Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Select Letters of Saint Gregory Nazianzen.: Letter CLXIII
(George a layman of Paspasus, was sent by Theodore of Tyana to Saint Gregory that the latter might convince him of his error and sin in repudiating an oath which he had taken, on the ground that it was taken in writing and not viva voce. Gregory seems to have brought him to a better mind, and sent him back to the Metropolitan with the following letter, requesting that due penance be imposed upon him, and have its length regulated by his contrition. This letter was read to the Second Council of Constantinople in 553, by Euphrantes, a successor of Theodore in the See of Tyana, and was accepted by the Fathers, wherefore it is regarded as having almost the force of a Canon of the Church Universal.)
God grant you to the Churches, both for our glory, and for the benefit of many, being as you are so circumspect and cautious in spiritual matters as to make us also more cautious who are considered to have some advantage over you in years. Since, however, you have wished to take us as partners in your spiritual inquiry (I mean about the oath which George of Paspasus appears to have sworn), we will declare to Your Reverence what presents itself to our mind. Very many people, as it seems to me, delude themselves by considering oaths which are taken with the sanction of spoken imprecations to be real oaths, but those which are written and not verbally uttered, to be mere matter of form, and no oaths at all. For how can we suppose that while a written schedule of debts is more binding than a verbal acknowledgment, yet a written oath is something other than an oath? Or to speak concisely, we hold an oath to be the assurance given to one who asked for and obtained it. Nor is it sufficient to say that he suffered violence (for the violence was the Law by which he bound himself), nor that afterwards he won the cause in the Law Court—for the very fact that he went to law was a breach of his oath. I have persuaded our brother George of this, not to pretend excuses for his sin, and not to seek out arguments to defend his transgression, but to recognize the writing as an oath, and to bewail his sin before God and Your Reverence, even though he formerly deceived himself and took a different view of it. This is what we have personally argued with him; and it is evident that if you will discourse with him more carefully, you will deepen his contrition, since you are a great healer of souls, and having treated him according to the Canon for as long a time as shall seem right, you will afterwards be able to confer indulgence upon him in the matter of time. And the measure of the time must be the measure of his compunction.
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