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Fathers of the Church

Epistle XVII: to Theotistus

Description

This epistle is from Book VI of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Here Gregory recounts how John the presybter has been found innocent of any heresy, and asks Theotistus to protect him from any harm.

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 Theotistus, kinsman of the Emperor.

We know that the Christianity of your Excellency is always intent on good works and therefore we provide for you occasions for reaping reward, which you are certain to be glad of, so that we by so providing may have a share in your merits.

We therefore inform you that John the presbyter, the bearer of these presents, has come out free from those by whom he had been accused. For having, according to his request held a council, and subjected his faith to a subtle scrutiny, we found him guiltless of any wrong confession. And, inasmuch as he appeared to be, by the mercy of God, a professor and follower of the right faith, we absolved him by our definite sentence; especially as his accusers professed that they did not know what the heresy of the Marcionists, which they spoke of, was. On this account, saluting you with paternal affection, we request you to protect him with the grace of your favour. And, lest any one hereafter should be disposed to afflict him to no purpose, or in any way to cause him annoyance in this matter, let the advocacy of your Excellency so protest and defend him—and this the more instantly in consideration of your own reward—that no unjust affliction may any more consume him. and that the Creator and Redeemer of the human race, whom you worship with a sincere confession, may recompense your action in this behalf among your many good works. The month of October. Indiction 14.

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.