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Fathers of the Church

Epistle XXVII: to the Clergy and People of Jadera

Description

This epistle is from Book VI of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Gregory urges the people and clergy not to communicate with Maximus. He also dispells rumors that he is acting against Maximus due to some grudge. Rather, he states, he wishes the case to be thoroughly investigated to ascertain whether Maximus is guilty of the simoniacal heresy or other things, but out of pride Maximus has refused to answer his summons. See Epistle XX, Book IV for Gregory's original letter to Maximus upon the latter's forced ordination and Epistle XXV, Book VI for his letter to Maximus commanding his presence on the charges mentioned in this letter.

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 the presbyters, deacons, and clergy, nobles and people, dwelling at Jadera, and who have communicated with the prevaricator Maximus.

It has come to my knowledge that some of you, deceived by ignorance or under compulsion, have communicated with those who, their fault as you know requiring it, have been deprived of communion by the Apostolic See, but that others, with wholesome discretion, have under the Lord's protection abstained; and as much as I rejoice in those that have been constant so much do I groan for those who have gone astray, since they have partaken of the mysteries of holy communion, which have been granted to us by Divine loving-kindness for absolution, rather to the detriment of their souls. And because (as I pray Almighty God to make known to you) I earnestly and from the bottom of my heart sympathize will your Charity, I adjure and entreat you with fatherly affection, that every one of you abstain from unlawful communion, and altogether shun those whom the Apostolic See does not receive into the fellowship of its communion, lest any one should stand guilty in the sight of the eternal Judge from that whereby he might have been saved.

Moreover I have discovered that certain men of perverse mind in your parts have tried to insinuate that I am moved against Maximus by some grudge, and that I desire to carry out not what is canonical, but what anger dictates. But far, far be this from the priestly mind, that it should be moved in any cause by private animosity. But as for me, it is as taking thought for the people dwelling in those parts and for my own soul, and as fearing the judgment of Almighty God, that I wish to have the cause of this Maximus enquired into, and, God shewing me the way, to decide canonically. Now, inasmuch as I have written to him frequently that he was not to celebrate the sacred solemnities of mass until I had been able to obtain knowledge of his case, he would in any case be deprived of communion; and now his sin of pride is openly shewn from this,—that, having (as I have said) been often admonished to come to us, under various excuses he refuses, he shuns, he fears coming. What then is he afraid of, if his conscience does not accuse him with regard to the things that have been said? Since then you know these things, now that you can make no excuse on the plea of ignorance, I beseech, I exhort, I warn you, that you altogether refrain from fellowship with forbidden communion, and that not one of you presume, against his own soul, to communicate with any priest who communicates with the above written Maximus.

Since however I hear, as I have said before, that some of you fell in ignorance, and that some were even driven by force to communicate, I implore the Almighty Lord, that He would keep with His perpetual protection, and answer with His wished for bounty, those who have given no assent to this iniquity; and as to those whom either party spirit, or ignorance, or any other cause soever, has drawn into a fault, that He would absolve hem from all guilt of their sins, and from all implication in the liability of others, and both give them all the grace of His protection in the present life, and grant to me to rejoice for them in the eternal country. Wherefore, that this intercession may avail for you with God our Saviour, do ye shew obedience to our exhortations for the weal of your souls, and receive the holy communion from those whom ye know to have abstained, and to abstain still, from communion with the aforesaid Maximus.

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.