Click to View

Early Church Fathers
Click to ViewMaster Index
Click to ViewPower Search

 Click to View

17 For the results of this order, see below, Ep. 35. For other instances of Gregory's tolerant attitude towards Jews, and his deprecation of force being used for their conversion, see that Epistle, and also I. 47; IX. 6. But he is strict in prohibiting their possession of slaves who were already, or might become, Christians, and will allow them no compensation for the loss of such (cf. iii. 38: IV. 9, 21: IX. 109, 110).

18 Another Epistle, X. 15, is addressed to the same lady.

19 The word conversio commonly denotes entering a monastery.

20 Vicedominum.

21 The bishops of Istria, of whom the bishop Aquilea was Metropolitan, still refused to accept the decree of the fifth (Ecumenical Council, which had, under the dictation of the Emperor Justinian, condemned certain writings of three deceased prelates, Theodore of Mopsuesta, Theodoret and Ibas, called "the three chapters" (tria capitula). Severus the Metropolitan, summoned in this letter with his suffragans to Rome, disregarded the summons, going instead, at the instance of the Exarch Smaragdus, to Ravenna, where he remained a year. On his return to his See he still held out, though many of his bishops conformed. A schism hence ensued in Istria, which continued during the life of Gregory (Joan. Diac. Vit. S. Greg. iv. 37, 38). Other Epistles referring to the Istrian schism are II. 46, 51; V. 51; IX. 9, 10; XIII. 33.

22 Autharit (al. Autharith, called by Paul. Diac. Authari). who died at Pavia in this year (a.d. 591) had been king of the Lombards for six years, having effected extensive conquests in Italy. "Rex Authari apud Ticinum Nonas Septembris veneno, ut tradunt, accepto moritur, postquam sex regnaverat annos." (Paul. Diac. de gestis Longob. iii. 36). It is he who is said to have advanced to Rhegium at the toe of Italy. And there, riding up to a pillar in the sea, to have touched it with the point of his spear, and said, "As far as this shall the boundaries of the Lombards extend." (Paul. Diac. iii. 33.) He had been a determined Arian. He was succeeded by Agilulph, whom his widow Theodelinda, a Catholic Bavarian princess, selected as her consort. With her Gregory carried on a very friendly correspondence and probably through her influence, Agilulph himself, originally an Arian is said to have been converted to Catholicity. Gregory's letters to Theodelinda are IV. 4, 38; IX. 43; XIV. 12.

23 Salona was the metropolis of the province Dalmatia in Western Illyricum. The misdoings of its bishop, Natalis, gave rise to a lengthy correspondence. See, in addition to this letter, I. 20; II. 18, 19, 20 52; III. 8, 32. He had, as appears from this letter and other, desired to get rid of his archdeacon Honoratus having apparently some grudge against him, and with this a few would have ordained him priest against his will, none but deacons being then capable of holding the office of archdeacon. He was accused also of addiction to unbecoming conviviality, an of neglecting his episcopal duties. Eventually, after continued contumacy, he appears to have satisfied Gregory in the matter of Honoratus, and also to have reformed his own habits of life, after writing what appears from Gregory's reply to it to have been a racy letter in defence of conviviality, which was taken in good part and replied to in a Good-humoured vein (II. 52). Gregory subsequently said of him, "I was at one time much distressed concerning our brother and fellow bishop Natalis, having experiencedproud behaviour from him. But since he has himself corrected his manners, he has overcome me, and comforted my sadness" (II. 46).

24 Cimelia, from Gr. keimh/lia.

25 This appears to have been the formal answer to the officialletter sent by the bishop of Salona to Gregory, congratulating him on his accession to the popedom, having no connexion with, and perhaps written before, the preceding Epistle XIX.

26 A paribus denotes that the Epistle is a copy of an identical one that has been sent to more than one person, exemplis, being perhaps understood. Cf. I. 80; VI. 52, 54, 58; IX. 60, 106.

27 What is here printed between inverted commas, with much of what has come before, occurs also in Regula Pastoralis, II. 1. So also long passages afterwards, as will be seen.

28 The Benedictine Editors adopt the reading patribus instead of fratribus. But the sense seems to require the latter.

29 See Ep. 7, note 1.

30 Keys of St. Peter's sepulchre, in which had been inserted filings from his alleged chains preserved at Rome, were often sent by Gregory to distinguished friends (cf. III. 48; VI. 6; VII. 26; VIII. 35; IX. 122; XI. 66), to be hung round the neck (VI. 6) or deposited (XI. 66), or used for healing. For an account of how the filings were obtained, see IV. 30. In one instance the key is described as being of gold (VII. 26). To Eulogius of Alexandria is sent a small cross containing filings from the chains, to be applied to his sore eyes.

