Fathers of the Church

Epistle CXX: to Claudius in Spain

Description

This epistle is from Book IX of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Gregory praises Claudius for his good deeds, especially for his loyalty to the "excellent king of the Goths".

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 Claudius, &c.

The renown of good deeds being fragrant after the manner of ointment, the odour of your glory has extended from the Western parts as far as here. Besprinkled by the sweetness of which breath of air, I declare that I greatly loved one whom I knew not, and within the bosom of my heart seized thee with the hand of love; nor did I love without already knowing him to be one whose good qualities I had learnt. For of him who is known to me by great intenseness of feeling, but remains unknown by bodily vision, I undoubtedly can say truly that I know his person, though I know not his home. Now herein is a great assertion of your good repute, that your Glory is said to cleave sedulously to the excellent king of the Goths; since, while good men always displease bad ones, it is certain that you are good, who have pleased one that is good. For this reason, addressing you with the greeting that is due to you, I hope that you are being exercised in these things which you have begun, so that that true sentence of Solomon may be fulfilled in you—The path of the just is as a shining light, and groweth unto the pearl day (Prov iv. 18). For, now that the light of truth shines upon us, and the sweetness of the heavenly kingdom discloses itself to our minds, it is indeed already day, but not yet perfect day. But it will then be perfect day, when there shall be no longer anything of the night of sin in our souls. But do you grow unto the perfect day, that, until such time as the heavenly country shall appear, there may be spreading increase of good works here; to the end that in the retribution hereafter the fruit of reward may be by so much the greater as earnestness in labour has been increasing now. Wherefore we commend to your Glory our most beloved son Cyriacus, the Father of our monastery, that, after he has accomplished what has been enjoined him, there be no hindrance to delay his return. May Almighty God guard you by the protection of His heavenly arm, and grant unto you to be glorious both now among men and after long courses of years among the angels.

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/XIII, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.