Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Book of Pastoral Rule, and Selected Epistles, of Gregory the Great.: What manner of man ought not to come to rule.
What manner of man ought not to come to rule.
Wherefore let every one measure himself wisely, lest he venture to assume a place of rule, while in himself vice still reigns unto condemnation; lest one whom his own guilt depraves desire to become an intercessor for the faults of others. For on this account it is said to Moses by the supernal voice, Speak unto Aaron; Whosoever he be of thy seed throughout their generations that hath a blemish, he shall not offer loaves of bread to the Lord his God (Lev. xxi. 17). And it is also immediately subjoined; If he be blind, if he be lame, if he have either a small or a large and crooked nose, if he be brokenfooted or brokenhanded, if he be hunchbacked, if he be bleareyed (lippus), if he have a white speck (albuginem) in his eye, if chronic scabies, if impetigo in his body, or if he be ruptured (ponderosus) (Lev. 21.18 1267 ). For that man is indeed blind who is unacquainted with the light of supernal contemplation, who, whelmed in the darkness of the present life, while he beholds not at all by loving it the light to come, knows not whither he is advancing the steps of his conduct. Hence by Hannah prophesying it is said, He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness (1 Kings ii. 9). But that man is lame p. 8b who does indeed see in what direction he ought to go, but, through infirmity of purpose, is unable to keep perfectly the way of life which he sees, because, while unstable habit rises not to a settled state of virtue, the steps of conduct do not follow with effect the aim of desire. Hence it is that Paul says, Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed (Heb. 12:12, 13). But one with a small nose is he who is not adapted for keeping the measure of discernment. For with the nose we discern sweet odours and stenches: and so by the nose is properly expressed discernment, through which we choose virtues and eschew sins. Whence also it is said in praise of the bride, Thy nose is as the tower which is in Lebanon (Song of Sol. 7.4); because, to wit, Holy Church, by discernment, espies assaults issuing from this or that quarter, and detects from an eminence the coming wars of vices. But there are some who, not liking to be thought dull, busy themselves often more than needs in various investigations, and by reason of too great subtilty are deceived. Wherefore this also is added, Or have a large and crooked nose. For a large and crooked nose is excessive subtilty of discernment, which, having become unduly excrescent, itself confuses the correctness of its own operation. But one with broken foot or hand is he who cannot walk in the way of God at all, and is utterly without part or lot in good deeds, to such degree that he does not, like the lame man, maintain them however weakly, but remains altogether apart from them. But the hunchbacked is he whom the weight of earthly care bows down, so that he never looks up to the things that are above, but is intent only on what is trodden on among the lowest. And he, should he ever hear anything of the good things of the heavenly country, is so pressed down by the weight of perverse custom, that he lifts not the face of his heart to it, being unable to erect the posture of his thought, which the habit of earthly care keeps downward bent. Of this kind of men the Psalmist says, I am bent down and am brought low continually (Ps. xxxviii. 8). The fault of such as these the Truth in person reprobates, saying, But the seed which fell among thorns are they which, when they have heard the word, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of life, and bear no fruit (Luke viii. 14). But the blear-eyed is he whose native wit flashes out for cognition of the truth, and yet carnal works obscure it. For in the blear-eyed the pupils are sound; but the eyelids, weakened by defluxion of humours, become gross; and even the brightness of the pupils is impaired, because they are worn continually by the flux upon them. The blear-eyed, then, is one whose sense nature has made keen, but whom a depraved habit of life confuses. To him it is well said through the angel, Anoint thine eyes with eyesalve that thou mayest see (Rev. 3.18). For we may be said to anoint our eyes with eyesalve that we may see, when we aid the eye of our understanding for perceiving the clearness of the true light with the medicament of good conduct. But that man has a white speck in his eye who is not permitted to see the light of truth, in that he is blinded by the arrogant assumption of wisdom or of righteousness. For the pupil of the eye, when black, sees; but, when it bears a white speck, sees nothing; by which we may understand that the perceiving sense of human thought, if a man understands himself to be a fool and a sinner, becomes cognizant of the clearness of inmost light; but, if it attributes to itself the whiteness of righteousness or wisdom, it excludes itself from the light of knowledge from above, and by so much the more fails entirely to penetrate the clearness of the true light, as it exalts itself within itself through arrogance; as of some it is said, Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools (Rom. i. 22). But that man has chronic scabies whom the wantonness of the flesh without cease overmasters. For in scabies the violent heat of the bowels is drawn to the skin; whereby lechery is rightly designated, since, if the hearts temptation shoots forth into action, it may be truly said that violent internal heat breaks out into scabies of the skin: and it now wounds the body outwardly, because, while sensuality is not repressed in thought, it gains the mastery also in action. For Paul had a care to cleanse away this itch of the skin, when he said, Let no temptation take you but such as is human (1 Cor. x. 13); as if to say plainly, It is human to suffer temptation in the heart; but it is devilish, in the struggle of temptation, to be also overcome in action. He also has impetigo in his body whosoever is ravaged in the mind by avarice; which, if not restrained in small things, does indeed dilate itself without measure.
