let us send him works of mercy.

mittamus misericordiae opera,

Let us slaughter propitiatory victims on his altar.

1631 mactemus in ara ejus hostias placationis,

Let us acknowledge that we cannot contend with him at the judgment;

[1279A] cognoscamus nos cum eo in judicio non posse contendere;

let us consider the power of his strength, [and]

pensemus virtutem ejus fortitudinis,

[let us] ask for terms of peace.

rogemus ea quae pacis sunt.

This is our delegation, that reconciles the king who is coming.

Haec est nostra legatio, quae regem venientem placat.

Consider, my friends, how fortunate it is that the one who can vanquish us at his arrival is slow in coming. Let us send our delegation to him, as I have said, by weeping, by bestowing alms, and by offering holy sacrifices.

Pensate, fratres, quam benignum sit quod is qui suo adventu valet opprimere tardat venire. Mittamus ad hunc, ut diximus, legationem nostram, fluendo, tribuendo, sacras hostias offerendo.
The sacrifice of the altar, offered with tears and generosity of heart, pleads in a unique way for our forgiveness, Singulariter namque ad absolutionem nostram oblata cum lacrymis et benignitate mentis sacri altaris hostia suffragatur,
because the one who, himself rising from the dead, will never die again, (Rom 6:9)  is even now suffering for us anew through this sacrifice in his own mysterious way. quia is qui in se resurgens a mortuis jam non moritur, adhuc per hanc in suo mysterio pro nobis iterum patitur.
As often as we offer him the sacrifice of his passion, we renew his passion for our forgiveness. Nam quoties ei hostiam suae passionis offerimus, toties nobis ad absolutionem nostram passionem illius reparamus.

FIRST STORY: A STIPENDED MASS_______
 
WEEKLY UNSHACKLES AN INNOCENT CAPTIVE

 

IT is the case, or so I think, dearly beloved, that many of you know the story that I want to recall to your memories. It is related how not long ago a certain man was captured by the enemy and transported far away. He was held for a long time in chains, and when he did not return from captivity his wife considered that he had died.

8. Multos, ut arbitror, vestrum, fratres charissimi, [1279B] contigit nosse hoc quod volo ad memoriam vestram narrando revocare. Non longe a nostris fertur temporibus factum quod quidam ab hostibus captus longe transductus est (Lib. IV Dialog., 57); cumque diu teneretur in vinculis, eum uxor sua cum ex eadem captivitate non reciperet, exstinctum pulavit.
She took care to offer the sacrifice for him every week, as for one already dead, and as often as she offered the sacrifice his chains were unshackled in his captivity. Pro quo jam velut mortuo hostias hebdomadibus singulis curabat offerre. Cujus toties vincula solvebantur in captivitate, quoties ab ejus conjuge oblatae fuissent hostiae pro animae ejus absolutione.

WHEN after a long time he returned, he revealed to his wife, since he wondered greatly at it, how on certain days in each week his chains were unshackled. Considering which days and hours these were, she realized that his chains were loosened whenever she remembered him in the sacrifice offered for him. Think carefully of this, dearly beloved, and draw from it a realization of the power the holy sacrifice has to loose the bonds of our hearts, if when one person offered it for another it was able to loose the chains on his body.

Nam longa post tempora reversus, admirans valde suae indicavit uxori quod diebus certis, hebdomadibus singulis, ejus vincula solvebantur. Quos videlicet dies ejus uxor atque horas discutiens, tunc eum recognovit absolutum, cum pro eo sacrificium meminerat [1279C] oblatum. Hinc ergo, fratres charissimi, hinc certa consideratione colligite, oblata a nobis hostia sacra quantum in nobis solvere valeat ligaturam cordis, si oblata ab altero potuit in altero solvere vincula corporis.

SECOND STORY: A BISHOP WHO DAILY OFFERS MASS
 
IS REWARDED WITH HEAVEN___________

 

MANY of you, dearly beloved, know Cassius, bishop of the city of Narni., It was his practice to offer the sacrifice to God every day, so that scarcely a day of his life passed without his offering God the propitiatory victim. And his life corresponded to the sacrifice: after giving away all that he had in alms, when he came to the time to offer the sacrifice, entirely dissolved in tears he offered himself with great compunction of heart.