31 See Ep. 7, note 1.

32 I.e. Secretary. "Scriptor idem est et cancellarius . . . quod rescribit literis missis ad dominum suum.' Du Cange.

33 Al. Orta, in Tuscia.

34 This alleged consequence of the bishop's absence from his See does not imply that he alone could administer baptism, but only that his authorization was required for its administration. See Bingham, Bk. II. ch. iii. Sect. 3, 4, and references there given: e.g. Ignat. Ep. ad Smyrn. n. viii., "It is not lawful either to baptize or celebrate the Eucharist without the bishop; but that which he allows is well-pleasing to God:" Hieron. Dialog. c. Lucifer, p. 139, "Thence it comes that, without the order of the bishop neither presbyter nor deacon has the right of baptizing;" Can. Apost. c. xxxviii., "Let the presbyters, and deacons execute no office without the knowledge of the bishop; for it is to him that the Lord's people are committed, and he must give an account of their souls." It was usual in episcopal cities to have only one baptistery, connected with the bishop's church; and these all would be baptized, if not by the bishop himself (who was accounted the chief minister of baptism). yet under his direction and superintendence. Cf. Bingham, Bk. VIII., ch. vii., Sect. 6: Bk. XI., ch. vii.. Sect. 12, 13.

35 The relations of Gregory to this Venantius are interesting; other letters throwing light on them being III. 60; VI. 43, 44; IX. 123; XI. 30, 35, 36, 78. Venantius was a patrician, resident in Sicily, who, having become a monk, had discovered that he had mistaken his vocation and returned to secular life. In the letter before us he is kindly, but very earnestly, written to, in the hope of inducing him to retrace a step which, from Gregory's point of view, was so dangerous to his friend's soul. But the remonstrance was in vain. Venantius appears, from an allusion in the letter to have been associated with a literary set of friends who took a view of the purpose of life not in accordance with the monastic theory: and other motives may have disposed him to listen to their advice, since we find him afterwards married to a lady called Italica. She appears to have been, like Venantius of patrician rank, and resident in Sicily and to have possessed property there; for see III. 60, an epistle addressed to "Italica Patricia," remonstrating with her for her alleged harsh treatment of certain poor people, who were under the protection of the Church. It appears from this letter that Gregory had known her previously, and it is observable that he makes allusion to her personal charms (pulchritudo in superficie corporis). There being no allusion in this letter to any hushand, it cannot be concluded that she was, at the time when it was written, married to Venantius: but we may reasonably suppose her to have been the same Italica who was subsequently addressed as his wife, for see IX. 123, "Domno Venantio patricio et Italicoe jugalibus." The marriage may possibly have taken place soon after Gregory's first letter to Venantius, which, if the date assigned be correct, was written in the 9th Indiction (a.d. 590-l). It cannot well have been much later, since in the 4th Indiction i.e.a.d.600-1 (still supposing the assigned dates correct) there were two girls, the issue of the marriage, who were also written to by Gregory after their father's death, and seem then to have been already old enough to be betrothed. See XI. 35, 36, 78. At some time subsequent to his marriage we find a letter of serious admonition addressed to Venantius (VI. 43), who had quarrelled with his bishop on some matters of business, and acted violently. But, notwithstanding all such causes for displeasure, Gregory continued on terms of cordial friendship with the married couple, and took a warm interest in their children. Having heard of Venantius being dangerously ill, he wrote a letter of sympathy, addressed to him and his wife jointly, and at the end sent greetings to his "most sweet daughters, the lady Barbara and the lady Antonina." (IX. 123). Subsequently, when Venantius was suffering from gout, he addressed him earnestly, but kindly; and, when he was on his death-bed, and the inheritance of the daughter was in jeopardy owing to certain claims made by certain persons on their father's estate, he wrote a short kind letter to the little ladies, bidding them keep up their spirits so as to comfort their father assuring them that he himself would protect them after their father's death, and speaking of the debt of gratitude he owed for the goodness to himself of both their parents. The mother not being written to, or alluded to as alive, may be supposed to have died previously. At the same time he wrote to John, bishop of Syracuse (the same bishop with whom Venantius had been once for a time at variance), urging him to do what he could to induce Venantius, even in his last moments, to resume the monastic habit for the safety of his soul and no less urgently charging him to take up the cause of the orphan girls. Lastly (XI. 87), the girls are once more addressed by Gregory in a kind letter, from which it seems, that, young as they must have been, marriage was already in contemplation for them, and in which he expresses his hope of seeing them at Rome. The correspondence thus summarised is peculiarly interesting, as shewing both Gregory's strong sense of the sin and danger to the soul of returning to the world from the monastic life, and also the continuance of his friendship and affection to one who had thus sinned, and the interest he could still take in his domestic happiness and the welfare of his family.

36 Seneca, Epist. 3: "Tu omnia cum amico delibera, sed de ipso prius. Post amicitiam credendum est; ante amicitiam judicandum."

Click Your Choice