Fathers of the Church

Epistle LXVI: to Felix, Bishop of Messana (Messene)

Description

This epistle is from Book I of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Gregory, in consideration of the financial burden that it places upon churches, is asking Felix to discontinue the custom of gift-giving from the clergy to the pope.

Provenance

St. Gregory (b. 540 in Rome) was elected pope at the age of 50, serving from 590 to 604. In 14 years he accomplished much for the Church. England owes her conversion to him. At a period when the invasion of the barbarian Lombards created a new situation in Europe, he played a great part in winning them for Christ. At the same time, he watched equally over the holiness of the clergy and the maintenance of Church discipline, the temporal interests of his people of Rome and the spiritual interests of all Christendom. He removed unworthy priests from office, forbade the taking of money for many services, and emptied the papal treasury to ransom prisoners of the Lombards and to care for persecuted Jews and victims of plague and famine. Gregory also reformed the liturgy, and it still contains several of his most beautiful prayers. The name "Gregorian chant" recalls this great Pope's work in the development of the Church's music. His commentaries on Holy Scripture exercised a considerable influence on Chsdsristian thought in the Middle Ages. Following his death in 604, his numerous epistles, including the following letter, were compiled into the Papal Register of Letters.

by Gregory the Great in 590-604 | translated by James Barmby, D.d

Gregory to Felix, &c.

Customs which are found to bring a burden upon churches it becomes us in our consideration to discontinue, lest any should be forced to contribute to quarters from which they ought rather to look for contributions. Accordingly, it is thy duty to preserve intact the custom of the clergy and others, and to transmit to them every year what has been accustomed: but for the future we forbid thee to transmit anything to us. And, since we take no delight in presents (xeniis), we have received with thanks the Palmatianoe which thy Fraternity has sent us, but have caused them to be sold for an adequate price, which we have transmitted separately to thy Fraternity, for fear lest thou shouldest have felt the expense. Further, since we have learnt that thy Charity is desirous of coming to us, we admonish thee by the present letter not to take the trouble of coming: but pray for us, that the more we are separated by length of way, the more we may be joined one to another in mind, with the help of Christ, by charity; to the end that, siding each other by mutual supplication, we may resign our office unimpaired to the Judge that is to come.

Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (LNPF II/XII, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.