9. Multi vestrum, fratres charissimi, Cassium Narniensis urbis episcopum noverunt, cui mos erat quotidianas Deo hostias offerre, ita ut pene nullus dies vitae ejus abscederet quo non omnipotenti Deo hostiam placationis immolaret (Lib. IV Dialog., cap. 56). Cui cum sacrificio valde etiam concordabat vita. Nam cuncta quae habebat in eleemosynis tribuens, cum ad horam offerendi sacrificii venisset, velut totus in lacrymis defluens, semetipsum cum magna cordis contritione mactabat.

I learned of his life and death from a deacon of venerable life whom Cassius had trained. He said that on a certain night the Lord stood by his priest in a vision and said: ‘Go and tell your bishop: Continue to act as you are acting; do what you are doing. Don’t let your foot or your hand stop working. On the Apostles’ day you will come to me, and I will pay you your wages.’ The priest arose; but because the day of the Apostles was near, he feared to report to the bishop that the day of his death was so close. The Lord returned on another night, strongly rebuked his disobedience, and repeated his command in the same words. The priest rose intending to go ahead, but again his heart weakened and prevented him from declaring the revelation. He refused to yield to the command, which had already been repeated once, and failed to make known what he had seen.

Cujus et vitam et exitum, quodam venerabilis vitae Diacono, qui fuerat ab [1279D] eo nutritus, referente, cognovi. Aiebat enim quod quadam nocte ejus presbytero per visum Dominus astitit, dicens: Vade et dic episcopo: Age quod agis, operare quod operaris, non cesset pes tuus, non cesset manus tua; natali apostolorum venies ad me, et retribuam tibi mercedem tuam. Surrexit presbyter, sed quia e vicino apostolorum natalitius dies imminebat, tam propinqui exitus diem episcopo nuntiare pertimuit. Alia nocte Dominus rediit, ejusque inobedientiam venementer increpavit, atque eadem jussionis suae verba retexuit. Tunc presbyter surrexit ut [1280A] pergeret, sed rursus infirmitas cordis impedimento facta est indicandae revelationis; et ad admonitionem quoque iteratae jussionis obduruit pergere, et quae viderat manifestare neglexit.

BECAUSE when grace is rejected great anger follows upon former kindness, the Lord appeared for a third time in a vision of punishment. He now added blows to his words, and gave him such a severe beating that the wounds to his body vanquished his stubbornness of heart. He therefore arose, taught by the blows, and proceeded to the bishop whom he found waiting, as was his custom, to offer the eucharistic sacrifice beside the tomb of the blessed martyr Juvenal. He asked to see him apart from those standing around, and prostrated himself at his feet. When the bishop had with difficulty raised the weeping man, he was eager to learn the reason for his tears. The priest, to reveal the course of the vision, first removed the clothing from his shoulders to disclose the blows his body had received. He showed as what I might call witnesses to the truth and to his sin how severely the blows he had received had cut into his body, and the wounds they had caused. When the bishop saw them, he was horrified, and inquired with astonishment who had ventured to do such things to him. The priest answered that he had endured them for him. The bishop’s amazement and his alarm grew stronger. Without further delay the priest disclosed to him the secret revelation, and told him the words of the Lord’s command which he had heard: ‘Continue to act as you are acting; do what you are doing. Don’t let your hand or your foot stop working. On the Apostles’ day you will come to me, and I will pay you your wages.’ On hearing this the bishop fell prostrate in prayer, with great compunction of heart; he who had come to offer the eucharistic sacrifice at the third hour postponed it until the ninth, owing to the length of his protracted prayer.