For, as impetigo invades the body without pain, and, spreading with no annoyance to him whom it invades, disfigures the comeliness of the members, so avarice, too, exulcerates, while it pleases, the mind of one who is captive to it. As it offers to the thought one thing after another to be gained, it kindles the fire of enmities, and gives no pain with the wounds it causes, because it promises to the fevered mind abundance out p. 9b of sin. But the comeliness of the members is destroyed, because the beauty of other virtues is also hereby marred: and it exulcerates as it were the whole body, in that it corrupts the mind with vices of all kinds; as Paul attests, saying, The love of money is the root of all evils (1 Tim. vi. 10). But the ruptured one is he who does not carry turpitude into action, but yet is immoderately weighed down by it in mind through continual cogitation; one who is indeed by no means carried away to the extent of nefarious conduct; but his mind still delights itself without prick of repugnance in the pleasure of lechery. For the disease of rupture is when humor viscerum ad virilia labitur, quæ profecto cum molestia dedecoris intumescunt He, then, may be said to be ruptured who, letting all his thoughts flow down to lasciviousness, bears in his heart a weight of turpitude; and, though not actually doing deeds of shame, nevertheless in mind is not withdrawn from them. Nor has he power to rise to the practice of good living before the eyes of men, because, hidden within him, the shameful weight presses him down. Whosoever, therefore, is subjected to any one of these diseases is forbidden to offer loaves of bread to the Lord, lest in sooth he should be of no avail for expiating the sins of others, being one who is still ravaged by his own.
And now, having briefly shewn after what manner one who is worthy should come to pastoral authority, and after what manner one who is unworthy should be greatly afraid, let us now demonstrate after what manner one who has attained to it worthily should live in it.
The designations here given of the bodily imperfections, enumerated in Levit. xxi. as disqualifying for priestly functions, are the same as those in the Tridentine edition of the Vulgate, except that instead of herniosus Gregory has ponderosus, which was a word used in the same sense, denoting one suffering from rupture (Cf. Augustine, De Civitate Dei, Lib. ult., cap. viii.). The idea expressed by the latter word, and carried out in Gregorys application, was that of the weight (pondus), or downward pressure, of the intestines in a ruptured person. The Hebrew Bible (see A.V.), and also the rendering of the LXX. (μονόρχις), conveys a different idea of the ailment intended. The cutaneous diseases specified are denoted, here as in the Vulgate, by jugas scabies (ψώρα ἀγρία, LXX.; scurvy, A.V.) and impetigo (λειχὴν, LXX.; scabbed A.V.). Whatever may be the exact meaning of the original Hebrew words, Gregorys conception of these diseases evidently was that the former was a chronic and painful eruption, proceeding from internal heat, and the latter a painless, but disfiguring, affection of the skin. The diseases of the eye, with regard to which the Hebrew (and consequently our A.V.) differs from the LXX. and Vulgate, are denoted by lippus (πτίλλος τοὺς οφθαλμούς, LXX.), and albuginem habens (ἔφηλος, LXX.); of which Gregorys conception was that the former was an affection, not properly of the eye, but eyelid, the flux from which impaired the power of vision, while the latter was an obscuration of the pupil itself, exhibiting a white colour.
Next: Part II
Like & share St-Takla.org
© Saint Takla Haymanout Website: Coptic Orthodox Church - Alexandria, Egypt / URL: http://St-Takla.org / Contact us at