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.: That the ruler relax not his care for the things that are within in his occupation among the things that are without, nor neglect to provide for the things that are without in his solicitude for the things that are within.
p. 17b Chapter VII.
That the ruler relax not his care for the things that are within in his occupation among the things that are without, nor neglect to provide for the things that are without in his solicitude for the things that are within.
The ruler should not relax his care for the things that are within in his occupation among the things that are without, nor neglect to provide for the things that are without in his solicitude for the things that are within; lest either, given up to the things that are without, he fall away from his inmost concerns, or, occupied only with the things that are within bestow not on his neighbours outside himself what he owes them. For it is often the case that some, as if forgetting that they have been put over their brethren for their souls sake, devote themselves with the whole effort of their heart to secular concerns; these, when they are at hand, they exult in transacting, and, even when there is a lack of them, pant after them night and day with seethings of turbid thought; and when, haply for lack of opportunity, they have quiet from them, by their very quiet they are wearied all the more. For they count it pleasure to be tired by action: they esteem it labour not to labour in earthly businesses. And so it comes to pass that, while they delight in being hustled by worldly tumults, they are ignorant of the things that are within, which they ought to have taught to others. And from this cause undoubtedly, the life also of their subjects is benumbed; because, while desirous of advancing spiritually, it meets a stumbling-block on the way in the example of him who is set over it. For when the head languishes, the members fail to thrive; and it is in vain for an army to follow swiftly in pursuit of enemies if the very leader of the march goes wrong. No exhortation sustains the minds of the subjects, and no reproof chastises their faults, because, while the office of an earthly judge is executed by the guardian of souls, the attention of the shepherd is diverted from custody of the flock; and the subjects are unable to apprehend the light of truth, because, while earthly pursuits occupy the pastors mind, dust, driven by the wind of temptation, blinds the Churchs eyes. To guard against this, the Redeemer of the human race, when He would restrain us from gluttony, saying, Take heed to yourselves that your hearts be not overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness (Luke xxi. 34), forthwith added, Or with cares of this life: and in the same place also, with design to add fearfulness to the warning, He straightway said, Lest perchance that day come upon you unawares (Luke 21.34.): and He even declares the manner of that coming, saying, For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth (Luke 21.35). Hence He says again, No man can serve two masters (Luke xvi. 13). Hence Paul withdraws the minds of the religious from consort with the world by summoning, nay rather enlisting them, when he says, No man that warreth for God entangleth himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him to whom he has approved himself (2 Tim. ii. 4). Hence to the rulers of the Church he both commends the studies of leisure and points out the remedies of counsel, saying, If then ye should have secular judgments, set them to judge who are contemptible in the church (1 Cor. vi. 4); that is, that those very persons whom no spiritual gifts adorn should devote themselves to earthly charges. It is as if he had said more plainly, Since they are incapable of penetrating the inmost things, let them at any rate employ themselves externally in necessary things. Hence Moses, who speaks with God (Exod. 18:17, 18), is judged by the reproof of Jethro, who was of alien race, because with ill-advised labour he devotes himself to the peoples earthly affairs: and counsel too is presently given him, that he should appoint others in his stead for settling earthly strifes, and he himself should be more free to learn spiritual secrets for the instruction of the people.
By the subjects, then, inferior matters are to be transacted, by the rulers the highest thought of; so that no annoyance of dust may darken the eye which is placed aloft for looking forward to the onward steps. For all who preside are the head of their subjects; and, that the feet may be able to take a straight course, the head ought undoubtedly to look forward to it from above, lest the feet linger on their onward journey, the body being bent from its uprightness and the head bowed down to the earth. But with what conscience can the overseer of souls avail himself among other men of his pastoral dignity, while engaged himself in the earthly cares which it was his duty to reprehend in others? And this indeed is what the Lord, in the wrath of just retribution, menaced through the prophet, saying, And there shall be like people, like priest (Hos. iv. 9). For the priest is as the people, when one who bears a spiritual office acts as do others who are still under judgment with regard to their carnal pursuits. And this indeed the prophet Jeremiah, in the great sorrow of his charity, deplores under the image of the destruction of the p. 18b temple, saying, How is the gold become dim! The most excellent colour is changed; the stones of the sanctuary are poured out in the top of all the streets (Lam. iv. 1). For what is expressed by gold, which surpasses all other metals, but the excellency of holiness? What by the most excellent colour but the reverence that is about religion, to all men lovely? What are signified by the stones of the sanctuary but persons in sacred orders? What is figured under the name of streets but the latitude of this present life? For, because in Greek speech the word for latitude is πλάτος, streets (plateæ) have been so called from their breadth, or latitude. But the Truth in person says, Broad and spacious is the way that leadeth to destruction (Matth. vii. 13). Gold, therefore, becomes dim when a life of holiness is polluted by earthly doings; the most excellent colour is changed, when the previous reputation of persons who were believed to be living religiously is diminished. For, when any one after a habit of holiness mixes himself up with earthly doings, it is as though his colour were changed, and the reverence that surrounded him grew pale and disregarded before the eyes of men. The stones of the sanctuary also are poured out into the streets, when those who, for the ornament of the Church, should have been free to penetrate internal mysteries as it were in the secret places of the tabernacle seek out the broadways of secular causes outside. For indeed to this end they were made stones of the sanctuary, that they might appear in the vestment of the high-priest within the holy of holies. But when ministers of religion exact not the Redeemers honour from those that are under them by the merit of their life, they are not stones of the sanctuary in the ornament of the pontiff. And truly these stones of the sanctuary lie scattered through the streets, when persons in sacred orders, given up to the latitude of their own pleasures, cleave to earthly businesses. And it is to be observed that they are said to be scattered, not in the streets, but in the top of the streets; because, even when they are engaged in earthly matters, they desire to appear topmost; so as to occupy the broad ways in their enjoyment of delight, and yet to be at the top of the streets in the dignity of holiness.
