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Fathers of the Church

Epistle LXV: to Mauricius, Emperor

Description

This epistle is from Book VI of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Gregory informs Mauricius that he has heard from the bishop Paul that the imperial commands against the Donatists are completely disregarded in Africa. However, since Gennadius, Patrician of Africa, has made complaints against Paul (see Epistle LXIII, Book VI), the situation merits further investigation. Regardless, Gregory asks the Emperor to mandate strict punishment for those spreading error.

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 Mauricius Augustus.

Amidst the cares of warfare and innumerable anxieties which you sustain in your unwearied seal for the government of the Christian republic, it is a great cause of joy to me along with the whole world that your Piety ever watches over custody of the faith whereby the empire of Our lords is resplendent. Whence I fully trust that, as you guard the causes of God with the love of a religious mind, so God guards and aids yours with the grace of His Majesty. Now after what manner the serenity of your Piety, out of regard to righteousness and zeal for the purest religion, has been moved against the most flagitious pravity of the Donatists, the tenor of the commands which you have sent most clearly shews. But the most reverend bishops who have come from the African province assert that these have been so disregarded through ill-advised connivance that neither is the judgment of God held in fear there, nor are the imperial commands so far carried into effect; adding also this: that in the aforesaid province, through the bribes of the Donatists prevailing, the Catholic faith is publicly let to sale. But on the other hand the glorius Gennadius has likewise complained of one of those who made such complaints: and two others also have borne like testimony with him on the subject. But, inasmuch as in this case a secular judge was concerned, I have thought it right to send these bishops to the footsteps of your Piety, that they may represent in person to your most serene ears what they declare themselves to have endured for the catholic faith.

For these reasons I beseech the Christianity of my lords, for the weal of their souls and life of their most pious offspring, to give orders by a strict mandate for the punishment of such as you find to be such as have been described, and to arrest with the hand of rescue the ruin of those who are perishing? and to apply the medicine of correction to insane minds, and cure them of the poisonous bite of error; that so, the darkness of pestiferous pravity having been driven away by the remedy of your pro vision, and the true faith having shed abroad in those parts the rays of its serenity, heavenly triumph may await you before the eyes of our Redeemer, because whomsoever you defend outwardly from the enemy, them you also set free inwardly from the poison of diabolical fraud; which is a still more glorious thing.

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.