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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XII:
The Book of Pastoral Rule, and Selected Epistles, of Gregory the Great.: Epistle XXX

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Epistle XXX.

To Narses, the Religious (Narsæ Relegioso) 1710 .

Gregory to Narses, &c.

When I was sending Romanus the guardian (defensorem) to the royal city, he sought long your letters, but they could not be found:  p. 223b but afterwards they were found among many letters from other persons, your Sweetness, therein telling me of your afflictions and tribulations of spirit, and making known the oppositions to you of bad men.  But, I pray you, in all this recall to your mind what I believe too that you never forget, That all who will live godly in Christ suffer persecution.  (2 Tim. iii. 12).  And with regard to this I confidently say that you would live less godly if you suffered persecution less.  For let us hear what else the same teacher of the Gentiles says to his disciples; Yourselves know, brethren, our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain; for we had before suffered and been shamefully entreated (1 Thess. ii. 1).  Lo, most sweet son, the holy preacher declared that his entrance would have been of no effect, if he had not been shamefully entreated; and thy Charity wishes to say good things, but refuses to endure evil things.  Wherefore thou must needs gird thyself up more tightly in the midst of adverse circumstances, that adversity itself may the more increase thy desire for the love of God and thy earnestness in good works.  So the seeds of harvests germinate the more fruitfully for being covered over with frost; so fire is kept down by a blast, that it may grow greater.  I know indeed that from the perverse speeches of so many evil tongues thou endurest a violent storm, and bearest in thy soul billows of contradictions.  But remember what the Lord says by the Psalmist, I heard thee in the secret place of storm; I proved thee at the waters of contradiction (Psa. 81.71711 .  For, if in the midst of them that contradict thou doest the things that are of God, then thou art proved a true worker.

Further, your most sweet Charity has written to me that I should write something in the way of admonition to the monasteries which, through your prayers and influence, have been instituted by our son the lord Paul.  But, if they are vessels of God, I know that they have through the grace of compunction a fountain of wisdom within, and ought not to take in the little drops of my dryness.  Further, your perfect wisdom recollects that in Paradise there was no rain, but a fountain ascended from the midst of Paradise to water the face of the ground.  Those souls, then, that through the grace of compunction have a fountain in themselves have no need of rain from another’s tongue.

Further, you inform me in your letter of the passing away of the lady Esychia 1712 ; and I rejoiced with great exultation that that good soul, which laboured in a foreign country, has arrived happily at its own.  Further, greet in my behalf my glorious daughters, the lady Dominica and the lady Eudochia.  But, inasmuch as I hear that it is now a long time since the aforesaid lady Dominica was made a prioress, let your Charity watch over her in this regard; that, as she is no longer compelled to serve in the toil of an earthy court, she may fly perfectly from all noises of this world, devote herself entirely to God, and leave no part of herself outside herself; but that she also gather together as many souls as she can to the service of her Creator, that their minds through her word may receive the grace of compunction, and that she herself may so much the more speedily be absolved from all her sins as, through her life and her tongue, the souls of others also shall have broken loose from the bands of sins.  Moreover, since no one among men in this world is without sin (and what else is sinning but flying from God?), I say confidently that this my daughter also has some sins.  Wherefore, that she may perfectly satisfy her mistress, that is eternal Wisdom, let her, who fled alone, return with many.  For the guilt of turning away will be imputed to no one who in returning brings back gain.

Further, I beg you to greet in my behalf the lord Alexander and the lord Theodorus.  But with respect to your saying in your letter that I ought to write to my most excellent daughter the lady Gurdia, and her most holy daughter the lady Theoctista 1713 , and their magnificent husbands, the lord Marinus and the lord Christidorus, and to give them some admonition about their souls, your most sweet Greatness well knows that there are none at present in the city of Constantinople who can translate well into Greek what has been dictated in Latin.  For keeping to the words, but attending little to the sense, they both fail to make the words understood and also mangle the sense.  On this account I have written shortly to my aforesaid daughter the lady Gurdia; but have not addressed the others.  Further, I have sent you two camisiæ and four oraria, which I beg may be humbly p. 224b offered, with the blessing of St. Peter, to the aforesaid men.  Besides, a certain person on his death has left me by will a little boy; taking thought for whose soul, I have sent him to your Sweetness, that he may live in this world in the service of one through whom he may be able to attain to the liberty of heaven.  Further, I beg your most sweet Charity to visit frequently my most beloved son, the deacon Anatolius, whom I have sent to represent the Church in the royal city, that after the toils which he endures in secular causes he may find rest with you in the word of God, and wipe away the sweat of this his earthly toil as it were with a kind of white napkin.  Commend him to all who are known to you, though I am sure that, if he is perfectly known, he needs no commendation.  Yet do you shew with regard to him how much you love the holy apostle Peter, and me.  Now may Almighty God guard your Charity, to me most sweet, from enemies within and without, and, when it shall please Him, bring you to heavenly kingdoms.


Footnotes

222b:1710

On the designation Religiosus, cf. I. 61, note 7.  The Narses here addressed as “Religiosus” was probably the same as the “Narses Comes” of I. 6, and VI. 14, and the “Narses Patricius” of IV. 32 (see note to I. 6).  For it is evident from the letters that he was of high rank at Constantinople, and greetings are sent through him to the same persons as in the other letters.  He had now, we may suppose, devoted himself to the service of the Church in some capacity.

223b:1711

Ps. lxxxi. 7.

223b:1712

Cf. I. 6, where greetings were sent to this lady, there also designated as Domna.

223b:1713

The Emperor Maurice is said to have had a sister called Gordia, who may have been the lady here referred to.  Her daughter Theoctista may be concluded from the epithet “sanctissima” to have been piously disposed; and it may have been a fear lest her piety should suffer through the temptations of fashionable life that had led Narses, who was himself religious, to suggest to Gregory that he should write letters of admonition to the husbands of these ladies, as well as to themselves.  Gregory’s reluctance to do so may have arisen from a fear of giving offence to such distinguished people from the purport of what he could only write in Latin being misunderstood.  Elsewhere apparent are his caution and delicacy in dealing with great people.


Next: To Cyriacus, Bishop.

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