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.: Epistle XXIX
To the Presbyters and Clergy of Mediolanum (Milan) 1485 .
Gregory to the presbyters, deacons, and clergy of the church of Mediolanum.
p. 129b We have received your Loves epistle, which, though it bore no subscription, was accredited by the persons of the bearers, the presbyter Magnus and the cleric Hippolytus. Having read it, we find that you are all agreed in favour of our son Constantius, deacon of your church, who has been well known to me for long. And, when I represented the Apostolical See in the royal city, he stuck close to me for a long time; but I never found anything in him that could at all be found fault with. Nevertheless, since it has been for long my deliberate determination to interfere in no mans favour with a view to his undertaking the burden of pastoral care, I can but follow up your election with my prayers that Almighty God, who is ever prescient of our future doings, may supply you with a pastor such that in his tongue and manners you may be able to find pastures of divine exhortation; one in whose disposition humility may shine forth together with rectitude, and severity with loving-kindness; one who may be able to shew you the way of life not in his speaking only but also in his living; that so from his example your love may learn to sigh with longing for the eternal country. Wherefore, most dear sons, we, warned by our sense of the censorship of our office, urge you in this matter of getting yourselves a bishop that none of you look to your own gain without regard to the common advantage, lest, if any one is eager after his own individual interest, he should be deceived by a frivolous estimate: for the mind that is bound by cupidity does not examine with a free judgment a persons claims to preference. Considering, therefore, what things are profitable for all, pay ye ever in all things most complete obedience to him whom Divine grace may put over you. For, when once put over you, he must not be further judged by you; though now he ought to be the more thoroughly judged as he may not be judged hereafter. But, when with Gods leave a pastor has been consecrated for you, commit ye yourselves to him with all your heart, and in him serve the Lord the Almighty, who has put him over you.
But, inasmuch as supernal judgment is wont to provide pastors for peoples according to their deservings, do you seek spiritual things, love heavenly things, despise things temporal and fugitive; and hold it for most certain that you will have a pastor who shall please God, if you in your own doings please God. Lo, all the things of this world, which we used to hear from the sacred page were doomed to perish, we see already ruined. Cities are overthrown, camps uprooted, churches destroyed; and no tiller of the ground inhabits our land. Among ourselves who are left, very few in number, the sword of man incessantly rages along with calamities wherewith we are smitten from above. Thus we see before our eyes the evils which we long ago heard should come upon the world, and the very regions of the earth have become as pages of books to us. In the passing away, then, of all things, we ought to take thought how that all that we have loved was nothing. View, therefore, with anxious heart the approaching day of the eternal judge, and by repenting anticipate its terrors. Wash away with tears the status of all your transgressions. Allay by temporal lamentation the wrath that hangs over you eternally. For our loving Creator, when He shall come for judgment, will comfort us with all the greater favour as He sees now that we are punishing ourselves for our own transgressions.
We are now sending to you, by the favour of God, John our subdeacon, the bearer of these presents, to this end;—that, with the help of Almighty God, he may see to your bishop-elect being consecrated after the manner of his predecessor. For, as we demand our rights from others, so we conserve their several rights to all.
As to the great Metropolitan See of Milan having been anciently independent of the See of Rome, cf. Bingham. Bk. IX., Ch. I., Sect. 10, 11. As to Pope Gregorys attitude with regard to it, as shewn in this and the two following Epistles, we may remark as follows. (1) The electors addressed (Ep. 29) are the clergy only, not (as is usual in other cases) including the laity of the Church. This may be due to the ancient custom of that Church. (2) The electors, having already made their choice, seem to have sent messengers to announce it to the pope (Ep. 29). (3) Gregory disclaims all desire of interfering either in the election or in the consecration of the new Metropolitan, according to ancient custom by his own suffragans, or in any way infringing the prescriptive rights of the Church of Milan. But he sends his own subdeacon, both to assure himself of the unanimity of the election and to see to the consecration being effected according to precedent. He also intimates (Epp. 30, 31) the necessity of his own assent to the consecration.
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