Fathers of the Church

Epistle XXXIV: to Eulogius, Bishop

Description

This epistle is from Book VII of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Gregory first speaks of Cyriacus, who usurped for himself the profane title of "universal bishop" in his synodical letter. Gregory remarks that Cyriacus shows himself a Catholic in all respects in his letter, but that he does condemn Eudoxius, who is not condemned by any synods. Gregory then goes on to discuss various heresies.

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 Eulogius, Bishop of Alexandria, and Anastasius, Bishop of Antioch .

The charity wherewith I am greatly bound to you allows me by no means to keep silence, that your Holiness may know all that is going on among us, and, deceived by no false rumours, may keep more perfectly the way of your justice and rectitude, as you have perfectly begun to do. Now the representatives (responsales) of our brother and fellow-bishop Cyriacus came to me, bringing me his synodical epistle. And indeed between us and him there is, as your Blessedness knows, serious difference on account of the appellation of a profane name; but I thought that his representatives sent in the cause of the faith ought to be received, lest the sin of elation which has arisen in the Constantinopolitan Church almost against all priests, might cause a shaking of the faith and a breach in ecclesiastical unity. I also caused the same representatives, inasmuch as they very humbly requested it, to celebrate with me the solemnities of mass, because, as I have taken care to intimate to the most serene lord the Emperor, it was right that the representatives of our brother and fellow priest Cyriacus should communicate with me, since by God's help I have not fallen into the error of elation. But my deacon ought not to celebrate the solemnities of mass with our aforesaid-brother Cyriacus, since, through a profane title, he has either committed or accedes to the sin of pride; lest if he (my deacon) proceeds with one who is in such a position of elation, we might seem (which God forbid) to confirm the vanity of that foolish name. But I have taken care to admonish our said brother to correct himself of such elation, since, if he does not correct it, he will in no way have peace with us.

Furthermore, our said brother in his synodical letters has by the grace of God expressed himself in all respects as a Catholic. But he has condemned a certain Eudoxius, whom we find neither condemned in synods, nor repudiated by his predecessors in their synodical letters . It is true that the canons of the council of Constantinople condemn the Eudoxiaus; but they say nothing as to who their author Eudoxius was. But the Roman Church does not possess so far these same canons, or the acts of that council, nor has it accepted them, though it has accepted this same synod with regard to what was defined by it against Macedonius. It does certainly repudiate the other heresies therein spoken of, which had already been condemned by other Fathers: but so far it knows nothing about the Eudoxians. Some things are indeed told in Sozomen's history about a certain Eudoxius, who is said to have usurped the episcopate of the Church of Constantinople. But this history itself the Apostolic See refuses to accept, since it contains many false statements, and praises Theodore of Mopsuestia too much, and says that he was a great doctor of the Church even to the day of his death. It remains then that, if any one receives that history, he contradicts the synod held in the times of Justinian of pious memory concerning the three chapters. But one who cannot contradict this synod must needs reject that history. Moreover in the Latin language we have so far found nothing about this Eudoxius, either in Philaster or in the blessed Augustine, who wrote much about heresies, Let therefore your Charity inform me in your letters if any one of the approved Fathers among the Greeks has made mention of him.

Furthermore three years ago, with reference to the case of the monks of Isauria, who were accused as being heretics , my brother and fellow- bishop the lord John once sent me letters for my satisfaction, in which he attempted to shew that they had contradicted the definitions of the synod of Ephesus; and he forwarded to me certain chapters, purporting to be those of the same synod, which they were said to oppose . Now among other things it was in these chapters asserted concerning the soul of Adam, that by sin it did not die, in that the devil does not enter into the heart of man; and that whoso said it was so was anathema. When this was read to me I was much grieved. For if the soul of Adam, who was the first to sin, did not die by sin, how was it said to him concerning the forbidden tree, In the day that ye eat thereof ye shall surely die (Gen. ii. 17)? And certainly Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree, and yet in their flesh they lived afterwards more than nine hundred years. It is therefore evident that in his flesh he did not die. If then he did not die in his soul, the impious conclusion follows that God pronounced a false sentence concerning him, when He said that in the day that he ate he should die. But far be this error, far be it from the true faith. For what we say is, that the first than died in soul in the day that he sinned, and that through him the whole human race is condemned in this penalty of death and corruption. But through the second man we trust that we can be freed, both now from the death of the soul, and hereafter from all corruption of the flesh in the eternal resurrection: — as moreover we said to the aforesaid representatives; 'We say that the soul of Adam died by sin, not from the substance of living, but from the quality of living. For, inasmuch as substance is one thing, and quality another, his soul did not so die as not to be, but so died as not to be blessed. Yet this same Adam returned afterwards to life through penitence.

But that the devil enters into the heart of man cannot be denied, if the Gospel is believed. For it is there written, And after sop Satan entered into hint (John xiii. 27).

And again it is therein also said, When the devil had now put himself into the heart of Judas, that Judas should betray Him (Ibid. 2). He that denies this falls into Pelagian heresy. Seeing then that, having examined the Ephesine synod, we found nothing of the kind to be contained therein, we caused to be brought to us also a very old Codex of the same synod from the Church of Ravenna, and we found it to agree with the report of the synod which we have so as to differ in no respect, and to contain nothing else in its decree of anathema and rejection, except that they reject the twelve chapters of Cyril of blessed memory. But this whole argument we set forth much more fully and particularly to his representatives when they were with us, and most fully satisfied them. Wherefore lest either these or any like things should creep in yonder, so as to cause offence to holy Church, it is necessary for us to indicate these things to your Holiness. And, although we know our brother and fellow-bishop Cyriacus to be orthodox, yet on account of others we ought to be cautious, that the seeds of error may be trampled down before they spring up to public view.

I received the letters of your Holiness on the arrival here of our common son the deacon Sabinianus; but, as their bearer is already prepared for departure and cannot be detained, I will reply when the deacon, my responsalis, comes.

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.