Sed quia magnam mansuetudinem contemptae gratiae major se qui 1632 solet ira vindictae, visione tertia Dominus apparens, jam verbis addidit verbera, et tam districta caede mactatus est, ut in eo duritiam cordis emollirent vulnera corporis. Surrexit ergo eruditus ex verbere, perrexit ad episcopum, eumque jam ex more juxta beati Juvenalis martyris sepulcrum ad offerendum sacrificium consistentem reperit, secretum a circumstantibus petiit, seque ejus pedibus prostravit. Cumque eum ubertim flentem episcopus vix ad se levare potuisset, lacrymarum causas cognoscere studuit. [1280B] Ille vero, relaturus ordinem visionis, prius vestimento ex humeris devoluto, detexit plagas corporis, ut ita dicam, testes veritatis et culpae, monstravit quanta animadversione districtionis membra illius accepta verbera, livore inflicto, sulcaverant. Quae mox ut episcopus vidit, exhorruit, et quis sibi talia facere praesumpsisset cum magnae obstupefactionis vocibus inquisivit. At ille respondit, haec se pro ipso fuisse perpessum. Excrevit cum terrore admiratio; sed nullas jam presbyter inquisitioni ejus moras adjiciens, secretum revelationis aperuit, eique jussionis dominicae per ea quae audierat verba narravit, dicens: Age quod agis, operare quod operaris, non cesset manus tua, non cesset pes tuus; natali apostolorum venies ad me, et retribuam tibi [1280C] mercedem tuam. Quibus auditis, episcopus se in orationem cum magna cordis contritione prostravit, et qui oblaturus sacrificium ad horam tertiam venerat, hoc pro extensae orationis magnitudine ad horam nonam usque protelavit.

FROM that day the riches of his devotion increased; he became as steadfast in his work as he was certain of his recompense, and he who had been under obligation to the Lord now began to have the Lord under obligation to him, because of his promise. It had been his practice to go to Rome every year on the Apostles’ day. Now, apprehensive because of the revelation, he decided not to go according to habit. He was watchful at the same time during the second year too, and the third, in expectation of his death, and felt the same uncertainty during the fourth, fifth and sixth years. He could almost have lost hope in the truth of the revelation if the blows had not given credit to the words.

Atque ex illo jam die magis magisque aucta sunt ei lucra pietatis; factusque est tam fortis in opere quam certus ex munere, quippe qui eum, cui ipse debitor fuerat, ex ea promissione jam coeperat habere debitorem. Huic autem consuetudo fuerat, annis singulis, natalitio apostolorum die Romam venire; jamque ex hac revelatione suspectus, venire juxta morem noluit. Eodem ergo tempore sollicitus fuit, secundo quoque anno vel tertio in mortis suae exspectatione suspensus, quarto, quintoque, et sexto similiter. Qui desperare jam de veritate revelationis [1280D] poterat, si verbis fidem verbera non fecissent.

In the seventh year he had reached the eve of the awaited feast of the Apostles unharmed, but a slight fever beset him then. His flock was expecting him to carry out the solemn mass on the Apostles’ day, but he refused, saying that he could not. But because they were equally apprehensive of his departure from this life, they came to him in a body, binding themselves in a unanimous agreement that they would not take part in the celebration of the solemn mass on that day unless their bishop would be their mediator in the presence of God. Then he, constrained to do so, celebrated mass in the bishop’s oratory, and distributed with his own hand the Lord’s body, and gave the kiss of peace to all.

Cum ecce anno septimo usque ad exspectati natalis sacras vigilias incolumis pervenit; sed lenis hunc in vigiliis calor attigit, atque ipso die natalitio filiis suis se exspectantibus, missarum solemnia implere se posse recusavit. Illi vero quia de ejus erant pariter egressione suspecti, simul ad eum omnes venerunt, sese unanimiter astringentes ut die eodem nequaquam acquiescerent missarum solemnia celebrari, nisi pro eis apud Dominum 1633 idem antistes suus intercessor accederet. Tunc ille, compulsus, [1281A] in episcopii oratorio missas fecit, et manu sua corpus dominicum pacemque omnibus tribuit.

WHEN the sacrificial offering had been completed, the bishop returned to his bed. As he lay there, and saw his priests and minsters standing round, he gave them a kind of last farewell. He counseled them concerning the preservation of the bond of love, and commended the great harmony that ought to unite them. In the midst of these words of exhortation he suddenly cried out in a terrible voice, ‘It is the hour,’ and immediately gave with his own hands to those standing by him the linen cloth which according to custom is placed over the face of the dying. When it was in place he sent forth his spirit, and so the holy soul, reaching eternal joys, was freed from the corruption of the body.

