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Fathers of the Church

Epistle I: to John, Abbot

Description

This epistle is from Book XI of the Register of the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great. Having received a letter from John, Gregory writes back asking for his prayers.

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 John, Abbot of Mount Sina.

The Epistle of thy Humility testifies to the holiness of thy life; whence we give great thanks to Almighty God, for that we know that there are still some to pray for our sins. For we, under the colour of ecclesiastical government, are tossed in the billows of this world, which frequently overwhelm us. But by the protecting hand of heavenly grace we are raised up again from the deep. Do you, then, who lead a tranquil life in the so great serenity of your rest, and stand as it were safe on the shore, extend the hand of your prayer to us who are on our voyage, or rather who are suffering shipwreck, and with all the supplications in your power help us as we strive to reach the land of the living, so that not only for your own life, but also for our rescue, you may have reward for ever. May the Holy Trinity protect thy Love with the right hand of Its protection, and grant unto thee in Its sight, by praying, by admonishing, by shewing example of good work, to feed the flock committed to thee, that so thou mayest be able to reach the pastures of eternal life with the flock itself which thou feedest. For it is written, My sheep shall come and shall find pastures (John x. 27). And these pastures in truth we find, when, freed from the winter of this life, we are satisfied with the greenness of eternal life, as of a new Spring.

We have learnt from the report of our son Simplicius that there is a want of beds and bedding in the Gerontocomium, which has been constructed by one Isaurus there. Wherefore we have sent 15 cloaks, 30 rachanoe, and 15 beds. We have also given money for the purchase of mattresses and for their transport, which we beg thy Love not to disdain, but to supply them to the place for which they have been sent. Given on the day of the Kalends of September, Indiction.

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.