Further, there is nothing to hinder us from taking the stones of the sanctuary to be those of which the sanctuary was itself constructed; which lie scattered in the top of the streets when men in sacred orders, in whose office the glory of holiness had previously seemed to stand, devote themselves out of preference to earthly doings. Secular employments, therefore, though they may sometimes be endured out of compassion, should never be sought after out of affection for the things themselves; lest, while they weigh down the mind of him who loves them, they sink it, overcome by its own burden, from heavenly places to the lowest. But, on the other hand, there are some who undertake the care of the flock, but desire to be so at leisure for their own spiritual concerns as to be in no wise occupied with external things. Such persons, in neglecting all care for what pertains to the body, by no means meet the needs of those who are put under them. And certainly their preaching is for the most part despised; because, while they find fault with the deeds of sinners, but nevertheless afford them not the necessaries of the present life, they are not at all willingly listened to. For the word of doctrine penetrates not the mind of one that is in need, if the hand of compassion commends it not to his heart. But the seed of the word readily germinates, when the loving-kindness of the preacher waters it in the hearers breast. Whence, for a ruler to be able to infuse what may profit inwardly, it is necessary for him, with blameless consideration, to provide also for outward things. Let pastors, then, so glow with ardour in regard to the inward affections of those they have the charge of as not to relinquish provision also for their outward life. For, as we have said, the heart of the flock is, even as it were of right, set against preaching, if the care of external succour be neglected by the pastor. Whence also the first pastor anxiously admonishes, saying, The elders which are among you I beseech, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed, feed the flock of God which is among you (1 Pet. v. 1): in which place he shewed whether it was the feeding of the heart or of the body that he was commending, when he forthwith added, Providing for it, not by constraint, but willingly, according to God, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. In these words, indeed, pastors are kindly forewarned, lest, while they satisfy the want of those who are under them, they slay themselves with the sword of ambition; lest, while through them their neighbours are refreshed with succours of the flesh, they themselves remain fasting from the bread of righteousness. This solicitude of pastors Paul stirs up when he says, If any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel (1 Tim. v. 8). In the midst of all this, then, they should fear, and watchfully take heed, lest, while occupied with outward care, they be whelmed away from p. 19b inward intentness. For usually, as we have already said, the hearts of rulers, while unwarily devoting themselves to temporal solicitude, cool in inmost love; and, being carried hither and thither abroad, fear not to forget that they have undertaken the government of souls. It is necessary, then, that the solicitude expended on those who are put under us should be kept within a certain measure. Hence it is well said to Ezekiel, The priests shall not shave their heads, nor suffer their locks to grow long, but polling let them poll their heads (Ezek. xliv. 20). For they are rightly called priests who are set over the faithful for affording them sacred guidance. But the hairs outside the head are thoughts in the mind; which, as they spring up insensibly above the brain, denote the cares of the present life, which, owing to negligent perception, since they sometimes come forth unseasonably, advance, as it were, without our feeling them. Since, then, all who are over others ought indeed to have external anxieties, and yet should not be vehemently bent upon them, the priests are rightly forbidden either to shave their heads or to let their hair grow long; that so they may neither cut off from themselves entirely thoughts of the flesh for the life of those who are under them, nor again allow them to grow too much. Thus in this passage it is well said, Polling let them poll their heads; to wit, that the cares of temporal anxiety should both extend themselves as far as need requires, and yet be cut short soon, lest they grow to an immoderate extent. When, therefore, through provident care for bodies applied externally life is protected [or, through provident care applied externally the life of bodies is protected], and again, through moderate intentness of heart, is not impeded 1271 , the hairs on the priests head are both preserved to cover the skin, and cut short so as not to veil the eyes.
The wording of this passage is obscure and may be corrupt. In a corresponding one in Gregorys Epistles (Lib. VII. Ep. 4), in other respects the same as this, we find, instead of “et rursus per moderatam cordis intentionem non impeditur,” “et rursus per immoderatam cordis intentio non impeditur.” Here, though non before impeditur is absent from many mss., and consequently rejected by the Benedictine editors, it seems necessary for the sense. The whole passage is thus capable of being intelligibly rendered thus: “When, therefore through provident care (providentiam) externally applied the life of bodies is protected, and again intentness of heart is not impeded through immoderate (providentiam).” In both passages the general drift is clear enough, as follows: When, through adequate taking thought on the part of the priest for peoples bodily needs, their life is protected from harm, and yet his attention to such external matters is not so excessive as to hinder the devotion of his heart to spiritual things, then the meaning of Ezekiels words is fulfilled. For the hairs of the head, denoting thoughts of the brain for temporal concerns, are allowed to advance so far as to afford needful protection, but not to such an immoderate extent as to obscure the sight of the eyes, i.e. spiritual vision.
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