Qui cuncto ministerio oblati sacrificii peracto, ad lectulum rediit, ibique jacens, dum sacerdotes suos ac ministros circumstetisse cerneret, quasi vale ultimum dicens, de servando eos vinculo charitatis admonebat, et quanta debuissent concordia inter se uniri praedicabat. Cum subito inter ipsa sanctae exhortationis verba, voce terribili clamavit, dicens: Hora est. Moxque assistentibus ipse suis manibus linteum dedit, quod ex more morientium sibi contra faciem tenderetur. Quo tenso, spiritum emisit, sicque sancta illa anima, ad gaudia aeterna perveniens, a carnis corruptione soluta est.

WHOM, dearly beloved, did that man imitate in his death if not the one he had contemplated during his lifetime? When he said, ‘It is the hour’, he went forth from his body. Jesus too, when everything had been completed and he had said, ‘It is finished’, bowed his head and gave up his spirit.(Jn 19:3016)  What the Lord did because of his power, his servant did because of his call.

Quem, fratres charissimi, quem vir iste in morte sua imitatus est, nisi eum [1281B] quem in vita sua fuerat contemplatus? Dicens enim: Hora est, de corpore exiit, quia et Jesus, peractis omnibus, cum dixisset: Consummatum est, inclinato capite, tradidit spiritum (Joan. XIX, 30). Quod ergo Dominus ex potestate, hoc egit famulus ex vocatione.

CONCLUSION:  EXPIATE SINS BY RENUNCIATION AND
BEFORE THE ANGRY SLAYER ARRIVES

MASSES

See what great peace and grace the delegation made up of the daily sacrifice, sent with almsgiving and tears, brought about with the king who was on his way! 10. Ecce quotidianae hostiae illa cum eleemosynis et lacrymis missa legatio quantam cum Rege veniente gratiae pacem fecit. Relinquat ergo omnia qui potest.
Let one who can do so abandon everything [i.e. vowed poverty], but let one who cannot do this send a delegation of his tears and his almsgiving while the king is still some distance away, and let him offer the gift of the sacrifice. Qui autem relinquere omnia non potest, cum adhuc longe est Rex, legationem mittat, lacrymarum, eleemosynarum, hostiarum munera offerat.
The one who knows that we cannot bear his wrath wants to be appeased by our prayers. Vult enim placari precibus, qui scit quia portari non possit iratus.

 The delay in his coming shows that he is awaiting a delegation of peace. He would have come already if he had wanted to, and would have slaughtered all his adversaries. He reveals how fearful he will be when he comes, and yet that he is slow to come, since he does not want to find any to punish.

 Quod adhuc moram facit venire, legationem pacis sustinet. Venisset jam namque si vellet, [1281C] et cunctos suos adversarios trucidasset. Sed et quam terribilis veniet indicat, et tamen ad veniendum tardat, quia non vult invenire quos puniat.

So therefore, everyone of you who does not renounce all that he possesses cannot be my disciple. And yet he bestows the remedy of the salvation we are to hope for. He whom we cannot endure because of his anger desires to be appeased by the delegation of peace he has begged for. And so you must wash away the stains of your sins with your tears, dearly beloved, you must wipe them away with your almsgiving, and atone for them with the holy sacrifice. You must not possess by desiring them the things you have not yet abandoned because you need to use them.

Reatum nobis contemptus nostri denuntiat, dicens: Sic ergo omnis ex vobis qui non renuntiat omnibus quae possidet, non potest meus esse discipulus; et tamen sperandae salutis remedium confert, quia qui per iram non potest ferri, per postulatae pacis vult legationem placari. Lavate ergo, fratres charissimi, lacrymis maculas peccatorum, eleemosynis tergite, sacris hostiis expiate. Nolite possidere per desiderium quae adhuc per usum minime reliquistis.

   

Put your hope in your Redeemer alone. Pass in your heart to your eternal homeland. If you possess nothing in this world by your love for it, even though you have possessions you have abandoned everything

Spem in solo Redemptore figite, ad aeternam patriam mente transite. Si enim nil in hoc mundo jam amando possidetis, etiam possidendo cuncta reliquistis.

