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Fathers of the Church

Epistle III: to Constantius, Bishop

Description

This epistle is from Book IV of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Here Gregory writes to the newly elected Constantius regarding several bishops who have separated themselves from the Fraternity and accused Constantius of assenting to the condemnation of the Three Chapters. (The Three Chapters were a phase in the Monophysite controversy, and consisted of three propositions anathematizing various Monophysite writings.)

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 Christian 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 Constantius, Bishop of Mediolanum.

It has come to my knowledge that certain bishops of your diocese, seeking out rather than finding an occasion, have attempted to sever themselves from the unity of your Fraternity, saying that thou hadst given a security at the Roman city for thy condemnation of the three Chapters. And the fact is that they say this because they do not know how I am accustomed to trust thy Fraternity even without security. For if there had been need for anything of the kind, your mere word of mouth could have been trusted. I, however, do not recollect any mention between us of the three Chapters either in word or in writing. But as for them, if they soon return from their error, they should be spared, because, according to the saying of the Apostle Paul, They understand neither what they say nor where of they affirm (1 Tim. i. 7). For we, truth guiding us and our conscience bearing witness, declare that we keep the faith of the holy synod of Chalcedon in all respects inviolate, and venture not to add anything to, or to subtract anything from, its definition. But, if any one would fain take upon himself to think anything, either more or less, contrary to it, and to the faith of this same synod, we anathematize him without any hesitation, and decree him to be alien from the bosom of Mother Church. Any one, therefore, whom this my confession does not bring to a right mind, no longer loves the synod of Chalcedon, but hates the bosom of Mother Church. If then those who appear to have been thus dating have presumed thus to speak in zeal of soul, it remains for them, having received this satisfaction, to return to the unity of thy Fraternity, and not divide themselves from the body of Christ, which is the holy universal Church.

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.