May he who has bestowed upon us the remedies for eternal peace grant us longed-for joys, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

Ipse nobis gaudia [1281D] desiderata concedat, qui nobis aeternae pacis remedia contulit, Jesus Christus Dominus noster, qui vivit et regnat cum Patre in unitate Spiritus sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

   

Letter 35 to Gregoria

 


GREGORY THE GREAT
LETTER  35
 to GREGORIA
EPISTOLA XXV. AD GREGORIAM (PL 77).

 

 Gregory the Great & Leander
BM MS 0321, 1190


 

 

Gregory to Gregoria,
Lady of the Bed-chamber (cubiculariæ) to the Empress.

Gregorius Gregoriae cubiculariae Augustae.

 

 

I have received the longed for letters of your Sweetness, in which you have been at pains all through to accuse yourself of a multitude of sins:  but I know that you fervently love the Almighty Lord, and I trust in His mercy that the sentence which was pronounced with regard to a certain holy woman proceeds from the mouth of the Truth with regard to you:  Her sins, which are many, are forgiven her, for she loved much (Luke 7. 47).  And how they were forgiven is shown also by what follows afterwards; that she sat at the Lord’s feet, and heard the word from His mouth (Luke 10. 39)For, being rapt in the contemplative, she had transcended the active life, which Martha her sister still pursued (Luke 10. 40).  She also sought earnestly her buried Lord, and, stooping over the sepulcher, found not His body.  But, even when the disciples went away, she remained standing before the door of the sepulcher, and whom she sought as dead, Him she was counted worthy to see alive, and announced to the disciples that He had risen again.  And this was by the wonderful dispensation of the loving-kindness of God, that life should be announced by a woman’s mouth, because by a woman’s mouth had been the first taste of death in Paradise.  And at another time also, with another Mary, she saw the Lord after His resurrection, and held His feet. 

Desiderata dulcedinis vestrae scripta suscepi, in quibus vos omnino de peccatorum multitudine studuistis accusare; sed scio quia omnipotentem [877C] Dominum ferventer diligitis, atque in ejus misericordia confido quia illa de vobis sententia ex ore Veritatis procedit, quae de quadam sancta muliere dicta est: Dimissa sunt ei peccata multa, quoniam dilexit multum (Luc. VII, 47). Quomodo autem fuerint dimissa, in hoc etiam monstratum est quod postmodum est secutum, quia ad pedes Domini sedebat, et verbum ex ore illius audiebat (Luc. X, 39). In contemplativa enim vita suspensa, jam activam transcenderat, quam adhuc Martha illius soror tenebat (Ibid., 40). Sepultum quoque Dominum studiose quaesivit, ad monumentum inclinata corpus illius non invenit. Sed etiam recedentibus discipulis ipsa ante januam monumenti plorans perstitit, et quem mortuum quaerebat, viventem videre meruit, et quia [877D] resurrexisset discipulis nuntiavit (Matth. XXVIII, 1; Luc. XXIV, 1, seq.). Et hoc mira dispensatione pietatis [878A] Dei fuit, ut ex ore mulieris nuntiaretur vita, quia ex ore mulieris mors fuerat in paradiso propinata. Quae alio quoque tempore cum Maria altera Dominum post resurrectionem vidit, et accedens pedes ejus tenuit.
Bring before your eyes, I pray you, what hands held whose feet.  That woman who had been a sinner in the city, those hands which had been polluted with iniquity, touched the feet of Him who sits at the right hand of the Father above all the angels.  Let us estimate, if we can, what those bowels of heavenly loving-kindness are, that a woman who had been plunged through sin into the whirlpool’s depth should be thus lifted high on the wing of love through grace.  It is fulfilled, sweet daughter, it is fulfilled, what was promised to us by the prophetic voice concerning this time of the holy Church:  And in that day the house of David shall be an open fountain for ablution of the sinner and of her that is unclean (Zach. 13. 1).  For the house of David is an open fountain for ablution to us sinners, because we are washed from the filth of our iniquities by mercy now disclosed through the son of David our Savior. Duc, rogo, ante oculos, quae manus, cujus tenuerunt pedes. Illa mulier quae fuerat in civitate peccatrix, illae manus quae fuerant iniquitate pollutae, illius tetigerunt pedes qui ad Patris dexteram super angelorum verticem sedet. Pensemus, si possumus, quae sint ista supernae pietatis viscera, ut mulier, quae in profundum voraginis fuerat demersa per culpam, ex amoris penna sic in altum levaretur per gratiam. Impletum est, dulcis filia, impletum quod de hoc sanctae Ecclesiae tempore prophetica nobis voce promissum est: Et in die [878B] illo erit domus David fons patens in ablutionem peccatoris, et menstruatae (Zach. XIII, 1). Domus enim David nobis peccatoribus fons patens in ablutionem est, quia ab in quitatum nostrarum sordibus per David filium Salvatorem nostrum aperta jam misericordia lavamur.
But as to what your Sweetness has added in your letters, namely that you will continue to be urgent with me till I write that it has been revealed to me that your sins are forgiven, you have demanded a difficult, nay even an unprofitable thing; difficult indeed, because I am unworthy of having a revelation made to me; but unprofitable, because you should not to become secure about your sins, except when in the last day of your life you will be able no longer to bewail them.  But, until that day comes, you should, ever suspicious and ever fearful, to be afraid of faults, and wash them with daily tears.  Assuredly the apostle Paul had already ascended into the third heaven, had also been caught up into Paradise, and heard secret words which it was not lawful for a man to speak (2 Cor. 12. 2, ff.), and yet, still fearful, he said, I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, while preaching to others, I myself should become a castaway (1 Cor. 9. 27)One who is caught up into heaven still fears; and shall one whose conversation is still on earth desire already not to fear?  Consider, most sweet daughter, that security is wont to be the mother of carelessness.  You should not, then, in this life to have security, whereby you may be rendered careless.  For it is written, Happy is the man that is always afraid (Prov. 28. 14)And again it is written, Serve the Lord in fear, and rejoice unto him with trembling (Ps. 2. 11).  In short, then, it must needs be that in the time of this life trembling possess your soul, to the end that it may hereafter rejoice without end through the joy of security.  May Almighty God fill your soul with the grace of His Holy Spirit, and, after the tears which you daily shed in prayer, bring you to eternal joys. Quod vero dulcedo tua in suis epistolis subjunxit importunam se mihi existere, quoadusque scribam mihi esse revelatum quia peccata tua dimissa sunt, rem difficilem etiam et inutilem postulasti: difficilem quidem, quia ego indignus sum cui revelatio fieri debeat; inutilem vero, quia secura de peccatis tuis fieri non debes, nisi cum jam in die vitae tuae ultimo plangere eadem peccata minime valebis. Quae dies quousque veniat, semper suspecta, semper trepida [878C] metuere culpas debes, atque eas quotidianis fletibus lavare. Certe Paulus apostolus jam ad tertium coelum ascenderat, in paradisum quoque ductus fuerat, arcana verba audierat, quae homini loqui non liceret (II Cor. XII, 2, 3, 4), et tamen adhuc trepidans, dicebat: Castigo corpus meum, et servituti subjicio, ne forte aliis praedicans, ipse reprobus efficiar (I Cor. IX, 27). Adhuc timet qui jam ad coelum ducitur, et jam temere non vult qui adhuc in terra conversatur? Perpende, dulcissima filia, quia mater negligentiae solet esse securitas. 870 Habere ergo in hac vita non debes securitatem, per quam negligens reddaris. Scriptum est enim: Beatus vir qui semper est pavidus (Prov. XXVIII, 14). Et rursus scriptum est: Servite Domino in timore, et exsultate [878D] ei cum tremore (Psal. II, 11). In pauco ergo hujus vitae tempore mentem vestram necesse est ut tremor [879A] teneat, quatenus per securitatis gaudium sine fine postmodum exsultet. Omnipotens Deus sancti Spiritus sui gratia mentem vestram repleat, et post fletus, quos quotidie in oratione funditis, ad gaudia vos aeterna perducat . (Cf. Joan. Diac. l. IV, n. 60.)

 

 

   

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